Jack Graham - How to Strengthen Your Faith
Take your Bibles and turn with me to the book of Romans, chapter 4. This is our series THE ESSENTIAL GOSPEL, the book of Romans. And the title of today’s message is "How to Strengthen Your Faith". If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, then strong faith is your greatest strength. And I want to talk to you about this kind of faith, a muscular faith for you, for your children, for your children's children; a strong and mighty faith in God Almighty! And how to develop this kind of faith.
So in the fourth chapter of Romans and verse 16, the Scripture says, "That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring", that is, the offspring of Abraham who is the progenitor and the patriarch of our faith, both Old and New Testament, "not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham", so, that's you. If you are a Christian, you share the faith of Abraham, the father of us all. "...as it is written, 'I have made you the father of many nations'—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, 'So shall your offspring be.' He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead'".
Not a nice way to talk about an old person! It's sort of like saying "He's got one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel". A man who received this promise from God though he was as good as dead, "...(since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's tomb... Sarah's womb (which was a tomb Sarah's womb was a tomb!) No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was 'counted to him as righteousness.' But the words 'it was counted to him' were not written for his sake alone, (Not Abraham alone!) but for ours also. (Your faith!) It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification".
We’ve been talking in recent weeks about saving faith, and the justification that we’re given as we are made right with God, by the grace and the goodness and the gift of God. Now we’re talking not only about saving faith, but strong faith. As we've noted along the way in reading this passage, Abraham is the father of the faithful; he is the father of us all. And so this not just about him, what happened in yesteryear, but it's about you and your faith today! In fact, later on in the book of Romans we'll read in chapter 15 and verse 4: "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope".
So what was written in the Old Testament about these great heroines and heroes of the faith and these great stories of faith that we read in the Bible, that was all as an example to us that we might also live and experience the power of God in our lives by faith. Abraham, of course, is one of the great heroes of the Bible. He shows up, of course, in Hebrews 11, which is God's Hall of Fame, the recounting of the people of faith in the Old Testament. He is an encouragement to me and to all of us, this man Abraham, because he was not a perfect man. In fact, in his journey of faith, there were missteps and mishaps and failures all along the way. And yet, when it comes to the New Testament, as he's described in the Bible, looking back on his life (This blesses me to no end), God doesn't mention any of his mistakes, not one of his sins, his failures, his defeats, but rather concentrates on this man's faith. He was not a perfect man, but he was a faithful man.
God is not looking for perfection, but God is looking for men and women who believe Him, who trust Him no matter what! So God covered his past with what? Justification. God covered up all those mistakes we read about in his life in the book of Genesis, and he's an example of receiving the righteousness of God because of the grace of God. And why? What was the one thing that he did? He believed God! What can we offer God who has everything? What can we give to God who doesn't need anything? Only one thing! Faith! And the Scripture says "Without faith it is impossible to please God". So it is by faith and trusting in God! What is faith? It is taking God at His word! Trusting God's promise and all of His promises.
Another thing that is encouraging to many of us regarding Abraham, Abraham was up in years and yet God gave him great faith at the end of his life. He gave him this great promise when he was an octogenarian, along with his wife. I want to tell you, though you may be older, you should never grow colder in your faith. You may have an old body, but you can have, and must have a young faith! Don't you get tired of believing and trusting God with your life. your life! Never give up, but keep going on! J. C. Ryle, great Christian writer, he said, "It may be true that wise young men and believer's and women, wise young believers are very rare". He said, "But it is no less true that zealous old believers are very rare also". And that's tragic! Because of all believers, veteran believers should be the most effervescent, excited, spirit-filled Christians of all! Never let your faith get tired or old or weak! While your body may be getting older, your faith should be getting stronger.
Now what is faith? Faith is not positive thinking, it is not optimism, it is not faith in faith; it is certainly not feelings. Again, I repeat it, faith is taking God at His word! Faith is believing God's word! Faith is trusting what God says! Another definition of faith is in Hebrews 11. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen". This is our faith! Abraham believed God's promise, though he was old and his wife's womb was a tomb. When God said, "You're going to have a baby, he started preparing the nursery". Like the old gentleman who married a wife at the age of 90, and bought a house in a suburban neighborhood with four bedrooms, near an elementary school. That was Abraham!
Now everyone trusts in something. I mean you just naturally have trust in certain things. The doctor prescribes some medicine, you go to the pharmacy, you pick it up, you take those pills, you probably don’t know much about them. You may read some of the instructions and the side effects and all the rest, but you take that medication because you have certain trust in your doctor. Same is true in getting on an airplane. You get on an airplane and you fly. You buckle in and you're trusting the pilot that you're going the right direction and so on, I mean, you have faith and trust in your spouse, and commitment follows. So I'm pointing out that faith is a natural, ordinary substance. But, of course, we're not talking about faith in medication or faith in an automobile, or an airplane, or faith in a human being; we're talking about faith in God.
So what I want you to see first of all concerning Abraham and your faith, our father Abraham's faith. Faith is only as valid as it's object, faith is only as valid as it's object. Our faith is not in faith; our faith is in God who is trustworthy. It is impossible for God to lie or to break a promise. That's why verse 21 says, one of my favorite verses in this passage, that Abraham was fully convinced that the promise was true. Let me remind you of this promise in case you don't know. God came to Abraham, Ur of the Chaldees; called him to be the father of many nations. And when he was approximately 75 years of age, God gave him a promise that he would be the father of a new generation. Not of Gentile, but of a brand-new nation, the Jewish nation. When He gave him that promise it was 14-15 years later until that promise was actually fulfilled. His name initially was Abram which means "father of a multitude". And yet he was fatherless, his very name was mocking him. And yet God gave him this promise and said, "I will give you a son, and this son will be your generation".
And, of course, today we look up, we look around the world and the promise has been fulfilled. But Abraham didn’t know that. Abraham just knew that he trusted in God. He took God at His word. He believed the promise. That’s what our scripture says. Very important that you remember your faith! If you want to build a strong faith (that's what we're talking about), your faith is not in you! We're not talking about you and how strong your faith is; we're talking about God! It's not so much great faith in God we need, but we need faith in a great God! And He is great! Your faith is not your faith, it is faith in God! It is the faith! Faith in the One who sent His Son, who gave His life, who rose from the dead, who fulfilled the promise.
Your faith is strengthened not by looking within and trying to think, "Oh, I need more faith; I need more faith; I need more faith"! And sweating it, and trying harder, "I need more faith"! NO! What we need to do is look to God! It is our faith in God! It is believing God! Faith cannot be strengthened by looking inward; faith is strengthened by looking upward! You know, all of the Eastern mystical kinds of religions are looking inward for faith, or for solace or peace and serenity. It's kind of spiritual naval gazing. But we don't look within ourselves to find our faith! We look to God who gives us that faith; by looking outside of ourselves, not to ourselves.
What does Hebrews 12, verse 2 say? "Looking unto Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God". So, it's not looking inward; it's looking upward! Fastening and focusing our eyes on Christ! Again, don't look inside of you; look to God! Look to Jesus who is the perfecter of our faith. So the object of our faith, this is a critical point, that your faith is only as valid as the object of your faith. You can believe yellow bananas save you, but yellow bananas cannot save. You can believe all kinds of things, but only Christ is the valid object of our faith; God Almighty!
Secondly, faith brings glory to God. Have you ever wondered why God puts such emphasis on faith? Why God has named faith as an essential and central tenant of the Christian faith and of the Christian walk? Why does the Bible says, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him". Well, verse 20 tells us. It begins in Romans 4, verse 20: "No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God". Faith brings honor and glory and pleasure to God. Why? God honors faith because faith honors God! It declares how great God is. Believing God gives glory to God. And giving glory to God is the only reason we exist. Did you know that? Your only reason for being is to give honor and glory and praise to God! And how do we do that? Colossians 3:17 says, "And whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him". What we do, who we are, it brings glory to God.
Faith gives us purpose and passion, meaning and mission in life. I mentioned verse 21. It says that faith, that he was fulling persuaded, that he was completely convinced that God had the power to fulfill His promise. So what does faith then do? Trust in God. Faith stepped out into the unknown. Faith takes risks, believing God all the way. Faith acts when God shows the way and reveals His will, Vance Havner, a country Baptist preacher once said, "One of these days someone's going to pick up this Book and read it and believe it and the rest of us are going to be ashamed of ourselves". Romans 10:17, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God". Remember our definition of faith? Taking God at His word; believing the promises of God. Abram didn't know where or how or what but he believed God and he followed by faith. It says here, look at chapter 4 again, "That Abraham believed against all hope".
Now you've heard me say many times that hope is not wishful thinking. This week I was typing something on my phone and I used the word hope and one of those little emoji popped up to represent hope on my iPhone. And guess what the emoji was? It wasn't a little smiley face or you know this, it was, guess what it was? Guess what the emoji for hope, this is what the world thinks. You know what it was? It was this, cross your fingers. Just cross your fingers and hope for the best. That's the world's hope! But God's hope, the hope that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ is confident certainty. But as for Abraham, he hoped against hope. You know what that means? There was no human reason for hope. There was nothing in himself, there was nothing in his future that looked like hope. But he staked his future and his family, his life and his legacy "Hope against hope". Why? Because he believed God. When there was no hope, there was hope in God. And there always is, dear people.
One final observation from this man's great life of faith, and yours. Faith conquers impossibilities. Again, that's verse 18. That it was impossible. He had no hope. There was no reason to believe. He had no grounds for hope. He had one faith, a promise from God. Amen? "You're going to have a baby. You're going to be the father of a multitude. Your name, 'father of a multitude' will never again mock you. People would come by Abraham's house and say, That's a nice name, Abraham. Father of a multitude. Tell me, where are all your children"? "Well, I have none". But he believed God. Kent Hughes said this and I like it. "He weighed a human impossibility of becoming a father against the divine impossibility of God being able to break His word, and decided that if God was God, nothing was impossible".
Nothing is impossible when you put your faith in God. And in spite of the years of waiting, the delays, the denials, the dilemmas, the dead ends, the deserts and all the doubts, it says his faith did not weaken. It did not waver. He became stronger in faith. He didn’t walk it back. When it says, his faith did not waver, you know what that means? Waver means to vacillate, to go up and down. Waver means to walk it backwards and forwards. But he never changed his mind. He took the motto "No reserve, no retreat, no regret". Why? Because his faith was built on this strong trusting God on the foundation. And here it is, God’s ability gives our faith stability. Let me say that again. You may want to write this down. God’s ability gives our faith stability. So that we do not waver; we do not weaken when our faith is tested. And the faith that cannot be tested is a faith that cannot be trusted.
Our faith is stronger when we believe the promises of God and God proves Himself true, and we give glory to God. Abraham knew that it would take a miracle, but he trusted not in his impotency but in God’s omnipotence. And the miracle came because our God is the way maker, the miracle worker. As I told you, faith is a different way of seeing things. It sees what human eyes cannot see. And once you see by faith, God’s plan and purpose for your life, you can’t unsee it!
When I was a little boy, God put a call of God upon my life. You say, "When were you called to preach"? Well, I confirmed it when, I'm asked this all the time: "When did you decide to be a preach"? Well, I just didn't decide to be a preacher, but God put something in my heart confirmed as a teenager, committed when I was a young man. But when I was a little boy, I had saw a vision of what God could do in my life if I would give it to Him, and I've never been able to unsee it, and never will. God has a plan and our faith doesn't always particularly, usually doesn't give us a road map or a navigation system or a script or clear instructions as to what that looks like, but we see it and we do it by faith.
God told Abraham to go out and trust Him, and he never faltered; he never wavered; he never wilted; he never weakened. Life takes on places and plans that we could have never imagined when we trust in God. Do you know that? God will do things with your life that you could have never conceived or contemplated on your own if you will simply trust Him. If you will believe Him. The one thing that we know is that God is faithful, that God is true, that He never breaks a promise.
Faith looks beyond the problem. Abraham had a big problem; he was old and couldn't produce a child, but faith looks beyond a problem and believes the promise and focuses on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was this kind of relentless, resilient faith in the greatness and the grace of the goodness of God, against all odds, that was credited to Abraham as righteousness. He was strengthened every step of the way from young age to old age, from old body to young faith. It's about time some of you stop trying and start trusting God and believing God's promises of truth. God wants from you just a simple faith this day; a step of faith. One step at a time, one day at a time. You want God to do something wonderful in your life? You want God to save you? Do you want God to heal you? You want God to bless you? Do you want God to use you? Don't beg! Just believe and trust Him to do what only He can do in your life, your family, among your friends. Believe the promises of God!
Let me just speak over you some of the promises of God that will strengthen your faith: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not lean (I’m talking to you) do not lean (Reggie) on your own understanding. But in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path".
"They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings of eagles; and run and not be weary; and walk and not faint".
Promise "Fear not", anybody afraid today? "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My strong hand of right hand of righteousness".
"God will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, for his soul trusts in thee".
Promise "My God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory in Jesus Christ".
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".
"Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything with thanksgiving in your heart; Let your petitions be made known unto God and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord".
"Ask and it will be given unto you; seek and you will find", I'm just declaring the Word of God over you today, "seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened unto you".
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life".
"The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in His way. And though he fall, he will not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholds him with His strong right hand".
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Your rod and your staff, they comfort me".
"Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever".
I could go on and on. Just believe the promises of God, receiving the promise of Jesus.