Pillars of Christian Character: Faith
In Proverbs 20:6 the Bible asks an important question. That question is: "Who can find a faithful man?" It’s a rhetorical question, meaning it has a self-evident answer: It is hard to find a person who is truly faithful. Faithfulness in relationships, according to the passage, seems to be a rare quality. The Good News Bible translates Proverbs 20:6 this way, "Everyone talks about how loyal and faithful he is, but just try to find someone who really is."
This morning, this is my second message in a series of sermons I’ve entitled: Pillars of Christian Character. Over the next ten weeks, we will explore ten fundamental attributes that, I believe, are the core characteristics of a Christ-like life that lead to holiness. They include faith, obedience, humility, love, unity, forgiveness, joy, thankfulness, compassion, and contentment.
The life of the church flows from these spiritual attitudes and attributes. What people perceive this church to be, is a direct result of the character they see in the members of this congregation. Is it a Christ-like character, or is it not? Outwardly, we can sing the hymns, and we can pray our prayers, and we can applaud the special music, and we can go through the motions of worship, and we can sit and listen to the sermons, but if those things are not transforming you on the inside, then they are meaningless. My passion for this congregation is that Christ would be fully formed inside of each of you. It’s the thing that I pray for. It’s the thing that I diligently study for so that I might present to you the uncompromised Word of God that it might dwell in you richly. It’s why everything we do as a church ought to be motivated by the desire to see lives transformed.
This morning I want us to look at the first pillar of Christian character. This is the pillar of faith and faithfulness. God desires that we would grow in faithfulness. It is an important characteristic of the Christian life, and one of the Scriptural proofs that we are genuinely filled a child of God.
I. THE INEVITABILITY OF FAITHLESSNESS
- the gospel writer Mark records an incident where a father with a demon-possessed son—hearing of the healing power of Jesus—brought the son to Jesus to be cured
- Jesus responded with this statement: All things are possible for him who believes
- the father’s response is famous
- “Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24, NIV84)
- but I think it’s a statement we all understand, because most of us have most likely experienced it
- that father’s testimony is the testimony of most of us
- I believe that God is Sovereign over His universe and providentially controls all things
- I believe that Jesus was born of a Virgin, lived a sinless life, was crucified, buried and rose from the dead
- I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God
- I believe that he is coming again to establish His Kingdom and that I will reign with him and be with him forever and forever
- I don’t sweat the “big stuff”
- it’s the “small stuff” I sweat
- “God, I’ve got to preach again Sunday, and I don’t have a thought in my head worth sharing. What are you gonna do about it?”
- my faith is incomplete—my faith is assaulted by the world, the flesh and the devil and fraught with doubts
- some of the most famous, God-fearing men of the Bible doubted
- Moses doubted God, Gideon doubted God, Elijah doubted God, Jeremiah doubted God, the Apostles doubt
- coming face-to-face with doubt is coming face-to-face with ourselves
A. ALL BELIEVERS WILL STRUGGLE WITH DOUBT
- how many times do we hear Jesus address his apostle with, Oh you of little faith. Why do you doubt?
- six times—five times in the Gospel of Matthew and once in Luke’s Gospel—we find Jesus rebuking the disciples for their lack of faith in his ability to supernaturally handle a situation
- we think of Thomas as The Doubter, but Thomas wasn’t the only doubter—they were all doubters
- amazingly, even after the resurrection, they are not all absolutely convinced about Jesus
- “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:17, NIV84)
- with their own two eyes some of the disciples see Jesus alive after they saw him crucified, saw him die, and saw him buried—and they doubted!
- in fact, it was characteristic of those who were the most devout—the Apostles
- “John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ ” At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Luke 7:18–23, NIV84)
- according to Jesus, John the Baptist was the greatest man who had ever lived up until that time (Matt. 11:11)
- and John is having some serious doubts about Jesus
- he was the greatest prophet of all the prophets, the forerunner of the Messiah, a mighty man of faith and proclamation and he’s struggling with doubt
- doubt is very real for people who believe
- it is a reality, but it is not an acceptable reality
- therefore it needs to be addressed
B. DOUBT IS A STRUGGLE TO BELIEVE
- it can be momentary, it can be prolonged, and for some, it can be permanent
- but I want you to understand how the Gospels deal with it
- whenever the Gospels deal with a doubting person, it’s always a believer
- every true expression of doubt in the Gospels comes from believers
- you say, “Wait a minute pastor. Many of the Pharisees and Scribes and religious leaders doubted Jesus.”
- yes, but there is a difference between doubt and disbelief
- doubt is—in most situations—is a momentary lapse of faith that is corrected by repentance and a renewing of one’s faith in Jesus
- disbelief is the conscience choice to reject Jesus altogether and is something the true believer cannot do
- the Pharisees and Scribes and religious leaders didn’t doubt Jesus, because they never had faith in him in the first place—they were disbelievers
- ILLUS. Let me illustrate disbelief for you. Right now, the Mainline Protestant Church of the Netherlands is experiencing a crisis of faith. A study undertaken by the Free University of Amsterdam determined that one of every six Protestant ministers in the country is either agnostic or atheist. Rev. Klaas Hendrikse, who last year wrote a book entitled: Believing in a Non-Existent God, is an example of this group. Pastor Hendrikse doesn’t believe in life after death, nor even in God as a supernatural being. He describes the Bible’s account of Jesus’s life as a mythological story about a man who may never have existed. But in the largest Dutch denomination, he is considered a minister in good standing.
- John the Baptist helps us here
- sometimes we doubt because we have wrong or unreal expectations of Jesus
- ILLUS. John the Baptist came preaching that the Kingdom of God is at hand. When he sees Jesus, he announces him as the Anointed One of Israel. After he baptized Jesus, John—along with the rest of Israel—assume that Jesus will establish a kingdom on earth. Jesus doesn’t do that. Jesus proclaims the Kingdom is at hand, but he begins preaching a message of love and grace and redemption. This is not the kind of ministry John the Baptist imagined Jesus having. As a result, he doubts.
- ILLUS. We too often see Jesus as a ‘Munchvasen”—a wish-being.
- ILLUS. Where is John when he sends these messengers to Jesus? He is in prison. Why is he in prison? Because he was bold enough to confront a king and the king’s wife with their sin. Because he has done that, he is languishing in prison and he has a date with axeman. John’s circumstances didn’t seem to fit with his faithfulness. Why is he sitting in a dungeon month-after-month when he’s done exactly what God has called him to do?
- ILLUS. John is doubting because he doesn’t have full information. John couldn’t understand, why the Kingdom hadn’t arrived. Jesus knew that he would come, that he would preach the gospel, that he would be crucified, buried, and rise at the third day, that he would ascend into heaven, that the church would be commissioned to make disciples of all nations and at the end of the Church age, Jesus would come again to establish his millennial reign on earth. John didn’t know all that, and so he doubts. Sometimes we doubt because we have certain beliefs about Jesus that are simply unbiblical, and when we’re confronted with the truth of the Scriptures, it calls into question our faith.
C. JESUS IS THE ONE WHO RESOLVES OUR DOUBTS
- isn’t is interesting that he goes to the one he’s doubting to resolve his doubts?
- John the Baptist’s doubt drives him to Jesus for answers!
- doubt should always drive us to Jesus
- look how Jesus responded to John
- “At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind.” (Luke 7:21, NIV84)
- when the disbelieving Pharisees demanded signs from Jesus, he never gave them
- when a believer struggling with doubt asks for reassurance, Jesus goes on a supernatural binge of miracles
II. THE IMPORTANCE OF FAITHFULNESS
- why is faith so important in the believer’s life?
- Hebrews 11:6 "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." KJV
- this text teaches a spiritual truth that touches the life of every believer
- in one beautifully constructed verse, the writer of Hebrews communicates the method of pleasing God day-in and day-out, year-after-year, moment-by-moment
- it is through an on-going, day-by-day faith relationship with God
- the word impossible in this verse conveys the idea that faithfulness unto the Lord is the indispensable ingredient for pleasing God
- ILLUS. Biggest fight mom and dad got in was over a bowl full of cookie dough that mom had forgotten to mix the eggs into. Egg are what hold your cookies together so that you have cookies and not just crumbs! They are the indispensable ingredient.
- faith is not a one-time exercise that we enact when we “get saved”
- faith is a God-given grace that we exercise continuously in our relationship with the Sovereign of the universe
- faith is the only thing that gives God His proper place, and puts man in his place – it glorifies God exceedingly
A. WE SHOULD BE FAITHFUL BECAUSE GOD IS FAITHFUL
- Psalm 33:4 "He is faithful in all he does."
- this is King David speaking of God
- he asserts unequivocally that God is faithful and can be fully trusted
- aren't you glad that God is faithful in all that he does?
- there are many attributes of God that I give thanks to Lord for
- I am thankful for his:
- but of all of God’s attributes that I appreciate most, it is His faithfulness
- God is faithful to his Word, which means God is always consistent in my life
- God doesn't waiver or waffle
- James 1:17 "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." KJV
- He is reliable
- He is consistent
- He is dependable
- He is there at all times
- to be available to others in their need
- but there is another reason why we should be faithful
B. FAITHFULNESS IS NECESSARY FOR CHRISTIAN GROWTH
- the job of the Holy Spirit is to conform us into the image of the Son of God, Jesus Christ
- our job as believers is to cooperate with that process
- and, it is a life-long process
- the theological word for Christian growth in grace is sanctification
- be aware friends, becoming more like Christ will cost you
- it will cost an intense narrowing of all of your interests on earth and an immense broadening of your interest in God
- ILLUS. Louis Cassels, a religious news writer for UPI, once said, “However we may set out on the path of pilgrimage, we spend a lifetime walking it. There are no rest stops, no plateaus at which we can flop down and say that we've gone far enough. At the beginning, God accepts us in all of our sinfulness and selfishness. But this does not mean that he is content to have us remain in that state. We are all, . . . "called to be saints." Our Father knows our weaknesses even better than we do, and he does not expect us to become saints overnight. But he does demand that we keep moving in that direction, or as the good old Methodist phrase puts it, that we continue "groaning toward perfection." At each step of the journey, the question that really matters is not whether we are a little farther along than some of our friends and neighbors, but how far we have progressed since yesterday.
- we are to be a people who are lend a hand in times of trouble
- we are to be a people who are morally consistent in their lifestyle
- we are to be a people who do not waiver in a culture that is tossed to and fro by whatever the current psycho-analytical fad is
- we are to be a people who regularly come before God in adoration and worship with other believers
C. FAITHFULNESS MAKES LIFE SO MUCH EASIER
- life is so much easier when one is faithful
- I believe that many of the problems in today’s society, and maybe in your life, are the result of unfaithfulness
- maybe it’s because you’ve been unfaithful – perhaps toward God or perhaps toward other people
- maybe it’s because somebody has been unfaithful toward you
- Proverbs 25:19 "Like a bad tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in times of trouble."
- ILLUS. We look to the mailman to be faithful in delivering our mail. We become disappointed or frustrated if he doesn't come on time. We depend on the paperboy to get the newspaper to us and in the right place. We depend on the waitress to be faithful in taking our order and giving good service. We depend upon the repairman to be faithful in taking care of the car when it’s not running right.
- so let me ask you a question this morning: “Do you have people in your life who you can count on?”
- let me ask you the more important question: “Can people count on you?”
- do you have the kind of reputation among your friends, and the people you work with and the people you live with that you are reliable, consistent, worthy of trust, and dependable?
- but there is another reason why we should be faithful
D. GOD REWARDS FAITHFULNESS
- Prov. 28:20 “A faithful man shall abound with blessings: . . . “ KJV
- believers will be judged according to their faithfulness
- Corinthians 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” KJV
- this passage is not – I repeat, is not – referring to the judgment of the believer’s salvation
- that judgment was once and forever settled at the cross
- this passage is referring to the reception of or denial of eternal rewards and blessings based on how faithfully you’ve lived for Jesus once you became a Christian
- if you are a Christian you will be judged according to your faithfulness here on this earth
- the way you spent your money. . .
- the way you used your time and resources . . .
- the way you treated others . . .
- the moral purity of your life . . .
- you will be rewarded according to your faithfulness in these areas and many others
- God is very concerned that we develop faithfulness in our lives
- ILLUS. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells a parable about a man who entrusts various amounts of money to his servants and then goes on a trip. Upon his return, he finds that one of them has invested his money and made a profit. To that servant he says, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matthew 25:21)
- ILLUS. Martin Luther, the 15th century German monk who sparked the Reformation, once told a friend, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my little apple tree and pay my debts.”
- we need to be faithful because God is faithful
- we need to be faithful because it is necessary for Christian growth
- we need to be faithful because faithfulness makes life a whole lot easier
- we need to be faithful because God is going to judge us according to our faithfulness
- how do you go about cultivating this characteristic?
As we exercise faith in these areas, God, by his Spirit, will create faithfulness as a character trait of our lives.