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Perfecting Our Faith

by Julius Hovan

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

 

We welcome you to Words of Life. My, what an exciting thing that is. Words have such meaning and power, but words that bring endorsement, a pat on the back, are words that have meaning, that will bless us and help us. So it is this broadcast exists for that very purpose. And so we thank you for tuning in. We will share some thoughts from the Word of God and hopefully be a blessing and encourage you to come closer and closer to our wonderful Lord.

We are going to talk today about perfecting our faith. If you are a Christian this is a message especially for you. If you are not a follower of Jesus, if you have never professed faith in him, you will learn some things about what can happen when you become a follower of Jesus, when you become a Christian. Faith is something that we grow, something that begins maybe rather small and weak, but can grow to be a great and powerful thing in our lives.

Paul, the great writer of the New Testament says this in 1 Thessalonians chapter three and verse 10. Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. Paul understood that the Christians at Thessalonica had a faith that was not perfect. They had some growth to undertake and Paul wanted to help provide that. One translator says, I want to round out your faith to completeness. Another one says, I want to adjust what needs the advancement in your faith. Or another says, I want to fill up the defects of your faith.

All of us, if we are true Christians, would admit to being like these Christians and our faith needs some adjustment occasionally. We need a greater degree of faith and perfection in the faith. And we are admonished in the Bible to examine ourselves, first of all, to see if we are in the faith. Am I a Christian? Am I just someone who has been baptized or a church member or I go to church? Am I truly a born again follower of Jesus Christ? How firmly am I embedded in that faith? We are to think on these things is the admonition of Scripture.

If you are listening today and you claim to be a Christian, I would announce to you from this verse the need for testing your faith. Now if you test your faith, what would you find? What might we find missing from our lives that are to be lives of faith? Can we recognize it? Can we put a finger on it? Can we be definite? If it is not there can we find it? Can we obtain it? Allow me this morning to give you some qualities of faith that we need to have.

First of all, Hebrews chapter four and verse three says we who have believed do enter into rest. One of the things that we have as people of faith is we can be restful. A struggling faith is an undeveloped faith. It is an under-developed faith. It is a faith that when the writer of Hebrews in chapter three refers to the people of the Old Testament he says they were not able to enter in because of unbelief. Their faith was not strong enough in the promises of God. They never were able to enter in to that rest.

The Word here means to cease. We know what it means when we are tired. We come in and plop down in a chair or we sit under the shade tree. We stop and it is restful. If we cease trusting in things that never brought us peace and joy, though we thought they would, or if we just do this or that, we will be the happiest people in the world or if we can just get what we want, that will be great. Oh, we get them and in a little while they grow old and we need something else. We try this and it doesn’t satisfy. We please ourselves or try to please God by our own effort. When Jesus said it is finished, it made it possible for us to say true rest has begun. Putting my trust in Jesus, I can have the rest of a relationship with God, just like if you are sitting down, you didn’t give much thought to whether or not that chair would hold you up. You knew it would. You rested yourself in it. And so immersing ourselves in the person and work of Jesus Christ, it is faith that brings a restfulness.

Faith also brings the joy. For 1 Peter 1:8 says, Believers, you rejoice with joy unspeakable, joy that is inexpressible, joy that is a glorious joy. And verse nine in that 1 Peter passage tells us why, For you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your soul. My friends, those of us who recognize we have been redeemed out of the slave market of sin, that our guilt has been taken away, our sins have been washed away in the blood of Christ, we have hope of life and eternity with God one day. We, indeed, have reason to be joyful. This faith in such a gracious redeemer, such a risen, returning Savior can be nothing else other than joyful – abundant, abounding joy.

 

Is your faith giving you that joy today? A friend of mine used to say: If you have the joy, let your face know it. In other words, let people see in you, in your eyes and in your smile the joy of the Lord. Faith brings a restfulness. Faith brings a joyfulness. And Hebrews 11:1 brings us a hopefulness. He tells us there in that passage that faith is the substance of things hoped for, things not yet seen. It is that faith that brings us the great blessings that are in the promises of God. In the book of Galatians chapter four in verses four and five it says you are severed from Christ, but you would be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace. For we through the spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness.

Notice how he puts faith and hope together. They are not identical. They are inseparable. They go together and they go together in the life and the experience of the child of God. Without hope it is such a sad, sad situation. To hear from the doctor who comes in and says you are without hope, this disease is going to take your life. What a sad, sad conclusion that is.

True faith annihilates pessimism. It provides motivation and hope in the very darkest hour of our life. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the psalmist says, I will fear no evil. I have hope.

We recognize that one that leads us in triumph through evil days and through even death itself, hopeful, joyful, restful. Galatians chapter five and verse six tells us the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Faith provides the opportunity for loving. The great power that comes into the heart of a child of God through the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, is love. And the only thing that counts is faith with love. Paul says love is the greatest of these: faith, hope and love. And so faith works with love as a catalyst. It motivates and moves us to be a loving people. Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus and in chapter six and verse 23 it says. Peace be to the brethren and love with faith. Here is the pair again. They go together, do they not? And to the church at Thessalonica he wrote, Timothy reported the good tidings of your faith and your love.

Is the church where you go known for faith and love? Are those the qualities that stand out in the church where you worship? Is it true of your life? You are a loving person. I believe it is impossible without this faith to trust our great God of love and to not have this reflex action of that love going out from us to others. It is only as we trust him and walk with him and understand who he is and what he means in our lives that we can be the loving people that we ought to be. It is pretty hard to love some folks because some are not very loveable. They are a little bit cantankerous. They are obnoxious even. The Spirit helps us to be a loving person and to have a restfulness, a joyfulness, a hopefulness, a loving part in our lives. James chapter two and verse 20 tells us we are perfecting this faith. Faith without works is dead. Here is the practical side of faith.

In verses 15 and 16 of that passage James refers to those that we see who do not have food and clothing. And he states that we must recognize their condition. We must acknowledge their need, but we must meet their need. To see someone who is hungry, someone who needs clothing and we can help them and not provide that help means we do not have the good works that accompany faith. And the type of faith that does not respond in action is not the type of faith that can save. Other translations say about that faith that it is useless. It is a barren faith. It is an inactive faith. It is an ineffective faith. It is a worthless faith. It amounts to nothing. I guess there is that kind of faith, but I don’t want it. I don’t think you do either if you are a Christian. And so we are desirous of perfecting, making our faith more what it ought to be.

In 2 Timothy chapter three and verse 10, Paul links faith with longsuffering. Think of those two things. We need patience to live in our world today and to deal with people. And so he tells us in the 10th verse of 2 Timothy three, but you did follow my teaching, my conduct, my purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, patience. He again linked this quality of faith with longsuffering. It is faith that helps me be patient. It helps me endure.

The Hebrew writer states that we must imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. Faith and patience. I need that patience and it comes through faith. I want to develop my faith. I want to perfect it. I want to see it growing and I want to see it improving.

In the third chapter of the Revelation letter, writing to one of the seven churches of Asia, the writer John, under the inspiration of the Spirit, refers to the martyrs there and says this is the patience and faith of the saints. They were willing to give their lives for the gospel, would even give their lives for the Christian faith. That is happening in many of the Muslim countries of our world today, Christians who were dragged out of churches or locked up in their churches and burned to death, Christians who are locked up, beaten, persecuted for their faith. It takes patience to endure that. And it is possible only if you have a strong faith. God forbid that where you live you have to undergo that, or in America where I live, where we have had religious freedom, that is now being challenged. God forbid that it would ever happen that we would have to undergo such persecution. Patience and faith go together. And as my faith grows, so, likewise, will my patience.

In 1 John chapter five verse four we have the words, this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Now just think of what that verse says. Victory. We all like victory if we are sports fans. We want our team to win. That is just natural. If our children are competing in a game, we want them to be on the winning side. There is a world and a world system and an evil one that we have to overcome. How can we do it? By faith. It is a very personal faith, your faith, my faith. Your faith won’t help me overcome. My faith won’t help you overcome. You must each have the faith and grow the faith and perfect the faith to be victorious. But this is the promise of God. We can have the victory if we have this great faith.
In 2 Corinthians chapter four and verse 13 we read that we believe, and this is interesting, we believe and therefore we speak. If we believe certain things we talk about those things, we speak those things that we believe.

Luke chapter one and verse 20 equates doubt with our dumbness, with our silence, with our not being able to speak. If we don’t know about a subject, we want to keep our mouths closed so that we don’t appear dumb. But if we have the truth of the gospel, we believe, and therefore we have something to speak about. Others may become Christians from our speaking.

Romans 10:10 says with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Have you made that confession? Have you said Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? I make him my Savior, the Lord of my life. I give up on myself and I turn and follow him. You do that vocally with your mouth.

The psalmist said let the redeemed of the Lord say so. If you are a Christian, let other folks know about it. Don’t beat them over the head with your Bible, but they need to know what it is to have faith and to have the joyfulness and the restfulness and the hopefulness and to be loving and to be able to do good works, to have patience and victory. Those are things about which you can speak and be able to talk about the great things of God. Such saying causes our fire to blaze up. It draws others to it for the warmth of the love of God.

We must draw this lesson to its conclusion. We have been talking about growing or perfecting or making our faith better and stronger. And so it comes as no surprise that 2 Thessalonians 1:3 says your faith grows exceedingly. The Christians at Thessalonica were known as a people who indeed had been perfecting their faith. It had been growing. And as we feed our spirits on the Word of God, as we share in Christian fellowship with Christians of like mind, as we go to places of worship and there praise and honor God, as we obediently serve the Lord as we are gifted to do, we can experience a full assurance of faith because we have drawn near with a true heart.

Christian friend, listen today. What about your faith? Are you resting in the Lord or is your life just one big jumble of hurry and scurry and you are mixed up, unsure? Let your faith find rest in the Lord. Do you have the joy? Do you have the hope? If you are not a Christian today, you don’t have this great hope of life everlasting. You can’t express the love of God. You can’t do the good works that you ought to do. Your patience is going to run thin. You will not have victory over the devil and over self and over sin. We must speak the Word. That is what Words of Life seeks to do. That is why we come into your home by way of this broadcast.

Would you make it your prayer, as did the disciples of old? Lord, increase our faith so that we can be joyful and hopeful and restful, loving and practical and patient, have victory and speak the Word of God to others ever growing in the faith. The poet has written: Lord, help my faith to grow, and doubt be less and less, as more of saving truth I know, the more may I possess, till faith shall every doubt destroy and cloudless blessing I enjoy.

God, bless the listeners of this Word today. Help our faith to grow. Encourage Christians in difficult circumstances and draw the unsaved to yourself is our prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Julius Hovan is minister of the Bohon Church of Christ, Bohon,, KY




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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33