Belief and Faith

Posted on 08/27/2006 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

AUDIO: dialup - broadband

TRANSCRIPT:

Good morning, and welcome! As always, it's an honor and a treat to see all of you today.

Let's all stand to our feet as we open this service with prayer.

Lord God, thank you for a brand new day, the start of a brand new week. Thank you for bringing us all together once again to worship you together and to seek to know a little more of your nature, your mind, and your heart through studying your Word.

Accept our songs of praise, and open our minds and hearts to receive the word you are going to speak to us today.

And it's in Jesus' name we pray.

Amen!

Click-touch the pulpit for a notecard, and let's worship the Lord with song!


WE BRING THE SACRIFICE OF PRAISE

We bring the sacifice of praise
into the house of the Lord
We bring the sacrifice of praise
into the house of the Lord

And we offer up to you
the sacrifices of thanksgiving
And we offer up to you
the sacrificies of joy

THERE IS POWER IN THE BLOOD

Would you be free from the burden of sin?
There's power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you over evil a victory win?
There's wonderful power in the blood.

There is power, power, wonder working power
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is power, power, wonder working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb.

Would you be free from your passion and pride?
There's power in the blood, power in the blood;
Come for a cleansing to Calvary's tide;
There's wonderful power in the blood.

Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?
There's power in the blood, power in the blood;
Sin stains are lost in its life giving flow.
There's wonderful power in the blood.

Would you do service for Jesus your King?
There's power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you live daily His praises to sing?
There's wonderful power in the blood.

You may be seated.

Today we're going to talk about a subject with which we all struggle from time to time. And throughout Scripture, we see this struggle, summed up in the words of a certain man, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"

In Mark chapter nine, beginning with verse seventeen, we read:

Mark 9:

17 Then one of the crowd answered and said, 'Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit.
18 And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.'

19 He answered him and said, 'O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.'
20 Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.

21 So He asked his father, 'How long has this been happening to him?'
And he said, 'From childhood.
22 And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.'

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

25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, 'Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!'
26 Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, 'He is dead.'
27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

28 And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, 'Why could we not cast it out?'
29 So He said to them, 'This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.'


The title of my message today is, "Belief and Faith"

The man about whom we read here had already gone to the disciples, the great ministers who walked with Jesus and sat at his feet, speaking with and learning from him face to face.

This man believed they could do something. They were, after all, the disciples of the one who simply spoke a word and the dead would come back to life.

And yet he was sorely disappointed. I'm sure the disciples did everything they knew to do. I'm sure they put on a really impressive show. I'm sure they bound the demon in Jesus' name, and probably had great faith it would obey them.

And yet at the end of the exorcism, nothing had changed.

Has this ever happened to you?

Perhaps you've been sick, or had a sick loved one. Perhaps you were facing some other situation, perhaps financial or relational.

You had great faith, speaking Scripture over the situation, binding spirits, pouring great energy and faith, praying fervently, following every principle you've been taught, and exhausting every tool available to you to fight.

But at the end of it all, nothing has changed.

I have seen the Word of God spoken over a situation, or a prayer of faith sent to heaven, or even anointed hands laid upon someone, and God instantly performs an incredible miracle.

I've also seen the situation with this man and his demon-posessed son. And when he spoke with Jesus, he spoke the words which so often sum up our own state of heart:

"Lord, I believe... Help my unbelief!"

Is it really possible to believe and not believe at the same time? Ask yourself this: Have you ever believed that God will, for example, provide all your needs according to his riches in glory, but still felt sick about your situation, hopeless, and afraid?

If so, then you have had this struggle, the struggle which cries out in tears, "Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!"

And such was the case with this man.

He told Jesus, "I went to your disciples so they could cast out the demon, but they could not."

And Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes."

Did the man not believe? Did the disciples not believe? Later, when the disciples asked Jesus why they could not cast the demon out, we would expect Jesus' answer to reflect what he said earlier:

"O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you?"

We would expect Jesus to say, "It is because you had doubt in your hearts, for if you say to this mountain, 'be moved from here and cast into the sea' and do not doubt in your heart but believe what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. And nothing will be impossible to you."

It wasn't that much earlier Jesus had said to the father of the demon-posessed son, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes."

And yet Jesus gave them a different answer. He tells them in verse 29, "This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting."

Was Jesus contradicting himself? Or was he making a statement that goes a bit deeper than our desire for a simple, one-size-fits-all solution.

We know what fasting and prayer are. But what is belief? And how can Jesus say, "If you believe, it will happen" one moment and then "This can only happen if you fast and pray" the next?

Let's look at the statement, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"

The word "belief" here refers to a deep conviction, a trusting in God to accomplish something.

The word "unbelief", in the original Greek language, means "weakness of faith."

This man had a deep conviction that God could do this; but he, and I dare say the disciples and all of us here today, had a weakness of faith.

So what is the difference between belief and faith?

The difference between the two can be illustrated by a little story about a man who was on a mission from God. On his holy journey, he came to the edge of a cliff. He knew he was supposed to get to the other side, and heard the voice of the Holy Spirit calling him to keep walking, that an unseen bridge would hold him up and allow him to walk safely to the other side.

The holy man knew God could do this. He had a deep conviction that God would provide for what he ordains. He had a deep conviction that since he was being told by the Holy Spirit to walk on some invisible bridge, God would make sure the bridge was there and would hold him strong.

And yet the man hesitated. "Do you not believe I can do this?" God asked him. "Of course I do," came the reply. "Then why do you not obey me and walk accross to the other side?"

After a long silence the man slowly replied, "Lord, you know I believe. And I know you can place an invisible bridge in my path, and will hold me up lest I strike my foot against a stone. But if you want me to step out in faith, could you shine a little heavenly light on that bridge so my physical eyes can share my belief?"

It's easy to believe God can do something, and that he can do something for you. But faith is more than the deep conviction of belief.

In James 2:14-17 we read,

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister is naked and does not have food,
16 and 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?
17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

We can believe that someone coming to our door will have peace from God, and that God will provide all their needs. But is this belief the same as faith?

"What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? ... Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

In other words, faith without works isn't really faith at all.

So when Jesus calls the disciples faithless, or weak in faith, was he really saying they just didn't believe hard enough? Or was he perhaps saying what he clarified to them later, "This kind comes out only by fasting and prayer"?

They had belief. But they were weak in faith, for all the belief in the world without knowing what actions to take and then taking those actions, is only belief. But belief coupled with taking the right actions .... is FAITH.

So let's stop just a minute here... Is this saying if we believe and do everything we know to do, we will see our answer? What about that situation (and you can fill in YOUR situation here) in which I did everything I knew to do, and did it to the best of my ability, and believed God would do something, but saw nothing?

This is an excellent question. And it brings us back to our statement today: "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"

The disciples had not fasted and prayed, for Jesus gave those two things as the reason the demon did not come out for them. The boy's father acknowledged his belief but lack of faith.

And yet the boy went away delivered.

Have you ever felt as though God was limited by your lack of belief? Have you ever felt as though God was limited by your lack of faith, your failure to do the right things to transform your belief into faith?

Here's a secret that, if it never causes any miracles to manifest in your life, will be worth all the riches in the world to you if you grasp it...

And the secret is this: It is not belief in belief or faith in faith that will move the hand of God in your life. Rather, it is belief and faith in God that will move heaven and earth on your behalf.

We cannot place our belief and faith in faith itself, or in people, or in rituals or actions. All belief and faith placed outside of Jesus is misplaced, and will guarantee us nothing.

Faith, while a universal principle of some value, is in itself of minimal good. But when we have belief and trust in God, and when we transform that belief into faith by obeying what God has told you to do through his Word and by his Spirit, then we will put ourselves in the position we need to be to line ourselves up with God's Spirit, with his will, with his vision and direction for our lives, with his heart, and thus with his power. And as we utilize belief and faith to get closer to God, to see him fill more and more of our vision as our problems fade away out of view, then he will move in our lives in ways we can't even imagine.

So what has God been telling you to do? And have you been praying and reading the Bible every day in search of his direction? Remember, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

If we know Scripture tells us to do or to not do something, but we push that knowledge aside, how can we expect God to speak to us until we hear and obey what he has already said?

I know you have a heart that desires to seek after God and to obey him and walk with him in unbroken, unhindered fellowship. We all struggle with these issues, and this is a word of encouragement to contemplate what you know he wants you to do, and then believe he will give you the power to do it as you step out by faith.

Have you not been daily praying and reading Scripture? Then this is the first thing you need to do. If we're not talking with him and reading his letters to us, how serious are we about hearing his voice?

Has he been nudging at you to do something? Then take this step of faith and obey him with all your heart.

Do you have an obstical in your life, such as a sickness, a financial situation, or something else trying to pull you down?

Then place all your belief in God, transforming that belief into faith by action, all the while focusing that belief and faith solely in God as your means of filling your eyes with Jesus, until all these big problems fade into their proper perspective.

God does not expect you to be perfect when you come to him. When the boy's father said, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" Jesus did not say, "Come back when your faith is stronger, and then I will help you." Rather, Jesus reached out his hands of love and compassion and performed a miracle in their lives.

So when we mess up, God is not an angry ogre waiting to strike us down; he instead is waiting to reach out his hand and help us, if we'll only look to him with childlike faith.

There's no reason to wear a mask with God. He sees right through our masks anyway. Come to God open and humble. When we admit to him and to ourselves, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief", it liberates us to receive strength from God, for when we are weak, then he can show himself strong.

At this time I will ask the ministry team to come stand at the front.

Belief and faith are intertwined in all we do, in all we experience, in every struggle and triumph along life's journey. For, the righteous shall live by faith. So whatever your need today, whatever your struggle, this altar is open for ministry and prayer.

If you just want to kneel and pray in silence, come to the front now.

If you want someone to pray with you, come to the front now and instant message one of the ministry team.

If you simply want to take some sort of action that says to yourself and to God, "Help my faith to grow!", come to the front now.

Please nobody leave. We will all meet together in the room to your left for our time of fellowship in a few minutes.

Come to the front now, and for the next few minutes, let's seek God together.


IN THE PRESENCE

In the presence of Jehovah,
     God Almighty, Prince of Peace
Troubles vanish, hearts are mended,
     In the presence of The King
 
In and out of situations,
     That tug-of-war at me
All day long I struggle
     For answers that I need
But then I come into His presence,
     All my questions become clear
And for a sacred moment,
     No doubt can interfere
 
Through His love the Lord provided,
     A place for us to rest
A place to find the answers,
     In hours of distress
Now there is never any reason,
     To give up in despair
Just look away and breathe His name,
     He will come and meet you there