Faith - The Secret to Receiving the Grace of God
By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: Hebrews 11: 4-6
Sunday 5th October 2014
Today as we conclude the series, ‘I am Destined to Reign’, we delve into understanding the third posture that we need to adopt in order to receive God’s abundance, a prerequisite to ruling over every situation in life. So far we’ve examined two postures; humility and boldness.
Faith is central to our relationship with God. It is essential in our worship, prayers including intercession, giving and other spiritual disciplines, and as such we need to have a clear understanding of what faith is really all about. Hebrews 11:6 puts it this way: ‘Without faith, it is impossible to please God’. So if we want our lives to please God, then faith must be interwoven into all we do. Furthermore, we must understand how to live by faith, and use our faith to access the grace of God.
One of the exemplary of faith in the bible is Enoch, who lived and walked with God and soon enough he was taken to Heaven, by God. As Christians, we are called to emulate this man in demonstrating faith, without which we cannot please God. Our sojourn here on earth on assignment by God is for an incredibly short space of time. Sadly, our lives here in the western world have been inundated with various alternatives to living by faith that it seems sometimes needless to exercise our faith in God for anything. At some point though, an unexercised and undeveloped faith may prove very costly when we are confronted by a critical situation that requires God’s intervention.
The story of Abel and Cain in Genesis 4 baffled me for a while, as I tried to understand why God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s. The answer to this as I discovered in Hebrews 11:4 was Abel’s faith. Here it is: ‘It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith’ (NLT). Again, our attitude to giving to God – whether it is in our tithes and offering or other gifts that we bring to Him should be done out of a heart of faith.
As Christians, we are called to a life of faith, by which we overcome. This is how 1 John 5:4 puts it: For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Your faith is your victory over oppression, lack and poverty, demonic attacks, defeat and other negativities from the evil one. You need to hold on to your faith, by which you have access to the grace of God. Romans 5:1-2 explain this further: ‘Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God’.
In a previous message titled ‘I Have Access’, we agreed that true biblical faith is appropriating the finished work of Christ in our lives. All that God has already provided for our benefit can only be enjoyed by faith. In other words, our faith is the positive response towards all that God has already provided for us by grace. All that we need is already provided – it is now our responsibility to respond to this provision and make use of the blessings that God has already made available.
You may be asking ‘How relevant is faith?’. To have a full understanding of the answer to this, we have to examine what the bible says about our relationship with God. Starting with Habakkuk 2:4, which reads: “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith”. ‘Just’ can be further described as ‘justified’ or ‘righteous’. The phrase ‘The just shall live by faith’ is repeated in three other verses in scriptures; Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38. Here is the phrase as written in Hebrews: ‘Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him’. Again, God reiterates this phrase to emphasize the importance of living, as His children by faith. This life of faith will not depend on our efforts or standards, but solely on our reliance and confidence in God. In ourselves, we cannot achieve much, if anything for God, hence those scriptures encourages us to live ‘by faith in His grace’.
Now, if living by faith is simply the way to please God, then we need to know what this entails. The word ‘live’ is the Hebrew word, ‘Zao’ which means, ‘to enjoy quality of life’, ‘to be active and blessed’, ‘full of vigour’, fresh, strong, efficient, active and powerful’ – all these can be enjoyed by faith.
Let’s take a closer look at the biblical definition of faith as defined in Hebrews 11:1, the quintessential passage of faith – ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ A good analogy for this scripture is the proof or receipt for an item bought in a store that has not been delivered yet. If challenged in any way, you can easily produce that receipt as evidence of the purchase. This is simply how faith works. Here is the New Living Translation of this passage: ‘Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see’. Here is the Amplified Version: ‘Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]’. If you ever dealt with real estate, the words ‘title deed’ may jump at you. It is a confirmation that a property bequeathed to you with your name on a title deed is yours, even if you have not seen the property yet. We could also illustrate faith this way: If a flight for Australia has been booked in your name, with a confirmation number on an electronic ticket, then you have no reason to worry about your place on that aircraft or even to bother if that aircraft exists. It is because you have a confirmation number of your flight. Conversely, God’s word is our confirmation that what we are expecting to happen, exists. And if challenged in any way by the devil, you basically hold up that word from God.
In understanding faith, the keyword that I want to highlight for this message is ‘confidence’. From Abraham’s story, we are introduced to a man who initially doubted God and His promise of a child. This doubt led to the birth of Ishmael, when Sarai, his wife made a suggestion of an alternative. We must be careful not to accept suggestions that have not been approved by God. Thankfully, Abraham developed his confidence in God and his situation eventually changed. His faith is underscored in Romans 4:18; “who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken,“So shall your descendants be.” As we read further, we then understand fully how strong his faith in God was: ‘’Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit’ (Romans 4:20-23 NLT).
I could illustrate Abraham’s confidence by this simple example. If I want to lean on a complete stranger and expect him to catch me so that I do not fall, that would be highly unwise. However, once I get to know the person well enough to describe the person as a friend, then I can be rest assured that even if I lean back on them fully, he/she would hold me up and ensure that I do not fall. This principle holds in our relationship with God – the more we know Him, the more we can lean on, ‘throw our weight on’ and believe in Him. To fully enjoy the blessings of our confidence in Him, we must then spend time knowing him.
Confidence is the missing ingredient in walking by faith. David, a young shepherd boy in the backside of the wilderness, developed his faith in God as he looked after the flock of sheep. Although, the youngest in the family and given such a huge responsibility, it seemed unfair. David however used this opportunity to write Psalms like ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want’ (Psalm 23:1). As his confidence grew, his faith grew and was able to access the faith for victory to defeat Israel’s bitter rivals as recorded in 1 Samuel 17. Verse 32-37 reads: “Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!” “Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.” But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The LORD who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the LORD be with you!” (NLT).
Conversely, every situation that we may be facing at the moment is an opportunity to develop our confidence in God. Instead of complaining, use this time to strengthen your dependence on God. Just like the victory over Goliath began in the wilderness, inquire of God what He intends to use the situation you may be facing to accomplish in the coming days. Use the testimonies of God’s goodness to encourage yourself and stir up your faith during the difficult days when the going gets tough. We must never allow our challenges to overshadow all that God has done in the past; rather it should be a ‘stepping stone’ to build our confidence in Him.
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