What is faith?

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That was gorgeous on so many levels.  I feel like the Holy Spirit took those words this morning.  Somebody out there; that was just what you needed.  I want you to to know that God was speaking that to you.

The past number of weeks, God’s had this one thing on my heart night and day, when it comes to my life, when it comes to the life of this church.  It’s this phrase: TAKE A STEP OF FAITH.

I’ve been asking this question, what is it in your life that God is challenging you to trust Him in?  What relationship is it in your life?  Maybe busted like the song was talking about.  Maybe your marriage, kids, a grandchild who’s in trouble and God is telling you, “I want you to trust Me.  I want you to step out.  Stop manipulating.  Stop talking.  Stop fretting.  Come and bring it to me. Trust me.”

There’s a relationship you need to end, but it’s hard.  There’s a lot of emotional attachment there.  God’s called you to take a step of faith and trust Him.  Do that hard thing, believing that the Lord will be with you.  I don’t know what it is.  It could be a habit, an addiction, and God wants it in 2016 to go.  He is calling you up higher.  It is time.  God is saying for you to “come seek Me in My word.  I want you to read the Word. I want you to get hungry like you haven’t been hungry in a long time.  I want you to get humble like you haven’t been in a long time.  It’s time.  I want you to see me.  Want you on  your face in prayer.  Come after Me. Take that step of faith.  Stop being satisfied with being dissatisfied.”

Take a step of faith.  I don’t know what it is for you, but this morning I want to pose a terribly important question.  If faith is this critical thing in the scriptures...
Can I say? It is! From Genesis to Revelation.

Hebrews 11:6  But without faith it is impossible to please (God)…

Without these steps of faith, it doesn’t matter what your spiritual resume looks life.  You can’t please Him.

Hebrews 10:38  Now the just shall live by faith…

It’s supposed to be the life blood of your spiritual walk.  Somebody wrote this:

“Faith is all important in the life of the soul.  Without faith it is impossible to please God.  Faith will get me anything, take me anywhere in the Kingdom of God, but without faith there can be no approach to God, no forgiveness, no deliverance, no salvation, no communion, no spiritual life at all.”

I can promise you this, every single breathing soul in this auditorium, up in the balcony, back in our children’s wing; God is calling you to take some step of faith.  But that begs a very important question:

I know we call have notions about what faith is, especially if you’ve been in church for a while.

  • Is faith simply a feeling in your gut like anger, or attraction, or indigestion?  I feel like this thing is going to happen, so I must have faith.  Or if you don’t feel something is going to happen, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I guess I just don’t have faith.

  • If you ask the Biblicist “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”  (What does that mean?)

How do I take a step of faith?  What does that look like?  Should I feel nothing?  Should I feel something?  Do I do nothing?  Do I do something?  How do I know where God is calling me to step out in faith and Preacher, what would it look like if I did. 

We are going to look to an appropriate place to find our answer this morning.  We’re going to look to what has been called the “Faith Chapter” in the Bible (Hebrews 11) and go further than that and look at the specific illustration of a man who was referred to as the “Father of the Faithful” to find out exactly what faith is. 

Hebrews 11:8-11  By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:10For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed (to have a baby), and was delivered of a child when she was past (baby havin’) age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

We’re going to take Abraham, the father of the faithful, and we’re going to go back to Genesis and unpack this.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t deal with “vagueries”, with just concept.  I need it simpler, plainer than that.  If faith is this important God, and if You’re calling me to do it, Lord please tell me what it is! We’re going to see precisely what it is this morning in the life of Abraham (Genesis 11).  So turn, click, flip, power up, rainman it, whatever. 

Before we start looking at particular instances let me tell you this; faith is always three things. 
Faith is:
Knowledge – Belief – Subsequent Behavior
(Head – Heart – Hand)

Genesis 11:27-31  Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram (who became Abraham), Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot. 28And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees (that’s a city)29And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram's wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah. 30But Sarai was barren; she had no child.  31And Terah (Abraham’s Daddy) took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.

Not overly fascinating at first glance.  It really just looks like Terrah living in a city called Ur of the Chaldees, which is modern-day Iraq.  By the way, they have found all sorts of remnant of this place and it’s a fascinating study if you want to look up Ur and a ruler named Ur-Nammu and the ziggurat he built.  This is an incredibly advanced city; it was like the mecca of modern civilization back in that day.  Had advancements that other cities couldn’t dream of – it was the place to be!  Terrah had his family there, raising them in Ur of the Chaldees.  At some point, the bible says he gets stirred up by something to go to the Canaan.  He only makes it as far as a city called Haran; so he moves his family there and he stays there.  That doesn’t tell us a whole lot about Abraham, it simply tells us Abraham went with his daddy.  He takes his wife Sarah, who the Bible makes a very important parenthetical note to tell us she can’t have children.  So at first glance, maybe Terrah got a better job. Maybe Terrah was like “I’m tired of the fast-paced city life. I want to move a little out of here.”  Get to and maybe “I don’t want to be in Canaan, maybe we’ll stop short.”  What I want to tell you is there’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye.

Do you remember in the first message of this year, I preached a message on Stephen. This man of God and he stands up in front of the Sanhedrin in the book of Acts and he preaches this gorgeous sermon.  The bible says his face was glowing like an angel and he is filled with the Holy Spirit.  Stephen in Acts 7 tells this same story, but gives us details Genesis didn’t give us.  This is what Stephen tells us: 

Acts 7:2-3  2And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran (HARAN) (God appeared to Abraham when he was in Ur of the Chaldees, BEFORE they ever moved),3And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred (your family), and come into the land which I shall shew thee. 

Abraham in Ur, God speaks to him and says, “Abraham, I want you to leave your Daddy. I want you to leave what you know and what you’ve grown up with. I want you to leave the land...” which to the people of that day was everything.  “I want you to leave behind what you know and come out to a place you don’t know.  I want you to take a step of faith and trust Me.” They make it as far as Haran, but they don’t make it all the way to where God called them.  OK?  We’re going to come back to that. 

·         Knowledge
What we are seeing is God calling this, what will one day be the Father of the Faithful.  Calling him to his first steps of faith and it starts with Knowledge.  Here’s what I mean:

Romans 10:17  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Faith always starts with God telling you “this is what I want you to do.  This is how I want you to live.  This is how I want you to treat your wife or husband.  This is how I want you to raise your kids.  This is how I want you to interact with your schoolmates and the citizens around you.  This is how I want you to worship me and relate to me.  These are the things I want you to avoid and these are the things I want you to do.”  God says to Abraham, “I want you to trust Me and leave it all behind. Take a step of faith, leave your Daddy behind, and come on out.”  It starts with the word of God and knowing what He says.  Here’s the thing friends, this book is filled with instruction on how God wants us to conduct our marriage.  How God wants us to raise our kids.  What our values should be in this pagan land around us.  Where He wants us to invest our time, money, abilities.  There are all these things God calls us to.  All these things that He tells us, “This is My will for you”.  There are also times when God takes a passage, and I’ll tell you He’s done this with me, that wasn’t originally written for you; it may have been written to Abraham or written to Moses, but God illuminates that thing and it shines on your heart and the Lord says, “I want you to do that. I want you to follow Me like that.”  You say, “how will I know if that’s coming from God?”  Because it will be consistent with [the bible].  God will NEVER tell you to do something He told you not to do in the Word.  God will never lead you in a way that He wouldn’t lead you through this book.  It starts with the Word from God.  Let me ask you this, before we go any further, how important is it that we gather together in the House of God to find out what He said?  How important is it that we gather in Sunday School classes to break this book down a little bit?  How important is it that we spend time each day in the Word and say, “God, you invented life.  Tell me how to live it.  You invented this beating heart, breathing lungs, firing neurons. God show me how to live.” Faith starts with KNOWLEDGE of what God said about your life.

You know I like three points, so here’s the first one:

THOUGHT #1:  The Word of God will most often contradict your perception, understanding, and intuition.

Hebrews 11:1-3, 13  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2For by it the elders obtained a good report.  3Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.  Here’s what he’s saying, God tells you life, the world, and He work in way that you can’t physically perceive. When He created the universe... you know what evolution is?  It’s man’s lame attempt to try to figure out how we all got here.  There must be some linear “this” must’ve crashed into “this” and this explode... instead of saying “You know what, maybe there’s a God in Heaven who’s so big and vast beyond my comprehension that He just spoke it into existence.”

Faith, most often, is not you go with your gut.  Faith, most often, is not you projecting out in the future; “you know, I wouldn’t mind marrying them.  I think they’d make me happy.  I think that line of work would be the one that I ought to follow, that seems like it would make me money and give me a good life.  I think if someone does this to me, my natural response should be to do this to them.” 

You know what?  Faith is God telling you your natural response will be wrong about 99% of the time.  Faith is God saying “Listen, I am asking you to step out on things that you wouldn’t naturally do.”  We’ve been studying the beatitudes in Sunday Schoool: love your enemies, bless those who persecute you, love those that hate you?  Who comes up with that on their own?  What’s natural is, “if you’re nice to me, I’ll be so sweet to you but the moment you cross me, I will break you.”
“You want to talk about me, if I hear about it, you’re going to know about it.” 
“You want to hurt me, want to hurt my family, I’ll crush you.” 
That’s natural. 

Jesus said, we are so warped by sin that what we think is natural, is unnatural.  We have it so flipped upside down, when Jesus said love you enemies, it seemed upside down to us that He said that. 

What is faith?  It is going with God’s version of how your life should be lived and saying, “Lord, you know what?  I hear you.  I’m going to trust you. “

Here’s Abraham, and he knows God’s called him to do it, but it goes against everything in his gut.  “I’m going to leave behind my kindred, my family?  I’m going to leave this city that has a lot going for it and go out in the boonies with dangerous people and not know what’s going to happen to me?”  And he’s just a human being, not a superhero.  He struggles with that. 

So here’s the next piece of this puzzle.  Faith starts with Knowledge of God’s Word.  In a particular area of your life, no matter how you feel, what you think, what your gut tells you, God says “this is the way I want you to do it.  This is what I want you to believe.  That’s what I want to do.” He knows it but here’s the next step.

·         Belief & Behavior

Faith is Knowledge, Belief, and Behavior.  You know I like three points, but I can’t separate belief and behavior.  They go together – INSEPARABLY.  In other words, if you don’t act on it, you don’t really believe it yet.

James 2:19-20  Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20But wilt thou know, O vain (FOOLISH) man, that faith without works is dead? 

You say, “God I believe Jesus.  I believe you’re the one and only Savior.  I know it and I BELIEVE in Jesus.”  But Jesus says, “listen, if it doesn’t go past there to actually expressing itself through your life, you don’t really believe it.”

That’s not faith if it’s dormant somewhere in the regions of your academic understanding.  You know what Tony Evans said one time and I’ve never forgotten it, he said “if you want to know about your faith, don’t check your feelings, check your feet.  That’s what you really believe.”  Some of us are like “Oh man, I’m in trouble”  Well, I guess so was Abraham.  Now there’s a little conjecture here on my park, OK, but I believe (and I think it’s justifiable to the text) Abraham gets this word from God, “Abraham, I want you to trust me.  I want you to step out. I want you to leave your family.  I want you to come on out of that land and go with me.” And Abraham’s like, Lord, you know I want to follow you, I want to do the right thing, but maybe I can leave some of the family... Some of those cousins I’m not crazy about, a brother in law about there like I’ll leave that dude behind  but I can’t leave my Daddy.  And Lord, you know, Canaan is pretty scary and I don’t know.  I’ll talk Daddy into coming with me to Haran.  It hadn’t made it to his hand or behavior yet.  Listen, this is where a bunch of us are living, 99% obedience.

I’ll give you a little bit God but I’m also going to put a toe in the water, but keep the rest of me out so if you don’t keep your promise I can bail out of this thing.  You know something?  I read in the AA book, which has a lot of good stuff by the way, these alcoholics said we have learned that half measures availed us nothing.  Abraham doesn’t trust God enough yet, he doesn’t have enough faith to do what the Lord said to do.  Look what happens,

Genesis 11:31-32   And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there. 32And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.

Before we go to far here, you can easily read into this, oh Abraham wouldn’t obey God so God killed his Daddy.  I don’t believe that’s the way to frame that at all but I will tell you this:

THOUGHT #2:  God will use your pain to strengthen your faith.

When his Dad died, I think it shook Abraham hard.  It jolted him and now some of the stuff he used to love so much, he didn’t love as much anymore.  Some of the stuff that captivated him and kept him a little bit scared a little bit cautious didn’t seem to matter anymore.  He shook off some stuff .  Some of the stuff that he believed about life when his Daddy died, changed his view.  Changed his beliefs. God let Abraham get shaken hard. 

This may be a sermon later so I don’t go too far, but even that section where Jesus tells Peter the devil (some translations say) has demanded to have you that he may sift you like wheat, but I’ve prayed for you that your faith will not fail.  FAITHFUL.  And when you get turned around again, strengthen your brothers.  Satan has demanded to have you that he may sift you like wheat. 

You know how wheat gets sifted?  They put those wheat kernels in with all the stuff.  You really want the wheat between all the stuff.  They shake it.  Shake it hard and the stuff falls through, but the wheat is left. God says, you know what?  Job-style, the devil thinks, Peter, if you get shaken hard your faith will fall through. He thinks you’ve only been serving me for what you can get.  He thinks you’ve only been following me because I’ll bless you. But, Peter I’ve prayed for you.  I know there’s more than that.  I know there’s faith there.  Peter gets shaken hard in his faith doesn’t fall through, thank God.  Do you know what falls through? His self-confidence, pride, arrogance, and his belief that he can do it.  Some of you are being shaken hard and it’s not because God’s forgotten about you or hates you.  He is going to shake out some stuff.  He’s going to shake off some old beliefs that enable you to trust Him to take this step.  Some of you, I love you, are dwelling in the same old land you’ve been in forever; half-hearted steps, half-hearted commitment.  I’ll be here, I won’t be here.  I’ll follow you, I won’t follow you.  I live in sin, I’ll be back.  I’m telling you, I love you, if you’re His, he’s going to shake you hard.

You know what?  After it, you’re going to trust him.  I gotta move on...
God will use your pain to strengthen your faith.  Here’s Abraham.  God gave him a Word, “Abraham trust me.  Step out.  Leave the land, leave your daddy...” 

“God, I’m not quite ready.  I’ll do this....” Life hits him hard.

Genesis 12:1-7  Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:  2And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:  3And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

That is a promise to Abraham the father of the Jewish people.  That is still a promise to the Jewish people.  Can I say?  When you bless the Jewish people, God blesses you.  When you curse the Jewish people, God will curse you.  Sometimes I pray that our country and our President could re-remember that.

4So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. 5And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. 6And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. 7And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

Do you see that? 

THOUGHT #3:  When you take a step of faith – God will show Himself to you.

I have a little boy, Vance, he comes up with the funniest things.  He’s like his Mom; that’s one of the things I love about Jenny, she is razor quick.  Vance has got that same thing.  He got up the other morning, I’m trying to have a little time with the Lord, and he gets up so early.  I’m like, “hey bud, don’t you want to go back to sleep for a little bit?”  He goes, “Dad, once I’m awake, it’s over.”  He told me the other day, I was barbecuing some chicken and he came out there.  We’re having some guy time: daddy, son, BBQ, meat, smoke time and he asked me, if he could flip them and we were talking.  There was a real beautiful red sky, some of you saw that red sky that night.  He said, “you know Dad, sometimes I see that, clouds like that, the red sky, and I think about when Jesus comes back.”  And I was like, “Oh yeah, me too son.  I think the same thing sometimes.” I love his honesty, he said, “I sure hope that when I die and Jesus comes back that I go with him and I get to go to heaven because you know you really can’t know...”  [laughing]  I love his honesty, he’s like “I haven’t been to heaven, I haven’t seen it.”  You know what I told him?  And I don’t know if he got his yet, told him, “Son here’s the thing, Jesus is real and you can’t see Him with your eyes and hear Him with your ears, but when you see Him and you take a step of faith, when you do what He told you to do, He will show himself very real to you.  You will know that you’re his.   You know what he said, “is the chicken ready?  Can I turn the chicken?”  I was like “well I got that one second there Lord, I’ll take it!” 


Knowledge – Belief – Behavior(Head – Heart – Hand)

What is the step of faith God is calling you to take? If you don’t know, can I promise you, He wants to tell you.  Some of you are here and the truth is, just like Vance, you can say with honesty, “I don’t know.”  Like we were singing and playing about, it doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done.  Your little efforts of coming to God on your own will only get in the way.  Like somebody drowning, trying to help the lifeguard.  Jesus will save you by His sacrifice and His sacrifice alone.  He can forgive all your sins.  He can give you His righteousness.  You know what, your one part in that thing is?  I believe that I’m a sinner.  I believe Jesus that you have the power to save me.  I believe that the bible says you’re real and you’re true.  Jesus, today I’m asking you to be my Lord and Savior and forgive my sins and come into my heart. My friend, he’ll do it today! Can I get an amen from those who know him?  He’ll do it today!  For the rest of us, somebody in here, you know what’s getting in your way? You’re ashamed of yourself.  You feel like He couldn’t take somebody like you.  I want to tell you something, He can and He will.  Take a step of faith.  Ask Him to increase your faith.  Trust Him in the little things.  You know, the statement for our church is we’re here to help people become wholehearted followers of Jesus Christ.  I’m not sure that’s not too big for people. I think people get freaked out when they hear that.  You know what our mission is, to help people take a step of faith.  That’s it.  Not jump over tall buildings in a single bound.  Take a step of faith today. 

We’re going to have a verse of invitation.  If you need to come talk to God this morning, if He stood you up and maybe your first step needs to be this morning right down to an alter saying “Lord, I’m serious about this.”  There’s no magical power to this part, but sometimes you feel the need to physically step out and do something.  If you need to come and pray, amen.  If you need to come talk to a counselor, take me by the hand and I’ll have Ron or one of our folks talk to you at length on whatever you need to talk about.  Set up something for this week if you need longer.  But all over this place, can we take this truth we just heard personally?  May God just do what only He can do.  I leave it at that.  Let God do whatever He wants to do this morning.  If you need to come right now, we’ve prayed, we’ve talked, I invite you, God invites you.  Whatever it is, whatever you need to bring to him, whatever step of faith you need to take, let’s step out right now all over this place while Brandon leads us.

"What Is Faith?" Brian Loveless Sermon on January 24, 2016 at Calvary Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas.

Brian Loveless has been serving as Lead Pastor for Calvary Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, TX since November 2003. Brian shepherds, leads, feeds, and guides Calvary’s congregation, staff, and guests to spiritual growth and service for Jesus Christ. His main goals remain for folks to see God, share life, serve others, and stay connected.