Charles Stanley - The Basics of Faith
There are two things that are absolutely essential to a right relationship with God. They are, first of all, belief that God is. Secondly, belief that God will always do what God says He will do. Apart from these two basic convictions there is no salvation and there is no blessing. In fact, the writer of Hebrews said it this way. If we're to please God, we must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Or, that He will do exactly what He promised. The basic foundation truth of the whole Christian life is faith. That's how we relate to God. That's how we relate to His Son Jesus Christ. And yet, that is the one area of our life that probably most people either misunderstand or have the most difficulty with. Can I trust God? Why don't I trust God? Often times life filled full of doubt.
Well, this is the beginning of a series entitled "Learning to Walk by Faith". And I want you to turn if you will to 2 Corinthians chapter 5 and the title of this message is "Learning to Walk by Faith: The Basics". Now what do I mean by the basics? I mean the starting point. This is where we begin in learning to walk by faith. And what I want you to note in this passage is this. That the Apostle Paul writing to the Corinthians is talking to them about life and death and the condition of our body, what is gonna happen to us after we die. And in the process of discussing that He makes one statement here that I want us to note. But I want us to look at this whole passage for a moment. He says in 2 Corinthians 5:1
"For we know that if the earthly tent speaking of our physical body which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, that is another body a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house, that is in this body we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are home in the body we are absent from the Lord, for we walk by faith, and not by sight, we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord".
The Apostle Paul is saying, You know, there will come a time we'll lay these bodies down. We'll have a new body, a resurrected body which our Lord promised and which He certainly demonstrated in His own resurrection. Paul says, "We have the privilege of living by faith, we walk by faith". Therefore, we're not worried about death. We're not afraid of death. We're not concerned about what's gonna happen to these bodies. We have the awesome promise of a resurrected body and a heavenly home. And He says, "Therefore, we're not walking by sight". We're not walking by feeling. We're not walking by other people's opinions. We're not walking according to reason. We are walking simply by faith. It is the will and purpose and plan of God that all of us learn to walk by faith. And I hope you'll jot down a few things, want to give you a couple of definitions or so here. I want to make it as simple and plain as possible but it's very important that we understand what the Bible says about faith, not what the world says about it.
Now, when you think in terms of the word, faith, and the, the word, belief, probably in our culture today. Because people say, I believe this and I'm a believer and yes, I believe, and all the things they say. Probably a better word is the word trust. That is, I'm placing my trust in, I am committing myself to. The word, believe or trust, is an action word. And if you took these three words, in the Greek language, love and serve and if you put the word believe, all three of these have the same ending on the word. And a Greek ending on a word is very significant. They're all words of action. I love. If I love someone I'm going to respond. If I serve someone I'm going to act. If I believe, I'm going to act.
For example, you can read the forty verses of the eleventh chapter of Hebrews and nineteen times the Bible speaks of someone believing, whether it's Abraham or, or Jacob, or Moses, or Noah, they all believed. And when they believed, the Bible says they did something. So, in the New Testament, you can go all the way through the New Testament and every time someone is believing or placing their trust in, there is an action. They, it is an inner action that moves the will. And so, when we think in terms of believing, it isn't some stagnant kind of belief that says, "Yes, I believe. Never moves, never budges, no action". The very word is a word of action. Something is going to happen in your life and my life when we place our trust in, when we commit ourselves to Almighty God.
Now you hear people say, "Well, I believe". And of course, they're thinking in terms of, "Yes, I believe that I'll get up tomorrow morning. I believe that the church doors will be open when I get there". All kinds of that kind. We're talking about biblical faith. We're talking about faith, we're talking about a commitment, we're talking about a trust level that has to do with eternal things. And so when we come to define, "Well, what is faith"? Well, you could just say something like this. That faith is a confident conviction that our God is who He says He is and that our God will do exactly what He says He will do.
Now, it is the will and purpose and plan of God that we live by faith. Well, the Apostle Paul said we walk by faith. What did he mean by that? When the Apostle Paul used the term "walk", he usually referred to their conduct, lifestyle, manner of life. This is how we live our lives. And so, you'll recall that on other occasions he said, for example, we're to walk not in the flesh but in the Spirit. We're to walk in love or walk by love. And we are to walk in the Spirit. Many things, he said. And what he was saying is this should be our lifestyle. If somebody were to say to you, or ask you the question, "Do you live by faith"?
I wonder how many of you would say yes. Probably most of us would say, "Well, yes, I do". And what you mean is, "Well, I do most of the time, or I do some time". Or there are things that I have a difficult time trusting God for. You know what? That doesn't mean that you don't live by faith. 'Cause I'm gonna come to that in a few moments. What I want us to notice here is what the Apostle Paul is saying when he says, "We're walking by faith". Not by sight, not by feeling. Now most people walk not by faith but by sight and by feeling and by reasoning. I reason this thing out and this is what I'm going to do. Often times God gets left out. Even sometimes when He is included, He is included in this manner. Here's what I think I ought to do and God, I'm trusting You to help me.
Instead of saying, "Lord, what would You have me to do? What is Your will, what is Your purpose, what is your plan"? It is the will and purpose and plan of God that you and I walk by faith. Now, what do we mean by that? Simply this. When you and I wake up in the morning, what is the first thing we should say? Now I would not, can't dictate to somebody else what they think but I can tell you what I feel, and I think. That is, when I wake up in the morning, the first thing I want to think about is, Father, because you know what? All day long I'm gonna live making decisions, meeting people, doing the work that the Lord has called me to do. And so, I know when my open my eyes or I become conscious, even sometime before I open my eyes, I know that today I need my Father to walk with me. I know that today I will have to depend upon Him and trust Him for every single thing.
And so therefore I want to begin today where it should begin, in my relationship with Him, affirming my relationship, affirming my unity, my oneness and my love and devotion to Him. We should listen, because we're gonna walk by faith. Now, what does that involve? Well, here's what it involves. It means, for example, that I'm going to be asking for His guidance today and here's what He said: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths". I want to thank You that I have that wonderful privilege and, and the wonderful promise that You've given me, Lord. It means if I'm going to walk by faith today, that I am going to be seeking His mind and His heart, seeking direction for every single facet of my life. Not some things, but everything.
You see, to walk by faith isn't something we do sometime and not sometime. To walk by faith means I am going to rely upon, I'm gonna trust in, I'm going to depend upon my heavenly Father to give me direction for the day. I'm going to depend upon Him to meet every single need that I have. Now all of us would come up with needs that we have, we think, "Well, now, there are some needs we need to meet ourselves". Who says so? "My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus".
And so therefore I'm gonna trust Him to meet every single need today. Because you see, if I'm gonna walk by faith, I'm gonna depend upon Him for everything. I'm looking to Him, He's my Father. So, I'm expecting Him to meet my need. I'm gonna thank Him and I'm gonna trust Him to forgive me of my sin. When I falter and fall and stumble today, I'm gonna trust Him. I'm gonna believe that He'll pick me up, having forgiven me of my sin, and move me on in life. I'm going to trust Him for every relationship that I have. I'm going to trust Him for the things that I need to say and need to remember. I'm gonna trust Him for those difficult things that when I face, I won't know what to do immediately. I'm gonna trust Him for the, how to respond to criticism and how to respond to praise.
I'm gonna trust Him for the needs of others that I suddenly feel that I'm to be a part of. I'm gonna trust Him that if I need to share a testimony of what Christ has done for me, I will do it in the Spirit in the way that He will guide me and show me and it'll make an impact. I'm gonna trust Him not to try to impress anybody but to make an impact in someone's life today no matter who it is so that they too will want to know the same Christ that I know. I'm gonna trust Him today in such a fashion that I won't even have to worry about the future and my eternal security. I just trust Him when I wake up in the morning. I wake up in the arms of the loving Father. Wake up absolutely secured in the person of Jesus Christ. Wake up every morning knowing that at the cross my eternal salvation was settled once and for all.
So, you see, to walk by faith means that Jesus Christ is going to dominate my thinking. Jesus Christ is gonna dominate and control the decisions. Jesus Christ's gonna be the center of everything. You see, for most people, they think their life is the center of the world, and all of life revolves around them. But here's the way it is. Let's say for example this represents Jesus. Here's the way we live our life. No matter what's going on during the day, all of life revolves around the Son of God, because He's at the core of our life. When you trusted Jesus Christ as your personal savior, the Bible says that Jesus came to live in your life in the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit and therefore He's there.
Now why did God send the Holy Spirit into our life? To do what? To enable you and me, listen, to enable you and me to walk by faith every single day. Listen, He wants to be in on every decision. He wants to be in on, on every relationship. When the troubles and the trials and the persecutions and the difficulties and the hardships and the heartaches come, you know what? He is there. Listen, a confident conviction that our Father, that our God is, listen, involving Himself in every circumstance and in every single need of our life. You see, to walk by faith is to walk in submission to. To walk, listen, to walk in a way that He is in absolute control.
Now when we talk about being submissive or yielding ourselves to Him. I think most people, the way they think is, "I'm gonna give this to Him and this to Him and this to Him. I'll take care of this and this and this over here. No, if I am really committed to Him, if I'm really surrendered to Him, He has access to everything in my life". He has access to every single thing. Therefore, not holding anything back. Let me ask you a question. When you face some situation, circumstance in life, what is your first response? If it's a difficult thing, is it Father, I need You, I'm trusting You. Here's what happens. He wants us to so live that nobody has to remind us to pray, no one has to remind us to seek Him, no one has to tell us, well, have you ask us, "Have you prayed"?
Listen, the natural normal response. Listen, it is that quick. The natural normal response when we face anything is to say, "Father, what would You have me to do? Thank You, God. You're sovereign and You're in control. So how am I gonna learn to walk by faith"? Here's how I'm gonna learn. I'm going to make a request. I'm gonna put God to the test. Not trying to tempt Him, but I make, make a request. And you know what? God answers my prayer or sees me through this. And you know what happens? When that happens, one layer comes down on my foundation of faith. My foundation is built on Christ, it's a solid foundation. But now, but, I've got to build on that, I've got to build on the foundation of the eternal Son of God.
How am I gonna build on it? I'm gonna trust Him and watch how He works and see Him come through and I'm gonna thank Him for it. But I'm gonna deserve what happened. Second thing I'm gonna do is I'm gonna get in His Word and I'm gonna find out what the Bible says about Him. Now listen carefully. If you don't know who the God is that you trust, how are you gonna trust Him? But when you and I get in the Word of God and here's what it says. The Bible says that God loves me. And the Bible says He will meet my needs. And the Bible says that God is holy, and He'll forgive me of my, in other words, when I begin to look at the scriptures, here's what happens. My understanding of the nature of God, you know what that's doing?
That's like pouring into my, into my whole foundation, pouring into my whole foundation the oil that makes everything work. Here's who God is. Here's what He's like. And if He, this is what God, this is who God is and this is what He's like, then I can trust Him. You see, if you come to church, bring your Bible, read it with us, take it home, lay it down, you may learn some things, but God, listen, God wants you in His Word. He listen, He wants you, He wants you to absorb the truth. He wants you looking at the words, remembering what He says. Looking at His promises.
You see, the more I understand the promises of God, and the nature of God, and how He works, the stronger my faith is going to be. So therefore, if I'm going to learn to walk by faith, I make those requests, I see what happens. It for example, if He doesn't answer my prayer and the Lord shows me. That wasn't My will. Thank You, Father. You had something better in mind. You know what? Even when He doesn't answer it, and I understand that God had something better in mind, you know what that does? Strengthens my faith. What does it say to me? That God loves me so much that He won't, listen, He won't even give me what He knows isn't good for me. Thank God! I may not like it at the moment, and I may chafe over it and I may fret and even get angry and say, "God, what's the deal"? And God says, "The deal is, this is the best deal, this is the best thing that can happen to you, and this is the way it is. Even when I don't get what I want, and God shows me why".
What does He do? But strengthen my faith, loves me too much to give me something I shouldn't have. Well, how do we learn to do it? We falter, we fall, we make mistakes, but here's what we do. You see, if you're gonna learn to walk by faith, remember this. Some things you have to remember. First of all, when you falter, and you think, "God, I blew it bad". What you do is you don't have yourself a pity party and just wallow and think, "Well, God, I've blown it bad. How could You ever trust me"? He didn't trust you to begin with. "How could You ever trust me anymore," and so what happens?
Remember this. Discouragement will destroy your faith if you're not careful. Just because we all falter and fail and we became frightened at this point or we, we said, "Oh, God, what's gonna happen here"? You know what? That doesn't upset God. Listen, you can't disappoint someone if they don't have any expectations of you. And He doesn't have any expectations of us, we're dust, frail. He understands us. And so therefore, I don't have to give up. And you see, one of the keys is not how many times do I falter and fall in the process of learning to walk by faith. The key is, listen, not how much or how often I fall, but what do I do when I fall? I get up, I thank God for His forgiveness and His cleansing, thank God for showing me my doubts and my fears and my anxieties and fretting. Thank God that He loves me enough to keep on.
So, what do we, we get up and we keep moving. You don't give up. And what happens? Little by little, day after day as we trust Him, week after week as we trust Him, month after month as we trust Him, year after year as we trust Him, what's happening? We are building strength into our faith. Our faith is becoming stronger and stronger and stronger and stronger. Listen, if the things that bothered you when you were first saved still bothers you and you are fretting and fuming over 'em, you need to ask yourself the question, "God, am I still, listen, am I still in the playpen when it comes to faith? Where am I, God, in my faith"?
Now, the way God builds faith, as we said before, and I repeat this. Trouble, trial, difficulty, and hardship. Listen, if I really want to understand what God is like, and I want Him to strengthen my faith, I've got to be willing to get thrown in the fire. I've got to be willing to face difficulty and hardship. Listen, you don't build godly, you don't build faith that sustains you in life by simply reading it in a book. Listen, what makes it work is experience. It is experience that makes it work. But what, listen, what gives impact to your testimony? Experience. It is the fact that you've been there. You've walked through deep waters, you've walked through fire, you've walked through trials, you've walked through hardship, you've walked through those times of great need when there seemingly was no way in the world for, for those needs to be met and God met them. How do we learn? We learn by living, trusting, failing, getting our focus back on Him and moving on in life.
So let me ask you this. Are you willing to surrender your life to that God? Body, soul, spirit, finances, relationships, marriage, family, children, everything? Can He handle it? Will you let Him handle it? You say, "But, I'm not even a Christian. What about me"? Well, simply this. Here's where you have to start. You have to ask yourself the question, "Do you believe the testimony of God's Word"? That except you're born again, except you trust Jesus as your savior you'd be lost eternally. You believe that? Do you believe that Jesus Christ went to the cross and died on the cross and paid your sin-debt in full? Do you believe that? You have to begin right there. If you're willing to accept that truth and willing to say to Him:
Lord Jesus, I confess my sins to you. I do believe what You say in the scripture. I do believe that Your death at Calvary atoned for my sins. I'm trusting You as my Savior. I'm trusting You that what You did will atone for my sin. I'm trusting You to forgive me of my sins. I'm trusting You to be my Savior and my Lord.
The moment you do that, that moment you become a living child of God, then you begin the journey with us and we're all learning how to walk by faith.