Charles Stanley - Levels of Faith in the Life of the Believer
When you face difficulties and trials and hardships in life, how do you respond? Do you respond with doubt and fear and anxiety and fretting or do you respond by faith? And if you respond by faith, what level of faith? You say, "What do you mean by what level of faith"? That's right, what level of faith? You say, "Well, how do you know what these levels are"? We're going to talk about it. How do you distinguish one from the other? What does it mean in my life? How does it affect my life? Speaking of levels of faith. Well, we all operate on one of three levels of faith. And the longer you live, certainly the more faith you and I ought to have. And the higher up these levels we ought to go in our faith. But some people will stay all of their lives on the lowest level because number one, maybe they don't even know that there are levels of faith. And secondly, too afraid to launch out, too fearful to trust God.
And so what happens is you go through life and you miss His best because you never grow in your faith. And that's what I want to talk about in this message, and that is "The Levels of Faith in the Life of the Believer". And it's very evident in scripture that faith is very, very important in the eyes of God and He sees faith as very important in our life. And so, what we want to talk about in this message is this. How to raise your faith level. How to get in a position where you and your relationship to God and the way you trust Him will position you, listen, to be able to be blessed to the maximum of your potential because the way you trust Him determines the way the blessings come. You don't trust Him, you don't get blessed. You trust Him, you'll get blessed. And the more you trust Him and the way that you're able to walk in these levels of faith, the greater the blessings are coming your way.
Think about how absolutely essential and important faith is. And let's think about it in this light. If you look at the life of Jesus, look at His ministry, here's what you discover. You discover that the theme of faith permeated the whole ministry of Jesus no matter what. And I want to give you a few verses of scripture and I won't have you turn to all of these because I have enough of them for you to turn to. But I want you to think about some of these verses, for example, you find in the scriptures concerning His healing ministry. Listen to what He is continually saying when He's confronting people, where they're paralyzed, or they're blind, or whatever the situation may be.
Listen for example. In Matthew nine, He says to this lady, "'Daughter, your faith has made you well.'" Then in Matthew fifteen, "'O woman, your faith is great; be it done unto you as you wish.'" And the fifth, second chapter of Mark, when these fellows are tearing up the roof of this man's house and letting their friend down by ropes so they, he can finally get to Jesus and be healed, Jesus said to him, "seeing their faith, 'My son, your sins are forgiven.'" Then He says in Mark ten to Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, "'Go your way; your faith has made you whole.'" And again, He says, "Your faith has saved you. Receive your sight, your faith has made you well. Be it done unto you according to your faith".
All through the gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke especially, what you find is Jesus, the theme of His relationship to these people, this needy people who have a health problem, whatever it might be, it's always, listen, based on their faith. Remember He said on one occasion he couldn't do any miracles in a particular place because of their unbelief. They didn't have any faith, they wouldn't trust Him. And oftentimes you and I miss out on God's best blessings because we won't trust Him. We don't believe that He loves us. We don't believe that He will provide our needs. We don't believe that He'll heal us. We don't believe that He cares that much for us. But if you look at His ministry, what was He continually saying? It was listen, it was trust Him, faith, faith, faith, faith, faith.
So, if that's true in His ministry in His day. If it were so important that he magnified the subject of faith. Nothing's changed. Because you see, in our lifestyle, in our lifetime, in the culture in which we live, it makes no difference what generation and what culture. Faith permeates every aspect of our life. So either we will live on this lower level of faith, or we'll graduate. And we'll, listen, we'll grow in our faith, and our understanding. And what'll happen is your life's going to change. Once you move from level one and you begin to operate on level two and on level three, your life's going to change. What are these levels of faith? How do we distinguish between them? What does God say about them? That's what I want us to consider primarily.
So, I want to give you, listen, I want to give you a level, then I want to give you a word so you can remember it. And the first level, listen, the first level in scripture of faith is little faith. Little faith, and I want you to remember this. Little faith is restless faith. Little faith is wrestling. Little faith, for example is saying, I know He can, but I'm not sure He will. Little faith is struggling because it's a whole new perspective on the way we live. And you remember what James said? He that waver is like the winds of the sea, blowing hither and yon, tossed to and fro. He says, "Don't let that person think they're going to receive anything from God because God does not honor that kind of faith".
Does this mean, watch this carefully, does this mean that God will never answer your prayers unless you reach the third level of faith? No, it doesn't mean that. It means that your lifestyle is going to change. It means that your relationship, it means that your request, that, it means that your, your fretting and your anxiety and your questions and your doubts are going to disappear and God's going to do something absolutely fantastic in your life, why? Because He wants the best for you. He doesn't want us living on this particular level. But this is level one. Now I want you to listen carefully. The reason people stay on level one (wrestling faith, that is struggling faith, laboring faith) is because their focus is on the circumstances and their focus is on themselves. Their resources, what they think they can do.
And when your listen, when your focus is on your circumstances and your focus is on yourself, your focus is on your resources, you're not going to be able to believe God for much. It's just not going to happen. Because all of us have limited resources, whether it's abilities and talents and skills or finances. And so as long as you're, as long as you're asking and your belief system, you're on level one. It is the level of struggle, uncertainty, doubts, laboring, and what happens? You're going to find that what you're really looking for in life, it's always seems to be a little bit beyond you. So what you have to realize is this. You have to ask yourself the question where is my focus? Listen to this carefully. God doesn't want you living on the level of little faith; struggling, laboring, wrestling over it all. Will He, maybe He will, maybe He won't.
Now here is a perfect example of that and because, if you look in the scriptures there are all kind of examples of how Jesus operated in people's lives. Well look if you will in Mark chapter nine for a moment. Here's a perfect example of how this happens. You'll recall that in this passage, for example, that verse twenty, "They brought the boy to Him when he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. And He asked his father, 'How long has this been happening to him?' And he said, 'From childhood'". Now watch these next couple of verses. It's been happening all of his life. "It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him," watch this, "But if You can," this is the father speaking, "'but if You can, do anything, take pity on us and help us!'"
Now listen to Jesus's response: "And Jesus said to him, 'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes.'" This is not what Jesus said. Listen to the tone of my voice. If you can, all things are possible to Him. That's not what He said. He says, "If You, if You can help us, have pity on us". And Jesus said, "What do you mean, 'If You can'"? "All things are possible to him who believes.' And Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, 'I do believe; help my unbelief.'" Perfect example of what kind of faith? Come on, what kind of faith? Little faith, and little faith is what kind of faith? Wrestling faith, struggling faith, laboring faith. He said, "Lord, I do believe; help my unbelief".
Now all of us have been there at some point or, in time, or the other. And this is not to say that you will never hit a circumstance at which you won't maybe feel that. There are situations and circumstances that try our faith and God understands that. But He doesn't want us staying there. We may hit one of those, but He wants us to do what? To move from level number one of struggling, wrestling, laboring faith to level number two. And that is a perfect example of being there. "Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, 'I do believe; help my unbelief".
What was he saying? He was simply saying you know, I'm believing You, but I'm having a hard time at it, I'm struggling. And God honored that. Now watch this carefully. So I want to say again that does not mean that God won't answer your prayer when you are in level number one struggling because He understands why you're there. Now, the truth is if you stay there, then you don't expect God's best. That's not where He wants you. He wants you moving up. Which brings us, listen, to level number two.
So think about this. Level number two, we've moved from little faith, now to great faith. Great faith is reaching faith. Great faith is not willing to stay on level one. Listen, great faith is not willing to stay down there where you labor and wrestle and you doubt and you fear and you're full of anxiety. Great faith is willing to reach out. It's reaching faith.
Now you say, "Well, what's reaching faith"? Well, this is faith maturing. Faith is beginning to mature now. Faith now is, listen, beginning to stand on the truth of God's Word. Great faith is willing to believe what God said because that's what He said. Doesn't need any proof. If that's what God said, then he believes that God will do it. And this faith, listen, is focused on God, not on the circumstances. Great faith is focused on God, not the circumstances which means whenever you're in a situation or a circumstance, whatever it might be, your focus can't be on the circumstance, how big it is, how long it's been, how bad it is, how deep it is, how wrong it is. That's not the issue. The issue who is this God with whom I'm dealing? This God is bigger than all my circumstances. This God has the power to, listen. This God has the power to change any circumstance in my life no matter what it is. Great faith is faith, it's what? It's beginning to reach out.
Now let's look at, let's look at a few scriptures here because if you'll think about this whole issue of great faith, where does He talk about great faith? So, let's go back to Matthew chapter eight for a moment. Matthew chapter eight and let's look at a few verses here. Eighth chapter of Matthew, and let's look if you will at this fifth verse. The centurion, "And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, 'Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented". Jesus said to him, 'I will come and heal him.' Man, that's a fantastic response, I'll come and heal him. "But the centurion said to Him, 'Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed".
Can you say that? Lord Jesus, just say the word. Just give me a verse of scripture. Just speak to my heart. Just make it, just say the word, my servant will be healed, "For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it.' Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled, and said to those who were following, 'Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel". He was saying, you know, these Gentiles have more faith than you Israelites and you're sons and daughters of Abraham. So He says, "I've not seen such great faith".
Turn to the fifteenth chapter of Matthew and look if you will in this, let's go back a few verses here. This is the Syrophoenician woman. Let's look if you will in verse twenty-two, "And a Canaanite woman from that region came, and began to cry out, saying, 'Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.' But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came to Him and implored Him, saying, 'Send her away, she keeps shouting at us.' But He answered and said, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.' But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, 'Lord, help me!' And He answered and said, 'It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.'"
Now that's a pretty strong statement because he was saying, you know, I've come for My own people the Jews, testing her. Look at this: "But she said, 'Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master's table.' Then Jesus said to her, 'O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.' And her daughter was healed at once". You know why? She didn't give up. Great faith doesn't give up. Great faith today does not listen to people's unwise counsel. And Jesus was testing her.
And so oftentimes we're going to get tested and what happens? Either we listen to other people or we go by our feelings, or we go by our reason, or we go by sight. God wants us to go by His Word. Great faith doesn't give up. Great faith hangs in there no matter what and great faith gets the answer. Level two is Christ-centered. Level two is God-oriented. Level two does not focus on circumstances. You said, you've said that about five times. Right! You know why? Because that's what the devil wants to do; get you focused on your circumstances rather than on God.
Level number three, level number three is perfect faith. Level number three is resting faith. Not struggling and laboring, not reaching, resting faith. Perfect faith says it's a done deal. Well you say, "Oh, now wait a minute, that sounds rather presumptuous". No, it's not. I want you to turn if you will back to Mark chapter eleven. Mark chapter eleven. What's happening here is that Jesus cursed this fig tree and the next day they came by and the disciples were absolutely amazed. And verse twenty says, "And they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. And being reminded, Peter said to Him, 'Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.' And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Have faith in God".
Does, isn't it amazing how Jesus has these short, terse, pointed, unforgettable, inescapable answers to something that we have these big problems with? What did He say? Said, "Have faith in God". Look at this thing. This thing is cursed from the roots up. What's happened? Have faith in God. Now watch this: "Truly I say to you, whoever says to the mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he is saying is going to happen; it'll be granted him". Now watch this next verse. You listening? Say amen. "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them," past tense, "and they will be granted to you".
Now you say, "Well, that doesn't... maybe that's a mistake". It's not a mistake. Here's what He says. Level three is resting faith. Not struggling and laboring, not reaching, resting faith. Level three brings you to the level in your life where you ask Him and you have, you can stand on His Word in absolute assurance. You know God's will about that. And you know what it is? Perfect faith says this. Not only can He, it's a done deal, it's already done. No more fretting, no more anxiety, no more worry, no more, no manipulation, no more trying to work it out, figure it out, make it happen. Perfect faith says it's a done deal with God.
Where does God want our faith to be? Struggling, anxious, trying to feel better, getting over depression, is that where He wants you? No, it's not where He wants you. I'll tell you where He wants you. He wants us moving from level one to level two to level three. Will you start out with level three? Most of the time, not, but here's what happens. You don't stay on level one but a very brief moment of time. You move to level two. And then as you grow in your faith, you know what happens? You'll be living on level three most of the time. You know why? Because here's what, here's the reason. Because you have accepted that He is who He says He is. He is as wise as He says He is. He is as powerful as He says He is. He loves you unconditionally like He says He does. And therefore, you have no reason to doubt Him.
And you think about this. You may not be a Christian. Do you realize what you believe about Jesus Christ is going to determine your whole eternal destiny where you're going to spend eternity. Nothing else but that determines it. That's why it is so serious that you and I consider our faith. And for all of us who are believers, our reward's in Heaven. You know where they, what they're going to hinge on? Our faith. Did we trust Him enough to believe Him? Did we trust Him enough to take that decision? Did we trust Him enough to follow Him? Did we trust Him enough to take this challenge here? Did we trust Him enough to be obedient when it was difficult?
Our, all of our rewards are going to come ultimately by our faith, because our actions are a result of our faith. That's why it is so important that you and I examine our faith. Look at ourselves. Have I trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior? Am I walking in faith? Am I struggling down here, cheating myself out of the blessings that God has already stored up for me, simply because I've never passed the struggling, wrestling, laboring faith. Oh God, take me to level number 2. God, take me to level number three. And you know what He'll do? Here's what He'll do. He'll give you enough tests to grow up your faith. And then one of these days, most of your decisions will be perfect faith, if you'll trust Him.