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Jack Graham - Fortify Your Faith


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    Jack Graham - Fortify Your Faith
TOPICS: Dare to Believe, Faith, Spiritual Growth

Take your Bibles and turn to John's gospel chapter 20 and verse 31, it says: "these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name". Life is in Christ! Life with a capital "L", "To live is Christ and to die is gain". And to believe is to live! As a matter of fact the old Anglo Saxon word for believe was by live. What we believe we live by. And I want to talk to you about fortifying your faith, strengthening your faith. From beginning to end, from the beginning of your faith to the end of your faith it is important that our faith be strong and growing.

Now faith does so many things in our lives. We are saved by faith. Romans 5:1, we are justified, made right with God by faith. But that's just the beginning. By faith we receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 3 and verse 14 tells us "so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles so that we might receive the promised spirit through faith". How are you going to live the Christian life? The most important spiritual lesson I learned was to receive the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit, that Christ lives in me, I quoted Galatians 2:20 earlier, that the faith of the Son of God is in me and therefore, the power of His Spirit. I can't live the Christian life. The Christian life is not hard; it is impossible in our human strength!

So by faith we receive the filling of God's Spirit! Victory is by faith! Victory over the world and all the problems that we face, and all the temptations and tests! Is your faith strong enough to face the temptations of this world? First John 5:4 says, "This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith". Victory is sweet. If you win something, it's worth celebrating. Our victory over the world is by faith! Our victory over Satan comes because of faith. By believing! When in Ephesians chapter 6, and verse 16 we're told we're to put up the shield of faith so that we can resist the fiery darts of the enemy! Mark 11:24 "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours"! On and on I could go!

Everything good thing in life, every blessing in life, every benefit in your life is a result of faith, "According to your faith, be it unto you". Dare to believe! But let me ask you, is your faith strong and growing? You're to know your faith, you're to grow your faith. Is your faith able to withstand the seasons of life? You say, well I don't know if I have that faith or not! Well, it's not faith in faith or even your faith, but faith in Christ that counts. It's not whether or not you have great faith; it's whether or not your faith is given and is growing? Do you have faith because if you do and you have a growing faith, when you experience the trials, the tests, the temptations, the seasons of life, the changes of life, crisis is in life, then you will be able to meet those difficulties by faith.

Will you be able to overcome? Will your faith be strong and steadfast? You see, faith is not a weak, vacillating, you know, faith has been tossed about as a word where it hardly means anything to people anymore. You know, "faith in me, faith in myself, faith in my journey. You gotta believe". Faith is more than positive thinking. Now positive thinking is good. Positive thinking beats negative thinking every single time. But that's not the kind of faith we're talking about. Not just a hopeful feeling, but a faith that is secure, a faith that is strong, a faith that will keep us. First Peter chapter one tells us that we are kept by faith in the power of God. Our strength is in our faith! Jesus said it's in Him that we have the strength. Jesus said "Have faith in God". So it's not faith in just something out there, but faith in something that is real, someone who is real.

Now as far as I know there is no real definition of faith in the Bible where you just have a sentence that says this is faith, but there are many descriptions in the Bible of faith. And in Hebrews chapter 11 we're told that "faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen". That means that faith is real. People say, "Give me something real. Don't give me this faith thing". Well, did you know that faith and the supernatural is more real than the very air you breathe right now?

I wrote a book called Unseen which describes the unseen world, based on 2 Corinthians 4:18 that those things that we see are passing away. They're temporal. But the things that are unseen will last forever. There is an unseen world. It is a spiritual world that is accessed by faith. We connect by faith when we're on the network of faith. And it's very real. God has given each person the capacity to believe. It's like a sixth sense. Not a physical sense, but a sense and a sensibility of connecting with God, that's faith. And He made every person capable of believing and trusting in Him. And He sent His Son to die on the cross and to rise again, so that we could believe not just in something out there, but in some One who loves us and gave Himself for us.

So faith is first an affirmation. Faith is an affirmation! It's like saying Amen! That'd be a good place for an Amen! Alright, in fact, I preach a lot better if I get a few of those! But why do we say Amen? Amen says "Say that"! Amen says affirmation! I believe that! An Amen is when you say "Yes, Lord"! And so faith is an Amen to what God has said! Faith is the affirmation of the promises of God in our life! It is an affirmation. But faith is also an act. In other words, we act in faith, we decide, we make a decision to follow Christ! And we make a decision to be His disciple every day. And not only is it an act, what follows is an action. "The just shall live by faith". And so it becomes an action when we live out our faith, and we believe and behave in a certain way because of what Christ is doing in our life. And faith is not only an affirmation and an act, and an action, but it is an attitude! It is an attitude of faith that you're trusting in God.

So faith is essential to your life! Students, don't leave home without it! You're going to face some challenges to your faith perhaps that you've never experienced before. Are you ready? Is your faith strong and growing? Or did you just sort of grow up in church? Love the fact that this church from the smallest child to the students, we have been attempting with parents to pour faith into the lives of our kids and our students. So that when you leave to go do whatever you do, to serve in the military, thank God, sir, for your service. Some of you are going into the military. Some are going into the marketplace, or you're going on into universities, to college to pursue your education, that when you walk out of here and walk out of your house and out of your home if that's the way God is leading you, you're going with a strong and growing faith that cannot be shaken! Why? Because it's not based on your emotions or feelings; it's based upon who Christ is and what Christ has done in your life!

Let me ask you: what are your core beliefs? Do you know them? Do you know them? What are the core beliefs of your life that are non-negotiable? Because they're founded on the faith that comes in Christ and His worth. What are the core beliefs? A good thing you should do before too long, if you haven't already done it is to write down your core beliefs, because your core beliefs will lead to your core convictions. And your core convictions will lead to courage as you follow Christ. What we believe is anchored in the Word of God. Os Guinness who is an apologist for the Christian faith, specializes in evidences for what we believe. He says, "Christianity", listen to this, "is not true because it works", which is pragmatism, "it's not true because it feels right", which is subjectivism, "it's not true because it's quote my truth", which is relativism, "it is true because it is anchored in the person of Christ"!

Christianity is not true because it works; it works because it's true! And this is the faith that will strengthen you every day of your life. You see, in faith there is an intellectual component. Faith is reasonable and beyond reason. Faith is substance and evidence! It is knowing who God is, who Jesus is and why you believe what you believe! Very important that all of us, not just these students, but that all of us know what we believe and why we believe it! You say, "Well, I don't know all that yet". Start learning! Grow your faith, that's the point, by understanding your Bible. Now I know that I'm saved. 1 John 5:13: "These things are written that you might know that you have eternal life"!

I know that I'm saved and nobody can take that away from me! There is an intellectual component that is strong and true in my life! But that's not the end of it. It's more than intellectual because the devil believes and trembles, that there is a God! Beyond the intellectual component there is a volitional component or element. Volitional in that I decide! I make a decision to follow Christ! Jesus said, "As many as received Him, to them gave He the right to be called the children of God, even to them that believe on His name".

So there is the intellectual component where I believe intellectually, but there's the volitional in which I respond personally and decisively in faith to Jesus Christ. And not only that but there's an emotional element, because feelings do follow faith. Don't get that out of order. It's not feeling and then faith, but faith, and sure we feel deeply these things. We have convictions and passion about some things that we believe! I mean, faith is not just cold and callous. It's not an academic experience. It's a personal experience, a passion that we have for God! That's why we're told that we're to believe in the heart, not just in the head.

And as the old evangelist used to say, "Some of you are separated from God by about 18 inches, the distance between your head and your heart"! And you can grow up in church and have a head knowledge, an intellectual understanding of faith, but do you have a volitional and an emotional response to say, "I will follow Christ"! So here's how to fortify your faith. Saturate your heart, your mind, your life with God's Word. The Bible. You build your life on the Word of God! Physical meals are necessary for your physical well being. And spiritual meals are necessary for our spiritual well being!

My friend Hank Hanegraaff gives us an acrostic that I'm going to borrow from him today called meals: M-E-A-L-S. And this is how you can get God's word into you and God therefore, and your faith growing. Here is the meal or the meals: Number one, memorize. Memorize God's Word. One of the best things I did as a young person was to memorize scripture. I'm still doing it. But I'm so grateful that as a junior high and high school student I began, I was led to start memorizing scripture after scripture after scripture. There were literally scores, if not hundreds of scriptures in my head that lodged in my heart years later. It's amazing how these scriptures will surface just when I need them the most.

So memorize the Bible. Then examine the scriptures. Acts 17:11 There were Bereans, people who lived at Berea. Maybe you've seen Berean Baptist Church or Berean Bible Church somewhere, named after the Bereans in Acts chapter 17. Why? Because they were noble people, the Scripture said, who examined the scriptures daily to see if what Paul and the other apostles were saying was true. Look, you need to know: is Jack Graham, is he telling us the truth? Is he preaching the Bible? Check it out for yourself! Be engaged in your Bible! That's why we encourage you to bring your Bible to church. Don't just sit still while I instill! Make notes, underline scripture, examine the scriptures.

2 Timothy 2:15, "Study to show yourself an approved workman unto God". This is a daily discipline and daily devotion in our life! And when we do this, when we examine the scriptures, we grow in our faith, in our knowledge of God's word, and our knowledge of God Himself! And our minds are transformed! Romans 12:2 says "By the renewing of our minds". Our minds are transformed when we examine the scriptures, what do the scriptures say? I Isn't it amazing? Some of your friends and mine have rejected the Bible though they've never even read it. They couldn't tell you the meaning of the Bible if their life depended on it. And yet they've rejected it because somebody told them they should. And if you're a skeptic, if you're an unbeliever, a doubter, examine the scriptures! That's all I would challenge you to do. Examine for yourself and see if it is true!

And then apply, M-E-A, apply. It is not enough to eat, we much exercise our faith in practical obedience. And here's some of the questions that I ask myself often as I am examining and studying the Bible. You say, "Well, I don't get that much out of it. I try and I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know how to read it". Here's some helps for you, very practical. Here's some questions you can ask yourself as your studying your Bible and you're praying. For example, is there here a command to keep? Would you know the commands of God? The direct precepts and commands of God? Is there a command to keep? Is there a truth to believe? Is there some great doctrine or some great truth that I should learn and believe? Is there a principle to apply?

You know, the Bible is a book of great principles. Principles for life. And not everything that has to do with what is right, what is wrong, yes, no, up or down, not everything is in black and white, it's in principle. For example, the Bible doesn't say you shall not smoke weed. But the Bible forbids drunkenness or getting high. The Bible says honor your body; take care of your body. See, those are principles that you apply. So when you get into the Word, then you're asking yourself, "Alright, is there some principle that I should apply to my life here? Is there a temptation to avoid"? You know on television now and then you get a news alert or on your cell phone a storm alert.

Well, maybe you're reading along and there's an alert that shows up, a temptation to avoid. Or if you've fallen and sinned against God, you should ask when you're reading the Scripture, is there a sin to confess. I do that all the time. I mean I'll be reading along and think my life's in good order and bam! I'm convicted of something in my life that ought not to be there and I confess it immediately because I want my slate clean with God. I want my walk with God to be pure. Is there a promise to claim? The Bible is filled with promises, 3000+ of them! Do you know God's promises? Are you claiming the promises of God? Living by His promises? As Warren Wiersbe, the author and preach said, "We don't live by explanations, we live by promises"! So when you go through a season of life, a crisis, a tragedy is your faith strong because you're in Word and you know the promises of God! You're standing, or maybe you're just flat out face down on those promises, but the promises of God are holding you up!

And then finally, is there a prayer to offer? I pray the Scriptures. And the Bible is full of prayers. It's also full of praises in the psalms and other places. Doxologies that are given, and scriptures that you can turn to prayers. It will revitalize your prayer life when the Scriptures are lifted up and offered as a prayer to God. Bottom line, the Word of God gives you wisdom for life. The book of Proverbs is all about wisdom. It says in all of your getting of knowledge, in the getting of knowledge make sure you get wisdom. Wisdom is the practical application of knowledge. Knowledge comes from the mind, knowledge comes from man, wisdom comes from God. And it is in the Word that we find wisdom, and therefore we are strong and solid in our faith.

"L" is for listen. God speaks to us through His Word. I can't tell you how many times the Spirit of God has spoken to me as I've read the Scriptures consistently, about a decision I have to make or a problem I have to face. And this isn't, you know, the lucky dip method, just say, "Oh, God, you gotta speak" and throw open something, boom! Okay! "Judas went out and hanged himself". Oop! Better find another one! Bam! No, not talking about that I'm talking about consistently staying in the Word. And when you're in the Word, the word will get in you, and you start hearing from God. This is God's Word. It is life! It is breath! This is not an antique book for the coffee table, you know? It's not like some of those books that, you know, you got for graduation that you're never going to read.

Oh, I guess you are going to read them! No, This Book! Take your Bible to school with you. Take your Bible to life with you and stay in it. Listen to God. And let me tell you something. It strengthens my faith when I hear from God. I've been studying the Bible seriously now since I was a teenager. That's a lot of years. And I'm not finding flaws and failures in the Bible; I'm finding more and more faith! I believe the Bible now after these years and all my life experience, and I've seen a lot of good, and I've seen a lot of bad stuff! But I believe God! And I believe God's Word now more than ever! You can build your life on God! Have faith in God. And how do we have faith in God? "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God".

And then finally, study, study, that's MEALS. Study! Be a student of the Word. Have yourself a Bible that's a Study Bible, that's really designated to study. Mark it up. You say, "Can I write in my Bible"? Sure, you can! It will become a journal for your life going forward. You're kids and your grandkids may pick up your Bible and they will see what you learned and what you were learning. It will be an investment, a legacy of your life. And as you are studying and growing, I have a place. It's a chair actually where I open my Bible every day and study the Word of God, and pray.

Take notes in church! When you come, don't just, you know, come to be inspired. I mean, that's good! But not just to be inspired by a speech, but to grow in your faith and your knowledge of God's Word! Have a time and a place and allow God to speak to you. And Jesus, the living Word of God will fill you through and through, and your faith will be growing. And you know, one of the things that we have is a mutual faith. Romans 1, verse 12 I believe, talks about our mutual faith as believers. Your faith inspires my faith. Iron sharpens iron. And this is why we need the church. This is why we need brothers and sisters in Christ is that our faith grows together.

When I hear testimonies of peoples' faith it fires me up and it builds my own faith! I can't imagine living life without church, without the family of God! When you go to the university or wherever you go, make sure you connect with a local body of believers and stay in church, and stay involved there. It's no complement to Prestonwood. You say "Oh, you know, I'm at Prestonwood for life"! No! You get your life, because God wants to use you as a servant of Christ. We're sending you out and all of us out to change the world by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen?
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