This morning’s service was phenomenally good, and I’m so glad I was there to hear it.  I’ve been working very hard on my tardiness problem, especially when it comes to church.  Even though I was running behind this morning, we managed to get there only a couple of minutes after 10:30 — miraculously, the service had not yet started!

Pastor is preaching (teaching?) on faith right now, and I can’t think of anything that could possibly be more important to me now than faith.  I’ve been struggling with doubt for months (years?), doubt which often translates to fear, and the service this morning really made me think deeply about my faith.  I’ll share some of the scripture references and notes I took, along with my impressions now that I’ve had a little time to ponder everything I heard.

Mark 11:22 — 22And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

I’ve heard this passage many times over the years, and today was the first time I’d heard it explained in a way that I could actually identify with it.  I mean, really!  If I go stand at the foot of Mount McKinley and say with authority, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea,” I don’t doubt that God could do that.  BUT why would He do it?  What purpose would it serve?  Doesn’t that seem to be a silly test of the power of God? The mountain referred to in this passage, while it most certainly could be, is not necessarily an actual mountain.  Pastor threw this thought out there:  the mountain could be fear, sickness, debt, sin, and a host of other examples I wasn’t able to scribble down before he moved on.  The important point is, whatever the trial, whatever the trouble, no matter how big it may seem to us — nothing is impossible for God if we trust in Him and His word.

“Faith is not how strong you are — it’s how strong God is.” — Pastor Rick

Often it is easy for us to have faith for someone else’s circumstances.  When the next-door neighbor is facing a health crisis or a family member’s work situation is making them miserable, it’s easy to say, “Oh, I’ll pray for you!  God will see you through this!”  But put that shoe on the other foot — your foot, and suddenly that faith is a little more difficult to hold onto.  This is why it’s so critical for us to read the Bible and really absorb God’s promises into our hearts and minds, so when doubt comes we can rely on what we know to be true.

Romans 10:17 — 17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

So if nothing is impossible for God if we’re trusting Him, then life should be easy peasy from this point onward, right?  Not so fast there.  While faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, it is NOT a means for telling God what to do.

1 John 5:14 — 14And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 

Did you catch that very important part of the Word?  “…if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” So it’s not a magic formula for obtaining all the things that we think will make us happy.  God has a perfect plan for each one of our lives, and if we trust in Him and His perfect will, we will experience a joy and peace that cannot be disturbed by circumstances.  Strong’s defines “faith” as being “absolutely convinced”.  We can be absolutely convinced that whatever circumstances may come our way, God has everything under control and we can get through those circumstances knowing we’ll come out of the experience stronger and even more confident in the knowledge that God will see us through to the other side.  

If God is by us every step of the way, and while we don’t know the finer details, we know His plan is perfect — how can there be any room for fear?  We are not alone.  We’re on an adventure and we have the Creator of the Universe by our side all the way.  What is there to fear?  Nothing!

I’ll wrap it up with this for now.  In 1 Samuel 17:4, the Bible says,

4And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. 7The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him. 8He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. 9If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.”10And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.”

In other words, this really scary dude challenged the Israelites to a duel.   There was a lot riding on the line, because if the Israelites were not able to defeat this nine foot tall giant, they would become the servants (slaves?) of the Philistines.  The Israelites had to find someone to take this guy down, or they would be doomed to lives serving the Philistines.

23…behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.
 24All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid. 25And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.” 26And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

David loved the Lord and he could not stomach the thought of the Philistines defying the armies of the living God.

37And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”

David had no doubt that God would see him through just as he had with the lion and the bear.  He was absolutely convinced (he had FAITH) that God would take care of the giant the same way He took care of the lion and the bear.

46This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”  48When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.  50So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 

It’s very significant that David refused the heavy armor and sword that Saul tried to provide him for the battle.  The fact that David prevailed over the giant with the sling and the stone brings forth the truth that it was not the strength of man with armor and sword that fell the giant, but God’s grace responding to David’s faith, faith that David made very strong by all the time he spent worshipping the Lord.  God wants us to depend on Him, to have a real relationship with Him, to stop going through the motions one day a week just so we can say we belong to such-and-such church.  He wants to bless us according to His plan for each of us, so we can go out and be a blessing to others.

That’s all I’ve got for now, but there’s more to come next week.  😀

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