Faith through Doubts

Ben —  August 22, 2016 — Leave a comment

We often associate faith with perfection and not with words like doubt, weakness or uncertainty. I have a conviction that faith is for real people like you and me, and that means faith is for people with real questions, real doubts and real uncertainties. How do you respond when you don’t understand why God allowed something? How do you respond when it just feels like you have no more faith left in you?

One of Jesus’ disciples Thomas, also openly struggled with his doubts about who Jesus was. Thomas was a person who was torn – he loved Jesus, left everything in his former life to follow Him, witnessed many of Jesus’ miracles, yet he still had this lingering doubt. Where did this doubt come from? He was hurt, confused and disappointed after Jesus’ death, and he was a person who craved physical evidence as described in John 20:24 – 31.

Thomas was pursuing a sign from God that would ‘fix everything.’ This has shipwrecked a lot of Christians who progressively get more desperate for a sign than for God Himself, and open themselves up to any kind of teaching. In verse 26 and 27, Jesus appeared to Thomas and invited him to look at His wounds from the cross. At this point Thomas had no more need for this evidence and simple cried “My Lord, my God!” acknowledging Jesus as God. This was the turning point for Thomas, the moment he really met God despite walking with Him for several years. The extraordinary thing is Jesus’ response to Thomas’ doubts. Jesus doesn’t rebuke him but instead goes looking for him and reaches out to him. It gives us a real insight to the graciousness of God.

Don’t allow your doubts to hold you back from a life of faith. None of us have perfect faith and God knows that. Instead embrace them, and allow God to slowly turn those questions of doubt into convictions of faith.

The Power of Giving

Ben —  August 14, 2016 — Leave a comment

In my own church we do two significant financial offerings each year. We see our church as visionary and these offerings as spiritual moments that we share together as a family that can leave a legacy that can echo for generations to come. When it comes to finances, Jesus makes it very personal, and links it to our hearts.

Matt 6:24 (NKJV) “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon”

In other words, we can use our money to serve God, or our god will be money. We have a culture that is obsessed with stockpiling ‘stuff’. Nothing breaks the hold of ‘more, more, more’ than giving, and that’s why participating in offerings is so important. We were not put on this earth to amass treasures for ourselves but to let treasure pass through us and back to a greater purpose.

Remember this. Every time you give to God

  • It creates an abundance mentality, and demonstrates that money does not have control over you
  • It releases breakthrough (think of the five loaves and the widow with the small jar of oil)
  • You sow seed for a harvest
  • You resource the local church and the Kingdom of God

Faith for Provision

Ben —  August 3, 2016 — Leave a comment

Provision is where God supplies the resources, power and opportunity to fulfil the vision He has given us. Our faith for provision can often be tested in natural ways, such as believing for breakthrough in our careers, finances or personal dreams. In Genesis 22, Abraham was taken on a tremendous faith journey by God, when he was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar. In the previous chapter, we are told how miraculous it was that Abraham was given a son, and now Abraham faced losing him. Despite this, Abraham rose ‘early in the morning’ to begin this journey – he didn’t delay or negotiate with God. Abraham’s language was that of faith ‘my son and I will come back to you.’ When Isaac asked where the lamb to be sacrificed was, Abraham replied ‘My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.’ There are many parallels in this story that foretell of the sacrifice of God’s own son Jesus. Our greatest need in life – the need for a Saviour – has already been provided to us. Can each of us find that little bit of faith for daily provision, considering our eternal provision has already been met?

So how do we grow in our faith?

  • Obedience – just as Abraham showed. Do I truly trust God’s word?
  • Sacrifice – giving something that’s precious to us (whether it be time, finances or otherwise) puts a natural test to spiritual concepts
  • Seeing God’s provision – helps to germinate that tiny mustard seed faith
  • Each faith hurdle we overcome – confirms we are progressing. Faith is designed to be stretched

God knows and loves each of us, and He has unlimited resources. Where He gives vision, have faith that He brings provision.

A Faith Mindset

Ben —  July 20, 2016 — Leave a comment

In life, you have to change the way a person thinks before you can change their behaviour. For example, if you want to help someone get out of debt, and to change their spending habits, you have to educate them and change the way they think about money. In just the same way, you can’t have great faith but have negative, ungodly thinking.

1 Corinthians 2:16 (NLT) For, “Who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.

Faith is not at the opposite end of the spectrum to intelligence. Jesus had great faith and was keenly intelligent. Faith, perspective, logic, knowledge and behaviour are all closely related. However faith is the only one that can be unlimited. It should be the foundation of our mindset which influences and expands all of these other aspects.

Philippians 4:8 – 9 gives us three keys to develop and maintain a faith mindset, particularly relevant in a world which has so much fear and uncertainty

  • Think of the best, not the worst
  • Think of the beautiful, not of the ugly
  • Think of things to praise, and not to curse.

Faith lifts our perspective to that of a God perspective.

Faith in God’s Word

Ben —  July 14, 2016 — Leave a comment

In a modern world full of such uncertainty, how do we maintain faith? It is so easy to live within your immediate circumstances, but eventually they become the circumference of your life, limiting your possibilities and potential. Faith is actually linked to God’s capability, and not our circumstances. The most foundational definition of faith in the Bible is found in Hebrews 11: 1 – 10

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…”

The author uses a reference to one of the senses of the human body through which we gain knowledge, the sense of sight. Evidence is tangible and is something we can know through our five senses. Hebrews describes faith as evidence of things not yet seen. Abraham, the father of faith, believed God. He set out from his homeland, not knowing where he was going, journeying to a country and a future he had never seen, under God’s instruction.

Genesis 15:6 (NLT) “And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith”

God responded to Abraham’s faith in his God-ordained future, and not his immediate needs or worries. Faith is the unquestioning confidence, the full persuasion, the unwavering trust that what God has said, He will do. Faith sees the promised blessings as if they were present possessions.

Romans 10:17 (NKJV) “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

The kind of hearing described in this verse is not casual or passive. It means a hearing of the heart, as if you are hearing a truth deeply for the first time. There is so much to ‘hear’ in our lives – gossip, our own negative thoughts, the media. What are you allowing yourself to hear from the most in your life? The more you expose yourself to the Word of God, the stronger your faith will grow through encountering God’s very presence within the pages.

Faith is one of the most important dynamics for us to have at work in our lives, and is described in 1 Corinthians as one of the three pillars of Christianity (the others being hope and love). But in reality, it’s easy to have doubts. It’s easy to read stories of great overcoming in the Bible and say to yourself ‘My faith is so far off that. I could never trust or believe God like that.’ Don’t worry – you are not alone! Even the disciples got insecure and doubtful at times. Matthew 17:14 – 20 records an instance where the disciples had publically failed at a healing. They later asked Jesus why they weren’t successful.

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”

The disciple’s intentions were good, but the problem was their faith level. Jesus said that the amount of faith they needed was actually only tiny, comparing it to a mustard seed. Mustard seed faith is achievable for all Christians. It’s not lofty and unattainable, only reserved for the most spiritual. Most importantly a seed is made to grow, it is living. So your faith can start small and hidden, but will eventually grow once it is put to the earth to become something larger and reproduce yet more seeds of faith. We move from a little faith, to a little more faith – God growing us each time as we stretch ourselves and believe. Jesus reminds us that even this type of small faith, has the ability to move mountains – obstacles that may seem impossible. You may have mountains in your life right now – in your marriage, finances, relationships or career. Don’t discount your small faith, and don’t just place it on the shelf waiting for a time of crisis. Life is not really lived in the large mountain moments, but in the small everyday mustard seed moments. Even small faith has great potential.

Influence

Ben —  June 25, 2016 — Leave a comment

If the church doesn’t influence society, everything else will. Micah 4:1-2 tells us that the church will not decline as society progresses. Rather, as history moves towards its last chapter before the return of Jesus, the church will rise in prominence! Micah 4:1-2 “In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house will be the highest of all— the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.”

Church was destined to be a beacon of light, a glorious city on a hill, not to be hidden under a lampshade, retreating from the world. The Church has become ineffective not due to an irrelevant message, but to outdated methodology. The world today is attracted to the pursuit of excellence in every field, examples being medicine and technology. Church therefore, should also strive for a standard of excellence seen in these other areas of our lives. Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NLT) “Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.”

Excellence in church is an expression of stewardship of gifts, brings growth, attracts involvement and new leadership, blesses people and is a true reflection of our belief in who God is. A Sunday church service is not the end of that influence because we are called to be Christ’s ambassadors as we go about our daily lives. Wherever you go, your time, treasure and talents can be used to empower and influence, seven days a week.