Sunday, May 13, 2007

Faith of Greater Worth than Gold (original posting date 11/5/06

“These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:7

This past week I’d planned to write a blog on spiritual goal setting, but God had other plans. Many of you know I don’t take these blogs lightly. I pray, I research, I read… and see how the Lord leads. This week, everywhere I turned were more messages on faith. Though I’ve covered this topic already numerous times, it appears God felt I had more to learn and maybe you do too.

I’m currently studying 1 Peter. John McArthur also spoke on sections of this book this week. I was especially struck by 1 Peter 1:7 (above). Let me share it with you in context:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3-9)
Peter is reminding the scattered church that the gospel message is that Christ died for our sins. But too that he was raised from the dead, and through his resurrection, those that believe, have the hope for salvation, a beautiful inheritance as God’s children. Wow. We could stop there and camp for hours, but let’s move on to the faith part.
He goes on to say that it is by faith we are shielded, protected. Nothing in this world can steal our inheritance. We will, however, have to suffer grief and trials. And yet, we can rejoice – it’s through these trials that our faith is proved genuine. Faith must be tried to be proved genuine. How can you know to what level you are able to trust God, until you’re pushed to the limit?
Like fire refines gold, trials refine us. They stretch us. A refined product is much more valuable than an unrefined one. Refining fire removes all impurities. But even gold can eventually be destroyed. Not faith though – and its worth much more to God than gold. Our faith, our trust, is the most valuable thing we have to offer God. This is VERY important to understand
In addition, trials overcome in faith result in praise, glory and honor. McArthur laid it out like this: Trials are not for us to prove to God what we’re made of. God’s knows what we’re made of and the extent of our faith and loyalty to him. They’re for God to prove to us, what we’re made of, when we trust him. In trials, yes, we often panic and doubt God, but we also doubt ourselves. Without Christ, we may not survive a trial unscathed. But with him, we can achieve amazing things. Do trials cause you to run to God or run away from God? Do you have faith that can pass the test? If you look back and feel like you’ve failed this test before, don’t be discouraged; we’ll come back to this.
Verse 8 talks that our faith is based on the beauty of our love for Him. “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” This is faith in action. We believe in what we do not see. We trust and we obey. The amazing thing is, on the other side, God often reveals himself in such as way, that it all makes sense. We’re filled with joy because we are saved and in a deeper relationship with Christ than before.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
Why is faith required to please God? It’s simple: Because God doesn’t stop at asking us to do or be the ordinary. He doesn’t just ask us to overcome little things. He asks the extraordinary – the things that without him seem impossible. If we can’t trust him, we won’t act and we’ll never be able to see all he can do in and through us. We won’t experience all God has for us. We’ll get stuck.
Let’s consider the end of this verse. It speaks to the rewards we’ll receive if we earnestly seek him. This reward is a greater knowledge of him and a growth of our faith. We will also achieve eternal rewards for our obedience prompted by this faith. Are you earnestly seeking God? Are you truly pursuing him? I’m not going to get legalistic on you, but if you’re not spending time with him, in some manner of prayer, study of his Word, and worship, you’re not making an effort to get to know him. And how can you trust one you don’t know? Love, faith, and obedience go together. You will pursue one you love. You want to spend time with this person, get to know them, allow them to know you. As you come to know them deeper, you trust them more. When you trust them, you listen to them. When you listen to one another, trust and love grow more.

“"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." John 14:15-21 << note: all of John 14 is awesome! >>
Faith does not come to us passively. We have to pursue God. And we have to obey his commands. If we love God, we will obey him. As we obey him, we see how he is worthy of our trust. As our trust grows, our love grows… and it becomes easier to obey. It’s an ongoing cycle of relational growth. No relationship can survive without love and trust. A passive relationship is doomed to die. But one where two who love pursue each other, this is destined for eternity.
I shared Mark 9 a few weeks ago. Matthew’s parallel account speaks a bit more at the end about faith: “Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."” Matthew 17:19-20

Faith has to start somewhere, even if it starts small. Just decide to believe. I look back on the past year and I’ve had some victories in regard to the “faith test”. I’ve shared some of them with you. But I’ve also failed to believe at times. I’m shared this with you too. Failure to trust God is rooted in pride. So as in all sin, repent, leave the past behind and move forward. So what if you failed in faith yesterday? Tomorrow is a new day.

We must come to believe the unseen. And we must trust even when we don’t understand. I’ve mentioned this in many a blog. I’ve even spoken that we need to hold fast, fight our unbelief, when things even seem to be getting worse. Today I was challenged with one more dynamic – do not cease belief, even when wicked men are succeeding in their ways. Dr. Charles Stanley spoke this morning about the apostle Stephen. Wicked men put him to death. But God used this act to prompt the other disciples out into the world and the Gospel began to spread like wildfire. God uses both the righteous and the lost to accomplish his tasks. He is in control of ALL things.

Faith goes beyond common sense. It believes the unimaginable is possible in Christ. It may even mean being obedient, when what is asked seems the farthest from logical or far beyond our limits. Faith is not a natural thing because faith asks of us the unnatural. But if we are ever growing in faith, we are ever able to be molding by Christ. In this posture, the extent to what God can do with our lives becomes boundless.

What would you do differently tomorrow, if you woke up with a little more faith than you have today? Or what might you be able to let go of if you trusted God just a little bit more? I’ve come up with a few things for my own life. I challenge you to figure it out for your life this week – and act.

Lord Jesus, each day help me to trust you more. Grow my faith in such a way that I obey without hesitation, so you can use my life to accomplish your will. Help me to move when I’m to move and stand still when I’m supposed to wait. May all I do give you glory. I rejoice in all you’re doing. May I ever pursue you, to know and love you more deeply. May I never become too discouraged or too busy that I cease to spend time at your feet. Calm my heart when it grows anxious.

I pray the same for those that read this. May they pursue you with all their heart, as to continually grow in knowledge of your character and to know that you are worthy of their trust. Knock down any barriers in their relationship with you. Remove any obstacles to their pursuit of you, anything holding them back from a greater faith. You know the weight on each of their hearts, Lord. Meet them where they are and fill them with that unspeakable joy, revealed as their faith is proved genuine. Father, I thank you for how you love us. May we respond with the faith so dear to you. AMEN.

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