Releasing Faith’s Potential: Faith and the Word of God

Romans 10:17(NKJV)
17So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

We are talking this week about how to release the potential for faith that Paul said was available to us in Romans 12:3.  We all have the same potential to believe God, but how do we get that potential functioning in our daily living.  Walking by faith and not by sight is a skill.  It takes time and practice to master any skill.  There are also elements that need to be mastered if we are going to master the whole skill.  We used driving as an illustration.  Most of us, when we first started driving, were uncomfortable behind the wheel.  After a while driving became second nature to us.  Practice and experience caused this transformation.

In the same way there are elements of walking by faith that we need to master if we are ever going to be proficient in the skill.  It will take time and practice.  The first element is found in the verse above.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.  It doesn’t come from anywhere else.  If we are going to walk by faith and not by sight, this must become a natural response in every situation where faith is required.

When we drive, one thing we need to know is how to fill the gas tank.  We don’t wonder where to go to get gasoline.  When the car is low on fuel we don’t go to the grocery store.  We don’t wonder if we should go to the drug store.  We simply know to go to the gas station.  There is no thought given to it.  We need to have the same natural response whenever we need faith.  We go to the Word.

If I am facing a need in my life, my first response should be, “What promise will meet this situation?”  We should go to the Bible before we go anywhere else.  Sometimes we run everywhere but to the Word.  There are certainly times when we need prayer or ministry, but the first thing we should think is, “Do I need more faith?”  If the answer is yes, go to the word.  If the car stops running the first thing to check is the gas gage.  If we don’t feel the power of God in our lives, we need to check our “faith gage” first. 

The other thing we do with our car, or at least should, is not wait until the tank is empty to refuel.  I have failed to do that at times and it is usually uncomfortable.  I remember when we couldn’t afford gas and we would put in just enough to get us to where we were going.  If we were not near a gas station when we got to “E” it was always a nerve wracking experience to see how far we could get before we ran out.  If we did run out, it was embarrassing and more than a little inconvenient.   The smart thing to do is fill up before you start and when you get to a quarter tank, start looking for a station.

The same is true of the Word.  Too often we wait for a crisis before we start to fill our tank.  We rarely read the word.  We don’t study regularly.  We don’t meditate in the word.  Then one day we find ourselves in a situation where we really need faith and we find that the tank is empty.  Often it is too late at that point to fill it up.  We need to keep the tank filled.  We need to pray and study regularly so that when we face the challenges of life we do so with a full faith tank. 

If we do, we will not be empty and dry.  We will be filled with faith and power, ready to face whatever the world, the devil and life itself brings our way.  We will be ready to walk by faith and not by sight.

Releasing Faith’s Potential

Romans 12:3(NKJV)
3For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

(I am traveling this week and I am sorry to say that my blog time may be limited.  It may take a bit to get through last Sunday’s message and I am not sure what I will be doing for the month I am away.  Keep checking though, as I will try and find time and internet access to keep things coming.  That’s just for you Joan and George.)

We have been looking at this scripture from the standpoint that God has given to each Christian the same potential to believe God.  This potential will manifest itself according to the calling of that individual, but no one has a greater capacity for faith than anyone else.  We are all born, or born again, with the same faith potential.  I believe this is a vital truth in our society as we tend to be so focused on special people.  Whether the are special because of sports, entertainment or politics, we tend to view these people as better than the rest of us. 

When this thinking enters the church it is a real problem.  We can think that those who are upfront or in some way famous have more faith or anointing than the rest of us can have.  They are doing their job and God has given them what is necessary to accomplish that.  Your job is not less important in God’s economy.  He has given you the same measure to do what you are called to as He has given the famous person to do their job.  Anyone can have world changing faith.  You have the potential to have it.

The next thing we need to know is how to release that faith potential?  I believe there are three basic things we need to be functioning in to fully release our potential to believe.  To understand this, however, we must first recognize that walking by faith and not by sight is a skill.  When learning any skill there are certain things you have to be able to master.  You will always begin uncomfortable and, with time and practice, come to a place where the skill becomes second nature.  Let me say again that the key is time and practice.  Without those two elements you will never master a skill.

Most of us drive a car.  It has been a long time since I learned this skill but I still remember how difficult it was the first few times I tried it.  I remember that the steering wheel didn’t seem to respond the way I thought it should.  I remember that it was a challenge to look down from the road to check my speed.  I just couldn’t believe that bad things would not happen if I took my eye off the road for just a second. 

The day I got my license at 16 we had a day off from school because of a late season snow storm.  My mother worked nights at that time so she was sleeping and my father was at work.  The snow melted and I went up and told my Mom I had gotten my license and asked if I could take the car and visit my future wife.  My mother said something through her sleep that sounded enough life yes to me so off I went. 

The problem was Elaine, now my wife, was in nursing school on the other side of the city.  I had never driven in the city.  I had never negotiated that kind of intersection.  Everything was strange and more than a little frightening.  I managed to get there and back without incident.  When I got home my father made sure I knew what a bad idea it had been to take his car to a place I didn’t have the skill to negotiate. 

Today such a trip would not even take thought.  I get in the car and go.  It is second nature.  I know the steering wheel will do what I want it to.  I know how to apply the gas and the brakes.  I can tune the radio, talk on the phone, with a hands free device of course, and do all kinds of things while I drive.  It is a skill and through time and practice it has become second nature to me.

Walking by faith is the same.  It is a skill.  It must be practiced.  Certain elements must be mastered to master the whole skill.  If we take the time to practice this skill it will become just as second nature to us as driving.  However, as we begin it will often seem strange and difficult.  The thing to remember is that, for the most part, skills are things we need in life.  Sometimes they can even be life or death.  We cannot begin mastering the skill when it is a critical situation.  The skill must be mastered under normal circumstances and then when we really need it we will have it available.

I want to encourage you to practice the skill of walking by faith.  We will look at some elements you will have to master, but to begin with get ready in your heart.  Ask the Lord to help you know where to begin.  He will.  Learning a skill opens up new dimensions of life.  Think of how your world expanded once you were able to drive.  The same is true of the skill of walking by faith.  Begin today and soon you will be ready to take on challenges with a whole new set of tools.

According To

Psalms 18:20(NKJV)
20    The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness;      According to the cleanness of my hands     He has recompensed me.

This week we have been studying Romans 12:3-8 speaking of the fact that everyone in the body of Christ is important.  He says that to everyone among us has been given the measure of faith.  Yesterday we focused on the thought that the measure he is referring to is the potential to believe God.  We have different jobs and callings so the outworking of our faith may not be the same, but our potential to fulfill our destiny, whatever that may be is the same. 

The question is not whether I have the same potential to believe God as the particular “faith giant” I may have read about or followed in ministry.  I do.  The question is what will I do with that potential.  In all areas of life there are people who have great natural ability, but they never reach the fullness of that potential because they don’t develop it.  Often it is more difficult for the more talented to go beyond a certain level because they did not have to work hard to get there.  When they want to progress they find that potential is not enough.  Many times those with less potential will accomplish more in the long run because they had to work hard for everything they have gotten.

In Christ our potential is the same.  No one has more ability to grow in faith than you do.  Others may have callings that put them in a position to be better known.  Some may carry different responsibilities than you do, but in God’s economy it is all vital to His plan and His Kingdom.  The question is, will we develop what God has given us or neglect it.  If we neglect it we will come to the end of our days and instead of hearing, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”, we may hear, “Well, you had potential, but you didn’t do much with it.”  I don’t want that to be my story. 

We are at a conference at the Door Fellowship in Williamsport Pennsylvania this week, and Brother Mel Davis was speaking last night from this Psalm.  His premise was that there is a bible principle of “according to” mentioned over 800 times in the Word.  In this case the question is asked, “Why was and how was the psalmist delivered.  The answer was according to his righteousness and the cleanness of his hands.  As he was preaching I thought, “This fits right in with what we have been talking about.”  God has given us wonderful promises.  God has given us the potential to believe them, but we will be rewarded according to what we do with them.

This can be a problem for those who struggle against what has been called the “measure up syndrome.”  They will begin to see this as just another way they have to measure up in order to be accepted.  That is not what God is saying.  In Ephesians 2:6 the Word tells us we are accepted in the beloved.  God accepts us on the basis of the new birth.  There is nothing more we have to do to earn that acceptance.  However that does not mean he will bless us.  The blessing of God flows according to certain things in our lives.  In the case of the psalmist, God was able to bless him in response to his righteousness.

If we look at this from a human standpoint we have some problems with it.  We think strictly in terms of punishment and reward.  There is punishment and reward in our relationship to God.  He does punish sin and reward right living.  The bible is clear on this.  Hebrews 12 tells us he chastens those He loves.  The reason this is a problem to us is that we know humans do not always judge correctly.  They can play favorites.  They can make mistakes.  They cannot see the motives of our hearts.  God is not that way.  His judgment is perfect.  He knows exactly what should be rewarded and punished.  Every reward and every punishment is absolutely motivated for our highest good.  This is true every time and in every circumstance. 

If we understand this in relation to God, it is less reward and punishment and much more cause and effect.  If I do what the Bible teaches I set into motion certain things that will bring blessing into my life.  In Luke it tells me to give and then God will give back to me according to the measure I use in my giving.  The word speaks of healing according to our faith.  It also tells us that the wages of sin is death, so the amount of death we have working in our lives is according to the sin we allow to remain.

Walking by faith is a lifestyle that is bound to the principles of God.  That means all of them not just the ones that specifically relate to faith.  Jesus said we will see power and virtue released through the Word in our lives according to the degree of thought and study we put into it.  (Mark 4:24-25 AMP)  Remember the “according to principle” but remember that it works both ways.  God will bless you according to your obedience to the Word of God.  He will also bless you according to his riches in Glory in Christ Jesus.  Put that to work in you life.  I know you will see God’s blessing.

Potential 2

Romans 12:3-5(NKJV)
3For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.

In our look at these verses we have covered a number of thoughts.  First of all, we have determined that Paul wants us to remember that every member of the body of Christ is important.  There are no “big apostles” and “little members.”  We are all the same.  We all have a calling, a place in the body, and a wonderful destiny in God.  We don’t all get the same degree of recognition because some jobs are more “out front” than others, but we are all important.  We must remember that recognition is not the point.  We must remember that if we get recognition as well as if we don’t. 

Since our theme for the last number of months has been walking by faith, the second thought Paul brings out is of particular importance.  Each on of us has been given a measure of faith.  This is not a measure in terms of amount.  It is a measure in terms of the the particular job God has called each of us to do.  It has nothing to do with who is more important.  I believe a way to look at this is that God has given to each of us the same potential for faith.  There are those in my life that I have seen as wonderful examples of faith, however if I understand this correctly, I have the same potential to believe God that they do.  I have the same kind of faith they have.  So do you.

Today I want to focus on this word “potential.”  I have been involved in athletics as a participant and a spectator all of my life.  One of the best things you can say about a young athlete is that he or she has potential.  That means they have the ability to do great things in their future.  One of the worst things you can say about an older athlete is they had potential.  That means they could have done so much more but they did not do what was necessary to cultivate and use that potential.

As Christians all we had to do to get this potential, this measure of faith, was to be born again.  When a person is born in the natural we understand that there are differences of intelligence, family and economic status, and the possibility of handicap that could limit potential.  However in Christ this is not so.  The only limits to what we can do by faith are our age and experience and what we choose to do with this potential.  I have been a Christian many years.  I have done many things that a new born babe in Christ probably can’t do yet, but it is only because of my experience.  I have made many faith mistakes.  I have learned many things about faith and how to walk in it because I have been around for a while. 

This does not mean I have a greater ability to believe than any other Christian.  As a pastor I have been forced to exercise my faith, to study the word consistently and to maintain my walk with the Lord.  Because I have done these things over the years my faith potential has been put to work and I have come closer and closer to reaching it.  Not that I have arrived.  Far from it.  I still have greater potential.  I probably am not where I could be, but I am farther ahead than when I started. 

What are you doing with the potential God has invested in you?  If you are newly saved, God does not expect you to be fully functioning in you faith potential.  As a matter of fact you will never fully “arrive” in faith.  However are you investing in your potential.  Are you exercising yourself in the Word of God to build and strengthen your faith?  Are you stretching your faith by actively trusting God with the affairs of life?  Are you spending time with those who build up your faith or those who tear it down?  These are just a few ways to develop your faith potential  It is easy to say, “I just can’t believe God the way pastor does.”  However that’s just not true.  You can!

Some of you will probably be tempted to take this as condemnation.  Your reaction might be, “Here is just another way I can’t measure up.”  That would be true except that God really has given you this measure of faith and you really can do this.  You don’t have to do it alone.  The Lord has also given you the Holy Spirit to help you.  Together with Him you can reach your faith potential.  It takes some discipline.  It takes time to grow.  There is no way around that. 

Sometimes our culture teaches us that it shouldn’t be that way.  We should all just get the same things out of life.  If we are asked to work, it is not fair.  That is a lie from the devil.  You are not being cheated if you have to work to develop your potential.  You would be cheated if God gave me more potential than He gives you, but the scripture says, “God has given to every man a measure of faith.”  You are that man, or woman, and you have that measure.  You have the potential to do great things in God by faith.  Start where you are and God will lead you and strengthen you every step of the way.

Potential

Romans 12:3-5(NKJV)
3For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.

Yesterday we talked about the fact that there are no important and unimportant people in the Body of Christ.  Each person has been given by God a gift, a calling and a place in His family.  Those who are leaders or otherwise outwardly gifted should not think they are more important than the rest of the Body.  They simply have a different job. 

Conversely those who are not in “up front” ministry should not feel they are somehow less than those who are.  We have become a celebrity oriented culture where those who live normal lives are seen as ordinary while those who are in the public eye are seen as special.  This thinking cannot be in the church.  Every child of God is extraordinary because of the touch of God in their life.

Here Paul tells us that God has given to each one a measure of Faith.  Now we know from Romans 10:17 that faith comes from hearing the word of God.  What is it that God has given to each one of us?  This measure is not an amount.  It differs in terms of what it will enable each of us to do because our gifts differ, but it is the same in nature.  The measure of faith is the potential to believe God. 

In terms of this potential we are all the same.  I want you to think of the greatest “faith giant” you have ever heard of.  I remember when I was first coming to salvation, one of the most influential things I read was “The Cross and the Switchblade” by Davey Wilkerson.  I was so impressed by the depth of this mans faith as he faced down this violent gang member, Nicky Cruz, and told him how much God loved him.  I thought at the time, “I wish I could have that kind of faith.”, but I couldn’t imagine it was possible.

Maybe you have a story of faith that impressed you in this way.  Maybe you have thought, “I could never have that kind of faith.”  I want you to understand that this scripture tells you that you can. 

I was never called to go to the inner city and face down gang members.  I was called to go to West Africa during the 13th cease fire of a 9 year civil war.  I was called to ride through check points manned by soldiers carrying automatic weapons and surrounded by machine gun emplacements.  As one of the few white people in the country it was uncomfortable and probably dangerous at times.

When I needed it, the faith to do what was needed was there.  You have the same potential that I do.  You can believe God to face any challenge you may come up against.  You have the faith to change situations and circumstances in your life.  You have the faith to protect your family and restore broken relationships.  You have the faith to overcome the sin that is trying to hold you bound.  Sometimes there are other people involved that need to make their own decisions, but on your part no one has greater potential to believe than you do.

Who can have faith.  Anyone who is born again.  Who can grow in faith.  Anyone who is born again.  Look at 1 John 5:4-5. 

1 John 5:4-5(NKJV)
4For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?  Then God has given you the measure of faith to overcome the world.  That’s all it takes.  Remember, you have the same potential for faith as anyone you have ever heard or read about.  I like to play golf, but I don’t have the potential to be a PGA pro.  It’s just not in me.  I do have the potential to walk by faith at the highest level possible.  I may not become famous doing it, but that is not the point.  You have unlimited potential for faith in order to walk in victory in your life.  Let that sink in and we will begin to talk about unlocking that potential tomorrow.

To Each of you a Measure of Faith

Romans 12:3-5(NKJV)
3For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.

In these verses Paul starts by making this statement, “For I say, through the grace given to me…..”  The New Living Translation say, “Because of the privilege and authority given me.”  When Paul gives advice it should be taken in light of the many trials Paul had been through and the victories he won along the way.  It should be received in light of the fact that Paul had a greater revelation of what Christianity really was than any other New Testament writer.  His word must carry weight.

Who is he writing to in this verse?  It says to everyone who is among you.  Was he referring to the whole city of Rome?  No.  Was he writing to the leaders of the city?  No.  Was he writing to the pastor of the Roman church?  Was he writing to a particular Roman church, maybe the Baptist or Pentecostal church of Rome?  No and no.  He is writing to all the saints in Rome.  That means all of the believers no matter where they may worship or what group they are a part of.  Since God thought enough of Paul’s letter to put it in the Bible, I think it is safe to say that he is really writing to all Christians everywhere.  If you are Born Again this letter is to you.

So what is Paul’s important advice?  First of all he says to us not to think more highly of ourselves than we should, but that we should think soberly.  What does he mean by this?  I believe his point is that we are all the same.  None of us should think that we are somehow better than anyone else.  We are all in a better position than the world because of our relationship with Jesus, but once we have that relationship we are all the same.  Those in authority should not think they are better than those who are under them.  Those who are blessed with wealth should not look down on those who may not be so blessed.  Those with gifts that may be more obvious and more public should not look down on those whose gifts may be more “behind the scenes.”  They should understand that all gifts and all people are important to God.

Conversely those who are of the latter groups, must not think that because someone else may be more outwardly gifted or any other thing that would make them stand out, they are somehow less in the Body of Christ.  We are all important.  We all have our part to play.  This is a real problem because we have become such a celebrity oriented society.  We are consumed with the “lifestyles of the rich and famous.”  We are made to think that anyone who has a talent or a position is somehow special.  If we could be like them, our problems would be solved.  We would be somebody.  Our lives would have meaning.  This is a bad thing when it is in the world, it is even worse when we let that thinking creep into the church. 

Paul tells us that God has given to each person, no matter what their gift or calling “a measure of faith.”  When we see the word “measure” we tend to think quantity.  Some have a bigger measure than others.  Maybe some get a cup of faith while others get a quart.  Those with large ministries must have a bigger measure than those who have smaller ministries or labor in the church.  This is not at all what he is saying. 

Each person has a gift or a calling from God.  God makes sure that they have the measure it takes to get that done.  None is greater than another, they are just different in terms of the job they do, but we all have the same capacity for faith.

I want to introduce a word here that we will look at this week.  It is the heart of what I believe God wants me to say.  What is the measure really.  It is the potential to believe God.  In our culture which is driven by the idea that the few are special and to be envied, it is essential that you understand this truth.  No one has greater potential to believe God than you do.  Whatever you need to do what God has called you to do, you can believe for.  No person has more ability to believe God than you do. 

As we look at this idea this week, meditate on this fact.  I can believe God.  I can do all things through Christ.  I can have a world changing faith.  You have been given by God great potential.  All you need to do is unlock it and you will succeed.

 

Faith Without Works is Dead

James 2:14-17(NKJV)
14What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  15If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,
16and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 
17Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

(We were blessed to have Dr. B. J. Pruitt with us this past week.  Here are some thoughts on one of his messages.  All are available on our web site.  WWW.LivingWordGreene.com.)

To some these verses may seem strange.  Didn’t  Paul teach that we are saved by grace through faith?  Didn’t he often talk about the fact that works cannot save us?  Indeed he did.  Faith in Jesus Christ is the only thing that can bring us into a relationship with God that will save us.  Why then, does James seem to indicate that faith is not enough.  In these verses he is talking about true faith verses a religious statement of faith.

In his world as in our own, there were many who would proclaim that they believed in Jesus.  They would claim the Christian faith as their own, but their lives contained no actions to prove that this faith was real.  They said the right things and followed the rituals but when it came to this faith affecting their life and behavior they were found lacking.  In this verse he uses an example of how these people say they have faith but do not show it in their lifestyle.

He points out their actions to the poor.  They see those in need, they have what it takes to help, but instead give them “faith words” and no help.  He says to them, “What good do your religious words of faith do if you don’t give them any food or cloths.”  If we truly have faith it will show in our lifestyle and our choices.  If our faith is not producing any works than we really don’t have faith at all.  Faith is what saves us, but if we really believe something it affects us in ways that can be seen.

In James’ illustration he uses the action of helping someone in need.  I certainly believe that this should be one of the works our Christian faith produces, but I don’t think that is all James is talking about.  There are many “works” our faith should produce.  The work of holiness should be produced by our faith.  In other words, if I really have faith in Jesus it should result in my lifestyle changing to reflect it.  I should begin to stop sin in my life.  If I say I am a Christian and I just keep living the same way I did before I was saved, my Christian experience is subject.  I may still fall occasionally.  I may even struggle with some issues in my life, but my faith must begin to cause me to desire to overcome sin.

There are also works of service.  If I really have faith in Jesus that faith should be manifest in a desire to serve His kingdom and preach his Gospel.  I should be willing to share with other believers and help them grow in faith as well.  My faith should show itself in the “works” of prayer and study of the Word of God.  If I have no desire for either, I must question the quality of my faith.  How can I say I have faith and never wish to fellowship with the One in whom I believe.

This also applies to the things we are believing for from God.  If I say I have faith for finances, for example, my faith must manifest in obedience to the Word.  The bible tells me to give and it shall be given unto me.  If I believe this, my faith will be evident because I will give.  Even if it seems that I cannot give I will do so because I believe that God will give back to me. 

If I am believing for healing I will do whatever I can to act in accordance with what I believe.  That does not mean that I should do foolish things, but if I can get up I will get up because I believe in the healing power of Jesus.  I will do something that shows my faith. 

It is important to note that we do not do something to get faith.  We do something because we have faith.  We see the truth of the Word of God, it becomes real in our hearts and we act accordingly.  If we have no faith to begin with the works are dead.  They will not produce the faith.  If we say we have faith and that faith produces no response in our outward life, then that faith is dead, it never really existed and it can not save us.

Another way to say this is faith without corresponding action is dead.  If we believe something there must be some kind of action that will correspond with what we believe.  For salvation the actions are a changed life.  For receiving financial prosperity the actions are various types of giving.  For other things we believe, the actions will correspond to that belief.

Examine you life today.  Is your faith producing actions in your outward life?  You may need to receive some things from the Lord.  That is valid.  Think about what you are believing for.  Are there things in the Word that you can do?  Is there a condition to the promise that you can fulfill?  Have you taken the first action steps of opening the Book and finding the promise?  If not you need to begin there.  Is there some way that you can do anything that would correspond to what you believe.  Take that step and see what God will do.

On the other hand we will never be able to act on the promises if our faith is not producing lifestyle actions.  If we will not apply faith and corresponding action to overcoming sin or fellowshipping with the Lord, we will not be able to act in faith to receive a promise.  If we try to act on the promise, it won’t really be faith and we will fail.  Find some area of your Christian faith and begin to apply some corresponding action.  Make this a part of your Christian walk.  God will meet you and great things can be done in you and through you as faith and action take their proper place in your life.