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-5

 

How is your experience of God?  Has it been awhile?  If your finding that God has begun to get smaller and the size of your problems have been growing then maybe it is time for a fresh experience of Him.  Jesus said “It is written,“It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.” Matthew 4:4 MSG.  He also said “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” John 6:51 GNT.  He was comparing himself to the manna that the Jews ate in the wilderness when they were freed from Egypt.  And they had to collect manna each day for the day.  Yesterdays manna would be no good today, and today’s manna would be no good for tomorrow.  There is a principle in there.  Yesterdays experience of God was wonderful, but it wasn’t supposed to be an anchor point in your life.  We need to experience God afresh and to grow in our understanding of Him daily, and as we experience and know Him more we can begin to see Him and know Him as He is.

But it takes more than just an experiences.  We also need to get outside out comfort zones.  One thing I have learned over the years is the size of your God is proportional to the size of your comfort zone.  Israel had a comfort zone which allowed them to see God as able to defeat an army, but Goliath was outside their comfort zone and therefore outside the ability of their God.  David’s comfort zone was God, and so it didn’t matter what he encountered or what difficulty he faced.  He knew his God well enough to rest completely in Him and face whatever came at him.

How big is your God?

God calls us to step outside our limitations into the limitlessness of Him.  If all we are hanging on to is what we know and are comfortable with then we are only experiencing a little bit of God, and then like Israel our God is very small.  Every person used by God through time has experienced Him and His greatness to the degree they yielded to His hand in their life, And stepped out into the life God had for them.  Our experience of God is dependent upon our willingness to let go of what we know and are comfortable with.  With God there can be no comfort zone.  God is our comfort zone, and as we let go of ourselves and step out into Him we can be ones who turn the world upside down.

We also need to give God opportunities to do something.  If we refuse to get involved then we will not see God move.  Israel had the same opportunity to see God move powerfully against Goliath as David did.  David was the only one who was willing to step out and give God an opportunity to move.  How many situations do we encounter in a day where God could do something?  How many lives do you know that could be forever changed if God touched them?  How many opportunities do we have to see God move every day of our lives?

  • The elderly gentleman on the bus with the oxygen tank
  • The coworker struggling with family problems
  • The friend overcome by debt
  • The person beside us in the hospital
  • The person we meet in the grocery line who simply needs to know that they matter

We live in a time where God is ready to move powerfully if we are willing.  Will we give God the opportunity to move or will we hide in our self-imposed comfort zones.  If we will experience God and get outside ourselves and allow God to move we can see God do great things in our lives and in the lives of the people we meet.

The question we have to answer is how big is your God?

God is moving in our world today.  Stories abound of the hand of God touching people and transforming lives.  And it is always with people who are simply following Him, allowing Him to touch their lives and doing the things He says to do.  All God needs to move powerfully is people who will come to know Him, step outside themselves and their comfort zone and follow where He leads

God isn’t looking for people of great faith, but for individuals ready to follow Him –Hudson Taylor

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?

You’re such a Curmudgeon!

“You’re becoming such a curmudgeon!” one of mcurmudgeon-with-bow-tiey co-workers said to me a couple weeks ago.  I had to admit I didn’t know what he was talking about.  He grinned widely and said it means “a cranky old man.”  It’s a comment meant to be a joke but it has got me thinking.  Because the things we say we believe we don’t often live like we do.  Craig Groeschel wrote “The Christian Atheist”, a book which premise is that Christians today declare that God exists and is involved in their lives, and then live like He isn’t.

We live in a society which says that they are Christian.  For many it is because they go to church, at least at Christmas and Easter.  For others it is cultural, and while we are getting further and further away from a Christian culture many still see themselves as Christians.  And there are others who believe in the Christian message.  But it isn’t what we say we believe that matters.  In fact our lives declare more about what we believe than anything we may say.  And for many of us our lives are not declaring what we hope they may.  It is a fact I have been looking into in my own life.

It is not a bad thing to evaluate your walk with God from time to time.  If you don’t you will quickly become complacent and coast through life.  Paul wrote “Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.” 2 Corinthians 13:5 MSG

Everyone of us needs to look at what our life is saying about our beliefs.  Are we following Jesus or are we saying we are Christian and living like He doesn’t exist?  Craig Groeschel wrote “Who do we believe in more? Ourselves or God? Our actions and decisions will reflect that.”  Our actions declare what we believe.  John Calvin wrote “the doer is he who from the heart embraces God’s word and testifies by his life that he really believes.”   Rick Warren said something similar when he said You only believe the part of the Bible you do.”

Paul said three times in scripture “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.” Philippians 1:27 NLT, Colossians 1:10, Ephesians 4:1.  Our conduct says a lot about us and about what we believe, and the world around us is watching.  Are we declaring the majesty of Christ, or the selfish whims of our own hearts.  What is your life saying about what you believe?  Is it agreeing with the words you say?  It is a tough question to ask, but a very important one to answer.

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.