Christians who have doubts, worries and depression simply don't have enough faith, right? WRONG! Find out what the Bible really says about these issues and watch as your faith is strengthened in the process!
“I WISH I HAD MORE FAITH”
(Genesis 15 - 18)
(Note: Tape began as if the first words were left out - first words sounded like they were at the end of a sentence from Pastor Davey’s voice inflection.)
I wish (not clear on tape) I had more faith. For instance a woman will tell about an unsaved husband that she’s been praying for for years, yet his belief turns into hardened atheism, and she wonders if the problem perhaps may be my faith, maybe I don’t believe that God will ever save him. If I had more faith, maybe He would. A man mired in financial despair thousands of dollars in debt would wonder, “If I only had enough faith, maybe God would pull this thing out.” Those common situations of “I wish I had more faith” is when illness strikes and well meaning Christians assure the sick person, “If you will just believe you will be healed.” And they try their very best, and yet are not healed. Perhaps you’ve prayed for a sick person that they would get better, and they get worse. What do you think? You think the problem is that I just didn’t have enough faith, and as a result, the Christian community is filled with shattered and confused believers thinking that somehow God would have been moved by a larger amount of faith. Then as a result of that proper or improper theology, they leave themselves open for the Accuser. Admit it. How often have you prayed over a car that wouldn’t start? How many of you have done that? We have a few honest people. The rest of you aren’t telling the truth. I can remember in college, I got out of the dorm room, pulled that door open, slid into that jalopy, turned the key and nothing happened, and it was the battery obviously frozen to death. It was cold. So I got out, raised the hood, placed both hands on that battery, (laughter) looked both ways to make sure nobody was looking, and I said, “Lord, bring this thing to life.” So I get back in my car, turn that key, doesn’t even sputter. And then I feel kind of foolish. But the thought goes through my mind, “I wonder if I had had more faith, maybe God would have started that car.”
We are going back to the story of Abraham again in Chapter 14 of Genesis, and I want you to turn there, and we’re going to discover his progression in faith and his failure and discover as well in the process principles that will help us in understanding proper faith and how to walk by faith. You can write into the margin of your Bible between the last part of Chapter 14 right underneath Verse 24 of Chapter 14, and I’m getting a little bit of a ring, between that and the first verse of Chapter 15, the word, “panic.” In fact, I’ve written in the word “fear,” because when Chapter 14 ends and before Chapter 15 begins, something has happened to Abraham. He’s filled with fear and panic. And I’ve tried to climb back into that setting there and discover why he would be so fearful, as you will discover in a moment, he in fact is.
And I’ve come up with perhaps three reasons, we’re not exactly sure that these are true, but let me give you three.
The first is perhaps possible retaliation. As you know, he’s just rescued Lot from these pagan kings. He’s also rescued the king of Sodom. This is before God destroys Sodom. And now he’s in a strange foreign land, and he’s just created some bitter enemies. Here he is, strange land, he doesn’t have weapons of warfare, and now he’s just taken up against these kings and beaten them in battle, and now perhaps he’s afraid they will retaliate.
There was also the threat of potential poverty. You know that a famine has recently hit the land, and he’s also turned down the booty the king of Sodom came along and said, “Thank you, Abram, for saving my life. I want to give you all this wealth to help you through the famine.” And Abram turns it down. Maybe he starts having second thoughts.
Thirdly, perhaps it’s the unpredictable promises of God, and I think that’s probably the most correct. The promises of God had said that, Abram, you will be given this land, you will be given seed, you will be given blessing, and none of those promises have come true, and he’s been waiting and waiting and waiting. One of the things that you and I need to clear up in our fuzzy theology about faith is that great faith relinquishes the need for patience, and that isn’t true. We think if we have enough faith, God will work immediately. And yet, for Abraham, he will wait twenty-five years before God answers or fulfills those promises.
You’ll notice in Chapter 15 Verse 1, look with me. After these things, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying. I’m going to give you two things about this arrangement of faith. First, it’s initiated by God. God comes to Abram. Abram is shaky, he’s fearful, and God takes the initiative. And then he says, secondly, that your faith is built on a relationship. That is, Do not fear, Abram. I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great. In other words, the only way for you to ever get over the fear of the future, fear of retaliation, fear that perhaps is brought on by famine, the inability to provide for your own, the only way you and I, like Abram, can ever conquer fear is to develop a relationship with our Lord. Do you notice that solution there? Do not fear, Abram, because I am a shield to you.
Well, ten years elapse. We’re going to look through several passages this morning. But ten years elapse and still no child. And I can only imagine the embarrassment of Abram. You see, his name means “the father of many,” and we covered this in Hebrews Chapter 11 several months ago. And you can imagine people coming and visiting Abram, and they would introduce themselves, and Hebrew names always were very indicative of what they had, and so they would say, “What’s your name?” And he would say, “My name is Abram.” And they would say, “Oh, you must be filled with pride, many sons.” And he would probably hang his head and kick the dirt and say, “Well, no, I don’t have any kids.”
God will come along a little later and change his name from Abram to Abraham, meaning “the father of multitudes.” Oh, now, you know, you had triplets or something happened real quick. No, no kids yet. Well, he spent twenty-five years waiting in that kind of situation. And I want to give you some things that he did wrong, and I’m glad that the scriptures include them for our account. He relapsed in faith, I think he went back in trust, and he did several things wrong in Chapter 16. The first thing that he did wrong was receive improper advice.
It says in Chapter 16 Verse 1,
Now Sarai, before it’s changed to Sarah by God, Abram’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. You remember they probably picked her up when they were in Egypt out of God’s will. So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold.” Note this. The Lord has prevented me from bearing children. She’s involved in what we could call religious rationale. She’s blaming everything on the Lord, obviously. This makes spiritual sense. So please go in to my maid: perhaps I shall obtain children through her. And she gave, or excuse me, And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. In other words, they are going to institute plan B. God has not come through. It’s been thirteen years now, I believe, now let’s help God out. He’s given us the promise, but Sarah, He hasn’t given us the explicit statement, so why don’t we do this instead. It was unbiblical advice. It was wrong.
In fact, that’s the second reason there. He ignored the laws of marriage.
Look at Verse 3.
And after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. This clearly violates Genesis Chapter 2 Verse 24. One woman, one man. That God never had said polygamy was okay. These men were always away from God’s ideal when they had many wives, and this was the practice though of his custom. And they said, Look, I can’t have any children. It must be my fault. So you take the Egyptian maid and go into her and have a child. And Abram by now is such a weak leader that he not only accepts wrong advice, but he ignored the revelation of God.
Thirdly, he refused to wait on God. That’s obvious.
And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight. The bottom line is that Abram did not wait. Before you and I are too hard on him, remember, it was twenty-five years in the waiting. I can’t wait twenty-five minutes for something. He was waiting twenty-five years for the blessing, the promise, the seed, and finally he scratches his head and he says, “Sarai, there is no prospect in the promise of God. I don’t see it, and I’m ninety-nine years old,” or eighty-five at the time.
Just before the Civil War I was reading this past week a wealthy farmer by the name of Worthy Taylor hired a young man named James or Jim they called him, to cut kindling wood, to milk the cows, and he slept in the barn in the hayloft. He was a young man. The summer ended, but in the process of that summer this young man had fallen in love with Taylor’s daughter, and as the custom was, he went to her father and asked for her hand in marriage. She obviously loved him. And ugh, Worthy Taylor, however, looked at James and he kind of laughed and he said, “Son, you have no money, you have no prospects. There isn’t any way in the world that you can provide for her.” And James said, “No, I can provide, I promise, I will make good.” But Worthy ugh turned it down. Thirty-five years went by, and Worthy Taylor prospered, and he tore down his barn. And in the process of tearing it down, he noticed the rafter that had been above the hayloft where James had slept. And James had carved his entire name in that rafter. James A. Garfield, by then serving as the President of The United States of America.
You see, in a sense, Abram viewed the promise of God like this man viewed James.
No prospect. We’ve got to come to terms with this. He’s promised us seed. Now He isn’t coming through. Let’s institute this second plan, which is totally out of God’s will. And so he has a child named Ishmael, who will be the father of the Arabian nations, constantly a thorn in the sight of Israel.
Let me give you a couple of results the text gives us as a result of violating God’s revelation. First of all a jealous rivalry occurs.
And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. You note it says her mistress was despised in her sight. This is typical. This is to be expected. Sarai cannot have children. Now this servant girl can, and now there’s this rivalry.
The second thing that happens is what we could call marital friction, to say the least. I love what she says to Abram.
And Sarai Verse 5 said to Abram, “May the wrong done me be upon you.” That’s classic. Abram, this is all your fault, and Abram is probably, you know, leaning against the wall saying oh, my goodness, this was your idea. And she said, May God judge between you and me. Now we’ve got real problems in the home.
Notice the third thing, and I think probably the worse is further weakness in Abram’s authority, ugh, Verse 6.
But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight.” In other words, Abram just backed off. He said, “I’m staying out of this. Sarai, you take care of her however you want. Leave me out of it.” He should have corrected the problem. And, as you know, Sarai dealt treacherously in kicking Hagar out of the tent.
Well, we’ve got a real problem on our hands, and basically it’s because of a relapse of faith. But let’s call the next section the absence of faith. Let’s go to Chapter 17. Obviously, there’s faith missing here, but never so clearly shown as in Chapter 17 where Abram will state explicitly that he cannot believe God. Notice Chapter 17. Let’s read the first few verses.
Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, I am God Almighty. That’s the first time El Shaddai appears in the Hebrew text, which means God the nourishing God, God the most powerful God and capable of providing, which is specifically related to the promises. He says Walk before me, and be blameless, And I will establish My covenant between Me and you. And I will multiply you exceedingly And Abram fell on his face, probably shocked, and God talked with him, saying, As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you. And you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. You have to remember now it’s been twenty-four years. This is the third time that God has come to him saying, “Abram, you’re going to be the father of a multitude.” I think by now Abram’s probably saying, “Right, Lord.” And I think we could rephrase his response two ways, that are, by the way, very prevalent in the church today.
The first phrase would be this. It hasn’t happened yet, God.
Note Verse 15.
Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. She’s ninety years old, by the way. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”
Now here’s the absence of faith. He did exactly what we would have done.
Then Abram fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” In other words Lord, it hasn’t happened yet, and anything that’s going to happen in relation to the promises should have happened by now. You know, it’s easy to have that attitude. You know whatever God’s going to do for America, He will have done it already. Whatever God is going to do in this church, He will have done it already. Let’s coast into the kingdom. And I can’t help, I’m certainly not blaming him, but his attitude was “whatever will happen should have already happened.”
This is fascinating. I pulled out of a magazine not long ago a man who had this attitude. The guy’s name was Charles Duwall (?). In 1899 he was the director of The United States Patent Office, and he wrote President McKinley, and he said these words, “Let’s abolish the patent office. Everything that’s been invented has been invented. Everything that will be invented has been invented. Let’s close down the office. We’ve reached it. This is it.” Well, he lost his job. They put somebody else in there. It’s interesting that the next year the radio was invented. Three years later the Wright brothers flew the first heavier than air object that we know as airplane.
You know, a lot of times men and women we have the same attitude. If God is really going to use my life, it really should have happened by now. If I’m going to impact this community, it really should have happened by now. Lord, where are you? You’ve come to me with a promise and now as a hundred year old man I’m going to be the father of a multitude? I’d laugh too!
I want you to notice the response of Sarah in Chapter 18. She laughs as well. God will have the last laugh, by the way. Her response could be phrased this way, “No, it can’t happen now.” Abram says it hasn’t happened yet. And she says it can’t happen now. Look at Chapter 18 Verse 9.
Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “Behold, in the tent.” And he said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. And Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I indeed bear a child when I am so old? Is anything too difficult for the Lord?
You see, the key to overcoming the pause, the patient waiting, was that verse. God brought Abraham and Sarah past the childbearing age, so that they could not take any sliver of credit for the inception of the Jewish nation. It was as if God wanted to make it very clear that whatever is going to happen in this nation, it will have been My hand, My power, not yours. He wanted to bring them to the place where they recognized that with God, nothing is impossible.
And this is a tremendous application spiritually. Perhaps you’ve been barren spiritually. Perhaps you’ve never produced fruit. You’ve never had the opportunity to share Christ, to see someone come alive. Perhaps you feel that God isn’t, isn’t at work in your life. He’s not using you.
John Chapter 15 Verse 5 says basically the same thing where Jesus Christ says,
I am the vine, you are the branch. If you abide in me and I in you, you shall bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing. You see, ladies and gentlemen, a solution to barrenness spiritually is not Christ And me; it’s Christ IN me and THROUGH me using me for His glory. Perhaps you’ve thought, or maybe you’ve even been told, that you’ll never amount to anything for the cause of Christ. Perhaps you may even think that it’s too late in the game. Perhaps you think I don’t have training, you know. This is for you guys. What can God use me for?
I was recently watching a video tape of (?) Hendricks, who is relating the story of an educator’s conference he was in at Moody Bible Institute, and there were hundreds of people there, and he and another teacher went down the street to get lunch one particular day. And there was a lady in line an eighty year old lady in line, and they invited her to join them. They’re sitting down at the table and Hendricks is relating the story how they said, “What are you doing at the conference?” And she said, “Well, this is the first time you’ve been close enough that I could come. And I traveled all night on the Greyhound bus to get here.” They said, “Well, why?” She said, “Well, I teach sixth grade boys, and I want to learn to be a better teacher.” And Hendricks said they fell off the chair in awe of this woman, who you’d think would be reaching for the chair. Here she is trying to develop skill in teaching. What was fascinating as they talked to her they discovered and she shared with them that she’d been teaching for years, and eighty-four men are serving the Lord full-time who’ve come through that lady’s class.
One of the problems we have in our church is we are violating Chapter 2 Verse 4 of Titus, who tells older women to do what? Teach younger women how to love their husbands and to love their wives. The word “love” interestingly enough, I learned the other week, is the word that we get our phileo, or our family affection. It’s not the word agape. It’s phileo. It’s the word that talks about being affectionate. You’d think that we would know, wives would know, how to be affectionate to husbands and children. But here’s the apostle telling the older women, Look, you’ve raised your children, you’re sixty, seventy, eighty years of age. Don’t go for the rocking chair. Get involved in the lives of younger women. Teach them by your life how to live, how to love.
We at this church are terribly disabled if we do not have that ministry.
I want you to go with me below the deck of a galley slave ship, and there’s a man already in his mid forties. He’s chained to an oar with all of the other criminals. He’s pulling. He’s sweating at that oar. You look inside that rank place and you think, could anything good come out of here? And yet, God would get a hold of one of those criminals, his name being John Knox, who would literally turn Scotland upside down for the cause of God. And he didn’t even get started until he was in his forties.
What if Jesus Christ had gone to Jerusalem and put an announcement in the Jerusalem Gazette: Needed. Twelve men to introduce the kingdom of God on earth. Who do you think would have applied? All the qualified people, all the capable, all the learned, the scholarly, the religious, the pious. I’m just what he needs to introduce the kingdom of God. And yet, you know who Jesus Christ got a hold of? Simon, the zealot, who would just assume put a dagger in a Roman than he would lead him to Christ. A greedy little tax collector, a little moque (?) named Matthew who was so greedy that he wouldn’t even hire another person to help him collect the taxes. Fishermen unlearned. And those men, by the grace of God, who learned that apart from Me, you can do nothing. It is me in and through you. They turned the world upside down.
Well, perhaps we’ve seen from Abraham and Sarah that God could use anything, in fact anybody, who in fact is at this point in time shaky, lacking faith, can God do this. I am ninety years old. Abram is a hundred. And yet, the text reads that Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
I think this should lead us into some of the popular misconceptions of faith that we have today. God who uses Abraham, God who uses Sarah, we have them up on this huge high pedestal. God could never use me. One of the problems, the major problem, is our misconception of faith. Let me give you three of them quickly.
Number one. Faith is evidenced by an amount. We have the statement or the feeling if only I had more, that car would have started, if only I had more my friend would have lived instead of died, gotten better instead of worse. You see, they have this text misinterpreted where Jesus Christ says, if you just have a little faith as the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains. And people say today, see, what we’ve got to do is drum up enough faith, even though it’s small, and if we get that much, that isn’t the issue. What Jesus Christ is teaching is this. If you have your faith IN ME, you only need a little grain of it to accomplish my work. It isn’t the amount, ladies and gentlemen, it is the object, it is the issue. And even with a little sliver of faith, if the object is Christ, He can work in and through you.
The second misconception is that faith is established by emotion. This is a real problem today. This is the thought that faith is a feeling, this incredible feeling, I’ve just got it, that God is going to do something great. Have you ever felt that way and then it didn’t happen? Talk about the air let out of your sail! Because we feel that faith I somehow some emotion and our expectations hit the dirt. We get some verse out of, out of the scripture, and we claim it, and we wait for the heavenly zap, and it doesn’t happen. We become confused. I think of John Hauss (?) who was in his prison cell awaiting the following day his execution by being burned at the stake. And he was sitting in his cell and he was peering into his candle watching the flicker of that flame, knowing he would be burned to death the following morning. And his, his ugh, records reveal that he reached out his trembling hand and he placed it over the flame, and then he pulled it back. And he flinched in pain. And he wrote, “If I cannot stand the pain of a little candle, how could I stand the flame at the stake?” He had no feeling that God would be able to pull him through that death experience, and yet he believed God and didn’t recant the following morning.
Would you accuse Paul of having a lack of faith because he prayed three times for the same thing? In fact, that leads me to the third point, and that is this, faith is exercised by self-confidence. In other words, you’ve got to believe God will do it or He won’t do it. You’ve got to really be sure that He’s going to come through, because if you’re not sure ugh, huh, He won’t come through. So faith then becomes the sense of self confidence, and we try to drum it up. Oh, there’s a thought of doubt. Oh, I’ve got to get rid of it. I can’t have any doubt. God you’ll do it. And we drum it up and then it may not happen, or worse yet, it happens and we think it was a result of our self confidence.
My friend, your assurance that God is involved in your life and hearing your prayer is not related to how you feel, how self confident you are. It is related to WHO GOD IS. He is eternal. He is unchanging. He is involved in your life.
Hebrews Chapter 6 Verses 12 and 14 tell us to imitate those who through faith and patience. Did you note the combination there? Who through faith and patience received the promises. Abraham thus having patiently waited, even though we know he faltered, obtained the promise.
Let me read you what I found not long ago. A man by the name of Mark Little can recall a childhood event, and these were powerful words, he writes this. He says, “As a child, I loved to curl up in the back of our car as we drove through the night. I felt so safe cocked back there with dad in the driver’s seat. But sometimes my grandmother would go with us, and she would sit on the edge of her seat barking instructions about every car that came our way. Watch the side of the roads there. Be careful with that guy next to us. Don’t go so fast. I don’t think she ever enjoyed the ride. Why? Because she simply didn’t trust my father. She couldn’t rest in his care. Grandmother and I both reached our destination, but one got there with frazzled nerves while the other one arrived happy and rested. I was learning to rest in my father’s care.
Men and women, faith is not a feeling. It is not an amount. It is not a sense of self-confidence. It is assurance in who the person of God really is, even though our prayer may go seemingly to us unanswered, He is sovereign. He can be trusted. He is worthy of our commitment.
Would you turn over in your Bibles to Chapter 21 and notice the glad day when the cry of a newborn boy pierced the ear.
Chapter 21 Verse 1 (Genesis)
It says, Then the Lord took note of Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had promised. So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, note this, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac, which means, by the way, “laughter.” And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears about this will laugh with me. And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
You know, most of us are surprised when we get to Chapter 21 to discover that God was right on time. Twenty-five years ago when He made the promise, He already knew in His all knowing mind the due date of Isaac. He’d already mapped it out. It was only for Abraham and Sarah to learn to rest. You know what they learned about faith? The same thing you and I need to learn today. Faith is like curling up in the back seat of a car and allowing God the Father to do the driving. Now the road He takes us may be painful, but it will always be productive. It will always be perfect.
(End of teaching - closing prayer)