Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22
Faith is the Instrument
Faith is an incredible, impacting instrument that builds up a local church, but it is not the reason for our relationship with Christ. Christ is the reason and He is the cause! He is our source, He is our root, He is our origin, He is our basis, He is our foundation, and we benefit from being in Him. We have looked at some of the aspects of what goes into the building of our Net of faith. The keys of understanding and applying obedience, trust, and what Christ has done for us are paramount. Now, we need to look at what we gain. We gain Him. When we have the confidence that Christ is at work within us and wants to use us, we will be better able to take the risk, and venture out to others much more easily. We will realize who we are in Christ and as a result, be able to stretch beyond what we think we can do. Our confidence in Christ will enable Him to use us to put faith into action, and His use of us will be the prime factor for the success of our growth as well as our service.
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance-now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:15
Job asked, "how can a mortal be righteous before God (Job 9:2)?" This plea has been answered for us in the work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This simple, yet most powerful statement says it all: Jesus saves! What does all this mean? Being saved in theology means Christ "merited" our justification. This mouthful of words basically means we are made righteous so we can show His righteousness to others. Jesus, who not only died for our sins (as most Christians believe), also lived for us, something we often forget! This means Jesus was our representative as He obeyed all of God's law, even when the religious leaders of the day (who proclaimed to be righteous yet were not) scorned, scourged, and hated Him for His life and teachings, He gave us righteousness! Jesus pardoned our sins so we can be reconciled to God. We, who do not deserve such a pardon or gift because of our sin of refusal to fully obey and trust while still remaining in our sins and misplaced agendas, have been declared righteous anyway! The deal has been "closed" (sales term) in and by Christ. He invites us, we then give Him our faith, and He in return makes us pure in His sight. This means when we accept Jesus as Lord, we are saying, I trust Him, I am forgiven by Him, I give myself to Him, I am secured for Heaven, or, in other words, I am saved.
By being saved, we have confidence and purpose. Our deal with Him will never fail or be taken away. The deal we have could never have been "closed" by any other person, means, or religion. Because Jesus took His righteousness and "merited" it for us, we are now saved. Does the magnitude of this impact you? Put it this way; Jesus puts faith, fruit, righteousness, life, purpose, meaning, destiny, and so much more into our empty and bankrupted account, filling our "debit card" of life, for life. At that time, our faith started out as a response. Now, it needs to continue as a response. This is about how then do I live? We live to Christ for Christ. Faith does not end at our acceptance of Christ; it starts there. It is to continue with confidence, fueled by our devotional life, practiced by our faithfulness, and demonstrated by our character. Our faith shapes our message, attitude, and relationships, therefore shaping our witness. As He acted, lived, and died on our behalf, we are to live and act on His behalf!
Because we have confidence in God and in His plan and purpose for our lives, we can then act on faith. Faith is based on the faithfulness of our Lord, and not on our goodness. It is just as animal sacrifice in the Old Testament was a means of forgiveness and surrendered attitude because of a loss of something precious, but not the cause of the Jew's salvation. The Reformers called this "meritorious ground for our justification," explaining that faith is the soil into which the seed of justification is planted. Christ is that soil now. As we give our lives to Christ in faith, He, in turn, gives us His righteousness. Faith will generate real, impacting Christianity so we can become a committed disciple and build His Church. If you want to understand faith, you must be willing to understand our Lord. Your faith is only as good as the object into which you place it. If it is in money or power, it will be weak and lifeless. If it is in false teachings or personal ideas, it will be dead. Faith must be in our living God by way of His work in us, because Jesus saves!
Let us take a look at what happens in our attitude, mindsets, and character when faith is fueling our life.
Faith Produces Hope
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 1 Timothy 1:2
Hope is eternal love. It is our forward look to being in Christ forever. This produces joy and strengthens our faith, which Hebrews 11:1 tells us is "the substance of things hoped for." Hope is our future with Christ in glory-in Heaven. The opposites of hope are despair and hopelessness. These are the rotten traits that keep people oppressed and stagnate, rendering them unable to grow and/or succeed in life or in faith. These only show problems and circumstances and not the Light of Christ. When we keep our focus on our circumstances, we will see little or no hope. We can only attain hope by being in Christ and having our eyes focused on Him. Christ is to be our anchor and our expectation.
Hope calls us to patience and confidence for service in all aspects of life, from the great times to the bad. It keeps us focused on Christ in times of adversity so that we can endure suffering and continue in His call. Hope must be the focus for us and for others. It must never be phony or oppressed. Hope is the effect of faith which grows our spiritual maturity and character through our obedience and trust in our Lord. If we have no hope, then we have no vision, no purpose, no trust, and no faith in the One who loves us. Hope allows us to live with the perspective of eternity so we are not bogged down in our dire circumstances.
Faith Produces Faithfulness
The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:24
Faith produces faithfulness; this comes from believing that God will do what He says and looking to Him, not our circumstances. It is about control-if it will be God or me. It is trusting in His tug on my soul, not mine or the world's, so I can make the best, righteous decisions. It is like a switch that turns on God's power and Spirit in us. Faithfulness is the "gluing" Fruit that will preserve our faith and the other characters of the Spirit, as well as identify God's will so we can be dependable and trusting toward God and others. It is the one Fruit that we give to God, whereas the others, such as love or humility, are a result of the Spirit working in us. Faithfulness is authenticity and the power and motivation for Christian living. Because God is trustworthy with us, we can be faith-worthy in Him!
When we are not exercising our faith, we will be consumed with doubt and distrust-the opposite of God's call and plan for us. We will lose our trust and hope that God is in control! When we do this, we will lose or miss out on seeing God come through with His promises. Faith is the key to removing hypocrisy because it focuses us on Christ, whereas insincerity and pretence focus us on our personal, sinful agendas.
Faithfulness is very difficult to have or hold on to, especially when applying it to our church, work, and/or relationships. We tend to lose our patience with God, thinking He is just a blessing machine, and, when we do not get what we want, we leave Him because of our uncertainty. Yet, Faithfulness is the Fruit that we give to God so He can change us-inside and out! It is the ability to take what Christ has done in us and, with loyalty and trust, be a blessing to others. Faithfulness goes against modern psychology and the thinking of society, as it requires us to move beyond ourselves. Psychology tells us to be egocentric, putting the "me" first, and rearranging the world to suit our needs, which creates self-destruction and broken relationships. We have to always keep the goal of faithfulness in our minds, as it will allow God to work deeper, and us to respond to His call. God has bigger things at stake for us, much more than the petty complaints we voice or the things we ask of Him.
Remember, God does not want our complaints; thus, He will not give us an answer for them. Rather, He wants us to see our obligations and apply our obedience so He can use us more and in better ways!
Faith Produces Optimism
But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:25
Optimism combines hope and faithfulness into synergy (the combination supercharges and become more than just the sum of its parts) to be positive for Christ. It is a heartfelt confidence that everything will come out for the best, as Paul proclaimed. No matter what happens, it will help us to think the best of and be positive with people in all situations, even if we are proven wrong.
When we are not exercising optimism, we will be pessimistic, giving off cynicism to our family and friends, and operating all of our relations with distrust, doubt, and sarcasm. These are the opposites of God's call to faith. These bad characteristics make us see and dwell on the fact that the glass is half-empty, not that it is half-full. We will only recognize the negative, and look for the worst in people and situations. There are times when we need to be careful and cautious, but constant negativity will get us nowhere and reduce us to a life of bitterness and brokenness.
Faith is the foundation and rock upon which we stand. Hope is the confidence and expectation that God's promises will be fulfilled. Optimism combines the two, so our faith turns into conviction and enthusiasm and our hope and faith turn into certainty. So, when we are filled with His Spirit and are true to the Word, we can put His call into action with passion because of our certainty and assurance in Him. We will be motivated to seek training to hone our knowledge and prepare us for our call to better glorify our Lord. We will be filled with passion so we can stand longer in service for our Lord, even in times of stress and persecution. We will be motivated to seek justice and be fair. Real optimism will help us sink our roots in the awareness and knowledge of who we are in Christ, and the power of His grace. Optimism is not just a wish, an academic thought, positive or hopeful thinking, nor is it just the confidence that everything will turn out all right. Rather, it is real and tangible.
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. Romans 8: 28
With optimism, we will be able to keep our faith on track and see what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us. Then, we will be able to overcome any setbacks, disappointments, or suffering we may face, as the goal of being His child will outweigh all else. We will have no fear for what happens to our body because our soul is secured. Eternity is our goal, and our life here is a training ground-a mere rehearsal-of what is to come. When we are positive and optimistic, we will keep our interests on what is true, and seek His promises. Because optimism puts faith into action, we will be more confident that God's promises are real, true, and will come to us. That way, we can have a good attitude, be filled with zeal, and "keep our hearts with all diligence."
Faith Produces Confidence
Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared. Proverbs 3:25-27
Hope, Faithfulness, and Optimism will build our Confidence! Confidence enables us to rely on the Lord for all things in our life. It keeps our faith focused and rooted on the object, which is Christ as Lord, and recognizes the obstacles of our feelings, circumstances, or issues. We can push forward in the direction that we are called because He is governing and He is sovereign. As we look to Him with trust, and not to others or ourselves, we have the God of the universe in us. Nothing is greater than that. We can live our lives in holiness and Christian character, and react to all the situations we encounter with the focus of who we are in Christ, as He is our confidence. Confidence also makes us realize we are not responsible for the results-only for the faith and obedience.
When we are not exercising confidence, our faith weakens and may fail. We will be overwhelmed with doubt, uncertainty, and disbelief. We will soon distrust people, our capabilities, and God's call. This is the opposite of God's call for faith. This will cause us to seek our limited thinking, placing confidence in feeble, temporary abilities, and things that do not last and have little importance. Self-confidence will elevate us as godlike, becoming our principle authority and reason for life instead of Christ. Confidence will skew into pride. Pride is not a synonym; rather, it is a heinous mutation. We will lack confidence to serve the Lord, and engage in fear because our faith is limited to the situation and not in Christ. Our real confidence is in who we are in Him. This is our motivation in all of our life's pursuits-in relationships, decisions, how we are treated, how we respond to others, and how we exercise our faith.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin. Hebrews 4: 15
A Christian is to balance confidence and esteem by the temperance of the other characters the Bible promotes such as Forgiveness and Humility. Pride and Arrogance are the very worst things a Christian can exhibit in the sight of God. Our confidence is to be sure and righteous-without pride. Pride elevates the me whereas, Christian confidence elevates Christ and allows Him to empower us. Bad things become bad because we lack the confidence in Christ to endure and learn from them. Things get worse when we lack the faith and mental composure to deal with a crisis. It is our holding on to His Holy Love and Grace that builds our strength and confidence, and gives us perseverance and more faith. Our Lord gives us the ability and strength to reach beyond our immediate grasp!
Faith Produces Boldness
So we say with confidence, ?The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?? Hebrews 13:6
Do you fear growing in the faith? Fear witnessing? Our confidence from who Christ is and what He did for us leads to our boldness! Being bold means we are willing to take our faith, venture out with it, and do the right thing at the right time, regardless of the barriers or fears we may encounter. It enables us to speak the truth and perform a task without fear of the consequences or results because it is the right and biblical thing to do. It is realizing that God is in control. He is there within us, beside us, and He will take care of us. Therefore, we do not need to fear what others can do. Rather, we are to concentrate on our character and call, and do it with confidence, passion, and sincerity.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18
When we are not exercising boldness, we will become Christian cowards. This means we will be held back from what God has called us to do; we will miss the opportunities He provides for our growth. We will be engulfed by fear, cynicism, negativity, discouragement, and pessimism. These negative traits create a negative attitude that is infectious to others. It causes people to refuse the chance to go forward with what God is calling them to. Our Net will never get fully developed, and will have such a huge hole in it that no fish can be caught. The exercise of faith and the pursuit of relationships require risks and the willingness to be hurt, as people will hurt and betray us; only Christ remains true. This fear seriously hampers our faith. Thus, the person and/or church remains ensnared in fear, allowing obstacles to stop them so that the work our Lord intended for them to do remains undone. Remember, God heals us and helps us move on; there is no reason to be held back by our fears. Be careful not to let your Net have extensive, large holes, or be empty of faith yet filled with fear.
He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death. Proverbs 14: 26-27
Boldness comes from the confidence we have in Christ-who He is, and what He can do. It is seeing Christ ahead of us, causing us to know for certain that the task in front of us is no match for the power leading us! This attitude directly affects how we respond to any given situation. When we have confidence in our Lord, we can venture beyond our limits, abilities, and comfort zones to engage in the simple things of life, from talking to a stranger in a kind, encouraging way or sharing the Gospel with a friend, to the big stretches, such as church planting, teaching with truth and conviction, or going overseas to a strange and foreign land as a missionary. "I can do all things," Paul said, not because he was a great or powerful man, but because he knew His God, and what He could do. We will not fear what others can do to us, just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego demonstrated. They knew God could save them. They just did not know if He would save them. But, whatever God did, they trusted Him, even if the furnace took their lives away. So, they could walk into that furnace with confidence, whatever the results might be (Daniel 3:8-30). God chose to do a miracle. And, even if He had not, how we respond is more important than any miracle we may receive.
Our boldness does not stand alone. If it did, then it would be pride, the most heinous sin we could commit. I bet you did not know this. Well, just look up the word, pride, in any concordance and see the Scriptures for yourself. Boldness has to be tempered by the other Characters and Fruits from our Lord, so it is synergistic and powerful because of whom He is, not for what we can accomplish. If meekness (strength under control), and gentleness are not accompanying our boldness, we will have bully-ness and not boldness. We will have the force of our personality, not the Spirit of the Lord. Boldness works together with cautiousness; they balance each other out by helping us exhibit wisdom and passion for a better, godly approach to life.
Faith Produces Perseverance
We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. Hebrews 2:1
The dictionary definition of perseverance is, "To persist in an idea, purpose, or task despite obstacles." (Webster) In the Christian context, perseverance means to continue in a state of Grace to the end, for our eternal reward. It is literally fixing our eyes upon Jesus, period. In diversity, the call for the Christian is to keep on track, knowing He will take care of us because we belong to Him. Whatever we face and go through, our Lord is there and we are in His arms. When we realize this fact, we can persevere through anything because our Lord, King, and Creator of the universe is there, carrying us through.
It is essential for the pastor and capable leader to be focused on the goal ahead and be able to carry both self and the task through tough times. Too many leaders get frustrated when things do not go as they had planned or in their perceived way, and they either give up or neglect their responsibility. Their eyes leave Jesus and just focus inward on themselves and the whys of what has happened.
When we neglect to persevere in our assurance in Christ, disappointments will come into our lives. Being disappointed, having frustrations, and/or feeling disconnected or disillusioned comes from the collisions between our expectations and our experiences, while ignoring the signposts of God's promises. Our expectations will collide with our experiences and then create a life wrecked by self-pity and resentment. Such a life becomes a waste, most of all of our witness. Or, we can lead a triumphant life. The choice is ours and the key is where we look for our hope. This is about our circumstances and how we look at our Lord. How we see adversity and His sovereignty will totally affect how we learn from and deal with it.
Unanchored stress and disappointment, along with detachment from not looking to God will prevent us from seeing His signposts or precepts. We cannot expect God to get us through without any effort on our part. To grow, we have to struggle and work it out. It is the struggle that helps us, that builds us, and that forms us. Without it, there is no growth, no real impacting faith, no honest character, no genuine patience, and no maturity or positive, impacting relationships. We will just camp in the whys of life, refusing to stretch toward learning and moving on for Christ.
Too many Christians who witness feel they have to answer all of the whys in life, like the whys of suffering. It is not so much how we answer the question on the reason for suffering, but how we live out our lives and walk with Christ. Too many people are stuck in the questions and never learn to trust and rely on our Lord, or learn to deal with life as a learning experience so to be better prepared as a servant of the Lord. Suffering is a natural aspect of the human experience, as we inherited a sinful nature that corrupts all of God's creation, including us. Suffering does not diminish our faith; in fact, it will strengthen it. When we accept Christ, we take on His righteousness as a covering. However, the sinful nature is still there, and we must confront and fight against it all of our Christian lives. As we battle on, each instance becomes easier to handle as we grow in righteousness and sanctification. This is a prime benefit of our spiritual growth. The faithful and cheerful Christian is the one who perseveres, regardless of the circumstance!
If the LORD delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. Psalm 37: 23-24
Since suffering is a natural aspect of life, we need to realize this and guard ourselves from it, whether it is physical, mental, emotional, financial, or spiritual. The Bible tells us, many times, to expect it and to be persistent when faced with adversity. Faith is the key to make this happen; it is faith that allows the work of our Lord in us. Christ will give us the comfort and strength to press on. Our reward is yet to come and our adventure in this life is very short compared to the eternity to come. So, we need to make the best of it as life deals us the curves; we are not to be overcome with frustration, but overcome, with joy, through the life we have in Christ. When things do not go our way, we need to make sure we are going His way!
The key to unlocking fear is the acceptance of our Lord's precepts, so that the contentment learned from our worship and prayer time is opened to us. Sometimes that is all we can do, but it is not a last resort. It is our front line and most important defense. It is to be our preparation for the weathering of storms. It will help us build our relationship with Christ so our faith, confidence, and courage will grow. Then, those storms and crises will make us stronger and help us help others through them. When we fully learn to trust, then we can obey, building our confidence so we can sail across those storm-tossed seas of life in confidence as Jesus Christ is there beside us, manning the helm!
Do you fear growing in the faith? Fear witnessing? Our Confidence from who and what Christ did for us leads to our Boldness!
Questions to Ponder
1. When things do not go your way, what do you tend to do? What should you do?
2. What happens when you are not exercising confidence?
3. How can Hope, Faithfulness, and Optimism build your Confidence?
4. How can you make sure you are going His Way and not your way?
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12: 2-3
Some passages to consider: Numbers 6:24-26; Luke 5:5-7; John 12:32; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; James 1:22
© 1999, 2007, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org