Three Phases of Faith

Three Phases of Faith November 28, 2019

pixabay signpost imageWhat you think of when you hear the word faith? I think there’s lots of different things that come into our mind, you know, obviously we think of our salvation. Maybe we think of the word trust we think of God’s grace to us, but I suspect for many of us. We also think of certain things we hear perhaps on the TV and all sorts of other places that promote the so called “faith teaching”. Which seems to us at least to take things just that little bit too far, you know, and maybe that’s just me but I remember a few years ago, I got so fed up of hearing about faith in certain context and the way in which was talked about that. I started to think that I didn’t even want to hear the word again started thinking perhaps we should just use the word trust and it’s certainly true that Faith encompasses trust. We will hear a little bit more as we go through this, but I soon realized that I was very wrong.

Faith is much more than just trust and faith is foundational to our walk with God not just in terms of coming to God in Salvation, but also in terms of ongoing in our walk with God Bible tells us that is with impossible to please God without faith in Hebrews 11. It says that everyone must come to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

This article is based on an old sermon on 2 Kings 4 and you can listen to the audio right here:

It’s an interesting concept that that we must, in order to please God believe that he exists and believe that he rewards those who seek him. 2 Kings 4 is a really good example of the phases of faith.

1. COMMENCEMENT of FAITH: Making room for God v10

This is the first phase of faith: to make room for God. Really all that happens in the commencement of faith is that we begin to open up to God. Maybe you are taking your first tentative steps in your walk with God right now. Maybe you’ve just started going to church when you could be having a lie in. You could be in the park. You could be anywhere and yet you’ve made space for God. It may seem like a small decision and yet it’s a critical decision very often and this whole story begins with such a small decision.

Elijah the man of God the prophet is coming by and this woman, we don’t even have her name. sees that he’s in town. I’m sure that because of her love for God, she wants to bless one of his servants. And so she makes room in her life and in her house quite literally for this prophet.

Sometimes when someone becomes a Christian, as Terry Virgo likes to say, they’re saved on a fragment of Truth. It can be a very small a very little thing. I very small decision and you almost can’t remember when that decision happened. Sometimes all that is said is quite literally is come into my life Lord Jesus. And the gospel message is very simple and Romans 10. It says this in verse 9 if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved. So all that is required for becoming a Christian if you’re sitting here this morning saying I’d like to be a Christian is simply this to acknowledge that Jesus is God. He’s who he says he was. He’s the Lord to make him your lord to say you’re willing to follow him. It is hard to call him “Lord” and then say “no Lord” so we then begin to follow him day by day.

Elijah promised is the woman something? She says “no Lord”. It sounds wrong. Doesn’t it? And yet we often do that as Christians. So we simply confess with our mouth that Jesus will be making our Lord. We acknowledge that he’s Sovereign over our lives. And we believe that God raised him from the dead. It’s the one thing that all Christians believe you could go to any church in the world today pretty much and people in those churches would believe that Jesus rose again.

A Christian is somebody who believes in the resurrection of Jesus and lives their life in light the implications of that event.

But sometimes even that is too big a step for some people and they may come along perhaps to Alpha for a while or go to church on a Sunday. You can just keep coming. You can bring your friends who are not Christians. They’re not going to be bashed over the head. We’re not going to force them on the way out to become a Christian. People will often want to just take things one step at a time and that’s entirely fine. But what’s true in the life of an individual is also often true in a family. It’s true in a church, usually churches just begin with a small handful of people and don’t grow large overnight. W hen God begins a work it often begins in a small way in a hidden way in a nondescript way and that will often happen in your own life as well.

Don’t despise the day of Small Beginnings. How many people will say I really believe God wants to use me in a powerful Mighty way in the future and think great. Now, how about you come early and help set out the welcome Cafe area. They say “what move some chairs. I want to serve using used by God in a big way”. So the way God works usually is by starting off in a small way. And that’s so true. someone might feel I want to preach and the leaders say, okay. Well, how about coming to small group? And how about just participating in the Bible study and saying something that other people find helpful, that could be a first step.

Maybe God does cook have a call for you down the line to preach. But if you never get stuck into a small group, if you never read your Bible, if you never study it if you never pray it will it will never happen. In any Endeavor on the taken for God those early days must never be despised foundations are being laid things are being sorted out your life is being turned around and oh and and what happens is that that initial decision you make to take the first step when you take a second step and the third step.

It’s a bit like the old saying I don’t you ever heard it. How do you eat an elephant? I’m not sure you’d want to eat an elephant. I’m not sure what their meat tastes like. But how would you eat an elephant and the answers are all simple one bite at a time? One bite at a time. It’s a bit like the Bible. So many people look at it and think I will never be able to read the whole Bible if you read this chapter a day. I think it’ll take you a couple of years if you read two chapters a day, you can do it in a year. In small bites. It’s small steps that are so important.

So the commencement of faith is simply making a small decision to make room in your life for God to make space in your life for God. To follow God ultimately, but even before you’ve made that decision just to take that small step to go to church is all that’s needed sometimes.

2. Contentment of Faith : RESTING and trusting him in all situations v11

What we see with this lady is that something interesting happens and you can almost miss it. In the midst of all this Elijah comes to her and wants to do something for her and return and what we find actually with God is he’s very like that that if we take even a small step to him he comes running to us. There’s that famous story of The Prodigal Son, which I’m sure everyone in this room has heard before but the father and the prodigal son who represents God the Father. When he sees the rebellious son who’s wasted all his money whose despised him is ran off when he sees him in the distance. He goes running towards him and he throws his arms around him. And that’s what God is like.

God came to the lady through the prophet and effectively said to her. What can I do for you? And maybe this morning God is coming to you this morning saying what can I do for you? And sometimes we can react to that in unbelief. She doesn’t it’s not that she doesn’t believe in God, but she reacts to that in an interesting way. She says “I dwell with my people” because he the prophet says look, how about I speak to the king and you can come and live at court, you know. So this is what’s basically on offer here. Elijah says to her. I know I’ll speak to the king you you and your husband will get you to come to the court and she’s like I dwell with my people and I think when you dig into that phrase a little bit more you you can hear contentment.

Psalm 131 talks about our heart not being lifted up not being raised too high not occupying ourselves with things that are too great for us, but calming and quieting our soul.That really is what we’re talking about here.

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.
(Psalm 131 ESV)

The lady Elijah offers help to is content and God calls us to be content. Philippians 4 puts it this way. “I have learned the Secret of being content in any and every situation whether well fed or hungry whether living in plenty or in want I can do all this through him who gives me strength through him who gives me strength” (Phil 4:12-13)

Today true contentment is very rare. Is very rare because advertising thrives on us not being content in a way advertising points for yourself for yourself some picture of some hell on Earth some problem that you have. It’s designed to make you and discontent and to make you feel that the only way you can be happy is if you buy the thing you’re advertising and whether that’s the latest Apple device or Samsung device or whether that’s anything else.

We treat finding a wife or a husband like that. It’s something we want to get for ourselves. Let me tell you now if that’s your attitude when you going to marriage you’re in for a big shock. Because marriage is much more about giving than it is about receiving but for many of us, we are lacking in contentment.

We want just a little bit more money. Nobody ever thinks that being paid enough. Nobody will go to their boss and say boss. I just wanted to say I think it’s time you gave me a pay cut. Not unless you’re giving up your job and turning to work for the church. And then you do tend to take a pay cut. Which is something that so many of us today find so hard to understand. How could someone do that? Why would someone do that? And yet people do that because they’re content in God there’s a happiness that comes from within, from knowing that God is your treasure, God is enough.

We sing “your grace is enough”. We sing it very very freely. But what we’re really saying there is “God take everything away from me and I will still worship you” That’s contentment. Knowing God brings a Stillness. There is a calm that comes from knowing that God is Sovereign that he’s in charge of everything.

We could describe this phase of Faith as resting faith. This is a faith that gives you a solid foundation in your life. It’s faith that can face the worst circumstances that this world can throw at you and say it’s okay because God is with me. It’s faith that looks to the Future age the age that is to come and says, I know that the time coming when the dwelling of God as Revelation tells us will be with mankind. H e will wipe away every tear where they’ll be no more sorrow, they’ll be no more sickness. They’ll be no more death and it knows that time is coming and, resting faith knows that we live in a world where unfortunately evil is still here. We know there is a Glorious future to come, and there is a painful reality now. Faith sees both those things and it says it’s okay.

There is a day coming. It’s a day of freedom and Liberation. That day of glory is truly coming. Living with that day in mind gives you peace, it allows you to look at circumstances and say with Paul. “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” (Romans 8:28). All things all things. all things. All things

I remember many years ago. I had my heart set on a certain career direction and a couple of people basically put the wrench in and it was because they didn’t like me for some reason. I never quite realised why it was I don’t know whether it was persecution or whether I was just unwise one or the other maybe a bit of both. But they decided they didn’t like me and they put a big roadblock in my way for this. And I was so upset but God was preparing a different route for me. Like Joseph, if I can look back and if I ever met those people again, I could say to them, “you meant that for my harm”. You wrote that bad reference against me for my harm. But God meant it for my good since because of that directly, because of that action that someone did against me, I ended up going into a whole different path, which has been much better by far. God turns all things for good.

We can trust God, and know that God is directing our paths when things are painful. There’s been so many times like that where things have seen bad where one door is closing and yet another one opens. I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences to that in your life.

We know God is working for our good we know as the Bible says in Deuteronomy:

  • “Ascribe greatness to our God the rock, his work is perfect and all his ways are just, a God of faithfulness and without injustice, good and upright is he!” (Deuteronomy 32:3-4).

He’s good. He’s upright. He’s Sovereign. There’s nothing that happens in this world that he doesn’t ordained, that he doesn’t overrule. We know that he will always be faithful to us, e ven when we are faithless. The Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 2:13. He remains faithful for he cannot deny himself. If you are a child in the hand of God, nothing can snatch you out of his hand. There’s nothing that you can do that will stop him from Loving You. and this kind of resting Faith gives us such confidence such assurance.

There is a slight danger to this resting faith t hat it can morph into passivity. We’re not promoting passivity! We’re talking about rest. We’re talking about contentment. We’re talking about a Grace that can come on you in whatever circumstance you’re in. Yet for many we go a little bit of a step too far. And particularly perhaps if you’re a great believer in the sovereignty of God and then the reformed position if you like some people can become so passive that they almost welcome suffering. Jesus did promise us suffering in this world. He said this “in this world you will have troubles” Jesus always keeps his promises.

It seems self evident that we don’t pray for suffering. We don’t name and claim that promise. We don’t go to God and say God “I want to be more like you and I know you say that suffering is one of the ways that happens. So please would you send sickness into my life so that I will become more like you.” I don’t think that’s ever the way anyone prays the in the Bible! I have never heard of anyone pray like that. But I have heard of some people who when suffering comes into their life that almost welcome it as a friend and say, ah, yes. Okay, that’s how it should be. It’s not how it should be. There should be an anger at the presence of suffering in this world. That was never meant to be here.

There’s a reason why we grieve when someone dies it’s because we were meant to live forever and so death should make us sad and angry. So there’s a contentment, there’s a trust, but there’s something else and we see that in this story because this is not the end of the story.

A child is born. This is a child of Promise. God promises this lady and later a child is born. You might think lets have a party and I’m sure they did. But over time the child grew up. I don’t know how old he was. He was still a child, but an older child and a weaned child. It says one day he grabbed his head in the field. His father rushes him to his mother because mothers are the best when you’re feeling sick. Mothers are much better than dads when you’re feeling sick. And so sits on his mother’s knee. Mothers are good for comforting you when you’re sick. And so he sits on his mother’s knee and he dies. The child of Promise dies. The miracle Giver has now taken the child away. And as we said earlier, we shouldn’t be surprised when these things have happened.

I love the way Spurgeon describes this lady when her son dies:

  • “Full of grief she was, for she had lost her son; but she had a hope left, for she had not lost her faith.

She had not lost her faith. And when troubles come we must take heart and not lose our faith. W hat we see in her reaction is a mixture between this resting faith, and the third phrase of faith. We see that they’re actually not one against the other but the phases are entwined. She say she says “all is well”. Yes, I believe that there was a prophetic element in that. She she was daring to believe that God could do something but you need to understand one thing so far in the whole history of the Bible. There’s only ever been one Resurrection. So it’s very easy for us to look back at this story knowing the ending.

I do think she was daring to believe that it may be fine. That’s why she goes off to find the prophet. But I don’t believe she could have had the same certainty that that you might do reading back at the story. The story is over familiar to us. We know the end. We have seen the spoilers!

She didn’t know the end for certain. When Lazarus died said his sister says “I believe that that my brother will rise again at the last day” so maybe that was part of what was in this lady’s heart too. She couldn’t know for sure what would happen right now though, an d so she wept. This woman was grieving her loss, the loss of her only son, the son she had been promised by God, and yet even in the middle of her grief she says “All is well. All is well.”

There’s a famous story that really underlines this man by the name of Horatio Spafford. I don’t suppose you’ve ever heard that name. But one day his son died and then a few months later, t here was a famous fire in Chicago. He was ruined. He had lost business and his son. He sends his wife and his four remaining daughters on a boat back to Europe. It is his plan to join them later. But their ship sank. And only his wife actually was saved, his daughters died. She sent a message back to her husband saying she’d been saved alone.

So now the four daughters that he had hoped for the son that he had hoped for his business that you had hoped for all taken away. How did he reply? Well, he replied to that like Job did remember who said look the Lord gives the Lord takes away blessed be the name of the Lord. That’s resting faith right there. And as he grieved he wrote these words:

When peace like a river attendeth my way.

When Sorrows like sea Billows roll,

Whatever my lot.

Thou has taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with My Soul

I I suspect knowing that story will make it different singing that song. He wrote those words in that very moment.

That’s resting faith.

Phase 3: Contending Faith : Expecting God to act

This woman also experiences what I’m going to call contending Faith. So we’ve got the commencement of Faith. We’ve got the contentment of Faith the rest of Faith now, we’re talking about the contending of Faith or the expectancy of Faith the expecting that God will act. It is not enough to just be content. Otherwise we could just be fatalistic. “Whatever will be will be” we might say. God doesn’t want us to settle for that.

I remember well something that happened many years ago now My pregnant wife rang me up and she said my baby is not moving today. I knew that the chances were good that there was not a major problem here. But I also knew that we should go and get it checked. So I said to my wife I’m on my way. We’ll get him checked or her checked I should say and as I’m driving home, I begin to pray but I wasn’t that worried, but I was praying and all of a sudden , in my head quite clearly really I heard a Voice. I still believe it was the voice of God. It’s an odd thing for God to say, but he said this “You could lose your wife and your baby.” I can tell you that my praying got a little bit more intense. And I was contending for the life of my child and for the life of my wife. I remember it so vividly because mixed in with my calling on God with passion, there was this contentment that I am talking about as well. I was fighting like I’ve never fought before in prayer. If anyone had seen me driving down the motorway shouting out loud, they would have thought I’d gone crazy. I remember the sort of climax of that prayer. I did pray “God save them save them. Don’t let them die” but I remember also praying “but God if you do take them, I will still worship you I will still follow you” and I meant it with all my heart at that moment. Then suddenly the concern which had gripped me left me, and I had peace.

The baby was fine that day and I thought nothing more of it and I decided not to tell anyone because I thought it sounded so crazy. But just a couple of weeks later my wife was in labor and something did indeed go wrong. They did the injection in the her back and it went wrong. She was becoming paralysed. Her blood pressure was dropping, her breathing rate looked like it was about to stop, she was about to pass unconscious. Then they said that they couldn’t see the heartbeat of the baby. At that moment. It’s one of the most dangerous moments that can ever happen. They sent out a crash call. Within seconds they arrived. I t was amazing how God orchestrated it because the crash team were in the room next door just finishing with the previous case. So they’re all gathered already. They weren’t scattered all around the hospital. So they ran in. I ended up pulling my wife quite calmly one way while they pull the child out the other way and in the end everything was fine. She recovered slowly over the next few minutes and I got to hold my baby before her whilst she was still waking up.

I had already lived that moment in a sense. So in the moment I had peace. I had peace but there’s an expectancy: this is active Faith. It’s not just resting faith that we’re looking for. We’re looking for a belief that God will and can and does act now. But if we only have expectant faith, without resting faith, if he doesn’t act in the way we want him to we will just collapse. Sometimes someone will say well I prayed for my friend or my family member they had cancer and then they died so obviously God isn’t real.

God doesn’t always answers the way we expect him to but he is a God who wants us to keep coming back keep coming back keep coming back and keep daring to believe that the powers of the age to come will break through into the here and now.

I remember another experience of my own life. And this was many years ago too. This was with our second youngest child was born. On the first hearing test that you have done as a screen, it came back that he was deaf. They said he’s not hearing anything and sure enough we could see it around for weeks and weeks. We make a noise and he wouldn’t even startled. You could quite literally slam the door or clap and he wouldn’t his eyes wouldn’t even blink. There was clearly nothing going from outside the ear to the brain. And one day I remember praying for him. But I remember reading a verse and I think it was I think I was reading a Bible passage whilst we’re in a prayer meeting if I remember correctly and the verse just said this “the deaf shall hear.” And something rose up within me and I tell you what it was: It was contending faith. I didn’t work it up. I didn’t try and force it up. It was something God gave me at that moment and I cried out to God, “let it be so Lord”. And then I forgot that I prayed it. Basically it’s funny how that happens. Sometimes you have a moment like that and you hardly remember. But then about two weeks after that. I had a phone call. I think I was away on a business trip or something. My wife rang me up and said, “I think he can hear.” I thought “no” to be honest! Remember that story when Peter gets released and they say “is that his ghost”? Wonderful that story is in there for people like me. They had just been praying for his release. And they were shocked that God would actually answer their prayers. Sometimes we’re like that. Now my son who couldn’t hear uses his perfect hearing to play music for God’s glory.

Sometimes people say that there’s a problem of suffering. I think most Christians have a problem with healing rather than with suffering. We don’t expect God to act. God is in the business of Resurrection. It says in Hebrews that by faith women receive back their dead by resurrection. That really is talking about this woman who helped Elijah. She is one of only a couple of others in the Old Testament that received back a dead relative by Resurrection.

She wasn’t lying when she said it was all well, she wasn’t confused when she said it’s all well, she just had another perspective. The God who brought life, can restore it! Faith GROWS with experience of God if it is responded to correctly.

She goes to the man of God and when she gets there. She does say something interesting. There’s an honesty about this woman, which I love she says “did I ask my lord for a son?” Did I did I not say Do not deceive me? I mean that’s a bit. We didn’t really focus on but when he’s when she’s told she will have a son she can’t quite believe it will happen. She says to Elijah “don’t get my hopes up”. That’s one translation of it, many of us are like that when we hear about faith. Maybe that is what you say to yourself “I’ve had my hopes lifted before, and then I’ve had them crushed.” The Bible does say that hope deferred makes the heart sick. Actually, it’s the prophets job to get people’s hopes up. But here she comes to him. She is full of honesty and said “look you gave me this child and now it’s taken away”

For someone reading this article there’s a word there. It’s okay to be honest with God. Not to accuse or condemn God, but to be honest with him. In the midst of that she receives her miracle and her child is raised from the dead. And that’s what God is in the business is doing he’s in the business of Resurrection. He’s in the business of fixing things. He’s in the business of restoring things. He has a monopoly on it’s his trade and when you have a plumber in your house, you expect them to fix your plumbing, don’t you? And so if you have God in your life, you should expect him to fix your life. So simple as that.

You should be more surprised if he doesn’t or if he says wait all he says hang on a minute. I’m going to do it in the future. Some people do wait for decades. But the Glorious thing is this when we look back from the from the standpoint of Eternity on this life. We won’t say. Oh God you made me wait so long will say. Wow. What have you given me now? There is that glorious age to come, but brothers and sisters let’s not just rest in that fact. Let’s lay hold of God and ask that some of what is in the age to come breaks into the here and now.

That’s why Jesus says “don’t be anxious saying what shall we eat or what shall we drink or what shall we wear for the Gentiles seek after all these things but your heavenly father knows that you need them all seek.

First the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”(Matthew 6:31-33 ESV)

Being a Christian is a bit like walking into strong wind. You need to lean into it, not stand straight or you will be blown over.

See if you’ve settled in your heart that it is all about Jesus that Jesus comes to us that he’s your lord. You can ask him to act and expect the unexpected as he also says ask and it will be given to you seek and you will find knock and it will be open to you for everyone who asks receives and the one who seeks finds and the on w ho comes to God basically will get from God God himself. And alongside him he will freely give us all things. If you have settled in your heart that God comes first, if you have settled in your heart that you will trust him WHATEVER happens, you can then implor him to act, and expect the unexpected!

Where are you in these phases? Resolve to take the next step TODAY

    • Make room for God
    • Trust Him no matter what happens
    • Dare to believe he will act for you today!

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Coming soon (God willing) : the rest of the series “Jesus Commands

Jesus said that if you obey him your life will be established on a firm foundation when the storms come.

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