Faith in Fiery Trials
About 150 years ago, there was a great revival in Wales. As a result of this, many missionaries came to north-east India to spread the Gospel. The region known as Assam was comprised of hundreds of tribes who were primitive and aggressive head-hunters
Into these hostile and aggressive communities, came a group of missionaries from the American Baptist Missions spreading the message of love, peace and hope in Jesus Christ. Naturally, they were not welcomed. One missionary succeeded in converting a man, his wife, and two children. This man’s faith proved contagious and many villagers began to accept Christianity.
Angry, the village chief summoned all the villagers. He then called the family who had first converted to renounce their faith in public or face execution. Moved by the Holy Spirit, the man said:
“I have decided to follow Jesus.”
Enraged at the refusal of the man, the chief ordered his archers to arrow down the two children. As both boys lay twitching on the floor, the chief asked, “Will you deny your faith? You have lost both your children. You will lose your wife too.”
But the man replied:
“Though no one joins me, still I will follow.”
The chief was beside himself with fury and ordered his wife to be arrowed down. In a moment she joined her two children in death. Now he asked for the last time, “I will give you one more opportunity to deny your faith and live.” In the face of death the man said the final memorable lines:
“The cross before me, the world behind me. No turning back.”
He was shot dead like the rest of his family. But with their deaths, a miracle took place. The chief who had ordered the killings was moved by the faith of the man. He wondered, “Why should this man, his wife and two children die for a Man who lived in a far-away land on another continent some 2,000 years ago? There must be some remarkable power behind the family’s faith, and I too want to taste that faith.”
In a spontaneous confession of faith, he declared, “I too belong to Jesus Christ!” When the crowd heard this from the mouth of their chief, the whole village accepted Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
The reason I like this illustration is because it brings into very clear focus circumstances where extreme faith is required.
Notice, you have one man, who is bearing the Cross of Christ.
It is clear in scripture, that if you are a Christian, you must be on the side of Christ.
Look at Matt 12:25-30 “25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: 26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? 27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. 29 Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. 30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”
Paul echos the same though in 1 Cor 12:3 “3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”
The conclusion is quite clear. One cannot face extreme adversity for being on the side of Christ without the aid of the Holy Spirit. If a man is willing to proclaim Christ in the face of extreme adversity, it can only be done by the aid of the Holy Spirit, and it cannot be from any other source of power, like the Jews accused Christ of.
The story makes so clear from the verses of the song
First: I have decided to follow Jesus. Before that there can be no extreme faith because you do not have the Holy Spirit. You are lost and under the condemnation of sin.
John 8:23-24 “23 And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”
Be clear here. The loss of this man and his family for Christ was a tragedy, but the loss of life is not what should be feared.
True fear is dying and going to hell. That is real tragedy, that anyone would die and go to hell when there has never been so many voices giving witness to Christ than today is a tragedy.
Look at Matt 10:27-33 “27 What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. 28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. 32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”
It is clear that the soul is what is of value, this body, will die and fade away. The soul is what is eternal.
This man, whoever he is, at that moment, no doubt with the aid of the Holy Spirit was able to recognize that the greater fear was the fear of denying Christ in that moment. Look, dying physically is not the greatest fear, the greatest fear is dying without knowing Jesus Christ as your savior, because there, you lose both your body and your soul.
The call to take your cross and being willing to sacrifice yourself, yeah, your family is not any easy call. Hopefully, none of us will be called to be in that type of position, but there will be moments in your life when as this man from India, as Peter, as Paul, and as every Christian will have moments to either “confess Christ before men,” or to remain silent.
This leads me into the main verse:
As Hebrews 11:6 “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. Times requiring extreme faith
I. Times requiring extreme faith
Turn to Esther, and we are going to start by looking at chapter 3.
Esther was an orphan and was raised by her Uncle Mordecai. The book of Esther, perhaps, more than any other book, you see the providence or the power or God working in the background. The name God never appears in the book. There are two books in the Bible where the name God is not mentioned, the Song Solomon and Esther.
However, many argue that the very theme of Esther is the providence of God. The reason I like the book of Esther is because that providence is worked out through his people. The people living the story of Esther have to figure it out.
Yet, the people in the story, must rely on faith that God will provide a solution.
Example 1: The story Mordecai and Ham around 521 BC
1. First, we see the man Haman, who gains favor with the king and is elevated and immediately seeks a form of worship for the men to bow down and reverence him,
see Est 3:1-2 “1 After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him. 2 And all the king’s servants, that were in the king’s gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence.”
A. Why did Mordecai refuse to bow? The act itself is known to have cause a command of genocide against the people of Israel. Just bowing to a person was not forbidden if it was just to honor someone.
We have here a clear example of when faith is challenged. When in the face of life or death you must choose. Either you are with Christ or your are against Christ. There is no middle ground.
Example 2: The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego occurs around 607 BC. In the case of Shadrach and them it is more clear why they would not bow. It was quite clear that Nebuchadnezzar was demanding worship that will only be given to God.
Look at Daniel 3:16-18 “16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. 17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
A. Here again, we have a refusal to bow down and to give worship to anything that is not God.
B. These boys had to decide to take a position of extreme faith. Without knowing the outcome. Perhaps God would deliver them, but perhaps God won’t.
Turn to Matt 4:8-11 “8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.”
Why are all these examples important? It seems pretty clear that we should not bow down. The importance of these passages is not the bowing down before Satan.
As Christians we are called to take extreme stands of faith for Christ.
1 Cor 10:14 “14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.”
1John 5:21 “21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”
Col 3:5 “5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:”
Fornication - sexual impurity
All of these are driven by the flesh. Lust.
Preach on the need to stay pure. Not just for yourselves but for the sake of the body.
1 Thess 4:7 “7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.”
Paul says in Gal 5:9 “9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” A little impurity spreads. A thought here and there can become an uncontrollable fire. Sin cannot be controlled.
Sin cannot be controlled.
Now, go to Revelation 13:1-10 “1 And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. 2 And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. 3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. 4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?”
A. The devil seeks worship. He was seeking worship through Haman, he was seeking worship through Nebachadnazzar.
Remember, this is a spiritual battle.
Eph 6:12-13 “12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
I wish I could say that for most people it is the victory in Christ they will experience when these moments of extreme faith are required, but unfortunately that is not the case. There will be times of failure and there will be times of success.
However, in times of failure.
Faith is required to come back to Christ, not for salvation, but for regaining relationship
Faith is required to come back to Christ, not for salvation, but for regaining relationship
We know we cannot lose our salvation. However, sometimes, when we are battling, we feel as though we are beyond fixing. Sometimes, sometimes, life happens and we feel as though we have crossed a threshold from which there is no return.
Frustration sets in and you may want to give up. Peter did.
Mark failed when he returned from the mission trip with Paul and Barnabas
You will make mistakes in this life.
There will be times when you are having difficulty praying, having difficulty coming before God because you don’t feel worthy.
Turn to Psalm 73:21-28 “21 Thus my heart was grieved, And I was pricked in my reins. 22 So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.
Do you ever feel as though you are just in pain. You felt as though because of your actions you were now as a beast before God. Though you may not feel worthy of God because of sin or other things in life. Keeping reading.
23 Nevertheless I am continually with thee: Thou hast holden me by my right hand. 24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, And afterward receive me to glory.
The psalmist is telling us to remember that God is forever with us.
Col 1:27 “27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:”
Proverbs 24:16 “16 For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: But the wicked shall fall into mischief.”
25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
Sin is between you and God. When you sin, you sin against a Holy and righteous God.
In Psalm 51:4 “4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, And done this evil in thy sight: That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, And be clear when thou judgest.”
David spoke these words when he had sinned with Bathsheba. Against, God only has he sinned.
This means that ultimately you will stand before a Holy and righteous God. When you stand before God, as a child of God you will stand justified. Righteous in his sight. However, sin does affect our relationship with God and it is with God that it must be made right. This is what David means when he said against God only have I sinned.
Look at verse 26
26 My flesh and my heart faileth: But God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
If it were up to us we could never become right with God. The relationship would be forever marred.
However, Rom 8:26 “26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
I am calling you to make right what is between you and God. Our church is on the brink of moving into a new space. We are on the brink of the next chapter of this church and I am calling you to take a stand for Christ. I am asking you to exercise extreme faith in helping this church to move to the next level that God is calling us to.
However, we need everyone to be in a right relationship with God. I know not what issues you may have, but God put this message on my heart to call for some extreme faith this church in moving forward.
27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: Thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. 28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, That I may declare all thy works.”
Everyone rise while we have a time of invitation and contemplation.