Charles Stanley - Faith That Wavers
Well, one of the greatest assets you have in your life is your faith. It affects everything you do. You're planning to get up tomorrow morning, right? You may have some plans about going to work. We live by our faith. We make plans. Some people's faith, strong, some people's faith, not so strong. But many people have faith that wavers. They don't have a settled, strong, foundational faith. But I want to talk about this whole issue of why we waiver in our faith. If you'll recall where we've been in the past few months, we've been in the book of Exodus, and we have watched God free the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. God miraculously brought them out, gave them what the Egyptians owned, brought them through the desert, brought them down to the Red Sea, opened up the sea, the waters on both sides up, they walked through, not a person got a drop of water on them.
All the way through, and then through the desert, up to the very crossover the boundary and the Promised Land, they said, "Mmmmm. We better go back to Egypt". Can you imagine that? "Take us back to Egypt", slavery, little, disease, all the things that they had to deal with. But right on the brink of the Promised Land, they, "Mmmmm, mm-mm, we can't do it". That's our background, that's what we are going to be talking about. But I want you to turn to James, chapter one. In the sixth verse, says, "But we must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind". Watch this, "For that man", or a woman, "ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord". You see, that's a powerful statement, look at that. "For that man", or a woman, "ought not to expect that he shall receive anything from the Lord".
So, what I want to talk about in this message is wavering faith. All of us have experienced wavering faith in some fashion or the other. And so, it's devastating to real accomplishment and achievement in life. God wants us to have strong faith. Now, watch this. Faith that is built under a relationship, a personal relationship with Almighty God. Not faith built on feelings, not faith built on opinion, not faith built on somebody else, what somebody else thinks you ought to do, but faith built on Almighty God. What God's going to do in your life relates to your faith. Not spending our time thinking about what I can't do, what I can't have, but spending our time thinking about what God has provided for us, what He's promised and what He will allow to happen.
So, let's think about some of the causes of wavering faith. When trusting God is in conflict with human reason, what happens? If we go by human reason instead of trusting God, we won't get much out of life. When you trusted Christ as your Savior, here's what you did. You said, "I'm going to believe, that now having trusted Jesus as my Savior, that when I die, I'm going to Heaven and nothing can keep me out". Because He promised, "Absent from the body, present with the Lord". So, you trusted Him as your Savior. Now, living it out is what faith's all about. And so, your human reason and your faith are going to be in conflict lots of times, especially if you listen to other people. Because most other people have an opinion about you if you just ask them. Why should we listen to people tell us what to do? How we ought to live our life, instead of God who created you as a very unique individual.
So, one of the reasons we waver in our faith is human reason. When we allow our feelings to overcome our faith. This is where most people live. Well, I just don't feel like it. Well, I have thought, I have prayed about it, but then I just don't feel like that's what God wants for me. And we let our feelings, which like the waves of the sea, forward and backwards, and people live that way. Nowhere in the Bible is it ever even implied that we're to live by feelings. We're going to have feelings, but the issue is this: do we live by ever-changing feelings that are affected by everything, or you going to live by a faith in the Word of God which does not change? Everything else changes. The Word of God doesn't change. You can't go by your feelings. You either go by your feelings or your faith. Not one word in the Scripture about our feelings being right. We go by trusting God to be to us who He promised to be. Then of course, when we fail to see God at work in our circumstances.
And I think this is what happens to many people. Things happen that they don't expect or they don't plan and they don't see God in them. You say, "Well, what do you mean seeing God in them"? Most of us, watch this carefully, see God in our circumstances when they're good. When I'm getting what I want, going where I want to go, having what I have, drive this, wear that, live there, that's when we see God. But suppose the bottom drops out and you don't have all those things, where's God? Then has He disappeared? Has He changed, this God who said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you", has He changed? No, He has not. And so, we trust Him in times we don't always understand what He's up to, but He's always working in our circumstances to accomplish His will and for our good. God is a God of awesome love who intends to lead us every single day, not make everything just easy for us, but whatever He's doing, whatever he's doing in your life, He has an ultimate purpose.
You think God is always working in your behalf? Yes, He is. It may not look like it, it may not feel like it. We can't see any evidence of it. He's always working in our behalf because to get you over here, He knows that, watch this, He knows to bless you over here, He can't take a straight line, because it'll ruin you back here. So, what does He do? He takes us through enough pain, enough difficulty, enough hardship, by the time we get there, we're so grateful to God, we just love obeying Him. Love obeying Him. Then of course, we listen to negative counsel. You have to watch who you listen to.
Somebody says, "Well, I've been talking to my friends about what I've been praying to God about, and none of them think I should do it". Listen, you don't listen to your friends. You say, "Well, you're telling me not to ever listen to my friends"? No, but I'm saying this: when it comes to decisions that you have to make about your life, your decisions are not your friend's decisions. Your decisions are between you and God. It isn't that we shouldn't seek godly counsel, but godly counsel are the, listen, should match up to God's Word and God's Spirit and God's direction for your life.
So, we're talking about the things that cause us to waver in our faith. Another one is this. When we focus on our circumstances rather than on God. And it is always a catch for us. Well, here are my circumstances. Not here are my circumstances in the light of this awesome, sovereign God that I serve, who loves me unconditionally. These are not my circumstances alone. These are circumstances in which God is very, very aware of. He knows exactly why I'm where I am. He knows exactly what I should be doing. Doesn't make any sense at all, but happens to be the will of God. These are the things that trip us up. These are the things that we begin to pray and ask God, what to do?
And then, watch this carefully. So many times, when we do that and we're talking to our friends and looking at the circumstances, and we conclude by our circumstances and what we hear and what we normally feel, well, that couldn't be the will of God when that may be exactly what God wants you to do. Watch this, because how do we grow in our faith? Being challenged by things that are not normal, challenged by things that don't seem to be reasonable, things that seem to be difficult. Why would God ask me to do this? And sometimes, what He's doing, He's pushing us along to grow up our faith. And so, He's a God who's always looking out in our behalf. When we focus on our circumstances rather than on God, something begins to happen in our life. And so, when we're ignorant of God's ways, another one, ignorant of God's ways, if I'm ignorant of how God works, then I'm going to be disappointed.
So, somebody says, "Well, how do we learn how God works"? From the Word of God. And I think about how many people grow up in their life and they own a Bible, but they never read it. Or if they do, they read their favorite passages most of the time. But God wants us to be growing. And how do we grow? We grow through our faith; trusting Him, believing Him; that even in the most difficult, trying, weeping times; we must believe that God's doing something good. Watch this, because He is a good God who loves us even in the difficult times when He has to chastise us, He's still loving us. He knows what we need.
Now, we think we know what we need. We need to live in a big house, drive a big car, wear expensive clothes, have all kind of jewelry. We can name all that kind of stuff, and you know what? God doesn't promise that. He promises something much better: a personal, intimate relationship with Him. That is the most wonderful gift God could give, and that's what He gives. And then I think about feelings of guilt over past sins haunt people. And there are a lot of people who have been saved, know that they're saved, and yet they never grow, and here's the reason they don't grow. They believe God saved them, but they can't quite believe that God has forgiven them of things in their past that maybe they're ashamed of or maybe things that they certainly regret that ever happened to them. And somehow, they can't quite believe that God has really and truly forgiven them.
And I've met lots of people that are like that in life. "Well, I know I'm saved, I know I trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior, but then, here's what happened in my life and I don't think God could possibly forgive me of that". What is it He can't forgive you of? That's who He is: a forgiving God. Listen. And one thing He does not do is come back and say, "Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm". No. When He forgives, in His divine mind, He forgets. He does not hold against you what He has forgiven you of. Now, the very circumstance that caused you to sin has fruit. And those circumstances sometimes are very difficult. And so, we reap what we sow, more than we sow, later than we sow. It doesn't mean that God's against us. But the very nature of some things, we reap what we sow, more than we sow, later than we sow.
And it doesn't say, "But God doesn't forgive us", no. Watch this, even when we've made mistakes, even when we've sinned against God, He has forgiven us. Now, watch this. Even when you are suffering the fruits of big mistakes, Holy God is with you to help you, to enable you, and to remind you that the fruits and the consequences of what you've done are still there and you're feeling it, but He's forgiven you. He's forgiven you no matter what. And this is where many Christians, they come to a certain point in their commitment to the Lord and then they'll say, "But, yeah, but back yonder in my life, here's what happened and I don't know how God could forgive you". I can tell you. I can tell you how He can forgive you of anything. I didn't say there'd be no consequences, but I can tell you how He'll forgive you anything.
Look at the cross. When He sent Jesus to die on the cross and shed His blood, that was for your sin and my sin. How will He forgive us? Asking Him to forgive us, not on the basis we're going to be perfect, but on the basis that Jesus died for us. And when we surrender our life to Him, confess our faith in Him, He forgives us of our sin. And I think of how many people miss out on the best things in life because they can't believe that God could somehow forgive them of this, that, and the other. Well, guilt over past sins, and then of course, listening to the lies of the devil. Satan is still talking. And I've met some wonderful people who will never be happy in their life because they can't close their ears off to the devil's accusations. Watch this, you cannot name a single solitary sin in your life today that God won't forgive you of.
Now, if you have the idea that I'm going to sin and just enjoy myself because the Bible says, "If I confess it, He'll forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness". Mm-mm, you set yourself a trap. You're testing God. But God will forgive you for whatever the past is because He's a God of love and goodness and mercy, and He's paid the price for your sins. He wants you to trust Him. He wants us to trust Him. And if we trust Him, we'll grow in our Christian life, and if we don't, we won't grow. So, think about all of us, listening to the lies of Satan telling you that you're not forgiven. You are forgiven.
Now, how do we correct wavering faith? And we've all been there at some time or the other. How do we correct that in our life? Ask yourself this question: where are these doubts coming from? They're coming from the devil. Satan wants you to doubt that you're saved. He wants you to doubt that you're forgiven. And he, on and on he goes, he is the source of our doubts. God is an awesome God who loves us. And when we come to doubting Him, the best place to go is strictly to the Word of God to say, "Lord, what do You say about this"? So, ask yourself the question: where are these doubts coming from? Then ask yourself this question: did God not promise to meet all of our needs? Yes, He has. He's promised to meet every single need we have. What have you asked Him for that He has not done, that fits His will and purpose and plan for your life? He never fails us.
So, let's think about this. Did He not give us the Holy Spirit to enable us to do whatever He requires in life? Yes, He did. And so, whatever he requires of us, when you trusted Christ as your Savior, you were indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is there to enable you to accomplish anything and everything God has required of you. So, He has not said, "This is what I want you to do and you do it". He's always there. He's our partner in life. He's our guide to help us to do and to achieve everything He's required of us. He's never going to misguide you, mislead you in any way under any condition. He always has your best interest at heart. The question is: are you willing to listen with an open heart? Are you willing to, listen, are you willing to listen in the light of what you know the Word of God says?
In the Bible, names a whole lot of sins. And the Bible forbids us to partake of many things in life. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not bear false witness. On and on we go. And people know it, they can quote it. But here's how they think. "I'm an exception. I'm an exception. I'm pretty good. I'm not a mean person. I've never killed anybody". I've heard everything imaginable of why a person can sin against God and it'd be okay. It's not okay. Watch this. No matter who we are, what we are, how long we've known the Lord, you cannot change, you cannot change a principle of the Word of God, one of which is be sure your sin will find you out. Secondly, we reap what we sow. What's the next one? More than we sow, later than we sow. You can't change that.
And so, what I simply want you to do is to think about this. To live a life of faith, you've got to know what the Word of God says. God wants the best for us. And the best for us requires something of us. And I think about did He not promise to be with me at all times? Yes. Anything too hard for God? No. And when you come to a decision in life, big decisions, and watch this. You can't ask somebody else in life if your decision-making process, if it's a big decision. Some people think big things in God's eyes are little things to us. And some things that we think are so big to God, they're not. What God wants is listening hearts and obedient spirits. And you get the best that Almighty God has to offer. Does that mean no pain? No. Does it mean you'll never be in want? No. God knows what it takes to make us, to create us, for us to become the persons He's made us, He'll take you.
In other words, if you've lived half your life and say, "Well, I've just blown it". Start now. God will take you right where you are, forgive you of your sin in spite of the past. He'll enable you to overcome it. But most people are not listening to God. They're just doing whatever they want to do. Is this one of those forks in the road in which my unbelief can cause me a lifetime of regret? That is a major question. You're confronted with some question, ask yourself the question: is this one of the forks in the road in which my unbelief could cost me a lifetime of regret?
I think of some people I know are living in a lifetime of regret because of decisions they have made, and decisions they can't change. God wants us to follow His will because that's the best way. He's willing to answer our prayers. He's willing to give us direction. He's willing to forgive us of our sin. He's willing to help us in every way if we're willing to listen to Him. But ask yourself the question: on a daily basis, on a daily basis, is it your habit and could you be described by the people who know you as a person who seeks to obey God in their life? Live the Christian life, knows Jesus Christ as their Savior, is that the kind of person they are? Do they know you as that kind of person? It's our relationship to Him, listening to Him and obeying Him.
So, when I think about that, think about probably one of the simplest things I could say to you, and yet it's one of the most important. So, I'll put it this way. I've lived long enough to learn this: the most important thing in a believer's life is the time they spend meditating upon the Word of God and talking to Him. There is no exception. That's the most important time we spend in our life. Reading the Word, you say, "Well, I don't understand it all". Well, there are things in the Bible I don't fully understand. The most important thing in your life, the most assured sense of guidance in your life, if you will read the Word and listen to God, He will direct you right every time. And I would simply say this. I've got some favorite passages.
In fact, I want you to listen to this and then I'll tell you where I got it. When I'm trying to make a decision or I'm facing some situation or circumstance, here's where I turn. "You are My servant. I have chosen you and not rejected you. Do not fear for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Behold, all those who are angered at you will be shamed and dishonored. Those who contend with you will be as nothing and will perish. You will seek those who quarrel with you, but you'll not find them. Those who war with you will be as nothing and non-existent. For I am the Lord your God who upholds your right hand, who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you'".
Isaiah forty-one, starts with verse nine. You ought to write that down, Isaiah, all the things He covers in this passage. There've been times when I've faced the most difficult times in my life, things that would normally destroy a person, that's where I lived, right there in Isaiah forty-one. Got other passages, it's the Word of God. It's the Word of God that keeps us on track when everything else may be wrong going on in your life. But there it is. I will help you, I will strengthen you, I will uphold you, God's promise to us. So, as you think about your faith, remember this: it's linked to the Word of God. Your faith will increase in strength and power when you spend time in the Word of God.
And you may be here today, and not knowing Jesus as your Savior. Well, what's the next step? The first step is to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins. Not because you're going to be better, not because you deserve it, but because he said if we confess our sins, He's faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That is, when Jesus went to the cross, He died and paid sin's debt for you and me. And when we ask Him to forgive us, He will. And then He will begin to guide you, lead you, and help you to understand the Word of God, change your whole life. I trust that you'll do that. Whoever you are, wherever you are, God is willing to change your life, if you'll let Him. Amen?
Father, we thank You for Your wonderful Word. We pray the Holy Spirit will fasten these truths in the heart of every person. And grant us all the courage we need, Lord, to be obedient to You when things don't look very clear. But when you say go, give us wisdom and the courage to go, to do whatever You would have to do in life. We love You and we praise You and we bless You, for every blessing that comes our way. But the one above all else, Your presence and Your power are dwelling within us in Jesus's name, amen.