OK, I want you to turn with me to Mark chapter 11. Now if you weren't here with us yesterday morning, I was given the title 'Revolutionised By Faith', which I changed to 'Mountain-Moving Faith'. Yesterday we looked at what I think is probably the most foundational aspect to biblical faith, and that is that our faith is 'Faith In God'. It sounds a bit of a redundant statement and obvious, but as we looked yesterday we saw that at times our faith can be in our faith, or in our prayer life, or our faith can be in our walk of holiness, or our faith can even be in the Bible as a mere book rather than a conduit to bring us a revelation of the person of God. We have seen that we need to have the eyes of our hearts opened to the reality of eternal things that are unseen, and that as we do that we are actually using faith as God intends to engage with eternal realities that, to the natural man, don't exist and are invisible. So basically it is seeing the unseen, and the greatest unseen of all is the greatest objective reality of the universe: God. We need to start seeing as God sees, we need to start seeing eternal realities and believing that they are there.
So I'll not repeat myself on that. The second step today in finding out what true biblical faith really is, it's not only 'Faith In God', but it is 'Faith In God's Promises' - so that's what we're going to look at today, 'Faith In God's Promises'. We're going to read verses 22 through to verse 24 of Mark 11: "So Jesus answered and said to them", to His disciples, "'Have faith in God'". Now, just as a wee bit of interest, because I think there's a few semi-scholars here - I'm not a Greek scholar at all, but I've read Greek scholars slightly on this verse, and they're saying two different things. Some say that this is literally is translated 'have the faith of God', and there's others who say 'No, that's definitely not what it says' - so I just gave up! 'Have faith in God' does me, but some are saying that this is actually the faith of God that He gifts us with, another say 'No, it's not, it's just believing God for who He is'. Maybe some of you can fill me in on that one, some of you Greek scholars in our midst. Verse 23: "For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea', and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them'". Amen.
Who wants to move mountains? One, do we have another hand? Two, any advance on two? Surely we all want to move mountains? Now what does this mean literally - do we go up to the Mournes and say: 'Be moved!'? Some have certain harebrained ideas, that they tend to look at these verses in the natural again and not see that there are spiritual connotations. Jesus never moved a mountain in His entire life. He stood on plenty of them and preached from them, but He never tried to move one - this is not literal. What did mountains speak of? Mountains speak of insurmountable objects, things that appear - well, they certainly outdate us as far as our longevity is concerned - but things that speak of not eternity, but everlasting ancient problems and obstacles that are there. We, in the spiritual battle that we are in and in ministry, we are called upon to move mountains. We are called upon to remove things that have been in the way in generations, in nations, in communities. We are called upon, by faith, to move these things, and to speak to them by faith and to see them move.
Do we just believe something is going to happen? Is that what this faith is? We just decide: 'Right, this is going to be, these things that have been in my way for years, these barriers to blessing in the community or in ministry, they are just going to disappear'. Do we just say: 'I want a new car, and so I'm going to believe for that; or I need a new home; or I want the best looking girl in the world to marry' - and we believe these things (I'm already married by the way, that's just for you if you're in that bracket), but can we wish for anything, is that what biblical faith is? Asking anything, naming and claiming whatever we desire, and whatever we want? It's not, that is not biblical faith. I'm going to show you today, as I hope I did yesterday, and tomorrow and the next day, that we can realise so much more by faith - but we've got to understand that this is not a blank cheque. There is a caveat to asking God for things by faith, and it's found - if you keep a marker in Mark 11 - it's found in 1 John 5 verse 14, some of you will know this off by heart, and it's a good one to memorise for prayer purposes.
First John 5:14: 'Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him'. Now here's the difference - and sometimes people would point the finger at me and say: 'Some of the stuff you're saying sounds like 'New Age'', the problem with people like that is that generally anything spiritual or supernatural, they think it's New Age because they have relegated God to history. There is a distinct difference between what New Age teaches and what some extreme charismatic groups teach, and what the Bible teaches about faith. You see, New Age and some influences in Christendom try to bring into existence things that are not real, that are not true, and are not godly. Now it's important to remember this: it is wrong to try and bring into reality things that God does not bless and God does not sanction, things that are ungodly and therefore untrue. As you know, some Christians advocate that God wants you to have what you want - and that has actually been said recently from a very famous church. I don't want to be overly critical or anything like that, but the message that was sent forth was: 'God wants you to be happy, so whatever makes you happy is God's will'. Now let me say that I do believe God does want us to be happy, I don't think it's God's intention that we be miserable - but often what we think makes us happy is not what God knows will make us joyful in the Lord, do you understand? So we must never use our own desires, especially if they are rooted in the flesh and in humanity, to motivate what we seek and pursue in life, and certainly what we ask of God.
True faith is not wishful thinking. So it's not this New Age thing, where I believe something into existence that God does not sanction, that is not true and is not holy, but rather this is true faith: that I, by faith, realise what God has already said is true. Are you with me? So we talked about angels yesterday. Some people are so afraid of the New Age movement and the worship of angels, that they have gone completely to the other extreme, and if you should talk about angels or suggest that the angels are about, they freak out - 'You're getting all New Age, it's the presence of God you should be emphasising and not angels'. Well, I've got news for you: you see when God is around, it seems that the angels come along with Him. You look at Scripture, Bethel was a portal, a heavenly portal where there was an opening of heaven where it just seemed to come down like a shaft upon earth, and the ladder with the angels ascending and descending. God was around, and you find that wherever God is around, angels are around - because He is, as we said yesterday, 'The Lord of Hosts', 'The Lord of Heaven's Armies'.
We need to say: 'Well, what does the Bible say about angels? What does the Bible say about the presence of God? What does the Bible say about the Holy Spirit? What does the Bible say about the Kingdom of God? What does the Bible say about all these unseen realities? I need to, by faith, I need to actually realise those with the eyes of my heart, I need to perceive those as being in this world. By faith, I need to be praying for more of a perception and a manifestation of those upon my consciousness; so that I might start seeing the Kingdom of God rather than the kingdom of darkness; so that I might start seeing that Jesus is Lord rather than the principalities and the powers and the rulers in the heavenly places' - do you understand? This is mind-revolutionising - because we are so pessimistic, and, let's face it: we live in a dark world, our country really is in dire straits spiritually and morally, the church is lukewarm if ever it was, and yet if we focus on that we're going to burnout and have a spiritual breakdown. What we need to do is set our minds and our affections on things that are above, that are the real real - so what is the real real for you? Is it what the enemy says is real? Is it what your flesh says is real? Or is it what God's word says is real? When we are moving by faith - and I advocate practising the presence of God, and I've been heavily criticised by some for doing this - but I believe God is everywhere, and I believe He is especially with His people, not only with them but in them. So is it wrong for me to start looking for that, and believing that, and start experiencing that?
Let's move on. I think there was a time in my past when I sort of thought of faith like standing in front of the mirror, and saying: 'I will believe, I will believe, I will, I do, I do believe, I do believe' - like working yourself up to believe what God has said. But, you know, that is not what faith is: faith is strength from God. There is a sense in which faith is a gift from God - and we will not look at the gift of the Spirit which is the gift of faith - but all faith is a gift inasmuch as Romans 10 verse 17 says: 'Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God'. So encapsulated, pregnant within God's word is faith, taking God at His word is the essence of what faith is, and acting upon what God has said - believing that He is as good as His word. We said yesterday, as we looked at 'Faith in God', that that is the focus of our faith - that there is nothing virtuous or meritorious in faith on its own, it's who your faith is in or what your faith is in. So our faith is in what God has said, and that means that all the glory goes to God. So people don't look at anybody and say: 'Oh, he's a mighty man of faith', but the glory has to go to God because God has given us the word of faith which we engage with, by our faith. We are simply presenting to God what He has already given to us.
So here is the rub, OK? Here's the distinction: if God hasn't promised a thing, all the believing in the world won't matter. So it's not this mystical, mysterious, New Age type thing, where we bring into being things that God doesn't say has to be - but it's having a word from God, and if you don't have a word from God on a matter, then you're not in a position to boldly exercise faith. I'm not saying that you can't pray about a thing if you don't have a word from God, I'm not saying you can't believe that God's hearing you and that God is going to answer in His own way, what I'm talking about is confidence regarding the answer to your prayer. You can only have confidence regarding the outcome of what you're praying about if He has spoken to you. So there is a sense in which faith is not a blank cheque, faith only stretches as far as the boundaries of what God has said. But, having said that, that's not a copout for you to think: 'Oh, that's okay, I don't need to have as much faith'. There's enough material in the Bible concerning the promises of God, that I think it covers almost every area of life. So if your faith can only go to the boundaries of what God's word says, you need to know that God's word covers almost everything that you could possibly conceive of in life. Like the wee chorus says:
'Every promise in the book is mine,
Every chapter, every verse, every line,
All the blessings of His love divine,
Every promise in the book divine'.
The old puritan said: 'Tarry at the promise, and God will meet you there. He always returns by way of His promises' - I think that's wonderful. So what I do, or have done over the years, is: I scribble all over my Bible. I have a colour code which is a bit rare, nobody would understand it but me - but everything that is a promise is highlighted in orange, and I will write beside it what the promise is for. I once made a wee directory, a wee book of promises, alphabetical - I'm a bit of a freak - promises for this that and the other in alphabetical order, and listed them all. I'll tell you: it's amazing the amount of promises there are in Scripture that God invites us to take and to cash in, as Spurgeon said, like cheques in the bank of heaven, and drawing from that, from our heavenly glory.
Now the promises I have talked about cover the general will of God in Scripture for various areas of our life, but you might be sitting there and saying: 'Well, I know that, but what about the specific will of God for my life? What about having faith in an area to do with my destiny, to do with my ministry, to do with my life, being able to pray with confidence and knowing what the will of God is in that area?'. Well, let me say this, and people again might disagree with this but I believe it to be true biblically: we talk about the word of God, but in Greek there are at least two words for 'word' in Scripture. There is 'logos' in John chapter 1, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God'. 'Logos' means 'word', but a word is the expressions of the thoughts and the heart of each of us, we express what we're feeling and thinking by our words. So God expressed His innermost being, His mind and heart to humanity, through Jesus - isn't that beautiful? If you want to know what God is thinking, if you want to know what God is feeling towards us, if we want to know what God is like: Jesus. That's 'logos', but there is another word in Greek 'rhema', and it speaks of the spoken utterance of God - what God is saying. Are you with me?
Now it's very instructive to distinguish that when we're reading certain scriptures - for instance, I've already quoted Romans 10:17: 'Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Bible', is that what you teach in your memory verse? 'Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Bible' - no, that's not what it says. It never did say it, by the way. 'Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the utterance of God' - because the word is 'rhema', it's not 'logos', the word is 'rhema'. So we have this concept, particularly in our country - just preach the word, just fling the Bible everywhere, verses left right and centre, stick them up on lampposts and everything. I'm not saying that's wrong, but some of us think that that is enough to get a return, to get a harvest, and I'm going to tell you that it's not - that's why we're not getting one. Because faith just doesn't come from the Bible, faith comes from hearing God - and usually it is through the Bible. But 'My sheep hear My voice, and they follow Me' - we've got to hear what God is saying.
This is the spoken word of God, and you've got it in Matthew 4 and verse 4. Jesus in the temptation of the devil in the wilderness for 40 days, Satan says: 'If You're the Son of God turn these stones into bread'. What does Jesus say? 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by the Bible' - is that what it says? 'But by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God', and the word for 'word' there is 'rhema'. Now what is that saying? Jesus had food that His disciples knew nothing about - I already said yesterday that Jesus, before He started His ministry every day, He went to the Father and He watched for what the Father was doing, He listened for what the Father was saying - isn't that right? He only did what He saw and heard the Father do - that's why He wasn't run ragged, that's why He didn't have an emotional breakdown, you never see Him in a hurry or a tizzy in the gospels. You see Him very busy at times, very busy, but you never see Him flustered do you? Because He only did what He saw the Father do - but how did that happen? His bread, His daily food was the word of God - not His Bible reading in the morning, He didn't have a Bible, He had synagogue and the scrolls - but He was feeding from Father God every day, He was hearing the voice of Father every day. I believe He is our model: we will thrive when we are fed by what God is saying to us today.
So the question I'm asking you is not: did you read your three chapters this morning and feel all great that you did that? I'm asking you - whether you read your three chapters or one verse - did you hear from God today, because that's what you will be able to operate on. So it's the proceeding word. Here's another one, Isaiah 55 verse 11 - does anybody know that one? Listen to what Isaiah 55:11 says: 'So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it'. That has been used, in our land in particular, with the inference that you just preach the word, and you hand tracts out left right and centre, and you just saturate the place with Bible. Listen: if a farmer sowed seed like that and had the returns that we are getting, what would he do? He would apply for a job in the Civil Service. Honestly: we are not getting a return - why? Because this is not speaking of Bible, this is speaking of what God is saying, we could say 'a prophetic word', what God is speaking to a present-day generation in their particular circumstances for the now - what is God saying now for us, for you? If God speaks a word, the word of faith into your life, and you hear it from God, that will be birthed, it will not return void but it will produce something - what God has intended.
Another verse where 'rhema' is used is Ephesians 6 verse 17 - you remember the armour of God, what is the sword? The sword is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God - and again the Greek word there is 'rhema', it's not 'logos'. That means that in spiritual warfare, the battle you're in - whether it is personal temptation and trial, or whether it's on the big scale where you're trying to move into where the gates of the enemy are and take territory from him for Jesus - we've got to have words from God to rout the enemy and to thrust him through, that's what it saying. If you look at the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4 - three temptations, and He gives three words that are specific to the actual temptation, all three of them from the book of Deuteronomy incidentally. That's an armoury - the Bible is not the sword of the Spirit in the context of Ephesians 6, it's the armoury where we take different daggers for different situations. Who is our armour bearer? Who gives us those? It is the sword of the Spirit - do you see this? So when you face a trial or a temptation or a situation, what do you do? Well, you can be like me and have your wee directory, and flick through and ask the Lord to help you to get to the verse that you picked up over the years, or you can just wait on God and say: 'Lord, would You please give me something, would You please give me a word for this that I can take to Your throne of grace and I can claim'.
Now, how do you get a 'rhema' word from God? Well, you do just that - like brother Joel quoted, I was going to quote Francis Schaeffer who had that book, 'The God Who Is and Is Not Silent'. We have to believe that God does speak - do we believe that God speaks, do we? Now I know things that I say tend to be a wee bit controversial at times - that's an understatement - but there is a very strong strain of theology within evangelical circles that teaches that God doesn't speak now. He has spoken once in the Bible, and He doesn't speak again. Usually the people that espouse that are contradictory, because often they have a very heavy view of conversion and the new birth, that it's the greatest miracle that can ever be - and I say 'Amen' to that. But when they stand up and give their testimony, you will hear them say 'And then God spoke to me'. They're not talking about the Bible, they may be talking about verse or a preaching message from the Bible, but they may well be talking about how they were walking down the road one day and all of a sudden a consciousness of God came to them, or God said something to them and they felt it in their heart.
We believe that God speaks to people in conversion, we also believe that God speaks to you when He calls you to your destiny of life, and what you're doing for a Him as your vocation in CEF. So I could pick two or three of you and say: 'How did God lead you into your ministry?' - and you would probably, I hope, all have a story of how God spoke to you, isn't that right? But for most of this type of Christian, that's where it ends - and some even take a very dogmatic view that God does not speak, it's the word of God and the word of God alone, it's what the Bible teaches and nothing more. The early church were constantly, if you read the book of Acts, they were constantly waiting on God for direction. They actually waited on God to be directed where to preach, they didn't just go preaching everywhere, did you know that? They sought God - you can look at it in Acts 8 and in Acts 10 - the Holy Spirit spoke to them and told them to go to certain places. He even miraculously whisked Philip away to a certain place, and then whisked him back again. They were dependent on the Holy Spirit. Peter went to Cornelius' house, guided by the Holy Spirit. But also the Holy Spirit told them where not to preach, and in Acts 16 we see that they were hindered going into certain areas because God had intentions of them going somewhere first. Not only did they get guidance, as they waited upon the Lord, where to preach and where not to preach, but they were also guided as to who should preach and who should lead - so the Holy Spirit separated certain people apart for certain works, and the Holy Spirit appointed elders in the churches.
So, how do you get this word from God? How do you be led by the Holy Spirit so that you have the word of faith, so that you can boldly come and claim things at the throne of grace in Jesus' name with the confidence to know that God has said it and He is going to do it? Well, this is where the hard stuff comes: you have to wait on God. You have to walk with God, you have to wait on God, you have to seek God. Like the old prophets, you have to stand before God, you have to listen for God, you have to learn to look for God in circumstances. This is where this perception of faith comes in - and you need to ask Him to speak, and you need to expect Him to speak when you ask Him to speak. The truth is, many of us aren't listening or looking for God, because we believe it's 'Read your Bible, pray every day if you want to grow, and that's enough'. Even if we don't espouse that theological premise, we live our lives practically as if that's all that is needed - and we're not listening for God.
Now there is a whole other series of sermons on how to listen for God, but here's where faith really breaks through: it's faith in God, but it's faith in the promises of God - and the promises of God is not just the Bible in totality, the promises of God is when we hear what God is saying and we go to Him with that. Let me show you this more practically, if you turn to Galatians chapter 3 verse 2. You know a bit about the Galatian controversy I imagine, the Judaisers coming in and telling them it's not by grace alone, but you've got to add the Jewish law and the rites and rituals. Verse 2: 'This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?' - now that's conversion, isn't it? 'How did you guys get saved?', that's what he saying, 'Was it through the law and fulfilling the requirements and regulations, or was it by the hearing of faith?'. That's a very interesting phrase, isn't it - 'the hearing of faith' - why? Because 'faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God'. So they heard God's voice, and they obeyed God's voice, and they repented and believed. So how were they saved? By the power of the Spirit through the hearing of faith.
Go down the chapter to verse 5: 'Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you' - hold on a wee minute, there were miracles in this church? That's interesting, even with all their error there were miracles going on! The One who is doing this is God through His Spirit, working miracles in their midst: 'Does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?' - there's that phrase again. So what is that saying? You need to be hearing from God - if you want to see the supernatural and the miraculous take place, you need to be hearing from God, you need to be listening to what God is saying: to go here, to pray for that one, to do this, to do the other. We need to be in tune with headquarters, this is the way we are meant to live. Just in case you doubt that, look at verse 6: 'Just as Abraham 'believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness''. How did Abraham believe God? 'Just as Abraham believed God', by the hearing of faith - isn't that what that's saying? He believed God through the hearing of faith: 'Therefore', verse 7, 'know that only those who are of faith are sons', and daughters, 'of Abraham'.
So, are you a son or daughter of Abraham? To be a son or a daughter of Abraham means that you need to be hearing the spoken word of God by faith. Abraham is described as 'the father of faith', so there must be something that we need to learn. In Romans 4 verse 11 it says that he is 'the father of all those who believe', and we saw yesterday in Romans 4 that Abraham, contrary to hope, in hope believed. His body was 100 years of age, it was dead you might as well say - certainly for reproductive purposes - Sarah's womb was dead, and yet he chose to believe God. He is the father of faith, and therefore he must be a model which we can follow as the children of Abraham - so how is faith seen in Abraham's life?
Well we're going to look at this quickly in the moments that remain. I want you to turn with me to Genesis 12 and we will go as quickly as we can. There are lessons here, and these headings I have borrowed from a gentleman called Mark Virkler, very helpful just in relation to Abraham here. Look at verses 1 to 3 of Genesis chapter 12: 'The LORD had said to Abram: 'Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed''. Now that is faith that began with a spoken word from God. This is how Abraham's journey starts, isn't it? 'Get out of Ur of the Chaldees and start following Me. Leave your idols behind and start following Me' - God spoke to him, isn't that it? Faith in Abraham was birthed through the spoken word of God - that is your spiritual hearing, spiritual hearing. So faith began with a spoken word from God, and we need to be listening for what God is saying - and He will mostly speak through the Bible, but He will speak through other means. He will never contradict the Bible, but He will speak in other ways I believe.
Secondly, God adds a vision or a picture of the promise fulfilled for Abraham. If you turn to chapter 15, remember this is the father of faith, he is our example, chapter 15 verse 1: 'After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, 'Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward''. So this is a vision that God gives him. If you look down at verse 5: 'Then He brought him outside and said, 'Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them'. And He said to him, 'So shall your descendants be'. And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness'. You've heard the saying: 'A picture speaks a thousand words', and I believe this is the way God works: He often speaks in pictures. It says that, after this, then Abraham believed. Now the inner ear, the ears of our heart, is where we hear what God is saying - alright? But there are eyes, inner eyes of our heart, where we begin to envisage what God has promised, and we look for what God has spoken.
Now hold your horses here if you think I'm going down an avenue that's dangerous. Whether you realise it or not, you use your inner eyes, the eyes of your heart. Most naturally we are drawn to pessimism through our inner eyes. We often see what the devil tells us is real, we often see with the eyes of our heart opposition, decline, apostasy, rather than the promises of God. So let me ask you this diagnostic question: what do you envisage? What do you envisage with the eyes of your heart? Now be honest - we do this, I mean on a very basic level some of you right now are envisaging coffee time, you're thinking of that lovely filtered coffee and the tray bakes. What do you do when you do that? Do you think of prose in your mind, do you? Do you think of a word processor, and you're thinking of 'coffee', 'filtered', 'tray bake', 'marshmallows' - is that what you think of? What do you think of? You envisage the actual coffee, you see it, you maybe even smell it, you taste the tray bake - we operate in pictures without even realising it, but generally speaking we do it all day every day in every single area, and particularly pessimistically through worry and anxiety and fear - we envisage all that can go wrong and we actually walk through it and live through it, sometimes even feel it, but we never do this with regards to the promises of God and what He has spoken! Could that be right? Could it be right and OK to do it in all those things, and be wrong to do it with the promises of God? In fact it isn't right to do it with the negative stuff, it is godly to do it with the positive stuff.
What do you envisage? Have you received a word from God, have you heard from God in the inner ears of your heart, but do you fill your spiritual eyesight with those promises realised? This is spiritual sight, I talked about the spiritual senses yesterday - there is spiritual hearing whereby we hear a 'rhema' from God, and there is spiritual sight whereby God adds vision and picture to what He's going to do. Thirdly: we ponder this 'rhema' word from God and the vision of God and nothing else. Keep your finger there in Genesis for a minute, and go to Romans 4 verse 19 - this is Abraham again: 'And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He', God, 'had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore 'it was accounted to him for righteousness''. In other words, to paraphrase that: he would not entertain an alternative. Do you understand? God had spoken, he envisaged - God had shown him a picture of what He was going to do - and we need to choose to focus and meditate on what God has said.
Meditation is a lost art in Christendom - and of course, the folk that are afraid of the New Age, they don't like that word, because they think of somebody sitting on their knees, humming - that's not biblical meditation. Do you want one of the best illustrations of what meditation is? Meditation is almost identical to worry - and that really helps me. Who's got a problem with worry? What do you do when you're a worrier? You envisage what could go wrong, and you analyse it, you ponder it, you dissect it. It's like a wee titbit in your mouth, you roll it over again and again - that is meditation, but that's meditation on the negative. In Philippians 4 we are told to think on the good things. Can you imagine if you used your energies that you use in worry on envisaging and filling your spiritual senses with what God has promised, what difference that would make to your faith life? Worry is meditation on lies and falsehood. Do you know what fear is? Envisaging and expecting something bad, ungodly, and false. Fear and faith are very similar. Fear is expecting something bad to happen, and faith is expecting something good to happen. It's not just wishful thinking, you're expecting something that God has said to happen.
Whatever you fix your eyes upon grows within you; whatever grows within you, you become - that's your spiritual mind. So we've looked at spiritual hearing, spiritual sight, and this is your spiritual mind - what you fill your spiritual mind with. When you ponder the spoken word of God, the vision from God, and nothing else; you will become that vision. Then look fourthly at Abraham, we speak the 'rhema' word and the vision that God has spoken to us - we speak it. Now this is very interesting: when Abraham was 99, no children of his own - by his wife that is - God asked him to speak the word of faith. He asked him to speak out what He had spoken and shown him in vision, and to call the promise into being. Go to chapter 17 of Genesis. How did God ask him to speak this out? He appeared to him again, a God encounter, in verse 5: 'No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations', and 'Abraham' means 'father of a multitude'.
This is comical, isn't it? This guy, 99 and no kids - this is like rubbing salt in the wound. You see there's a part that we have to play in realising the dreams of God, the vision of God, the purposes of God - it's not all about just sitting around waiting for God to do it, that is a false view of the sovereignty of God, that is fatalism and it will end in defeat. There is a part that we have to play in this, and the part is: we receive the promise, He gives us - if we are open with the eyes of our heart to the vision of what He wants to do and what He's going to do - and then we decide to fill our spiritual senses with what He says, not what our flesh says, not what our environment says, not what the devil says, we decide we're going to fill our senses with what He says and then we speak it out in faith. Now how was this speaking it out? 'What's your name mate?'. 'Abraham'. You know the next question is: 'What do you do?'. 'Well, I'm a bit of a patriarch' - whatever that is. 'What about the family? What family have you?'. 'Well, I have a wee boy, but we'll not talk about him - Ishmael - but I have none with me and my wife'. 'What's your name?'. 'Abraham'. 'Abraham, that's your name, and your 99 and you have no kids of your own?'. What was Abraham doing every time he said 'Abraham', every time he heard somebody say 'Abraham, come here! Abraham, your dinner is ready!' - what was he doing? What was happening? The vision of God was being pronounced and declared in faith.
Romans 4:17 says: 'God calls those things which do not exist as though they did'. So every time Abraham is confessing his name, he is confessing the promise of God - and that's spiritual will. So if you've got spiritual hearing, hearing the spoken word of God; and spiritual eyes, seeing the vision that God is giving; and you got spiritual mind, pondering and filling your spiritual mind, your heart, with what God says and nothing else; this is spiritual will, where you are prepared to declare what God has promised. Now you need to make sure He has promised it, OK? We're not talking about being foolhardy. In Hebrews 11 verse 3 we read: 'By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible'. God spoke, and it was His word that brought all this universe into being - and there is power in word.
Fifthly: we act on the 'rhema', the spoken word of God, and the vision God has spoken to us. We don't just speak it out, we do something about it. It says in Romans 4:20: 'Abraham grew strong in faith', and that was because he acted upon the promise. He went and circumcised his children, as God had commanded him - and we know from James 2:17 that faith without works is dead. A lot of us just have this conceptual faith, and maybe God has spoken something to us, and maybe we have some kind of a vision - but we're afraid to proclaim it, and we are afraid to act out upon it. It's like Peter putting his foot out over the side of the boat and walking on the water, there's something required for us to do. I've got news for you: this isn't comfortable. This isn't a passive thing where we sit back and wait for God to do everything for us, He requires that we be involved. Do you know how you spell faith? 'R-I-S-K' - risk! Now immediately the theologians in us will say: 'How is it a risk? If it's God's word, and if God says it, how can it possibly be a risk?'. Right, well I'll come down the shore with you today, and you can walk on water - you just do that, put one foot in front of the other. You say: 'Well, God hasn't promised me to walk on water' - that's all right, but you tell me that in the natural human psyche of Peter that he didn't fear when he stepped out of that boat? Of course he did - why? Because in human terms, there is risk walking on water - that's the way we think where I come from! Walking on water is risky! We're talking about the human level, according to natural human instincts and reasoning - faith often is a risk, because faith-sense and common-sense are not always the same thing. God asks us to do things that can be risky at times, and if we're not prepared to do it, we're not prepared to see what God wants to execute come to pass.
There's a story I read of a tourist driving through the countryside, and he saw an old farmer rocking on his rocking chair on his porch. Behind him was a farmhouse with 75 acres of land, and the tourist asked him: 'Is that your land?'. He said: 'Yep'. 'Well, what are you doing with it? Are you thinking of growing cotton?'. 'No, I'm afraid of boll weevils, they might get it'. 'Oh, well, what about corn?', the tourist asked. 'No, I'm afraid of locusts, they might get it'. 'Well', the tourist asked, 'what about raising cattle?'. The farmer said: 'I'm afraid of the price of beef, that it might go down'. 'So what are you going to do with all this prime farmland?'. He said: 'Nothing, I'm just going to play it safe'. How many of us, when it comes to faith, are just playing it safe? Is it not better to risk failure - that's a big statement, but maybe that actually is the nub of our problem: we don't want to fail - and at the core of that can be pride: 'What will I look like if it goes belly up, if I fall flat on my face?'.
Now, you need to be hearing from God. I'm not encouraging people to go out and do mad things when they have no sanction from God. We need to be hearing from God, we need to be seeing what God is showing us - but do you know what the greater risk is? Not ending up with egg on our face, the greater risk is living below the intentions of God, God's purpose and destiny for our lives - surely that's the bigger risk? This is spiritual emotions if you like, really embracing the risk. Not listening to fear, but stepping out in faith upon the promises.
Now I'm nearly finished. We need to die to self-effort - just in case you think this is 'name it and claim it' type of stuff, it isn't. Do you know how long Abraham waited? Do you know how long? Twenty-four years - that's a bit long for me! When God gives me a word and gives me a vision, I would like it today please - and then I want the next word and the next vision. This is what tests our faith: it was 24 years before Sarah became pregnant. We do live in an instant age, but there's often an incubation period for this to take place. We're not good at waiting, are we, for the realities of the Spirit to break in on time - but in the meantime we are to trust His promises. The last thing you want to do is to birth an Ishmael. We want to wait on the promise being fulfilled - and that's the danger, when we're overenthusiastic to see what God has promised come to pass, we birth an Ishmael.
Seventhly and finally, in the fullness of time God brings forth His promise. You know those verses, Genesis 21 - 25 years later the miracle would be born. But wait a minute: was Isaac the complete fulfilment of the promise, was he? Who was? Jesus. Twenty-five years for Isaac - how many years? 1500 years for this promise to be completely fulfilled, and of course you're the fulfilment because you're sons and daughters of Abraham.
Let's pray: Father, we declare and acknowledge that You are the same God as You have always been. You are the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and You are the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever - so if You can speak to a pagan like Abraham, and speak in to his spiritual ear and say 'Get up and move out of Ur of the Chaldees and follow Me', and You can show him a vision of stars in the sky and say, 'This is what I'm going to do', You can take us and speak into our heart and say 'This is what I want to do in Ireland'. Lord, help us to have ears to hear, eyes to see, wills to move, emotions in our heart to embrace what You're saying, what You're showing us. Help us to have the patience to labour on, believing that we haven't seen anything yet and that the best is yet to be - and that You, in a moment, are going to break out on our people, Catholic and Protestant, pagan, Muslim, Hindu, atheist; and You're going to do something that has never been seen before in our histories. Lord, we believe, help our unbelief; but give us eyes to see that will birth faith in our hearts to trust You. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at the Child Evangelism Fellowship Worker's Conference in Donegal, Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his 'Mountain-Moving Faith' series, entitled "Faith In God's Promises" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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