There is a story about a young Indian boy who came off a reservation in Oklahoma and went out east to college. He excelled in every subject and graduated at the top of his class.
When he returned home to his reservation, he was elected tribal chief. Everything went fine for a couple of years, and then one autumn the tribal leaders came to him and asked him if it was going to be a cold or mild winter.
The young man knew very little about the traditions of his ancestors, and as he looked to the sky for any kind of hint, he saw nothing but sky. Not wanting to look foolish, he furrowed his brow and said it looked as if it were going to be a cold winter. He advised them to stock up on plenty of firewood.
Two weeks later he thought he should find out for sure, so he called the local weather bureau to ask them what the winter would be like. They said it looked like it would be a cold one. He called the tribal leaders back and told them it looked like it would be very cold and advised them to have people collect more firewood.
In November, he called the weather bureau back to make one final check, and they said it looked like it would be a very severe winter, indeed. He asked them how they knew for certain. They said they could tell because the local Indians were collecting fire wood like crazy.
There is a lesson to learn from this anecdote. It has to do with placing faith in something other than the right thing. Allow me to explain. The tribe had faith in their leader. The leader had faith in the weather bureau, and the weather bureau had faith in the actions of the local Indians. All had faith in somebody, but nobody had a chief source. Therefore, their faith was misplaced faith. Word of warning: When you place your faith in something, make sure it is in the right "something."
The title of my message this morning is, "Faith 101." This morning we return to the basics of Christianity--faith. The Bible says that "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). It also says that faith is "the substance of things hoped for" (Hebrews 11:1). Faith, for the believer, is basic. It is the foundation on which our confession in Christ stands.
This message is summed up in one sentence. Faith is foundational to Christianity and placed in Jesus Christ alone. "God our Father has made all things depend on faith so that whoever has faith will have everything, and whoever does not have faith will have nothing." Martin Luther
I want to share three things about foundational faith.
1. It begins and ends with God.
2. It is necessary in order to receive from God.
3. It is, however, only the means to the end.
1. Faith begins and ends with God.
Hebrews 12:2 "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Faith does not originate with us; therefore, it is not dependent on us. Faith exists in spite of us and that is a good thing. God is our faith source. The Bible says that "for by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:" (Ephesians 2:8-9). The grace of God calls us and saves us, but we receive it by faith. The scripture goes on to say that faith, too, comes from God and not from us. If grace and faith originated with us, then we could rightly boast that we added something to the equation of our salvation. But, we bring nothing nor add anything to God's salvation. Faith originates with God, period.
During the Spanish-American War, Clara Barton was overseeing the work of the Red Cross in Cuba. One day Colonel Theodore Roosevelt came to her, wanting to buy food for his sick and wounded Rough Riders. But she refused to sell him any. Roosevelt was perplexed. His men needed the help and he was prepared to pay out of his own funds. When he asked someone why he could not buy the supplies, he was told, "Colonel, just ask for it!" A smile broke over Roosevelt's face. Now he understood--the provisions were not for sale. All he had to do was simply ask and they would be given freely. Our Daily Bread, October 11, 1992.
Grace and faith originate from God and cannot be earned nor purchased with money. Again, you could boast in your salvation if you earned it by merit. No one may boast before God. He is so full of grace that He gives it away. Freely you receive. Just ask for it. The Bible says that "ye have not, because ye ask not" (James 4:2).
Faith not only originates with God, it ends with God. Author Ron Hughes illustrates this in his article entitled, "Knowing Jesus." Hughes writes, "He is the founder or originator of our faith. That is good and encouraging, but we know from experience that just because something is begun doesn't mean it is ever finished. However, we can be confident that our faith will meet its objective because Jesus is called both the author and finisher.
I was intrigued when I studied this, this is the only time this word translated "finisher" is used in the whole Bible. This is finishing at a level that most of us are not familiar with. I know from experience having done some work in photography and graphic arts and music that when you are involved in an artistic pursuit there is a sense in which you never really finish it, you just stop working on it. You say ‘That's as much time as I can afford to put on this. I could tweak it a little more. I could adjust it a bit more, but the law of diminishing returns says I should just quit now.' But that is not the same as being finished.
Finished really implies perfection and total completeness and that is what we have when the writer of this letter to the Hebrews describes Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith. He is the One who brings our faith to perfect completion." Ron Hughes© July 2007 http://vaxxine.com/fbh/archive/ja-author.html
2. Faith is necessary in order to receive from God.
"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6)
Expectation is faith in motion. Without expectation in prayer, prayer is an exercise in futility. Jesus said that when we pray we should pray believing, pray expecting. Mark 11:24, "Whatsoever things you desire when you pray, believe you receive them and you shall have them."
A young psychology student serving in the Army decided to test a theory. Drawing kitchen duty, he was given the job of passing out apricots at the end of the chow line. He asked the first few soldiers that came by, "You don't want any apricots, do you?" Ninety percent said "No." Then he tried the positive approach: "You do want apricots, don't you?" About half answered, "Uh, yeah. I'll take some." Then he tried a third test, based on the fundamental either/or selling technique. This time he asked, "One dish of apricots or two?" And in spite of the fact that soldiers don't like Army apricots, 40 percent took two dishes and 50 percent took one! Bits & Pieces, May 26, 1994, pp. 9-10.
If you aren't receiving anything from prayer, maybe you should change the way you pray, certainly the way you ask. Instead of asking in the negative--God if it isn't too much trouble, maybe you could help me land a good job—ask God in the positive. Lord, I thank you that you have the perfect job for me, just the right fit for me personally, and I know that you are leading me to it in your timing.
Expectation is the key to receiving from God when you pray! If you are not going to expect God to act, then don't pray at all. It's ineffective and displeases Him when you don't believe. Remember, Hebrews 11:6 says, "Without faith, it is impossible to please God."
God will do His part when you pray, but only if, you do your part, and that is simply to believe.
3. Faith is a means to the end, and not the end to the means.
We are not commanded to have faith in faith. Our faith, our believing has an object. His name is Jesus. Faith is merely the means to Jesus. Jesus is the object of our believing. This is important to basic Christianity. Some people emphasize faith above all things. Faith is very important but faith is not God. God is God and He is the author, the giver and the receiver of faith.
I remember reading a story about a pastor who illustrates faith in a most unorthodox way. He asks his students to guess how many beans are in a jar, and on a big pad of paper writes down their estimates. Then, next to those estimates, he helps them make another list: Their favorite songs. When the lists are complete, he reveals the actual number of beans in the jar. The whole class looks over their guesses, to see which estimate was closest to being right. The pastor then turns to the list of favorite songs. "And which one of these is closest to being right?" he asks. The students protest that there is no "right answer"; a person's favorite song is purely a matter of taste. Then the pastor continues, "When you decide what to believe in terms of your faith, is that more like guessing the number of beans, or more like choosing your favorite song?" The pastor reports that whether old or young, he gets the same answer: Choosing one's faith is more like choosing a favorite song. This tells me that we don't understand faith very well. Faith can never be successful when it is subjective—relative—faith in faith. Faith is only successful when it attaches itself to its objective—Jesus Christ. Believing in Jesus is not a matter of taste. It is a matter of objectivity. Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life.
One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump or he would burn. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and darkness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, "Daddy, I can't see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters." When we cannot see the way before us, faith leaps to God. If we release our faith, it will always direct us to the arms of Jesus. Jesus is the receiver of our leap of faith.
In conclusion, faith is paramount to the believer. If it is misplaced, we flounder. If it is placed in Jesus, it will lead us forward to certainty. Remember that faith begins and ends with God. It is necessary to receiving anything from God. And, it has an object. It has a place. His name is Jesus.
An American scientist once visited the offices of the great Nobel-prize-winning physicist, Niels Bohr, in Copenhagen. He was amazed to find that over Bohr's desk was a horseshoe securely nailed to the wall with the open end up. The American said with a nervous laugh, "Surely you don't believe the horseshoe will bring you good luck, do you, Professor Bohr? After all, as a scientist -- " Bohr chuckled, "I believe no such thing, my good friend. Not at all. I am scarcely likely to believe in such foolish nonsense. However, I am told that a horseshoe will bring you good luck whether you believe in it or not." Bits & Pieces, September 17, 1992, p. 6.
My friend whether or not you believe in Jesus Christ does not change the fact that He exists and one day He will stand in judgment of all men. Some men flatter themselves and say there is no God. Others are indifferent to God. To them, God may or may not exist. What man believes independent of the Bible does not do away with truth. Truth is truth whether or not you believe it. Jesus is independent of human opinions. Jesus stands above and beyond what men think about eternity. Jesus is eternity, eternal life.
Pastors a small church in Broken Arrow, OK.
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