Monday, May 30, 2011

THE OUTCOME BELONGS TO THE LORD

Faith is confidence in the living God. The Scriptures are urging us all to have greater faith in God, in the invisible but knowable God. Faith not in ourselves - our strength or intellect - but in the works of God. Jesus marveled when he saw great faith in a person, Mt. 8:10. He lamented at times over the weakness of it in others, Lk 12:28. Faith is the thing which set apart the Bible greats like Noah, Abraham and Moses (Heb 11). By faith in God and in His promises, they acted in ways that set them apart from the carnal, faithless world. Without faith we can't be pleasing to God. By faith men of old gained God's approval. Hebrews 12:1-3 is a call to run our lives by faith in the victorious Son of God. So all the Scriptures urge us to have greater faith in God.

A faithless world sees nothing beyond the grave and sees no works beyond what can be explained naturally. Though we might rightly say that that's a great faith indeed to believe that things designed and made themselves, still it's not a faith which the Scriptures point to. Carnal man has faith in the impossible; but the spiritual man has faith in the possible. The "faith" of the world is a foolish and idolatrous thing. The "faith" of the godless world is rooted in a denial of God Almighty and so there's no trust that God is doing anything. But people of true faith believe otherwise that there are outcomes - in this life and in the life to come - which relate to the working of God.

This brings me to the truth which I related in my sermon that "the outcome belongs to the Lord". Faith is not faith in what WE do, but it is in what God does. We don't put our faith in our repentance or in our good deeds. To do so would be akin to the faith of carnal men who deny God. Faith is believing that God saves, that God delivers, that God hears, that God works, that God does many things, and is not merely an observer. Hence the point, the outcome belongs to the Lord. We do not trust in the arm of the flesh because the battle belongs to the Lord. The mind of man makes his plans but God directs His steps, Pro. 16:9. Faith is in Almighty God and in the things which He does. This we understand, acknowledge, and proclaim that it is so.

God works in ways which we can't and He does beyond what we can. My soon to be son-in-law pointed out to me his favorite passage of Scripture from Ephesians 3 which says, "20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen." Faith is to glorify God because we know He is doing things in and all around us in our lives. This is a cause to glory, to rest assured, to be confident and convicted knowing that God is at work in our lives. Paul said to the Philippians "to work out your salvation with fear and trembling", Phil 2:12. It's true that we work by faith in God, but it's not true that our faith is IN our work or in what WE do. The faith to work out our salvation is in the next verse which says God is working in you to accomplish His good pleasure, Phil 2:13. To move towards greater faith is rooted in doing the revealed will of God which we find in Scripture. By yielding our will with humility, we trust that God begins to perform His work in and through us. Faith is in God's works at the Cross, in prayer, and through servants who have yielded to Him.

God works through humble servants. It's why Jesus said "the greatest among you will be the servant of all." Paul wanted only to be considered a servant of the Lord, 1 Cor. 4:1. He didn't take credit for God's work in His life. He said "he planted, and Apollos watered, but God was bringing the increase", 1 Cor. 3:6. He reminded the Romans that God is the potter and the One who moulds the clay. People of faith understand that God is molding and developing them into His image. By faith in this working of God we are justified and are pleasing to the Lord. The humble servant doesn't take credit for the good accomplished through him. He readily and happily gives God the glory for working through him. Christian servants understand that God is at work in them.

When a man or woman has faith, there's a greater willingness to let go of some burdens. Because "God cares for you", there is less doubt and more certainty that God is about to do what he can't do. If we pray for God to do what we can already do, that's not faith. If we insist on fretting about the past or the future, then we refuse to give up vain and worthless things. All of our labor spent in the past and in future "what ifs" can't add a single cubit to our lives. It's vain and related to the carnal ways of men. The person of faith improves the quality of his prayer with anticipations and the list of important things to mention before His throne grows. He spends his time working the works of God and leaving the rest in God's hands.

We have known Christians who list and founder and we wonder what is the cause. But if we ask them, they usually admit that they haven't given God much thought or attention. No they haven't been praying as they should. No they haven't been reading the inspired letters from God. In other words, no they haven't been giving God much thought at all. Often times, nay, most times, I would say that the struggling Christian is gone back to his old ways of trusting in his flesh. He has doubted in the working of God. He hasn't prayed the prayer for God to do what He cannot do. He has turned back to relying on his own goodness and filled himself with pride. He has turned back to worrying about the future against all reason and against the wise instruction from God that today has enough troubles of it's own. He has turned to carnal pursuits - even if unwilling to honestly admit it - and so he has loved the world and the things in the world. He has turned to building bigger barns not remembering that his life is but a vapor. To making his plans without considering "if the Lord wills". The foundering Christian which we lament and pray over is headed backward into the world of sin and flesh. He might say "I believe in God" but all of his actions say otherwise. It's easy to see why some Christians fall back into the world because they have denied the work of God in their lives. Their god is not powerful. They are still operating very much on their own.

If we do not want to fall into the same ruin as such faithless men do, we must keep the faith that acknowledges the outcome belongs to the Lord. If we are faithful we can make it through great difficulties knowing that God works all things together for good. We must acknowledge that we have a God who shows his attributes, power, and nature through the creation that He might lead us to repentance and salvation, Rom. 1:20; 2:4. We must not worry about the future or the past because God is at work in us. Faith "seeks first His kingdom and His righteousness", Mt. 6:33. Don't fail to acknowledge the providence of God the way carnal men do who prefer to credit chance or coincidence. Believing in God is believing in the rewarder of those who seek Him, Heb. 11:6. Pray without doubting. Speak as it were the oracles of God, not because you are powerful, but because the Word is "living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword." Work and do good not to receive glory, but so that men glorify God. Choose the path of faith, the straight and narrow, which carnal men cannot do. Work not for this life, but lay up treasures in heaven. Be faithful no matter what men say or do to you because your reward in heaven will be great. Confess Christ to men, and do not deny Him, and God will confess your name before the Father.

Men are going to hell because they trust not in God and trust only in themselves. Knowing there is a God is the essence of faith. Knowing that the outcome belongs to the Lord is the essence of faith.

A person of faith never gives up. Only when we give up our faith that God is working in our lives do we then consider to give up the things of God. When a person believes God is at work, he cannot quit working the works of God. If you are at the point of throwing up your hands, to lash out at people, to let hate or bitterness control you, then you have stopped believing in God. For if you still believe that God's working in these matters, how can you do these carnal and faithless things knowing that they can only get in the way and be an obstacle to the work of God? The trusting person sees by faith the possibilities of God working in even the most difficult circumstances and resolves himself to endure. Never give up your faith that God is at work.

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