Charles Stanley - The Requirements of Faith
When you trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you immediately entered into a life of faith. That is, you entered into a sense of confident assurance that the God of the Bible is God. And that not only is He who He says He is, but He will do everything He promised to do. Now, the only problem is that most of us did not and probably no one really understood all of that when they first trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior. So, what really happens is God puts us in the school of faith. He places us there to learn the most basic principles of scripture and to learn how to live for Him, and to learn how to live in a world that is in opposition to Him. When we talk about faith, we're talking about just that. And that is, a confident assurance that the God of the Bible is God and that He will do exactly what He promises to do.
How do we live that kind of life in a world in which we have to live? Well, we have to learn how to do it. No one is saved knowing how to live a life of faith. And all of us will agree that many times in our life no matter how long we've been a Christian, we still falter, we still fail, we still have our doubts, we still have our frustrations, and sometimes it's just pure unbelief. God makes it very clear, and we say, "Well, I hope so," when He's made it very clear. How do we learn to walk the walk of faith? How do we learn to live the life of faith? Well, what I want to do in this message is I want to talk about this whole idea of faith again. I want to talk about the requirements for learning to walk by faith. Because it isn't something you automatically know.
It's something you learn by trial and error, by study and stumbling, and by faltering and falling and getting up and moving on again. But I think there are some principles that you and I can learn that'll help us. And so I want you to turn, if you will, to Genesis chapter twelve. One of the things that's so true in the life of Abraham is God's, listen, God's unsearchable and indescribable love. Even amidst his faults and his failures, God loved him. Even amidst his faults and failures and oftentimes his unbelief, God continued to work in his life and accomplish His purpose in his life. And I think one of the things we have to understand is, we will fall, we will falter, we will have our weak moments. We will oftentimes have faith failures. That's what I call 'em, faith failures. But you know what? God does not intend for us to stay there but to learn and to move on.
So I want us to look at this twelfth chapter and just read a few verses to give us an introduction, though chapters twelve through twenty-five discuss this man's life, certainly a man of faith, but also a man who had his weaknesses. Chapter twelve. "Now the Lord said to Abram, 'Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' So Abraham went forth as the LORD has spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abraham was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abraham took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran; and they set out for the land of Canaan, and thus they came to the land of Canaan".
Now, with that in mind, and we will continue part of his life here, what I'd like to give you is I'd like to give you five requirements for learning to walk by faith. And you'll recall that Paul said that we are justified by faith. And again, he said we walk by faith. We are to walk by faith. The truth is, we don't even know what the next minute's gonna hold, the next day, the next month, the next year, the next decade, the next century. So, the truth is, to some degree, we are forced to walk by faith. And yet most people walk by the flesh. That is, they walk by their own desires and their own abilities and talents in life. And so, they're just gonna make things work out, and oftentimes they cannot.
The truth is the believer is to walk by faith. That is, to walk by a confident, listen, to walk by a confident assurance that the God of the Bible is who He says He is and will do exactly what He promises to do. Well, what is the first lesson in the school of faith I must learn if I'm going to learn to walk and to live by faith? The first lesson is this. I must learn to listen to God. That is absolutely basic in all of our walk with God. If I don't know, if I can't hear Him, if I can't identify His voice, if I can't hear Him, if I can't know that God is speaking to me, how will I know where to go? How will I know what to do? How will I know how long, when, how, what?
You see, the truth is that God intends to give us direction for our life. Does He not say, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not to your own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, He shall direct thy path"? But even if He directs my path, if I'm not listening, I'm going to miss what He has to say. So basic to learning to live by faith and to walk the walk of faith, to live the Christian life as God would have us to, basic to that is learning to listen to God. Step number two is learning to obey God. If I am going to walk the walk of faith, then I must learn to be obedient to God. Because the truth is, the life of faith is a life of obedience. And the truth is also that if I really and truly trust Him, I'm gonna obey Him.
And if I obey, listen, I will only obey the person I trust. If I really trust Him, I'm gonna be obedient to Him. And my obedience is evidence of my trust. This is why oftentimes God will send us through great difficulty and hardship in life, and what happens? We just move on through that and in that and on past that. Why? Because we trusted God. We knew this is what He said do. We chose to be obedient to Him and He brought us through it. And what that does is it just builds your faith. Every act of obedience, if you will observe carefully what God was doing, will simply build your faith. Now, listen to what happens to Abraham here because he certainly obeyed God. Back to this twelfth chapter, listen to what he says. Now, the Lord said to Abram, "Go forth from your country," and tells him what to do. Verse four says, "So he got up and went".
So Abraham left. And so, if you move on over each time, what you'll follow all through these chapters, when God says, "Here's what I want you to do. Here's what you", here's what he does. Even to the point of sacrificing his son. But, does he always do that? No, he does not. He doesn't always do what God tells him to do. Because he did not listen, because he did not obey the Lord God, because in his desire to do it his way and to arrange his circumstances which he thought was best, what does he do? The Bible says that he heads down into Egypt.
Now, here's what I want you to notice. I want you to notice what happens to him here as a result of not listening. He got something in Egypt that he never got over. He got something in Egypt that caused him problems all the rest of his life. He got something in Egypt that not only caused him problems but has caused the world's problems ever since. Because what he got down there was Hagar, an Egyptian lady, Egyptian woman. And you recall what happens. We're coming to that later. What happens? He got more than he bargained for. Listen, whenever you and I do not listen to God and we head toward Egypt. Egypt may look good. It may look like the solution to our problems. It may look like here's how we're gonna get our needs met. And you know what happens?
When you get in Egypt, having not listened to God and disobey God, listen, you may, it may look real good for a season, but ultimately it won't be that way. So, what we have to do is remember two things here. First of all, if I'm going to walk the walk of faith, I must learn to listen to God. I must learn to listen to God and I must learn to do what? I must learn to obey God. The third thing I must learn is I must learn to depend upon God. Is that not what the life of faith is all about? It's learning to trust him. If I trust Him, I will depend upon Him, I will rely upon Him, I will look to Him to meet my needs. I will look to Him to do for me and to be to me what I need. If I'm not trusting Him and not listening to Him, I'm not gonna do that.
And so, what happens? We find here that Abraham certainly learned how to depend upon the Lord. And if you'll recall, he's certainly dependent upon the Lord for instructions. And He said to him in this twelfth chapter, He says, "I want you to go to a land that I will show you". He didn't know where he was going, necessarily. I mean, he had some idea, I'm sure. But when He says, "I will show you," He knew, "I'm gonna show you the way there. I'm gonna show you how to get there. I'm gonna show you the land of promise where I want you to live". He says, "I will show you". So what did he do? He listened to Him, he obeyed Him, and he depended upon God to get him there.
Now, when he got to the Negev and there was famine, he didn't depend upon God to meet his need. Now, God surely... who could bring him all the way from the Ur of the Chaldeans to this land could certainly provide for him after he got there. And when he headed toward Egypt, instead of trusting God to protect him, he want to puts his wife in a terrible position, and wants to sacrifice her if necessary in order for him to be protected. Can he depend upon God to protect him? What I want you to see is that Abraham, man of great faith, man whom we can look at and observe and learn many, many lessons out of these chapters, that he had his moments of weakness, listen, where he did not listen, he did not obey God, he did not depend upon God, and every single time it was costly. The Christian life is just that simple.
You say, "It doesn't sound very simple". Well, it's simple in a way, and that is either I obey Him or not obey Him. If I trust Him, I will obey Him. If I don't trust Him, I'm not gonna obey Him and I'm not gonna depend upon Him. I'm gonna do it my way. And my way is ultimately going to end up into a great disappointment in my life. Step number one in learning to walk the walk of faith is what? Let's have it. What is step number one? Learning to listen to God. Step number two, learning to obey God. Step number three? Learning to depend upon God. And step number four, learning to wait upon God. Oh, my goodness. Learning to wait upon God. One of life's most difficult lessons.
And you know what, the more capable, oftentimes the more gifted a person is, the less they want to wait. I can handle it. Every time I get ahead of God, I make a mess of it. And the truth is, I don't even have to know you. Every time you get ahead of God, you make a mess of it too. And every time Abraham got ahead of God, he made a mess of it. Now, look at this time he made a big mess of it. Look at this. You recall that God said He was gonna... out of Him would come all the nations of the earth. In the fifteenth chapter, look at this, for example. God has given him this promise. Do not fear. I am a shield to you. I'm gonna protect you. Your reward shall be very great.
Listen to that awesome promise. He said, "Now wait a minute. I don't even have a son". Verse four, "Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 'This man will not be your heir;' that is, one of his servants, 'but one who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.'" Took him outside, showed him the stars. He said, "Can you count those"? No. He says, "That's the way your inheritance is gonna be. That's the way your family's gonna be. Won't even be able to count 'em all". And so, of course you couldn't count all the Hebrews down through these centuries that have been born. And so, he said, "Now Lord, how do I know I shall possess this land"? Then he gives him an account of what happens here.
And so then, listen to what happens in the next chapter. Chapter sixteen, verse one. "Now Sarai, Abraham's wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name," listen, "whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, 'Behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children through her.' And Abraham listened to the voice of Sarai". Man, he should have built the biggest altar he ever built right there. He should have listened to God, not Sarai. He listened to the voice of Sarai.
And so, "And after Abraham had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abraham's wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, gave her to her husband Abraham as his wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight". Now watch this. First of all, here's an Egyptian handmaid, been a servant. When she conceives, all of a sudden Sarai, whose idea it was, began to hate and despise this woman. Finally, listen, finally if you notice what happens, son is born. Finally, they threw her out of the house. And God is the one who said to her, "'Return to your mistress and submit yourself to her authority.'"
So, what happened? Here's Hagar who was a gift down in Egypt. And now the strife in this family. Not only that, he stepped ahead of God, had a son who would be trouble all the years of his life and trouble down through the centuries, even unto this very day. He got ahead of God. Now, when you and I choose to disobey God, no matter how good it looks, you can't make it right. You can't make it right if it's not of God. You can't make it turn out right if it's not of God. That's why it's so very important that you and I learn to listen to God, learn to obey God, learn to depend upon God, and learn to wait for His timing.
Remember that if God says "wait," God in His infinite wisdom knows, listen, it's not only best for God, it's best for us. If God says "wait," it's best for us. That is, listen, if He says "wait," if I don't wait, I'll get what I can do. If I wait, I get what God can do. And listen, He said to Abraham, He says, "You're gonna have a great reward, but you gotta listen to Me, obey Me, depend upon Me, and wait for My timing". Now, so if I'm going to learn to walk the walk of faith, I must learn to acknowledge my faith failures to God and learn from them. Listen to what happened. Go to the twenty-second chapter of Genesis, twenty-second chapter, look at this, "Now it came about after these things," Isaac's been born and son of his favor. This is the son of promise through whom the Messiah's coming. He says, "After these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, 'Abraham,' he said, 'Here I am.'"
You know what? Don't you just love to hear God say, "Jane, Charles, Jim, Jack," whatever? Here I am, listening to God. I mean, this man had learned to listen. None of this fiddling around. Yes, here I am. Boy, if he'd have just known what he was listening to. Look at this, "'Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I tell you.'" I'm sure when he woke up that morning, he never expected that in his wildest dreams. Had he learned to listen to God? "Yes, here I am". Had he learned to obey God? Look at the next verse, "So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey".
Look at verse two again. And He said, "Take now your son". Not one of these days. Now. Did he learn to listen? Yes. Learn to obey? Yes. Learn to depend upon God? Yes. Learn to wait upon Him? Yes. Now, that means now. Next morning early gets up. Took two of his young men with him, Isaac his son, split the wood for the burnt offering, "Arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. And Abraham said to his young men, 'Stay here,'" now watch this carefully. "'Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you.'"
Now, I know that Abraham is about to graduate in the school of faith, because this is the acid test of his love and devotion to God. This son whom he looked for all these years, hundred years old when he was born, the son of promise, and now He says to him, "I want you to take him to Mount Moriah and I want you to sacrifice him to Me". So they left. "Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, laid it on Isaac his son, took it in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked along together". Now, can you imagine this conversation? Look at this. "Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, 'My father!'" "Yes"? "Well, we've got wood and we've got fire". "'Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?'"
I love this answer. Look at this. Verse eight, "And Abraham said, 'God will provide for Himself the lamb,'" he graduated, man, "'for the burnt offering, my son.' So the two of them walked on together. Came to the place of which God had told him; Abraham built the altar there, arranged the wood, bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar on the top of the wood". Now, here's what I want you to remember. If we're not listening to God, we'll spend a lifetime regretting it. "Abraham, Abraham". "Here I am".
And God said to him, "Don't stretch your hand against your son, your lad". "'Do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.' Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, 'In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.'" He said, "'Now, by Myself I have sworn,' declares the LORD, 'because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son. indeed I will greatly, multiply you, bless you, your seed, as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.'"
Suppose he had not listened at that moment. And what that says to me is how very important it is that in the walk of faith you and I stay out of Egypt and that we are very, very sensitive to the voice of God, that when He speaks, we're just as, listen, we learn just as well as Abraham to say, "Here I am, Lord". Listening, willing to be obedient, willing to depend, willing to wait, willing to confess my failures and my faults and my faith failures and my faults and my times of disobedience. Willing to repent of those in order to learn how to walk this walk of faith.