When Your Faith is Empty

got-faith_t1‘Have a little faith.’  It’s a phrase that gets used a lot in our world.  It is used in many different contexts and there are many different understandings.  For some it is simply a belief in an unknown.  You can’t explain why you believe, you just do.  For others it is seeing the best in people or situations.  Others see it as things will get better, as ‘the night is darkest before the dawn.’  Some see it as a way to get things from God.  If I just believe enough then God will …

Faith is something much deeper for us as Christians.  It goes beyond the wish list and blissful ideas of a better future.  It grabs ahold of your soul and creates passion inside that cannot be pushed away.  Faith is a deep-seated belief that cannot be swayed or dismissed that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He said He will do.  It is the gift of faith that allows you and I to connect with God on a personal level.  It is faith that opens the door to experiencing God’s greatness.  But what happens when that faith begins to fade?  running empty

Circumstances can cause you to lose faith if we allow them to.  The passion we once had for God can diminish and if left untended will go out.  Jesus warned ” For many others, the overwhelming spread of evil will do them in—nothing left of their love but a mound of ashes.” Matthew 24:12 MSG  The passion people have for God can go out, and the excitement for who God is and what God is doing can disappear if we allow it to.

Some signs your faith is running low are;

  • You go through the motions without emotion
    • If your walk with God has become mechanical then your faith is running low
  • Your passion is gone
    • A sign of low faith is what once excited you is now empty
    • Reading your bible and praying is a chore
    • Attending services is simply what your supposed to do
    • Soren Kierkegaard said that “if passion, intense personal involvement with the truth of something, is eliminated, then faith can no longer exist”
  • Your walk with God has become an intellectual exercise
    • Knowing all the right scriptures and having all the right doctrines, but no transformation
    • The Pharisees had most of the scriptures memorized and discussed them diligently but it was worthless activity for them
    • Jesus said of them “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life.These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.” John 5:39 NIV
  • You have a faith no one wants
    • While it is true that many will not want to walk with God and know Him we often use that as a justification for no one coming to know Christ
    • What may be true is they don’t see anything happening in your life so they don’t want what you have
    • The early church had a faith that was transforming lives and everywhere God moves people want to be apart
      • “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,  praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:46-47 NIV

The good news is your faith can be restored again if you want it to.  But it is going to take some work on your part to do so.  Taking time to once again connect with God is the first step, because that is where your faith originated from in the first place.  Romans 12:3 “…God has assigned to each of us a measure of faith.” Voice.  So if your running low it is time to reconnect with your source.  Jesus said “Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5 NLT

We also to need to make sure that we are surrendered to God.  Often our faith has diminished because we allowed our focus to either wander from God into other things, so we need to reconnect, or we chose to not do something that God asked of us.  The reasons we have for it may sound really good to us, or it may simply be that we didn’t feel we could.  Whatever  the reason God is waiting to see if we will allow Him to lead us, which is what Him being Lord is all about.  If He isn’t driving, then our faith isn’t worth anything.  Surrender is essential to a passionate love for God.  Without it there can be no faith.  Alan Hirsch wrote “We do not fail in obedience through lack of love, but have lost love because we have not attempted obedience.” 

We can have faith that transforms lives if we want to.  The question we need to answer is

What kind of faith do you want to have?

How Big is Your God – Pt 3

When I thought about how big God was I found  I was no different that most other Christians.  My life certainly didn’t reflect the God of the scriptures.  When I prayed I didn’t really see much results.  People I prayed about didn’t get healed, didn’t get delivered or set free, didn’t get saved.  And to be honest I was getting frustrated

What about you?  Have you ever faced these situations?  How’s your frustration level in spiritual matters?  Just how big is Your God?  Think about the people you have given up hope on.  People whom you think are a lost cause, feel like their never going to change.  Or think about the times where we turn to the credit cards and bank loans or pawn shops because there are bills to pay, instead of allowing God to provide.

Do we stand in the face of opposition and difficulty confidently assured of our God who stands with us, or do we cower in fear of what people think or may say.  Do we accept all challenges boldly, jumping in with both feet because we know “God will provide”, or do we shy away from difficult situations.  Do we willing step out into the unknown simply because God said ‘go’, or do we try to figure out all the angles first.  These were all questions I asked myself.

Just how big is your God?

Enter David in our story found in 1 Samuel 17.

Davids brothers were part of Saul’s army facing the Philistines.  And as David was to young to enter the army he would travel back and forth with supplies for his brothers.

So David left the sheep with another shepherd and set out early the next morning with the gifts. He arrived at the outskirts of the camp just as the Israelite army was leaving for the battlefield with shouts and battle cries.

21 Soon the Israelite and Philistine forces stood facing each other, army against army.

22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies and hurried out to the ranks to greet his brothers.

23 As he was talking with them, he saw Goliath, the champion from Gath, come out from the Philistine ranks, shouting his challenge to the army of Israel.

24 As soon as the Israelite army saw him, they began to run away in fright.

What I found interesting is Davids response to Goliath wasn’t fear.

“Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?

David response wasn’t to cower and hide.  He saw and heard the same things his fellow Israelites were hearing.  He served the same God they did.  He had grown up hearing the same stories they did.  If you were to ask him how great God was he probably would have the same answer his countrymen had.  But something was different in David because he didn’t even hesitate in his response.  Instead of running away to hide like everyone else had he charged headlong down to meet the giant saying

“You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD Almighty – the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied”

David personally knew how great God was.  God’s greatness for him was not a theory talked about in church.  It was a confident assurance that gripped him in the center of his being  and it caused him to have great boldness.  He absolutely knew God was going to back him up and defeat this giant, and it was a boldness that none of his fellow countrymen had.

How big is your God?  Is it a theory?  Its a tough question isn’t it, and it is one each of us needs to ask ourselves, because God doesn’t want to remain a theory we simply talk about.

How Big is Your God? – Pt 1

What are your favourite stories in the bible?  Stories that moved you and excited you?  Stories that made you wonder about the possibilities.  Who are the hero’s you love to read or hear about?  David and Goliath?  It is probably the most popular and familiar story.  A little scrawny guy with rocks in his pockets who stands against the giant.  Maybe it is Daniel in the lions den, or Jonah and the whale.  Maybe it is Moses and the splitting of the Red Sea.  There is the story of Elijah and his defeat of the prophets of Baal.  Maybe it is the story of Paul and Silas locked up in prison where God shook the whole jail and set everyone free while they prayed and worshiped.

The bible is full of stories where people saw great and powerful miracles done by a great and awesome God.  Stories about men and women of faith whom God powerfully used.  Stories that move us and cause us to desire the same, ‘God powerfully move through me’.  As Christians we want to see people healed and set free, and see lives transformed.  And when it doesn’t happen we can sometimes think the problem is we are lacking faith.  Most of us have heard people teach or talk about faith, and we have read the scriptures where Jesus teaches on faith like According to your faith be it done to you.” Matthew 9:29 ESV

Faith is something that is very necessary in our lives and walk with God because without faith it is impossible to please Him, but if you asked most Christians about their faith level, most would be fairly discouraged.  We have many Christians who read the scriptures of Jesus telling His disciples that they had “little faith” and think that applies to them.  Then we read where Jesus said we only had to have faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains, and we feel lower still.  A mustard seed is pretty small, and if that is all it takes to move mountains then our faith must be pretty small then because we can’t seem to move a cold, let alone a mountain.  Or that’s how many followers of Christ feel.  At times in my walk with God I have wondered “Just how small must my faith be?”

“If only I had more faith” is a thought many of us have had.  I would pray for people, usually with little to no effect, or at least not one I could see.  And I wondered, why did things happen when people in scripture prayed, and not much seems to happen when I pray.  I know I’m not alone in my wondering.  Many other disciples before me have wondered similar things.  People like Charles Spurgeon, CS Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and AW Tozer.  And many others after me will wonder as well.  Even the disciples of Jesus had questions like this.  At one point the disciples tried to cast out a demon for hours with no success at all.   Jesus came along and cast it out with a word.  And afterwards the disciples went to Jesus

[MAR 9:28] His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?”

As I have pondered on this question I felt like I was looking in the wrong place for my answer.  I began to feel like the source of my problem wasn’t in how little faith I may feel I have, but more in where I had my faith placed.  God began speaking to my heart and I began to understand that the size of my faith is totally unimportant if the size of my God was wrong.

A great faith in a small God will yield little to no results, A small faith in a great God will yield the miraculous

So the question I began asking myself is How Big is Your God?

What’s Going On God? – pt. 5

Confrontation and Transformation.  Two extremely important components to God’s plan in our lives.  God always reveals His plans for us to bring us to the place where we are willing to see ourselves for who we are, including all the parts we don’t want to see, so that He can transform us into the image of Jesus and accomplish His purposes through us.   Things happen TO me, So that things can happen IN me, so that things can happen THROUGH me.

Our circumstance that each one of us face are tools which God uses to draw out of us the areas in our lives that need to be shown to us, and so that He can change us.  If we are unwilling to see ourselves as we are, we won’t change because we won’t see the need to.  People all around the world have the same response when confronted with change.  “Well I’m a good person…”  If we don’t see the need for change, we cannot make the changes necessary, and if we don’t make the changes or allow God to make the changes in us we will miss out on the purpose we were created to fulfill.  So God allows circumstances in our lives to draw out of us the things we are often so good at hiding.

There are two things necessary in our lives for this process to accomplish what God desires in us.  We each face different circumstances, and many of them can be extremely difficult to deal with, but we all need two things if God is going to be able to use the circumstances to accomplish His purpose.

The first is a humble heart.  Without humility we will be unwilling to see the areas of our lives that need to be addressed.  Without humility we will be focused completely on getting what we feel we deserve.  Humility allows us to see things differently and be willing to set aside our plans and purposes.  Humility allows us to be willing to see the need for change and to accept the work of God in our lives, even when we are not always able to comprehend or understand what He is doing.   It is a humble heart that will allow God to confront us and change us.  Saul was proud and didn’t respond to the dealings of God, but every time God dealt with David he responded with humility and God was able to do amazing things in and through him.

If you think you know better than God you will won’t respond to His work in your life.  Denying the changes in your life does not make them any less important or necessary to our growth.  Denial is not a river in Egypt. If we insist on denying the reality of our lives we will never see the possibility of our future. 

Humility also releases the hand of God in our lives.  If we want to struggle and fight on our own God is willing to let us, but He would prefer if we allowed Him to mold and form us.  James 4:6 NKJV“God resists the proud,  But gives grace to the humble.”  God offers us His grace if we are willing to be humble.  Grace is “the transforming power of God, doing in you what you cannot do for yourself.”  God’s power working in your life, accomplishing God’s plan.  Without grace we would all be lost.  If we are willing to humble our hearts, God is able to accomplish great things in our lives, and through our lives.

Second we need a close relationship with God.  It is our relationship with Jesus that draws us into God’s plan for our lives, and it is what sustains us as we move forward into God’s purposes.  It is our relationship  with God that allows us to

  • feel and be secure in the love and safety of the hands of God regardless of our circumstances
  • allow God to deal with us knowing He is doing it for our benefit and not His.
  • allow God the freedom to work out the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

     

     

No relationship = No change

Are we keeping our relationship with God current?  Jesus said in John 15:5 NLV I am the Vine and you are the branches. Get your life from Me. Then I will live in you and you will give much fruit. You can do nothing without Me.”  It is our relationship with God that allows His life to flow in us, and it is His life in us that allows the changes to happen. 

Every move and promise of God in our lives always leads us to the cross of Calvary.

We always return to face our reality and our choice is whether we take up our cross and follow or turn away to our own path.

  • God always brings confrontation for a season to bring transformation for a reason.
  • Things happen TO me, So that things can happen IN me, so that things can happen THROUGH me

There is always a divine purpose to the struggles we have.

What will make the difference will be our focus.

Are we looking at our circumstances or the One who will see us through our circumstances.   It is a humble heart and a relationship with God that allows us to focus not on the problem but on the one who will see us past the problems.

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.”  Hebrews 12:2 MSG

 

What’s Going On God? – pt. 4

A life pull of purpose is available to all of us.  Each one of us is created for a purpose and not a single life born is a mistake.  We have a part to play in accomplishing our purpose and God is actively involved in our lives calling us towards a deeper relationship with Him and a life spent living out the purpose we were created for.  And many of the situations we face every day are simply training and proving areas where God shows us ourselves so that He can change us.

Things happen TO me,

So that things can happen IN me,

So that things can happen THROUGH me.

Both Saul and David had opportunities to be powerfully used by God in their generation.  Both were hand selected by God with a purpose.  Both men encountered hardships and testings that God used to show them who they really were and to show them their character.  Both men made mistakes and messes, but only one responded to the dealing of God in his life, and only one fulfilled the purpose of God for him. 

Paul as another man in scripture called by God with a purpose.   Now Paul had a little different start than David and Saul.  He was a man of prominence and power.  He was part of the Jewish council, and a staunch advocate for the Jewish faith.  He was a man of principle and extremely devout and fervent.  He went so far as to exterminate everyone he thought was a threat to the Jewish faith.  And yet God chose him.

Unlike Saul and David, Paul had a difficult past to overcome.  Daily Paul had to face the people he had tried to exterminate.  Paul had to forgive himself, and move forward.  Paul refused to allow his past to hold him back.  Paul understood what God said in Isaiah 43:18

“Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past.

Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13-14

“This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul completely focused his life on the purpose God gave him to fulfill.  Paul chose to run forward, and not look back.  He chose to learn from his mistakes and to move on.  Paul’s life can give us hope as well because he shows us the possibility.  We can achieve all that God destines us for.  It is a matter of focus.  Will we accept our reality or deny it.  Will we accept the truth about ourselves, or make excuses.  Only when we see ourselves as God sees us can we move forward to the next stage.

The first stage is Revelation – God reveals to us what His purpose for us is.  Revelation always brings us to the second stage.  Confrontation – Every time God reveals a part of His heart, or His purpose for us He always confronts us with who we are.  We all like to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are really good people.  So God shows us what is in our hearts and the behaviors and attitudes that need to be dealt with and overcome.  So God uses situations we face every day to show us who we are.  Jesus said “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45  All of the situations we face draw out of us what is really in us.  All of the things we don’t want to see.

Things happen TO me,

So that things can happen IN me,

So that things can happen THROUGH me.

The next stage God brings us to is Transformation.  At this stage we have a choice to make as well. Will we allow God to change us.  Because transformation is not an easy task.  Confrontation causes us to face ourselves and our giants.  Transformation enables us to overcome them.  Transformation is the stage where God helps us to overcome the parts of ourselves that are holding us back.  This means that transformation can be a painful process.

  • This is the stage of surgery, where God cuts away the disease and cancers in our character and places them on the cross.
  • This is also the stage where the flesh fights the hardest against the spirit.

Because our flesh desires comfort and this stage can be anything but comfortable.  The good news is God usually combines this stage with confrontation.  He doesn’t confront us with a list and then expect them all to change.  God will bring something to the surface, causing us to realize it, and then have us face it and overcome it one step at a time.  David and Paul and many others in scripture and in history are proof that God is able to carry us through this into all that He purposes us for if we allow Him to.  The stages of Confrontation and Transformation are not easy stages to go through in our lives, but they are necessary, and God never leaves us to walk through them alone.

Are we willing to allow Him to see us through?

Acceptance vs Approval

All of have met people who rub us the wrong way.  And there are always things that people do that we disagree with, some strongly.  Not everyone likes tattoos or piercings.  When I dyed my hair as a youth leader I got a great many negative comments from people that it wasn’t the right behaviour.  Society has a great many different behaviours and attitudes that we disagree with.   As Christians this is more evident as we try to follow a standard for life that the world doesn’t believe in or in many cases agree with.

I have found that many people get rejected in life because we cannot agree with their choices.  We see the behaviour and stop and don’t go any further to the person underneath the behaviour.  Because we cannot approve of the decisions or behaviours we are critical of them and judge them harshly.  I have seen it so often and it is something I have wrestled with for many years.  I came to know the acceptance of Christ and found that it wasn’t conditional based on my behaviour.  And all through the gospels we see Jesus reaching into the lives of people who were in direct disobedience to what God wanted for them, and every person who met Jesus felt His acceptance of them.

If we see acceptance as approval we will never be able to build bridges to the people we come in contact with.  There will always be things we cannot approve of.  Approval means I am in agreement with.  So if you lifestyle is not something I can agree with then I must stand in disagreement and criticize and judge.  It seems to be the behaviour of many people in our world.

Acceptance however isn’t the same as approval.  People can be acceptable even when their choices go completely against what we hold as values and standards.  Acceptance looks at the person, not the behaviour.  Acceptance can be communicated even when approval cannot be given.  Acceptance says you are valuable and your value isn’t increased or decreased by your performance.   This is exactly what Jesus did.  Romans 5:8 “But think about this: while we were wasting our lives in sin, God revealed His powerful love to us in a tangible display—the Anointed One died for us.” (Voice)  Jesus didn’t wait for us to get everything right so He could die for us, He accepted us completely and paid our penalty, even though He couldn’t approve of our behavior. 

Acceptance seeks to listen, hear and understand a person simply because they are worth it.  Approval just looks for agreement with.  Our message can only properly go out as we work to separate these two.  Acceptance needs to be communicated and lived regardless of who people are and the choices they are making.  Acceptance is how love is communicated, and is one of the most vital needs in a persons life.  We don’t need to know people approve of us.  At times it is nice, but we can live without people’s agreement.  We cannot live without acceptance.  Something in our souls withers and dies when acceptance is withheld.

We need to receive and communicate acceptance in order for our lives to be healthy and whole.  It is up to us to decide whether we are going to learn to accept people for who they are and the intrinsic value they have, or if we will fight simply for approval and only spend time with people we can be in agreement with.