Sometimes I get distracted when I'm studying the Bible, especially for a sermon sometimes. It could be that I'm rushing to get a sermon put out and done, but I'll come across a word that will send me off on a three-hour tangent. I've got to find out what this means. And that happened a while back. I said, "I've got to stop this tangent. I'll have to preach on that some other time. Well, this is the time.
In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews is a word that arrested my attention. Hebrews 11:6: and the word is "Impossible." Now when I find a word like that in the Bible, it's so direct, it's not a maybe sort of word. It's a direct word, no if's and's or but's. And without faith it is impossible to please God. Have you ever read that before? "Without faith it is... It doesn't say "it is hard to please God." or "it's tough to please God." But that it's impossible to please God because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
If it is impossible to please God without faith, I think we'd better figure out what faith is. We'd better look into this a little bit more. Jesus, in fact, rebuked his disciples for having too little faith when they were unable to cast out demons. Look at Matthew 17:14. When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. "Lord, have mercy on my son," he said. "He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him."
"O unbelieving and perverse generation,"Jesus replied, Who is Jesus talking to? His best friends, His disciples. The guys that hang out with Him day and night. "You are unbelieving and perverse!" "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me." Jesus Rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?"
He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, Have you ever seen a mustard seed? I thought about bringing one up to show you, but you couldn't see it. They are tiny. you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
Okay, if the faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain, and the disciples can't cast out a demon, how big was their faith? And they lived with Jesus day in and day out.
Many years ago, King Frederick II was marching through the mountains with his army. Riding beside him was his highest general, Schmetta. The king was jesting about the general's faith and, when the general had a chance to reply, he said: "Your Majesty is far more witty that I am and you are more learned than I. Not only so, but you are my king, and in a debate between you and me, I feel at a great disadvantage. However," the general continued, "you cannot rob me of my faith without doing yourself an injury."
"How is that?" the king asked. "How can I do myself an injury by robbing you of your faith?"
Then General Schmetta replied: "Your Majesty now believes that you have a good officer in me, and I hope you are not mistaken. However, if you should take my faith away, you would have a miserable servant, a reed shaken in the wind, in whom you couldn't repose the slightest confidence."
The king was silent for a moment and then said, "Tell me, Schmetta, what is your faith?"
Then the general had an opportunity to reply: "I believe in the divine redemption from all my past sins. I believe in the divine foresight by which the very hairs of my head are numbered. I believe in an eternal and glorious life after death for all those who are saved by the blood of Christ."
The king was again silent for a moment and then asked, "Schmetta, do you really believe this from the bottom of your heart?"
"Most certainly I do, Your Majesty," came the reply.
Then with deep emotion, the king grasped his general's hand and said, "Schmetta, you are a happy man!"
Not only is it impossible to please God if we have no faith; it is impossible to be truly happy in this world. Turn to James 1:2-8. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
If faith is so important, what is it? Look at Hebrews 11. Here we have a brief poignant description of faith. Hebrews 11:1. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. You've memorized that, but you memorized it in the King James Version. And I like it even better. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Some years ago archaeologists, digging in the Middle East, unearthed ancient legal documents which throw light on the word substance as used by Paul. They discovered that the same Greek word translated substance in the KJV of Hebrew 11 was also used for title deeds by ancient men of the law. In other words, faith becomes our title deed to things that we do not see. Imagine a wealthy person in Australia who dies and leaves a large estate. Unbeknown to you, a substantial share of this estate is left to you. After all the legal formalities are cleared up, one day in the mail you receive a deed for your share of the estate. You have never seen the property. But there is no question that it truly belongs to you. You have the deed in your possession! The deed gives substance to your unseen property.
Likewise, faith gives substance to the promise of God and to the things of heaven. We do not possess the glories of eternity now, but they most certainly are ours, they belong to us. By faith we hold the title deed to mansions in a wonderful land. They are ours because we believe the owner's promise.
Faith is belief, but it is more. Faith is trust, but it is even more. Faith is a living power. Faith takes God at His word, and acts. Faith knows no obstacle and brooks no opposition from the evil one. Faith does not stop to look at circumstances or ponder results. Faith looks only to God.
We have seen that the only way to please God is to have faith in Him. We have seen what faith is. The next question that comes to mind is How do I get this faith? The answer is in Romans 10:17. Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. Faith comes from hearing and hearing comes from the Word of God. That's no secret. Why should we be weak in faith when the source of faith is in our hands? Or is this found in our hands often enough? Or is there on the table waiting to be taken to church once a week? Don't let the source of faith lie idle on your shelf.
there are three essentials I have found to having faith:
Let's start with knowledge.
Knowledge is essential to faith. None of us could believe in something of which we were entirely ignorant. Paul says in Romans 10:14 and 17, How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? ...faith comes from hearing the message... You can't just believe in something and know nothing about it.
Knowledge has to come before belief. It also has to be a knowledge that is not dependent upon hearsay. If we are capable, we need to discover these truths for ourselves. That is why we don't do baptismal studies with children who are unable to read yet, unless they have a disability that prevents them from reading the Scriptures. It is dangerous to simply believe what someone tells you. You could end up in a situation like the Branch Davidians in Waco Texas. Just believing what somebody tells you without studying it out for your self. The Bereans were called blessed because they read the Scriptures for themselves, not just trusting the preacher or evangelist. They checked to see if it was true.
We should not assume that just because a person is older that they have even a basic knowledge of Scripture. When I was in college, I taught a Young Adult Sabbath School class in a local church. And as I was teaching that very first class I ever taught, I made a passing reference to the story of Esther. And there was a couple in the class in their mid-twenties and both of them said in unison; "Who?" "You know, Esther." "Who's that?" And they had been church members for several years. I was stunned. "You know, Esther!" We had to stop the lesson an tell the story of Esther. And they said, "Wow! We never heard that story before. Some thing our little children know, our adults don't. So, don't look at somebody's age and say that they have more knowledge than this person. They may not. Knowledge is essential to having faith.
Sometimes, what is obvious to us may not be so obvious to our neighbor. Once upon a time, and Atheist was arguing with a Quaker about the existence of God.
"Did you ever see God?" asked the atheist.
"No," said the Quaker.
"Did you ever smell God?" asked the atheist again.
"No,"said the Quaker.
"Well then," said the atheist with a smirk on his face. "How can you be so sure that there is a God?"
"Friend, did thee ever see thy brains?" the Quaker asked.
"No," said the atheist.
"And did thee ever smell thy brains?"
"No," answered the atheist.
"Dost thou believe that thou hast any brains?" asked the Quaker once more.
God has revealed Himself so clearly, but some people refuse to see. He has revealed Himself in His Word and in Creation and in the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us, Jesus Christ. Yet some still seem able to be blind to the obvious.
Several years ago at a prestigious university, a philosophy professor gave his students a one-question final exam. One question and your grade is based on that, for the whole year. For the one question, the professor went over, picked up a chair and set on top of his desk. Then he wrote on the board, "Using the knowledge you have gained this semester in Philosophy class, prove to me that this chair does not exist." Have you ever had a teacher like that?
Most of the students dug deep and wrote furiously for the entire hour, culling up all kinds of theories and theorems they had learned in Philosophy, digging deep into their minds for the full hour. One student actually wrote more than 30 pages of heady philosophical debate and logic that that chair did not exist.
One student was different. He was out of the test in less than a minute, and he handed in his paper. His answer consisted of two words: "What chair?" As it turned our, he was the only one in the class who got an "A" on the test.
And yet, people are like that today. Something can be right in front of them and they can tell you it does not exist. "What fourth commandment?" "What health message?" "That's for the older people." "What moral standards? What does it mean when I watch on television effects what I like? What is it mean that the way I speak to my kid affects his view on how His heavenly Father is? We can ignore the obvious so easily.
Knowledge is not enough. We must also have understanding of what is promised or said in the Scriptures. Without this, we could not exercise intelligent faith. When Jesus appeared to His disciples, Luke tells us in Luke 24:45 Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Reading is not enough. We must have supernatural guidance in order to understand.
The prince of Grenada, an heir to the Spanish crown, was sentenced to life in solitary confinement in Madrid's ancient prison called "The Place of the Skull." Everyone knew that once you were in, you would never come out alive. The prince was given one book to read the entire time he was in prison: the Bible. With only one book to read, he read it through many, many times. The book became his constant companion.
After thirty-three years of imprisonment, the prince died. When they came in to clean out his cell, they found some notes he had written using nails to mark the soft stone of the prison walls. The notations were of this sort: Psalm 118:8 is the middle verse of the Bible; Ezra 7:21 contains all the letters of the alphabet except the letter j; the ninth verse of the eighth chapter of Esther is the longest verse in the Bible; no word or name of more that six syllables can be found in the Bible. Pretty deep theology.
When Scot Udell originally noted these facts in an article in Psychology Today, he noted the oddity of an individual who spent thirty-three years of his life studying what some have described as the greatest book of all time yet could only glean trivia. From all we know, he never made any religious or spiritual commitment to Christ, but he became and expert at Bible trivia. Have you met people like that? They can quote you this, this and this, but the obvious spiritual light is not there.
When the Holy Spirit is not invited to give us understanding, we are just reading a book.
After knowledge and understanding comes confidence. We must have confidence in the Author and Finisher of our faith in the Author of the Scriptures. Look at 1 John. 1 John 5:14,15. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us whatever we ask we know that we have what we asked of him. Do you have confidence in God? to ask according to His will and receive the best?
If we have no confidence in the Messenger, we will have no confidence in the Message. Many years ago a young officer in the English navy discovered a small uncharted but dangerous rock in the Mediterranean Sea. He reported his discovery to the Admiralty immediately. Orders were sent to all stations that the new hazard should be marked on every chart.
The first ship to sail over the spot after the news was sent out was commanded by an old sea captain who had been sailing those waters for many years. When he noted the warning newly placed on his map, he inquired who had reported the hazard. When told that it was a young naval officer, he was indignant. "There is no such rock there," he scoffed. "I have sailed these seas for twenty years; and if such a rock were there, I would have found it."
In scornful pride, he gave orders for his sailing master to steer directly over those co-ordinates. The anchor was raised, and the ship left port. The hazardous area was reached. Under full sail the great ship was driven over the danger spot. There was a tremendous crash as the jagged rack tore into the vessel's underside. The ship went down with all hands.
Our knowledge never exceeds God's knowledge. Our way is never better than His way.
The next question that comes to mind is, once we have faith, how do we act upon it? Do not be afraid to ask God for what you need, for the spiritual blessings that you must have, for forgiveness of sins and the assurance of salvation.
A man approached Alexander the Great and asked for some money as a marriage portion for his daughter. Alexander told him to go to his treasurer and ask for what he wanted. He went and demanded and enormous amount. The treasurer was startled and came to Alexander and said that he though that maybe a small part of what the man had asked for would be plenty. "NO," said Alexander, "let him have it all. I like that man. He does me honor. He treats me like a king and proves by what he asks that he believes me to be both rich and generous."
Do we treat God as our King? Do we honor Him by believing He is both rich and generous? Our hymnal has a song that we know well. Do we believe it? "My Father is rich in houses and lands; He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands! Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold, His coffers are full He has riches untold. I'm a child of the King, a child of the King! With Jesus, my Savior, I'm a child of the King!"
Do you believe it? Belief must be acted upon. True faith leads to true love and true love leads to true obedience. Faith without works is dead (James 2:20). It is not active, it is not useful, it is rotten, faith without obedience is not faith.
You might say, "Well, if I had faith, I'd feel great. I would feel this elation all the time." But faith and feeling are two very different things. Faith is not about how you feel. When you go to the bank to cash a check, it is not how you feel or how the cashier feels that counts. Both of you may have splitting headaches. The thing that is important is the name at the bottom of the check, and it is yours. The name of Jesus has been written in blood to insure that we have the deed to heaven! It doesn't matter how we feel. It matters what we believe.
Do you remember when Jesus told His disciples that even the faith of a mustard seed could help them to do the impossible? What if you had the faith of an Avocado seed? What could you do then if you had that much faith?
Dwight L. Moody said, "A little faith will bring your soul to heaven, but a lot of faith will bring heaven to your soul." A little faith will get you there, but a lot of faith will make what goes on down here worth living; to serve God.
One thing I have noticed about Avocados is that they pretty rough on the outside, and this one is not too ugly, but there were some pretty shriveled ones at BiLo yesterday. I commandeered this one. A little rough, blotchy, but it's almost all seed. There is very little flesh between the seed and the skin. But that flesh is wonderful even if the skin is a little tough. Even though we may be a little rough on the outside, if we are filled with faith, our fruits will wonderful!
Even if your faith is still the size of a mustard seed, I have encouragement for you. The mustard of Palestine grew to over seven feet tall! Feed your mustard seed faith with the Miracle Grow of the Scriptures. Let the spirit nourish it with understanding. And act with the confidence that comes from bearing good fruits and reaping the rewards that come from being a child of the King.
Major Sources: Faith on Tiptoe Robert H. Pierson Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks Youth Specialties
Hymn of Praise: #304, Faith Of Our Fathers Scripture: 1 Peter 1:8,9 Hymn of Response: #524, 'This So Sweet To Trust In Jesus
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last updated 1/13/2002 by Bob Beckett.