Charles Stanley - The Challenge of Wavering Faith
Do you often wonder why God hasn't answered your prayer when you've come to Him over and over again about the same issue? And you tell Him about it; you give Him all the details and yet nothing happens. Could it be it's because of your faith? Not that you don't have any, but your faith sort of wavers. It's strong today and tonight you're not sure; strong tomorrow, maybe the next day it's not so strong. And so, we have wavering faith. That is, it comes and goes. And then we wonder why God doesn't hear and answer our prayer. In James the first chapter, and I want you to turn there if you will. The second verse the first chapter he says, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials".
Now, we don't like trials very much, but he says count it joyful, "Knowing that the testing of your faith is producing endurance". That is, that there's something good about the test, "And let endurance have its perfect result, so 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 generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him". And then he says, "But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surface of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man or woman ought not to expect to receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man or woman, unstable in all their ways".
So, I want us to think about this whole idea of the wavering of our faith. And James lived close to the Sea of Galilee, no doubt. And when those hot winds would come down off the mountain across the sea and storms that Jesus talked about, and they're right in the middle of them. And the waves would go this way, then they'd go that way and the ship's up and ship's down. And they were scared to death knowing they were going to sink. He said, That's the way our faith is sometimes. That is, it's not steady. It's not always the same. So, watch this. One of the marks of our devotion to Jesus; is the fact that we can pray and pray and pray and we don't give up because God doesn't answer on our schedule. And so, I'll tell you how you know when you're giving up when you think, Well, I don't know. Maybe I'm not asking the right thing. Deep down inside you know you are.
And so, you wake up one morning and you think, God's going to answer my prayer today. Praise the Lord. You're excited. It doesn't happen. The next thing you get up and think, God, what happened? And so, we judge ourselves. We condemn ourselves. We conclude that God does not always answer prayer. He does always answer, maybe not the way I like Him to, but He's always going to answer it. So, would you say your faith is sturdy, steady, consistent, believing, unwavering, trusting with all your heart knowing that God is going to answer your prayer? Or would you say, to be honest, I can believe Him as long as I'll get a little encouragement, but sometimes I think, God, where are You? Where are You, God? Why haven't You answered my prayer? Do you think that fussing at God is going to get Him to answer your prayer? No, because what that says is, Well, He's accomplishing His task. That is, when we argue with God, what's He doing? He's showing us, first of all, we're impatient. Secondly, we don't know His will. Number three, we're not ready.
And so, what seems to us to be a mistake on a part of God or forgetfulness on His part, is not that at all. And so, what we don't like to admit it, we begin to doubt what God says. Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you. Well, Lord, I've been asking since Monday and I don't have an answer. And then, we quote Him some other verses and doesn't seem to impress God at all. And so, what happens? The next thing you know, we think, Oh, He's not going to. Oh, yes, He is. Maybe He will, maybe He not. And so, up and down our faith goes. Wavering faith doesn't get anything from God. So, let's think for just a moment. What causes our faith to waver like that? When we choose to go by our feelings, rather than the Word of God. When we move our eyes from the Word of God and His promises to how we feel, we are going to begin to be unstable in our faith. And, God knew that.
The wonderful thing about this Word, you never have to question what God says. What He says is not just true sometimes, it true all the time. And, when we choose to go by our feelings, rather than the Word of God, our faith is going to be up today and down tomorrow. So, we put our feelings first. That's one of the reasons we waver. Secondly, when we yield, listen, when we yield to reason rather than believe God. In other words, you can't go by reason, because reason and faith do not always agree. God's reason, for example, for not answering my petition the way I asked may not be the reason I would come up with. For example, we, when we come to God and asking big things of Him, we have all kind of reasons for, to believe He'll answer our prayer. It may be that God sees something we haven't thought about and He's not about to answer our prayer till He deals with that.
So, if there's a reservation, if there's a hesitation, if there is, if there's an instance in which God is waiting, it's because He has a legitimate, good, divine, helpful reason for it. And I think oftentimes believers, because God doesn't answer our prayer when we expect it, what happens is we just doubt Him. We pout. We think, Well, there's no point in me praying anymore because I asked God for this. And every once in a while, I'll meet somebody who says I hear you're talking about prayer. I used to pray. I say, What do you mean, used to pray? Well, I prayed before and God didn't answer my prayer, so I just forgot that, just gave up on that, and God doesn't answer prayer. It's amazing how juvenile and child-like we can become because things don't happen the way we expect it and when we expect it.
So, ask yourself the question, Do you go by reason or by the Word of God? And then, a third thing. We fail to see God at work in our circumstances. That is, if you don't see God at work in your circumstances, you're going to doubt what's going on. And, remember this, as a follower of Jesus, nothing can happen to you unless He allows it. And so, difficulty, hardship, pain, suffering, moments of doubt. Why does He allow this? Because He's trying to grow us up. And so, we fail to see God in our circumstances, what happens is, we begin to wobble in our faith. How is He going to grow us up if He doesn't test us? If He doesn't try us. If He doesn't allow us to face things that we don't understand. Things that we don't like. Things that, that oftentimes would drive us to the Word. I think about times I've been in situations and I thought, God you got to speak to my heart. And I'll flip to something like this, "The counsel of the Lord stands forever".
See, I just happened to turn to that. But that's what He usually does. Not all the time. But, turn me right to the verse of Scripture, He knows I need. Because, all of us are going to face tests and trials. And, one of two things'll happen. I'll turn to Him and trust Him. I'll turn to the Word of God and read and strengthen my faith. Or, I'll find myself wobbling and wasting time. And oftentimes, that's where people get in trouble. Well, if God loved me, He wouldn't let this happen. God knows exactly the right time to meet every single need we have. And sometimes He waits a long time. Sometime He waits a long time and we give up and we go back and we give up and we go back and we give up and we go back. Remember this. If you, watch this carefully. If you have asked something that's in the will of God, relax. It'll come in His timing when He knows you're ready and He's ready and your receiving it at this time will enable Him to accomplish what He wants to accomplish in your life. He's in charge. Then sometime, we listen to negative counsel from other people.
How many people have said to you, Well, you must be something wrong what you're asking for because how long have you been praying for that? So, think about why you find yourself wavering in your prayer request. Because think about this. What do we call Him? Our Heavenly what? Father. Our Heavenly Father loves us. And if you'll think about this, the next time you think God doesn't care, all you have to do is remember this. Look at the cross. You want to know whether He cares or not? Look at the cross. There's nothing to equal that. There's no love equal to what God did through His Son, the Lord Jesus, at the cross of Calvary, nothing that will ever happen will match that. And so, when we give up, we don't realize what God's up to. He's always up to something good, no matter what it might be. And so, when we listen to negative counsel, we're heading for trouble.
Listen, if you're asking God about something in your life, probably it's best that you keep it to yourself. Some things you can ask other people to help you pray about, naturally. But then there are some things that God just wants the two of you, just the two of you to deal with it. Don't talk to anybody else about it. Just talk to Me about it. And you say, Okay, well Lord, I've been talking to You three months and You haven't done anything. Yes, watch this, yes, He has. Listen carefully. When you think God hasn't done anything, He's had three months to work on you and to get you ready for the answer. And oftentimes, right before God has it all prepared for us, we want to give up. We say, God hasn't heard me. We walk away from God at a pivotal point in our life, don't forget that! I see it happening all the time. Well, I've been praying. Well, what happens? Well, you know what? I've decided God just hasn't heard me. Yes, He has. Think about this. Why wouldn't God listen to you?
You say, Well, I've never been saved. He's waiting for you to recognize your sinfulness, cry out to Him to save you. So, don't give up on God. He knows exactly where you are in your life. Then of course, when we focus our thinking on our circumstances rather than God, what does He do? Remember this. He always has as His objective our love and devotion and commitment to Him. Our mind is on something else; His mind is on what will build our relationship. And so, when we think about we focus on the circumstances and we think, Well, how could God? In other words, now that this has happened, how could God possibly do anything with this? You can't rush God. You cannot hurry God. Does God care? Yes. Does He care about everything? Yes. Care about everybody? Yes. But He knows the right time, the right place, the right person, or the right things, whatever it might be. God knows exactly what you need. He knows exactly the right time to provide it. He knows how long to withhold it until He gets your attention.
Would you say that God wants the best for you or just pretty good? The best. He wants the best for us. Then I must be willing to wait for the best. Circumstances, you can't go by circumstances. Then of course, one of our problems is we're sort of ignorant of God's ways. In other words, there's nothing in the Bible that says, Ask and it shall be given to you immediately. That's what we wish it would say but it doesn't say that. And when you think about how God operates, watch this. Whatever we're asking for that may be the will of God, usually He has not only that but something else in mind also. And God is a loving God. In other words, God isn't trying to withhold anything good from us. It's that our faith begins to waver because we don't get it when we want it, the way we want it, and it may be that we don't get it through whom we expected it to come. And, the more we understand the ways of God, the more patient we'll become when it comes to answered prayer. Because oftentimes He withholds, watch this, He withholds what I'm looking for because He's got something better than I was looking for.
Think about this. God, your Heavenly Father, why would He withhold from you anything that's good for you? Why would He give you something less than the best? He's got big plans for all of us. And they have to do with, listen, they have to do with making us like Himself; conforming us to the likeness of the image of Christ. That's what He's interested in. All this other stuff's something we do. So, we're ignorant of God's ways. And, one of the things that causes our faith to wobble, is our guilt over present or past sins. And, watch this carefully. As I talk to people over the years, one of the biggest handicaps to trusting God is they look back. And instead of looking at God and His love and forgiveness and kindness, they look back and they think, How could God ever love me for what I've done? How could God ever love me what I've been, where I've been, what I've been?
And so, we judge ourselves and the devil, he loves that. God doesn't want you looking back. He wants you looking straight toward Him. He forgives every sin. He wipes it clean with the blood of Jesus. We're His children. He's conforming us to His likeness. He's working in our life every single day, because He knows ultimately where we're going to be. So, ask yourself the question, Is your faith solid, strong, immovable? Or, is it wishy-washy? Don't be like the waves of the sea, coming and going. So, how do we correct our wavering faith? We correct it by asking the following questions. So, I have a list of them.
Ask yourself the following questions. Number one: Where are these doubts coming from? Where are these doubts coming from? Probably, something in your past. Something going on in your life. Listen. When you are asking God about your life. And, you are in the process of living in sin. You are going to have confusion. Listen. A spirit of confusion will envelope the life of a person whose living in sin and talking to God. You going to have a feeling of confusion. Where are these doubts coming from? Secondly, you think about this. Did God promise to meet all your needs? Well, I hear a couple of yeses. How many of you would say, God, yes, He's promised to meet all my needs? Amen. Has He? He must have missed somebody. Not only has He promised it. Watch this. He'll meet all of our needs. Not all my wants. Not all of my desires. But all of my needs.
Now, why doesn't He meet all my wants and all my desires? Because He loves me too much. If my wants and my desires, come into conflict with the Word of God, He's not going to answer it. Why? Because, He loves us too much to give us what we shouldn't have. Thank God, He's not given me a few things that I've asked for. Because, listen. He always have something better. And think about this. We all would say, "Yes, He's promised to meet all of our needs". Think about this. Did He not promise to be with us all the time? What's that verse? Real short. "I will never leave you nor forsake you". How many of you have ever felt left and forsaken by God? The rest of you are not being honest. Sure, you have at some point. And, you think, God, where are you? God, why aren't you answering my prayer. What's going on? He's always interested in drawing us to Himself. And making our life count.
Somebody says well, "Sometimes, I don't feel God's presence". Watch this. Why has He made it so that sometimes I don't feel his presence? Why would God do that? Can you have a good reason? Sure, because He doesn't want us to live by our feelings. He knew we'd vacillate. I feel fantastic today. Well, God was so close yesterday, God's nowhere to be found. In other words, if we live by our feelings, we would never know where we are in our relationship to God. We live by what? Truth. We live by the truth. "I will never forsake you. I will never leave you".
We live by truth of the Word of God. And then, listen to this. Did He not give you one of the greatest gifts of all? And that is when you were saved, He indwelt you with the Holy Spirit. That is, listen to this. God says, I'm going to send the Holy Spirit, who will be in you, with you, and upon you. He's going to be your guide. He's going to be your helper, the parakletos. He's going to be your helper. He's going to be the source of your strength. He's going to be there for you anytime, anywhere, in any circumstance. He's going to be the One who empowers you, enables you. He's going to be your very life. That's our security. That's our absolute assurance.
And so, once you receive Christ as your Savior, listen to this. He loves you so much, you cannot be lost. Watch this. Once He writes your name in the Lamb's Book of Life, you're trusting Him as your Savior, there's nothing in the Bible about erasures. Not in there. Nobody can erase your name from the Lamb's Book of Life, because it's written with indelible divine ink. Cannot be erased under any condition. Once you're saved by the grace of God, watch this, grace says in the very beginning, I don't deserve it. Grace is all about love and forgiveness and cleansing and acceptance. Once you trust Him as your personal Savior, your name written in Lamb's Book of Life, and what? You sin against God, you get chastised. You sin against God, you pay the price. But, watch this, the price is never your soul. Never your soul. Once you're saved by the grace of God, you're forever saved. You start living in sin, what happens? Chastisement comes. And you, He will chastise you.
You say, Well, how much will He chastise me? He'll chastise you until you think you can't stand it anymore, and you get straightened out with God. That may be where you are this morning. You may have to admit, Well, you know what? I got out of the will of God back yonder and I told God, I didn't want to live that way anymore. It didn't work for me, so I showed up this morning hoping I'd hear something that will help me. Once you trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you are forever a child of God. You may be a child of God with lots of doubt, lots of fears, things are not working right in your life. But watch this, but not lost; not lost, because He loves you; because He cares; because He has the best for you. This is Holy God who said, I've sealed you unto the day of redemption. That is, when He calls us home. Sealed, secured forever. We have no reason to doubt Him.
And every once in a while I'll meet somebody who says to me, You don't know what I've done in my life. I said, It doesn't make any difference. No, but if you knew the kind of life I live, you wouldn't be talking about, to me, about God's love. Yes, I would. No matter what you've done, where you've done it, with whom, it doesn't make any difference. This is the awesome forgiveness of God. On the cross, every single solitary sin that man has or could ever possibly commit, the price has been paid for your forgiveness, your salvation for all eternity. He's an awesome God. He loves us with a love that we can't even describe. And when I think about people whose faith wavers, I think sometimes they must think that there must be something too hard for God. No, it's a matter of surrendering to Him and watch Him work in your life. That's who God is. He's this awesome infinite God, full of love that's indescribable.
I ask you one last question. What could Almighty God have done to prove His love for all of us that even matches what He did at the cross? What else could He do to prove His love? "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever," watch this, "whosoever believes in Him," not works for Him, not labors for Him. "Whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life". Do you believe Him? Do you believe He died for your sins? Do you believe that when He went to the cross, He paid your sin debt in full? Are you willing to ask Him to forgive you of your sin, surrender your life to Him and start, listen, begin life anew with Jesus in your life? Sealed by the Holy Spirit and one of these days welcomed into heaven by Almighty God, amen?
Father, we thank You for loving us and we look at the cross and think, Oh, how unworthy we are. Oh, how much You must love us. Show us how to live out what You've done for us and what You do for us continually. Deliver us from all doubt, all fear. And may we rest absolutely and totally in Your loving arms. In Jesus's name, amen.