Examine My Faith
Message delivered to the saints in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 11-16-2014

I would like to start with a word of prayer.

Dear heavenly father, we thank you for your love and your grace. We ask you through the Holy Spirit to help each one of us release any burdens that weigh on our hearts tonight. Rather it be health concerns, troubles in a relationship, lack of money for basic needs, or a sin or sins that plague us we lay everything at the feet of Jesus right now. We confess our doubts, our fears and failures. We look to the blood of Christ that overcomes all powers that challenge us. Thank you Lord, for first loving us. We commit our hearts and minds to you Holy Spirit, so that we may hear your voice tonight. In Jesus precious name we pray, amen.

I ponder the challenge each of us face when it comes to faith. Am I genuinely whole-heartedly in love with Jesus? Does my life reflect his deep love and patience? Or am I overcome with the same details that trouble the world? Do I find myself constantly stumbling upon the same path away from God? Am I confident to say all is well with my faith?

In Matthew 17, we read a story about how Jesus drove a demon out of a young boy. The father said "And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.”

"Jesus said, "You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me."
In annoyance Jesus speaks of the root problem in the hearts of men. His words are directed at all who were present the father, scribes, people, Apostles. Faith was found lacking in all who stood there and he refers to them using the word “generation”

Jesus was saddened by the slowness of faith and hardness of heart despite all his profound teaching and his miracles, their hearts could not believe on Him. He asked how much longer will this lack of faith continue? Will this forgetfulness of miracles and dullness of comprehension last forever? In Numbers 14 we read “And the LORD said to Moses, How long will this people provoke me?” Meaning, How long will you test my patience?

In spite of his divine grief and disappointment, Jesus does not withhold healing from the boy. In the midst of God's anger He remembers mercy. 26 times in Psalm 136 we find these beautiful words, "For His mercy endureth forever." Praise be to God. Praise be to God.

Jesus heals the young boy, then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" He said to them, “Because of you have so little faith.”

There was something about the boy’s possession which made it difficult. The very real power of Sickness, Death and Satan must not discourage our faith but instead encourage us to be more steadfast in praying that God will increase our faith.

Jesus goes on in Matthew 17 to teach those around "For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, which is like a tiny speck of sand, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

By mustard seed, he means a faith real that is trustful, though it be small and weak. While the mustard seed is very little, when grown in good soil and under sunny skies, it becomes as a tree among herbs, so that birds may nest in its branches. This biblical analogy of birds nesting refers to those in need those who will seek refuge in the person who is filled with faith in God.

When Jesus says that the mountain will be cast into the sea, it is an expression of Eastern hyperbole, not to be taken literally, but meaning merely that the greatest difficulties may be overcome by faith.

The Apostle Paul reflects on the Lord's words in 1 Corinthians 13, "If I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains; but do not have love, I am nothing.” A sharp mind and a deep understanding of the mysteries of God are of no value without a genuine love and a giving heart. Helping the poor and doing good to others will not benefit our souls, if it be not done from love to God.

We can read again in Matthew 7:22, Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Christ here shows that it will not be enough to claim him as Master, only in word and deed. Let us be careful trusting in our external reputation and works of goodness, lest we deceive ourselves and perish eternally, as multitudes do with a lie in our right hand. Let everyone that names the name of Christ, depart from ALL sin.

Isaiah 55:7 reads, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."

Paraphrasing Jeremiah 4 we can read, “If you will return to me, declares the Lord. If you put your detestable sins out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you commit yourself to me, then I the Lord will invoke blessings on you and in the Lord people will glory.”

Christ is laid for a foundation, and everything besides Christ is sand. Some build their hopes upon worldly prosperity; many store up wealth for safety in old age, while others trust upon an outward profession of religion. There is a storm coming that will try every person's work. We will all have to face it. When the Lord takes the breath from our bodies, where can the hypocrite hide? May the Lord make us wise builders for eternity. Then nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ Jesus.

You may be familiar with Canadian Charles Templeton, Evangelist Billy Graham’s original partner in the faith. Charles had a religious experience which led to a sudden conversion and then entry into fulltime ministry. Charles was already on track to be a highly successful evangelist. He was said to be more articulate and a better preacher than Billy Graham. He and Billy began planning how to win the world for Christ. He and Billy Graham toured the USA and the world filling football stadiums. Back in the 40's, many said it would be Charles, not Billy Graham who would become the biggest evangelical preacher in history. Instead, Charles went to the seminary to learn more and came out an agnostic. The impact of this change on a young Billy Graham was agonizing.

When Charles reached 80, he managed to publish one last book, a non-fiction work called “Farewell to God.” He went into great detail about all the reasons he had left the faith. He wrote if because he felt there were a large number of people who were struggling in their faith that was pushed on them as a child. He thought these people, who mainly attended church out of habit, would seek out his book that would release them from this forced faith.

This is an unfortunate example of how faith is destroyed for lacking a genuine transformation of the heart. How it is possible to convince the world of one thing, but be something else. Charles had allowed himself to be exposed to liberal teachings that deny the essentials of the faith. Because he lacked a living relationship in Christ, his was soul was shipwrecked by a challenge. We too are every bit that vulnerable.

The Apostle Paul wrote in a letter of victory to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Paul was facing imminent death, grateful to God that he had not abandoned the faith. He better than anyone knew what being an enemy of God was about having himself at one time persecute the church.

We know well the verse found in Hebrews 11:6, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him."

But is not enough to say I believe in God. For James 2 reads, “Even the demons believe in God, and tremble in terror.” But their end is the lake of eternal fire.

To have faith in Jesus means to trust Him. Simply–fully–without reservation. In Matthew 9, before Jesus healed two blind men, He asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They answered, “Yes, Lord,” and He healed them “according to their faith”. The men simply trusted the power and goodness of the Lord, and they received their sight.

Unforgiveness toward anyone, any willful acts of sin, will unhinge our relationship with God. But if we doubt Jesus, his power, the resurrection, the hope of eternity through his blood, we are in danger spiritually, unable to find hope or fullness of heart. Without faith in Jesus, we remain in a sinful condition and cannot fully accept God’s grace or provision.

To have faith in Jesus is to reject all other ways. We cannot trust in Jesus and anything else. We must trust in Jesus alone. Acts 4:12 reads, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” Salvation is exclusive. Jesus is the only way to find supernatural peace in life and have hope for eternity.

I invite anyone to consider these words. No one is without sin. An altar call should result in many coming forward for prayer. I would invite anyone moved at this time to come forward for prayer for renewal and to dedicate their hearts fully to Christ, as elders and pastor’s pray with you. Will you heed the spirits call?