Godís Faith In YOU!
Jack M. LaneThe following article is based on a sermonette given on the Feast of Trumpets 1995. Many people in the church have been re-examining their faith in God over the past few years. Itís important to realize that God also has faith in us!
Today is an anniversary. Did you know that? Today is the 20th anniversary of The Day That Never Happened!
Twenty years ago today was going to be -- according to many in the church -- the biggest, most monumental day in all of human history: The day Christ returned!
That was the day the seventh trumpet was going to be blown, the kingdoms of this world were to become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, the seven angels were going to begin pouring out the seven last plagues, and the third woe was going to begin.
That was the day, according to some people, that you and I, and everyone from the top ministers of our church down to the lowliest person out there in the pews, were going to rise to meet Christ in the air, along with all the righteous of past ages. The Kingdom of God was going to begin on earth. Because 20 years ago today, on the Hebrew calendar, was the Feast of Trumpets 1975.
But instead, it was "The Day That Never Happened." It was just another day.
Today, 20 years later, the church of God is in shambles. The people of God are scattered, confused, hurt, demoralized, uncertain which way to turn.
Today the Work of the Living God is starting over from scratch. Many people doubt that the Work is the Work, or that it needs to be done.
Today, while weíre sitting here, another hundred people will be killed overseas in war. Today another 50 people will be killed in the United States due to crime or traffic accidents. Today politicians will politic, reporters will report, builders will build, truckers will truck, shoppers will shop (many of them will drop), and the world goes on just as it did yesterday. In other words, today is just another day.
And because it is, many have lost faith. Christ didnít come on time, the prophecies didnít unfold as they thought, and the things people pinned their hopes on did not come to pass. And many people, whose faith was in the wrong thing, who came to church for the wrong reason, have gone back into the world, disillusioned, disappointed, and without hope for the future.
Over the last 20 years, our collective faith has been shaken and tested, severely, over and over again. Weíve had to re-evaluate what it was we had faith in, what it was we wanted, and why we wanted it.
Most of us, apparently, have come through it all with a new faith, a renewed zeal and vigor for Godís truth. Most of us have come back to the realization that we have a faith in God. Perhaps not an abiding faith, perhaps not an all-encompassing faith, perhaps not a trusting faith, but faith nonetheless.
We as a church are again growing strong in the knowledge that God is here, that Heís doing what He said He would be doing, and Heíd still like to have us participate with Him in what Heís doing.
To do that requires faith. But not our faith! We could never "work up" enough faith to do what God is doing. If itís not our faith that does it, that leaves only one possibility: The only reason God is still working out His plan, and that weíre a part of it, is that God has faith in us!
Have you ever stopped to realize that, not only do we need to have faith in God, trust in God, hope in God, but that our Eternal Father also puts His faith, hope and trust in the dream, the goal, the vision for the future that He has?
When I say God has faith in us, Iím not saying God believes we exist. The people of the world debate endlessly whether they "believe God exists." Thatís baby faith. Weíre beyond that. When I say God has faith in us, I mean God believes that He has called the right people, at the right time, and is putting them through the right experiences, to make what He ultimately wants: a very large family of very devoted and loyal -- faithful, if you will -- children, who will obey Him and carry out His wishes throughout the galaxies.
Believe me, if God didnít think you had what it takes, if He didnít think you could do this, you simply wouldnít be in Godís church. Youíd be out "doing your own thing" in the world.
But if God called you, opened your mind and your heart, and let you truly catch the vision, that means He had already examined you, tried you and tested you, before you even knew it, and He saw what kind of stuff youíre made of. If God could see that you wouldnít be able to stay the course and endure to the end, He wouldnít have called you.
Do you know what that means? If God called you, you can do it! God has faith that you can do it!
God looked at many people before choosing who it was He was going to call. Most people washed out before He even opened their minds. Of those who didnít fail the test, He called many. But of those many, few will be chosen (Matthew 22:14). But thatís partly our choice, whether weíll be chosen or not. If God has called you, He has faith in you, as an individual, that you can be chosen. Itís up to you to have enough faith in yourself to know that you will be chosen!
Can you do it by yourself, using your own strength? Of course not. You know it, and God knows it. But you can do all things -- including enduring to the end, including waking up in the first resurrection -- through Christ, who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13).
What Is Faith?
What is faith? The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines faith as, "Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence," and then gives as an example, "faith in miracles." In other words, belief that miracles exist, without proof. This dictionary only understands "baby faith."
Can we have "faith" in that definition? "Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence"? How does that compare to the Bible definition of faith? "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).
What does that mean? Adding in what the margin says, faith is the substance, or the realization, of the thing we hope for, which is salvation and the kingdom of God. We have that realization, in a small way, right now, and we have logical proof and material evidence to back up that faith, if weíve been in the church for any length of time.
The margin also tells us that faith is the evidence, or the confidence, of things not seen. Whatís not seen? God! Billions of angels! Daily miracles! Fatal traffic accidents that donít kill. Deadly diseases that go away. An economy that stands and keeps the whole world going -- with absolutely nothing holding it up! Thatís not faith -- thatís levitation!
God has faith in what He is doing, and His plan does indeed rest on logical proof and material evidence. The thing God hopes for, the thing God can see, because He has the faith, is the coming millenial rule of His family, with Jesus Christ on His throne, the twelve apostles on their thrones ruling the twelve tribes of Israel, and you, on your throne, ruling your cities!
Do we need to "work up" faith? Is it something we can somehow "do"? Where does faith come from? In Ephesians 6:23, Paul writes, "Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Paul is wishing the brethren peace, love and faith from the Father and Christ. Thatís where true faith, the best kind of faith, comes from!
We read in Hebrews 12:2 that Jesus is "the author and finisher of our faith." The margin adds that He is the originator and perfector of our faith.
James tells us that "the testing of your faith produces patience," or endurance, or perseverance (James 1:3). Weíll need all the endurance we can get, to achieve the goal of our faith. Peter described the goal of our faith as "the end [or end product] of your faith -- the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:9). In verse 7, Peter talks about "the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire...."
You see, our faith is very valuable. It can carry us through to the end. And it ultimately derives from God.
In fact, Hebrews 11:6 tells us, "without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."
Paul wrote about Godís faith in us. In Romans 5:6, Paul wrote, "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." In verse 8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." And in verse 10, "For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."
"When we were still without strength"; "while we were still sinners"; "when we were enemies." Did God expect that we would stay that way? Or did God have the faith and confidence that we would be willing to change, willing to take part in Godís plan?
We know that salvation is not just for us alone. Paul wrote a little later "that hardening in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved..." (Romans 11:25-26). Peter wrote, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, ... but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). And Paul wrote to Timothy, "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
God has faith that all will come to repentance, that all men will be saved. And of course, when it says "all men," God is referring to humankind, both the male of mankind and the female of mankind.
We must remember this vital principle: God has called us ahead of the rest, not instead of the rest. Why? Because God has a job for us to do. We call it "the Work."
Do you think God has enough faith in us to bring this to pass? Do you think you have as much faith in you as God does? If God has called us, that should be enough reassurance that we have, with Godís help, what it takes to do our job now, and make it into the kingdom.
What if you donít think you do? What if God has faith you can do it, but youíre not so sure? Thatís where your faith in God comes in, added to Godís faith in you!
Paul asks the question in Romans 3:3: "For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?" Verse 4 answers, "Certainly not!"
A Way of Escape!
What if youíre afraid you donít have the faith to withstand some terrible trial or temptation? One of the most encouraging scriptures in the whole Bible is 1 Corinthians 10:13. Iíve known this verse for over 25 years. I guess I never understood it until today.
"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it [margin: endure it]" (1 Corinthians 10:13).
God will keep every trial and test under strict control, so you wonít be completely overwhelmed, although you may feel as though you are being overwhelmed. But God says youíre not. You have what it takes!
Consider Job. He went through living hell, all the while maintaining his integrity. At the end of his trial, he came out of it a better person, God looked even more favorably on him than He did before, and God rewarded Job for his accomplishment.
Job didnít seek a way of escape. He endured his trials until they were over. But, if we need it, there is a way of escape -- not to escape the trial, but so that we can endure it!
In the opening prayer this morning, the man who prayed asked God to be merciful and give strength to our separated brethren in the parent church group, since Mr. Tkachís death yesterday will have a large impact on that church organization and its people.
That prayer got me thinking: I had no idea until quite recently how many of our separated brethren, who have remained in the parent organization, are absolutely convinced that the doctrines that church group is teaching are wrong, and yet at the same time are absolutely convinced that God wants them to stay there! We who have come out of that situation may not agree with that; we believe God called us out of that. They believe God called them to stay. Who are we to judge anotherís servant (Romans 14:4)?
But these people have the faith to do that. And God has made the way of escape for them, not so they can flee, but so they can endure it! Not so they can "flee to a place of safety," the way we did, but to endure the tribulation theyíre going through!
That realization came to me during the opening prayer this morning. After 25 years, I now have a better understanding of what that verse is talking about.
The Potter and the Clay
Much has been said over the years about the Potter and the clay (Isaiah 29:16; 64:8; Jeremiah 18:1-6; Lamentations 4:2; Romans 9:21). The main idea is that God is the Potter, and itís not appropriate for the clay to sass back at the Potter, or give advice to the Potter, or question the Potter. But what if, once in awhile, the clay did say to the Potter, "Hey! What do you think youíre doing with me? Whatís the big idea?"
I can picture the Master Potter, with a smile on His lips and a twinkle in His eye, and patience in His voice, reply, "Iím molding you and shaping you into the most beautiful vessel itís possible to make. So I put you on the turntable, and I give you a spin. And I caress you up and down with My hands, squeezing a little here, flattening a little there, constantly reshaping you until youíre just right.
"Sometimes, if you have an imperfection, I have to pick you up, wad you into a little ball, throw you back down on the wheel, dump some cold water on you, and start over.
"Then, when youíre just the way I want you, Iím going to let you harden that way. But even though youíve hardened into the shape I want, youíll be too brittle, and you might break.
"So Iím going to put you in the fire, and bake you under enormous heat, enough to sweat the juices right out of you, so you can become strong. And itís going to be hot, and miserable, and you wonít know how youíre going to survive it, and youíll wish you were any place else but in that oven!
"But when you come out, youíll be all shiny, and pretty, and beautiful to look at, and a valuable treasure. But most of all, youíll be useful to Me, as a vessel in My house."
Do you have that kind of faith in God? God has that kind of faith in you!
What about these last 20 years, since "The Day That Never Happened"? How about the last five or ten years? Have you lost faith in God?
Or, as we tumble and fall through this figurative stack of colanders weíve been sifting through, as various church members go in various directions, and stop at various levels as they are sifted, do you see prophecy being fulfilled?
1 Corinthians 11:19 predicts: "For there must also be factions among you [the KJV calls them heresies, or sects], that those who are approved may be recognized among you." The margin says, "Literally, [that those who are approved may be] manifest, evident."
Some have gone back into the world. Some follow whatever their leaders tell them. Some follow the crowd. Some form independent groups, and donít want to be told what to do.
Paul said that these schisms are needed so that those who are approved -- the faithful -- the ones who have faith in God -- will stand out from the rest!
Have the events of these past twenty years helped God to see who is approved? I believe they have. And the sifting continues, as Godís plan moves forward.
What about the next 20 years? We may have another 20 years. Perhaps more. Are we ready for it?
The lesson to learn is, in the midst of trial, tribulation, upheaval and uncertainty, we must not lose faith in God! Not for one minute!
Because throughout all this trial and upheaval, God has not lost faith in His people! God has not lost faith in you!
Not for one minute!