Faith - Basic to Our Christian Life
by Pastor Dan White
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Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV).
Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it (Hebrews 11:1 NCV). God created us with two sets of eyes. We are given eyes to see the beauty of creation, the smile of a baby, images on a screen, and words on a page. The other set of eyes sees the unseen world. This is our spiritual set of eyes.
Just as a blind person cannot see the beauty of a the setting sun or the full moon’s shadows through the trees, so a spiritual blind person cannot see the glories of the unseen world.
Jesus became frustrated with His disciples because they could not see the God who stood in front of them. He asked them, “Do you have eyes but fail to see?” (Mark 8:18 NIV). We think it would be easy to see God in Christ if we only had been there. If we could have walked and talked with Him, and if we could have seen the miracles He did, then our faith would be stronger. The disciples saw Jesus feed the thousands with only a few pieces of bread and some fish, but they still couldn’t see that He is the bread of heaven.
How much harder it is for us to see Jesus who is not physically with us! Thomas, the doubter, finally believed after he touched the nail scars in the Savior’s hands. Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29 NIV).
Our spiritual eyes are opened only by faith. And when finally opened, WOW! What a spectacular view!
Faith gives us the revelation that God created the universe, this world, and everything in it including us. “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3 NIV). We are not here by happenstance or some biological or evolutionary accident. The Word of God created the infinite universe that no physical eye can see the depths of. By faith, we see that God created life, human life, and you and me. That means there is a purpose and a reason for our existence. That purpose is to believe that God exists and to enter into relationship with Him through His dear Son. This is the beginning of the faith life.
If a person cannot have his/her spiritual eyes opened through the creation of God, God will create circumstances to open them. Most of the time, they are opened in adversity when we cry out to God for help and admit our dependence upon Him. We come to the end of our resources, the end of our rope, and cry out, “God if you are out there, do something. Show me.” I have never known a desperate seeker crying out to a seeking Savior who the Lord did not rescue and open the eyes of faith. He was there all the time.
Time after time I was searching for peace in some void
I was trying to blame all my ills on this world I was in
Surface relationships used me till I was done in
But all the while someone was begging to free me from sin.
He was there all the time
He was there all the time
Waiting patiently in line
He was there all the time.
- Gary Paxton
For others, it takes a burning bush like Moses, a blinding light on the Damascus Road like Paul, a great fish to swallow us like Jonah, or a disturbing dream like Joseph.
But, the greatest revelation to open our eyes is the Christ of the cross. When we see Jesus by faith on that cross, our eyes are opened. Then everything begins to make sense. We see God in His Word, the Holy Bible. We see God in our experiences and know He directs our paths whether He leads us to the mountain top or into the gloom of Gethsemane. We know by faith that God is working His transformation to create the image of His Son in us. We know by faith the need to gather together for worship of the Son each Sunday. It all makes sense.
Be sure that your faith will be tried. The life of faith must be tested. The Apostle Peter knew. He wrote, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13 NIV).
In the Old Testament narratives about Joseph, his father elevated him to favored son status. Even though he was the youngest, Jacob made him a coat of “many colors” - something his other sons did not have. I can’t help but believe that Joseph developed a sense of pride and arrogance over his position and may have even looked down his nose at his brothers. They were jealous of him, slandered him, and couldn’t even stand to see him approaching.
God revealed to Joseph in a dream that one day he would rule over all of his older brothers. He told his brothers of the dream, and their relationship soured. The test of his faith began.
The brothers opportunity to get rid of their arrogant little brother came when Jacob sent Joseph to check on his other sons. The brothers kidnapped Joseph and threw him into a pit and plotted to kill him. I wonder what Joseph thought about his revelation of God in that pit. With his physical eyes, all he could see was doom and death. In the pit, all of the pride and arrogance of most favored son status drained out of his ego. God has a way of destroying our pride and arrogance.
Did Joseph hold on and believe? With his spiritual eyes, did he saw the promise of God from the dream, or did he see himself surrounded by four walls with no way out?
A caravan of Ishmaelites passed by headed for Egypt and Joseph’s older brother, Judah, came up with Plan B. “Don’t kill him. Sell him and make some money.” The other brothers agreed and sold him into slavery. The caravan left with their new slave and the brothers never would see or hear from Joseph and be bothered with him again. Joseph was in an unlikely position to rule over his brothers when he didn’t even have control over his circumstances. But at least, he was alive.
Some might say the caravan came by chance. Believers will say that God engineered the circumstance for the traders to come by at the right time. Believers will say that the providence and sovereignty of God controls the destiny of His children.
Obviously, God did not need Joseph’s help to save Joseph. Sometimes we think God needs our help when our faith wavers and discouraging circumstances surround us like the walls of a pit. But, God’s arm is not short. His mighty hand rules.
Faith that is not tried in the pit is not worth having. Our faith must go through the fiery trials. They refine us like gold refined in the fire.
Another element of faith is the discipline of patience. “The testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:3 NKJ). Impatience, anger, and cursing God come when we don’t get our way if we have not learned the patience of faith.
Time must have seemed like it stood still for Joseph. Potiphar, an Egyptian nobleman bought him. He soon elevated Joseph to chief slave to manage his household. Circumstances were a little better for Joseph, but through his physical eyes, he could see no chance of the dream God gave him in his youth coming to fruition. He had to see with his spiritual eyes. He had to see the reality of what he could not see. He did not know how God was going to free him from slavery. He had to be patient and believe.
Faith takes courage to wait God out. Like the scorching sun wilts the crops when the rains do not fall, we can wilt waiting for God to act. We are under continuous assault from the devil. “Has God really given you that dream, Joseph, or was it indigestion from some bad figs?” The devil throws everything at us including the kitchen sink to make us doubt, fail, and fall. He hates you and me.
That is why the Bible is full of encouraging words to people of faith. Take courage. Don’t quit. Keep on keeping on the faith pilgrimage. Get up again. The Holy Spirit will help you and true people of God will encourage you in the Lord.
Joseph displayed great courage when he refused to quit believing. It would have been easy to drop out.
Joseph was a handsome man. Young, strong, and intelligent. And, he was available. Potiphar’s wife put on her sexiest negligee. Fixed her hair perfectly, and sprinkled Chanel # 5 in all the right places. She hungered for Joseph and seduced him.
Now, there is no record of Joseph ever being intimate with a woman. He had never known the sweet caress or the passionate kiss. You can know that the power of Potipher’s wife was irresistible over him. Here Joseph was. A slave. No life. No rights. No prospects of having a woman. Why not give in?
But somehow and some way, he resisted. Maybe it was the dream and his faith in God to fulfill God’s call upon his life. Maybe it was his loyalty to Potiphar who had put him in charge of his household. Maybe it was the moral teaching he had from his father, Jacob. Maybe it was all three. Whatever the motive to resist, one thing is certain, it took great courage. It always takes courage to say ‘yes’ to faith and to say ‘no’ to temptation that pull us off the path God wants us to trod.
Potiphar’s wife cried “Rape.” Her husband’s anger kindled against Joseph. He thought, “The man I trusted betrayed me.” Potipher had Joseph thrown into prison and forgot about him. He was on the black list. He would rot in prison.
Joseph, the victim of seductive advances from Potipher’s wife, became the villain. Unfair! Unjust! Dishonest! Where is God, the just Judge in all of this? Where is He in the trials and injustices we suffer?
The dream seemed far removed from Joseph now. Back in prison, alone, and forgotten by all. Some say, “That’s what faith in God does for you!” Or does it? Joseph was forgotten by all except the loving Father who knows our every need and sees and hears the suffering of His children.
Joseph eagerly awaited release. He listened for his name to be called. Wasn’t there someone out there who could get him out? The jailer came and called a name. It wasn’t Joseph. It was the guilty robber now freed. Another long month and another name. It wasn’t Joseph he heard but the name of another guilty criminal released. The guilty were freed. He, the innocent one, remained. Every step Joseph took and every day that passed seemed like it was more and more impossible for God’s will in his life to be accomplished. Circumstances were beyond his control, but they are never beyond God’s control! Finally, the day came. “Joseph, the Pharaoh wants a word with you!”
“The Pharaoh?” Joseph thought. “I must be dreaming again. The king of Egypt, the great Pharaoh, knows my name and wants to speak to me, a foreign slave?”
God sent Pharaoh a dream. He had no peace. His sleep was in fits and starts. The dream disturbed him greatly. It was constantly on his mind affixed there like a sticky summer fly that won’t go away. His advisers, the astrologers, fortune tellers, and wise men couldn’t interpret his dream. But, the mighty king was told that perhaps a Hebrew slave, a foreigner, serving time in prison could tell him the meaning of the dream.
Do you realize how ridiculous this is? Imagine President Obama calling for an Islamic terrorist wasting away in prison to advise him of anything. That’s about the way it was for Pharaoh to call for Joseph.
Pharaoh’s call for Joseph was really from the providence and promise of God. Joseph never lost faith in God and the plan God gave him from the days of his youth when the Lord spoke to him in a dream.
Joseph through God’s revelation to him correctly interpreted Pharaoh's nightmarish dream. Joseph explained that God would send seven good years of harvest and seven years of famine. He advised Pharaoh to save for the years of famine so that Egypt could survive. Pharaoh’s troubled spirit finally calmed. His tortured mind could finally rest. It all made sense.
Pharaoh immediately elevated Joseph to second in command over the vast empire. He was second only to Pharaoh. Joseph married a beautiful woman and had several children. His name was never forgotten because God never forgot him. He never forgets his children. Never! Our spiritual eyes see that.
The older brothers came down to Egypt looking for food. The famine was widespread. They pleaded their case to Joseph, their youngest brother, who they did not recognize. Joseph now had the power of life and death over them. The table had turned. What goes around comes around. The dream was completed. Joseph’s faith of being sure of the things he hoped for became reality right there in front of him. Joseph forgave his brothers and eventually moved the entire family to Egypt under his care. God brought him through by faith, and be sure that the Lord will bring you through by faith believing in Him. No pit can contain you. No bondage can enslave you. No mistreatment can deter you from realizing the dream God has for you.
To him that overcomes the foe,
White raiment shall be giv'n.
Before the angels he shall know
His name confessed in Heav'n.
Then onward from the hill of light,
Our hearts with love aflame,
We'll vanquish all the hosts of night,
In Jesus' conqu'ring Name.
Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory!
O glorious victory, that overcomes the world.
- John Yates, 1891
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