Today I want to share with you something that is often missing in the faith-teaching. I will give you the missing ingredient - the reason people can know their Bible well but not receive from God as they should. We all want that strong faith, that assurance and confidence before God that receives His promises.
*(1) FAITH is based on KNOWLEDGE
- our knowledge of God and His Word.
Romans 10:17: “FAITH comes by HEARING and HEARING
the WORD OF GOD.”
Isaiah 5:13: “Therefore my people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge.”
Hosea 4:6: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
(1) We can't believe God beyond our knowledge of His Word. His will is His Word and we can't believe Him for something (like Healing) if we don't know His will in that area. So we must gain knowledge of His PROMISES through hearing His Word.
We must know WHAT He has said, or else how can we believe Him for specific things (receive His promises).
(2) Now there is much good teaching on the PROMISES of God. We need to know them well, but there is another area of knowledge that is needed for your faith to operate and stand strong, even under pressure, really the most important. Yet it is the least taught, perhaps because we take it for granted. But we need knowledge in this area just as much as the other 2 areas:
We need to have knowledge of God's PERSON.
To believe someone's promise it is not enough to know WHAT they said. You also need to know WHO said it.
*If a stranger came up to you and promised £10,000 would you believe them? No, you might wish it were so, but you would not have a confident faith that it would happen. You would not base your life on it. You would just wait and see. (c.f. Email Scams).
Now you might memorise his words by heart, but that would not give you faith. You might say his words to yourself many times, but that by itself would not do the trick, because there is something fundamental missing. You know perfectly what he has said,
but you know very little about the person who said it.
You know the PROMISE, but not the PERSON.
Faith in a person does not just depend on knowing WHAT they have said, but on WHO said it, on the credibility and reliability of the one who said it. You need to know what stands behind those words. 'A man is only as good as his word', but it's also true that 'a word is only as good as the man who says it.'
What is the believability of the one who is asking you to believe him? To believe someone's promise so that you trust and base your life upon it (which is what God expects of us), you must know his words and you must know one who stands behind those words - the reliability of the one who said them. If someone does not have proven character we have no basis for trusting them. Until we know and are fully persuaded of God's CHARACTER we cannot believe Him as we should and will fail to stand in faith under pressure.
The problem for many Christians is that although they know many of God's promises and give mental assent to God's character (power, goodness and faithfulness), they are not yet persuaded in their heart concerning His reliability and so treat Him as a stranger, waiting to see if His promises will come to pass, before believing them, and building their life upon them and thanking Him that His promise will come to pass.
They think the solution to their weak faith (that wavers under pressure) is to know the Promises better, but actually what they need is to know God (the Person) better. Yes, we need to meditate on God's promises, but we need even more to meditate on the character and reliability of the One who stands behind His Word, for as we shall see, it is this that causes us overcome the doubts (that arise through contradictory circumstances) and stand strong in faith until the answer is manifest.
Faith is basically TRUST in a Person and his Promises.
It is not mechanically following a set of laws or principles.
It requires a personal relationship with (knowledge of) the one you are trusting. FAITH is TRUSTING in (depending on) a PERSON through their WORD. To trust in a person's word also requires trusting in them, in their reliability and integrity. Yes, you can't trust a person past what they have said, but neither can you trust them beyond your knowledge of them as a person.
Thus your faith is automatically limited by your knowledge:
(1) of God's promises and (2) of God's character, and I believe it is in this second area that most Christians struggle because of a lack of teaching.
*Bank Illustration. You trust a bank with much of your wealth.
If you did not trust it you would not entrust your money to it. You depend on it keeping its promises. You act as if it will be true to its word. You walk in with confidence to take your money out. We seem to have more confidence in our bank than in God! What is the source of this confidence?
Is it because we have read all their brochures, contracts and fine print, so that we know everything they have said? If you are anything like me, I doubt it. No, we have become persuaded by its proven character (100 years doing business) so that we basically trust them. Now the better we know their writings (what they offer etc), then the better we will be able to take advantage of their services, but if we don't fundamentally trust them all of that is of no value or use to us anyway. Trust in them is fundamental.
It comes before we can trust in any of their words.
If we have difficulty believing God's Word for our life, it is because we lack confidence in God's Character.
Therefore it is essential that we develop our knowledge of Him in this area (meditation on His proven record).
What kind of knowledge of God is required for us to trust Him completely to fulfil His Word? Whether it is a person or bank there are always 3 areas of Belief you must have:
Belief in His: (1) POWER, and (2) LOVE - FAITHFULNESS. You must know they (1) CAN do it and that (2) they WANT to do it and WILL do it - they are trustworthy, they mean what they say.
*When you receive a promise from someone, you will automatically make an assessment of how hard it is to accomplish, and whether they WILL perform it or not.
You naturally assess two areas:
1. How difficult it is, and do they have the ability, power and resources to do it.
2. Their willingness and faithfulness to perform it.
When you get a promise that seems difficult, against the odds, even impossible, your mind was built to do this calculation, and it will tell you how impossible that is. So far this is not sinful, for this is how God made your mind as a protection against just believing and receiving anything and anybody. You have come to a threshold, that you will not be able to cross, into the realm of faith (believing the promise), unless your mind is given knowledge about the person making the promise.
*If a well-meaning person on little or no income says:
'I will give you £10,000', your mind will automatically do a calculation, matching the promise against their power and they will come up short in your estimation and you will not be able to cross the threshold into faith, however much you want to believe them. Perhaps they have wealth you don't know about, but your problem is a lack of knowledge. You need to know more about them and their power before you can trust their word, for it could just be wishful talking. Now if you find out they have just had an inheritance of £200,000 and that they are the kind of person that always keep their promises, then when that knowledge is fed into your computer, you will be able to cross the threshold.
If I said to you, I will give you £10 hopefully you would have no trouble believing that. If £100, £1000 etc. At some point your mind would make an negative assessment, you'd have doubt in your mind concerning the promise, and would not be able to believe me.
This is just how God made your mind to work.
*Let us now apply these principles to our faith in God.
There are 2 BASIC AREAS of confidence in God that are essential (in which we must be fully persuaded).
(1) His POWER - He is ABLE to do exceeding abundantly more than we ask or think! Most believers can see the power of Creation and the Resurrection and be confident that God is able to bring His promises to pass in their life, but we should meditate on God's ability until we are fully persuaded of this. This is how we cross the mental THRESHOLD into FAITH.
*Abraham's faith concering the conception and birth of Isaac in Romans 4:19-21: “being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now (sexually) dead, when he was about an 100 years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb, He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform.”
When God gave this couple the promise of Isaac,
they would have automatically CONSIDERED
the natural situation/difficulty (their age, her barrenness)
and how impossible it was. That is normal.
Abraham's initial evaluation was laughter:
Genesis 17:17,18: “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child? ” And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!”
Sarah's initial reaction was similar in Genesis 18:10:
“The Lord said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him). Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”
Abraham's issue was not that he did not know the promise, but it was such a hard, seemingly impossible thing, that his mind hit a barrier - both he and Sarah initially laughed (Isaac = laughter). There is a laugh of faith, and one of unbelief. The issue He had to confront to cross the threshold into faith was IS GOD ABLE?
Now we can give mental assent, but are we fully persuaded in our heart that God is able to do it?
Faith is based on 2 kinds of knowledge.
(1) What God has said.
(2) The One Who said it. The power and reliability and trustworthiness of the character of the one who gives His Word or makes his promise.
With any person you make a value judgement of what they say and of their character. This is human nature. Our minds are made to calculate and evaluate-this is not wrong. When God gives you a promise that seems naturally impossible, your mind will make an initial evaluation of the promise and tell you that's impossible. You stand at the threshold of faith. How can you overcome this obstacle of doubt in your mind and enter the realm of faith? It is by considering the power and reliability of God until you are fully persuaded He will do it. Is He able and faithful to do it?
This is what Abraham did: Romans 4:19-21 again: “being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an 100 years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb, He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform.”
(1) HIS POWER: He meditated on God's power, creation, stars, flood etc, until he became fully persuaded God was ABLE to perform His promise. Now He could cross the threshold and believe with a strong faith without wavering, giving glory to God, thanking Him for bring it to pass. Yes, he knew his own natural weakness, but that was not his meditation his main consideration.
He didn't consider his body, but considered the power of God.
He meditated on the strength of God to do it, until he was fully persuaded, then he crossed the threshold into faith.
(2) His FAITHFULNESS (Loving-Kindness). The second area of knowledge we must have about God in order to cross the threshold is that He is faithful to keep His Word to us. Our faith can only be built on His faithfulness. In Greek and Hebrew, the word 'Faith' = 'Faithfulness', because you can't have faith in one who is unfaithful. To trust in a person they must be trustworthy. Trust does not come automatically, you have to earn it. You must prove yourself faithful. A good name (reputation) is the most valuable thing you have. What is a faithful person? Reliable. You know they will do what they said, just as you know the sun will rise.
An unfaithful person will do it sometimes, sometimes not, depending on whether they feel like it. A faithful person has made a quality decision to keep his word no matter what (Psalm 15).
This was the key area for Sarah. She knew God was powerful, but was He faithful? Initially she laughed, but then she meditated with Abraham on the faithfulness of God, how He had always come through for them in the past (leaving their country, victories over whole armies).
This is what we read about Sarah in Hebrews 11:11:
“Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.”
How did Sarah move from laughter to faith?
She meditated on His character and made an evaluation:
“she judged Him faithful who had promised.”
This indicates she took time to consider all the evidence (not just the natural problem, but God's character and ability) and make a decision, judgement based on that evidence. She did not stop her evaluation with the impossibility of the situation but evaluated His reliability and came to the conclusion that He was faithful and able and would do it, even though it seemed so hard. Sarah crossed the threshold by considering God's faithfulness in their life (Genesis 12:1) in providing for them and Lot.
*BUT GOD. Faith does not deny the problem, but it denies its right to have the last word. Yes, our mind will always evaluate the natural situation, problem (mountain) and difficulty. But it does not stop there. It then evaluates God until it sees God as greater, and then it speaks to mountain. By considering God's promise and character we are able to cross the threshold.
'It seems impossible, but God is greater, God is faithful'
Your natural evaluating is not wrong, but it is wrong to remain loyal to your mind's conclusion, when it contradicts the Word of God. Don't stop your evaluation with the natural circumstance, but then evaluate God's character. Is He able? Is he faithful?
Continue to do this until you magnify God above the problem. Until you are fully persuaded, He is able. Until you can make the quality decision to trust His promise, judging Him faithful to perform the promise - like Sarah. Once you judge Him able and faithful (being now fully persuaded), then you can cross the threshold into faith and believe you receive strength, just as like Sarah who: “receive power to conceive, having judged Him faitrhful who promised.”
*Numbers 13:25-29 - Our mind functions like the spies sent out to evaluate the Promised Land.
You study the promise (the land of milk and honey),
and the barriers that stand in the way between you
and the promise (the giants and the walled cities).
There are 2 possible ways to make an evalation.
One was a good report of faith,
the other was an evil report of unbelief.
Numbers 13:25-29: “they returned from searching of the land after forty days. And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sent us, and surely it flows with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.”
All 12 spies initially gave the same evaluation:
It was a rich land, but the opposition was strong.
in the natural we cannot do it. So far there was no sin. We all come to this point where natural doubts present themselves to the mind, when we face the impossibility. This does not mean we have let doubt and unbelief into our heart yet.
1. The 2 spies Joshua and Caleb show us how to protect our heart from unbelief and cross over the threshold into faith. They did not stop their evaluation there. They meditated on the promise and power of God. Yes, the giants are big, but our God was bigger.
Didn't He destroy the souperpower Egypt with the 10 plagues and Red Sea Crossing - He can do it again. He has always proved Himself faithful. He has promised us this land and He is with us and will give us the victory:
Numbers 13:30: “And Caleb stilled the people before Moses,
and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it;
for we are well able (through God) to overcome it.”
Their evaluation included an assessment of God's ability.
It factors in God's promise, power and reliability.
2. Now the other 10 spies just considered the problem and did not consider God and so concluded it was impossible:
Numbers 13:31-33: “But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eats up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers and so we were in their sight.”
God judged their decision as sinful-unbelief, because they did not remember, meditate on His power and faith-fulness. he did their calculations as if there was no God. So only Joshua and Caleb took the Land, but the others were excluded from the promise because of unbelief. They never could cross the threshold (Jordan) into the Promised Land and possess the promises of God, because of unbelief, but Joshua and Caleb, because they considered God's faithfulness, were able cross over and enter into their Promised Land and possess their promises.
*David and Goliath 1Samuel 17:32-37
In the natural Goliath seemed unbeatable. But David knew His God (power and faithfulness), through the history of Israel and through His own experiences:
1Samuel 17:32-37: “David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine. And Saul said to David, You ear not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth. And David said unto Saul, Your servant kept his father's sheep, and there came
a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Your servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, 'Go, and the LORD be with you.”
When David saw Goliath he, like the rest of Israel, would have been impressed at his strength and size. Initially his mind would have told him not to get involved. But then he thought about what God had done for him in helping him kill a lion and a bear.
After remembering God's faithfulness, He was fully persuaded that if God could do that for him, He could also help him defeat Goliath. Meditating on God's faithfulness enabled him to cross the threshold of doubt, and believe he would do it with God's help.
You know what happened! David ran in faith toward Goliath, slung the stone and took his head off. It was all over in 30 secs! God was faithful.
*When you are faced with your Goliath, an impossible situation, and you are struggling to believe, because your mind tells you it is too hard, then meditate on God's power and faithfulness.
1. REMEMBER what God has done for you.
2. Consider all the testimonies of what God has done for other believers.
3. Most of all, meditate on all the Bible stories of how God displayed His power for His people (Exodus, Daniel in Lion's Den, the fiery furnace, miracles of Jesus). They given for the purpose that we would know the power and faithfulness of God, and believe Him to show His power and faithfulness in our lives.
Keep meditating until you are convinced in your own mind and heart that He is able and faithful to perform His promise to you. Then you can cross the threshold of faith and put your foot on your promised land (believe you receive the promise). Then you can start giving thanks and glory to God that what He has promised He will fulfil and you can then base your life on that promise. What will enable you to maintain your stand and confession of faith before it comes to pass? - it is your knowledge of God's character
- that He is faithful who promised:
Hebrews 10:23: “Let us hold fast the confession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised).”
Knowing God's faithfulness is the key to crossing the threshold, and then to holding fast your position and confession of thanks until it is manifested.
Numbers 23:19: “God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”