We had a prayer service last week in church and spent our time seeking God’s word for our body moving forward this year. These were the words given, and my thoughts on them (there is a conclusion/summary at the end):
“If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” Isa 7:9b
This verse also was given to me by Niki’s dad in October 2008. So this is a confirmation.
Learning to believe is an ongoing, present process. I am in the process of learning a lot of things right now; it’s good to keep in mind that it’s something that will happen daily and will not be done overnight (even though I want it to be).
Faith comes before protection, and there’s some sort of causal relationship between the two.
Prior to this verse, it says the Israelites’ hearts were shaken/trembled with fear. It also says God told them, “stop worrying; don’t fear.”
Believing what God says is standing firm in faith. Challenge is to stand firm and believe when our hearts are shaken, when we’re worried, and when we’re afraid. In those times, believe. Or else what we fear will happen. There is power in what we believe.
Application for me and for our church: I will not worry about the building, or when we’ll get in. I will not fear that my situation is forever. I have started to doubt the promises of God and started to give in to the shakenness of my heart. These are the counter promises that I choose to believe: I will burn without burning out. We will bear more fruit. It will be dynamite. I will be still. The Egyptians I see in front of me won’t be there much longer. God’s timing is perfect. His grace is sufficient.
“Don’t be afraid; just trust me/believe” Mark 5:36b
Jesus whispers these words to us to build our faith. The opposite of fear is trusting God/believing. It is critical that our church trust in and believe God during this time. Perhaps we should identify and catalog the words and promises He has given us?
“Because of your faith, it will happen.” Matt 9:29
Faith is believing what God says (Isa 7:9), what He can (not “will”) do, and pursuing Him for it (Matt 9:28). In this instance, the blind had their sight restored. The impossible happens (healing) AND they now have eyes to see the things of God.
“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.” Matt. 17:20-21 (some versions add “these only come out with prayer and fasting”)
Spiritual battles (deliverance and protection) are won with the smallest amount of faith (see faith verses above).
NOTHING would be impossible – what are the things I’ve lost hope in? think are impossible?
Adds praying and fasting to comments on faith.
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” Ps. 56:3-4
In periods of fear, choose to trust. Our church must choose to trust. Once in a place of trust, you will not fear. Here we see fear of man introduced — what can mere mortals do? We must guard against fear of man. We also must praise God’s word – which means we must know His word. (Josh 1:8). Trust in the Lord (and lean not on your own understanding. in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths). –here we see fear of man again, and pride (acknowledging God rather than yourself or others).
“and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” 1 Cor. 2:4-5
When the message and preaching are less cerebral, the Holy Spirit is powerful among the people. This is an intentional effort to make oratory less academic and more widely accessible. Here again we see an encouragement to trust in the power of God rather than human wisdom or ability (which hearkens back to 1) the fear of man concept and 2) in all our ways acknowledging God and He will direct our paths).
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Gal 6:9
We can anticipate feeling tired, discouraged, and weary. But don’t let it stick. We WILL reap a harvest of blessing. At the appropriate time (trust in timing for the building, fruit from our efforts, the funding, the adoption, etc.) (this goes directly to the notion of waiting on the Lord). Do not give up (see Is. 7:9) our faith or our efforts.
Parable of the persistent widow who continued to seek justice from an unjust judge, who finally relented because of her persistence. Lk 18:1-8
We should pray constantly. Come repeatedly to God seeking what we want (Matt 9:29 above). Do not give up in praying or seeking. The condition of our faith is related to our prayer life. The more we pray, the greater our faith. We can only stand firm in our faith through prayer. As I recall, Niki preached on this parable early in 2008, encouraging us all to come back to the Father for the things we’ve lost hope for and to keep up our faith through prayer.
“Is it not yet just a little while Before Lebanon will be turned into a fertile field, And the fertile field will be considered as a forest? On that day the deaf will hear words of a book, And out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. The afflicted also will increase their gladness in the Lord, And the needy of mankind will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.” Isa. 29:17-19
The wilderness (which it feels like we’ve been in for a year and a half) will become a fertile field (fruitfulness), which will become a fertile forest (great fruitfulness; and akin to the image of an “orchard of mustard trees planted by many little mustard seeds of faith” that Niki has used to describe the purpose of our church). The deaf will hear WORDS – (preaching and teaching above at 1 Cor 2:4-5). Those who had not heard before will hear and understand. And the blind will see (Matt 9:29 above) through gloom and darkness (which sounds more like a wilderness period and a place of discouragement than a physical condition). The afflicted (other versions read “humble”) will be filled with fresh joy. We should humble ourselves that we will receive the promise of joy. Reminds me of Matt 11:29 (which also was preached this year): learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. Not only an incredible promise, but also a recurring theme for me personally and for many in our church this year.
So put it all together, and what have you got?
God recognizes that we’re in a wilderness period, that we are weary, that we feel discouraged, that our hearts are shaken, that we are afraid, and that we are worried.
We are to 1) pray persistently, 2) fast, 3) recall and set our hopes on the promises of God, 4) believe what God says, 5) believe that He can do the impossible, 6) choose to trust God instead of being afraid, 7) guard against operating out of fear of man (instead, be driven by fear of the Lord), 8) humble ourselves, 9) increase our consumption/teaching of the Word of God, and 10) keep our teaching and preaching based on the Spirit and power rather than on human wisdom.
God promises to answer our prayers, to do the impossible (display miracles), to protect us, and fill us with joy. God promises that we will be fruitful. And then even more fruitful. We will reap a harvest. And we will find rest.
Steps from here as church: a) identify promises God has given us that we can better hold to them, b) identify things we’ve stopped praying or lost hope for, c) implement corporate fasts, d) provide more opportunities for teaching, and allow other members in the body to have opportunities to teach, e) increase our worshipping, that we would be full of joy and have victories.