Doug Batchelor - Seven Steps to Stronger Faith
"Seven Steps to Stronger Faith," we're going to get right to it. This is one of the most important things I think that we could talk about because faith is essential in being saved. Now, when I went to school, I love history, I didn't do so well in spelling or English or math or just about every other subject, but I did okay in history because I just was fascinated with the story of history, of the stories. And one of the stories that always fascinated me was the story of Hannibal of Carthaginian. I actually went to Carthage when I was 16 years old, and on a sailboat. And Hannibal took an army, well, let me give you the backstory first, what made it incredible.
The Carthaginians, North Africa, were at war with the rising Roman power there in Italy, and Hannibal, who was a very wise general, he knew that he could not just cross the Mediterranean and attack the boot of Italy like everyone had done. All their forces were amassed there. And one of the most important elements in a battle is the element of surprise, and he thought, "You know, they're not going to be guarding their northern border because the Italian Alps are up there and they're just never going to be expecting an attack from there. So I'm going to land my army in Spain, and we will march up through the Pyrenees Mountains, we will march through the Alps, and we will cross those mountains and attack from the north." That was a pretty outrageous plan because his army consisted of 38,000 infantry, 8,000 cavalry and 38 elephants, African war elephants.
Now, I just think it's pretty hard to cross the Alps, but to do it with elephants. And I always just pictured these quiet little Alpine Italian villages, where they're out there, you know, they're taking care of their farms and the little herbs and their tulips or whatever they did. And all of a sudden they heard the trumpet of an elephant and they saw an army of elephants come marching through the Alpines, that must have been something. But he managed to do it, he was able to overcome the mountains, which made me think about that statement of Jesus. In Matthew 17, verse 20, "Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you'll say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you," if you have faith.
Do you have faith? You have enough faith? Faith is the central, most crucial element in our salvation. The Bible tells us, "Without faith," in Hebrews 11:6, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." Faith can be achieved by diligently seeking after Him, but you must come in faith. You think about it, and there were two people straddling Jesus on the cross, two thieves, one on the right, one on the left. The Bible is very clear that one called out for salvation and he was saved, the other called out and he is not saved. The difference between the two thieves is one thief began his prayer with "If"; he didn't have faith. He said, "If you are the Son of God, save Yourself and us." Jesus had no promise of salvation for him. The other one said, "Lord, save me when You come into Your kingdom," it was a prayer of faith. He will be saved.
Two kinds of people, saved and lost; two kinds of prayers, prayer of faith and one that lacks faith. And Jesus asked the question, "When the Son of Man comes," you know what He says? "Will He find faith in the world?" "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever has faith in Him," that's what believeth means, "Whoever has faith in Him will not perish but have everlasting life." You may also want to remember Matthew 13:58. When Jesus went to His hometown, the Bible says He did very few miracles. You know why? Because they didn't have faith. "Because of their unbelief, He did not do many mighty works there." Very simple: more faith, more mighty works; little faith, little mighty works. If you want to see more of the power of God in your life, we need more faith. So, that just introduces the seven steps, and this won't be long, it's not going to be hard. Well, I say that, sometimes I don't keep my promise, but shouldn't be long.
Step number one, the Word. Everything else we're going to read about, the other steps, is based on the Word so I thought I'd start with the Word. But if you want more faith, you need to spend time in the Word. Here's the promise, Romans 10:17, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Maybe you heard about this blind man named Bartimaeus, and he heard that Jesus was coming by and so he called out, "Son of David, have mercy on me." And the crowd told him, "Be quiet," but he would not be quiet, he called even more, "Son of David, have mercy on me."
Now, it's interesting that Jesus had just come away from the religious leaders that didn't really believe Jesus was the Messiah, but this blind man, even though he can't see, he believes the Word that he hears and he says, "That's the Son of David." And so he is brought to Jesus not based on what he sees, he's brought to Jesus based on what he hears, and Christ is able to open his eyes.
You know how sin entered the world? What's the first question in the Bible? "Hath God said?" The first question is the devil questioning the Word of God, doubting the Word; he was trying to plant that doubt in the minds of our first parents. And so sin entered the world through a lack of faith in God's Word. The more faith we have in God's Word, God's Word will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from God's Word, that's kind of how it works. You read it, you'll be convicted, you'll either change your behavior or you'll stop reading it, kind of like the man who really enjoyed rice and then one day he got a microscope and he looked at his rice under a microscope and we saw that that rice was crawling with all kinds of very small bacteria. And so though he didn't know what to do so he broke the microscope because he liked his rice.
People who are convicted by the Word either need to give up their sin or they start giving up the Word. By the way, it's also true with church, church will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from church. So we need to read the Word. Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." So, you want to grow your faith? Spend time in the Word, spend time in the Word every day, have scheduled time. You're driving in your car, you can put it in a CD or on your iPod or whatever. They got so many different ways you can listen in your car to the Bible right now, you can do it through your phone, you can do it through a little SD card, you can do it through a USB, you can do it through the radio or a CD if your car still has one. Any one still have a cassette player in their car? I see a few, yeah, I got some cassettes I'd like to share with you, sister.
So listen to the Word, then pray, number two is pray, in building your faith. James 5:15, "And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." Through prayers of faith, things happen. You pray big prayers, what will happen to your faith? Gets bigger. How many of you, you've prayed a prayer and then you see an answer to your prayer, and what happens? Your faith gets stronger.
Just this week, I lost a key to the car. Now, you know the keys to the new cars are more expensive. The old days you just go get a copy made, cost you $2; now it's like $145 to replace one of these keys, and so I was really praying. It wasn't a little key prayer, it was a big key prayer. And I knew I'd brought it home from the health club and I looked all over and I went through the laundry and I was digging around. You ever looking for something, you check your pockets three times, you think, "Maybe I missed it the other two times," and you just keep going back? And I was digging around, I was digging around, then I realized it was garbage day. I thought, "Maybe it fell out of my pants." I don't know how it happened but I said, "You know, wouldn't it be awful if it was in the garbage?" And the garbage is out in front of the house and we'd already thrown all the garbage in there. And so I thought, I went out and started digging through the garbage thinking, "Did it fall in there?" I didn't go to the bottom, I thought, "It's just not worth it, I'll pay $145 before I do that."
So finally, I thought, "Well, I'm searching, I'm frantic. Pray." So it wasn't long after I prayed, I found my key. It was in the car, it had fallen down, it had fallen down between the seat and the shifter thing. So when you pray, and then what happened to my faith? After you pray and you find it, "Prayer works, look at that, I ought to do it more often." So pray more, pray big prayers, don't just pray for yourself, pray for others, and you'll see. Keep a log. Do you ever write down when God answers your prayer? Make a little log of it, write it down, and then it'll refresh your faith as you look back at how many times God has answered your prayers over the course of your life.
I've got a prayer list in my computer. When I do my worship in the morning, I have a little prayer list and I write things down. And over the years, I've checked off those answers, I delete them and then I add new ones. And I thought, Man, I shouldn't be deleting them, I ought to save them, all the answered prayers that God has performed. "Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things that he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you'll receive them, and you will receive them."
Well, that just, you read that and you think, "That can't actually mean that." It may not mean the part about praying the mountain moves because most of us don't need to move mountains, it's mountains of sin. The Bible tells us that you can say to a mountain, "Be cast into the depths of the sea," and it will be done, it's the mountain of sin we, and God says he casts our sins into the sea, that he deals with. "Therefore whatever you ask when you receive, believe that you receive them, and you will have them." Well, it's pretty clear that you pray in faith, and He says, "All things are possible with God." So don't ever put any doubts on what the Lord is able to do.
All right, read the Bible, pray, step out in faith, act upon the faith that you have, don't wait until you know that all obstacles are removed. Real faith is taking that step of faith. It's kind of like when Jesus came to the disciples and they were out that night rowing against the wind on the waves of Galilee, and Jesus was walking on the water and Peter said, "Lord, if that's you, bid that I come to You on the water." Jesus said, "Come." At some point, Peter must've believed that he could come to the Lord, and all it was the word of Jesus that said, "Come to Me." Peter had to take that first step, he had to step out of the security of the boat into the storm, and when he did that, the water became firm under his feet and he was able to do the impossible. As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he was able to walk on water.
But at some point along the way, Peter, I just think, I can't prove this, but I think he was wondering, "Are my friends getting this on their iPhone? No one's ever going to believe this, I want to stream this live." And he looked around to say, "Hey guys, you getting this?" But when he took his eyes off Jesus, then he saw the waves and his faith began to sink. And what happened to him? He began to sink with it, till he turned back to Jesus and said the shortest prayer in the Bible, "Lord..." actually, there's a shorter prayer: Peter's prayer was, "Lord, save me"; Jehoshaphat actually said, "Lord, help," that was all he said. God answered his prayer.
So you got to take a step. James 1:22, "Be doers of the word, not hearers only." People say, "I believe, I believe," and never do anything about it. It's like the pastor who called his church together and said, "Let's have a prayer meeting for this drought." They were having a terrible drought there in Georgia. And folks came, and right away the pastor looked around and said, "All right, prayer meeting's over, we'll see you Sunday." They say, "Wait, you told us to come and pray about the drought." He says, "You're not serious about praying. If you were serious, you would've brought umbrellas."
So when you come and you pray for rain, do you bring your umbrella? You need to take a step of faith. Hebrews 11, by the way, if you want to know more about faith, read Hebrews 11. Hebrews 11, "By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, he moved with godly fear." He didn't just say, "Yeah, Lord, I believe there's a flood," he moved. "With godly fear, he prepared an ark to the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of righteousness which is according to faith." This is one of the greatest acts in the Bible, one of the greatest acts of faith is that Noah used all of his resources to build an ark on dry land in a world where it had never rained because he trusted God's word. And then, you know what the incredible thing is? After he did that, it takes a lot of faith to invite two termites on the boat. It had never rained before and he built a boat. So, real faith, at some point, will put the promises of God to test. You read it, you pray it, then you act upon it, you got to step out.
Someone said, "Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, receives the impossible." I think it was Augustine who said, "Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of faith is to see what we believe," and sometime you'll finally be rewarded with what you believe. And then, have patience and persistence. So when you are praying about something particular, keep in mind the eternal perspective, God lives for eternity. You might say, "Lord, help me find my keys," and you wonder why you don't open your eyes and there are your keys, you might have to go search. Doesn't Jesus say, "Seek and you'll find"? It doesn't mean you've lost faith, you know, combine some work with your faith, but it takes persistence. Hebrews 6:12, says, "Do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience, faith and patience, inherit the promises." Revelation 14:12, "Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus."
Notice how many times you see these words together. Did you catch it? Faith, patience. "I thought faith means you get what you want right away." Faith means you hang on. The faithful in the Bible are not just those that get their promises answered, they're the ones who waited that extra five minutes and they got their promises answered. You need to hold on to the promises of God. Victorious faith is often more than believing; sometimes, it means believing a little longer than everyone else. Hebrews 11, "By faith the walls of Jericho fell." Did they fall the first time they marched around them or do they have to go around them, how many times? Thirteen, one time for six days, seven times on the seventh day, right? And probably about the sixth time on the seventh day, they were getting tired, "How many times are we going to march around this city?" Joshua said, "One more time." You've got to keep going. So faith, it says the walls fell by faith, but that faith was combined with a persistence and patience, as well as obedience.
Now, you know how your faith grows persistence and patience? Through trial. So if you say, "Lord, give me more persistent, patient faith," you know what you're asking for? If you pray for patience, you're asking for delay, because you do not learn patience by getting everything right away. You know how to ruin a kid? Give them everything they want right away. They turn eight years old, you give them their own cell phone; 14, new car. You're going to ruin them, aren't you? If you want them to appreciate something, you got to make them wait. So if you say, "Lord, give me tenacity, give me patience," you know what you're asking for.
A young Christian went to an older Christian for help, he said, "Would you please pray for me, that I might be more patient?" He said, "Absolutely, let's kneel together." The old man began to pray, "Lord, send this young man tribulation in the morning, send him adversity in the afternoon, send him trials in the evening." And he shook his friend and said, "No, no, no, I didn't ask for that, I asked for patience." Said, "Ah, it is through tribulation we develop patience," that's what the Bible says. So do you really want faith?
Number five, if you want to have stronger faith, associate with faithful people. Proverbs 13:20, "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed." Hang around believers and you'll do more believing, amen? You want to have more faith and you stay away from church and you stay away from prayer meeting, you stay away from Christian association, home bible study group? Spend more time with Christians. Hebrews 6:12, "That you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promise."
Now, I've used this verse twice, I want you to notice, "Imitate those." In order for you to imitate those with faith, you must be around people with faith. Does that make sense? Does it? 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul says, "Imitate me, as I imitate Christ." So follow those who are following Jesus. And Matthew 5:14, Christ said, "Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, they'll both fall in the ditch." Follow those who know where they're going, that have faith. So stay positive, there's going to be difficulties, but look at those difficulties as opportunities to strengthen your faith.
You know, on any given day here in Northern California, you got a couple of different birds that are flying around. One of them is the vulture and the other one's a hummingbird. They’re both birds, they both fly, they both live in the same neighborhood, but they've got very different attitudes. The vulture is flying around, it is looking for some poor bunny that got run over by a car and they want to eat something dead. They're looking for that which stinketh, they're looking for that has no future. And then you've got the hummingbird flying over the same country but it is not looking for dead skunks, it's looking for bright blossoms and sweet nectar that is the promise of new fruit.
There's two kinds of people out there, you got buzzards and you get hummingbirds; don't hang out with the buzzards. You sit there, they're the ones that, you know, you're talking to them and say, "It's a beautiful day," and they say, "Yeah, but you know, it's going to flood," or, "Everything's going to dry out now." And it just, everything is always got to be negative, they're just contesting anything positive. If you want to have more faith, find out people that have faith, hang out with them, because that kind of faith can be contagious.
And finally point seven, your faith will grow as you give it away; share your faith. Faith does not grow because it has come to you, faith grows because it goes through you; faith is for giving away. Tell others what God has done for you. 1 Timothy 4:16, "Take heed to yourself into the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you." You are saving yourself as you share your faith with others. Daniel 12:3, "Those who are wise will shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever." Turning others to righteousness.
You want to be able to share your faith. Are you part of a home study group? Get part of one, invite others to your home, some of the other believers and then you can invite guests. Doesn't have to have a lot of people, you know, three or four, "Two or three gathered in my name, I'm there." Have a small study group, get together, have deliberate times to share your faith with others, look for opportunities wherever you go.
Kind of neat, yesterday, I went to get a Subway sandwich. Now, you can't always do what I do, because as soon as I walked in the store, the guy's making sandwiches there, he says, "I just saw you on TV." That doesn't always happen, it's neat when it happens so it's kind of neat, of course I had my "Amazing Facts" hat on. And he's serving two ladies and they're looking at me going, "How'd that happen? How'd you end up on TV?" And I said, "Well, I'm a pastor in the area," and we weren't too far away from Sierra College, I said, "You know that church that's going up on top of the hill?" "Yeah." Said, "That's where we're going to be, we'd like to have you when we open, come visit us." And so I was encouraged when I went away. Every time you get an opportunity to say something to someone else about Jesus, as small as you might think it is.
I've got a friend writing a book right now, I haven't seen the book yet but it's a great title, it's called, "60-Second Evangelism: How to do Evangelism in a Minute." I thought, that's great, because, you know, some of the best evangelism can happen in a minute. Everybody can do something, amen? So finally, as we're talking about what you can do to grow your faith, I don't want to make it sound like it depends on you. Jesus said the disciples had small faith, yet He saved them. Why? because He is faithful, His mercies are new every day. I'm so thankful for His faithfulness.
Now, you know where we really need the faith? Is we need to have faith that God can save us from our sins and that He can give us power to have victory, to be new creatures, to be born again. Isn't that your desire?