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Greg Laurie - Amazing Faith

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    Greg Laurie - Amazing Faith

Let me start by saying something you might find surprising, everybody has lives by a form of faith. Now, some might say, "No, I don't have faith, I'm not a man of faith, I'm not a woman faith". No, everyone has faith, everyone applies faith, listen to this, even the atheist has faith. Now, I didn't say they had faith in God. They have faith in something, I'm not sure to what. Maybe they have faith in themselves. Well, that'll be disappointing. Or maybe their faith in a political system that will be even more disappointing, or faith in whatever, but they have faith.

And by the way, I think it takes more faith to be an atheist than it takes to be a Christian, to not believe that there's a creator and someone who is in control of all the things around us, but everybody has a measure of faith. And when we bring the word faith up, I think the problem is we make it too mystical, when in fact, we act in faith every day. For instance, when you go to a restaurant and you order, you're hoping that that food is going to be fresh, you're hoping that it will be prepared properly.

When you board a 747 that weighs over 300.000 pounds that it's gonna somehow get up in the air and take you to the place you wanna go to, you're applying faith when you do that, hey, when you step into an elevator, you're applying faith and hopes that all the cables are working and they've done their due diligence and all the checks on it and so forth. When you go down to the drug store and you fill your medications, you're trusting that pharmacist knows what they're doing and they're gonna put the right pills in the right bottle. But then someone comes along and says, so have faith in God, and we'd say, "Whoa, whoa, faith in God"? That's insane. Listen to this, there is no safer place to put your faith than in God Himself. So question, what is faith and how does it work? What is faith and how does it work?

Number one, faith is belief plus action. Faith is belief plus action. Hebrews 11:1 gives an excellent definition of faith where the author says, "Faith is a substance of things hoped for, it's the evidence of things not seen". So faith isn't just believing something, it's acting on that thing one believes and see, you can have mere intellectual ascent towards something. In other words, say, I believe this is true. As the Bible says that demons believe and tremble. And as I pointed out in an earlier message, the devil believes God is real, the devil believes the Bible is true, the devil believes Satan is coming back again, but he has not submitted himself to that, he is not following the Lord, but it's an acknowledgement of the truth of it. No, real faith in God is faith plus action, belief plus action.

Number two, faith does things. If you have real faith, you will do something with it. Going back to Hebrews 11 that talks a lot about faith. And by the way, I've written a book about this called "World Changers" based on Hebrews 11, where we look at the various people mentioned in that account and what they did with their faith. But in Hebrews 11, we read Abel offered a sacrifice, Noah prepared an Ark, Abraham obeyed, et cetera, they all did things because of faith With no words, is that faith that does not work. Let me repeat that, a faith with no works as a faith that does not work. Everything in our life revolves around faith. We're saved by faith. We're told over in Ephesians 4 by grace, you've been saved through faith not of works, lest any man should boast.

Not only as Christians are we saved by faith, but then we live by faith. The Bible says the just shall live by faith. So not feeling because if you build your Christian life on your emotions, you're gonna be riding a rollercoaster. Sometimes we're up. Sometimes we're down emotionally, but faith is steady as we go, as we believe the word of God, regardless of our emotions. Now, I know it's her talk about faith and tell people to have faith.

I heard a story about a woman who went to her pastor and said, "Pastor, my husband is scaring me. He said to me, if I keep coming to this church, he's going to kill me". The pastor said, "Now, don't be afraid, the Lord is with you and the Lord will protect you". And then she came back a week later and said, "Pastor again, my husband said, if I keep coming here, he's gonna kill me". "Again, just trust the Lord, He's in control". She came back a week later and said, "Pastor, my husband just said to me, if I keep coming to this church, he's gonna kill you". The pastor paused for a moment, he said, "You know there's a great church on the other side of town you might like to start attending".

See the point is, it's easy to tell someone else to have faith, but then when you have to apply faith, it can be a different situation, right? My third point is faith can make the difference between something happening and not happening. Again, faith can make the difference between something happening and not happening. Look, God can do what He wants, where He wants, through whomever He chooses to do it through. But it's interesting how the Lord chooses to do his work through people. God could have sovereignly parted the red Sea without Moses playing any role, but instead the Lord said to Moses, "Hold up your staff and watch what I will do". God could have brought fire down from heaven without Elijah praying, but he directed the prophet Elijah to pray and fire came down.

Listen to this, Jesus could have healed everyone everywhere during His earthly ministry. He didn't have to lay hands on that person and have this other person touch him and speak to a word to even another person, He could have just said, "On the count of three, everyone's healed". And boom, they would have all been healed. But no, we see Him working in the lives of people that called out to Him and applied their faith, because again, faith can make the difference between something happening or not happening.

We think of blind Bartimaeus who heard that Jesus was coming his direction. So he cried out, "Jesus Son of David have mercy on me" and someone said, "Shh, don't bother Jesus". And he yelled even louder, "Jesus son of David," he cried out, "Have mercy on me". And Jesus touches and heels Bartimaeus. Reminding you have that old store adage that says, the squeaky wheel wheel gets the oil, right? That's not in the Bible, but it's kinda true. Bartimaeus was the squeaky wheel, wasn't he?

But then there are those that were more quiet in their faith like the woman we looked at recently who had the physical ailment of constantly bleeding and, she reasoned if she could touch the hem of the garment of Jesus, she would be healed. And she was and Jesus commended her for her faith.

Well, speaking of women with faith, we're gonna look at another woman now who had what I would describe as amazing faith. Important to note, she was not one of the disciples of Jesus, she did not have the privilege of walking and talking with him day and night and hearing His great teachings and seeing His powerful miracles, she knew nothing of that. In fact, she lived in a different country, but she had heard of Jesus. She was a sinful woman with a great, great need, and she rallies with amazing faith for her daughter to be delivered from the power of demons causing Jesus to say in Matthew's account of the story, we're gonna read here from Mark, "Oh woman, great is your faith". I mean, that's a pretty big deal when Jesus calls you out in a positive way and says, "Great is your faith"?

I mean, think about it Jesus Christ was an expert on the subject of faith, was He not? Jesus of course was God incarnate, He created all things, He's known every person He's ever called from Abraham to Moses, from Sarah to Ruth, from Elijah to a light Elisha, from Peter to John, yet he specifically comments on the faith of this woman. It's something we need to look at, it's something we need to admire and it's something we need to emulate because it was amazing faith. This woman had a problem. As I said, her daughter was possessed by demons and she needed to get to Jesus, and hell or high water would not stop her. She was the mother who would not give up.

I'm reading from Mark 7 from verses 24 to 29. And by the way, I'm reading from the New Living Translation. "Then Jesus left Galilee and went North to the region of Tyre. You might underline region of Tyre, I'll come back to that for a reason. He didn't want anyone to know what house he was staying in, but He couldn't keep it a secret. Right away a woman who had heard about Him came and fell at his feet. Her little girl was possessed by an evil spirit, and she begged him to cast up the demons from her daughter. Since she was a Gentile born in Syrian Phoenicia, Jesus told her, 'First I should feed the children, my own family, the Jews. It isn't right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.' She said, well, 'That's true Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps that fall from the children's plates.'"

I love the response of Jesus. "Good answer," He said. "Now go home for the demon has left your daughter". And when she arrived home she found her little girl lying quietly in bed and the demon was gone. This woman had an unexpected and an amazing faith. Again, she had an unexpected and an amazing faith. Why is it unexpected? Because she was a non-Jewish woman from a pagan background. Verse 26 says, "She was a gentile born in Syrian Phoenicia".

More to the point she was a Canaanite, and you said, well, so what? We'll remember, the Canaanites were the enemies of Israel. Remember when God directed Moses to lead the Israelites through the wilderness and they came to the promised land. And what was the promised land? It was the land of Canaan. What was the first city to fall? It was the city of Jericho, a Canaanite city. We think, well, that's so sad that they went and took that territory from these people. No, the Canaanites were wicked people, the Canaanites were known historically to sell their children into prostitution, the Canaanites would take their little babies and offer them as sacrifices to their false gods, and God gave them warning after warning, after warning.

So this woman is connected to the Canaanites. So the Israelites and the Canaanites, let's just say they didn't get along very well, right? And here's another interesting thing, she lives in Tyre where Jesus went to see her. Now, Tyre is not in Israel. Effectively Jesus is leaving the country to go visit this woman. By the way, this is the only time Jesus ever left the nation of Israel. That's a long way to go to reach a person, especially someone who's not even Jewish and has been raised in a pagan culture. It didn't make, it made no sense. The disciples are thinking, "Wait, what are you doing? You're you're leaving Israel? Lord, you're really popular right now, you're you're trending on Twitter, your Instagram account is blowing up, you have so many followers". Jesus is like, "That's interesting, I have an appointment with someone, I'm going to Tyre".

Oh, why? Well, they didn't understand why, but they were about to see why He was doing this. He wanted to reach this woman. Listen, she needed a miracle and Jesus was going to bring it to her. This is a good reminder that as Christians, we need to go where people are. Again, let me say, we wanna go where people are. This is why here at Harvest Ministries, we're always trying to find creative, new ways to reach new people. We're always looking for ways to reach unexpected people in unexpected places. And so here is the Lord reaching this low, by the way, Jesus did not say the whole world should go to church, but He did say the church should go to the whole world. So He went out of his way to reach her.

Now, I mentioned she was pagan, which means she worshiped false gods. She probably worshiped the goddess Astarte, which was the goddess of fertility. Clearly she was disillusioned with these gods. They had not helped her because they're not real, and if that wasn't bad enough, now, her daughter has become severely demon possessed. I'm sure there's some cause and effect between all those little idols in the home, those false gods and this demonic activity in the life of the daughter. And it's a reminder for us that as parents, we have a direct influence on our children.

Listen to me, moms and dads, your children are watching you. Little eyes are watching and little ears are listening. They listen to what you say but more importantly, they watch what you do. Be a good example. For instance, let's say you drink in front of your kids. And then one day your kids have a problem with alcohol and you wonder why. Or you fight with your spouse right in front of the kids. Sometimes even as getting the kids to take sides in the argument, which is always a horrible idea. And then you're shocked when they have those same issues in their life, or whatever it is.

You know, the Bible talks about the sins of the parents being visited on the children. By the way, that's not describing some mystical curse that's passed on from generation to generation. That is simply talking about a repeated behavior of sin that can be passed on. As an example, if the parents are divorced. Chances are far higher at the children will end up divorced. If the parents have issues with alcohol use, chances are far higher at the kids will have them. Those are negative. Listen to this, if both mom and dad attend church regularly, chances are far higher that the children will attend regularly. So not only can we pass sins onto our children, but we can pass blessings onto them as well.

Heard the story of a father and his young son who were climbing a mountain, and they came to a very difficult place on the trail. And the dad was thinking about which way he should go and as he was deciding his little boys to any behind him said, "Choose the right path, dad, I'm coming right behind you". Listen to this, the primary spiritual responsibility for raising your children is not on the church, it's not in Sunday school, it's not in a Christian school, it's in your home. You be the godly example, you be the godly leader, you read the Bible to them before they go to bed at night, you pray with them and you model what it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ, because it's a lot easier to build a child than it is to repair an adult.

Let me say that again, it's a lot easier to build a child than it is to repair an adult. Listen, the cure for a crime is not in the electric chair, it's in the high chair. Start early. The Bible says, "Bring your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord". And in that verse, it's implying not only should you put parameters in the child's life and use strong standards to raise them, but it also implies create a thirst in them. So live a life with the Lord that will make your child desire that same relationship with Christ, and that's the mom here. She's like, I've gotta get my daughter to Jesus. I don't really know that much about Jesus, but I know He has the power to deliver her, and so she's bringing her daughter to the Lord.

By the way, she doesn't come with demands, she comes begging for mercy and Matthew's account of the same story, we find her saying, "Have mercy on me". And here in Mark's account verse 26, "She begged Him to cast out the demons from her daughter". Now, look at the response of Christ. And this by the way is from Matthew 15:23, "But He answered her not a word". He answered her not a word. She's pouring out our heart, she's begging, she's pleading, He's literally gone out of his way to leave the country to be with her, and she comes with the request and He eats, doesn't even respond.

Have you ever talked to someone and they don't really respond at all? They're just not interested in what you have to say, they don't make eye contact or you start pouring your heart out and they pull out their phone and start scrolling through social media, or they're ghosting you on social media, not responding to you. Well, that is not actually what's happening. It looks like that's what's happening, but it isn't. Jesus knows this woman has amazing faith. Jesus wants to draw this faith up and he wants to put it on display so we can all learn from it. So he sort of puts up a hurdle, if you will, but he knows this woman can easily clear this hurdle. He knew she's going to be able to pass this test with flying colors. But sometimes it seems like God isn't listening to us, He always is. And he's not paying attention, but He is paying attention.

I know the hardest response to accept is no response at all, but there may be something going on behind the scenes. In other words, when you pray, and you pray for something over and over again, and you wonder why your prayer is not answered in the affirmative, you ask, why is that? Well, here's one option. Maybe there's a spiritual battle raging that you know nothing about. Let me say that again. Your prayer may not be answered because there's a spiritual battle raging that you know nothing about.

There's a fascinating story in Daniel 10, where a mighty angel appears before the prophet Daniel. The angel says to Daniel, "Hey, your prayer has been heard by God. In fact, it was heard 21 days ago. And I was dispatched from heaven with the answer to your prayer, but I was tripped up by a more powerful angel, fallen angel, in this case described as the Prince of Persia. So the Lord had to send reinforcements and Michael, the Archangel came to my rescue, and here the answer to your prayer". Everything about that, you prayed a prayer, it was heard in heaven. An answer was sent and there's a spiritual battle among angels raging behind the scenes.

Remember this God's delays are not necessarily His denials, keep praying. Another reason your prayer may not be answered in the affirmative is because there is unconfessed sin in your life. Psalm 66:18 says, "If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened". In Isaiah 59, we read these words, listen, "The Lord is not too weak, He can't save you nor is he becoming deaf, so he can't hear you. Here's the problem, Your sins have cut you off from God. Because of your sin He's turned away and will not listen anymore". It may be a sin in your past that has remained unconfessed and undealt with. Listen to this, God cannot forgive this sin you will not confess. Maybe it's a sin in your life right now you don't think is a sin. You have somehow rationalized it.

I think it's a good idea for all believers to pray what the Psalmist prayed in Psalm 139, when he said, "search me O God and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting". Another thing that may keep your prayers from being answered in the affirmative is you have an idol in your heart, an idol in your heart. Idols in our hearts caused God to refuse to listen to our prayers.

Ezekiel 14:3 says, "Son of man, these leaders have set up idols in their hearts, they have embraced things that lead them into sin, why should I let them ask me anything"? We think, wait? An idol, what do you mean an idol? We think of an idol as a little carved image and it, of course is that, but it can be something else. An idol can be something you drive, an idol can be something you hold, an idol can be some passion you have in life that's more important to you than God. Listen to this, an idol or a god with a small g, is anyone or anything that takes the place of the true and living God in your life. That's why we read in 1 John children keep yourselves from idols.

Here's another reason our prayers are not answered quite yet, because God wants us to keep praying. He wants us to keep praying. And clearly that's the situation with this woman. Again, she did not erect these barriers to keep her away, but to draw her closer. Let's come back to what Jesus said, look at verse 27. Hey, she says, "Touch my demon possessed daughter," He goes, "First I need to feed the children. It is my own family, the Jews, it isn't right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs".

What kind of thing is that to say? Let's understand it contextually. There's two words that could be used for dogs. One describes dirty roaming packs of dogs that live off garbage and dead animals, and by the way, there were a lot of those back in these days in Israel. I remember a number of years ago, I was in the third world country. And I went for a run on the beach, that's when I used to run. I don't really run much anymore. I walk briskly. But I went for a run on the beach, and all of a sudden, a couple of wild dogs started chasing me. I'll say this, I'd ran a lot faster maybe if I was chased by a wild dog, again, I would run but I ran and crazy wild dogs, that's not the word that Jesus uses. He uses a word that would refer to little puppies or family pets. It's sort of an affectionate way to describe it.

I mean, we love our dogs, especially the doodles, right? And so Jesus is really saying, let me paraphrase. You know, it's not right to take the children's food and give it to the little puppies. She could have been offended by that, but I think she knew exactly what was going on. She could see the love in his eyes, she could see the little bit of a smile on his face. So she comes back with this classic response, look good verse 28. That's true Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children's plate. Hey Lord, even some of your leftover power is more than enough for me. Guess what? That woman just passed the test with flying colors. And it reminds us that the Lord will be found by us if we will seek Him, according to Jeremiah 29.

Look at what Jesus says in verse 29. He says, "Good answer. Now go home for the demon has left your daughter". I think the disciples jaws must have dropped to the ground. They're thinking, yeah, get this woman out of here. You don't wanna help her. And he makes a statement to her and she responding and go, "What is going on here"? And then He says, "Good answer. your prayers answered". Good answer. Isn't that great? Why this sudden transformation? He goes from ignoring her to answering her prayer. Answer because of her persistence, tenacity and commitment. The door has shut in her face and she just keeps knocking, she won't give up. She had an amazing faith and she would not go home without an answer.

Hey, thanks for watching our TV program. And I wonder if you yourself have accepted Jesus Christ. You know, a lot of times people tune into programs like this, who aren't believers and they're kind of checking it out. Maybe you're laughing at it at first, maybe you think it's not real, but something is happening and maybe it's something that's been said, you've suddenly discovered you need Jesus Christ. You know, the day I accepted Jesus, let me tell you, it was the last thing I planned on doing. I didn't plan on becoming a Christian that day, but that was the day that was appointed in eternity for me to believe in Jesus.

I wonder if this is not that day for you. You've been eavesdropping, you've been checking it out, but now God's speaking right to your heart and you realize you need Jesus Christ. Would you like to have your sin forgiven? Would you like a second chance in life? Would you like to go to heaven when you die? Would you like your guilt removed? Listen. it can all happen because Jesus Christ went to a cross and died for your sin, and then Rose again three days later and He'll come into your life right now and be your savior and your Lord and the best friend you've ever had. Let's pray together. Pray this after me.

Lord Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner, but I believe you died on the cross for my sin, and I'm sorry for that sin. And I turn from it now, and I ask you to come into my life and be my savior, and be my Lord and be my God, and be my friend. I choose to follow you from this moment forward in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

If you just prayed that prayer I want you to know on the authority of God's word, that Christ himself has come to live inside of you. The Bible says these things we write to you that believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. But let me say, God bless you, and welcome to God's family.
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