This site comes to you with a fresh angle on the subject of FAITH. It offers profound insights into it trials, and triumphs, and puts the spotlight on God’s character and His Word. Here is just one brief example of how Scripture illuminating the relationship between faith and feeling.
When danger looms large, fear is inevitable. When our body chemistry sets up a sense of impending disaster, when we suffer heavy blows and our circumstance are oppressive and dark, or when pain and illness sit with us at the fireside, fear and alarm are a natural response. What, then, does FAITH do? It takes the shackles from our ankles; we challenge the paralyzing grip and go ahead anyway. With God, fear will not stop us — we overcome it. “Why are you cast down, O my soul? / and why are you disquieted with me? / hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him/ for the help of His countenance” (Ps. 42: 5).
Blessing unfolds with this blog and site, WWW.PROPHETAKANBI.ORG/SEER+FAITH AND WWW.EAGLESTAR.NG/SEER+FAITH therefore being firmly set on Jesus Christ of Nazareth, “The author and finisher of our FAITH” (Hebrew 12: 2).
My desire is, through this site, to teach the never-changing faith principles revealed in the Word of God. They have been proven in my own decade’s years of following Jesus against the backdrop of front-line in prophetic destiny ministries of this present hour. The same principles have been tried and tested by my calling and destiny in the move of God in this 21st century. You will reign with the Lord in the dynamic understanding of how to walk in faith in your entire journey to the path of destiny Kingdom above. Shalom!
UNBELIEF AND ATHEISM
Unbelief and atheism never produced an atom of good in the world but have filled history with misery and horror. They bring no cheer, damage the human psyche, destroy hope and lead multitude to excesses such as drugs and alcohol or comfort and to forget. The inspiration of wonder, mystery and beauty turns sour with cynicism. Their effectiveness in building a better world and in bettering the miseries of the deprived have proved negligible compare to the work of Christians.
Such claim that the West rest on Christian principle not on Greek ideals. To attack the basic Christian conceptions, militates against national stability. It is a betrayal. Such people will fall into the pit, which they have dug. Godlessness filters down from the intelligentsia to the less adequate, and is interpreted in excess and crime. The sanctions of faith in God are the shield and buckler of society.
What Jesus Christ said and did never prompted one deed of wickedness ever perpetrated. Evil men have denied Him and in Him Name worked horrors, for which Christ will judge them on the Day of Judgment.
If there’s no God, why work for the future when it will all end in nothing forever? As English philosopher Bertrand Russell admitted after 90 years, the atheism can only build on a foundation of despair.
Faith in God has been the highest inspiration, beyond that of love and romance, for every kind of great work known on earth.
That Christ, the Son of God, did not resist the murderous men at the Cross and that He rose from the dead, is teaching so incredible that nobody would preach it at all unless it were true. It would never have risen in the first place as a religious faith unless it had all happened. In the ordinary way, such teaching would never have been considered to have a chance in a mocking world—nobody would have invented it or thought it would have a chance of ever taking off—the story of a Jew at that, presented by Jews – all despised people. It conquered the world because it was true.
Take even the virgin birth. Why on earth would anybody teach such a wildly unlikely story except it was true? The Gospels were circulating, and thousands believed years before Mary, the mother of Christ, died. They obviously knew it was true or it could not have been written or accepted in a Gospel that was read by people who knew Mary.
Some think that people in Bible days could believe anything, because they were so ignorant. They could believe in the virgin birth, for example, because they didn’t know what we know. In fact, that is nonsense. They had as much reason to doubt it as we have, and some did. They knew just as well as you and I that virgin girls can’t produce babies, science or no science. But if God decides to become man, what’s to stop Him ordering it that way? Is He God or not? Unbelief is not modern. We only have modern excuses.
Now about miracles. Nobody can say miracles can’t happen. Nobody knows enough. We can’t be that clever. It calls for total understanding not only of nature and of Divine things, but of all mystery and all history. A Scottish philosopher said he didn’t believe miracles happen, because they didn’t! Logic? How did he know such a sweeping fact? Did he know every remote corner and person on earth and everything that had ever happened, to judge what a miracle was and what was not? The science of 100 years ago said miracles were impossible. But they also said much else was impossible, and they wrong. In their minds television impossible. In a broadcast in October 1996, Alastair Cooke pointed out that Einstein himself said that nuclear fission could never be a source of power! We pluck voices, music and pictures out of the air from across the oceans or a billion miles out in space. Utterly fantastic and ridiculous? They didn’t know enough to say so. Skepticism is the conceit of the know-all.
Science has not disproved God or the Bible. Scientists as a group are more likely to be believers than any other professional workers. The people, who say they can’t believe because of science, usually know nothing about science! They are still in the 19th century and have inherited the opinions of early attempts at understanding the world, settling for opinions now outdated as if they were infallible. Having a closed mind about the power of God is like having a closed parachute — you jump to a hasty conclusion.
The old Anti-God museums of the Stalinist era in Russia seemed so convincing to atheists. They made Christians laugh, because they were so native. At speakers corner. Hyde Park, London, an atheist challenged God. He said, “I challenge God to strike me dead in one minute from now.” He held his watch for sixty seconds. “There you are! There’s no God.” An elderly lady piped up. “Excuse me – are you married, have you a family? Have you a son?” yes – the answer to all three questions.” “If your son challenged you to fight and kill him, would you do so?” no, he wouldn’t. “Then do you think God would want to kill you?”
The way to know God exists is to trust Him. The way to know electricity exists is not by theory but by using it. Simply begin believing God, act on it and doubts will disappear. Live as if there were a God, and you will know there is. Faith in God is our own natural ability made operative by the Holy Spirit. To use faith is to be led by the Holy Spirit. God is not my faith in God, but He comes to me when I am prepared to trust Him. A baby gets strength to walk by walking. We get faith by believing. It isn’t something you have, but something you DO.
It is a principle explained in a typical paradox of Jesus “whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have , even what he think he has will be taken from him” (Luke 8:18). If you come in a sullen mood, hoping faith won’t work to show the world it won’t, well, it won’t work. God will oblige you by not doing anything, if that’s your secret wish. You’ll get your miserable and mean reward. If you feel sorry for yourself and say God isn’t fair to you and doesn’t do anything for you that is how it will be. What you have, you will lose. The last glimmer flicker out.
Anton Chekov said, “Man is what he believes.” So, if people say they believe in nothing, it would mean they are nothing! If we believe in nothing, we live for nothing and get nowhere. But everybody believes something, as we said earlier. A man is what he believes. Our believing is shown by what we do.
If Chekhov is right – and isn’t he? – Then we are something if we believe in something. Believing in sport makes us sport fans, for what this, is worth. Believing in money may make us very much something in the present world system, but nothing in God. Believing in Christ makes us the greatest thing we can ever be – sons of the living God, begotten of Him. By faith we bring ourselves under the estimation of God, who sees us as the purchases of the Blood of Christ. We cost Him dearly, and we are “dear” to Him.
PSYCHOLOGY OF A BELIEVER
That in fact is the Christian’s psychological outlook. A believe feels he is somebody. He is humble but doesn’t crawl. He has an eternal destiny. No believer thinks of himself as a breath, a vapor that vanishes at sun-up, as the writers of Psalms suggested. They wrote before Christ came. He “brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (2 Timothy 11:10). Nothing could give our confidence a greater boost that to believe and know who we are in Christ — chosen, called, invested with His Spirit, sharing the labors of the blessed Spirit Himself.
At the same time, nothing could keep us more humble than to know our sins deserved eternal death but Jesus died for us.” We were chosen who were unworthy. Money, brains, breeding can give us an ego, but the believer knows he is a personality. He is great but without any cause to boast. God has “lifted up the humble” (Luke 1:52), as Mary sang at the birth of her Son Jesus.
True personality arises only in Christ. By accident of birth we may be rich, intelligent, assertive, successful, or poor, simple, inferior, unknowns. That is a temporary state. We can lose it. Rudyard Kipling is the name half the world knows to be that of a matchless writer, but in old age he had to ask what his own name was. What we are by nature is not what counts. What we are in Christ is the truth about us. Believing means that each of us, however lowly is station, is given the main chance.
Some of the greatest people of God, bringing benefits to a world, which is not worthy, were nothing in the world. Billy Bray, simple to the point of eccentricity, a Cornish laborer, is famous a hundred years after his death around the world and regarded as one of the aristocrats of the Kingdom of God.
The Gospel revival in Latin America is finding men in the squalor at the bottom of their social order and lifting them to influence and high citizenship. Muddled by alcoholism and ignorance, beset by marriage complications, a man comes and sees some old drinking pal now transformed, ministering to a congregation of thousands. He recognizes his worth, redeemed and purchased by the Blood of Christ. He believes, is converted and stands up to be counted.
Millions of such characters cast off their groveling existence as nobodies and become something in themselves, personalities of character and value. Onesimus was a runaway Greek slave trying to lose his identity in Rome but destined for punishment by death. Paul — or rather God – found him. He was elevated, “no longer as a slave but as a dear brother” (Philemon v. 16). We are “what we believe.” James 2:5 says, “has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich if faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”
BEING WHAT WE BELIEVE
What we are depends on who we think God is. Christians know God is like Christ. It affects us when we believe in Him and makes us like Him, subject, of course, to the limits of human weakness and inconsistency. Something in us strives to breach that standard. But whatever our moral attainment, we know we stand in high regard before the only One who matters, our God and Savour Jesus Christ.
Believing in Christ brings out the highest and best in us. It pushes self into the background. Believe in anything else whatever, money, sport, knowledge, humanism and somehow self always arrives in the foreground. Believing even in a religion can be entirely for the benefit of our own soul, as with the “holy men” of the east. When we see God as Christ showed Him to us, self-concern beings to die. Our number one interest will not be “number one.”
Wisdom, all the qualities that make for the good life, is described between the covers of that one book, the Bible. Yet, the keynote is, “Trust in the Lord.” A New Testament writer drew up a list of the most honored people in the Bible, those bringing permanent benefits to the world. He said, “By [faith] the elders obtained a good report” (Hebrews 11:2). The secret of their lives was always the same, faith. “That is what the ancients were commended for” (NIV).
Others did great thing too, but purely as a credit to themselves. God honored those whose efforts sprang from faith in Him. Each of them would never have done what they did, unless they had depended on God. They rose above themselves. What they were was faith in God made them. It was not what they would naturally do or even could naturally do. The greatest miracles of faith are not scientific impossibilities but personal.
It wasn’t great faith that lifted them above their average. They were ordinary, everyday folk with ordinary faith – faith that struggled with nail-biting doubt and sweating fears, but which put them into action. They were not saints sitting on cloud nine, spending their time in contemplation, but practical people changing things around them.
WHAT TALENS ARE
If we are to transact business with God, faith is the coinage. Everyone has a supply of that currency. The “Talents Parable” (Matthew 25:14-30) is about investing faith. Jesus describes servants with talents, one with five, one with two and another with one. He went away and on his return the five-talent man had doubled his capital, and so had the two-talent man. But the other man had only kept and buried his talent and done nothing with it. The employer gave the first two servants a multiplied reward, but he took the talent from the one man and gave it to the ten-talent man.
The focus of the parable is the man who buried his talent. Jesus is not talking about the ability to play the piano or being good with needlework. He is talking about faith and the man who lost his faith. He “kept the faith” and that is all he did and in the end lost it altogether. Faith invested gains interest and increases. People with big faith didn’t wake up one morning and find it in their stocking like a gift from Father Christians. They used what they had, and it gathered strength and weight. That is always the principle. Moses’ first miracle was only to turn his rod into a snake. He took many steps of faith before he led a whole nation into the wilderness, trusting God to feed them.
Look at the disciples. In Matthew 8:26 Jesus said to them, “you of little faith, why are you so afraid?” this translates a word, which is hard to put into English. Jesus called them by a name, “little-faiths.”
Then after the resurrection it is stated in Mark 16:14, “Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.”
WE’RE AS BIG AS OUR FAITH
Incredible, it was those “Little-faiths” men who changed the world. Seeing Jesus alive left them stubbornly unbelieving, but they had a faith breakthrough. At one stage they had asked Jesus to help them. “And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” “So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
It seems that Jesus was correcting their ideas about faith. A mustard seed is a mere dot, Jesus is saying that if we have faith at all, if the dot is there, that’s it!
A friend objected to the bank “personalizing” his checks – which is with his name already printed on them. The computer system had to print something in the name space, so finally they used a dot only. Checks pass on the strength of that dot. It is distinctive.
If we have faith at all, it distinguishes us, if only a dot. Size doesn’t come into it. What increases is not the strength or scale of our faith, but its scope. Faith is measured by what it covers. If you have a good electric flashlight, you can narrow its beam and focus it on perhaps just the keyhole of a door, but it can be enlarge and throw light across the whole doorway. Faith at first has a small and limited range, but as confidence comes, it covers a larger area and believes for more and bigger things.
People may have faith for a healing, perhaps when they are sick, but they faith in God for every part and all their lives? Have they faith in God when they are not healed? Perhaps the triumph of faith for some individuals would not be to deliver people from wheelchairs but to be delivered themselves from egotism or bad tempter.
The apostle Paul was a man of envious trust in God. He healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead, and laid hands on people to be filled with the Spirit. He preached in the power and demonstration of the Spirit. We read all that, but most of what he says is about the effects of faith in himself – what faith had done for his soul.
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul “boasts” about his experiences and his apostleship. He talks about “the things that mark an apostle – signs, wonders and miracles” (1 Corinthians 12:12), but only because the Corinthians put such value on them. The real signs of his apostleship were what God had enabled him to be. “I am what I am by the grace of Jesus Christ.” He had gone to God for healing and it was refused, but by faith he lived unhealed and displayed the character of Christ in all his carrier – by faith. He said, “The life I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Genesis 2:20).
LITTLE FAITH BUT A BIG GOD
It is not the size of your faith but the size of the God you believe in that determines the size of the results. Too many have too small a God. A gentle Jesus meek and mild God or a harmless old granddad God or a pleasant morning English church God who slips out at sunrise to watch a crocket on the village green or a false god. The Nazis in Germany resurrection the northern gods and wrecked Europe. Millions know that faith in Christ revolutionized them and set them about the business of telling everybody about Him and also trying to make this world a better place.
It would be tedious even to list the gods and the horrors their followers committed to please them. Christians were roasted alive on grid-iron to please the Roman deities. Distorted ideas of Jesus Christ Himself, who is the essence of all love, inspired many a murder – the Crusades, the inquisition, pogroms against the Jews. What these wicked people believed is not remotely connected with the New Testament or the Christ of Calvary. They blasphemed Christ’s cross, using it as a symbol of purposes, violently the opposite of what it meant.
We all believe, and belief is a potent force. The God of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul is the God revealed in Jesus Christ who laid down His Life for us all and retook it, rising from the grave.
Anybody with faith in the Jesus of the Gospel can never commit atrocities, even against enemies.
Anybody who loves the Bible Christ, is not a nobody, though the world recognizes only the worldly.
Faith in Jesus is the one pure power to make the least person great reduce emperors to nobodies.
Faith is not just a nice thing, like a box of gourmet chocolate candy. It is the power element of all life, and the greatest force for social good known to mankind.
The most dangerous thing for anybody and any nation is to believe in the wrong thing.
A door of service fit for a king opens to every Christian believer.
Ordinary faith is the means by which ordinary people become extraordinary.
Great faith is only great things done by simple faith. I believe in believing. I believe in believing God.
FAITH AND THE PROMISES
FAITH, AN ATTITUDE
What is this faith? It is not a thing, a lump of something, an extra brain lobe or a piece stuck on our soul. We choose to believe. In another faith when talk about the faith the story of the Great Woman of Shunem. With Elijah, she believed and refused every discouragement, unwavering. Her character of unshakable, unpanicking trust in God, is why the Bible calls her a “great woman.”
Faith is the only basis possible for any workable relationship. It seems to me that faith in God is not only good, but it is the only decent thing to do. It is ridiculous to expect dealing with God on any other terms – how else can an invisible God relate to us – and for the unknown future? If we can’t go that far, what are we worth? If we can’t trust the Almighty, of all beings, who do we think we are? It is the least God can expect. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). And if anybody says, “I’m not a believer,” too bad, but God is not pleased with them. Would they or anybody else be pleased if somebody didn’t trust them?
Faith is not certainly. It is a personal issue. Somebody may have proved himself up to now, but the future holds only personal assurances. We trust them because we know them. It is bound to be a matter of trust. If we thought they would change, we would not trust them. We read in the Bible who God is. We may have proved Him for ourselves up to this moment, but for the future we can do no other than trust.
No faith is needed to believe two plus two make four, but life is a degree more complicated. Circumstances change like the ocean. The vastness of things affects the future. Obviously, what God might do is affected – He doesn’t cut across event are if they didn’t occur. He may work no magic; turn no pumpkins into golden coaches. But He is all wise and all powerful, so much so that we have to leave things in Him to sort out, for we may understand no more of what He is doing then we would understand the chaos of a shipyard building a 50,00 ton luxury liner. We look to Him and that is something God takes into account. He made the world that way. Prayer and faith will enable Him to do what He could not otherwise do. No doubt it is true that God can do anything, but He doesn’t without those who believe. That is His planned providence.
It is human nature to depart on people’s promises until we are disillusioned. Tricksters and con men trade on it. We trust people when they give us their word. We should be able to trust God as He has given His word. A hundred generations have proved Him, and has given us the same reason for relying upon Him – express declarations of what He will undertake to do for us. Somebody went through the whole Bible and counted finding 7,874 promises that God made to us.
That glittering array covers our understanding of God and what we can expect of Him. Outside these promises is possibly outside the word of God. Nevertheless, there is no hard boundary to the kindness of God. He is gracious. Experience show He may allow beyond the fringe of His precise Word. When that happens, it is not to be taken as setting a precedent for others to demand the same of Him. But the scope of 7,874 promises should be wide enough for all circumstances needing Gods help.
Many of the promises come in the form of a covenant. “Faith and the Covenants” need one or two chapters, as it is such thrilling and fascinating subject. At the moment, our concern is having faith in God through the promises.
SOLICITED AND UNSOLICITED
God does a lot for us without our asking Him. “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthews 5:45). God is good, and good to all. Millions give Him no credit, though they are quick to blame Him when things, which are not good, hit them. The processes of nature seem unchangeable and regular. To this day, nobody has shown that God has no part in this. He keeps His promises to “the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you,” (Genesis 9:10). “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22). Jesus took it further and included the flowers, saying, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:28-29).
However, God has other good things. The promise is, “see and you shall find” (Matthew 7:7). For they are obtainable only by direct application. Actually, they are promised and most of them are listed in Scripture – “No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11). When we come to the end of natural provision, Jesus said, “ask and you shall receive” (John 16:24). “Everyone that asks receives … if you then … know how to give good gifts to tour children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those that ask him?” (Mathew 7: 8, 11). If we ask for good, He will not send evil –ever! “All GOOD gifts come down from the Father of light.” Says James 1:17.
The exercise of faith in prayer is a health activity. The bird in the nest must learn to fly and gather what is available. Having ask is an excellent remainder to us of our dependency on God and is arranged to bring us to seek Him. It gives birth to a spirit of childlikeness, looking to our Heavenly Father at all times. It is fellowship – family fellowship with our Father.
WORLD ORDER PRAYER
God could have arranged to do everything for us, but the simplest understanding human nature would laugh at the suggestion. No parents would be so stupid as to treat their offspring like that. The object is to lead a child to stand on his own two feet. God intends something very similar for us. His ultimate purpose is that we will not be just helpless dependents, like babes at the breast, but His co-workers.
Prayer is at present our sole access if we wish to be useful to Him. It is so often forgotten that He actually created the kind of world in which prayer would be necessary. Prayer was not an afterthought when the devil upset things. Even Jesus prayed. To help the on-going affairs of the Kingdom of God. Prayer is essential. A lot goes on that God does not want, but we should pray that His will shall be done. We ask. THEN He performs – He planned we should co-operate in that way, just as He put Adam “into the Garden o Eden to dress it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15).
That is how to read the promise in John 14:13, “I will do whatever you ask in my name.” we ask for whatever is necessary for the will of God on earth to be fulfilled. “I will do whatever you ask in my name.” We are His collaborators. The world and the people in it need care, and the promise that Christ will do whatever we ask is for the fulfillment of the purpose, not to get the moon or half a dozen Rolls Royce cars.
There are unconditional promises, like the continuation of nature, but there’s a great deal for which we must ask. As James 4:2 says. “You have not because you ask not.” He is not going to wet-nurse us. He feeds the sparrows but does not throw food into their nets. If we want God to work, we must work in prayer.
GOD ALWAYS GUIDES
Prayer is the act of speaking to God, not God speaking to us. God speak to us anytime He wants. He doesn’t wait until we pray. In fact, nobody in the Bible seemed to be praying when God spoke to them. God is close to us and can speak at all times. It may be that we can’t hear Him sometimes because we are clamoring for Him to say something different.
Prayer is basically a time to pour out our hearts to Him. Listening is another thing. We should constantly be ready, for He speaks at any time. It is no use rising from our knees and saying He hasn’t spoken. We can’t demand that He should speak at that precise time, like switching on the radio. We should never be switched off. He may interrupt our own program with specific personal instructions at any time.
It may seem strange to Christians today that there I nothing whatever in Scripture about praying to hear from God, for guidance or anything else. There is plenty about hearing His voice, but almost nothing about waiting to hear (except in Habakkuk 2:1 when Habakkuk stood at his watch to hear from God). If we pray and wait to hear, we may hear, but whatever voice speaks we need to know who it is. The dangers are obvious.
It is a fact of our nature – a psychological fact – that our own desires can be so loud that they sound like Divine commands. Shout long enough about what we already what to do and the echo will come back sooner or later, but it is our own voice, not the voice of God. People talk of how they wrestled with God over a decision. Looked at honestly, that is an invidious procedure. Is God like that? In fact, they want Him to agree. Do we really imagine we must wrestle with God to pray the secret out of Him about what He wants us to do? Surely He would just tell us without an all-out wrestling match with the Almighty. It is ridiculous to approach God that way, as if He were unwilling to tell us His will. The business of asking God for directions suggests He has neglected to guide us as/a He said He would.
After Jerusalem fell, many of the people wanted Jeremiah to inquire if they should leave the land. In their heart they wanted to go to Egypt and meant to do so. They only wanted Jeremiah to persuade God to approve their plans. Jeremiah inquired, and God did not approve at all. They went anyway saying Jeremiah had lied about what God said. They ran into great trouble as a result. God had not said anything about them leaving in the first place because He had no new plan.
There is a safeguard for all “voices” and impulses – and that is the Word. “if they speak not according to this Word there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). It claims for self the unique privilege of being the means through which God speaks. He has nothing to say except according to its precepts. His Word may come to us through ministry or prophecy, which often we need, but personal directives never come through a third party. He tells nobody else what you should do. There may be comfort, edification, and exhortation, but each of us is led of God if we are His children (Romans 8:14).
None of the great men and women in Scripture who heard God’s voice for themselves were asking and waiting for it. God wanted to speak and did so. People ask, “What is God saying to the church?” why should God always be saying something to the church? Has He left us all in the dark about what He wants? There are spiritually superior person who profess to know what nobody else knows, as if they were Divine favorites who really stood before Him as nobody else. The Spirit of the prophets is now the Spirit given to all believers. God reveals His secrets to His prophets, and we are all in that category today in Christ. When God speaks, it is a broadcast message, not a telephone call.
WHAT GOD IS SAYING?
If He has anything to say to the church as a whole, it is what Christ said when He left this world …”Go into all the world and preach the Gospel” (Mark 16:15). Until that commission is completed God has no afterthoughts or overriding concerns to get us busy about side issues, such a church structures and organization.
God has a revealed will so, “if we ask anything according to His will he hears us” (1 John 5:14). That is why Christ gave us the petition. ”thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Jesus said again, “if … my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you.” The primary aim of prayer is not for our will to be done, but to bring about the revealed will of God, not to persuade God to our way of thinking or force His hand. His expressed will is that God desires all men to come to repentance. Everything in the NT spells that out clearly. If we ask according to that will, God hastens to answer. It is expressed in the prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done earth as it is in heaven” it is Gospel that will achieve it.
FASTING AND FAITH
We have heard of those who say they will fast if necessary till death until God answer them. It certainly is an impressive way of showing how sincere there are. But how is this to affect God? Is it a sign of their trying to force the hand of God by a subtle spiritual threat? Is it religious and emotional blackmail? Is God going to say, “I had better do what they want or they will die?”
God does not yield to emotional pressures of any kind. It is an error to fast to twist God’s arm. Fasting is just a manner of expressing our urgency, like calling on God loudly or persistently. The pagans though that they could bring some kind of force to bear upon their gods by their exertions, bloodletting, and other efforts. But the Lord is not like Zeus, Apollo or Baal. It is God’s pleasure to hear His children, and they don’t need to make noise or hold a demonstration. Getting everybody on earth to pray merely to add weight or volume to our voice, like sending a petition to the Government, misunderstands the nature of prayer. Prayer is effective hen we are participating in the work of God, especially a particularly work.
To believe God when we ask, we must know we are heard and that we ask according to His Word – that is according to His revealed will. The Word of God lists many such objects. We are told to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread”(Matthew 6:11). Jesus said, “Your heavenly Father [will] give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13). He also said, “Tarry … until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). We should ask for healing, for spiritual gifts, for one another, for those in the assembly who sin and for kings and governors. These are all subsidiary requests heading up the greatest purpose of God, the world’s redemption.
FAITH AND ITS OBJECTIVES
James was the half-brother of Jesus, and his epistle carries a back to the typical teaching of Jesus as no other book. Here is a valuable passage: “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures … friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:2-4).
The discussion there concerns prayer for materials goods. But if we pray as materialists of the world and our heart is wrong, we shall get no answer. To set our affection on possessions, affluence, and prestige is materialism and worldliness and pushes God and His purposes aside.
The number one prayer of many people is about number one themselves. But when the Kingdom of God is number one there is no wrong in asking God for His good things. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow…” the material gifts around us are from God as gifts to His creatures. “He satisfies the longing soul[s]” (Psalm 107:9), whatever their instincts or tastes.
God-made wealth gives us the power to get wealth, but nothing whatever was made only for materialists. Riches are not the primary object of faith. Faith has been given to lay hold on possessions. God didn’t display His vast wealth in our wonderful world just as a temptation to test Christians. Believers have as much claim on the good things of this life as anyone else does. To concentrate our desires and prayers on them is a different thing; however, the motive for getting is giving, to relieve the hungry and distressed and to make known the Name of the Lord. Faith and prayer is a single subject, depending on one another.
FAITH —– OLD AND NEW
FAITH IN OLD TESTAMENT
We get what we live for, but do we live by what we get? Conditions are fantastic compared with the past. Are we fantastically more content and fulfilled?
There have been fantastic people, relishing mortal existence like the finest wine, even when ignorance was profound, spiritual giants like Enoch, Abraham, and Samuel! They didn’t surf the internet, skimming across world knowledge, but below the surface they plumbed the depths of reality. A deep understanding burned in their eyes. If we met one of these tremendous characters we would feel inferior in the presence of their greatness.
These were the ancient, men who know God. They didn’t consider “faith,” a state of mind. They thought only in practical terms, as walking with God, serving, fearing, obeying, and cleaving to Him. That is what faith is and that is why the Bible must be our guide every inch of the way. Today “faith” is thought of as a possession, stacked safely somewhere in our psychological cupboard. We bring it out, dust it off and exhibit it, as occasion requires.
“Credo … I believe …”
The ancients would no more go through the day without “faith” than without their clothes. It was the atmosphere they breathed, not just for convenient moments. The world now thinks of religion as a subject or occasional practice. Sunday is given for religion. For these great men their relationship with God was the essential quality of all their waking hours and unthinking without Him.
The world was then a perilous place. The nations had no idea how to handle sickness and plagues, droughts, and famines. Enemies surrounded them. But Israel learned that God was “El Shaddai,” their all sufficient, protector, deliverer, healer, stronghold, “shield and buckler.”
Other nations looked to their gods, to the rain god if they wanted rains, to the god of fertility for their harvest. They offered a sacrifice at their shrine as a bribe when they wanted their help. That is all the gods asked otherwise people forgot them. Pagans had no sustained sense of God’s constant concern. Only Israel enjoyed that.
In Israel God sent the Bible prophets to assure them of His faithfulness. He was their shepherd and they were the sheep of His pasture. This was far beyond hearten thought. Even the greatest of the heathen, such as Socrates and Aristotle, had no such Divine awareness. Israel were the people of God, but, for example, while the Ephesians gloried I Diana (Artemis), they were not “the people of Diana.” They just patronized her.
FAITH OF A NEW KIND
IN THE New Testament, the trust communicated by the Bible prophets continues. But it expands beyond a physical covenant and takes in more than even the prophets who prophesied it understood (1 Peter 1: 10-12). The Christ introduced embraced life here and hereafter, our whole moral, spiritual and psychological existence.
Jesus showed us that our physical dangers were not the all-important matter, nor our material prosperity. The state of our real self, our personality or soul, was the all-important issue. The body would die, but worse would be for the soul to perish. “The soul that sins, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4 says, but Jesus said the soul that sins is dead already, and He comes as the Resurrection and the Life.
The first thought of the ancient had to be physical security and prosperity because they lived under threat against both. But they were wonderful believers. Their faith was not an easy going belief in a creed, but it had to be exercised vigilantly as a daily shield against constant perils. They pioneered true faith and that in a world entirely idolatrous. Whatever we trust God for, including eternal salvation, these old characters under the most testing condition show us how to believe. Their examples are recorded in Scripture because they afford vital guidance fir all time.
There are various degrees of faith. We may begin with a limited vision of what to trust God for or with only one prayer. “O God help me!” I want to help readings go up a kind of staircase. Step to step, looking to God for an ever-wider area of our circumstances. Our faith may follow a process something like this:
- Believing the something is true. The book of James reminds those who believe in one God that the devils also believe the same thing (James 2: 19). Which is not too encouraging! In John 11 Martha believed in the resurrection at the last day, but Christ wanted a faith that leaped to resurrection there and then. But never mind it was a beginning. Similarly, the Jews believed their religion was true, though it did little for them because it was never in action. It is similar in these days. Faith may be no more than agreement with a statement of truth, an intellectual assent, hardly the small change of life’s currency. Believing there’s God is not a saving faith, any more than believing there is a planet called Pluto, but it is an essential start.
- Believing a person id genuine. For example Nicodemus said, “You are a teacher come from God” (John 2: 3). Jesus wanted a higher brand of faith than being regarded as a teacher. He talked to Nicodemus about “believing” in a new way, a way that Nicodemus had never conceived. Many believed in Jesus as Nicodemus did, as a genuine man. But admiration can turn to commitment, as there is reason to think it did in the case of Nicodemus.
However believing Jesus is a good man suffers from a fatal fallacy. If He was good, then He was not a liar, a deceiver of crazy. He claimed to be the Son of God. He was not a good man to claim such a thing, but a shocking blasphemer, unless it was true. If He was a good man, He must have been what He said — much more than a good man, but Christ, the Savior of the world. And He is!
- Believing in Jesus as an inspired person, like a prophet. The disciples told Christ that was how people thought of Him. “Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some Elijah, and others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16: 14). He entered Jerusalem and “The multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee’” (Mathew 21:11). They applauded Him, but Jesus, like Jeremiah, wept. They had gone so far but not allowed Him to take them under his wing and save them. Again, we can’t say He is a prophet like saying Sir Christopher Wren was an architect. A prophet must be heard, and to hear Christ takes us a long, long way.
- Believing in God’s power. In Jerusalem, everybody believed in His power. Many believed also in Christ’s power (John 2 :23-225). They didn’t doubt what they was, that He had healing power, He was a miracle worker; they even wanted a broader faith. They believed in His physical powers but did not place Him where He should be, as Lord and Savior. They asked Him for miracles but He had other ideas than to gratify their love of the sensational (John 6:36). Their faith was only in Him as a healer, which is worth little more than faith in a man as a doctor only, not as a daily help. Christ is to be trusted for all things, not a miracle or two.
- Believing as trust. This turns faith into a personal relationship. We trust people, such as our parents. They know us and hold the key to our most confidential diary. We feel they won’t fail us. That is the personal ‘faith” God wants us to place in Him. Our lives are as open to Him as if He sat in our living room. We may as well confess our sins, as He knows them anyway. That is saving faith. If we were trapped on a mountain ledge and an expert rescuer came, we would simply have to put our lives in his hands, no matter how brilliant, rich, strong, or stupid we were. That is saving faith, and Christ is our Rescuer.
- Believing in Christ. This is the real faith. We trust Christ in a way we never trust even a close friend. Friends can led us down, as I Psalm 41:9, “my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me.” Even our own father may fail us but “When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the LORD will take care of me.” Palms 27: 10. It means surrender, letting Him take over and not in one area of our lives only, but the whole. If he’s going to keep your head above water, He’s got to get a grip on you completely.
That is how Paul wanted it to be for his converts. “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Christ can only save what we give to Him. Hand everything over to Him, lock, stock and barrel, body, soul and spirit, into His total care, for all time. Then He can do something for us. He doesn’t want to save us piecemeal. Satan is the only rival for that kind of possession of us. He is hungry for it. He wants to “devour” us.
EFFECTS OF TRUE FAITH
I’ve been looking for a word, and it is “interaction” or perhaps ‘catalyst,” a word indicating a effect. That is what faith does – it produces an interaction between Christ and me. It is also a catalyst, an element bringing about a change. Believing is a relationship. I don’t mean like being related to your great-aunt whom you’ve never met. It is something alive, vibrant, affecting both Christ and me. We give ourselves to Him and He gives Himself to us. We become “partakers of the Divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
The apostle Paul looked for a word too for the same situation. He uses a marvelous expression. It is — “in Christ.” For example, 2 Corinthians 5: 17 says, “If any man be IN CHRIST he is a new creature,” and Romans 8: 1 state, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are IN CHRIST Jesus.” The simplest faith in Christ has this amazing effect. All true faith is simple anyway. It isn’t some kind of algebra to find the value of X. the simplest person can believe and enjoy the same effect as wisest.
CHRIST’S “FAITH” EXPRESSIONS
Jesus also looked for words. He heard all the religious jargon of the Scribes, which ordinary people didn’t appreciate. But the common people heard Jesus gladly. He talked about faith but put it in other ways. “Come unto me,” “Love me,” “Bide in me,” “Eat of me,” “Follow me!”
Faith is not one particular religious act. It is the transfer of responsibility for one’s life to God “in tot” when our own resources are inadequate.
It is spiritual fusion, making us on with Christ. It seems such a simple attitude, and it is. But there was no other way by which w could possibly acquire all that Christ accomplished on the Cross for us. We are saved by faith. What is there greater than in this world? “faith, mighty faith … “as the hymn puts it, mighty, because it is the gift of God.
FAITH OF ABRAHAM (PART ONE)
THE FIGHT OF FAITH
Historians have listed the ten most world-changing battles, but it was rightly said that the greatest of them was fought in the heart of Abraham. If anyone thinks of Abraham as just a Bible character, they have not even begun to understand the world in which they live.
The Bible names him 309 times, but because of his faith his name is inscribed upon the whole of the Middle East and upon world history to this day.
He was the first man note for the “obedience of faith.” His life’s career was consistent with his faith. “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.” What is of faith is forever.
Faith changes men that change the world. Abraham was the man that began the civilizing process 1, 500 years before the Greeks and Romans. The Pharaohs were in Egypt 1, 000 years before Abraham and continued another 2, 000 years after him, but they affected the world less than he did. The Pharaohs left no moral and only cluttered the desert sands with colossal monuments to their own egos. Abraham left not one single physical trace behind him for us to see. But all our lives today, religious or not, are different because of what he was.
FAITH – NOT “RELIGION”
Abraham was not “deeply religious.” He wasn’t “religious” at all in our modern sense. He had no creed, no hymns, no Bible, no images and no theology. He probably didn’t really know much about God, but he knew God, personally, and very well. He walked with God.
For this patriarch, God wasn’t a go-to-church-once-a week obligation, pushed into the spare corner of life. There was no church to attend. He didn’t believe God just to be faithful to tradition. There was no tradition. God was his way of life. Like money or sport or sex is to half the world today, God was to Abraham. We shall see how that worked out presently.
Abraham didn’t believe in order to save his own soul. His faith was neither a ticket for a joy ride to Heaven, nor an insurance policy to escape hell. We don’t know what he thought about such a thing as the after-life. He came from Ur of the Chaldees and knew their pagan myths, but Abraham was starting on a new learning course. His tutor was the Lord. The nations had developed crude and cruel superstition for themselves. Abraham threw himself upon God. To carry on without God wasn’t in his ideas, either of living – or of dying.
Abraham believed God for two reasons. First, he found there was a living God. Second, the only sensible thing to do was to carry out what He said. His faith changed the future, but that is not why he believed. He never dreamed of any such mission. In fact, he forsook the world and got as far away as he could from the world as it was. He changed it by leaving it. He believed God simply because God was there. That must still be the most rational thing anybody can ever do.
Astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon of July 20, 1969, and said that his one small step was a giant leap for mankind, for bigger for mankind was the step Abraham took when he left Ur of the Chaldees. He was the pioneer of walking by faith in God.
Abraham began life in wealthy Ur of the Chaldees and then moved to Haran, still in the Fertile Crescent. After that, he sacrificed his fine dwelling for a black goat skin tent in the wild moorland scrub of the Negev. He around only with his family, shepherds and cattlemen like a Bedouin sheikh. Secretly in his heart he nourished the ideal of a new way of life. “He looked for a city with foundations” (Hebrews 11:10).
Abraham was not an intellectual, but, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). Men of genius would burst upon the world scene in the distant future. They would cast their nets of thought far and wide, seeking knowledge and understanding. They would invest new ways to live and new ways to rule cities. But they were destined never to know Abraham knew. Their searching missed the ultimate discovery, to know God. Paul said, “In the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God” (1 Corinthians 1:21). Their confession of failure was carved in stone upon an altar in Athens – “To the unknown God” (Acts 17:23).
God would never wish to be unknown. Abraham had picked up a golden key marked “faith.” By it he opened Heaven. Men of genius are as rare as icicles in summer. Abraham was not one of them. God is not the chairman of an exclusive club for intellectuals, but He keeps His front door open for anybody. He would never deprive Himself of the love of the millions in preference to the one-in-a-million prodigy.
The suggestion that we must not believe if men of intellect don’t is not a very intellectual notion. If we had to find Him via a labyrinth of learning He would have a very small company around Him. To have the love of the vast mass of mankind, the means had to be different. He makes Himself known to those who look up to Him in childlike hope.
Abraham learned to trust God, and it revealed to him the paths of peace. In his day, cities existed by military might, founded on bloodshed. God gave Abraham a new vision, of a city of peace, whose “builder and maker was God” (Hebrews 11:10). His eyes scanned far horizons indeed. He was the first to discern the paths of righteousness, paths “in the sea” and ways in the wilderness.
The paths of righteousness and peace have been found. They are marked and known. Used or not, they can now never be forgotten but are there, freeways open for all. Many nations claim to follow them, but it is only feebly. If we traced them back, they would bring us to the tent door of Abraham, where God said him, “walk before me and be perfect” (Genesis 17:1).
The book of Hebrews sums up that for which Abraham lived. Hebrews 11:10 says, “He looked or a city which had foundations whose builder and maker was God.” In his day nobody knew of any spiritual foundations. Rulers ruled only for their own benefits. Before Abraham, people’s heads were vacant of any purpose or plan. Nobody knew why on earth he or she was on earth.
Paul faced the agnostics and Stoics of Athens and said, “The times of ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Therefore, he wrote to Timothy, “Jesus Christ … has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).
In Romans 1:22, Paul also talk about those who “professing themselves to be wise … became fools.” We may live without knowing the distance to the nearest star or the secrets of atom. But there is no real life at all without the secret of God. We are lost before we start Agnosticism is total disaster. We either live by faith or we don’t live at all, as Jesus said, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36). Faithless life is lifeless life. Abraham knew very little about the world around him, but He knew what life as all about. God made the first man, ADAM and the first civilized man, Abraham.
WHY GOD SPOKE
We first find Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees with his father Terah. Like all cities, it had an official god, and families had a shrine for their own household god, as India today with its millions of gods. However, a “most high” God was acknowledged. Abram heard His voice. It was a Divine breakthrough.
It came from God’s side, not Abraham’s. God breaking through to Abraham. God has shown concern for the world. When nobody sought Him, He sought them. Abraham was not seeking God. Probably nobody was. He made Abraham aware of whom He was and gave him simple instructions to leave Ur. He was not told where to go, but He set off. Thus began an unforgettable life. Hebrews 11:8-10 describes it:
“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. By 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: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”
It stresses Abraham lived in tents, away from houses and streets. Why? To get paganism and city manners and customs flushed out of his system. Abraham had been born and bred in an idolatrous civilization. God was to purge him of everything except what He showed him. He showed him he had a destiny beyond his own interests and in the future of nations. God said, “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: … and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2-3) – The first man of a New World order.
In Abraham’s time, people everywhere lived for themselves, usually by fighting everybody else around. One day the nations will be judged. In Mathew 25, Christ paints a picture of a vast drama on the stage of the whole universe: the Parable of the Judgment of the Nations. They have to give account. God’s eyes of concern run through the whole earth.
Why have we faith? To bless ourselves? To get wealth and be prosperous? If we have faith, God gave it. But He enriches us to enrich others, to “pass it on.” Politicians produce manifestos and agendas looking after their own corner of the world, but what is the purpose of the nation? Just to exist? No moral aims? Individuals have their own also, but what about their life-purpose? Abraham lived that level.
FAITH THE DIVINE PASSPORT
We said God planted Abraham in an unfriendly wilderness. God also planted the church in an unfriendly world, with the same purpose as that of Abraham. When Jesus sent out His disciples, He gave them a Divine passport into every land on earth. “Go into all the world and peach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Christ was following the will of His Father expressed to Abraham. “I will bless you … and you will be a blessing … and in you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” They could forget about saving themselves – He would look after that. Their concern must to be save mankind.
The Great Commission commits us to a mission, which continues Christ’s mission. It is the reason for Church and gives it the right to exist. Concerned only with itself, the Church is purposeless in God’s eyes and harmless to hell. Faith only operates when linked with His purpose and the first of them is to bless all families of the earth.
FAITHS FINAL TEST
The strangest episode in Abraham’s life was his call to sacrifice Isaac. “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son “(Hebrews 11:17).
It might shock us that Abraham would even contemplate human sacrifice. The four thousand years distance makes it impossible for us to understand a man of his time. Human sacrifice was common and was practiced more than 3, 000 years after Abraham, as in Central America. Abraham was the learner and beginner of faith in God. Spiritual lessons percolate very slowly into our human understanding.
God never meant Isaac to be sacrificed, but God tested Abraham on his own cultural level. Such a practice was then an expression of extreme religious devotion. He learned, in fact, that God wanted no offering of human blood. The purpose of this episode was the same as all God was doing with Abraham, to create a new culture in which bloodshed had no place.
From Abraham, it passed into the Hebrew tradition when everyone around continued such sacrifices. When Isaac fell away from faith in the Lord, they reverted back to barbarity. Jeremiah 32: 35 says, “They built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.”
The voice of God at the most dramatic moment stopped Abraham’s hand. He had exhibited incredible faith. All his expectations were that Isaac would be the father of generations and notions. To be willing (right or wrong) to sacrifice him showed staggering trust in the Lord. As we read in Hebrews, he believed that God could raise his only son Isaac from the dead if necessary.
God drew Abraham’s road map that rarely left it. He was God’s man travelling on God’s highway.
It was not uncommon then for men to use the name of their god as part of their own name. Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s god was Ahmun. It is thought that Abraham, “the (divine) father is exalted.”
However something happened that was far more significant. God took Abraham’s name as part of His Name! He called Himself the “the God of Abraham!” the Almighty identified Himself with a man.
It meant that the reputation of God rested on Abraham. What God was like —a new God to the world in general – would be assumed from whet Abraham was like. God risked His Name by joining it with Abraham. Abraham believed in the Lord, the Lord believed in Abraham. Something similar is reflected in what Jesus said in Matthew 10: 32, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.”
That’s the inner truth about faith. It is not merely for getting things or doing things or being something. It relates us to God. Faith is fellowship and is always the condition for our relationship with God. He puts faith in our hearts, and then He puts His faith in us to do His will. It is “the faith of God.”
Unless that faith is there, God has no faith in us. That is how it appears from John 2: 23-24. “Many believed in his name … but Jesus did not commit himself to them.” The words, “commit himself” are the same as “believe.” Their faith was not right, and Jesus knew it. But when faith is right, Jesus DOES “commit himself” to us. Imagine that! Christ coming to us in trust! The whole business of God’s promises, dealings association and relations with us, becomes possible once this mutual trust is established.
We quoted Matthew 10: 32, “whoever acknowledges … me I … will acknowledge.” The literal original says, “Everyone therefore that shall confess IN ME …I will confess IN him …” it was an idiom in the Aramaic language hard to put in English. We don’t say of anybody, “I will confess you,” or “I will confess you,” even when people marry then don’t say, “I confess in you.”
It is an unusual expression because it is about an unusual relationship. Several versions use the word “acknowledge,” as if we were just raising our hat to Christ. It is not what Jesus meant. He draws closer to us than that.
The Living Bible gives this paraphrase: “if anyone publicly acknowledges me as his friend, I will openly acknowledge him as my friend before my Father in Heaven …” He puts His arms around our shoulders and says, “This man and I are one. I stand by what He does.” We read: “Abraham believed God … and he was called the friend of God” (James 2: 23). The same possibility is open to any of us.
We had better remember it! If Jesus identifies Himself with us and says, “I am the Jesus of Akanbi Adekanbi” or “I am the Jesus of other prophets!” we had better act like it!
Abraham was what God made him, a credit to this day, and God was what Abraham made him appear to be. Despite Abraham’s imperfections, a child of his times in many ways, God shined through, a God worth knowing. “The multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee’” Abraham was what he was because of what his God was, qualities, values, greatness, and virtues. God did not choose Abraham because of his perfection but because of His own. God transmitted what He was to Abraham through his faith. The process that began in Eden was re-started with Abraham, God making man in His own image.
The purpose of faith is for the process to continue. “When we see Him we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3: 2).
FAITH OF ABRAHAM (TWO)
When Abraham began the life of a tent dweller, a petty king plagued the country side, an adventure chief called Chedorlaomer, more akin to a Mafia godfather. For twelve years, he extorted tribute – a king of the protection racket from the little nearby communities. Five city-states rebelled against Chedorlaomer and his supporting chieftains, but it provoked him to worse deeds. This gangster-like crew set out on a wholesale plundering expedition. In his rampage, he overwhelmed Sodom, Gomorrah, Zeboim and Bela, the notorious cities of the plain.
Now Lot, the nephew of Abraham, lived at Sodom. He, his wife and married daughters were all taken captive, and the raiders stole everything they had. Abraham heard this and decided to do something about it. He had made friends with strong-arm leaders in the area, and they joined him. It represented a well-trained and substantial private force. They pursued the plundering chiefs in a well-organized rescue operation. Under Abraham’s leadership they overthrew Chedorlaomer and his whole gang, and brought back the captives unharmed, as well as everything they had pillaged and more beside as compensation booty.
The king of Sodom himself was rescued. Then he had the audacity to tell Abraham how to distribute the proceeds of the battle! He wanted the people who had been captives and told Abraham to keep the booty for himself, as spoils for war.
That king was to hear something new. It was new indeed, then. Abraham the conqueror said, “I will not take so much as a thread or sandal thong” (Genesis 14: 23). He didn’t want anybody to say that Sodomites had made him rich God had shown him that the city he looked for, which God would build, would not enrich itself at the expense of others, by devastation. Abraham had seen a better way.
Cities lived by destroying other cities, looking the harvests of wealth, and using captives as slaves. The whole idea of military strength was to plunder. For example, Judges 5 gives the account of the Canaanites uprising against Israel, which Deborah subdued. It describes the mother of the Canaanites leaning our of the window and being told, “Are they not finding and dividing the spoils: a girl or two for each man, colourful garments as plunder for Sisera, colourful garments embroidered, highly embroidered garments for my neck — all this as plunder.” When Abraham rejected the practice, it baffled the greed of the king of Sodom.
Abraham knew he had acted as God’s servant and felt that he had no need to deduct his own salary from the results. God confirmed His approval. “The word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” (Genesis 15:1). Abraham believed God. He saw that with such a God he need not kill and slaughter and strip other people of their possessions to enrich himself in marauding raids. God would look after him. In fact, God did and very well indeed.
Abraham’s faith had led him to two new principles:
First, the strong should help the weak, not take advantage of them.
Second, faith in God did not mean you had to create mayhem.
God could make you rich without making others poor. That was the new ideal. For long centuries, it was an ignored ideal, considered hopelessly impractical. The world is very slow to learn such lessons. It prefers to work on the principle of the survival of the fittest, push the weak to the wall, do the best for yourself no matter who goes under. It is not the Bible way.
At the time of writing this book, the news is that the problem of loot taken in World War II is still being sorted out. Abraham’s civilized principles are lesson our civilization has not fully grasped yet. Under Joshua, one warrior, Achan, kept the spoils of war. He brought lasting disgrace to his whole tribes and a rift in the unity of the nation three hundred years later. The main tribes broke away from Judah, Achan’s tribe under King Rehoboam.
Rapacity has many forms. It appears today of course in the commercial world. Jesus spoke of such attitudes as “gentle” – that is, godless. Matthew 6” 32-33 states, “the pagans run after all these things and your heavenly Father knows you need them. But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”
ABRAHAM AND LOT
Lot, Abraham’s nephew, was typical, thinking how he could do himself well and get the better of anybody. A situation arose with Lot and Abraham. He and Abraham were men of substance with extensive herds – the wealth of those days. They needed good pastures. This had led to quarrels and even fights between the herdsmen and shepherds of Lot and Abraham. It could have led to bloodshed and a permanent rift between uncle and nephew.
Abraham valued good relationships more than material gain. He made a goodwill gesture to Lot which was amazing and generous. Lot could take what he wanted and Abraham would take anything that was left. Abraham knew Lot and that he would take the best. He knew that he could not shame his avaricious nephew.
Lot certainly acted to character. He took the best choosing the most fertile area. Genesis describes it as “well watered and like the garden of the Lord” (Genesis 13:10). Lot was well pleased with himself. Not only had he obtained the richest pastures, but also the cities were close by, quick markets for his business.
One of them was Sodom, already notorious for its wickedness. But for the sake of good business, Lot became a leading citizen. The New Testament says:
“Lot, a righteous man … distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men … living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard” (2 Peter 2: 7-8).
But Lot chose to stay there just the same because there were good business pickings. The Bible phrase describes it as – “loving the world.”
FAITH HAD NO ELBOWS
In all groups, there are those that alert to size the main chance, steal the show, which elbow others aside and occupy the front position. In contrast, there is a man to admire in Acts 1; Joseph called Barsabbas, called Justus. He must have had remarkable humility and godliness. Justus was one of two men chosen as candidate to fill the vacancy among the twelve apostles left when Judas committed suicide. They cast lots on this occasion – we would say that they tossed a coin for it. It came down heads for Matthias. We never hear of Justus again in Scripture.
What jealousy could have embittered him for the rest of his life! He seem to have been a disciple of John the Baptist and followed Christ from the very beginning. Now he had been thrust aside. He was not to be a member of the most illustrious group of men ever to walk on earth!
But there was never a single hint that he took offence or disturbed the church by any resentment. There are legends about his later career, which reflect nothing but credit upon him. It was thought that this Joseph, or Justus, was one of the seventy disciples whom Jesus had sent out, and he is said to have been the one to carry the Gospel to Ethiopia. How? He was a man of faith who knew that the Lord was on his side. When a man or woman has faith in God, the honors of men don’t matter. They leave such issues in the hands of the Lord. Papius records that the pagans tried to poison this humble man but he miraculously survived. A man who has such trust in God that he carried no poison in his spirit was unlikely to become the victim of a poisoned chalice.
Lot never understood Abraham, who let his business sense be overruled by his principles of faith in God and who lost his social opportunities by staying away from the cities. Lot perhaps thought his uncle was a fool. Someone must be in the forefront, but it is a question of whether we desire honor or faith. Jesus said, “How can you believe who receive honor one from another?” (John 5: 44).
Abraham chose faith, and honor was added. Lot never did anything for the cities. But Abraham the man of faith did. He fought for them, rescued their captured citizens, and begged God not to destroy them. Sodom eventually was destroyed. We read this remarkable comment in Genesis 19: 29, “God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow.” Lot was delivered for the sake of Abraham!
Abraham rescued Lot two times. Lot finished up living in a cave with his two incestuous daughters, who had children by him, their morals corrupted by the devils of Sodom. He had earlier offered them to the will of a sex-crazed mob as a substitute for two male visitors the Sodomites wanted “so we can have sex with them” (Genesis 19: 5). Concerning his wife, Jesus said ‘Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17: 32). Like her daughters’ husbands, she also could not tear herself away from the city like, in contrast to Abraham who forsook cities with his view filled with the vision of the city of God. They all cynically ignored the warnings even of angels and perished. The very ground of Sodom exploded upwards and fell in sulphuric salts from the skies. Lot’s wife was caught in the suffocating salts from the skies. Lot’s wife was caught in the suffocating fumes and the salts coated her like a pillar. This is Bible example of faith and no faith.
ORDERED IN ALL THING
Remaining behind, Abraham believed that God was making all things come together for good. He believed God’s word to him, “I am your … very great reward” (Genesis 15: 1). No strain and anxiety about loss or gain. He had God — El Shaddai, “the Enough God.”He didn’t want to have what God didn’t want him to have.
God fulfilled the promise to Abraham to make of him a mighty nation. He could afford to let Lot take the best pasturage. If you had asked Abraham what God gave him for his birthday he would have said, “Canaan!”
“And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.” (Genesis 13: 14-16).
Lot had a small area but no Divine covenant. While drunk he fathered a family by his daughters that grew into sworn enemies of Israel. Everything to which he sold his soul to accumulate wealth went up in the smoke of Sodom and Gomorrah. Archaeology locates the possible site as benefit the waters of the Dead Sea.
FAITH AND PROSPERITY
Jesus put the principle of Abraham into His famous promise of the Message on the Mount, Matthew 6: 33, “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given you as well.” He said not to worry about your life. “Do not worry about tomorrow” (Matthew 6: 34).
Jesus was thinking of the same blessing of Abraham that God said would bless all families. “Your heavenly Father knows” (Matthew 6: 32) – you don’t need to remind Him or ask.
They say honesty pays, but not as much as faith. Christian families tend to rise higher in the social and prosperity scale. Christian organizations usually begin with working class men and women but are upwardly mobile.
Christian men usually have believed God, been prosperous and have run their businesses not merely for profits but as a service and with benefit for their workers. Big business now puts the love of money before the love of the people. The “down-sizing” principle in business today leaves the majority unsure and depressed about their future and their jobs. It is a vast social evil, which breeds general uncertainly. That is bad for business. Putting money before people begins a downward spiral. Abraham was blessed because he lacked the money motive. Jesus said, “Wisdom is justified of her children” (Matthew 11: 19).
Faith is not a facility for getting more than enough.
“And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” (1 Timothy 6: 8-9). “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrew 13: 5).
Private gain – to have more than enough – was never the use to which Bible believes put their faith. Nevertheless, faith creates conditions in which we can prosper according to God’s purpose, since God knows our hearts. If God wants a billionaire, He makes one, and no doubt does, for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. God never promises cash rewards, because cash is a poor reward and does not content anybody. God said to Abraham, “I am … your exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15: 1). The Philippians and faith and works. Their faith worked in gifts and help to Paul in prison. Jesus stated this principle in Matthew 10: 40-42, “He who received you receives me … if anyone gives a cup of cold water … because he is my disciple … he will certainly not lose his reward.” For one thing they receive Christ, the unspeakable gift. God rewards the one who gives to any worker of His the same as the worker, the missionary supporter the same as the missionary, the one who prays as well as the one for whom he prays. So Paul could say to the Philippians who had provided for him in prison. “God will supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4: 19).
The people of faith in Scripture, like Abraham, had for their first priority and their second and third, the will of God. That meant seeking righteousness, seeking the lost sheep, giving their lives, and serving God with a single eye to His glory.
Faith in God and the profit motive are incompatible. In the second to last chapter of the Old Testament, Malachi is concerned with faith and affluence and confronts the people of Judah with their complaint that, “it is futile to serve God. What did we gain?” (Malachi 3: 14). God said this was a “harsh thing” to say (Malachi 3: 13). But He heard when those who lived on a different level and feared the Lord, talked with one another. “They will be mine,’ says the Lord Almighty ‘in the day when I make up my treasure possession.” It was written in “the scroll of remembrance” (Malachi 3: 16).
The Bible principle comes to us in ten words, “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Romans 12: 11). “Fervent in spirit” (Gk. “zeontes” – boiling), refer not merely to red-hot revival meetings, but to business, and earning a living, but always as a service to God. One famous English churchman in the days of King Henry viii, Cardinal Wolsey, died, charged with high treason. His famous words at last were, “Had I but served my God as diligently as I have served the King, He would not have given me over in my gray hairs.” The truth was he had served the King only to serve himself. He made himself extremely wealthy and powerful. He would have been poorer if he had served God – but infinitely happier. The people God can trust with prosperity are those who have not set their heart upon it, but upon Him. Jesus sat on the shore of Lake of Galilee with the disciples and a huge catch of large fish in the boat. He Himself had told them to let down their nets for that haul. They had gone back to fishing and loved it. Jesus pointed to the boats and nets and the catch of fish. Then came the test, “Do you love me more than these?” (John 21: 15).
It was the same test s the Lord put before Abraham. Did he love God more than Isaac, the apple of his eyes?
Much is said about wealth, prosperity and poverty in Scripture. God doesn’t want anybody to b poor. Godliness tents to wealth. Sin not only breeds poverty but also brings about the unholy accumulation of wealth to the damnation of those who possess it. James says to those who exploited and underpaid their workers, “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you” (James 5: 1).
The story of Abraham and Lot illustrates a complex subject better than any definitions or statements. What I have written here are also Bible principles of faith, as I know them throughout Scriptures. Each of us should apply them in our own sphere, whether as wealth creators or as dependant and needy, as we seek to live by faith in Christ.
FAITH – THE SIXTH SENSE
There are some odd ideas about faith, so odd we need to clarify what we are discussing.
Faith is not “believing what you have know isn’t true” nor “believing something for which there is no evidence.” That’s being foolish. The Bible is a big book all about faith, so there are a few facts to get straight.
The elementary fact is that faith is in-built. We are born believers. If you think you have faith – try it! Try not believing in anything or anybody – your wife, husband, doctor, bank, boss, baker or chef. There are no guarantees, but we put our lives into the hands of surgeons and trust drivers of trains, cars, and planes without thinking faith. But that’s what it is. Faith is a kind of immune system filtering out fear that otherwise would paralyze all activity. When it fails we develop all kinds of phobias and compulsions. It is a nervous breakdown. Jesus said not to have phobia but faith (Luke 8: 50).
Stop using the faculty of faith and you would never get out of bed in the morning or step outside. You would fancy the sky might fall down. In this world a million cobra troubles are coiled to strike, but we carry on, usually quiet regardless and confident. The Bible says, “God has dealt to every man the measure of faith” Romans 12: 3). Christ said “only believe” (Mark 5:36), because we can.
Getting married is the best illustration of faith I know. Do any brides of bridegroom ever imagine the other was perfect? Yet they commit themselves to each other for life, for better or worse. One bride refused to repeat the words, “I take thee for better for worse.” She said, “I only take him for worse. I know he’ll never be better.” She still went ahead confident but not optimistic!
There’s no mystique about faith. Perhaps little children are the biggest believers. Many a time I’ve lifted a child in my arms, but not one ever screamed for fear of falling. Jesus Himself carried a child as an illustrated His message. He said the child carried a passport to the Kingdom of God. Faith doesn’t come by murdering common sense. It isn’t a peculiar psychology developed with great effort by saints in caves, living on bread and water. It isn’t peculiar at all. It is natural. Doubt is peculiar —- irrational in fact. It is the only thing that ever surprised Jesus.
SINNERS CAN BELIEVE
Talking of saints is the next thing. People confuse faith and virtue. Faith is there. Faith is just faith. Virtue is developed. Faith doesn’t come in the same way as learning the piano, grade by grade. People talk about “big believers,” as if believing came in sizes like suit jackets. We can have faith even when we know we are not very good. Sinners can have faith; otherwise they could never be saved. Nobody i good, but Christ taught us that all can believe. He commended some people for their faith, but they were foreigners, quite ignorant of doctrine.
The Bible does the same. It has a roll of honor (Hebrews 11), listing heroes and heroines. They are remembered not for valor of kindness, but for their complete reliance upon God. Faith is a perfectly ordinary thing that makes us outstanding in the eyes of God. Scripture states, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11: 6). By faith it is possible to please God, and faith is possible to everybody.
BELIEVER? IN WHAT?
The next thing is that we are what we believe. We had better watch what we do believe. We make that decision and it makes us in fact. Some believe in UFOs, or that the earth is alive, or in voices from the dead; perhaps they just want to be different. There are a million things to believe, but God is supreme. This subject is all about believing in God. That is what I was sent to tell you in believing the living God.
A survey shows that practically everybody believes in God — some sort of God, somewhere. The question is what sort? We shall have a good time looking at that all the way through this subject.
FAITH THE CHARACTER TEST
Believing tests us. The kind of God we believe in is a window or shadow into our soul — believing in Christ or man, for example. We are what we believe. Following a faith that only demands a few prayers – what does that say about us? Minimum-effort religions can be quite popular – small demands, big following – cheap faith for worth-nothing people.
Jesus Christ asks everything: “Son, give me your heart.” A broad religion is an easy road, but gets narrower and leads nowhere. Faith in Christ is a narrow road that gets wider and somewhere. “The path of the just is as a shining light that shines more and more unto perfect day” (Proverbs 4: 18).
FAITH PINS HOPES
Next, believing is not just brain cells in motion. There should be a response. There should be a response. Do we do what we believe? If we believe in a seed, we plant it. A man who owns a plane but won’t risk a trip is a contrary character. It will get him exactly nowhere. We may as well believe in toil as the Almighty if we don’t expect Him to do anything.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, an upright and forthright character, in his short book made some hard-hitting remarks. “You believe in one God? You do well so do the devils, and they tremble” (James 2: 19). The theology of those whom he addressed was sound, but useless; they were sham believers. He talked about them as lovers of money, and impatient with God and said that faith which doesn’t work isn’t faith at all.
FAITH NOT SCIENTIST OPINION
People say, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” No they won’t. They can’t. You can only believe or have faith in what you don’t see. What you see is fact and is not up for believing. If you can prove it, faith doesn’t come into it. Nobody believes two plus two equals to four. They know so. However, that is where the Gospel steps into the picture. This God did become visible. He was “made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1: 14). That verse comes from John’s Gospel which is all about seeing. In the first chapter alone there are 18 references to seeing. John writes a letter beginning. “That which we have heard which we have seen with our eyes …the Word of life” (1 John 1: 1). John was in Christ the Word of life, but some did not and crucified Him.
Not seeing is no reason for not believing. Nobody sees radiation, but we feel its effects. Nobody sees God, but millions find the effects in their lives. Things happen that can only be from Him. Even one prayer answered, one healing, one miracle, one deliverance from addiction is evidence of Him. But it isn’t just one. Millions are healed, millions delivered, millions of prayers answered, millions have experiences which can only be attributed to Jesus Christ risen from the dead.
FAITH OF CHAOTIC?
The next fact is this – there is no substitute for faith in God. History rings the warning bells. Without knowledge of the Lord God, nothing ever made sense. The ancients, even the most brilliant thinkers, produced the wildest ideas, superstitions, and speculations. Mystery clothed nature. They were sure of nothing, not even of the weather or the seasons. To make the sun rise, they worshiped it. To make it rain, they offered it divine worship. Rivers had to e persuaded to run and nit dry up. Everybody had his or her own god. Therefore, the prophets were raised up and inspired with a burning realization of God’s reality and His will.
The concept of God as the Father of all was unknown. Conflicts and family blood feuds took place, and war was the glory of men. But Israel’s prophets taught Israel not to fear the signs of the heavens, to work and not war. God would faithfully look after all His creatures. They should not worry about harvests like the heathens around them.
It is easy to sit and watch television and casually say you don’t believe in God. But the consequences are eternal. The fertilize corruption, bribery, violence, terrorism, and crime. Atheists claim they can live decent lives without believing in God, but they forget they got the very idea of decency from Christianity. Before Christ it was a different story and a far crueler world. In fact, we don’t know what is good and bad without faith in God. Nobody has ever agreed on the subject. A totally unbelieving world would be like a lunatic asylum taken over by its patients. If we don’t trust God, we soon trust nobody.
FAITH IS A DECISION
The great Swiss theologian summed up his thought in four words, “faith is a decision.” He took it from Jesus, who always talked that way. He praised believers and blamed unbelievers. Just as we can see, hear, feel, taste, smell – we can believe. That is our sixth sense of faculty, spiritual eyesight, an ear to hear, or hand to take God’s blessing.
Believing is not beyond anybody. “I’m not made that way,” they plead, but we all are. Some think faith like money, a good thing if you have some. Faith is not what you have but have you do. We can ALL rise to the heights — if we want to.
Who want unbelief? It is a blind alley, the way to “no land, now water, and no love.” To get out of it, turn around. In Bible language “repent,” decide to believe instead of not believing. Doubt is deadly. Choose to live. “Repent and believe the Gospel.”
FAITH IS SPIRITUAL STRENGTH
There is one final fact that needs clearing up, especially for Christians. Very sanctified and spiritual people can sadly be doubters. Faith and piety don’t always go down the street hand in hand. The idea is also around that you have to be a spiritual giant to have great faith. It is all confused. It is the man or woman strong in faith who is the spiritual giant. Faith is spiritual strength.
Faith produces good works, but good works don’t produce faith – just as milk produces butter but butter does not produce milk. However, there’s more to be said about faith.
Faith, mighty faith the promise sees
And looks to that alone,
Laughs at impossibilities
And cries, “it shall be done.”
FAITH FROM MINUS TO PLUS
The Bible was written for people with no real faith. We all begin with a minus.
If we have faith, reading the Bible produces it, and if we have some faith we get more the same way. We don’t acquire faith first and bring it to Scripture. Scripture encourages faith. “Faith comes by hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Many who don’t believe don’t read the Bible. They are sick and leave the medicine with the bottle tightly corked. People without faith should be warned that if they open the Bible they are likely to finish up as believers.
The Bible brings us to the Cross. People do not start moving mountains until they’ve been to Mount Calvary. They couldn’t move even a molehill – or a mole. Real faith doesn’t start in university. We’ll have less if we go there without any! If we have not been to where Christ saves not even a Doctorate in Theology will do.
The starting pistol is fired at the “green hill far away outside the city wall.” From there, we tread on and on towards the mark of the high calling of God in Christ (Philippians 3:140).
Walking in doubt is like going back to a Victorian-age, London “pea-spouper” fog. We need a radar and faith provides it in this world of uncertainty. “The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith as it is written, ‘the just shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:17). Believe God! It is life’s greatest adventure.
Precept upon precept I want to offer knowledge and experience across the area of faith as widely as I can. Whether people are well along the road or just beginning or haven’t even started. I want to come alongside them and share treasures with them I have collected over a lifetime.
In this precept I pull an assortment out of the treasure chest; but just read on
THE PLUS LIFE
One morning Jesus walking along the shingled edge of Lake of Galilee and beckoned to a few local fishermen. He said, “Follow me!” (Matthew 4: 19). At that moment everything began for them. Until then “Everything” had only been fish, and then it became people, action, and changing world history, with ever-increasing faith, ever-increasing effects.
Jesus did not call them, or you or me, to switch off smiles and to wear sackcloth. Jesus didn’t want t turn folk into ‘sick-in-the-mud’ people. He wasn’t so conventional Himself! The disciples caught His bubbling spirit, which challenged the stuffy establishment. He showed them new tings, especially faith and love, and by them they conquered the world.
GOD THE DELIVERER
The primary truth about God is that He is the Deliverer, the Emancipator, and the Savior. He is God only to the free. Faith is a venture that turns life into an adventure.
Doubts get us nowhere. There are mooring ropes. Believing God means we cast off, like ships designed for riding the high seas and going somewhere. Faith inspires. Doubt paralyzes. Faith says, “I can do all things through Christ who strenghthens me.” Unbelief does nothing. Faith in God is exciting. Unbelief is depressing. You will find it so as you read on.
We become what we were born to be only when we are “born again” by faith in Christ Jesus. Christ said, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8: 36). The world’s greatest book on freedom is the Bible. The very idea of freedom came from the Bible, not from Greece or Rome. Read it! Remember God made the first free nation ever seen on earth, Israel, and He wants to put a sense of liberty in our very soul. God opposes tyranny. The Gospel makes us the freeborn sons of God.
People have talked abo“The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith as it is written, ‘the just shall live by /strongfaith’”ut those who “bury themselves in religion.” Well, in religion maybe, but Christianity is Christ, and you can’t call Christ a religion! He is the resurrection and the life. Christ said, “If you hole to my teaching … then you will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8: 31-32). He is no deceiver. Millions have found themselves gloriously free through the Gospel. His words do not stifle us with rules and commandments. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. The Message on Mount describes what Christ ARE naturally, what they want to do, not what people should be like.
BONDAGE IS TRUTH CORRUPTED
There is a warning Christ gave us over and over, which is particularly important to those just beginning the Christian life – or anybody else for that matter. There would be false prophets. They are nem (John 5: 44).
Abraham chose faith, and honor was added. Lot never did anything for the cities. But Abraham the man of faith did. He fought for them, rescued their captured citizens, and begged God not to destroy them. Sodom eventually was destroyed. We read this remarkable comment in Genesis 19: 29, nbsp;
ot all in the cults either, though there are over 5,000 sects in the USA alone. Many are a threat to the concept of liberty.
By definition a cult means control. “By their fruits shall ye know them” (Matthew 7: 20). Once they get hold of you they keep you under their thumb, control your money, what you do, where you go, what you think, and who your friends are, their evil effect is to destroy self-reliance and breed dependency. Their leaders are not shepherds. They are wardens, religions policemen.
Some teach the Scriptures, but turn Bibles into chains standing truth on its head, like the Scribes and Pharisee. They are the Gospel of deliverance to bind their converts. Falsifying the very spirit and purpose of the message. There are sad souls who lack true faith and accept handcuffs to gain a sense of security.
Jesus was not a spiritual policeman. He did not discipline the disciples. That is not what “disciple” means. He never ordered them about, interfered or dictated in daily affairs. They came and went as and when they wished. It was all left to their wisdom and discretion. That is how Christ deals with us. Give Jesus your life and He makes it your own.
If we blindly obey a church leader, we are still responsible before God for what we do. No man should appropriate to himself authority over others. Scripture forbids leaders to “rule as lords over God’s heritage” (1 Peter 5:3). Jesus said, “One is your Master, even Christ” (Matthew 23: 8). Truth comes from the Word of God, which sets us free. God is a deliverer. Laws, like the Sabbath, were made for us, not us for the laws.
A MILLION CANDLE POWER
When Paul the apostle was preaching in an upstairs room in Troas “there were many light” there (Acts 20: 8). The Bible writers have a way of saying that kind of thing when conveying a spiritual truth. There were two kinds of lights there, the oil lamps and the room full of Christians who were the true “many lights.”
That is what believers are. “You were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8). Believers are stars; unbelievers are black holes from which light never escapes. Faith makes us “children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which [we] shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2: 15).
A christen believer needs a church, just as a candle need a candlestick, a tree needs soil and an electric bulb needs a socket. Without a candlestick a candle cannot stand without soil a tree cannot grow; without a socket an electric bulb cannot shine. Neither can you. Without fellowship, a Christian can neither stand nor grow nor shine.
Jesus doesn’t put you on the shelf. He has a special niche especially for each o us in His edifice. He said, “You are the light of the world” – single lamps and also many blights together. It was a single lamp which He said should be “put on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5: 15). Once candle power for one house. But He also said, “You are the light of THE WORLD. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5: 14). A city is not one candlepower but a million-candle power. When Christ said, “You are the light of the world,” it was a plural “you.” He brings, “many lights” together, people concerning and mingling flame with flame.
The “city set on a hill” is a church. In Troas, there were “many lights” together, because it was a big room. The world is a big place and many lights are needed. The children’s hymn used to say “you in your small corner and I in mine, “but there are more than dark corners, there’s a dark planet. The whole globe needs lights. There is no light where there is no faith in God.
Spiritually the world today is like it was in Genesis 1: 2, “darkness was upon the face of the deep.” BUT …”God said ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.” God is saying today, “ Let there be light,” “God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4: 6).
After Christ rose from the dead, the disciples began brightening up the world with the light of the Gospel. We should do the same. The establishment complained that they had “filled Jerusalem with [their] doctrine” (Acts 5: 28), and a little later it was said, “Their that have turned the world upside down have also” (Acts 17: 6). That is exactly what God said He would do, in Psalm 146: 9 says, “The way of the wicked he turns upside down.” The way of unbelief is upside down, but God turns it the right way up. That is my job and your job. We are God’s agents for putting a topsy-turvy world upright.
BUSINESS IN GREAT WATER
When Christ beckoned to His first followers, they were unknown, quietly getting on with their own business, fishing on a lake. But He sent them out “to do business in great waters,” (Psalm 107: 23) and “to the uttermost parts of the earth” (Acts 1: 8). In Scripture the sea represents nations, the waves roaring and turbulent. Christ once stilled the storm on the waters. He sends us to fish in every nation, though the waters of the world “roar and be troubled,” as the Psalmist says in Psalm 46: 3. The Lord speaks peace to the nations.
Jesus does not call us just to sit in church and vegetate as if in a rest home. We have a job to do, not a hobby, and the biggest job all is to change the world. It is a joint effort, together and Christ. He said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16: 18).
The church is Christ’s battle-axe. Every axe has a handle, a head and a cutting edge: the handle for the handler, the head for weight and the sharp edge to do the work. Whether we make the work of God possible by the thousand jobs that must be done or give weight to the work by our support or are the attacking and cutting edge of evangelism, we are all vitally needed.
I never attempt anything alone. A soloist needs accompaniment, perhaps a whole orchestra. All of our work has to be arranged, whether campaigns, literature, TV, films, books, or whatever. There are hundreds and even tens of thousands of back-up players in tune with my arms, with special gifts, abilities, or with their prayers, and I work along with their same aims and purposes. Every melody needs harmonizing, and is perfected and enriched by the qualities of other instruments, musical talents and choreography. We all must work together as a body of Christ.
No man seemed stronger in faith than Paul the apostle. But when he heard that in Rome, Christians had appeared, he wrote to them and said, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you and I may be mutually encouraged by one another’s faith” (Romans 1: 11). — Mutual faith, each of us is like one sheet of prayer that can’t stand up on its own edge. But a ream of paper is a block of 500 sheets, all able to stand on edge comfortably together, supporting one another. Every believer needs support. The world won’t help. The world is no friend to the friends of Jesus.
THE PRECIOUS OIL
Speaking of backing one another up together, the Bible uses a very striking illustration – oil! We should first understand that oil in Scripture always represents the Holy Spirit. When Scripture talks about oil in lamps, anointing oil, cosmetic oil or perfumed oil, it is pictorial language for the work of the Spirit.
The idea originates from Psalm 133: 1-2, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head.” It was referring to ceremony of pouring special performed oil upon the head of the high Priest of Israel.
Why is unity like oil? Because the Holy Spirit is oil and He brings unity. That is the link, and two verses, Ephesians 4: 3, 13, use the idea. Verse 3 states, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Unity through the oil of the Spirit poured upon us is like oil poured on the head in Psalm 133. Then in Ephesians 4: 12-13, it says, “Prepare God’s people for works of service … unity we all reach unity in the faith.” So faith also comes into it; faith, the Holy Spirit, and unity all play their part.
Now Scripture doesn’t say “Become united, be one!” it says, “KEEP unity!” we can’t keep what doesn’t exist, but unity is the presence of the Holy Spirit in every believer. This fact should be demonstrated. We are one in Him from the moment we believe.
Now, nobody can have unity on his own. You can’t be married on your own. There’s no such thing as an independent believer. You can’t have unity by belonging nowhere. Some say that they belong to the universal church but are committed nowhere particularly. Well, it means nobody can rely upon these people. Churches can’t be built on floaters.
Even born-again believer is “in Christ” together with all others. “There is one body and one spirit.” Says Ephesians 4: 4 – the great body of believers in heaven and an earth. Everything in the New Testament points to unity. We are to bear one another’s burdens, for example. How can we do with other nothing to do with other Christians?
The New Testament ALWAYS assumes that all believers are attached to one another locally. The epistle to the Ephesians is all about the church, and everything said is to isolated individuals. It is the whole church, for example, that must have “the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6: 11). For it is a fighting force, an army.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity. He is the bonding element. This bonding is a wonderful effect of faith in Christ. It is creative. It brings about a new kind of oneness not even known in the closest of earthly families.
Next, oil represents light. The great national temple in Jerusalem had a famous golden lamp-stand; the seven-branched “menorah” is described in Exodus chapter 25, 35, 37, 39. The Romans carried it off when they plundered Jerusalem in AD 70, and it is depicted on the Arch of Titus seen daily by tourist in Rome. The “menorah” is the badge of modern Israel.
This lamp-stand or lamp standard had neither joint nor weld, being made out a single piece of gold. Each arm had a lamp – a mere wick, and the oil came from a single source, the central stem. The seven lights shone as one light and had no shadow of itself. Jesus talked about oil in lamps, a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
The apostle John in the book of Revelation describes Christ standing among seven golden lamp-stands, each lamp standard representing a church. Also, he said that before the Throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven Spirits of God (Revelation 4:5). The seven flames of each candelabrum had a single fuel source – the Spirit as we read in 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11, though manifested in many gifts, ministries and operations.
If believers shine and bring a little brightness into our drab world, it is by the Holy Spirit; otherwise they are dead wicks. A wick can’t shine without fuel, no matter how hard it tries. Christ sets hearts aglow, and we can laze for God. Nobody just believers. If we believe, we shine.
The world never gets the hang of things, and in ignorance ofistians sees them only as “religious enthusiasts,” “religion pushers,” “Bible punchers,” or “religious freaks.” This is all the world sees. Unbelievers are like sheep that can’t understand why human beings listen to music. Jesus said the Holy Spirit is not given to the world. That makes unbelievers basically different, almost alien, as if they were from Mars.
However, one candle is lit from another candle. The fire, the light of God, is transmitted. That is why we are here. Paul the apostle spent only a few days introducing the Gospel to the people of Thessalonica, but a little later in a letter to them Paul congratulated their enthusiasm saying, “your faith in God has become known everything” (1 Thessalonians 1: 8). Faith lights the lamps that show the way. “Send the light!”
We begin perhaps with no faith – a minus. But at the Cross, the flame of faith leaps into our hearts, bringing the Holy Spirit, salvation and forgiveness. At that place, Christ’s infinite work is accomplished, and faith makes it ours. We believe and receive. The Holy Spirit translates all Jesus did for us into our personal experience.
We are the light of the world. The world likes to think religion is dying, but in vast areas of the world the death rattle is heard in the throat of secularism. As Christ is resurrection, godlessness is death – they are synonyms. People are not finding satisfaction in what mere governments can do and are turning to the things of the Holy Spirit.
That is the situation. Have faith, be filled with the Spirit, and burn for God! Let the seven-branched lamp standard be ablaze!
If you believe, and I believe and we together strive, the Holy Spirit will come down and nations will receive.
FAITH THE FUSE
The apostles said to the Lord, “increase our faith” (Luke 17: 5). Christians have wanted that ever since – faith in bulk!
So what is the reply of Jesus? “And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.” (Luke 17: 6).
That must have puzzled the apostles. They wanted big faith, but He spoke of the smallest thing they knew. By the way, He did not refer to the mustard seed because it was very small! The issue was the contrast between massive faith and a small (but living) seed. He wanted to hammer home that faith is never a matter of size. Size is the wrong word.
Faith has neither bulk nor weight. What shape is a thought? “Believing” is what you do, not a substance. Perhaps the apostles wanted faith to tackle bigger tasks. But it doesn’t come beforehand. Scripture speaks of the “proportion of faith” (Romans 12: 6) – it is proportionate to the job at hand, index-linked to the need. Like running and needed more air, your intake increases automatically.
“Size” loses is meaning even for the task when it is a faith-task. The biggest of a hill, a house and a molehill is all one to a bird flying over them. By faith “we mount up with wings as eagles” (Isaiah 40: 31), and nothing is insurmountable.
Active faith needs impossibilities. Religious faith, faith just in church, doesn’t have enough impossibility. Robust faith grows in the outside weather, or it will be a sickly plant.
CONDUCTIVITY, NOT SIZE
Perhaps you have never seen a mustard seed? You may need your glasses for one. But the people to whom Jesus spoke knew seeds. It was an agricultural world. Jesus spoke their farming language. Today we are a “high-tech” society, and our expressions are scientific. Jesus spoke the language of the people, and today our expressions come from technology. No doubt today Jesus would use our common speech.
Jesus spoke 3,000 years ago about the “mustard seed,” a small thing with mighty potency. Maybe today he would talk about a microphone or fuse to illustrate His teaching. “If you have faith as small as an electric fuse you could transplant trees from soil to sea.” Like the mustard seed, the value of a fuse is not in breadth of length. The key is “conductivity.” Faith transfers the power of God to wherever it is needed.
A fuse is made of a metal, such as silver wire, which offers low resistance means high conductivity. Translated into the spiritual, the lower our resistance to the Word of God, the higher the power rating. The higher our resistance in obedience to the Word, the lower the operational power of God.
LOW WORD RESISTANCE
A fuse with high resistance would either carry no power at all or else soon blow. When we resist the Word by unbelief the power of God can’t come through. If we say we believe in the Word but disobey it, we negate our faith. It blows the fuse. The power of God is little when the Word of God means little to us.
Whatever else may be true, one thing s absolutely beyond contradiction; it is that Christianity is a power religion or it is nothing. Liberals, teachers of rationalist doctrine, rely on logic. The apostles relied on the power of God. “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message” (1 Corinthians 1: 21).
Our head can be our doubt box. Reasoning is too uncertain relationships, especially with God. It is like using a shovel to read the night sky, instead of a telescope. When people turn to science with its algebraic equations, geology or philosophic deductions to approve religious faith, it is ridiculous. What can these things possibly have to do with spiritual experience? Science has no equipment to handle relationships with God. You may as well use a corkscrew to study music.
How do we believe or not believe in anybody? By mathematics? Have you ever felt you can’t tryst somebody but you can’t put your finger on why? It is a gut feeling under your skin. A higher self, intuition, is at work and triggers off an alarm. “I do not love thee Doctor Fell/The reason why I cannot tell, / but this I know full well / I do not love thee Doctor Fell.’ But we believe in somebody else for the same reason, but what that is, we may not know.
Instinct never warns us against Jesus. When we “get wise” to him we want to come closer. Knowing Him better we heart-warn to Him. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4: 19). What unbelievers say means no more than what the barometer says. The proper way, the only possible way, is to trust Him. The effective center of true life is the heart, not the brain. “With the heart man believes…” (Romans 10: 10).
FAITH BY HEARING
Faith isn’t just “believing” with nothing special in mind. It is believing UNTO something and FOR something. The Word of God gives point, direction and purpose. Without the Bible, it is like “an arrow shot in the air that fell to earth I know not where.” In fact, it is the only Book that gives faith a positive goal. One wonders what some religions propose to do for folk who believe. They become a religious treadmill, believing for the sake of believing
The apostle Paul was aboard a sinking ship, but he said “I have faith in God” (Acts 27: 25). It wasn’t a kind of defiant sentiment. It was specific — all on board would be saved. “We shall run aground on some island” (Acts 27: 26). It was rather different from the man on an Atlantic crossing in a storm. He asked the captain if they were safe and the captain trying to reassure him said, sir, we are in the hands of God.” The man replied, “Is it as bad as that?”
MAXIMS OF FAITH
Here are some basics:
- To be believers, we should know what we believe and who we believe.
- The most basic lesson is we must take the Word of God at its face value.
- Without knowing God’s will, faith is impossible. The Word is the eternal will of God.
- To question Scripture is to question the only guide we have and to question God.
- The Word of God is an ultimatum, not an option for discussion.
- Democratic vote or consensus does not decide Bible truth. It is “settled in Heaven for ever”
- The Bible is the Constitution of the Kingdom of God, and no two-thirds majority of any parliament on earth can change it.
RESTING ON AUTHORITY
The Bible makes no bones about it and insists a thousand times on its own Divine authority. The prophets who spoke, for example, were not offering their private political opinions, but “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). The Jewish conception was of a God of awful holiness, and they trembled before His awesome greatness.
Unless they had an overwhelming sense that God had sent them, no prophet of Israel would dare to claim to be the mouthpiece of the Almighty Being. Only absolute certainty would open their mouths. Jeremiah declared, “if I say ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name; his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot” (Jeremiah 20: 9).
THE AUTHORITY OF CHRIST
God spoke and Heaven and earth materialized. “He spoke and it was done. He uttered His voice and it stood fast” (Psalm 33: 9). Then John’s Gospel makes the tremendous assertion that “the Word became flesh” (John 1: 14). The same voice that created all things now spoke to us. What He said comes with absolute authority. It is the Word of the Lord.
When Christ spoke, He said Heaven and earth would pass away but not His Words (Matthew 24: 35). He was not like the prophets. They spoke for the Lord, but Christ said, “Truly, truly I say to you.” The Jews listened to Moses, but Jesus went beyond Moses, “Moses said … but I say” (Matthew 19: 8-9).
There was something else different. The prophets were sent with a message, but Jesus WAS the message. The prophets spoke about the Lord, but Jesus spoke about Himself. He not only brought the Word of God, but He was the Word of God. He didn’t point to the way; He was the way. Jesus was not one of the roads that led to God. He was where the road led.
That is why we have no right to doubt the Word of God or bend God’s exclamation mark into a question mark. If we do so, “T whom else shall we go? You alone have the words of life” (John 6: 68), as the apostle Peter recognized. We either obey or die. Using our technology language, we blow the fuse and suffer a lifelong power failure. The heating fails, the lights go out, communication cease, the systems break down, and cold eternal night settle in.
Liberal teachers scorn people like us. They say we have an “authoritarian religion.” But do they teach without any authority? All learning is based on authority, either Divine or human. Some trust in the authority of scholarship, but nothing is less trustworthy. They arguments are steps in sand. Scholars never agree with one another. The Word of God has been a light to a hundred generations, and that lamp has never flickered.
Wisdom itself loses its way without revelation. For instance, a modern poet, Philip Larkin tried it. He was an atheist. Journalist Martyn Harris wrote about Larkin just before he died in 1996, saying his godlessness left him “drunk, suicidal, self-obsessed and paralyzed by misery.” Larkin himself described his desolation facing a bleak eternal in his poem, “Aubade.” He waited for the “the total emptiness forever. The sure extinction that we travel to, and shall be lost in always.”
Faith in God seems a vague sentiment, but it solidifies into reality. We can “cast ourselves upon the ocean of the unknown” with wonderful assurance. Jesus said, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them” (John 14: 23).
LEARNING AND GETTING SOMEWHERE
Christ said in Mark 16: 17-18. “These signs shall follow them that believe … they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.” It is not for me to consult intellectuals for their approval, but to obey the Word. I do what God says, and then He does what He said. God changed the polarity of my heart and spirit and then began to use me shake whole nations. God used the rod of Moses and so He uses us when we follow His orders. I see His power at work time after time. My fuse of faith has held and the currents of blessing have flowed through my life to millions of precious people to redeem their souls by the blood of the Lamb.
“WHY LOOK ON US?”
We can’t generate power by anything we do, music, worship, atmosphere. As soon as two or three gather in His Name, Christ is there. Immediately, the Throne is built, and we don’t need to take an hour of worship to build it or pull power down from Heaven. It is impossible for Christians even to meet in His Name without Christ being there in power.
If it were our work to produce the power of God, we would be the power generators. But Christ GAVE us power. We are not called to go into the either world with our own little power plant, so folk will think how wonderful we are.
We can parade our own charisma and make the sparks fly for an hour, but soon our power-plant will run out of fuel and begin coughing and dying. We are not generators, but conductors. “Out of His fullness we have all received”; He is “the fullness who fills all in all” (John 1: 16, Ephesians 1: 23). We are channels, not the source. “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4).
God does not need any of our energy dynamos. He has His own, two of them, right here on earth, the Cross and the Empty Tomb. Power flows forever from those sources, day and night, without power cuts or breakdowns. The voltage is unfailing and reliable. There is no fluctuating flow “from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness” (James 1: 17).
Here’s our full equipment:
- The spiritual energies of the Cross and the Resurrection.
- The power lines of the Word of God.
- The fuse of our faith, the vital link.
They give us:
- Power for every need.
- Power to change lives.
- Power to break vicious habits.
- Power to heal the sick.
- Power to light the storm-darkened highway of life.
No power known on earth created in test tubes, or in industry, can do any of those things. The power of God is the great force on earth to deal with the intractable problems of living.
At a conference, I overheard some young people say, “We must be switched on for Jesus. All it takes is to be switched for Him.” I turned to them, “Yes, it is good to be switched on for Jesus, but it is more important to be plugged in. switching on for Jesus will be useless unless we are plugged in. we must be connected first.” Being switched on to ourselves produces no current.
THE LIVE LINK
The power of God coming through the word reaches the faith fuse first—and that could be the preacher. That tiny bridge of power can become very warm. A preacher of the Word is the first to feel that warmth. He burns with the charge. He is likely to show it, and should. He is a communicator not of his own thoughts, but of the power of God. He should be a live wire. A preacher is a man having an experience with God in public. If he represses his exuberance and puts polish, elegance and propriety first, he should remember these are not fruits of the Spirit, but joy is. “The joy of the Lord shall be tour strength,” not your weakness.
If an experienced electrician touches a bare wire and gets a shock, he may just say “oh!” but anybody having an electric shock for the first time is likely to react in more dramatic fashion. God’s power is not fiction but fact. It is the greatest reality we know.
If God does manifest Himself, what would anybody expect? Or resurrection? Dynamic life may seem unseemly at first. But when people experience the flowing current of Divine blessing, they will appreciate why. Nobody knows what it is like to meet Jesus Christ until they do. One exuberant preacher was told, “Please restrain yourself!” He replied, “I am restraining myself!”
COMPLETING THE CIRCUIT
Great power lines stretch across a whole country carrying perhaps 400,000 volts on a single cable. Day and night the huge power turbines are feeding the vast system, harnessing the forces of coal, water, oil or nuclear fission, housed in towering buildings. All that! Then, at home a tiny sliver of wire fails, and everything in your house stops, without power.
The greatness of God, the greatness of the work of Christ, the greatness of the Word of God are all there, but without faith, as small as a fuse wire, none of that greatness avails. The circuit is broken. The power Bridge is down.
If the faith-fuse fails, the dynamic of God is defused and will be refused by those to whom we preach. Indeed they could be confused! Take the Word, put in the faith-fuse, and the power of God comes through — there will be light, warmth, energy, salvation, healing, strength and blessing.
Not long ago, I went into a very smart hairdressing salon. Two ladies were there and one of them began to cut my hair. Typically of hairdressers, she talked while working and asked whether I was a businessman. My reply was, “I am a man of God.” It was perhaps a good hard knock but it broke the ice, and we were launched. In a short time, I was leading both these ladies to Christ. They knelt in the hair floor while they prayed the prayer of salvation. When I left the shop, I heard one with tears in her eyes saying to the other, “That man of God came in for a haircut – what a glorious day!”
I went out very happy and moved. Then I met my colleagues. I said to him, I see you need a haircut too. Go and get haircut in that salon. I’ve led two women to Christ in there. Go and do the follow up!”
“if you have faith as a mustard seed,” Jesus said (Matthew 17: 20). So little! Our faith is no towering sensation that everybody sees and gasps. It is the hidden fuse. But by it, the energies of Heaven flow into the world. God uses main fuses and sub-fuses, but never subterfuge. Wherever we are, the hidden attitude of our hearts is God’s missing link — “only believe and thou shalt see the glory of God” (John 11: 40).
FROM FAITH TO FAITH
They say the great Greek writer Homer wandered from town to town begging his bread and telling his stories of the siege of Troy. Storytellers did make a living that way. There were no theatrets, dramas, books, or television and everybody loves a good story.
Scripture uses that method to teach us. The Bible is not a book of academic theology. But with a Divine author there is subtle character drawing that creates faith in God. We will look first at some Gospel incidents.
There was the “royal official” mentioned in John 4: 46-54. He showed faith in Christ’s powers by coming all the way from Capernaum to Cana – a day’s journey to ask Christ to go to his house and heal his son who was dying. Jesus said a strange thing to the poor man. “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders you will never believe.” It was strange because he had believed enough to come to see Christ. But Jesus had another kind of faith in mind. The man was not put off by this apparent cold reception. He still believed and said, “Sir, come down before my son dies!”
Jesus did not do what the official. He did not go down to Capernaum. Whatever John’s Gospel records Jesus as doing it is never because He is asked. He simply said to the man, “you may go. Your son will live.” This meant extra faith. He had believed that Jesus could heal his son if He came, and it would involve a journey to do it. But now he had to believe Jesus was bigger than that.
That official departed and we read, “The man believed the word that Jesus had spoken to him.” It was the next day before he arrived. All that way, all that the man had was this brief word of Jesus, every step and every minute. But when he discovered a miracle had taken place, then John records that real faith came. “He and all his household believed.” It was not the miracle they believed. That was there to see, not just to be believed. They believed in the way John always talks about believing – commitment to Christ.
Another telling incident is in John 9. Without so much as saying, “Excuse me,” Jesus healed a blind man. He plastered mud across his eyes and sent him to wash in the famous pool of Siloam. The man came back with good sight. On his return, he learned that it was Jesus who had performed this miracle. When asked he said, “The man they call Jesus” did it. The people seemed unfamiliar with Christ’s identity and asked, “Whe/strongre is the man?” then when a group of Pharisees questioned him they said. “This man is not from God.” That is where it stood – Jesus a man.
However, faith began to arise. First, some of the Pharisees said, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” then the question developed about Him — who was Jesus? They asked the man who was healed, and he said, “He is a prophet.” But the leading Jews had agreed to excommunicate from the Temple anybody who said Jesus Christ; so faced with such a fact as a man born blind seeing, they questioned further and prompted declared, “God…listens to the godly man who does His will … if this man were not from god, he could do nothing.” His faith was developing, and he believed Christ was not a sinner, but from God. For this he suffered persecution and was blamed as a disciple of Jesus.
Jesus then found the man. The authorities had thrown him out of the Temple, typical of a world that rejects those who testify to the goodness of God. He had one important question to ask the man. It wasn’t whether he felt grateful or if he had started to work. He asked, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” The man did not know what Jesus meant. “Who is he sir? Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
He had enough faith in Jesus to feel his way to the pool of Siloam when blind because Jesus told him to go. That brought him physical sight. But another kind of faith could bring him far greater illumination. His faith had not reached that point. Then Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact he is the one speaking with you.” The man looked at Christ, and his faith exploded – he had no problem accepting Christ’s declaration. He said, “Lord, I believe.” Then, “He worshipped him” – faith was complete.
The account of the woman of Samaria in the Gospel of John, chapter 4, is another powerful lesson from history on faith. It is an illustration of the fact that a sinner can take a profound leap of faith into the heights of the supernatural. A nameless woman came to draw water from a well at the time when Jesus was resting there from a hot and long walk. He asked her for a drink of water and astonished her. She thought he was an odd sort of Jew to be so free, breaking all the rules by speaking to a Samaritan. And even more so, when He said He could give her a drink of water that would be “living water, a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
At that point she decided to humor Him, thinking Him slightly irrational. So she just said, “You just give me a drink like that so I won’t get thirst and keep coming back to this well!” she certainly expected nothing of the kind. Jesus simply said, “Go and bring your husband.” She put on an air of innocence and said she had no husband. Jesus then shattered her with a recitation of her sullied life and her Hollywood-like record of husbands. The woman start at Him shocked, and said, “I can see you are a prophet.” She had advanced in perception and faith.
Jesus next shook her ideas about worship. She made a retort, which represented four hundred years of argument about where to worship. Christ’s reply was totally new. Worship had nothing to do with place or time. Worship was anywhere, everywhere and always. The people God wanted were those whose worship was not confined to a local spot or fixed scheocal spot or fixed schedule. She felt lost now in such a theological depth, so she tried to edge around it. She said such matters would be settled when the Messiah came.
The woman was getting closer, and the Jesus said, “I who speak to you am He.” Her faith soared. She looked at this man who saw her past like a filmed record and swept her out of her depth with His profound teaching. Excited, she rushed into the town telling everybody about Jesus and asking; “Could this be the Messiah?” many men then went back to the well to see who this man was that had so affected her. They too fell under His divine spell and invited Him to stay in the town. For two days He was among them with the result that they said, “This man really is the Savior of the world.” The woman had believed, sinful as she was.
In each of these incidents, the development of faith is swift and always ends by a commitment, a relationship, and a taking hold of Jesus of Jesus personally. Being a mere believer in God leave you with a long way to go, but it is a gap that can be leaped, as fast as light – one minute far from God and the next minute bound to Him eternally through faith – “one with Christ.” We become in moment like the disciples when Jesus said to the Father about them, “They are Yours … and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them … and none of them is lost” (John 17: 9-12).
Faith in Christ is different to any other kind of faith. It is not found in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, the word used means believing “into” Christ (GK. “eis”). That word suggests movement. The ordinary Greek word for “in” (GK. “eis”) describes a set position, but the Greek expression used for faith IN Christ means moving close to Him in trusting love. It is an embrace.
This kind of loving embrace between man and his Maker comes only through Christ. Nobody in the Old Testament days could think of such a thing. God was Spirit, another kind of Being, holy, and too awesome to be approached expect with fear and trembling. Yet one inspired book in the Old Testament Scriptures touches the heart of a new experience – the Song of Songs, a lyric of love that gathers up all its words of supreme love in on phrase, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 6: 3). This was an attitude towards God that nobody understands, until Christ came.
When Jesus came, the Song of Songs was fulfilled. He is the great beloved One. The dry loveless religious world of the Jews had no spiritual experience that corresponded to the Song of Songs. Any passionate embrace between Heaven and earth was unknown, till Jesus came. He is the Divine Lover and we are those He came to love.
A woman emptied a flask of priceless ointment upon the head of Christ in holy adoration. A street-girl washed His feet with her tears and toweled them with her hair. A hard-hearted tax collector went wild with joy and wanted to give his money away. Jerusalem had never seen anything like that. They had seen fanatical fury burning murderously in men’s eyes, but not this adoring wonder.
But then, He began it Himself, for we read, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end … [and] knowing … that he had come from God and was going to God rose from supper and began to wash the disciples’ feel” (John 13: 1-5). Jesus was the Lord God whom everyone could fling his or her arms around. His mother Mary did and so did Mary Magdalene.
FAITH THE GOLDEN GIFT
However, there is an amazing thing. Faith is suddenly there. Perhaps undramatically, we step over a border, and we believe. We just know who Jesus is. It doesn’t always come framed in all the right words, or it may not conform to a classic conversion experience, but within our souls there is intuition. We see it; we know He is the One that should come if this world has any meaning. He is the key, the answer to the riddle of existence, the force. Jesus Christ crystallizes people’s ideas about God.
In the Old Testament, revelation came to people about God, but it seemed to be only to rare individuals, such as Abraham, Jacob, and the prophets. The mass of people moved very slowly – and often moved backwards. God used various circumstances and methods to help them to have faith. But the coming of Jesus has swept the world. Somehow, Calvary does what the awesome manifestation of Sinai couldn’t do. Jesus is the great faith-creator. Looking back over the long cheerless world history of uncertainty and doubt, we can see when it changed. It came with the Gospel. It awakened sleeping trust. The dawn had come.
Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14: 6). It was a pragmatic simple fact. Nobody evbody ever has to this day except through Christ. There are religions enough, pointing a thousand different ways, but Christ IS the way. He doesn’t point to a way. He is the door and flings Heaven wide open. “Come unto me … and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11: 28). “Fear Not” (Luke 12: 23).
FAITH IN THREE TENSES
God’s will, the Rock of Creation
TODAY, yesterday knocks on our door telling us about tomorrow. What we believe will be, comes from what was. Like the weather, life is a matter of probabilities, except one thing, the will of God. God is not affected by changes. God’s will is the key to bring order from chaos.
I have said this thing called faith is needed for the whole business of life. We have to take it on trust that the water from our taps is not toxic. Making money or making a living are the same. But my concern is living itself – we can make a mess of it or a good job. We can fail in living while succeed in making a living – a good living and a poor life – but “godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” (1Timothy 4: 8).
Faith can snap us out of our snug little burrows and get us going for God. This book coincides with the world-sized job God gave me, to publish and distribute a first class Gospel booklet for every home. I have no money for such a fantastic scheme, but I have faith, committing myself to millions Dollars. I saw God meet the need in the whole world. So I have good reason to say that the publication of the Gospel signal that we shall put Gospel into every dwelling in globe ventilation.
No matter with whom we deal, we don’t know what they will be like in the future, but we just take it on trust if they have been trustworthy in the past. Even circumstances change and we have to take a chance. There’s no other way. Faith is a fact of life, like the need to breathe.
I trust God because He has a “proven track record,” as they say. He has always handle things well, ten thousand times in my work.
There are three tenses of faith: “Being confident of this that he who began a good work … will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1; 6). The Christian confidence is that what God was, He is and always will be. “Though war break out against me even then will I be confident” (Psalm 27: 3). His will cannot be challenged or changed; it shapes the future. In His will we are secure. “The man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2: 17).
The Secret Half of Faith
Often afflicted people are thought to be less intelligent. The Bible isn’t like that. The example is the leper mentioned in Matthew 8. He was outstanding in acumen and saw what few others ever expressed. He met Jesus and said, “if you will, you can make me clean” (Matthew 8: 2). Many put the cart before the horse, saying “if you can, you will.” That is human thinking, not revelation, and not Bible talk. God always can, but will He?
For the leper, it was a revelation. He saw that everything depended on Christ’s will. The leper’s faith was reasonable – “if you will, you can.” The Bible was not written to tell us what God can do. We all know that. God is Almighty or we wouldn’t call Him God. The Bible is here to tell us what He will do. That is what we want to know.
So, what is He willing to do? The answer is, “His Word is His will,” a short answer, but it comes in a long book – sixty-six Bible books in fact, each book gives us special help; it builds our understanding of God and His character. Then we know what He will do.
Christ taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as in heaven” (Matthew 6: 10). The will of God is certainly not done always on earth now. God’s goodness continues, but a bad devil is permitted freedom for the time being and complicates every issue.
If this were a perfect world, faith would not be needed, when we get to glory, faith will not apply. Everything in Heave will be secure; faith becomes sight and evil is excluded. But this world is imperfect. Sin and the devil produce uncertainties. Logically, logic can’t produce hope. Logic can’t predict the next five minutes. It has to be faith in God.
The key words for this chapter are, “I WILL.” God is God of goodwill, as we show in another chapter. When we come to Him we find His arm open in willing welcome. “All day long have I held out my hands” (Romans 10: 21). His face shines upon us.
How His will worked Out
Today our Bible provides us a privilege to learn from the experience of the first who ventured on the faith road, the pioneers. “These things … were written for our admonition upon who the ends of the age have come” (1 Corinthians 10: 11). Bible people struggled with God’s goodness and the problem of evil. Their stories help us in the good fight of faith. It shows how the goodwill of God worked out for them. W should remember that they had the same human nature and lived in the same world and had the same God. James reminds us, “Elijah was a man of the same feelings as ourselves.” In fact, the world was a far more frightening and mysterious place for them than for us with our advance knowledge. But they learned to lean on God.
In fact, Israel was the most harried and persecuted race on earth, yet it was Israel who gave us the most glorious recommendation to trust in God. “When you pass through the water I will be with you; and … the rivers … will nit sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned … for I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43: 2-3). After 3,000 years Israel is still present.
The story in the book of Daniel of the three Hebrews, who were cast into a furnace alive and came out live, is a picture of their race. For 2,500 years, the “Chosen People” have gone through the furnace of affliction but emerged and occupy newspaper columns every day. It backs up Psalm 124: 1, 5, “If the Lord had not been on our side … [let Israel say] the raging water would have swept us away.” The Bible message of faith comes to us out of the crucible of suffering, and yet it is the happiest book ever written. It contains 653 references to joy and gladness.
Believers have a past tense faith – they believe God did things. In fact, people can believe anything if it took place a long time ago or will take place a long time ahead. They can accept a promise like. “All things work together for good to them that love the Lord” (Romans 8: 28). Which might mean eternity, but they find it harder to believe, “I am the Lord who heals thee” (Exodus 15: 26). They have a past but not a present faith. They believe in the God of Moses and Elijah and that Jesus did work miracles and that the Holy Spirit empowered the disciples. But that is hollow believing unless it transfers to today, believing that He will carry on the good work. So let me help a bit.
THE RVELATN N REVELATION
One man with the message of past, present and future faith was John the apostle. When he was up against the whole Roman Empire he wrote a marvelous and triumphant book. He said, “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1: 9).
John was close to Jesus. It was a unique friendship. He also suffered for Christ. John was a man who saw what things meant. He read the signs with prophetic insight. What he saw was difficult to explain. It was new on earth. Nobody had thought of it, especially in one sentence. So let’s look at what he said (Revelation 1: 4):
“Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth.”
How can Jesus be a “faithful witness?” we are witnesses to Christ, but to what does Chris witness? This Scripture refers back to another passage, John 8: 13-14, 18. The Pharisees were arguing and said, “Here you are, appearing as your testimony is not valid.’ Jesus answered, ‘Even if I testify on my behalf, my testimony is valid for I know where I came from and where I am going … I am one who testifies fir myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”
Jesus witnesses to Himself he said, “Believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14: 1). By His life and mighty deeds He has shown us what He is. He witnesses to what He is. He is faithful to what He told us He is and doesn’t disappoint us. If He were different now, He would not be a faithful witness. He is consistent with what He said and did. Jesus’ life spells hope for sinners and sick and concern for everybody. He writes, “Yours faithfully, Jesus Christ.”
Now, notice something; God backs up Hs faithfulness in this text in the words, “him who is, and who was, and who is to come” (Revelation 1: 8). These are unusual words, for notice it says, “Who is to come,” when we would have said, “who will be”—the same verb, “to be.” He uses it twice in “who was, and is,” then switches to a different one and says, “to come.” Anybody can see this is unusual. Why this peculiar way of putting it?
The reason is that God is “unusual.” He baffles grammar and syntax, and the language has to be pushed around when we speak of Him. Christ Himself was a mystery. “No man knows the Son but the Father” (Matthew 11: 27), and to talk about Him in ordinary language always leaves something out.
When it comes to the Lord, human language is never good enough. The first Christians had to give new meanings to many words, and even coin new words, because Jesus did new things and was a new kind of Person. God Himself did not communicate about Himself with mere words, such as Mohammed’s “final testament” or Joseph Smith’s Mormon “revelations.” God simply resented Himself with His actions, and to describe Him we often need a bigger alphabet. It is like angel’s music that needs a new notation. When we speak of God, we can lack the words and feel like the Queen of Sheba seeing Solomon’s court: “Not even half was told me” (1 Kings 10: 7).
God never relied on mere words to inspire our faith in Himself. To show us who and what He is, He CAME! “The Word became flesh and dwell among us and we behold His glory, full of grace and truth” (John 1: 14).
Now, let’s go back to those wonderful verses in Revelation 1: 8 and to the word that says He is the one “coming” it means His everlastingly breaking in upon us. We get the same thing in Matthew 11; 3 where Christ is called “the coming (one).” God isn’t a “will be” God, and He is not in a process to become something else later on what He will be, He is now and always has been, the eternal unchanging One. He is already perfect. “I am the Lord. I change not” (Malachi 3: 6).
Yes, but it is different for us as individuals. We are always finding something new in Him. Suppose you stand in the water at the edge of the River Thames. You are at the river, yet also the river keeps coming toward you. And the water we stand in will be the same river that somebody else may stand in tomorrow further downstream as the waters flow. God is like that. We come to Him. He is there, and yet He keeps coming to us. He is not just “being” God somewhere, like the Sphinx, just being mysterious. “We will come to you,” Jesus said, and He never stops coming, not now nor ever.
FAITH IN THE GOD OF THE PAST
THE GOD OF YESTERDAY
Twice in one chapter of Revelation God calls Himself, “Him who was” (1:4, 8). “The God that was” is how half the world thinks of Him, the One who created Heaven and earth and has done little ever since. Limited to that idea, people many as well have faith in Pharaoh Tutankharmum.
That is foolish. Could a God of such creative imagination settle down to be a God of long ago, the past sitting in Heaven with his hands folded in his lap? He filled the empty skies with unsurpassing beauty and then went to sleep? Is that a rational theory? If we don’t see further than that, we are not very perceptive. Could God ignore His own universe? If we want faith, let us look at this.
THE ONE WHO CREATES
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1: 1). So what? Well the question naturally is why? Why should God do any such thing? He didn’t do it to please anybody – there wasn’t anybody, only just Himself! He pleased Himself when He did it. He was not obliged to do so. No compulsion rested upon Him. He was not pressured. He wanted to do it.
The thing a person foes because they want to, show what they are like. If I sat down in my room, shut the door and played the organ, it would be for my own pleasure. It would tell anybody that’s me; because I’m musical I would do that.
God brought the glittering stars and the planets into being. That’s Him! “The heaves declare the glory of the God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” So begins Psalm 19 and it does on. The writer is thrilled. But it is the aurora of God, not the splendor of the universe he is excited about; He is distracted from creation by the Creator. Often science can’t see wood foe trees. Modern science takes everything apart. It’s like taking an antique violin apart to see what makes it sound so beautiful. It loses the Divine radiance. I imagine God standing by; pensive, watching us like children opening the Christmas stocking, while He is waiting to love us. But then – fathers are often forgotten for the sake of Christmas toys.
God pulled a blank sheet of paper across His desk, thought and designed everything we see around us. Its substance was shaped out of His own grandeur; He Himself must be absolutely eternally breathtaking.
Now we can see it. It tells us that this God obviously delights in activity, in color, beauty, wonder and life, and much more. He made US – why? Surely not for fun. Why do we long for children? As an opportunity for our instinct of love. God made us that way. He’s like that Himself. What He is must come out as long as God exists, on and on. Faith? That’s the first thing about the God in whom we believe.
THE GOOD GOD
“God saw all what h had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1; 31). His idea of what was good was a material world, not just an abstract spiritual principle of goodness. God doesn’t deal in abstractions. He is pragmatic, the God of earth and sea, animals, trees and birds, fishes – and people. “We are His people.” He made it all and made us and was happy about it. He loved it – god so loved the world.
He molded this beautiful globe and said “Good! Good! Good!” seven times in Genesis chapter one. He clapped His hands with pleasure and the morning stars sang together for joy (Job 38: 7). The whole process works towards goods. Evil fights it, but it will never work out. “All thing work together for good” (Romans 8: 28). God is good. When things are wrong, we ask “why?” of course we do. God put that in us. We hate evil because He does. God put that “why?” in our soul. Even Jesus said, “Why?” when He experiences the utmost agony on the Cross. A good God is the God of true faith. That is the God of the Bible. That is where the idea came from, the Bible. The pagans had not the remotest idea of a good God.
THE GOD OF MIRACLES
“God said let there be … and there was.” Creation was the first and greatest of all miracles. If God could extrude the Himalayas and Rockies through His cupped hands and with his finger scoop out the hollows for the Pacific and the Atlantic and cap the poles with miles-thick ice, what’s the problem about God healing deaf ears or blind eyes? Are miracles possible? What a question! How dull can we be? But then doubt does dull our thinking.
It is absurd for anybody to say miracles can’t happen. To know that, we would have to know everything about everything and about God. Nobody knows enough to declare it cannot be. It is the height of human arrogance to assume such omniscience.
Take a glance at the next book, Exodus. The first great historic character in the Bible after Adam and Eve id Abraham. God spoke to him. Then about eight centuries later. The Lord spoke to Moses. He said He had not forgotten His covenant with Abraham, the great father of all who believe (6: 5). The Lord next spoke to Moses. He told Moses what He was doing. Look at these action words:
The Lord SAID, see what I will DO. I APPEARED. I have ESTABLISHED my Covenant. I have KNOW. I WILL SEND thee. I AM COME DOWN. I KNOW. I WILL STRETCH out my hand. I have REMEMBERED. I will BRING you out. I will RID you out of their bondage. I will REDEEM you with a stretched out arm. I will Take you to me for s people. I will BE to you a God. I did SWEAR to give, and WILL GIVE.
That is swift pen-sketch of the God of the, past. One could build on that picture through the Scriptures when God become the God of Israel, the God of Samuel and David and Isaiah, and then “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1: 3). That’s the God that uses to be.
However, for some people God stays as a used-to-be God Millions get no further and God for them is perhaps around ‘somewhere,” but He generally seems to have gone into retirement. Jesus did wonderful things, was crucified, raised and taken to Heaven, end of the episode. Full stop. There God is, firmly anchored in history, Christ beyond the blue, never to be active again.
GOD DIDN’T DISAPPEAR
A write has authored a book with the idea that the figure of God withdrew from the Bible. But since Jesus came, God becomes more and more vivid in the Bible and in the world to this very day. It took 348 pages for this writers to put his theory together, but just one miracle demolishes the idea. If anybody think God has dwindled away or done a vanishing trick, let them come to Africa. I’ve seen Him here, manifested in greater power than anywhere in the Old Testament, expelling demons, restoring the sick, healing the blind, the cripples and the deaf. God didn’t do that even with Moses. God is shaking cities and nations. Perhaps that’s where God “disappeared.” Among people who believe Him!
However, they all lost their passports and visas of faith in God and never crossed the border into the Promised Land, all, with the two exceptions – Caleb and Joshua, who held onto their and entered in. unbelief is that old. It is neither clever nor modern. Eve doubted. From that moment for her and us, doubt reigned. It is a satanic piece of tomfoolery that never did anybody any good.
If we are to deal with God, how on earth can we do it except by trusting Him? What trust is He likely to have with those who give Him the cold shoulder or pretend He doesn’t even exist? He owns us nothing, and if that’s the way we want it, that is the way He will let it be. “Since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind.” (Romans 1: 28).
BELIEVERS WHO DIDN’T SEE MIRACLES
After the death of Joshua, very few ever saw a miracle unity Christ came, except under Elijah and Elisha. In fact, very little happened that was supernatural. Yet men and women displayed amazing faith. Jesus spoke of them and said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believe” (John 20: 29). They read the Scriptures and believed the God of the Exodus could not fail them and would work on their behalf. He did. David for example never saw a miracle and had only the sketchiest experience of the supernatural, yet he went ahead in that total experience of David help. Today, 3,000 years later, his faith is still a model for us.
GIDEAN, EZRA, AND US
The book of Judges talks about Gideon, he had heard the great things God had done when He brought His people out of the bondage of Egypt. He wanted to see the same God at work. He believed the mighty arm of two centuries before had not lost its strength. God honored his faith. The story of Gideon tells how a great triumph came about without human prowess and power. God delivered little Israel again as He delivered them before from Egypt. Gideon righty asked, “Where are all miracles which our fathers told us about?” (Judges 6: 13). God showed him! He chose 300 men without a sword among them. Through them, the largest army of desert people ever mustered in those days panicked and fled, so soundly defeated they never recovered to invade Israel again. Gideon only knew the God of the past until then.
Ezra affords an inspiring example. He belonged to the Jewish priestly caste and was brought up in Babylon, a palace officer highly thought of by the emperor of Medo-Persia. Ezra’s book pertains to the various returns of the Jews from exile.
After Medo-Persia conquered the Babylonia Empire, a new policy was introduced. The Medo-Persians decided to re-populate the areas laid waste 70 years before when Babylonian armies had confiscated half the Middle East. It meant re-settling about 50,000 Jews in Judea. To give them a sense of national identity, Medo-Persia gave back to them their Temple treasures worth many millions.
Ruined and not policed. Lawless tribesmen infested the camel tracks with murder and pillage, preying on travelers. They could destroy an entire caravansary. The emperor wanted them to travel under military protection during the five month’ journey. They needed it.
However, Ezra boasted that God, who had looked after Israel for forty years in the wilderness and brought them out of Egypt, could well take care of them for five months. That sounds very religions, but the truth is that neither Ezra, nor anybody else then, had ever seen a vision, ever head God’s voice, witnessed a healing, or miracle, or had any sign from God whatever. Ezra was not a prophet.
Ezra had nothing but the Scriptures. But He believed God, resting purely upon the written Scriptures. He put the whole project into operation under the wings of the Lord.
They set out, a very tempting opportunity for plunderers. Five months after leaving, they arrived at Jerusalem – neither a life nor a shekel lost. The invisible hand of God had performed a feat of protection. It is one of the greatest examples of faith in the Bible. Sheer trust in nothing else than a record of what God had done many years before.
The evidences of the power of God around us today would top Mount Everest.. we see every kind of wonder – miracles of healing, literally millions, fantastic revelations of Christ by vision, dreams, providence, and miracles of answered prayer, of conversion, of provision, of guidance, of angelic protection, of gifts if the Holy Spirit and of power over demonic forces on earth.
This will go on until Jesus comes. But if it all stopped, a hundred years from now it would be looked back upon with awe or incredulity. Some would say it was all hearsay. Today, we are in the midst of it as Israel was in th“I am the Lord. I change not”e Res Sea. Like many in Israel, the certainly is that many today see the display of God’s awesome greatness but crawl through life unimpressed, mistrustful and fearful.
CHRIST’S GREATEST MIRACLE CHALLENGE OF FAITH
The supreme miracle in the New Testament was the raising of Lazarus after his death four days before. We can’t tell the whole episode here, as this chapter is getting rather long. It provides some classic lessons in faith. When Christ came, Martha met him and said “If you had been here my brother would not have died” (John 11: 21).
In other words, Martha displayed a marvelous faith for YESTERDAY: “If you had been here five days ago, I believe there would have been a miracle.” “If” was Martha’s word, a favorite word for believers believing for the past. Anything could have happened yesterday, “if.”
Old faith is like old fish, and like the old manna from yesterday described in the book of Exodus and Numbers. If they had yesterday’s manna, it would breed worms and stink. Faith has to be today’s faith.
Jesus told Martha, “Your bother will rise again,” and Martha replied, “Id, “I know he will rise again, in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11: 23-24). Martha had faith for TOMORROW – the last day. It is so often like that – there will be a miracle sometime, in God’s good time, when revival comes, when things are different.
When Christ worked miracles in the common streets of villages and cities, according to the scholars it was the wrong time. It was only to happen when the apocalyptic world dawned and God drew near to earth, angels flew in the skies and the sleeping dead awoke and Messiah reigned in the half-heavenly conditions, which were to turn earth into paradise. They believed that one day the lame would leap like the hart and the blind would see – not now, with Roman soldiers occupying the holy city. Miracles they saw in Jerusalem or Galilee couldn’t be genuine – it must be the devil at work, those old Rabbis thought.
Miracles today are always suspected. Tongues couldn’t be the same tongues as on the day of Pentecost. Angels were real then, but they are hallucinations now. Bible miracles were real miracles and todays are spurious. They will be real in the millennium, but never now! Well, with nobody sick in the millennium there will be no healings then anyway!
God actually answered prayer in Bible days, but not it is all coincidence and exaggeration. There was real revival two hundred years ago, but the quality is missing today.
The critics think people don’t even pray like they used to do and all the greatest men and women of God lived yesterday – there were giants in the earth in those days, but Christians now are all pygmies. Oh unbelief, how ancient and intransigent thou art! As Jesus said, “O ye of little faith” (Matthew 6: 30). “How long must I be with you?” (Matthew 17: 17).
When Jesus went to the grave of Lazarus and began to show what He was about to do, telling them to remove the stone blocking out of the mouth of the tomb, Martha was shocked, saying, “Lord, by this time he smells. He had been dead four days” (John 11: 39). His reply still comes ringing in all our ears, rattling against our impervious pessimism like welcoming rain on the hard wilderness. “If you would believe, you would see the glory of God” (John 11: 40). Only doubt and you wouldn’t move a molehill, never mind a mountain. That day the God of the past performed the greatest wonder ever seen. Lazarus walked out of the grave.
The God of Moses and Elijah is not behind us, but ahead of us. You can’t update Him. He has brought in the Kingdom age, the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, “All things are possible. Only believe!” we can, you know!
FAITH, THE Gift of God to All
God plan for nothing to be ordinary. Jesus pointed to the lilies as examples of superb beauty – they were probably hyacinths, every petal and leaf of utter perfection.
In the Kingdom of God the extraordinary is so common it is ordinary. Each person is special. The Shepherd with a hundred sheep searches for one gone astray. The boy David, the young outsider in Jesus’s warrior family, was chosen to be anointed as the future King. Christianity is the religion of the unwanted.
Faith is fertile ground in which God grows His plants and trees. He plants qualities in the man or woman of faith, which presently become admired anywhere. Little people take on stature by faith in Christ. They have zest, a grip on life, and tackle difficulties with determination and confidence. It is common for believers to perform beyond their natural capacity. Jesus said to the unleavened fisher lads on Galilee, “I will make you!” they switched direction and also elevation.
That is very good, but some say, “Well, I’m not a faith person.” Well, here’s bad news and good news. The bad is that “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11: 6). The good is that we can all be “faith person.” The good is that we can all be “faith person.” Faith is so vital that God intends nobody to be faithless. The road to faith is wide open.
Only one things needs to be said about it – faith is not for the gold digger. God, who made all the wealth there is, is not against wealth, but those whose god is gold can expect no help from Heaven. Jesus’ Parable of the Sower in Luke 8: 14 uses a word which has passed into the English language – hedonism (Gk. hedonom), the pursuit of pleasure. “That which fell among thorns are they, which when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with care and riches and PLEASURES of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection” (Luke 8: 14). The same plain words address us in James 4: 3, “When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” A life aim of riches is stupid because at the end we can’t take it with us. But it is eternal profit to follow Christ’s directions: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6: 33).
DIVINE PRINCIPLE OF ACTION
The absolute ABC of faith is that as we act, God acts. We respond to Him by faith, and He responds to us for faith. Apostle Paul found that it opened like the blood flowing through is veins. (Galatians 2 20). “I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life, which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God”
Here are some examples from Scripture: acts 2: 4. “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” THEY spoke and the SPIRIT gave the language. Then Philippians 2: 12-13, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you both to well and to do of his good pleasure.” This is a play on words. “God is in you to will to do His goodwill.” He puts the desire in us to do His desire. That is what being “led of the Spirit” means. 2 Peter 1: 21, “Holy men spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Jesus said, “When they shall deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit … in you.”
We get the same thing in Psalm 37: 23, “Thee steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” We talk and God steers us. “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10: 23). Three times we read, “He makes my feet like hinds feet” (2 Samuel 22: 34, Psalm 18: 33, Habakkuk 3: 19) which is what Isaiah 40: 31 means – “They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and nit faint.”
God doesn’t want us to be like gloves, uselessly, waiting to be picked up off the shelf; lifeless. People pray, “use me O Lord,” but do nothing. There’s the idea that being used of God means being another Luther, Wesley, or Livingstone. But we are alive to get on with the task at our elbow. That is all-important for us.
Now that is the important principle of faith. Christ Jesus is alive in me. Many wait for the Spirit to move, but He must move in the direction they want. The moving of the Spirit is not just in our feelings. There’s a strange and neglected verse in James 4: 5, “The Spirit that dwells in us lust to envy.” The word “lusts” is “yearns.” The Holy Spirit within us conflicts with fleshy desire, urging us into service for Him.
Let us look at Ephesians 2: 8, “For by grace you have been saved through FAITH – and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Faith is a manual act between God and me. This chapter is talking about two spirits in opposition, the spirit of the devil and the Spirit of God. They both pressurize us. First, we read of “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2: 2). Then, we read that when we are saved, “We are … created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” (Ephesians 2: 10). When we do His will, do His good works, it is by His grace. We can’t pride ourselves on it. The glory is all the Lord’s.
Perhaps you notice that Jesus never commended people, but he commended their faith. If we have small faith, don’t worry, everybody starts there – or with no faith at all! Even the apostles were called, “Little-faiths.” If you are dissatisfied with yourself God made you that way. “The Spirit within us yearns.” He plans to strengthen us.
PEOPLE WHO HAD A FAITH BREAKTHROUGH
If we are poor believers, there can be a breakthrough. The whole Bible is written to break down unbelief and build up our fortification of trust in God. We may study it intellectually for doctrine or for prophecy, but its central objective is to bring us the peace of perfect rest in God.
Here are a few “breakthrough” Bible verse. Pray as you read:
“It is high time to awake” (Romans 13: 1).
“Be not conformed to the world, but transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12: 2).
“Only believe and thou shalt see the glory of God” (John 11: 40).
“When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22: 32).
“Awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5: 14).
“And Abraham believed God and … he was called” (James 2: 23). The friend of God
“Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press towards the mark …” (Philippians 3: 13-14).
The Bible never apologizes for repeating the exhortation to “Trust in the Lord” (Proverbs 3: 5). Every day brings changes in circumstances, and every day we need a reminder to trust. Later chapters refer to people who had a faith breakthrough, which brought God’s blessing to and through them. They awake to God and dared the impossible.
ABRAHAM. We have written two chapters about this pioneer “father of all who believe” (Romans 4: 11). “Abraham believed God, and God counted it to him as righteousness and he became the friend of God” (James 2: 23) like everybody else, he could have doubted. His own wife Sarah did and laughed at the promise of God as absurd. Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees was in terrible shape, possibly idolatrous. Faith came to him quite late in life but it made him the most dominate character the Middle East has ever known, except Christ.
JACOB. He was the grandson of Abraham. At the beginning, Jacob didn’t ever claim that he belonged to God. Then came a night when God wrestled with him, and Jacob experience a breakthrough. It changed him so much, God changed his name to Isra-el (Genesis 32: 28).
GIDEON. Gideon was a young man and frustrated son of the local chief. He rose literally overnight to be a national leader. He began with very shaky faith, even complaining that God did nothing. God just about nursed Gideon’s invading army 500 times bigger than his, unarmed, and “put to flight the armies of aliens,” as the roll of honor in Hebrews 11: 34 says. It was a classic operation of faith (Judges 7).
JEHOSHAPHAT. He was a nervous king, not always pleasing God. When he and the nation were in danger, God’s Spirit fell upon a man in prophecy. It brought a breakthrough. Jehoshaphat’s expectations soared, and again it led to a victorious episode in the annals of Israel (2 Chronicles 20).
THOMAS THE TWIN, BETTER KNOWN AS “DOUBTING THOMAS.”
He actually said, “I will not believe” (John 20: 25). He was a practical-minded type, the kind who need hard evidence, but even he experienced a g=faith breakthrough when he saw Jesus.
SEVEN DOWNHEARTED DISCIPLES. Seven men met on the beach of Galilee. Every one of them had failed miserably. They has faith and saw miracles and demons cast out, but now they were far from any such scene. Their spiritual career seemed to be finished. Then Christ came to them and recharged their batteries (John 21). Soon they set out on a venture that changes the whole known world – and it is now changing new worlds.
THE EYE-OPENING PRAYER
I wish people would be more exact when searching Scripture. Take Ephesians 1: 17-19, where Apostle Paul prays for believers to experience a breakthrough.
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us WHO BELIEVE.
In the matter of power. Paul, neither here nor anywhere else, ever prays for power. The New Testament never talks about a new infilling or another Pentecostal, even if the convention speakers do. He prayed only that “the eye of [their] understanding [be] enlightened” (Ephesians 1: 18). That is, to see what resources lay at their very elbow. We pray for power when Christ has all power and has made HIS POSSESSION OF POWER His Great Commission command. If HE has all power, that’s all that matters. It follows that as we obey His command He will back us without our having to spend half our time begging Him to do so. The power breakthrough for the Ephesians was a faith breakthrough in realization of what was theirs already in Christ. We take it by faith, not through merit by the labors of prayer.
We talk of “big believers” with “great faith.” But some event inspired them and encouraged them. They took their opportunity, changed their attitude and believed. God honors such a holy resolve. Jesus commanded one or two for their “great faith” but not one of them arrived at that happy position by a long and arduous process. They met Jesus. That was all and enough. Faith is just that – faith in Him. What Jesus commanded was the quality of their faith, not its scope. Ever-increasing faith is not some kind of trapeze act. It is as a little child who trusts his parents more as he grows older.
“The just shall live by faith” Galatians 3: 11). Faith involves taking a chance, or it wouldn’t be faith. But taking a chance on God is hardly a gamble. He is faithful and sure. It is confident anticipation based on the knowledge of who God is. Apostle Peter knew what Jesus was like and obeyed Him in walking on the water. Faith is act on the strength of what we know, expecting God to be to us what we know He is. When we “risk” everything on God, He proves to be faithful to what He has told us about Himself.
LEAP INTO THE LIGHT
Every day we exercise trust in countless things, often unfamiliar and new. People, food, chairs, gadgets, everything. It is natural. We don’t stand and say, “Now have I enough faith to get on this bus?” “Can I sit quietly trusting this driver?” we never think of it; we just go along trusting all the way. Examining your feelings to see if you have a bit of faith lurking around in some corner of your mind is quite absurd. You don’t really “feel” faith. At least faith and feelings don’t always go together. You simply do what should be done when you know very well that you can’t succeed unless God helps you.
Faith is a leap into the light, not into the darkness. It is out of the unknown into the known, out of not knowing Christ Jesus into knowing Him. Believing is like a child standing where it is not safe but without any fear because its father is waiting to catch him. He falls on purpose to be caught.
Each of us is important to God, more than all the stars of space. He wants us to trust Him implicitly. He made us and will take pains with us. Faith allows Him to see us through until we rest in Him.
Four men had a literal “breakthrough” of faith. Luke 5: 17-26 describes Christ in a house crowded with Pharisees and teachers of the law. “From every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem.” Obviously, many of them had physical troubles, and “the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick,” but none of these religious people were healed. Then four men brought a paralyzed man on a stretchers, and because they could not get through the crowd, they went up the outside stairs of the flat-roofed house, pulled apart the light coverings and lowered the man down right in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, he restored this man to health. It was a double breakthrough. They broke through the roof and they broke through the unbelief of the crowd, which had kept them back from Christ.
That happens every time somebody is healed – it breaks through the unbelief of the world. It had to or well never get near Jesus at all. Believe God! It will please some people and amaze everybody else. We are surrounded everyday by doubters. Godlessness is the order of the day. Newspapers, radio, television, social media, all of them push irreligious and godlessness down our throats for breakfast, dinner, tea and supper. If we want faith, we should try a different diet than all this rationalistic chaff. Feed on the Bible, prayer, Christian encouragement, and faith-building reading. Come hopefully, exercising faith, however nervously, and you will get more faith. The believer is destined to be a giant among pygmies, walking tall, riding high above the spiritual poverty of the world, the representative of a greater order of creation, a strength and a pillar.
The loss of wealth is much, the loss of health is more.
The loss of faith is such that nothing can restore.
FAITH AND GOD’S CHARACTER
One question matters, far beyond everything we can ever think about. What God’s character? In what kind of God do we have faith?
What is His nature or attitude? S He good, easy, happy, or vindictive, difficult, joyless? Is He the Great Critic, the had-faced Judge? Does He care? Is He the “unmoved Mover,” indifferent to what goes on? What does He feel about our sins, our struggles? What really is His make-up? There are a thousand possibilities, and they change life around us.
Our attitude to everything is settled by what we think about God. If we don’t think about God we shameless fools. Unfortunately, that has a lot to do with events around us very often.
Great nation are what they are because of their religious idea, such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. In Europe and West, Christian culture and tradition shape our minds differently from non-Christian peoples. So as Kipling said, “Oh, East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet, Till earth and sky stand presently at God’s great judgment Seat.” There are vest areas of oppression or of freedom, of restriction or liberty, of advance or stagnation, coming directly from whatever notions of deities are common.
These are temporal effects, but our very souls are staked on what we believe. The Bible strikes directly at the heart of things when it says, “He who believes in the Son, has everlasting life; and He who does not believe the Son shall not see life” (John 3: 36).
The word “God” is ambiguous. To what or whom does “God” refer? It is all a matter of character. Is He just “a sort of a something somewhere,” just shapeless, with particular disposition? Millions of people make up a god from all kinds of odds and ends, opinions and superstitions. Others talk about “The Absent Creator,” or Gaia the New Age god. There are the various gods of the philosophers, or the god of the Deists. So often people, who never open a Bible and know little about the subject, talk as dogmatically as the Pope does. Ninety per cent of the argument about God come from ignorance.
The greatest thinkers can do more than speculate. We can’t spin God out of our own head. By reason alone, we could never know even a human person. It is impossible, unless they open up to us. However, God would naturally wish us to know Him. He made us and wouldn’t want His creatures in ignorance. When we turn to the Bible, we have an impression of God so powerful that imagination has never matched it. Certainly no image can compare, nor any other religious’ god.
HE WHO DWELT IN THE BUSH
God is identified for what He is in Scripture in various situations. This is pinpointed in Deuteronomy 33: 13, 16 (NIV). Moses the greatest of Israel’s prophets was prophesying over the twelve tribes of Israel and declaring what they were and would become. He blessed Joseph and said, “May the Lord bless his land … with the favor of him who dwelt in the burning bush.” The KJV renders it “it goodwill of him,” which is better.
It was that God, the God of the burning bush that Moses wanted to come and bless Joseph. He described this visitation as God’s “goodwill” or favor. God is God of goodwill towards us. The angels that heralded the birth of Christ used the same word. Luke 2: 14 states, “Glory to God in the highest, and earth peace, good will toward men.” That is God’s attitude – goodwill toward men. The original wording is “peace among men of goodwill.” That can be misread. It is not our goodwill, but that of God. We are the people of God’s goodwill, or as the NIV puts it “men on whim his favor rests.”
If we think of the primitive times when such words were first uttered, it is astonishing. The whole world was idolatrous. The gods were never shining examples of anything, certainly not of goodwill. As unreliable in temperament as all earthlings, often sullen, they had to be coaxed, flattered, and appeased to bestow any small favor.
Moses didn’t speak vaguely about the Lord God. He knew Him and pinpointed a typical revealing memory, “The goodwill of Him that dwelt in the burning bush.” It was an overflow of spontaneous concern. Moses had not been praying there and prostrating himself, crying out for something supernatural to happen. He had cast no spells, used no magic. God took upon Himself to appear, unprompted. James 1: 18 sayings, “Of his own will he begat us with the world of truth.”
His goodwill on this occasion went beyond Israel. There wasn’t a free nation on earth, and God came down to introduce and initiate freedom, and to make Israel His fee people, the first free nation on earth. Their Sabbath said, “Men are not to be slaves working every day that comes.” Leisure was God’s idea. Goodwill! That is the Lord in whom the Bible encourages us to have faith.
GOD’S GOOD WILL
Scripture has much to say of God’s will. We include a chapter on the great phrase, “I will.” Now that word “will” used by the heathen world simply meant decision, a choice made without feeling. But those who knew the Lord God thought of His will and gave it a richer meaning. When the will of the Lord was mentioned, it mean desire, a heartfelt wish. The will of God is not a cold clinical judgment, a matter of calculating rectitude. It is something that comes from Hos heart. He delights in goodness.
The same genial qualities are dominant throughout the entire Bible. God’s goodwill becomes knowledge. When atheists argue, it is that kind of God they argue about, not Krishna of Buddha of Allah. They are not monuments of openhearted and generous goodwill. but Scripture describes and distinguishes the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The word, “goodwill,” describes God also in the New Testament. Hebrews 6: 17 uses the word twice, “God [will] WILLING more abundantly to show to be heirs of promise the unchangeableness of his WILL.” Romans 12: 2 talks about the will of God being “good,” “perfect” and “well-pleasing.” The will of God is called “His pleasure.” It was prophesied that Christ would say, “I delight to do thy will, O my God.” The pleasure or desire of God was also the desire and pleasure of Christ. Jesus said it gave Him pleasure to do what pleased God, that is, gave God pleasure (John 8: 29). God said His Son gave Him great pleasure (Luke 3: 22).
The Holy Spirit works in us what He worked in Christ, as we read in Philippians 2: 13, “It is God who works in you both to will and do of his good pleasure.” His same goodwill toward us is mentioned in Ephesians 1: 5 using the same words: “Having predestined us … according to the pleasure of his will.”
The will “of Him that dwelt in the burning bush” was frightening. To release Israel, and introduce the idea of freedom, God rocked Egypt and convulsed nature, nothing could stand in His way, Pharaoh, armies, gods, rivers and seas or even Israel’s ingratitude and reluctance. They seemed to want to be the chains that had bound them, but that wouldn’t do for God.
That is His character – goodwill – ready to turn the world the right side up, even tearing the Son of God from Hos won bosom to come on earth to fulfil His wishes for the benefit and blessing of the unworthy sons of men.
WHAT IS GOD LIKE?
We ask what God is like but He is like nothing and nobody that we know. We have no way to describe Him. “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal’ says the Holy One … His understanding no-one can fathom” (Isaiah 40: 25-28). There is just this, that God made man in His own image. We can’t help but say that too often man has made God in his own image.
However, He is not the unknown God. We can learn of Him. Jesus said, “Learn of me” (Matthew 11: 29), and the apostle Paul talks about “growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1: 10).
THE HOLY ONE
Israel had a name for God, which was so holy they avoided using it if possible. In our Bible it is “the Lord” the original in Hebrew is YAHWEH. The Scriptures used by Jesus were Greek and called God “Lord” (Gk. “kurios”). “Lord” is a common and ordinary word. The awesome name YAHWEH was never used in the New Testament. It is always “Lord,” even when quoting the Old Testament.
Experts have tried to find where the great name of Yahweh came from. They expected it had been used previously by other got very far. The name Yahweh was unique, used only in Israel. Divine revelation filled it with an awesome and profound meaning. The names of heathen deities were never like that. Yahweh in fact meant that He was separate, One on His own. That is “holy.” Isaiah said there was “none beside Him.” He was “The Lord, the Holy One of Israel.”
THE INEXPRESSIBLE NAME
The name of the Lord is not a mere label. Moses asked God WHAT His name was (Exodus 3: 13). He already had heard His name but what was it when revealed? Even Abraham knew it, but “God made known His way unto Moses” (Psalm 103: 7). Moses was asking what it signified.
Moses realized that the God who was sending Him to Egypt was more that He had ever thought when he use His name. Knowing the name of Yahweh or knowing the name of an ocean, saying nothing about its mysterious depths. God was more awesome that Moses had ever awesome than Moses had ever dreamed. He was told to take off his shoes (Exodus 3: 5) because the presence of God makes the desert sand holy. He is “the Lord.” There are many gods, but only one Yahweh. There is no category of gods that includes Him. He is apart.
Some pronounce Yahweh as Jehovah. Isaiah 43: 10 says that Israel is witness to Yahweh (or Jehovah). Jesus said His witnesses are His disciple (Acts 1: 8). The Christian witness has always been “Jesus Christ is Lord.” The name of Jesus is now the highest title in heaven and earth the name of the King of kings. But this supreme name conveys more than God is holy and awesome. He became incarnate, suffered, died and was raised again for unworthy mortals. His title, “Lord,” signifies more than the Old Testament “Yahweh.” It also signifies God as He made Himself know in Christ, the final revelation.
KNOWING THE UNKNOWABLE
The New Testament says that we can know Him that “passes knowledge” (Ephesians 3: 19). He is “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1: 3).
One great mark distinguishes the Bible God. It is what He does. Like the Psalmist in Psalm 136: 2, 4 put it, “Give thanks to the God of gods … to him WHO ALONE does great wonders.” It is His goodwill in operation. The prophet Elijah said, “The god who answers by fire – he is God” (1 Kings 18: 24). When He answered by fire, the people shouted, “The Lord! He is the God” (1 Kings 18: 39).
Most gods do nothing. But “Jesus of Nazareth … went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil” (Acts 10: 38). Christ is Christian example as Peter said, “that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2: 21). Jesus sad, “He who believes in me, the works that I do he will do also” (John 14: 12). Nobody can do what Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed of Confucius did, since they did nothing. They even suggested nothing could be done to change things.
A little while ago Hindu people said their gods had begun drinking milk. There was tremendous excitement, with pictures on television and the press of women with bottle of milk spooning it into the mouths of idols. It turned out all a mistake. The idols were made of porous images smelled abominably! Bit to think their gods were actually doing anything at all, showing evidences of life, if it was only taking milk, brought the idol worshippers vast astonishment.
The character of God is one of concern, goodwill and action. The Lord God of Israel and our Lord Jesus Christ did rather greater things than take milk from a spoon! Jesus performs ten thousand wonders every hour perform every day. He said, “My Father work till now and I work” (John 5: 17). He has rivals but they can’t compete. His character outshines all that is ever pictured in men, women or myth.
THE PEERLESS GOSPEL
The character of God is seen in Christ and His Gospel. In all our campaigns, the Gospel glory proves matchless. Vast multitudes come to us because their own religious offer so little. The Gospel of Christ offers everything. Signs accompany it, wonders, marvels of salvation and conversion, miracles of healing. His Light and truth lighten the future and illuminate eternity. Evil spirits are expelled. Christ gives immunity to spells and curses and all the works of the devil (1 John 3: 8). In our campaigns we are dealing with the Scripture God of all gods. Millions recognize the fact.
What Paul preached, we preach, that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that he appeared” (1 Corinthians 15: 3-5). Our message is not theories of ideas capable of being disputed. We preach Christ, a fact as much a part of everyday existence as the sun shining in the sky.
We SHOULD have faith in a God like that. It would be a crime not to do so. He is more than worthy. “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all Morally, there is no alternative.
WHAT DOES “FAITHFUL” MEAN?
If we are going to be full of faith, God must be faithful. The faithfulness of God is the great mark of the Divine charact“the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient”er. The Old Testament people exulted in the Lord for His “faithfulness” and sang of it in their Psalms. We don’t read of ancient Israel people having “faith” but they are described as trusting God, or calling upon Him and obeying Him. The word “faith” was applied to the Lord – He kept faith with His people.
The faithfulness of God meant that He didn’t change from what He said He was. He was faithful in Himself. He never deviates from what He had been, a God of integrity, always Himself, constantly the same. Whatever He did, it was always consistent with what He was. He never did anything out of character. What He did WAS He. That faithfulness meant people could trust Him at every stage of their lives.
This has tremendous implications for Christian believers, wonderful things. What Jesus was when He went to Calvary and when He hung on the Cross and when jeered by enemies and when He rose again, that is He. That is Jesus. It always was and always will be. He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth” (Revelation 13: 8), and He is the same Lamb John saw seated on the throne of glory.
Today He is still just the same Christ that hung on the Cross for us. His love did not burn out in that one great effort of those bitter hours. It did not exhaust His goodwill. “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1: 23). What He did on the Cross is what He is now. What He was, bleeding and torn and riveted with iron to the wooden cross, He is now, crowned with glory and seated upon the centraeml throne of all creation.
He is the one who dwelt in the burning bush, the God of goodwill. The character of our God is incomparable. The God of faithfulness is the One who will do us nothing but good. That is what He is. There is none beside Him.
FAITH AND THE NAME OF GOD
Sow the seed of the Word and it germinates. That is the law of Resurrection.
The life-germ or life-spark in the Word is the name of the Lord. His name is the resurrection element of the Word of God, making the Bible “living and active” (Hebrews 4; 12). The Bible is the Resurrection book. A commentator says the Scriptures are “poised” on His name.
There are, of course, many Divine names, and they are potent, not lifeless labels. Each one highlights some area of the Divine character. To know them brings understanding and faith. They are like power points where we “plug” into what God is. We talk of people being “promising,” because we see they have it in them. That is God. His manes are promises. They show what is in Him, which brings up hope about what we can expect of Him.
GOD IS NOT THE NAMELESS ONE
An evangelist colleague called George slipped into a church, not expected, and sat at the back. The leader said, “We will ask George to offer prayer.” The evangelist didn’t pay, thinking it was some other George known in the church, since he heard his first name used so familiarly. It was himself in fact. “George” did not distinguish him from others called George.
In one small town there were four preachers called Wright. Not to get mixed up, people called them Rev. Down Wright, the Rev. Forth Wright, and the Rev. Out Wright.
A thousand years ago, individuals in Europe only had one name. When more people were born they had to have a distinct designation. So they used their trade as a surname, John, Smith, John Baker, John Cook, and John Miller. Sometimes they used their father’s personal name, such as John-son, James-son. Bible people did the same – James the son of Zebedee; Bar-abbas, “Son of a father,” probably illegitimate. There were many James and Johns as Jesus nicked named them, “The Son of Thunder” (Mark 3: 17). When Jesus met Simon, Andrew’s brother, Jesus said, “You are Simon the son of Jona: you shall be called Cephas, which by interpretation is a stone,” Peter, a stone (John 1: 42). It is as “Peter” that we know Simon, the chief apostle.
One of our chapter is about God calling Himself “I,” or “I, even i. he, the supreme Proprietor of everything there is, its Creator and Owner, doesn’t really need to say who He is. To speak as “I,” places Him as the all-important head of all things. He declares “I am” – the presence nobody can escape or afford to ignore, as Psalm 139: 8 reminds us “Though I make my bed in hell, thou art there.”
We may think everybody knows who God is and that He doesn’t need any name. “God” is not a personal name, but a common noun for a whole class, but God belongs to no class. However, many people believe in different deities or have confused ideas about Him. Not only that, but names tell us what kind of God He is and what people have found Him to be.
On thus point 1 Corinthians 8: 5-6 has an important statement, saying, “there are many gods and many lords yet for us there is one God.” See below for the full text. He is the One who made all things, the Triune God of Christian revelation, Father, Son, and Spirit.
From our angle, God’s Divine names multiply once we think of Him. He is more than any single god is or goddess ever was, or all of them put together. Actually He gave Himself various names. The great name of God was “Yahweh” or “LORD,” which is the subject of one chapter of this article. “YAHWEH” disguised the mystery of God, which is revealed in the New Testament, the mystery of the Godhead, Father, Son, and Spirit.
Each title describes something perceived above Him. When we look at anything, no two viewers have exactly the same impression. That is also true when we look at God. Everybody has a different angle. Individuals each appreciate God differently. People have favorite titles for Him. We say, “What I like about Him is …” Nathaniel’s spontaneous cry on meeting Jesus was, “Rabbi [i.e., Master] thou are the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel” (John 1: 49) when Mary Magdalene saw Christ alive from the dead, her true regard for Him simply burst out “Rabboni, ‘which means ‘My Master’” (John 20: 16). True knowledge of the Lord transmutes into devotion and worship. George Herbert, the humble but aristocrat clergy man and famous poet, a favorite of King James I, loved the Lord dearly. He was often quoted by Charles Spurgeon for his line, “How sweetly doth ‘My Master’ sound!”
But of course the Name of Jesus is the supremely loved Name in Heaven and earth (Philippians 2: 9, 10), but we shall come to that. “JESUS” conjures up in our minds the highest and best picture of God of all the religious on earth. That we can say, and nobody can compete.
It is not a matter of sentiment or curiosity. What God is called, lights up various areas of Deity that bear directly on faith. The favorite name in the book of Revelation is “the Lamb,” used twenty-nine times. Faith in Christ as the Lamb is saving faith. There are many other descriptive names in Revelation, eleven in the first chapter.
WORKING TITLES AND PHRASES
The first chapter of John’s Gospel has eleven different titles. They are:
The word, the Light, the One and Only, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, the Son of God, the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. Rabbi, the King of Israel, the Son of Man.
He is also indicated by name-phrases — “the One Moses wrote of in the Law” (John 1: 45); “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 3: 11); “He who comes after me” (John 1: 15); “the man on whom you see the Spirit come down” (John 1: 33).
That last phrases, “the man on whom he Spirit comes down,” was a sign only for John the Baptist. But there was more – that Christ is the One who will baptize in the Holy Spirit. That’s who He is, not for a Bible character only, but for everybody. If we want to place the highest sign of all, that is one credential, He baptizes in the Spirit. That is who to look for and what to look for as pragmatic proof. If anything ever was absolute proof of anything, that is!
He wasn’t styled by excessively ingratiating or grandiose words. He us pointed out by what He actually does. He baptizes in the Spirit. Not believing in that experience today, many throw away one of the greatest biblical evidences of the deity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is needed as a personal experience, not just an agreement with it as theology.
The baptism in the Spirit is not trivial, common or incidental. It is not a mere religious gesture, a hand waved to bless us. It is unmatched. Nothing like it whatever happens to people anywhere. It is the exclusive promise of Jesus Christ, and He alone has ever bestowed it. It is wonderful and hard evidence.
This experience is a finger pointing unmistakably and directly at the One with whom we are dealing. It settles questions. A down-to-earth character like “Doubting” Thomas, after he was baptized in the Spirit, needed no further convincing. Jesus, is the “Baptizer in the Spirit!” that is one of His most wonderful titles. It shows Him to be the true “I even I,” the One and Only God, the same one who inspired the prophets and spoke through the lips of the Joel saying, “I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2: 28). He said He would, and He did. That’s who He is.
Among the many titles of the Lord is “The Amen,” first in Isaiah 65: 16, “the God of Amen (truth)” and last in Revelation 3: 14, “The Amen.” It is not just a formal ending to a prayer, a kind of “over and out.” “Amen” actually never ends any prayers in New Testament. Nor is it the same as, “Hear! Hear!” it declares a determined purpose to be behind whatever is said, as for example in somebody’s prayer. God is all that, “Whoso invokes a blessing in the land will do so by the God of Amen; he who takes an oath in the land will swear by the God of Amen” (Isaiah 65: 16). “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness” (Revelation 3: 14).
God is the “Amen.” He is “faithful and true” to what He said about Himself. He has a name or reputation for unchanging goodness. David prayer in 2 Samuel 7: 23 saying that God went out to redeem a people, “to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders.” David than invoked the Lord’s personal faithfulness: “Now, Lord God … do as you promised so that your name will be great forever” (2 Samuel 7: 25-26).
God would not fail Himself and lose His name and His reputation.
This appears again many years later. “You are the Lord God who chose Abram. You sent miraculous signs and wonders. You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day” (Nehemiah 9: 10). He will be faithful to what He taught us about Himself. Nehemiah knew the God Moses knew, the same unchanged character. We today know the God that the Bible-people knew – a faithful covenant-keeping God. Ezekiel 20: 9 reads, “For the sake of my name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations they lived among and in whose sight I had revealed myself to the Israelites by bringing them out of Egypt.” What He did create was His fame, and He never lets Himself down.
We often pray, “Lord, glorify the holy name.” we want everybody to honor and praise Him, but actually it means “confirm your name,” prove what you are. In His prayer recorded in John 17, Jesus said, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (17: 4). Christ Jesus had done what He said, and so God had been faithful to His reputation. When we read of the name of the Lord in the Old Testament, it is always Yahweh, and Yahweh was always true to what He said and was. “He cannot deny Himself” (1 Timothy 2: 13).
God, being the God of Amen, has an attitude that is supportive, never indifferent. When we come to Him, He smiles upon us, responds in love, and says “Amen.” That Amen word means “faithful,” “sure,” “trustworthy.” God tries to assure us and quiet our nervousness of misgivings by being the “Amen” God. He is dependable, not fickle and not changeable.
If the Lord had changed from how the Bible depicts Him, the Bible would be useless. We would not know what He is, but the ex-God of Jews, and to us the unknown quantity X. however, Christians know He is the faithful and true God of Bible.
Just the same! Just the same!
God is just the same today.
Just the same! Just the same!
God is just the same today.
THE “YAHWEH” NAME.
There are several “YAHWEH” titles – each one given by revelation. Moses knew name Yahweh, but not its depth of awesome wonder. Abraham also knew of Yahweh. In Genesis 27: 20, Jacob said “Yahweh your God (Elohim) gave me success.” Once Jacob asked His name (Genesis 32: 29) but got the reply, “Why do you ask my name?” it was Yahweh, as Jacob very well knew, but Jacob wanted to know its significance. It was the same when Moses also asked His name and got the cryptic answer, “I am that I am” (Exodus 3: 14). It meant it was a secret that would be opened and shared with those who believes, as time went on.
In one circumstance after another, people saw more and more what God was. His great name “Yahweh” was opened up, and new revelations were summed up with a second name. each new Yahweh title gave us increased grounds for faith and for ever-increasing faith.
POWER IN THE NAME
We have been given the privilege of knowing His name, not only of “calling on the name of the Lord,” but we are called by his name (Isaiah 43: 7). His people are surnamed after Him, “the Lord’s people,” just as Israel was Yahweh’s people.” Before Moses knew His name, the Lord said, “Draw not nigh here” (Exodus 3: 5), but in the name of Jesus we do “draw nigh to God” (Hebrews 7: 19).
Jesus showed us what this great privilege is. It is kind of power or authority. It is not a magic formula, but if we know what anybody is like, their strengths or weaknesses, we know how to handle them. In Bible times people felt they gave themselves away when they gave their name away. It gave others an advantage over them. To as their name was to ask about their character. When we come to God, we can come believing when we know His name. “Yahweh” was just a distinguishing title at the beginning, until by His deeds it was understood better.
YAHWEH-SABAOTH – THE LORD OF HOST, 1 Samuel 7: 45. This appears over 250 times in Scripture. We first hear it when David came against the Philistine warrior champion, Goliath in that historic confrontation. David did not act upon on what everybody else believed but did act upon the fact that God was with the army of Israel – the God of their “host”. Host was the word for army in those times. It was realized that Israel’s armies were not God’s sole resource. He had other reserves, host upon hosts, and He was the God of Host.
He is on the side of all that love and trust Him. “If God be for us who can be against us?” (Romans 8: 31). People of faith are in conflict with the whole philosophy of the world, in its aims and methods. But it is not a losing battle. Christ has already overcome the world and we are more than overcomers in Him.
YAHWEH-JIRAH – THE LORD PROVIDES, genesis 22: 14. Abraham gave this name to the place where he went to offer Isaac, his son. God stopped this human sacrifice, quite acceptable to people’s way and customs then, and gave Abraham a ram instead. This partly fulfilled Abraham’s prophecy that God would provide a lamb, but the real fulfillment came later when God provided the lamb for the sins of the whole world. Greater than all He provides, material or spiritual, the supreme fulfillment of YAHWEH-JIRAH is Christ who took our place in judgment. The world lives by God’s material and physical supply, but brushes past the very thing which is meant by God providing.
YAHWEH ROPHI – THE LORD HEADS, exodus 15: 26. This was a revelation about God, and God cannot be anything but what He is, whether to Israel or any other nation. Here, He was speaking of physical recovery, but God is healing God in all situations where there is brokenness and illness physically, domestically, nationally, spiritually. He is the YAHWEH OF SALVATION.
YAHWEH-NISSI – THE LORD IS MY BANNER, Exodus 17: 15. Moses gave this name to an altar of thanks to God after Israel had successfully thrown back a treacherous attack by the Amalekites at a time before Israel was little prepared for battle. Moses had prayed this victory through. God is the God of victory. As the world’s most famous Christian hymn says, “I triumph still if thou abide with me.”
YAHWEH-SHALOM –THE LORD IS PEACE, Judges 6: 24. This was the name of another altar that was built by Gideon after the Divine visitation to him to defend Israel from the Midianite invaders. In those pre-historic times, the world existed in a constant turmoil of war. The victory of Gideon began bloodlessly as the invaders panicked at Gideon’s strategy of faith and demonstrated that God requires peace, not bloodshed. “Shalom” is the great Hebrew word so often used in scripture. It spell out wellbeing, prosperity, good health, and safety. Jesus greeted His disciples with “Shalom!” He still does – He has “made peace through the blood of His cross.”
YAHWEH-TSIDKENU – THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, Jeremiah 23:6. Jeremiah spoke of the One to come who would be a “righteous branch, a King to reign and prosper, and to execute judgement and justice in the earth.” And added “this is His name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.” This title firmly links Jesus Christ, the Branch or shoot of David’s dynasty, to Yahweh. It is God’s own name, and it was realized in Christ who shed no blood but His own and brought in eternal righteousness.
YAHWEH-SHAMMAH – THE LORD IS THERE, Ezekiel 48: 35 – the last words of the prophecy. It is a profound statement about God. He never arrives but is always “there.” We cannot precede Him. Jesus said, “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I” (Matthew 18: 20). He is before all things, the eternal “I am” whenever and wherever we are, a “very present help.” This is the mystery we can never fathom, but we can always enjoy.
Such YAHWEH titles could be multiplied, for the Lord is all things to all men. The principle is, “According to your faith be it unto you.” What God finally is, the last man on earth will not have discovered, but faith explores the great goodness of God.
Psalm 23 is an example. Behind each of its statements stands the name of YAHWEH. We will sow this to conclude this article of FAITH that learns what God is and names Him.
The Lord I my shepherd; [Yahweh-Ra-ah]
I shall not want. [Yahweh-Jireh]
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters, [Yahweh-Shalom]
He restores my soul; [Yahweh-Rophi]
He guides me in paths of righteousness
Foe His name’s sake. [Yahweh-Tsidkenu]
Even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For you are with me; [Yahweh-Sabaoth]
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. [Yahweh-Mekadesham]
You prepare a table before me in the presence
Of mu enemies; [Yahweh-Nissi]
You anoint my head with oil; [Yahweh-Rophi]
My cup overflows. [Yahweh-Jireh]
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all
The days of my life; [Yhaweh-Shalom]
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
God said, “I am that I am.” He can’t be anything else than what He is, at any time, for anybody, in all dispensations and places and circumstances. The names we have mentioned are simple to commemorate moments, events, when men and women proved what He is. Will His names ever be exhausted?
“I am finding out the greatness of thy loving heart.”
FAITH AND GOD’S “I WILL”
THE “I WILL” GOD
The phrases, “I will,” occurs about 4,000 times in Scripture. It is a common expression, used frequently by everybody. Every language must have some equivalent word or phrase.
The curious thing is this: in the Bible God says it far more than everybody else put together.
Through the lips of the Old Testament prophets the Lord constantly says, “I will,” but it becomes a special feature emphasized in many passages. In Exodus, God uses the phrase, “I will,” 96 times, but the same words are uses by others only 22 times, and what they declare they will do is referred to only 32 times. God’s use of it is so frequent that it sets up the Bible as the Word and will of God.
These are some very significant Bible facts. In chapter 9 of Genesis we have the first Bible example of God’s special use of “I will.” Between verses 9 and 17, God uses an expression like “I will” eight times. God deals with us all on such terms. Our part is to believe. Then the prophecy of Isaiah represents God speaking and using “I will” in almost every chapter. In chapter 41 and 46 He says, “I will” 46 times (KJV). Through the lips of Jeremiah the prophet God says, “I will” hundreds of times. We read it in 49 chapters out of the 52, and in chapter 30 God says, “I will” 28 times.
The New Testament is similar. In the Gospels, almost everything said is by Jesus, and He says constantly what He will do and also does many things He says. Little is made of what anybody else says, which is unusual.
THE HUMAN “I WILL”
The Gospel pick out cases when people said, “I will.” Sometimes it was human “I will” and failed. The rich man said, “This will I do,” but he didn’t do it because he died. The would-be disciple said, “I will follow thee wherever you go,” but didn’t. Peter said, “I will not deny thee,” but he did. The devil told Jesus, “All this power I will give thee,” but he never did. Jesus spoke about a son, who said, “I go,” but didn’t go, but his brother said, “I will not” but went. (Luke 12: 18, Matthew 8: 19, 26: 35, Luke 4: 6, Matthew 21: 28-30).
The book of James makes “I will” quite an issue. “Go to now, you that say, ‘Tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell and get gain.’ Whereas you know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is our life? … you ought to say’, ‘if the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that’” (James 4: 13-15). For James, it is God wills, not what we will that takes effect. Not our “I will” but God’s “I will.”
THE SUPREME “I WILL”
Christ came to fulfil the Father’s “I will.” Therefore His will is supreme. Even early in Christ’s work one man had the most extraordinary understanding of Christ’s will. He was an unknown leper. He came to Jesus when He came down from giving the message on the Mount (Matthew 8: 1-3). He was one person among the multitudes who heard Jesus. We read, “They were astonished at his doctrine: foe he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1: 22).
The scribes’ teaching was what other scribes and scholars had said. The academics today are very similar. Most of their teaching is quotation of their scholars. Unless theologians quote theologians they are not considered sufficiently informed, but their authority is built on one another. The work seems to be to consider what every other scholar has said and then give their own judgment as to who is right; tottering towers of opinion, often a house of cards. The teachers of Christ’s day did the same, but Jesus spoke on His own original authority. His word were, “Amen! Amen! Say to you.
The leper came and worshipped Christ, saying, “Lord if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” Jesus touched him and said, “‘I will: be clean,’ and immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” This is notable that Christ’s authority lay in two directions. First, the man saw that there was no question on Christ’s authority. It meant unlimited power. Second, he worshipped Him because He saw that what Christ willed was all that mattered. Possibly, nobody else in the Gospels reached this depth of insight. At least, nobody expressed it so clearly. The man had no doubt about His power. He saw that Jesus could do anything. But he saw that everything rested on Christ’s will.
Jesus said, “I will.” He also said, “Heaven and earth shall past away: but my words shall not pass away” (Mark 13: 31). Therefore, “I will” will never pass away. It tells you what He is like when He sees leprosy and evil- for all time. The words of Jesus are to all. He revealed to this man what He was, and what He was yesterday, he is “today and forever” (Hebrews 13: 8). His revelation was not private for one man, but is written as part of the World of God to us all.
Similarly, in the beginning of Creation God spoke (Genesis 1: 2; John 1: 1-3). He once said, “Let there be light,” and there is light to this day. His command endures and makes the sun work the way it does. His word is the most real thing of all. When he said, “I will” to a leper, it showed what kind of will it was. His will is good, merciful, and positive. That is very essence of His revelation about Himself. Jesus said, “I will” to one sufferer on behalf of all sufferers.
We must pray that His will shall be done, but all least
We know what it is.
We do not need to pray “If it be your will,” when He has shown us what His will is.
Christ does the will of the Father, and like the Father He is the great “I will” God. This paints a picture of our God with His open face and love shining upon us. What a Light upon our rugged path through life! “I will” characterizes God, all along the road, all way through Scripture. He says to mankind, “I will.”
This is the phrase used at the marriage altar by bride and bridegroom when they commit themselves one to the other. It is as if the Almighty stood at the marriage altar and committed Himself with the same words. Isaiah 54: 5, 8 says, “Your Maker is your husband, the Lord Almighty is his name. “I WILL have compassion on you,’ says the Lord.” That typified His attitude to us all. It seems it is never, “I won’t.” He is never sullen, unwilling, unyielding, reluctant, but when we come to Him Hos face is open. All that is needed is that “his people shall be willing in the day of his power” (Psalm 110: 3).
POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE
God’s “I will” is always positive, but of the 54 references to what people will do in Exodus, most are negative, what man will NOT do. God doesn’t say what He will not do. For example, look at Exodus 3: 19, 20. Notice how it sets out God’s positive goodwill in the chapter, and then the human attempt to oppose it and negate it. But God comes back at it with His persistent positive, overcoming the human negative.
I am sure that the king of Egypt WILL NOT let you go, NO, NOT by a mighty hand. And I WILL stretch out my hand, and site Egypt with all my wonders which I WILL do in the midst thereof: and after the HE WILL LET you go.
HIS WORD IS HIS WILL
The Bible is the Word of God to declare His eternal will. What He did tells us what He will do and what He is. There would be little point in telling us only what His will was if it wasn’t the same any more. It would then only have historical or academic interest. The Bible is here to show what God is throughout all ages. “Remember the wonders He has done, his miracles He has done, his miracles, and the judgements he pronounced … His judgements are in all earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations” (1 Chronicles 16: 12-15). Faith sees Him as Lord of eternity. Time does not affect Him, but it affects everybody and everything else. God is not a figure of past history. In Him everything is present. In glory He is the crucified one, the Lamb of God.
The absolute essence of faith is to accept God today to be what He was yesterday. We have no other grounds for trust except that He will keep faith with us. He will not be one thing today and another thing tomorrow. He is not temperamental. He made one revelation, forever about Himself. If He does live up to it, then the revelation is worthless. But His name is “Faithful and True.” Jesus also said Himself, “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness” (Revelation 3: 14).
We should not perform surgery on the Word of God, cutting dispensations where we think fit. There is only one dispensation. The dispensation of God’s everlasting grace. Even “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6: 8). He deals with us all by grace as He did with Adam and always will to the last person ever born. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is the same grace as God proclaimed to Moses saying, “The Lord God, merciful and gracious” (Exodus 34: 6).
God not only IS something. We only know what He is by what HE DOES. He is a God of activity. He does not sit aloft like Allah or the millions of gods of India or like Buddha, doing nothing. Allah just allows things, and they say “Kismet” — it is his will, or fate. A Christian does not believe in fate. To have faith in God means to have faith in a God who act, who answers prayer, who performs wonders.
Read what He was, and believe what He is, “the Lord who is and who was and who is to come, Almighty” (Revelation 1: 8). When people take Bible and expect God to bless them, answer their prayers, prosper them, heal them, work miracles, save them, it is faith as the Bible knows it. They have struck the keynote of Scripture and “hit the bell.”
The Bible is often interpreted negatively. Many believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, but that much of it doesn’t apply for today. What happened in times gone by is no promise for now. It is past history only. This defeats the very purpose for which Scripture was written. The Bible exists to create faith in the God of the Bible. He showed who and what He was by His acts.
If God isn’t in the same business any more, then we haven’t got a Bible God any more upon whom we can base our faith. God’s word is not information only. It is life to be appropriated. “These are written that you might believe … and that by believing you might have life” (John 20: 1). “Where your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight” (Jeremiah 15: 16).
THE COVENANT “I WILL”
When God says, “I will,” it forms a covenant. “Since He could swear by no greater, He swore by Himself” to perform certain deeds. Usually, they are always unconditional, but some will fail unless we grasp them act upon. We can use the word “unilateral” – action by one part only. We will take Genesis 9: 8-10 as an example.
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you – the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals … every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you.”
This is a solo resolution, without a second, party. It is unilateral. But it is FOR a second part. It is made for Noah and his sons and descendants and also for even the birds and wild creatures who could not make any agreement with God. It contains no “proviso” and lays down no term.
It is important to see that God’s “I will” covenants have two qualities. They are spontaneous and they are absolute. Nobody pressed God for the covenants, and they stand firm without any condition. They are a sheer act of grace and concern from start to finish. That is, God and Jesus said, “Have faith in God” (Mark 11: 22) – leave thing to Him. He does all things well.
THE “I WILL” OF CHRIST
The Gospel of Matthew records 13 undertakings of Christ using the words, “I will.” These 13 are not the full complement either of what He will do, but He speaks in the same way as the Lord God of the prophets and stands as the Son by the side of His Father as the great “I will.”
Most of Christ’s claims relate to the immediate present, not some far off future. He said, “Come unto me … and I WILL. Give you rest” (Matthew 11: 28). “The one who comes to me I will by no means cast out” (John 6: 37). “I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4: 19).
Each of these is backed by His veracity alone. Jesus never tried to convince people of what He said. He doesn’t argue. His words are enough, and if believed, they prove themselves. There is no other proof. “Behold my servant whom I uphold. … He will not shout, or cry out, or raise his voice in the street. … In faithfulness he will bring forth justice, he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth” (Isaiah 42: 1-3). We believe entirely on His authority. He said, “If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8: 24).
“I WILL” AND HE DID
There is a tremendous “I will” in John 14: 16. It is unconditional and inevitable, a sheer unsolicited act of the Divine will. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.” Christ did not say, if you pray.” He said, “I will pray.” The disciples did not pray for it. The Day of Pentecost was not the result of a church beseeching God and prevailing in perfect unity as is so often suggested. It was the sovereign act of Christ and the Father independent of all human action.
It was also a fulfillment of the “I will” of God in Joel 2: 28. “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.” God’s outpoured Spirit is not a matter of the will of men and of their desires and prayers. The Comfort has come. There is no need to pray, “Lord, rend the heavens and come down.” HE IS HERE! Nothing is needed but faith to act. We can safely rest in the assurance, the established fact that the Spirit of God is with us.
The disciple on the day of Pentecost were simply together. They were not praying, but sitting around, had met together for mutual support at a critical time. Then Jesus simply did what He said. They did not ask Him to do it. These was no need. He said He would, and He did.
The Lord has fulfilled His promise in the 20th century. The major part of the churches, even the prophetic, evangelistic attempted to stop what was happening. They had even prayed for revival but opposed the form in which it came. In Africa, scores of Protestant churches declared it to be “from below” when God did pour out His Spirit. But God said he would pour out His Spirit, and nothing could stop Him. He had and is doing so. Now, a major section of the world-wide Church had plunged into the river flowing from the Throne.
Christ said, “I will build my church.” He has. He is doing so. He will complete it. The believer is on the side of the inevitable. He walks with victory. He faces the dawn, not the darkness. The Kingdom is coming on earth again!
FAITH AND GOD’S ‘I’
In this place, we shall look very closely into the words of Scripture. We begin with a simple question and answer. Why do we have faith in a person? Because of who they are, their standing and character. Perhaps someone says to us, “Trust me!” but we don’t unless we know them well. We don’t trust just anybody.
KNOWING MEANING TRUSTING
Scripture hammers it home that we can trust God because of who He is. It is His identity, and that is laid out in the Bible. Somebody may tell us his or her experience proved God, but the Scriptures must confirm it. Experience can come from other sources. 1 John 4: 1-2 states, “Do not believe every spirit … every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is from God.” People merely making noises or going into trances are making no such acknowledgement.
Sometimes believing in God is described as “believing on the name of the Lord.” John 2: 23 says, “many saw the miraculous signs, which he was doing and believed in his name.” His name to them just meant miracle signs. God has various names which sum up what He is.
We believe people, what they says, or we may believe in them. We consider they have integrity. Who we believe in is all-important. We may believe in doctor or a solicitor or a minister and trust this person for what he or she can do for us, such as putting ourselves into a surgeon’s hands. But what about God? We are not dealing with someone of limited skills, but He is the All-Sufficient One, with whom we can repose our entire confidence in all our affairs and give our lives over top Him. He can make a better job of them than we can ourselves.
“Trust in God, Trust also in me!” (John 14: 1).
“When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me” (John 12: 44).
THE CLAIM OF GOD
Look again at those two verses, and you will note that “me” occurs four times. This is a special things in Scripture when it represents God as speaking. He keeps on using and stressing the pronouns “me” or “I,” “myself.” The book of Isaiah is the main example except in the words of Jesus. The purpose is to encourage us to have confidence in Him because of His Divine integrity. This “I, even I, am the Lord, and beside me there is no Savior.” “There is no Rock; I know not any.” From this, a warning arise. “Woe to him that quarrels with his Maker.” (Isaiah 43: 11, 44:8, 45:9). If we cannot trust God who made us, then we are lost.
When the Bible was written, everybody followed their gods, except many Israeli people who had nothing to do with the visible idols. They called upon the invisible God and knew something of Him. From them came the first streaks of civilized freedom, 1,000 years before Greece of Rome existed. We can’t be better than what we believe. Civilization in every age rests upon the revelation of a God of integrity to whom we are all accountable.
GOD’S MATCHLESS NATURE
Israel knew they could not treat the Lord as just another one in the pantheon of deities. He was transcendent, “the Holy One of Israel,” far above everything else that existed. King Solomon dedicated the Temple but said, “Will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven cannot contain you. How much less this Temple which I have built!” (1 Kings 8: 27).
Nobody ever trusted the pagan gods. Nobody committed his or her lives to Aphrodite or Zeus. It is hard for modern people to appreciate what it was like. With all their temples, altars, practices and celebration of pagan festivals, people had no religions feeling, no spiritual ideals whatever. Christianity has molded everybody’s mind. Pagans busily attended to their altars because they feared the gods and were anxious in case they turned nasty.
The Lord (Yahweh) permeated the whole of life. “Besides me … there is no other” (Isaiah 45: 6). He was separate, holy. On one occasion Moses prayed and God gave him new light and understanding. It is described in Exodus 34: 5-7. This is a very important passage for everybody and to all the nations on earth, whether they admit it or not.
The LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name. THE LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming THE LORD, THE LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in l0ve and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.
This passage likes God’s name “THE LORD” to Hos nature, gracious, loving and longsuffering. William Barclay tells us that “longsuffering” is a Christian word. It does not occur in classical Greek at all and very seldom in later Greeks, longsuffering was not a virtue, but an unmanly weakness. “The great Greek virtue was the refusal to tolerate any insult, injury or vengeance.” It was Israel only who saw the spirit of forgiveness and longsuffering as a virtue. There is more true morality in Exodus 34 that all Homer or Aeschylus ever wrote.
EGO AND GOD
The Lord says, “I” over and over. When men or women talk about themselves and it is all “I,” “I,” they are vain, egotists, narcissists. Nobody alive is that special. But God says, “There is none beside me” and constantly uses this word “I” when addressing us. He is a firm foundation. “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
The Lord does more than say “I.” he lays extra emphasis upon it in various ways. Many times He says, “I, the Lord.” There are double repetitions, “I, “I myself,” “I am he, I am he.” (Isaiah 43: 11, 25, 41: 14, 46: 4). This had the purpose of getting it home to us what He is. He often links it with a further statement about Himself. For example, “I the Lord, the God of Israel,” “I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead” (Isaiah 43: 3).
That is the kind of thing He says. He is unique and wants to encourage us to trust Him for what He can do. “This is what the Lord says, your Redeemer” (Isaiah 43: 14). “I, even I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake” (Isaiah 43: 25). No one else was Him or did such things. If we don’t trust Him, there’s nobody else. “There is no other name … among men by which we must be saved”; Peter said this (Acts 4: 12). It was a common fact. Nobody knew anybody else that could save, except God. Psalm 73: 25 says. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” In our lives, there is nobody else to be the One.
THE MYSTERY OF I – HE
Now, we come to something unusual. First, remember this about God, that “we know in part,” not “face to face” (1 Corinthians 13: 12). We know, but we don’t know it all. Scientist said, “Creation is not only more wonderful that we can think.”
A strange expression is use in Isaiah 41: 4, “I, the Lord, I (am) he.” The verb, “am,” is not the original Hebrew. It is put in by the translators, but actually God is speaking of Himself as “I – he
It is an example of the greatness and wonder of the Lord and His name. When Manoah asked the Angel of the Lord His name, the Lord said, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding [or too wonderful]” (judges 13: 18 [NIV]). The same word is used in Isaiah 9: 6, “His name shall be called wonderful.” His name is a wonder, a mystery. The word is used to describe Christ’s miracles in Matthew 21: 15, “the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did.” God’s name is a wonderful name, a miracle name. It holds secrets about Him.
What does “I He” mean, or what does it tell us? We can find something more about it from two other passages of Scripture: Deuteronomy 32: 39, “See now that I myself (am) He. There is no god beside me.” Zechariah 12: 10, “I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on ME, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for HIM as one mourns for an only child.” So, “me” is the same One as “him” whom the pierced and for whom they are mourning for Him, the same God speaking. It is the wonder-mystery of the Godhead.
This “me” and “him” is also described as a child of Israel, like an only child. Isaiah said, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given” (Isaiah 9” 6). Zechariah spoke about this child as being pierced. Matthew’s Gospel in the first verse identifies this child and son, saying, “Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham,” and Jesus called Himself “the Son of Man.” Now both Abraham and David had special sons, but they were not the true promised Son that the prophecy in Isaiah said would come. The true son of the House of David was Jesus, the Christ.
This is the Son, “the only child” whom God spoke about through Zechariah saying: “They will look on Me, the one they pierced and they will mourn for HIM and grieve bitterly for HIM” (Zechariah 12: 10). So the ME is the HIM and the I is the HE. Jesus said, “I and the Father (I am He) are one” (John 10: 30).
Since God is “I am,” His Son also is “I am.” The Father is “I” and the Son is “He.” The One who was pictured was both “ME” and “HIM.” The Father was involved with the Son at Calvary, and we read “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5: 19). God called Himself “your Redeemer” in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament the precious Blood of Jesus Christ, who was pierced for us, redeems us. That piercing the Son pierced the heart of the Father.
Isaiah 45: 6 also uses the great title of God, “I am,” “I am the Lord, and there is no other.” It was given Moses as, “I am that I am” (Exodus 3: 14). The Hebrew express have translated this various ways, but it is not possible to put it into other languages or even to make good grammar out of it in Hebrew.
Moses asked God about His name. He already knew it, the LORD (Heb. Yahweh). Abraham also knew this name, but its significance was not yet revealed. The experience he had of God was as “God Almighty” (El Shaddai), which is only one side of Divine greatness. He promised Sarah a son and she laughed, but the Lord said, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18: 14). It needed a display of something more than omnipotence. Moses was it, and then the meanings of the name LORD, which were veiled began to emerge.
Later of course the whole process of revelation was changed. It was no longer through prophets but by His Son Jesus the Christ (Hebrew 1: 1-2).
The “I am” title of God is applied of Jesus in John’s Gospel. In some instances Christ’s word “I am” is exactly the same as the “I am” of the Lord in the Old Testament Scriptures. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd,” but Psalm 23: 1 says, “The Lord is my shepherd,” and Psalm 80: 1 refers to the Lord as “the shepherd of Israel.” Jesus said, “I am the bread of life,” and in Deuteronomy 8: 3, the words of God are bread.
He uses “I am” also in the absolute sense in John 8: 58, “Before Abraham was, I am.” He did not say “Before Abraham was, I was, “but “I am.” Christ spoke similarly to God, as when God spoke to Moses, “That is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 13:14). He is the timeless One to whom past and the future are alike.
God can’t be put in a picture or carved in marble or put into words. God forbade the Israelites to make an image of Him because it would convey a wrong idea. Some idols are so horrible that such portraits would please no self-respecting god. The heathen wanted something to see and feel. They made images out of wood or clay. But Zephaniah 3: 11 knows something the heathen didn’t know about the Lord who is “mighty save.” This mighty God was not mere gross materials or flesh. He was of infinitely more wonderful substance, too real for our weak eye. God is a Spirit. He said, “Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel” (Isaiah 45: 15).
God says, “I am that I am,” and we shall progress in insight as the time goes by. Moses learned what God was when he appeared before Pharaoh, and even more when entered the tabernacle. “He made known His ways unto Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel” (Psalm 103: 7).
The Spirit of God guides us into all truth. We cannot grasp the ocean of God in our span and know all things at once. We shall learn as He fulfils the Word.
Today they talk about the information overload. The internet and other sources supply more detail and facts than we have time to use or absorb. Business people find that it is impossible to go through all the masses of information at their disposal before they make a decision. Neither can believers know everything about God, but we can trust Him. True knowledge of God galvanizes, burns in our hearts, and moves us. Jesus said, “Learn of me” (Matthew 11: 29), that is, about Him from Him. To knows Him is life.
P. O. BOX. 120, OTA, OGUN STATE, NIGERIA. AFRICA
+234 (0) 802 397 3464, +234 (0) 705 666 1960 +234 (0) 809 070 5651