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Strengthening our Faith

Romans 8:28

 

I've always been amazed by the different ways two people can view the same event. Some people are the proverbial "little engine that could," while others are "chicken little" whose sky is always falling. 

Psychologists say pessimists and optimists have two different ways of viewing life. The pessimist thinks bad events will last a long time and will undermine everything else in life. The effects are permanent and far reaching. On the other hand, the optimist believes the effects of a bad event will be short lived and will not effect other things. (Reader's Digest, Jan 2001, p. 146.)

If I had to pick between, the two extremes, I'd choose optimism any day. But really there is a third choice I'd prefer, that is to be a person of faith that may not understand what is going on in my life, but knows God is in charge, and knows, that in the end, everything will work out according to God's plan. 

Romans 8:28 (NIV) says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." 

In his book, When God Interrupts, M. Craig Barnes writes: "When we are abandoned by the things we value, when we discover that no matter how much we have gathered we do not have enough, when we realize that even in the currency we value we are very poor, we are ready to start talking to God. Not before. Faith means betting our lives on the grace of God. (page 75)" 

So how do we become that person of faith that bets our lives on God's grace?

Developing faith is a cooperative effort between God, yourself and God's messengers. It begins by understanding that FAITH IS A GIFT FROM GOD.

In Romans 12:3 (NLT), Paul wrote, "As God's messenger, I give each of you this warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you." God, according to Paul, gives us faith.

The writer of Hebrews sheds some light on one way He does it. Hebrews 12:2 (NASB) says, "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

The key to receiving God's gift of faith is keeping our eyes on Jesus. Something Simon Peter learned on the storm tossed sea.

The winds howled, the waves crashed against the shore and the sea tossed the boat from one hand to another. On a nearby mountain, Jesus was escaping into the tranquility of solitude, recharging his soul in prayer. 

The disciples were alone. They fought to keep the boat sound. They were afraid. They were wet. They were tired. 

About three o'clock in the morning, the disciples fell deeper into their fear. They saw what looked like a ghost moving across the water and coming toward them. Their exhaustion turned to terror. They lost it and started screaming. 

Jesus said, "It's OK, it's me. Don't be afraid." 

"Is it really you?" Peter asked. "If it is really you then give me the word and I'll walk to you." Jesus answered him, "Yes, it's me, come on." 

So Peter stepped out of the boat onto the water. Peter must have really been afraid. I mean, how could he have thought it would be safer with his feet in the middle of a storm tossed sea than in a boat? 

Peter began to walk toward Jesus, and was able to walk on the water, until he noticed the waves again and became afraid. In that instant, his fears overcame him and he began to sink into a liquid grave. His fear had wrestled his faith to the ground-he was going to die. But with a remnant of faith left, he cried out to Jesus, "Save me." 

And Jesus did. Even after Peter took his eyes off Jesus, he was able to glance at Him once again and muster up enough faith to call to Him for help. 

Yes, faith is a gift from God, but FAITH CAN BE DEVELOPED

Romans 10:17 (NASB) says, "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." It is often in the presence of other believers that we develop our faith. That's what happened to Thomas.

In John 20:25, Thomas said, "I won't believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side." (NLT)

In verse 25, Thomas confesses his doubt, and in verse 26 the story continues with the events of about a week later. "Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. He said, "Peace be with you." (John 20:26 NLT)

"Thomas was with them," John said. That means, the other disciples accepted him and welcomed him into their fellowship, doubts and all. "Thomas was with them." A doubter learns to believe in the presence of those who trust. He was in the right place. 

In the context of Christian fellowship, love and acceptance, Thomas rediscovered his faith. "My Lord and my God!" Thomas exclaimed. (John 20:28 NLT) 

It happened to Thomas of old and it's happened to many people in our day, including Steve and "Gail." Steve had a Catholic background and really didn't want to go to the Baptist Church with his new bride, but it was the family's church and he felt obligated to keep their Sunday tradition. He merely tolerated their religious talk, but sincerely enjoyed the Sunday dinners with his in-laws. 

Week after week, he sat on the pew, listening to the preacher talk. He didn't know it, but when he did, his in-laws were praying for his Salvation. One week it happened, the gospel broke through his obligation and changed his heart. Today he isn't just sitting on that pew, he is active in the church's evangelism ministry, bringing other people to Christ. 

Gail didn't think the gospel applied to her at all, and didn't think she needed to listen to it. Because of her Scientology background she didn't believe in hell, and since she didn't believe in hell, she didn't feel a personal need for salvation. But she did enjoy attending the prayer meeting for Spiritual Awakening held every Tuesday night at Grace Church. She enjoyed the people, the atmosphere, and oddly enough she enjoyed listening to the passionate prayers of the Christ followers that gathered for the meeting. 

Whenever Pastor Cliff would present the gospel to her, she'd remind him that she didn't believe in hell and didn't need Salvation from anything, but she didn't seem the least bit offended by his persistence. She kept coming back. 

Before long, Cliff began praying out loud for Gail's salvation at the meetings. Not only did he long for a spiritual awakening in the nation, he wanted one in his friend's heart. 

One Monday, Gail stopped by Cliff's office to talk. Patiently, Cliff listened for almost an hour as she spilled her problems. Finally, Cliff asked, "How miserable are you going to have to get before you give your heart to Christ?" "I don't know," she said. "Are you ready to take that 18 inch journey from your heart to your head and accept Christ as your Savior now?" Gail said yes, and Pastor Cliff prayed with her to receive Christ. 

The next night, Gail couldn't wait to come to the Tuesday prayer meeting. When she did, she told the group that their prayers were answered for her salvation. Then she joined them as they prayed for the spiritual awakening that happened in her heart to happen across the nation. (Illustration from Transformations.)

Faith is a gift from God that we can develop in the presence of believers, but it is the teaching of the word of God that ultimately makes the difference. In other words, WE CAN HELP OTHERS DEVELOP THEIR FAITH

Paul wrote, "How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? [15] And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS!" (Romans 10:14-15 NASB)

We help them develop their faith by welcoming them into our fellowship, but we must do more than that, we must also proclaim the truth to them.
 

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