With Thanksgiving

Philippians 4:6(NKJV) 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

We are about to begin the 2016 holiday season here in the United States. This is either the “most wonderful time of the year”, as one of our popular holiday songs says, or a most difficult time of the year. Although holiday and family traditions make for warm feelings and joy, there are also more suicides during the holidays than at another other time of year.

There is tremendous pressure to buy things that we cannot afford and do things that we do not have the time for. There are parties and get-togethers in abundance. We have to decorate, bake, make candy, wrap presents and myriad other things that can cause this season to overwhelm even the most “Christmassy” of us. What can we do as Christians to make the holidays joyous and blessed instead of tedious and pressure packed? I believe this section of scripture can help us.

Let me point out something that I find very interesting. In our country, we celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving. The most famous historical Thanksgiving celebration was that of the pilgrims of the Massachusetts Bay colony in the 1630’s however, setting aside a day to give thanks to God for his blessing and provision was a practice throughout the colonies. In 1863 during the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln established a national holiday on the fourth Thursday of November and that continues until today.

Thanksgiving Thursday marks the official beginning of the holiday season. I know that it is simply a coincidence of timing that the holidays officially begin with Thanksgiving, but I cannot help but think the Lord had something to do with it. I believe we can change our whole outlook on the holidays if we will really take to heart the idea of giving thanks. This is especially true if we call ourselves Christians.

This year we have been looking at a number of things related to the idea that God wants us to possess our land of promises, drive out the enemies that keep us from those promises and occupy that land until Jesus comes. I choose as one focus this thought from 2 Peter chapter 1.

2 Peter 1:2-4(NKJV) 2Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

God has given us exceedingly great and precious promises that enable us to partake of his divine nature. That divine nature is expressed in what we call his characteristics. God is all powerful, unchanging, all knowing and everywhere present. We must add to those characteristics things like absolutely loving, righteous and holy. If we take hold of the promises provided in the word of God, we can partake of these characteristics and their power in our lives. The key is understanding that the bible is a book of promises not theology or doctrine.

A promise is a personal word given to an individual by another individual. The promises in the bible were given to all who will read and believe them. We must realize that God the Father in his infinite wisdom and ability, somehow makes them personal statements to every person who chooses to receive them. The promise that God will meet my needs from Philippians 4:19 is not some general statement in an ancient book. It is my Father promising me that he will take care of me. It is a personal promise. It is neither doctrine nor theology. When I see it that way, faith rises in my heart because I know that my Father will not lie. He will not fail me because he has whatever power is needed to provide for my needs. I know he will do what he said and he will do it in a way that will bring the greatest blessing to my life. That may mean he will not do it the way I think he should, but I know he will do it. I have his personal promise.

In our study, we have looked at a number of things we must do in relation to the promise. When we believe the promise, we gain access to the power of the promise. When we speak in line with the promise, we activate them in our lives. This means speaking “to the mountain” we may be facing as well as speaking them to God in prayer. When we act on the promise, we release its power in our lives. (Mark 11:22-24) However, there is one more thing we must do in order to see the promise fulfilled. We must make our requests known to God with thanksgiving.

Mark 11:24 tells us that when we pray we must believe we receive what we ask for. In the world, we tend to think along the lines of “I will believe it when I see it.” When we are dealing with the world this is often a wise approach. When we are dealing with God, we must adjust our thinking. God cannot lie. When we approach the promises of God, we cannot do so based on “I will believe it when I see it.” We must approach he promises of God based on “When I believe it I will eventually see it.”

When I pray, I believe that God hears the request and since I base my prayer on his promise to me, I believe it is mine already. At some point, I will see the promise manifested in my life. The problem is that there is always an amount of time between when I pray and when I see the manifestation in the natural. It may be a few seconds or it may be years. What do I do while I am waiting? Philippians 4:6 tells us. We make our request with thanksgiving. We continue to thank God for the answer until we see it in the natural. Giving thanks to God for the answer is a key component in receiving it.

How does all this tie in with the holiday season? I believe we need to understand thanksgiving, the action not the holiday, in a new light. We see it as a response. Something good happens and we give thanks. It certainly is that. However, it is more than that for a Christian. If we understand thanksgiving properly, we see that it is not just a response to good things but also part of what causes good things to come to us.

There is no doubt that a thankful person is more enjoyable to be around than an unthankful person is. In the natural, thankfulness will give you a better disposition and a more positive outlook on life. This is something that makes developing thankfulness worthwhile. In the spirit, thankfulness does much more.

First, when we thank God for what he has done it reminds us of who God is and what he can do in our lives. Our hearts will be filled with joy and confidence when we remember how much God has really done for us. When we begin to thank God for what he will do according to the promise we prayed, our thanksgiving produces a draw in the spirit that will bring those good things to us. The more we thank God for his promise, the more real it becomes to us. There is less and less the devil can do to discourage us because we are conscious of God’s willingness to do what he said he would do. Doubt and unbelief cannot stand in the face of active thanksgiving.

I want to encourage you to make this holiday season a season that begins with the Thanksgiving holiday and continues to be a time of thanksgiving through the new year. Thank God for what he has done in your life this year. Thank him for family and friends. Thank him for all you have instead of thinking about what you do not have. Add to this equation thanking God for what he promises to do in your life. Make some requests to him this season and pledge to continue to thank him for the answer until you see it in the natural. If you will do that, I know you will see an increase in your faith and in your joy. You might even find that the Christmas season really is the most wonderful, blessed and thankful time of the year.

Be Anxious for Nothing

Philippians 4:6-7(NKJV) 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

(Going back in the archives a bit for this thanksgiving message. Have a blessed time with friends, family and giving thanks to the Lord for all he has done!)

Yesterday we began looking at Paul’s words in Philippians 4 concerning maintaining a thankful heart. We have seen that thanksgiving for Christian is much more than just a response to something good. Thanksgiving is a positive force that draws good things to the believer. Philippians 4:4-9 gives us some keys to cultivating and maintaining a thankful heart. Yesterday we studied the first of these keys, rejoicing in the Lord.

Rejoice means to celebrate or express joy. Rejoicing in the Lord is to celebrate our relationship with him. Paul says we should do this always. That does not mean that we must sing and shout all day every day. It does mean that we should keep a consciousness and rejoicing in our hearts concerning the wonderful things God has done for us. In order to do this, I believe we need to spend time in physical rejoicing or praising God.

In our church, we spend time in every service singing, clapping, shouting and even dancing before the Lord. This brings our flesh under the control of our spirit. When we are exuberant in our physical praise to God, we are doing what David did in Psalm 103. We are telling our soul that we will not serve it but that our soul, emotions, will serve us by praising God. We bring our bodies under subjection and cause them to praise the Lord. It is impossible to be unthankful when we are celebrating the goodness of God.

The second, third and fourth keys are in verse 6. First, Paul says to be anxious for nothing. The KJV says be careful for nothing. In Matthew chapter 6 Jesus tells us we cannot add an inch to our height by worrying. These are all saying the same thing. If we want to have a thankful heart, we cannot give in to worry.

Worry is meditation in fear. It is taking upon ourselves the care for our future and the responsibility to solve all our problems. There is a responsibility that we should carry, however we cannot handle the full weight. 1 Peter 5 tells us what we should do.

1 Peter 5:6-7(NKJV) 6Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

When we give into the temptation to think about all the bad things that can happen to us, we are giving in to the cares and worries of life. Bad things are always out there. They can happen to us at any time. The ones we know about are probably far fewer than the ones we do not know about. However, the ones we know are the ones that get our attention and cause us to worry. The problem with worry is that it simply does no good.

The solution is to cast the worry, or care, about a situation on the Lord. To do that we must realize the truth that he really does care for us. When I give in to worry, I will always find myself unthankful. When I cast my care upon the Lord, I must begin to thank him for what he has done in the past. I remember that God is able to deal with any problem. Soon I find myself telling the devil, “My Father has this situation under control. I am not going to think about it except to hear what he has to say about it. If you want to talk about it, you will have to talk to my Father.”

Casting our care on the Lord requires that we do something that can be difficult for some of us. We must humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. To some people this means declaring that we are nothing and that we can do nothing. That is not true humility. True humility knows that I can do nothing without the Lord, but it also is willing to receive the help that God gives. I humble myself by letting the Lord take the care of the situation off my shoulders. He is well able to carry that burden.

The second key in this verse is that in everything we are to make our requests to God. This seems rather obvious at first, but if we examine ourselves, I think we will find that we do not do this. We try our best to solve the problem. We ask people for help or we lean on some natural institution. When all of that fails, we finally go to God in prayer. When we finally go to prayer, we have already taken the care of the situation on ourselves and we are already unthankful.

Paul tells us to take everything to God all the time. No request is too small or too large to take to the Lord. We should make requests of him first not after we try everything else. He can then direct us to whatever solution will best suit our situation. We may still get counsel from people or use some natural resource. We may find that the Lord will direct us as to how to handle the situation ourselves. He also may simply answer the request with a miracle. In any case, if we do not make the request he can do nothing.

Finally, Paul says we must make these requests “with thanksgiving.” It will do us no good to pray if we do not believe that God can and will meet the need. As we have studied in the past, if we believe God will meet the need, we should thank him for it even before we see the manifestation. God is not a man. He does not lie and he has no lack of ability no matter what our need may be. Since we know God can meet the need and, if we pray according to the promises in the Word, we know he wants to meet the need, we thank for the need met.

So let us summarize what Paul is saying in this verse. I need to be thankful to God. To cultivate this thankfulness, I must stop taking the burden of the care for the problem on my own shoulders. I must realize that God cares for me and be humble enough to trust him with my problems. I must also bring those problems to him through prayer and supplication, or asking.

Once I have done so, I must begin to thank him for the answer. In order to maintain a thankful heart, I must give thanks. I must practice thankfulness. As I practice thankfulness, I will release more and more of the care of the situation to God. As I release more of the care to God, I will be more thankful. I will also be more confident in bringing my requests to God, which will result in more practice of thanksgiving, which then will lead to more casting of my care on God, which will make me more thankful. Do you begin to see a pattern?

What is the result of this process? The peace of God begins to our hearts and minds. In this context, these words mean our thoughts and feelings. One interpretation of mind here is our disposition. I like that thought. The mind is the battleground of faith. As we put this process in place, there is something that begins to happen to our minds and emotions.

The Amplified Bible says the peace of God mounts garrison around our hearts and minds. This process produces peace, which becomes a fortress of God around my thoughts and my emotions. My disposition begins to change because I know that God is in control. The more I thank him the more peace rises and the stronger the walls become against the attack of the enemy. With this “garrison” in place, I can do anything necessary to see the full manifestation of God’s promise in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Maintaining a Thankful Heart

Philippians 4:4-7(NKJV) 4Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

(Going back in the archives a bit for this thanksgiving message. Have a blessed time with friends, family and giving thanks to the Lord for all he has done!)

This week we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and the beginning of the Christmas season. I believe this is more than a coincidence of timing. The Christmas season is a stressful time for many people. At best, it is exceedingly busy. If we choose to take seriously the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday, it will change the whole complexion of the season. Start by truly giving thanks to God for what he has done and what he promises to do. Keep that attitude in your heart through the New Year and see what a difference it will make.

Yesterday we warned against the cancer of being unthankful. When we focus more on disappointment and what we do not have than on the many things God has done in our lives we are giving in to an unthankful heart. Romans 1 tells us that this can lead to confusion, darkness of mind and mood and ultimately a wrong idea of who God is and what he is doing in our lives.

We must combat being unthankful by offering up the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips giving thanks to God. Even when we do not feel the emotion of thanksgiving, we must recognize that God is for us and not against us. We must choose to thank him in spite of our feelings or circumstances. When we do that, our emotions will change and the power of God will go into effect to change the circumstances.

Today I want to look at a section of scripture we touched on earlier in the week. In Philippians 4, Paul gives us some keys to maintaining thankfulness even in the face of trials and disappointments. In the sixth verse, we read that we should make our requests know to God with thanksgiving. This ties prayer and the promises of God to the idea of giving thanks. It is what we must do while we wait for the manifestation of the promise upon which we base our prayer.

I believe we can tie a number of the verses in this chapter to the same thought. In verse 4, Paul gives us the first step to developing and maintaining a thankful heart. He tells us to “rejoice in the Lord always.” This thought is so important that Paul repeats it by saying, “again I say rejoice.” If we are going to maintain a thankful heart, we must be willing to rejoice in the Lord. What does it mean to rejoice?

To rejoice means to celebrate or show joy. When Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord, he is telling us to celebrate in the Lord. We all know what a celebration is. I am a sports fan. When a team wins a championship, there is a celebration. The people rejoice in the victory. The typical celebration in a locker room is to shake bottles of champagne and pop the corks spraying the champagne on everyone in the room. This is not a mild display. It is exuberant and extreme. When there is real rejoicing, everyone knows.

Thankfulness and rejoicing go hand in hand. There is no way that we can be unthankful and rejoice in the Lord at the same time. We generally associate rejoicing with a spontaneous reaction to an event. We rejoice at a championship, a marriage or a birth. However, just as thanksgiving is something a Christian does to produce an effect, so is rejoicing. When Paul exhorts us to rejoice in the Lord, he is not saying that we should wait for something good to happen. He is telling us to rejoice in the Lord. Our relationship with the Lord is the “something good” we are to rejoice about.

Paul tells us that this is something we should do “always.” Paul is not just suggesting that we rejoice. This verse is an exhortation bordering on a command. This implies that we must choose to rejoice in the Lord. We cannot wait for feelings of rejoicing to erupt. We must rejoice, or celebrate, whether we feel it or not. As we have already said, rejoicing is so important that Paul repeats the command a second time.

The implication is that we should actively celebrate our relationship with the Lord on a continual basis. I know that we cannot run around shouting all the time. However, I believe we must have this rejoicing in our hearts at all times. This is necessary if we are going to maintain thankfulness. I also believe that we will not have rejoicing in our hearts if we never practice rejoicing outwardly.

I do not agree with the current sentiment in many circles that would say we should have only moderate behavior in our church services. The thinking is that we do not want to offend anyone or make anyone uncomfortable. When I started my third church 25 years ago, this thinking was just coming into vogue. As I prayed about what Living Word Christian Center’s character would be, the Lord spoke to my heart. He said, “I don’t want you to make this church acceptable to the young or the old. I don’t want you to make it acceptable to the rich or the poor. I want you to make it acceptable to me.”

I have allowed this to guide me as we built the church. The word of God says, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.” In our church, we spend time at every service obeying this command. We sing. We shout. We dance before the Lord. We celebrate his goodness and we thank him for his blessing. Some people do not like this kind of behavior in church. That is not my problem. Jesus likes it and that is all I care about. I find that if our people are comfortable with rejoicing, eventually the visitors warm up to it. If they do not, there are plenty of churches for them to go to. As for us, we will rejoice in the Lord!

For those who participate in this rejoicing, thankfulness rises the more we rejoice. How can you be unthankful if you are shouting about the goodness of God? How can you be unthankful when you dance around the sanctuary, celebrating his blessings in your life? You cannot. I find it interesting that no one seems to think spraying a room full of people with champagne is strange, but to shout, sing and dance in church because we are rejoicing in the Lord is strange.

I realize that rejoicing can mean different things to different people and at different times. I also know that God gives us some guidelines for rejoicing in the psalms. It is there we find shouting, clapping, loud cymbals and dancing. I believe that this pattern is pleasing to the Lord and therefore appropriate for church. I believe that the time we spend rejoicing in our church is exactly what David commanded himself to do in the psalms.

Psalms 103:1-2(NKJV) 1 Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:

David is speaking to his own soul. His soul did not want to rejoice. His soul was discouraged and disappointed. However, David knew the secret of rejoicing. He knew that a rejoicing heart is a thankful heart. It was David who danced before the Lord with all his might. David would not allow his emotions to rule him. He took hold of his emotions and commanded them to rejoice in the Lord.

However you choose to do it, I exhort you with the apostle Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say rejoice.” Rejoice this thanksgiving. Continue to rejoice through the holiday season. Do not rejoice in the gifts or the giving. Do not rejoice in the fun or the food. Rejoice in the Lord. Let the celebration continue through the year. Rejoice by faith because God is good no matter what may be happening our how we feel. Rejoice on purpose and in the midst of trial and disappointment. You will find that being unthankful will not stand up to the rejoicing heart. You will be thankful and your thankfulness will bring good things to you and yours.

Applied Faith: The Principles–Hebrews 11:6

Hebrews 11:6 (KJV) 6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

I have been sharing something that God laid on my heart while preaching in a very poor church in Kenya. I was struck by all that God has done in my life and ministry even though I am not rich, I have no benefactor and I am not part of a large organization. I come from a working-class family. I had no reason in the natural to think I would do anything of significance. However, by faith I have seen God do great things for me and through me. God is no respecter of persons. What he did for me he will do for anyone.

So far we have looked briefly at the process of faith in God and in his Word in Hebrews 11. God created by faith. He had an inner image that he released in words through which he created all that is visible. It follows that all that is visible can be changed in the same way.

Verse 1 states how that process has been translated to us as believers. Faith is the substance of what we see as possible (Mark 9:23.) When we begin to accept that God will do for us what we know he can do, hope has become faith.

We also see that faith is the evidence that what we cannot see or experience in the visible world is happening in the invisible world of the spirit. Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by the Word of God. Faith and the Word cannot be separated. Therefore, the Word of God is our evidence that faith is working. When doubt tries to come, we look at the Word of God and it proves to us and to the devil that God is at work doing what he said he would do.

This brings me to the first principle upon which the process is founded. That principle is that we are talking about faith in the Living God. It is not just a set of steps to access spiritual power. Faith is always a matter of relationship. That is the message of Hebrews 11:6.

Faith is coming to him. Faith is believing that he exists and that he is involved in our lives. He is a rewarder of those who seek him. If we do not start with relationship, we do not have faith. Faith does not come from some magic words in a book written thousands of years ago. Faith comes from words spoken by a God who is alive today. They are words we can trust because of who said them.

The primary source of those words is the Bible, the written Word of God. All other words that come from God will agree with the Bible in principle. The Bible itself is not just a guide book, however. Hebrews 4:12 tells us it is a living thing. Although written over thousands of years in the distant past, God is speaking it today just as surely as he spoke it through the original authors.

There is a story in the New Testament that clearly shows the importance of relationship where faith is concerned. We read it in Matthew chapter 8. Let me quote the pivotal verses and then we will look at the story more closely.

Matthew 8:10-12 (NKJV) 10 When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! 11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Imagine who Jesus was talking to at this moment. He was in Israel. The Hebrews were oppressed by the Romans. They saw the Romans as Godless. They were God’s chosen people. They had faith that the rest of the world knew nothing about. What a shock when a man that is being considered a prophet by so many declares that a Roman centurion, a common soldier, had greater faith than the “sons of the Kingdom” themselves.

What was it about this man that moved Jesus so greatly? What kind of faith did he display that the Jews of Jesus’ day just did not have?

Matthew 8:8-9 (NKJV) 8 The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

I have heard it taught that the centurion’s faith was great because he believed the word alone. He did not need Jesus to come to his house and heal his servant. He just needed Jesus to speak the Word and he believed his servant would be healed. That is certainly true, but that is more a result of what he understood than the understanding itself.

The centurion did not believe in Jesus’ Words, he believed in who Jesus was. He knew that true authority could only come from above. He understood that Jesus was vitally joined to a higher power and that was why he could say words that had the power to come to pass. He knew this because he was such a man in the natural. He recognized that Jesus was a man of authority but not just in the visible. He was a man of authority in invisible world of the spirit and the centurion knew that the visible world must obey the voice of the invisible.

Jesus declared the centurion’s faith great because he recognized that his faith was a matter of relationship not just religion. His relationship was extremely limited but it was enough that he understood who Jesus was. There is another story of some people who should have had greater relationship but did not understand who Jesus was.

Mark 4:40-41 (NKJV) 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Most of us are familiar with this story. Jesus told his disciples that they were going to the other side of the sea of Galilee. Along the way a severe storm blew up and they were caught in it out on the huge lake. They went to Jesus who was asleep in the back of the boat and cried out that they were going to die. Jesus arose and calmed the storm. Then he addressed his disciples.

His disciples had seen him do great things. They had heard him teach things that no one had ever spoken before. They traveled with him. They should have known him, but when he addresses them he asks why, after all they had heard and seen, they had no faith. Their answer is the direct opposite of the centurion’s. They wondered who Jesus was. They just did not really know who was in their boat.

The centurion had great faith because, even with his limited relationship, he knew who Jesus was. The disciples should have had much more relationship but when Jesus did such a mighty work before their eyes, yet they did not understand who he was.

Faith does not come from religious understanding. The disciples were Jews. They knew him religiously. They called him prophet and teacher. However, the centurion saw him for who he actually was because he saw him in reality. They judged Jesus after religious understanding. He judged Jesus based on who he was in real life.

Applied Faith: Substance and Evidence

Hebrews 11:1-3 (NKJV) 1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

I have been sharing from my experience both in a poor church in Kenya and in my own life. As I was ministering to people who had very little in the natural, God began to show me just how much he had done in and through my wife and I as we applied faith in him and his Word. Although always something that has been foundational to my ministry, it seemed that the Lord was renewing the importance of knowing the principles and walking in the process of faith. It has worked for me for 38 years dealing with the everyday battles we all face. Faith in God and his Word will work for you wherever you are and whatever your situation in life.

When we apply faith, it gives us access to the realm of possibility that exists outside our natural resources and abilities. It will not make everyone rich. I have seen God move to meet every financial need I have had and more. It will not always keep you from having to deal with difficulties or hardship. It will become a house built on a rock that will not only survive but thrive in every storm. Paul summed what applying faith in God does perfectly.

Romans 8:37-39 (NKJV) 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This statement was made after Paul listed some very difficult trials. We might say this after the healing, the financial miracle or the victory won over the devil. He declares it concerning the terrible things he has suffered as a servant of the Lord. While going through them he recognizes he is more than a conqueror. Whatever you face, remember that if you believe God all things are possible. You are more than a conqueror now. Faith gives us the ability to walk that way no matter what. That is what I have seen.

This is not meant to be a definitive study on the process and principles of faith. I just want to define them so we can understand that faith is not random. God does not have a “faith gun” that he shoots at some people to give them great faith while others must understand that they were simply not chosen. Romans 12:3 says that God has dealt to every member of the church in Rome a measure of faith. Everyone who is born again has the capacity for faith in God. The question is not if we can have faith but if we will access what God has provided.

Today’s scripture points to the process of faith. In verse 3 we read that “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” There are two possible interpretations of that sentence. We can understand it to be saying that we accept the truth of creation by faith. That is true. We have nt physical proof that the account of creation is true.

There is much that would try to convince us that it is not true. Most scientists would say that creation as told in the bible is at best a myth. It is the ignorant person’s way of explaining what they do not understand. I cannot refute their point of view. There are those who may be able to scientifically prove creation. I am not one of them. Nevertheless, I believe it happened exactly the way the bible says it did. By faith we understand the truth of creation.

However, it is also true that the process God used to create is what we call faith. Faith in God follows the same pattern as creation. In Creation, God had an inner image of what he wanted and then released that image in words. The result was everything we can see. God gave man the ability to receive God’s image through his Word. As we meditate on the Word, we build his image in our heart. When we release it with our words by faith in His words, we release the same power he did in creation.

There is much more to this than I want to deal with here, but what I want to suggest is this. If the process of faith created the natural world, it is logical to assume that it can change natural things as well. God created man to be a channel for the power that created the world. The key is to make the connection between God and his world and the natural world. That connection is what faith is designed to do.

There are several things I want to tie together. We have been studying all year the statement Jesus made to the father of sick boy, “if you can believe, all things are possible.” There are two levels of possibility in our lives. There are the natural possibilities and the possibilities that are available by faith in the power of God. The first set is based in what we can see, the visible world. The second set is based in the invisible world of the spirit. Now let us look at verse 1.

Here we see faith is the substance of things hoped for. All things are possible to him who believes. Hope and possibility are Synonymous terms. If I have hope it is because I believe something is possible. If I am convinced something is possible, that gives me hope. When we move from what God could do to what God will do we have added substance to hope and that is the definition of faith.

Then it says that faith is the evidence of things not seen. God’s possibilities are based in the unseen realm of the spirit. I believe most of the time God uses natural things to produce supernatural results. However, whether God uses something that can be seen or not, the connection is made in the unseen. How can I be sure that what I cannot see is working? Faith is my evidence. I believe it is working. What is the key to making this process work?

Romans 10:17 is, for me, a very important scripture.

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

There is a context to this verse. It is speaking about faith for salvation. However, the verse stands alone as a principle that applies to all kinds of faith. Faith comes to us by hearing the Word of God. Why? This is true because we cannot believe what we have not heard someone say.

When I travel to poor countries, many people think I am rich because I am an American. God has been good to me. By faith my wife and I have been blessed. That does not mean we are rich. Every time we travel we must believe God for the resources to do so. Sometimes people assume I will do things financially that I never said I would do. A person can declare that I will pay for certain things all they want but if I have not said I will do it they have no right to believe I will. On the other hand, if I said I will do something I will do it. If I have to do without, I will keep my word.

Faith is the evidence that what I cannot see with my physical eyes will happen. Faith comes from hearing, reading and meditating on what God said he will do. If I have his Word or promise on something, that becomes my evidence that God is doing what he said. I confess the word. I meditate on the Word. When the devil assures me God will not do something for me, I show him the evidence. When my mind tells me the same thing, I show it the evidence. If I maintain focus on the evidence, I will eventually see what I have believed God to do. (Mark 11:24

Applied Faith: Faith for Real Life 2

Matthew 7:24-27 (NKJV) 24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Yesterday I shared an experience I had in Kenya this year. We were ministering to a church made up primarily of people who work in the tea fields around the city of Limuru picking the tea. They make very little money and are thought of as rather low on the social scale of Kenya. Not only do they have very little in terms of resources, they have less hope of getting out of that life.

As I stood before them I thought about all God had done in our 38 years of ministry by the application of faith in God and his Word. This year my focus has been on the idea that “all things are possible to him who believes.” Faith is the vehicle that makes the impossible possible. I have spent my entire ministry life doing impossible things by standing on and believing in God and his promises.

I have not built the biggest church by faith. I have not become rich by faith. I have not become famous by applying faith. I have been successful in living real life and dealing with everyday problems. I have built a quality church and had the privilege of impacting people all over the world. I have done it without borrowing large sums of money. Our building is our own and the trips I have taken have been paid in full. We have walked in health spiritually, emotionally and physically by believing God.

We have not done this alone. Those who have grown under our ministry have taken hold of these truths. We have normal working class people yet they have given large quantities of money to support the things we have done. They have joined their faith with ours and seen God move in amazing ways in their lives. We do our best to give, work, pray and believe and together we have seen God go beyond what we could do over and over again. If this had worked for 5 or 10 years, it might be coincidence or luck. The fact that it has been working consistently for 38 years leaves no doubt that faith in God works.

As I shared with these precious Kenyan believers who were struggling to survive, I was overwhelmed with the reality that what I had applied in my life was not theory that could only work in America. It was not faith that would give greater wealth to those that already had so much. For 38 years faith in God had sustained me and my family and enabled us to live effective lives for Jesus. I believe God can and does give great wealth to some. Far more often he helps us live everyday life with a supernatural connection that elevates us above what overwhelms others

If this kind of faith worked for me, it would work to improve the conditions of these Kenyan “tea pluckers.” They could tap into a power that would cause their needs to be met and their lives to have impact. They may never leave the tea fields, but faith in God and his Word could help them live victorious lives that mattered even in them. If faith in God and his Word can give me victory in my “normal” life, it can do the same for you.

One of the most powerful parables Jesus told his disciples was the story of the two houses in Matthew 7. Faith in God does not guarantee we will never go through trials. Both houses endured the same storm. One was destroyed by the storm and one overcame the storm. What did Jesus tell us was the key to victory in the storm? The one who built on the rock heard and did the Words Jesus preached.

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. (Romans 10:17) Paul is speaking in the context of salvation. If the Word of salvation is to be effective it must be understood and acted upon. Salvation happens when we believe and receive the Gospel. (Romans 10:9-10) All faith operates in the same way. We hear the Word of God; we act on the Word of God and our house stands through the storm.

There are times when our faith will help us avoid the storm. There was a time when I believed that should be our goal. However, if the man who built on the rock had not gone through the same storm as the man who built on the sand, how would he know that it was faith in the Words of Jesus that would help him in his storm?

I believe God wants to bless us. After all the man who built on the rock survived and thrived in the midst of the storm. I do not believe God wants to move in such a way that his people live above all storms. I believe he wants a people who can point the way for others in midst of trial. That is how we will prove that life lived in relationship with God is the way to salvation.

As I was putting this message together, I spent a good deal of time in Hebrews 11. Some time ago I preached on the “Hall of Fame of Faith.” I really enjoyed the study. We went through many of the people listed in Hebrews 11 and learned what made their faith so effective. I did not go to the end of the chapter but this time the Lord pointed it out to me.

In verses 32-40 he summarizes many people that he does not name. Some did great exploits but some were martyred, imprisoned and endured hardship. Others died never seeing the promise. Hebrews 4 starts the hall of fame by saying the elders received a good report by faith. In verse 39 he says that all those who did not seem to have faith victories received the same good report or testimony.

We tend to judge the effectiveness of faith by the outward. Faith will have an outward manifestation if it is real. However, that outward manifestation is not the most important measure of faith. Those who did not receive the promise sacrificed themselves that something greater would come forth.

Hebrews 11:40 (NKJV) 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

They did not receive the promise but their sacrifice paved the way for something better. That better thing is salvation in Christ. When I was young and first heard that faith in God could change my circumstances, meet my needs and even give me the desires of my heart, I began to believe for those things. As I have lived and ministered for many years my perspectives have changed.

I still believe that God wants to bless his children. God is providing for my needs in greater ways now than ever before. We are more comfortable financially and we are still in good health. However, I know that these are just the “icing on the cake.” They are nice and they make things a little sweater but what good is icing with no cake? I appreciate them but many times a year I choose to leave them to go to places that are not quite so comfortable to minister to people who cannot contribute to the comfort I enjoy.

When I do, two things happen. It is confirmed to my heart that the outward benefits of faith cannot compare to the inward benefits of relationship with God. Second, I understand that by sacrificing my comfort, I am preparing the way for something better in the lives of the people I touch. They will touch someone else with the same truth and the world is changed one person at a time.

Faith is for real life. Faith is not just to build comfortable lives for ourselves. Our Father sees to our needs. Faith is for building vital relationships with God that become houses built on the Rock of the sayings of Jesus which can endure any trial or storm. It is designed to build a lifestyle that protects and sustains us while making us a joyful people in all circumstances. Faith is designed to build houses that those who do not know Jesus can look to and run to in their storms. Then we can introduce them to the one in whom we have faith.

Applied Faith: Faith for Real Life

Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)
1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

On this last trip to Kenya I found myself in the church of a dear friend near where we are based in Kenya. It is a church that was planted to minister to the “tea pluckers” that work the tea plantations around the city of Limuru. Tea is a major commodity produced all over Kenya and especially in this high-altitude region. There are thousands of acres covered in beautiful green tea fields. If you ask the Kenyans, they will tell you it is the best tea in the world.

Tea leaves are very tender and fragile. It is important that when the tea is picked, the leaves not be broken. If they are, the tea will begin to ferment and the flavor will be compromised. Although there are machines that can pick the tea, they tend to break too many leaves and therefore machine picked tea is of a lower quality than handpicked. The tea around Limuru is exclusively picked by hand.

You can imagine the amount of labor this involves. As you drive by the tea fields you see people walking through the acres of tea with baskets on their backs picking tea leaves and throwing them into the basket. A plucker is paid about 10 cents per kilo. It is possible for an individual to pluck 35 to 40 kilos per day. That means these people make about $4.00 per day. I have spent much time in Kenya, and although the cost of living is lower than the United States, it is not so low that 20 to 25 dollars a week is not poverty.

The tea companies do provide housing and health care as well as education for the children. This helps, but tea pluckers are looked down on as one of the lower classes of Kenyan society. Although their children get education it is usually not enough to ensure that they will not spend their lives doing the same thing their parents did. It is a job that tends to trap its workers in a cycle of poverty and hard labor from which most never escape.

The people who come to my friend’s church are primarily tea pluckers. Most of the time when I travel I am speaking to pastors and leaders. Some of the people in this meeting were visiting pastors but most of them were members of the church. As I stood to minister to them, I felt that the basic teachings I had been doing were not appropriate for this group.

We had been concentrating on various aspects of pastoral and leadership training. As I looked at this group, I felt they needed something else. I began to think about the life and ministry my wife and I had enjoyed for the past 38 years.

I went into the ministry in April of 1978. We never thought about working and being in the ministry. I do not think it is wrong to do so, but it just never occurred to us that it was possible. I went to work with a friend of mine who was a little older than I and had been in the ministry 5 or 6 years at that time. He said he would pay me what I was making in the factory. He neglected to mention we had to believe that money in!

We all started out on a great adventure about which we knew nothing. For the first 10 years of our ministry we struggled financially. We were from an area that had not known any real move of God since the 1830s. Although the Charismatic movement was in full swing in many parts of the country, it was still very small in the northeast. We saw God do some wonderful things but we did not see any kind of rapid growth and we certainly had no notoriety. Those years were often very discouraging, but we kept pressing on.

At the same time, we began to hear teachings on what was then called the “Uncompromised Gospel.” Those preaching this message had some underlying themes.

1. The Word of God is the highest truth in the truth in the universe.

2. God created all things by his Word (Genesis 1)

3. Faith in God’s Word can change whatever is part of the world God created.

This was a major revelation in my life. I had been saved and filled with the Holy Spirit nearly 10 years. We had followed many of the popular Charismatic teachings but I knew there was more. When I heard these people teach on the consistency of God’s Word and how faith in God could change my life and circumstances, I was hearing things I had not heard them said that way before. As we faced the challenges before us we simultaneously were learning how to apply the truths we were hearing.

For the next 38 years, we learned these powerful principles by both studying them and living them. As I was standing before these precious people who had very little in the way of either money or prospects for the future, I realized that if the faith I learned could work in my life, it could work in theirs as well. If it does not work for tea pluckers in Kenya it is not really from God.

As time went on the “Uncompromised Gospel” began to be referred to as the Word of faith movement. Although I knew this was a word from God for the times, I also began to notice some problems. This is not unusual. Anytime God reveals a truth there will be those who misinterpret what God is saying or take the truth to a place God did not intend. In the case of the Word of Faith there were some mindsets that developed that got us off track just a bit.

We realized that if the Word was true, we could live victorious lives. We read promises about healing, prosperity and victory over circumstances. These promises are true but our focus began to be too much on the natural. We knew God would meet our needs, but we began to think in terms of bigger houses and cars. We knew God’s Word promised healing, but in some cases people began to judge their faith or that of others by whether they got the manifestation of healing. We saw that the Word promised victory over circumstances but interpreted that to mean we should never go through trial.

As I began to pastor local people, I found that good people who were believing God and studying the Word of God were not all rich. Many of them were fighting sickness and having a hard time receiving healing. Others were going through trials in life and were not walking in victory. Some in our camp would dismissed this by saying, “Those people just don’t have enough faith.” I knew “those people” and they did have faith. They were doing the best they could.

We have applied these principles for 38 year. We were not rich in the way the world would judge rich. Yet I have traveled to over 40 nations and touched thousands of people. We do not drive a luxury car but we have always had a nice car. We do not live in in a big house but we have always had a decent house. We have always had enough food. We have raised our six children and they have never done without what they needed and most of what they wanted.

My wife and I are in our sixties and we are in exceptional health. Our marriage is strong and our children are serving God. We are ministering around the world in ways that people seem to believe are impacting their lives in a positive way.

We are talking about faith in God and his Word. If it would work for us it would work for “tea pluckers” in Kenya or anyone else, rich or poor, anywhere in the world. Faith in God has no boundaries or limits. It does have a process that must be learned and respected and principles that govern it. That is what I told the people in my friend’s church and that is what I want to share with you.