Some people think that the way you please God is through ritual: You pray certain rituals over and over, you light some incense and you do some ritualistic things to please God.
Some people think the way you please God is through rules and regulations. But that’s not what the Bible says.
Others think that the way you please God is through religion - that if you’re a religious enough person, then God says “You’re on my A list!”
But that’s not what the Bible says. The Bible says God is interested in a relationship with you. He wants you to learn to trust him. The Bible says in Hebrews 11:6: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
The Bible also says in Jude 1.20, “… build your lives on the foundation of your holy faith.” Faith in him is what pleases God.
So what is faith? There are many different aspects to faith. If you want to look at biblical faith, you have to go to the book of Hebrews, chapter 11. Here the very first verse offers us a definition of faith: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Let’s look at some aspects of faith.
Faith is first, believing when I don’t see it. Faith is being certain of what we do not see. As human beings, we often say things like, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” And God says, “No, you’ve got it all backwards. Some things you have to believe it, in order to see it.”
Whether you’re an architect planning a building, or whether you’re an artist creating a sculpture, or whether you’re a scientist trying to send a man to the Mars, you have to believe it before you can see it. All of those things require faith. You have to believe it’s possible in advance, long before it will ever be possible. That’s what the Bible says faith is - believing when you don’t see it. But it’s far more than that.
Faith is obeying when I don’t understand it. God gives us a couple of exhibits.
Exhibit A is a man named Noah. The Bible says in Hebrews 11:7: “It was by faith that Noah built an ark to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God who warned him about something that had never happened before.”
This wouldn’t have made sense to Noah, because it had never happened before. The Bible says that before the flood, it had never rained. The earth was watered by a mist that came up from the ground like dew in the morning. It was a different kind of atmosphere, but Noah, because he had faith, obeyed even though it didn’t make sense.
Well, I’m glad he obeyed. Exhibit B is a guy named Abraham. Verse 8 says: “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to go out to a country God had promised to him. He left his own country without knowing where he was going.”
Read the whole story in Genesis chapter 12. Here’s Abraham, 75 years old. At just about the time he’s ready to retire, God says, “No, I don’t want you to retire. I want you to get ready to go on the adventure of your life. I’m going to take you and turn you into the father of a brand new nation, so we’re going to go to a new country.”
I’m sure Abraham had many doubts and all kinds of questions. Would you do it? But because Abraham obeyed when he didn’t understand it, he became the father of a nation called Israel.
Faith always involves taking risks. Some people want a guarantee of success before they obey God. God would say, “That doesn’t require any faith. I want you to believe when you don’t see it and I want you to obey when you don’t understand it.”
In the New Testament there are about 1,050 of God’s commands. He says, “Do this, and this, and your life will be blessed.”
When God’s word tells you to do something, it’s a test of who you are going to believe - God or your gut. Am I going to do what God tells me is the right thing to do, or am I going to do what I think is the right thing to do?
Of these 1,050 commands, many of them seem unreasonable, many of them seem inconvenient and some seem impossible to do. But they are all there for our benefit, because God loves you and our heavenly Father knows best. When you ignore what He tells you to do, you’re a fool. He is the creator and the Bible is his manual for life. If I ignore it, I hurt myself, not God. Here’s the point: If you learn to do whatever God tells you to do, even when it seems absurd, then God can bless your life. You’re going to build a life of faith and that’s the foundation of building a great life. So, faith is believing when I don’t see it, obeying when I don’t understand it.
Faith is giving when I don’t have it. Giving and faith go together. God uses finances to test our faith. God’s saying, “Who are you going to trust? My promises to take care of you if you put me first or yourself?” In Hebrews.11, the first guy who gets listed is a man named Abel. He did not get listed because he did something great. He didn’t. The only thing he did was he gave an offering. And God listed him as a man of faith. Why? It wasn’t how much he gave, it wasn’t what he gave. It was how he gave.
Verse 4 says: “It was faith that made Abel’s offering to God a better sacrifice than Cain’s. Through his faith God approved of his giving.”
Here the Bible is talking about giving in faith. God is more concerned about the attitude by which you give instead of the amount. You can give either by faith or fear, or you can give by reason or by revelation. When I give by reason I look at my bank account and my check stubs and how much I’ve got and I figure out what can I afford. And I give an amount based on what I can afford.
That doesn’t require any faith. You don’t have to believe in God to give by reason. If you give by revelation, you pray and ask God what to give and how much God wants you to trust him for. It’s giving by faith. That’s the kind of giving that God blesses. 2 Corinthians 8:3 says, “Because of their great joy, they gave even more than they could afford.”
That doesn’t make sense, but it seems people want to trust God more when they are struggling to make ends meet. Faith is giving when I don’t have it. But it’s even more than that:
Faith is persisting when I don’t feel like it. That’s the opposite of our culture. Our culture says, “Do everything based on your feelings.” If it feels good, do it. If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. Live by your emotions. As a result, we end up being manipulated by our moods. Mature people live by their commitments, not their emotions. Emotions come and go.
I don’t always feel like being nice to people. Do you? Sometimes I don’t feel like serving my wife or thinking of her needs. Sometimes I don’t feel like helping my grandchildren with their homework. This may shock you, but sometimes, even as a pastor, I don’t feel like reading the Bible. Sometimes I don’t feel like praying.
But I’ve discovered that when I don’t feel like it, that’s usually when I need to pray and read the Bible the most. So I have to keep doing it, persisting in spite of how I feel. That is the secret of success.
Successful people are simply ordinary people who do what the average person doesn’t feel like doing. And that’s why they’re successful. Faith is being persistent. Faith is doing the right thing, even when you’re tired, even when you’re moody.
How do you develop persistence? The Bible tells it in Hebrews11:27. It gives us an example of a guy named Moses. “It was by faith that Moses left Egypt … He held to his purpose like a man who could see the invisible.”
Moses led an entire nation that had been in slavery for 400 years out across the wilderness, through the Red Sea, out on to the Sinai peninsula and they travelled around in circles for 40 years, waiting for God to get the people ready to go into the Promised Land.
A 40-year wait is a long time to wait in a desert. How was he able to persist? The last part of that verse says Moses kept his attention on God.
When you keep your eyes on God and on his purpose for your life, it keeps you persistent. If you look at your problem you’re going to be overwhelmed. If you look at the world you’ll be distressed, if you look within you’ll be depressed, but if you look at God, you’ll be at rest. It’s all about what you have your eyes on. There’re two other things you need to know about faith.
Faith is thanking God before I receive it. A good example of this is the story of Joshua. Hebrews 11:30 says: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after the people had marched around them for seven days.”
You can read up on this story in Joshua chapter 6. There was no chance a bunch of ex-slaves were going to take over Jericho because it was considered impenetrable. But the people of God marched around the city walls for seven days and on the final round they shouted in praise of God and the walls came tumbling down. That’s what the Bible says faith is. Faith is not believing God can do something, because God can do it whether you believe it or not. Faith is believing God is doing something right now, even though I don’t see it, that He’s working behind the scenes, that the answer is already on its way, that He’s moving the pieces into place even as we speak. It’s thanking God in advance. If you wait until after a prayer has been answered to thank God for it, that is not faith, that’s gratitude. The Gospel of Mark chapter 11 says: “When you pray and ask for something, believe that you have received it (past tense) and you will be given what you ask for (present tense).” Faith is thanking God in advance of what He did. …
Faith is trusting God even if I don’t get it. Some people try to make God like a vending machine that God automatically will give you anything you want. But that’s not true. God is not a vending machine. And God’s not going to give you everything you ask for. He promises he will meet your needs, not your greed. Big difference!
Some people today teach the idea that if you have enough faith you’ll always be well, you’ll never have any problems, everything will be going great. Rubbish! It’s not in the Bible. God’s more interested in your character than He is in your comfort. God’s more interested in making you holy than He is in making you happy. He knows holiness is the way to genuine happiness.
Here’s the truth: God hears and answers every prayer you pray. Fact number two, He doesn’t answer always the way you want Him to. God might say, “Yes” and sometimes he might say, “No”. And sometimes when you pray, God could say, “Not yet,” or “I’ve got a better idea.” All four of those are equally valid answers to prayer. And faith is trusting God even when I don’t get the answer I expected or wanted. God wants you to have character and strength and maturity, so He lets you go through some problems instead of removing them and He gives you the ability to handle it.
How does God build your faith? First, through His word, the Bible. The Bible says in Romans 10:17: “Faith comes from hearing the word of God.” So the more you get into it, the more you’re going to grow in faith. The other way that God builds your faith is through trials and tests.
1 Peter 1:7 says, “These trials are only to test your faith and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. It will bring you much praise and honor on the day of His return.”
God will use problems and difficulties to test your faith. Some of you are going through a tough time right now and you’re about ready to give up. I want to say to you, Hang on! God will make a way if you will trust Him. If you will work on these six areas of faith in your life God will make a way and bring you through this time.
Pastor Tevai Matapo, AOG.