Charles Stanley - Strengthening Our Wavering Faith
The key to your whole Christian life is your faith. For example, that's how you were saved. That's how you have a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. When you come to pray, there's always the issue of faith. When it comes to healing and asking God for healing, there's always the issue of faith. In fact, your whole daily life is an expression of faith, either your unbelief, your doubt, or your faith. And yet, in spite of all that and the fact that we know it, there's one aspect of our faith that all of us have to deal with continually. We don't like to deal with it. We'd like to eliminate it once and for all, but somehow, we don't or we can't.
So, I want you to turn, if you will, to James chapter one. And you'll recall that he's writing here to those who are going through difficulty and hardship and persecution. And so having introduced it in the first verse, he begins the second verse by saying, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials; knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men," or women, "generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for he who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways".
Now, I want you to get the context of what James is saying here before we come to this matter of wavering faith because it all fits together. And so, here's what he's saying. As these who were probably responding to him and talking to him about their difficulty and hardship, talking about their trials, he's writing to encourage them. And so he says, "Now, count it all joy when you fall into diverse or various temptations and trials". That doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Why should I get rejoicing over pain and hurt and things I can't change and things I can't alter in my life? Yet that's exactly what he says. And so, he says, if you'll notice, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. He says, now, here's what I want you to do. He says I want you to rejoice, count it a joy when you fall into these testings and trials and temptations.
Now, in the King James, says temptation, the word, really a better word is trials because the word here means those periods of testing which have a purpose in them. That is, there's an end to them, and that end is this: that you and I would come through them with our faith being stronger and our heart being purer. Those are two results, end results that God always has in mind when He either allows us to go through difficulty and hardship or He sends us through it. And that is, to purify our heart and to strengthen our faith. So, he says, now, when you go through these things, he says, listen, he says what will happen is, he says it will produce endurance. Endurance is that capacity to hang in there, in our terminology, to be steadfast, to be constant, no matter what.
What does that take? It takes faith. And that kind of faith, he says, will be tested because all of us are gonna face those circumstances in life where we have to learn to endure, to stay in it, to walk through a valley, and to remain there until God sees fit to release us from it or to bring us to the end. And so, he says, "Count it all joy". Now, what am I to count it all joy about? That I'm going through trials and testings and tribulations and hurting and pain? No. I am to rejoice over the fact that as a result of this, I will learn endurance, I will learn to walk in faith, my heart will be purer and my faith will be stronger. And all of us can rejoice over stronger faith and a purer heart. He's talking about the fact that endurance is God's way of equipping us, that is, in making us fit to do the very thing He's created us to do.
When he says complete, he means that He will work in our life until you and I are perfectly fitted to do what He's called us to do and to be the persons God wants us to be. He's not talking about sinless perfection. He's talking about a continuous maturing process that goes on in our life when God is in the process of equipping us and enabling us to accomplish and achieve whatever He's called us for. Now, then he says, "But if any of you lacks wisdom". Well, who's been talking about wisdom? We've been talking about trials and pain and hurt and heartache. He says, "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach and it'll be given to him".
So, now why did he bring up wisdom? Because it takes wisdom beyond human wisdom to face difficulty and hardship and trials in life and persecutions and misunderstandings. It takes wisdom beyond our own. It takes godly wisdom. And so therefore, when we face these situations and circumstances in life, if we are going to respond properly, we need the wisdom of God to know how to face those situations in our life that are beyond our control and things we can't change and things we can't simply alter. We need godly wisdom. And so, he says, now, in order to receive the kind of wisdom that will equip you to endure and to come out with a purer heart and stronger faith, and God making you the person He wants you to be, he says that kind of faith comes, and God, if you will ask Him, will give it generously.
He says God will give it generously and He won't badger you about it. He says, listen, He gives it generously and without reproach. He won't come back and argue with you about it. That is, He gives it generously. But he says, now watch this, he says, now but let that person ask in faith without any doubting. For he says, "He who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven by the winds and tossed". He says, "Don't let that person think or expect that they're gonna receive anything from God". So, what does He do? He creates the atmosphere here, persecution, difficulty, hardship. The process is that God's in the process of teaching us to endure, purifying our hearts, strengthening our faith. And, he says that comes as a result of wisely responding.
If I respond to hardship and difficulty and trial by blame and anger and hurt and bitterness and resentment and hostility and caustic attitudes, he says I respond in the wrong way. If I respond properly, I'm gonna need the wisdom of God to be able to listen to criticism and take it and accept it and move on. Gonna be able to accept difficulty and hardship and look to God and respond in the wise fashion. If I do that, he says I'll need wisdom, and that comes as a result of asking God. He is generously willing to do it. If I respond in the right fashion, I'm gonna come out a winner. If I don't, I won't. And if I ask with faith that's like the waves of the sea, tossed here and yonder, he says I won't get anything. And besides that, he says, "Being a double-minded man, unstable in all of our ways".
Now, so he sets the whole pattern here for the issue of the weakness in our faith, that is, wavering faith. Now, what in the world is wavering faith? Wavering faith is faith that vacillates, that moves to and fro from "Yes, I believe He will" to "I'm not sure He will," "I know that He will". "No, I don't think it's gonna happen". "I thought that's what He meant". "I don't believe that's what He meant". "I was certain that's what God said. I'm not sure what God says anymore. I got on my knees and asked Him, and I knew he was gonna do it, and yet somehow I'm not sure". "Here's what He said. Here's what I ask. I'm gonna trust God! Hallelujah, amen"! About a half hour later, we say, "Oh God, I hope You will. I hope you will". And so what happens? We go back and forth.
You know what he says? He says, "Don't expect to get it". And that's a pretty strong statement. I want us to examine for a few moments what causes us to wave in our faith? We have been saved by the grace of God. We have the Bible, we have the promises of God. We know what He says. We know He's an unconditional loving God. We would agree that He's absolutely faithful, He's absolutely trustworthy. Then what in the world makes us weave and wobble and to and fro and wave in our faith? Why do we do it?
And so I want us to look to see: What is it that causes our faith to waver? Well, number one, number one is this: if you and I are uncertain about what we're asking about, if we're uncertain about the will of God, if we don't have some promise from His Word, and I don't say that you always have to find some promise, but if you and I are asking, making any request of God, somewhere in the scripture there is a promise that certainly would relate to what you're asking for, whether it's a sense of direction or finances or relationships or whatever it is, the promise is there.
So, if I don't know what the will of God is, and I'm saying, "Now Lord, here's what I'm asking You," then where do I start? Here's where I start. I start with this request. "Father, here's my need, here's what I'm asking for. I need to know what is Your will about this"? That's where I start. What's the will of the Father? Do I have a right to ask God to show me how to pray about a certain thing? Yes. Do I have a right to expect God to show me exactly how to ask Him or what to ask Him for? Yes! Does He want me to ask for the right thing? Yes! Is He committed to showing us exactly what to ask for? Yes! Therefore, when I say, "Lord, show me Your will about this. How am I to pray about this? I'm not even sure this is what You want for my life. Show me Your will," God is under divine obligation to show you His will about how to pray for that issue because He wants you to ask the right thing.
He says, "Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. Everyone who asks receives, he that seeks, knocks, and," to the person who is searching out there, he says God's gonna open the door. God wants you to know, so first of all, you ask Him. You say, "Well, did He say anything"? Well, yeah, well, I think He did. Now, wait a minute. If you say, "Lord, show me what to do. Show me exactly how I'm to pray about this". Then whatever the Spirit of God impresses your heart to do, then you begin to pray specifically about that.
So first of all, if I don't want wavering faith and I want to have strong faith, I've got to know that what I'm asking for is the will of the Father. Second cause is that oftentimes human reason runs counter or is in conflict to our faith. For example, the Bible says, "Give and it shall be given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together". The very principle of this, when you're in need, give. Well, now wait a minute. That doesn't even make sense. For example, let's say that I have a need for some clothes. I'm getting a little ragged and things are looking a little, I just, I'm getting a new job and I don't have any money to buy any clothes. You mean to tell me if I give some that I have, I'm gonna come out better? Doesn't make sense. Correct. Not even reasonable? Absolutely correct. But try it.
You see, it's a matter of faith. Here's what I want you to see. Here's what happens. When you and I trust God, do you know what happens? The sovereign, omnipotent, Almighty, all-knowing God who is, listen, who is sovereign over this universe, when you and I trust Him, He, listen, He gets involved in whatever I'm dealing with. And in His awesome power provides the need no matter what. You see, that's why it doesn't have to be reasonable. The Christian life is not reasonable. Let me ask you a question. Can you reason this one out? How can one man die two thousand years ago on a cross and you, two thousand years later, be absolutely, totally forgiven of your sin, have absolute, total eternal security, when one man back there that you have never met, never seen Him, He died two thousand years ago, and today you're forgiven of your sin.
That doesn't even make any sense. Except that He's God. There are a lot of things don't make any sense except that there's God. And so when you think about how He operates. God, listen, God enables us in whatever circumstance we're in. It doesn't make any sense, agreed. Just remember that. It's not even supposed to make sense. It just works because God's in it. A third reason it'll waver is this, and that is when our feelings overshadow or overcome our faith. Now, most people have the biggest problem with their faith in this whole area of feeling. For example, somebody says, "Well yeah, I've asked the Lord to show me". Well, are you trusting? "Well, I, you know, I just, you know, to tell you the truth, I just don't feel worthy of God answering my prayer". You'll never be worthy. Forget it!
So, feelings of unworthiness, feelings, for example, of my inability. "I just, you know, I just don't...I know I've asked God to give me this job and," well, you gonna, "Well, I'm thinking about it, I just don't know whether I'm gonna be able to handle it or not". Why you asked God for it and God gave you the job. Why don't you think He's gonna help you in it? He answered your prayer. "Well, you know, I just, I feel so inadequate. I feel so incapable". Or, you know, "Yes, I have asked God for this and I've asked Him to show me this and I'm working on this relationship, whatever, but you know, I feel so guilty". Guilty about what? "Well, just guilty about my past".
Have you asked God to forgive you? "Yes". Has He forgiven you? "Yes". He says, you know, He says very clearly in His Word, "If we confess our sins, He's faithful and just to forgive us our sins, cleanse us from all unrighteousness". Did you ask Him to forgive you? "Yes". Did He forgive you? "Yes, but you know, I just feel..." I'm telling you, feelings are total disaster because they change continuously, not daily, but moment by moment, that you, listen, if you go by your feelings, your faith is gonna wobble all over the place. Now, that leads me to something else, and that is one of the primary reasons that we waver in our faith is because we listen to, listen, we listen to the negative counsel of other people.
And so, oftentimes we face a situation or circumstance. First people think people will get on the phone. Let me tell you what's going on. What would you do? That is the worst thing you can do. Listen, everybody has advice and everybody has an opinion. Now, listen carefully because most people have a hard time with this. God has a unique will for your life. His will for your life is not like His will for anybody else's life. You are a specific individual whom God created for the purpose of ultimately bringing Him glory, but accomplishing something in your life and accomplishing something through your life and for you.
Therefore, no one else knows the will of God for your life. That does not mean that God cannot give people insight to give you wise godly counsel. But ultimately, you've gotta have an affirmation from God. Listen, if you make decisions based on what other people tell you, you're gonna make the wrong decision most of the time because most people, in order to get your approval, are gonna tell you what they think you want to hear so they'll feel good and you'll feel good. That's why it's unwise. And so, you may seek godly counsel, but even after you've sought godly counsel, you, listen, you want God to affirm that counsel in some fashion.
Well, I think also, when I think in terms of one of the primary reasons is that we focus on the circumstance. Listen, you're going through some difficulty and hardship in life, what happens when you look at your trouble? What happens to the size of your trouble when you look at it? Bigger and bigger. More and more complex. The longer you look at it, the larger it gets, the more complex, the more difficult it looks. You see, if I want my faith to be sturdy and strong, I need to get my focus on my Father, not on my problem. You say, "Well, now, but when some things hit you, you don't know how it's gonna turn out".
Right, but you see, I'm to look at that in light of who is my God. Who is this God? I'm to get my focus on Him, not on my circumstance. Because I can tell you just like you can tell me, you ponder your circumstance, and you keep looking at it and looking at it and sizing it up and weighing it and it gets bigger and larger. It becomes more difficult to deal with all the time. And so, what happens? We say, "Well, Lord", and I can think about in terms of this in my own life. When I first came to First Baptist, I came many, many years ago, and I came as an associate pastor, and then they were gonna vote on calling me as the pastor. And I knew that God told me that I was gonna be the pastor of the church, didn't tell anybody else that.
And well, some folks said they thought He told 'em that, but I know where, kneeling down in a motel room at four thirty in the afternoon. By the way, I was in West Palm Beach, Florida. And kneeling by the bed that afternoon, here's what God said. I knew He said it, though when I looked around, there was no way. And I mean, I would come to church and preach and I'd listen to all these folks who didn't like me and gonna get rid of me and all these plans they had of how they were gonna do it and so forth, and I'd get in the prayer room. It's like God would say to me, if I ever heard Him ever say just like, He said this, "Are you gonna believe what you see, what you hear, what you feel, or you gonna believe what I said? Are you gonna believe what you see, what you hear, what you feel, or what I said"?
So, I'd walk out there on Sunday morning getting ready to preach to a whole bunch of folks who didn't like me and didn't want me. Wonderful experience, believe me. Hm, hm, hm. But you know what? I'd have a difficult time during the week. Folks were giving me a hard time. I'd get in the prayer room on Sunday morning. That's not the only time I was there, I was there every day, but I'd get in the prayer room before I'd go out there and preach and spend about a half an hour, and I'd walk out there and you'd think I thought everybody out there just loved me to death. I mean, I had the most perfect peace, the most absolute, awesome assurance.
But I learned something. When God has told you something, you die with it but don't change your mind. He would say to me, "Are you gonna believe what you see"? That was bad. "What you hear"? That was terrible. "What you feel"? That was a horrible. "Are you gonna believe that or you gonna believe what I said"? Till finally I decided I was gonna believe what God said no matter what. And I've been the pastor almost thirty years. You know what, listen, you have to keep your focus on God. If you don't keep it on Him, here's what Satan will do. Satan will do everything in his power to cause you to keep your attention on the very things that destroy your faith: what we see, what we hear, what we feel. That's not the way God operates.
Now, here's the bottom line. Now, watch this. You listening? Say amen. Listen carefully, the issue is how do I correct this now? Real simple, don't let this one go by you. You're asking God about something and you're just... maybe He will, maybe He won't, I think He will, I'm not sure. Here's what you do: you make a decision. Here's the decision: I choose to believe that God's trustworthy. I choose to believe that God is faithful. I choose to believe that God'll do exactly what He says. I refuse to doubt my God.
Now, listen carefully. You have to put this whole sentence in there. I refuse to any longer doubt God. I didn't mention circumstances. I refuse to doubt God. Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find. Whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive. So be it even as you believe. I refuse to, listen, I refuse to doubt God. If I refuse to doubt God, that means I'm gonna trust God. And so, I'm gonna, listen, my weaving back and forth from trusting Him and not trusting Him stops the moment I decide and make a choice, I choose to believe God. I choose no longer to doubt God.
If I... listen, if I choose no longer to doubt God, that means I'm gonna trust Him. You know what happens? My wavering back and forth is gonna come to a conclusion. You know why? Because now I'm anchored in, I've made a decision. My decision has been: I'm trusting Him, as Job said, "Though He slay me, I am focused, fully convinced and persuaded my God is gonna answer my prayer". So you make a decision. You make a decision, listen, listen carefully, you don't make a decision to stop doubting your circumstances. You make a decision to stop doubting God. You make a decision to stop, "I'm gonna start believing God, that He's who He says He is and will do what He says He'll do".
Now, what'll help me do that? Getting in His Word and meditating upon His promises. Because here's what happens, when I meditate upon his promises, God begins, listen, I begin to osmose into my thinking. I begin to think the way God thinks. I begin to fill my mind and my Spirit with those things that God has said. All the time I'm doing that, listen, now listen carefully. That's why it's not enough to come sit and listen to a sermon. That's not enough. You need to write it down. You need to take notes. When we open the Bible, read the scripture when it says, "Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find".
That's what it says. You know what happens? Your eyeball hits that, registers in your mind, in your Spirit, then God's got something to work with. Fill your mind and your heart with the Word of God. Listen, recall the promise. When Satan hits you with one of these things and you begin to waver, you say, "What's the promise of God"? I have chosen, I will not doubt the living God. You know what happens? Your wavering back and forth is gonna come to a screeching, wonderful halt. And you, listen, the blessings of God are going to begin to flow in your life. You've gotta make a decision. I will no longer doubt the living God who is the sovereign controller of this universe and has every aspect of my life in absolute, total control, and nothing, listen, nothing is working in or against me that He's not in control of.
I have no need that Let me ask you something. Do you think you have a need that God's unaware of? No. Did He not say, "My God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus"? Yes. Do I believe God's gonna meet my needs? "Yes, well, um, well, uh, this particular one," no. My God shall still have to supply how many? All your needs according to what? His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. So what I have to decide is this: I refuse to doubt God.
You know what that means? That means I'm trusting Him from this point on. I'm believing Him. If I make a decision, focus upon His Word, focus upon Him, meditate upon His Word, and listen, listen, affirm continuously: I refuse to doubt the living God. I choose to believe God. I choose to believe this sovereign God will keep His Word every time. You know what's happening? Here's what's gonna happen.
Now, watch this. Here's what's gonna happen. You're gonna start praying for specific things, remembering... now, I'm just not talking up in space somewhere. I'm talking to the living God. I'm making a specific request, and I am trusting the living God to answer my prayer. That means from that moment on, I will live with expectancy, anticipating, watching how God does this. It's like an adventure. I'm gonna see how God is gonna weave me through this, how God is gonna supply this need, how God's gonna work me through this difficulty, how God's gonna see me through this time of real hardship and trial.
You know what happens? You're gonna start seeing God answering specific requests because you didn't just talk to Him about it, you made a specific request, and you anticipated and you made a decision to believe that God is gonna answer your prayer. And the blessings of God are gonna start flowing in your life. Blessings that God, He says, listen, He has stored up goodness for those who'll trust Him. If you don't think you're getting your fair share, if you'd take this message and burn it into your soul and practice it beginning today, your circumstances are gonna change. And God's going, listen, you're gonna open the gates and God is going to bless you, strengthen you, purify your heart, deepen your faith and bless you with every need of your life.
Father, how grateful we are that You are so patient. You work so simply. You just move through the most difficult things of our life, loving us, enabling us, securing us, strengthening us. Deliver us, Father, from being double-minded, two-soul, two mind, looking in two directions for the same thing. Let there no longer be civil war but absolute peace in our heart. That our trust is in You and You alone. In Jesus's name, amen.