Apostle

Increase our faith!

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.~ Luke 17:5-6

We use that word a lot when we pray, preach or teach but what exactly is faith? Simply it is having complete trust and confidence is someone or something. Even a little faith is a powerful thing, we’re all given a measure, it’s by grace through faith in Christ that we’re saved in the first place and without it it’s impossible to please God but a stronger faith will give you unsurpassed peace, hope, strength and patience which the world cannot give and cannot take away no matter what happens in our lives. When we’re first born again we don’t have this almighty faith, even though you may feel like you do until a trial comes along and it is truly tested…

Faith much like our sanctification itself is an ongoing process, beginning when we first believe, it should increase and grow stronger each day and possibly it will never stop increasing throughout eternity; it is a vital part of our Christian walk, without it we could not be saved but with it we can, or rather we already have overcome the world through what Christ has done.

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. ~ 1 John 1:1-4

Don’t be mistaken or deluded, having faith is not ignorance of trials or troubles in this world, they are very real and will shake the faith of the oldest saints as well as the youngest Christian. Unbelievers often accuse us of having “blind faith”, in a sense it’s true as we walk by faith, not by sight but that’s not a bad thing. People put their faith in the things of this world that they can see; whether it’s friends, family, jobs, health, money…..these things don’t last, they come and go but we continually trust God, One who is sovereign over all creation, One who cannot die, lie or change, One who loves us and will bring us through the fire if we put our faith in Him alone. Personally I find that a great comfort, especially now. I am not underestimating how serious our trials are, neither will I give you false hope or tell you everything is going to work out the way you want it to, however I know how great our God is and with Him all things are possible.

Abraham knew he and Sarah were too old to have children, Daniel knew the lions could kill him at any moment, David knew his enemies were closing in around him and became despondent, Paul knew he would be beaten, imprisoned and eventually executed for his faith in Christ. We are not immune to pain, sorrow and heartache in this world; the prophets, the apostles and even Christ Himself suffered all these things however they never gave up. The apostle Paul described this perfectly in 2 Corinthians….

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed”…..

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:8-10,16-18

That is true Faith, complete trust or confidence in someone, in our case Jesus, described by the writer of Hebrews as “Author and Perfecter of faith“. Through study of God’s Word, through prayer, communion, fellowship with mature saints our faith will undoubtedly increase. Don’t forget that faith is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit who dwells in every true believer here, your faith may be small but it is there, never doubt that for a second! The fruits of the Holy Spirit are not a pick and choose part of Christianity, perhaps we have them in different measures but you either produce all of them or none of them.

Faith is also a gift of the Holy Spirit, we are given saving faith by God but not everyone has the gift of faith which is seen as an unshakable confidence in the promises, provision and most of all the miraculous power of God. It’s more than knowing that God can, it’s being certain that God will! I know that God can heal me or anyone else, I’ve seen it and experienced it personally.

The best examples of this gift in Scripture come from men like Noah, Abraham, Moses, Job, Elijah, John and Paul; they held firmly to the promises of God and never totally lost hope or faith in Him despite their overwhelming circumstances. When we look at what they endured we may feel downcast but instead we must always continue to look to the One who brought them through, the One who said “I will never leave you nor forsake you“, “I change not” and “I have overcome the world“. Christians with this precious gift of faith can be an inspiration to us all and must use it as God has intended to strengthen and uplift their brothers and sisters in the church whenever possible.

A lack of faith in God is not only harmful spiritually, but doubting His compassion or ability will eventually lead to a coldness or hardening of your heart, despair, depression and although if you are truly saved that cannot be taken away, a flame either burns brightly or it doesn’t burn at all and to put it bluntly you will become spiritually useless. Again it all comes back to losing focus on what, or who, is central. Peter doubted Christ and he began to sink, that is the perfect example of what a lack of faith will do to us, for the moment we lapse in prayer, reading His Word or in our fellowship with believers we will begin to sink beneath the waves of our trials.

Faith itself is like a ship, a complete trust in God is our anchor; keeping us firmly planted, our rudder; keeping us moving in the right direction and also our hull; keeping us afloat and safe during the storm. God will not always calm the storm for us but He will always bring you through it if you maintain that complete confidence in Him. The answer to a lack of faith is not difficult, it’s the basics, the milk of our religion; prayer, communion, the Word, fellowship with mature believers (for iron always sharpens iron).

We often end up running to everyone during a crisis of faith or tribulation and then turn to these fundamentals as a desperate last resort. It should always be the other way around, people in general and especially other Christians can be a great help and lift us but they can only do so much and cannot bring us through our troubles no matter how wonderful they are. The men in Capernaum brought their paralysed friend directly to Jesus, they knew and had faith that this Man was the Son of God and could heal completely. There’s a reason this particular event is documented by Matthew, Mark and Luke; it is an example for us to bring our worries, our problems, our situations directly to God in prayer and have faith that He alone can answer and bring absolute healing according to His will.

A final word for those who are lacking in faith, those who are starting out in their walk or who, like the apostles asked the Lord, want to increase their faith. The answer is always the same, seek to become more acquainted with Christ. Study His Word more and more, know Him not only as Saviour, but as our high Priest, the Physician, the Redeemer, the Advocate, the Teacher, the Friend, the Rock, the Anchor and our eternal Shepherd. Know Him not only as the One who shed His blood and died for you but the One who is living today and interceding for you daily seated at the right hand of the Father, the One who came and walked among us but is coming again to take His stand upon the Earth. Draw close to Him and He will draw close to you, believe when you read, believe when you worship, believe when you pray daily that God can; THAT IS FAITH, complete trust and confidence in our Lord to always bring us through so we can continue to give all the praise and glory to Him.

God Bless

Finding comfort in Christ

For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favour bestowed on us through the prayers of many. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:5-11

The Apostle Paul wrote this introduction, roughly 3 years after spending 18 months in Corinth establishing their church. In these 3 years and in the years that followed, Paul and his companions had experienced terrible ordeals; beatings, stoning, lashings, dangers from robbers, dangers from the Jews, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the cities, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea and dangers among false brethren (2 Corinthians 11:26); he would spend many nights thirsty, hungry and cold outside without clothing. Yet he spoke and wrote with confidence, “our comfort is abundant through Christ”, “we have set our hope on Him”, “He will deliver us”.

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The Christian Ostrich

A while back I wrote about the “Christian Ostrich”….

An ostrich isn’t the brightest bird and it will generally eat anything that fits into its mouth whether it’s edible or not. The Christian “ostrich” is one who does not (or cannot) discern between true and false, as long as something has the slightest connection to Christianity or Jesus then it must be good, even if it is something clearly defined as false in Scripture….they’ll swallow it anyway. We’re seeing a lot more of this lately with the rise in universalism, the liberal-emergent church, word of faith teachings and the attempts of many popular “christian” leaders to unite Protestantism with Catholicism or even Christianity with Islam!

Then I came across this paragraph written in 1885 which sounded too familiar…..

“Myriads of professing Christians nowadays seem utterly unable to distinguish things that differ. Like people afflicted with colour-blindness, they are incapable of discerning what is true and what is false, what is sound and what is unsound. If a preacher of religion is only clever and eloquent and earnest, they appear to think he is all right, however strange his sermons may be. They are destitute of spiritual sense, apparently, and cannot detect error. Romanism or Protestantism, an atonement or no atonement, a personal Holy Ghost or no Holy Ghost, future punishment or no future punishment, ‘high church’ or ‘low church’, Trinitarianism, Arianism, or Unitarianism—nothing comes amiss to them; they can swallow it all, even if they cannot digest it! Carried away by a fancied liberality and charity, they seem to think everybody is right and nobody is wrong, every clergyman is sound and none are unsound, everybody is going to be saved and nobody going to be lost….” ~ J.C. Ryle (Holiness)

Then again, even in first century, in early days of the Christian Church the apostle Paul had to deal with the same situations, so really it’s nothing new…..

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! ~ Galatians 1:6-8

When the Perfect Comes…

Do you know what has changed, regarding the Holy Spirit, gifts of the Spirit and the Church from the day of Pentecost described in Acts 2? NOTHING!

The people have changed, Christianity has splintered and changed but the Holy Spirit has not, He cannot!

After describing the Spiritual gifts in his first letter to Corinth, the apostle Paul goes on to say that one day they will cease and be done away with. Many think that this happened when the apostles died, however these were bestowed by the Holy Spirit to true Christians in the Church and were never dependent on specific people, in this case the apostles. Why would God only send these gifts for 60 years then end them?

We see in 1 Corinthians 13:10 that these gifts cease…..”when the perfect comes”, in other words when Christ returns and the new Heaven and Earth are established. This hasn’t happened yet! Of course when the Lord returns the gifts will no longer be needed, the purpose of the Paraclete (Holy Spirit) was to witness and undertake Christ’s office in the world after He returned to the Father. The Holy Spirit is Christ’s substitute on earth, equal with Him and not limited to one place as Jesus was in His earthly body.

Tongues and Interpretation will no longer be needed as all of the redeemed saints and Heavenly Host will speak the same language as it was before the tower of Babel. Wisdom and Knowledge will cease (as a gift) as we will no longer see through the glass darkly and all Prophecy will have been fulfilled. Gifts of Faith, Healing and Miracles will have no purpose as there is no more sorrow, pain, sickness or death. Discernment becomes unnecessary since those who have been saved will be with the Truth (Christ Jesus) in God’s Kingdom while the father of lies, demons, false teachers and the unrepentant sinners will be eternally separated from us in the lake of fire.

Yes there will come a day when the gifts of Spirit will cease, when this Church age ends and Christ returns but that day hasn’t come yet.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away – 1 Corinthians 13:8-10