(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of January 2010)
Will 2010 be a successful year for us individually and as a church? As we stand at the threshold of a New Year we might wonder what it holds for us. As we look ahead, though, we can be clear that if it is a year full of faith then it will be a successful year. But what does that mean amidst the realities of life?
God’s Word asserts that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6a). Life is about pleasing God. When we please God we live life to the full. Faith must be in evidence for there to be pleasure for God in our lives.
But what is faith? Faith always looks to God. Faith does not depend upon circumstances or feelings, but depends upon God. In exercising faith I bring my mind, will and heart to rely on God. Amidst all the changing experiences and emotions of life faith continually cries: “God is able”. This gets us to the heart of the great faith chapter of the Bible; Hebrews 11. Here we have a catalogue of men and women who amid the changing happenings of life looked to God and relied upon Him knowing that He is able. And as they did this, God was pleased, and they knew success in their lives.
A false teaching that pervades in certain areas of the Christian church is that faith always leads to good health and material prosperity. This is contrary to Scripture and contrary to experience. Hebrews 11:33-38 shows how the faithful can have differing experiences consequent upon their faith. For those in vv33-35a things went wonderfully; they were delivered and preserved in remarkable ways. For those in vv35b-38 things went disastrously; they were afflicted and suffered terribly. However, both groups are said to have been possessors of faith. To that extent both had great success because they each had great faith. Let us be clear then that absence or presence of faith cannot be deduced from looking at someone’s circumstances.
This is so important for us to be aware of. We must have faith. Through having faith we may be given a whole range of outcomes and experiences by God ranging from the wonderful to the disastrous! But as long as we have faith then we can judge that our lives are a success. Faith then always looks to God; it does not look to outcomes. Faith does not say that I want this therefore if I believe God it will come to me. Faith says I believe God and trust Him to do what is for His glory and for my benefit.
Not only is faith the means by which I live amidst the changing circumstances of life, it is the means by which I know God. To this extent we can conceive of faith as a pipeline. Faith as a pipeline connects me with God and thereby releases into my life the reality of the life of God. Wisdom from God, Spiritual power, the peace which passes understanding, love and joy; all these come by faith. In fact, through my faith Christ lives His life through me. This is an amazing concept, but surely it is the implication of Galatians 2:20: The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Without faith we have no life from God in our lives. In such a situation we live according to the ways of the world. This being so we are dependent upon our circumstances and feelings for our fulfilment. However, faith raises us up beyond this world. John puts it like this: everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:4b-5). We must notice that faith that is truly effective and transforming is only faith that faith which acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God.
So in view of all this what must we do to have faith? Essentially faith is connected with prayer. In looking to God we pray and in looking to God we have faith. However, such trust in God must operate along guidelines and they are found in Scripture. The Lord Jesus says with regard to the disciples praying to Him that I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:13). Asking in Jesus Name means asking that which is in line with His character. We find out what this is by studying Scripture.
Let us then venture into 2010 in faith trusting in God. Thereby we can be assured that we will have a successful year because Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6a)