Robert Jeffress - The Just Live By Faith - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress. And welcome again, to Pathway to Victory. The heart of the Gospel is this, although every single one of us has sinned. God provided an escape through faith in Jesus Christ, but that leaves us with a perplexing question. What does it really mean to have faith? Well, during this next half hour, we'll put to rest a number of wrong ideas about faith and look to Romans 1 to discover its true meaning. My message is titled, The Just Live by Faith, on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
John Bisagno the long time pastor of First Baptist Church in Houston says that faith is a part of everyday life. When you think about it, we go to a doctor when we're sick whose name we cannot pronounce, he gives us a prescription. We cannot read. We take it to a pharmacist, we do not see. He gives us a medicine, we do not understand. And yet we take it. Faith is a part of everyday life, but it's essential to the next life. And that's what we see over and over again in the Word of God, the importance of faith. To Habakkuk the prophet God said the righteous person shall live by faith. To the woman whose sinfulness caused her to beg for Jesus' forgiveness. And she washed his feet with her tears. Remember what Jesus said, "Your sins have been forgiven. Your faith has saved you". In Hebrews 11 :6 the writer says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God".
Over and over again, the Bible talks about the importance of faith and thus it shall be no surprise that when we get to the foundational book of all of the New Testament, the book of Romans, the theme of this book is grounded in faith. Romans 1:16-17. "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and then to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith". And then he quotes Habakkuk the prophet, "For the righteous person shall live by faith". How do we come to a right relationship with God? How can we know we're going to be approved by God and enter into heaven one day? It is not by works, it is by faith in the grace of God, believing what God has done for us through Christ.
Now think about this with me. If indeed it is by faith that I receive God's approval and escape, the flames of hell, don't you think it's important that we understand what faith is? If it is the ingredient, it is the essential for receiving God's approval. Hadn't we better understand whether or not we have that kind of faith? Well, to understand what faith is, I think the best way to understand faith and define it, is by identifying faith is not, okay. Faith, first of all is not a feeling. It's not a feeling. Sometimes when I'm talking to somebody who's not a Christian or I believe they may not be a Christian. I'll ask them a question. And you've asked the question before it comes from the evangelism explosion class. And the question goes like this. If you were to die tonight, do you know for certain that you will be welcomed into heaven?
Now a lot of people will say, well, no nobody can know that for sure. But every now and then I run into somebody who says, "Oh yes, I know I'm going to heaven". And I said, well, how do you know you're going to heaven? And this person will say, "Well, I just have a feeling that everything's right between God and me". Well, that's not faith, that's fantasy. Faith is not based on a feeling nor is faith hope. A lot of people think that faith is a synonym for hope. They'll say something like, "Well I sure hope I'm going to heaven". Kind of like, I sure hope somebody discovers a cure to cancer. Well that is not faith, that's just wishful thinking. Faith is not a feeling, it's not hope. It's not even optimism. A lot of people think that faith is a synonym for thinking positively. If I just think positively long enough whatever I want to happen will happen.
And Dr. Norman Vincent Peale was the pastor of the riverside church in New York. He is the man, the pastor who turned positive, thinking into a religion. He was the mentor of Robert Schuller and Dr. Peale one time told his audience what they needed to do in order to build optimism in their life. Peale said, "What you need to do is when you awaken in the morning, before you get out of bed simply repeat these words three times. I believe, I believe. I believe". Unfortunately, as John Stott notes, Norman Vincent Peale never told his audience what they needed to believe in. Is just believe whatever that means. No faith always demands an object.
Well, pastor if faith is not feeling. If it's not hope, if it's not optimism, what is faith? The kind of faith that assures I'll be welcomed into heaven one day? Well, the writer of Hebrews gives us the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1, remember what the writer said, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, it is the conviction of things not seen". Faith, true faith is an assurance in something you hope for. It's not wishful thinking. It is a conviction in the things not seen, that's what faith is. Here's a good definition of faith. Faith is believing that God will do what he's promised to do. Even when all evidence is to the contrary. Let me say that again, so you can write it down. Faith is the assurance that God will do what he's promised to do, even when all evidence is to the contrary. Let me illustrate that to you if I can.
There was some time ago I was invited to another city to speak and the host told me now, "When you get to the airport just call the hotel where we're having you stay and they have a courtesy van they'll come and pick you up and take you to the hotel". That was his wife saying, "I don't want to get up myself in the middle of the night and come bring you to the hotel. So you take the courtesy van". So I got to the airport and I've pulled out the letter, found the name of the hotel, and I called them. They said, "Well, we'll have a van there in 10 minutes". So I got my luggage and I stood outside waiting for the hotel van to come. Now I had a feeling, it was going to come. I certainly hoped it was going to come. I had optimism that it was going to come. And when it began to drizzle, I said three times, "I believe, I believe, I believe". But it didn't come.
And after about 10 minutes of standing out there in the rain, I thought, no, wait a minute. Why in the world am I standing out here in the rain risking pneumonia based on the word of somebody who I don't know whether they're reliable or not, whether they can be trusted to do what they promised or not? So I finally left, went back inside called the hotel again, you know what the person on the other end, they said, "Oh, we're sorry Mr. Jeffress, we forgot all about you. We'll have a van there in 10 minutes". So I walked back out and after about 10 minutes the van comes, the driver opens the door and he kind of smiles and said, "Well, I guess you lost faith that I was coming". I said, I certainly did. I lost faith because see if I had had genuine faith, do you know what I would've done? I would've continued to stand outside. In spite of the rain, I would have stayed there saying even although all evidence is to the contrary I have the confidence that, that person's going to do what they promise to do.
Now, ladies and gentlemen that's what saving faith in God is, saving faith in God means believing, that God is going to do what he's promised to do. That, if I trust in Christ to pay my sin debt for me if I believe it is not by my works, but by his grace that I'm going to be welcomed into heaven. If I have that kind of faith I'm going to be in a right standing before God, the righteous shall live by faith. Well, how do you know if you have that kind of saving faith or not? Notice beginning in verse eight, that Paul gives us three characteristics of genuine faith. First of all, he says, "Genuine faith encourages other people". Look at verse eight. "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all". Paul was from the south if you didn't know that. For a, just a little joke there. "For you all because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world".
Now, Paul had never met the Roman Christians before but he knew of them. How did he know of them? Because of their faith in God. In fact, it was known throughout the whole world. See, the Roman Church was under persecution at this time. We know what the source of the persecution was. We know from secular history that in 49 AD, the Roman emperor Claudius expelled all of the Jews who were living in Rome. And we know this from secular history. In fact, did you know, secular history records the reason Claudius gave for expelling all the Jews? It was because of a controversy over a Jewish rabbi, Claudia called Christus, who was causing an upheaval among the Jews. Sounds like Christ to me, doesn't it? This is 49 AD, just about 13 years after the resurrection of Christ. And apparently what was happening was the Jewish Christians and the Jewish non-Christians were not getting along. The Jewish non-Christians wanted these new Jewish believers done away with. So because of the controversy, Claudia said, "We'll get rid of all of you". And that was the persecution that beginning that the Roman Christians were beginning to experience. And yet, their faith remained steadfast.
You see, they believed that God was able to take care of them in their present circumstances. Do you believe that? Think about how ludicrous it is when we say, "Now, God I have faith. I have faith that when I die, you're going to take care of my soul and welcome me into heaven. I believe you can do that. But God, I'm not sure you can take care of this problem I'm facing at work right now. I'm not sure you're big enough to do that". Or God, "I'm not sure you can take care of this broken relationship with my child or my grandchild or my mate. God, I know that one day you're going to give me a brand new body, that's free from suffering and pain forever and ever, but I'm not sure you can take care of this sickness that I'm facing". I mean, how ridiculous is it that we say we trust God for the hereafter, but we certainly can't trust him for the here and now?
Now these Roman Christians, they trusted him for the present as well as for the future. And that faith was not only within themselves but it was spreading throughout the Roman Empire and including other Christians, including the apostle Paul were being affected by the Romans Christian's faith. Look at verses 11 and 12. Paul said, "For I long to see you in order that I might impart some spiritual gift to you that you might be established". Now, we'll talk about this more, when we get to chapter 12. What did Paul mean by saying, "I want to impart some spiritual gift to you". Was Paul saying he had the power to give them a spiritual gift? No, that comes from the Holy Spirit of God. A spiritual gift. The word impart means to exercise. Paul said, "I want to be with you Roman Christians, so I can use my spiritual gift to encourage you". But look at verse 12, "That is that I might be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by one another's faith, both yours and mine".
Why did Paul so desperately want to go to Rome? Yes, he wanted to strengthen the Romans but he wanted to be strengthened by the Romans as well. He heard of their faith and he wanted some of their faith to rub off on him. Did you know the apostle Paul had down days just like you too? Paul had times where he wondered if all of this stuff was really true or not. He had the problem of unanswered prayer that he wrestled with. Paul got discouraged, just like you do and I do. Paul said, "I want to be around some faith filled people so that I can be encouraged as well". By the way, that is the reason we come together every Sunday you know the primary reason we're here together. It's not just to worship God, it's to encourage one another. Rabbi Harold Kushner, he's written a number of books, I disagree with about 99% of everything he says. But one thing he said that is absolutely true. Is this, he said, "You don't come to church to find God. You come to find a congregation. It's people coming together to find something no one brought".
People say, "Well I can worship God out on the golf course. Maybe not today, but most Sundays I could worship God on the golf course or out on the lake or by myself". Yes, you can worship God by yourself, but that misses the point. When you worship God by yourself you're missing out on the encouragement that you and I desperately need week after week from being with other believers. Christians are like a piece of coal, burning in a fireplace. As long as that coal stays in the fireplace it glows red and burns hot, but you take a piece of burning coal out of the fireplace and set it aside, you know what happens, quickly that red glow diminishes and it becomes a steely gray piece of coal. That's what happens to Christians. As long as we're together, we ignite one another. We cause one another to burn brightly but you take a Christian and separate him from the church out here by himself. His faith grows cold very, very quickly.
That's why the writer of Hebrews said in Hebrews 10:24, "Let us consider how to stimulate, how to ignite one another to love and good deeds not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the day drawing near". Listen coming to worship is not optional, if you're going to stay on fire for Christ it is essential to keep your spiritual temperature red hot. What Paul is saying is if you have the kind of faith that really saves, that trusts God that faith is not only going to trust God for the hereafter but it's going to trust God for the here and now. And as you trust God in your present circumstances your faith will spill over to other people as well. Genuine faith encourages other people. Secondly, genuine faith endures unanswered prayer, true faith endures answered prayer. If you've been a Christian for any time at all sooner rather than later, you're going to have to deal with the problem of unanswered prayer. Why doesn't God answer my prayers?
Now, I know technically God answers every prayer. Okay, we all know that, there's no such thing as unanswered prayer. We all know there are three possibilities of how God can answer a prayer. Yes, no. Or maybe. No, I'm just kidding, I was just seeing if you're awake, it's not, maybe, it's wait. Okay, it's yes, no, wait. Those are the three possible answers. So we know God is always answering prayers in one of those three ways. But the real question people ask when they say, "Why doesn't God answer my prayers"? What they're really asking is why doesn't God answer my prayers affirmatively and immediately? Isn't that what most people want to know? Why doesn't God give me what I want when I want it? That's what most people deal with when they're talking about unanswered prayers. Did you know Paul had to deal with that as well in his life? In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul gives this testimony. He said that he had been afflicted in his life by what he called a thorn in the flesh, a problem, an affliction for which he had prayed for deliverance.
Now theologians differ about what that thorn in the flesh was. Some people believe it was a wife. I don't believe that personally. Some people actually believe that, they say Paul had a nagging wife who didn't support him in ministry, and that was his thorn in the flesh. Now, I think it was some type of physical affliction, probably his eyesight, but whatever the affliction was, he said he prayed three times that God would remove that affliction, and each time said, "No, no, no". And finally he said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you. That my strength is made perfect in your weakness". Paul dealt with unanswered prayer. And we see another case of unanswered prayer for Paul here in Romans 1:10, he said, "I want you to know that I had been praying that I could come to visit you soon in Rome". But look at verse 13. "I do not want you to be unaware brethren that I've often planned to come to you and have been prevented thus far in order that I might obtain some fruit among you also, even among the rest of the gentiles. I've prayed that God would allow me to come, but up to this point, he has said, no".
Why is it God doesn't answer our request affirmatively and or immediately? The late James Boyce mentioned several reasons for unanswered prayer. I'd like to expand on them for a moment. One possibility for an answered prayer is unconfessed sin in our life, unconfessed sin, Isaiah 59:1-2 , the Lord says, "Behold the Lord's hand is not so short that it cannot save. Neither is his ear dull so that it cannot hear". God's capable of answering your prayer. He's capable of hearing your prayer. God's not hard of hearing. That's not why he's not answering your prayer right now. Isaiah is saying, what is the reason? Verse two, "But your iniquities, your sin have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear".
Sometimes we use this verse. I've actually seen it in a Gospel booklet about talking to non-Christians about why you need to come to faith in Christ and they quote, Isaiah 59:2, "Your sin has become a barrier between you and God". And yet this is not an evangelistic verse. This verse was not written to unbelievers, it was written to God's own people. And he said to his own people, the Israelites the reason God is not hearing you, is because of the sin that has become a barrier between you and God. Is the same way with us. Peter said in 1 Peter 3, "God's ear will not attend, will not listen to the prayer of the unrighteous but only to the righteous". Those who act righteously is what he's talking about. There's some of you right now who are begging with God to do something specific in your life, and yet heaven is silent. Heaven is like brass. One possibility is, there is some overt, obvious sin in your life. Some act of rebellion against God that is keeping him from hearing your prayer. There's a second reason the Bible gives, sometimes it's because of idolatry.
Do you remember the story in the Ezekiel 14, when the leaders of Israel came to the prophet Ezekiel and ask him to pray for them? So Ezekiel asked God, "What should I do"? God said, "Don't pray for him". Can you imagine coming to your pastor and saying, "Pastor, pray for me"? And I say, "I'm sorry. God told me not to pray for you". That's exactly what happened, when some of you were saying "Well, that sure doesn't apply to me. I don't have a little, two foot trine in my bedroom of some false God that I kneel before every night before I go to bed. I may be guilty of a lot of things, but not idolatry". Think again. Notice where these idols were that God condemned the Israelites for, the idols were, where? In their hearts. Not in the shrine, it was in their hearts. You know what an idol is? An idol is anything or anyone you love more than God. Anything or anyone you love more than God has become an idol.