Choosing to follow God certainly has its rewards. Heaven, God’s presence with us daily, His promises of strength, provision, guidance, hope. But choosing to follow God requires something of us, faith. We must believe that God exists. That God is who He says He is. That His word, the Bible, is true. Believing is choosing God and His Truth in every aspect of our lives… humbly trusting Him, even when we have the power to affect so much on our own.
There are some reading this blog that are okay with that. Other’s who aren’t. What I want you to know is that the blogs between now and Easter are for the believer, the person on the fence, and the unbeliever.
For those of you who are on the fence, or those who have chosen not to believe, we are told that, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” And so I ask that you listen with an open mind – you wouldn’t be reading if you didn’t have an open mind. That you make a commitment to read again what we share together. And most importantly, make the commitment with me that you will seek God out for yourself. God makes a promise to us, “that if we seek him with all of our heart, He will be found by us” (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV). It’s not a trick, it’s not a matter of crafty persuasion. It is a promise.
For those who are believers, this is a time for us to go to the scriptures as if for the first time saying, “God, teach me”. This is a time for us to examine every aspect of our lives – as men, women, spouses, parents, employees, church attendees, teachers, friends, every area of decision making, and make sure we are walking in faith, not tradition or what has simply been passed down by others to us as faith.
Now, that’s a tall order that calls for a tall example and a good solid foundation, and God has provided that for us here in His word.
In I Kings chapter 17, we are introduced to Elijah. James 5:17 says “Elijah was a man just like us.” He was subject to the same challenges, same imperfections, and the same choices as you and me.
At this time in history, the country Elijah was living in was politically and economically prospering under the rule of a King by the name of Ahab. Peace had been established with the surrounding territory. On the outside everything looked great. But when it came to what matters most, chapter 16, verse 30 tells us that in the 22 years that Ahab was in charge he had led the people to place their faith in an inanimate object of worship called Baal.
Now what is interesting is that Baal required of the people exactly what they thought they didn’t need – faith. The people offered their most valuable possessions to him, some of which were their own children who would be sacrificed on an alter of worship to Baal. In doing this, the people placed their faith in Baal who was believed to control the weather, fertility, their livelihood.
Early in my life as a believer, I was taught these stories in Sunday school and it was so simple for me. Why would people choose to surrender their lives to, put their faith in, an idol, an inanimate object with no real power or grace or love? But it wasn’t long until I realized that every day we choose to surrender our lives to someone or something. Whether we realize it or not, we have each chosen someone or something to be god. For some, we’ve chosen intellect and reason. For others, it is carma or chance. Many have given their lives to inappropriate relationships, money, pleasure, in faith believing they will experience happiness, fulfillment…
But there comes a time when those gods that we have chosen are put to the test… They are put to the test when relationship fails… When jobs go away, when disease strikes, when others disappoint us. Sometimes they are put to the test when God challenges them…
We see a combination of both here in 1 Kings 17. Elijah confronts the one the people have put their faith in by saying to King Ahab – what your god Baal claims he can do, doesn’t hold water… You believe he controls the crops, the weather, your prosperity, the wellbeing of the people… I challenge that in the name of the one true and living God – “there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”
Now that’s a pretty bold statement. But let me suggest to you that this is where our journey to Faith in God begins. I must confront the Baals… those things that have taken God’s rightful place in my life.
How do we do that? Solomon, a King who was granted amazing wisdom, gives us these words. He said: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight” (Proverbs 3:4-5 NIV).
Who is the one in whom you have placed all of your trust….your heart, your soul, your strength? Is it your job, is it your family, is it your athletic or creative ability, is it your own intellect – have you reasoned on your own (or looked to the theory of others) that God can’t exist? Or at least you aren’t sure? Who have you put your trust in? Is it you? Is it a theory? Or is it God?
Solomon challenges us with this summary statement of his life and experience. He gives us the greatest words of wisdom that a person can offer. He says, you want to put your faith in something, put your faith in God and here is how you do it. You have to go all in. You have to trust Him with all of your heart. And in doing this, you will find that the Baals in your life come up way short of the One True God.
Trusting God, putting your faith in God, requires that we believe God is who He says He is. You know that belief is more than a verbal acknowledgement. Belief, faith, is trusting, relinquishing control to, someone else. Belief in God means that we trust what he says is truth, we trust that his ways for us are best. We trust that He holds our future.
Let me share with you an example of how this works. If I were to ask you to put your faith in me, you would ask for certain proofs, especially if you were going to entrust your finances, your home, your family, let alone your current and future well being, your eternity. You would want me to prove to you that I am trustworthy, that I am a person who can be entrusted these things that matter most to you. How do I gain that trust? First, I show you my credentials.
God has shown us and continues to demonstrate his credentials. Romans chapter 1 verse 20 says “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”
God says – Look at all of creation and you will see me, that what I say is true. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” People say – There is no proof that God did this? I say there is. The theory of evolution, the Big Bang theory, every other man made explanation for our creation, all of science itself, demands a creator. None can give us a point of origin. But God can. He says look around you and you will see me. You will see me in the eyes of your children. You will find me in DNA. You will see me in the foundation of the world in which you live. You can fashion other things using what I have created, you can ignore my presence, you can try to cover me up with other images, but nothing exists except that I have willed it.
God has proven his Word to be true. “All scripture is God breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped for the tasks God has for us” (2 Timothy 3:16 MSG). There is no book, no teaching that has stood the test of time, that has had more influence over people, morality, society, government, than God’s word. God’s word told us that the world was round long before man discovered it. God’s word declared that life is in the blood when just 100 years ago, scientists were draining peoples blood trying to heal them. Science proves God’s word to be true.
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, says to you and me, “you want to be able to see God’s qualities, you want to establish whether to place your faith in God, you have to trust Him with everything.”
What drought, what challenges are you facing or have you faced that require faith? What Baals have you turned to in the past to get you through? If I work hard enough and long enough, we will have enough?” “By chance maybe we will win the lottery?” “There is a perfect explanation for all of this – everything happens for a reason, there is a logical explanation.” All of these point to placing our faith in someone or something other than God.
And so our next statement about faith comes in the form of a question? The question is, have you ever gone all in and tried God? Not just a little, but with everything? And our answer is – “I don’t understand how God can exist, how He can do what He claims to be able to do? And that’s where Solomon reminds us… Faith takes us beyond our own understanding at the moment…. But acknowledge God in everything Solomon says, “In all your ways, acknowledge Him and he will make the path straight, he will eliminate the doubt piece by piece.”
I want you to make a list of the things that are most important to you in your life right now. Let’s be honest with ourselves about that list. Money is on there…. Health…… Relationships…… Child rearing….. Education…….. Family…… Home………. Transportation……..
Beside each one of those things you have listed – I want you to place a check mark if you have honestly given control of these things to God. Not your version of control, not because you completely understand His ways, but you place these things in his hands anyway. Let me give you a couple of examples. When it comes to relationships – are you living in the purity of mind and body that God’s word calls us to – not lusting after another man or woman, putting the other persons needs and interests above your own, forgiving just as Christ forgave you. Making every attempt to see that your relationship points to God’s presence, not your own ability?
Beside Money – Can you place a check mark that you have surrendered the first 10% of everything you have and earn and are given through your financial gift to God’s Church because he says to trust him with this and bring the whole tithe into the store house that he can open up the flood gates and provide for our every need?
Beside Health – are you more focused on the gym, finding a cure, than you are living a life that is pleasing to God where we consider our body a temple for God, that everything we expose our body to should be pleasing to Him?
Now, let’s be clear. We aren’t talking about earning our way or these things being a matter of our salvation and receiving God’s grace. We are talking about lining our lives up with the truth of God’s word which proves his existence, that he is faithful, that he is ever present, that we can trust what he says for our lives…. Elijah said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve there will be no dew or rain.” As we will see in the weeks ahead, this statement, this challenge that Elijah is making to the King is one that put his life on the line… He had to be certain. His faith in God had to be secure. How did that happen? He had acknowledged God in every aspect of his life.
Solomon says – “In all your ways, acknowledge Him and he will make your path straight.” The Psalmist wrote, “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let (nothing else) no sin rule over me” (Psalm 119:133 NIV).
Someone said, “True Faith is to know Jesus and trust in him, to rely on him, to admit that all of our strength comes from him. And then to act on that truth with every next step we take. That kind of faith is the channel through which the power of God flows in our lives so we can live victoriously for him.”
George Barna, the Christian Researcher reports that fewer than 10 percent of church goers make important life decisions based on God’s Word and seeking his will! In other words, over 90 percent of us decide on the basis of our own intelligence, the influence of others or simply personal desire. We marry people, change jobs, have children, make purchases, go to college, drop out of high school, make investments, retire, without so much as even a 10 minute prayer.
My hope is that you are interested in accepting the challenge to Discover Faith. We’ll continue our discovery next week by looking at the path that God makes straight for us. Right now, I encourage to spend a couple of minutes responding to what we’ve discussed today by talking it over with God. Trust me, He is right there waiting to hear from you.
I would love to see you this weekend at MCC as we take this journey together Saturday at 5:30 and Sunday at 10:30.