Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Making Faith Your Own

by Larry Rouse

How can we best help others go to heaven? As we gain experience we can see that there are many who begin the Christian life, but for various reasons give up the fight. Our Lord Jesus Christ knew that this would be true for many. In one instance Jesus likened the Christian life to that of building a tower. “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’” (Luke 14:28-30). Why did this man fail? Jesus gave the answer. “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33).

How are you building your Christian tower? That depends on how you view your relationship with God. Far too many who have named the name of Christ have yet to take seriously their personal responsibility to build their own faith. A biblical faith will produce confidence in the scriptures and also humility to be constantly seeking and testing that faith. To this person the scriptures are alive because their faith teaches them that they serve a God who knows them through and through and has spoken so that he can see himself and be changed (Heb 4:12-13). There is a huge difference between the one who has observed what men expect him to believe versus the one who has struggled and fought to find the answers that resulted in faith. One may have, out of peer pressure, memorized the pat answers concerning “what we should believe” and have no real confidence and knowledge of God’s word.

Our Limitations in Producing Faith in Others

As a parent I am greatly interested in learning how to produce faith in my children. Long before I ever had children, I was interested in helping others to find a living faith. Fortunately, God has given us some simple spiritual laws that if we will learn and heed them then we can best help others to walk by faith.

The first hard lesson for me to learn was that I could not “make” another person believe. In my early years as a Christian I tried to impose my will on others through sincere, but misguided efforts. I tried to use personal pressure and personality to “make” someone serve the Lord. All this accomplished was to have others flee from me and in turn, to greatly raise my own frustrations. Fortunately, I quickly learned the difference between what the Lord wanted from me and what was the responsibility of others. “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Cor 3:5-7). The Lord wanted me to plant and water His perfect word. The rest would be left to the one being taught in his response to God.

Faith Takes Time

Genuine faith always takes time. Each man must go through the process of learning about the nature of God and then, through refection, come to trust God. Also in this process one must come to see the bad news about their own sin so that the good news of the sacrifice of Christ can be a life-changing force (Rom 3:23: Rom 5:6-8). There will be some who have previously given much thought to these things and thus can respond quickly when the pure gospel is preached (Acts 2:41). There will be others who will need much more time, because of their background, to come to know the one true God (Acts 17:16-17).

How Did Jesus Build Faith?

When you examine the teachings of Jesus, you will find that He placed challenges before His hearers and then let them struggle to find answers. How many times did Jesus ask a question, rather than giving a quick answer? Jesus asked his disciples “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” and then let them discuss it (Matthew 16:13-18). Why did Jesus speak in parables? He wanted them to think and in that process find God’s truth. Sadly, most people would not have this spirit to seek and dig deeper and as a result they rejected the Lord (Matthew 13:10-15).

You can easily tell when a man has made faith “his own.” He not only can plainly tell you why he believes what he does, but, more importantly, he will stand and fight for these truths. “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).

Are we really teaching others to reason from the scriptures, or are we simply giving them a catechism, a man-made series of questions and answers, to memorize?
Consider these truths next time your faith is challenged.

Avoid the emotional response to run and hide

It can be very stressful to examine long-held practices. As you build your trust in God you will not be afraid to put them to the test (Phil 3:4-10). If you make changes by faith, you will be willing to talk with others about those changes and not run from them. Some make changes because of peer pressure from false teachers. This newfound “faith” is then used by men to make one “run and hide” from those now considered “traditionalists.” A Biblical faith will not do this! “They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them” (Gal 4:17).

Do not make sweeping generalizations

Just because you have found one item of past practices that must be changed does not mean everything must be cast away. You should not blindly accept everything that another has taught you, nor should you blindly reject everything that you have been taught. Walk by faith by reexamining the scriptures and allowing that alone to determine your stand.

Learn patience as you seek

Just like the farmer who must plant, water and wait, so you will be in the process of building your faith (Jas 5:9-11). Give priority to establishing a strong foundation in trusting God, and then to the issue by issue studies that will arise. There may be times where a particular issue will be laid aside for now to be studied later. Let honesty, integrity, and a deep love for God cloth you as you walk before Him. He will give you time and opportunity to know His will (John 7:17; Eph 5:17).

Do you really believe in the Lord? May the Lord bless you as you grow in His grace and knowledge. “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:17-18).

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