Hope, Faith and Luck

Sermon Notes: Faith, Hope & Luck

Starting point: What is the basis and foundation of your faith? If the foundation is not firm, your faith can change quite easily. Two examples of things that can influence your faith if its foundation is not firm:

Lifestyle decisions. You live a lifestyle that is at odds with what you profess to believe, e.g. you are living in known sin. You will feel guilty and will either change your lifestyle to match your beliefs or you will start to justify your lifestyle (it is not really wrong; everyone is doing it etc) and in this way your beliefs will adapt to your lifestyle. People also compartmentalise their lives, e.g. dishonesty is wrong, but this does not apply in sport, when doing your taxes, etc.
Unexplainable circumstances, e.g. bad things happening to true believers. If your faith is dependent on your ability to understand and explain your circumstances it is very fragile and really no different from the faith of the world / other religions.

How is Biblical faith different?

Heb 4:14 : “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.”

Biblical faith is in a Person

Hebrews 12:1 – 3: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

What Biblical Faith is not

Faith is not

A power or force
Is not something separate from God
Something that you can do or use to force God to do things
A question of gritting your teeth and hanging on
Thinking positively

What faith is

Hebrews 11:1 TNIV: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”
Faith = hope + certainty
The certainty is based on the promises of God
The promises of God is the bridge from hope to faith
Faith is not believing what God has not promised – that is presumption. For example, if your are acting irresponsibly, but expect God to protect you nonetheless, that is quite presumptuous of you.

What faith is

A gift – God supplies the faith you need [Eph 2:8]; faith is listed as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit

It seems that God does not expect us to always have perfect faith. Example: The father of a demon possessed child asks Jesus for help

Mark 9: 23-24 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” 

And Jesus helped him.

We said that the promises of God is the bridge from hope to faith. So, what has God promised?

Let’s start with what God has NOT promised.

Healing for everyone. Example: At Bethesda [John 5:1-17], Jesus healed one of many sick. Jesus heals but did not promise that he will do it every time.
To reverse the consequences of your bad decisions. He often protects you from the consequences of bad decisions, but has not promised to do it every time. In fact getting away with it is often bad for you – people pray fervently but when the crisis is past they do it again. They do not honour God or even associate the break with prayer. So nothing changed.
Blessed Abraham, Solomon, Job and others with wealth but no promise that you can name it and claim it (apostles were quite poor).
To keep bad things from happening to you. Many New Testament Christians were martyred (also Heb 11)

What has God promised?

John 6: 37 “… the one who comes to me I will certainly not cast out” (NASB)
This is a firm promise for all people at all times

What has God promised?

Hebrews 4: 14 – 16 NIV: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Mercy + Grace. He will sometimes deliver us from trouble, but if not, he will always deliver us through it
Heb 13:5: For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you”
For this we can approach Him boldly and with confidence
We can ask for anything, and God may sometimes it give it to us, but we can trust God for grace and mercy every single time.

 

What if God is silent or says no?

Difference between hope and faith

Hope = Here is what I want and I hope You will do it.
Faith = Here is what I want and You promised to do it.

You can have absolute faith and confidence in God when He has made a promise. Anything short of a promise is simply hope. God often gives what we hope for, but always gives what He promised.

What if God is silent or says no?

People often go away from God or lose faith
The right reaction

2 Corinthians 12: 7 – 10 NIV: “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, the messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “my grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
God was silent for a period and Paul was kept in the dark as to why his request was not granted, despite his great faith. Then the answer is given in verse nine. The answer is “No, but I will give you the grace to endure.”

When God says no we face a choice

Rebel and walk away

Then you also walk away from His empowering grace
Then you have to handle the issue without God
It makes things worse

Lean into God

Things may not get better physically, but…
You will receive the grace to endure

What is great faith?

Great faith = Great surrender

John 5: 30 NIV: “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgement is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me.”
John 6: 38: “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me.”

If you believe God is a loving Father who knows best and can be trusted, why would you have your own agenda? That is illogical. Surrendering to God and going His way is simply the logical way to live your life.
Surrender leads to more faith – it creates the heart condition where the Holy Spirit can bless us with more faith

What does God want done?

1 John 5: 14: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: That if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
Same with John 14:12 -13. What does God want done in your marriage, community, finances, et cetera? Regarding faith that can move mountains (Matt 14:20) the first question is whether God wants the mountain moved.

Discern God’s plan and get in line with it

Why don’t we?

Many prefer a “manageable” God and want to pick and choose where they want God to involved

What if you don’t know if God will?

Luke 5: 12: “While Jesus was in one of the towns a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged Him: “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Note that the leper believed that Jesus could and hoped that He was willing. The leper only needed that faith – he did not need certainty that Jesus would.
Sometimes God is willing now, sometimes later, sometimes not at all. He can say “no” because of things He knows and you don’t, things you may never know.
God is still God even if he does not grant your request. You are still His beloved child; He sent his Son to be your forever saviour. He still loves you. God is your Father. You can ask God anything. He will do everything He has promised.

Bottom Line

We can ask God anything.
He will answer many of our requests, even those not based on a promise.
He will keep ALL His promises.

Saving Faith

Have you responded to God’s most important promise? Have you accepted Christ as savior and Lord, i.e. do you know for a fact that if you die you will go to heaven?
If not why not?
There are basically only two reasons why someone has not yet accepted Christ as Saviour and Lord

You don’t know if the whole thing is true (you’re uncertain that it is). You hear Christians talk about it, but if you look at how they live you are not sure that you can believe them. You may even not ne sure that God exists.
You want to be in control / unwilling to surrender

 

If you are truly uncertain

God does not mind
The important question is what would you do, if you were convinced [Tozer]? If something happens and suddenly you were certain that God exists, that Jesus Christ is His Son, that He loves you, that He died on the cross for you. If you were truly certain of that, what would your reaction be?
If you can honestly say that if you were certain of all that you would accept Him as Lord and Saviour and would surrender your life to Him – then you’re almost there.
Ask God to reveal Himself and convince you; and if you are honest that if you are convinced then you will surrender to God you can expect God to reveal Himself to you.
Go and read the gospel of John with an open mind. Be honest with God. Just don’t prescribe to God how He should reveal Himself.

If you want to be in control

There is a difference between wanting to be in control and actually being in control.
If you know the truth, but refuse to act on it because you don’t want to surrender, you want to decide, etc. you are in a very dangerous place
Unlike the truly uncertain person you can’t expect God to reveal Himself, if you will not react to it (why should He speak if you already decided you won’t listen?)
God keeps calling, and His grace and mercy is still available – but it will not be forever

Closing prayer