Defining Moments in a Life of Faith
Introduction: Paul wrote these very simple words to about those who live by faith: "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7).
Faith is not a one time act or event, but a lifetime, a walk.
But what is this walk of faith? What are the defining moments that form and mold and make a life of faith?
A. Before one can begin on the path of a life of faith they must come to conviction.
3. Conviction versus Preference
"Difference between a conviction and a preference, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. A preference is a very strong belief, held with great strength. You can give your entire life in a full-time way to the service of the preference, and can also give your entire material wealth in the name of the belief. You can also energetically proselytize others to your preference. You can also want to teach this belief to your children, and the Supreme court may still rule that it is a preference. A preference is a strong belief, but a belief that you will change under the right circumstances. Circumstances such as:
would you die for your beliefs? A conviction is a belief that you will not change. Why? A man believes that his God requires it of him.
Preferences aren't protected by the constitution.
Convictions are. A conviction is not something that you discover, it is something that you purpose in your heart (cf. Daniel 1, 2-3).
Convictions on the inside will always show up on the outside, in a person's lifestyle. To violate a conviction would be a sin." (David C. Gibbs, Jr., Christian Law Association).
B. Abraham, the friend of God, the father of the faithful, illustrates conviction.
1. Gen. 15:1-6.
a. Although Abraham was childless, Abraham had faith a deep abiding conviction in God.
b. Although his wife was 90 years hold and past the age of child bearing, Abraham had a conviction that God would deliver what he promised
2. The conviction of Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible and receives the impossible.
C. Conviction requires "coming to oneself"
3. In the pits of his life he came face to face with the reality of the depths to which he had sunk.
4. He "came to himself," he came to his senses, he put it together, he recognized the truth about his condition and his need.
5. His conviction caused him to get up and out of the mud of the pig sty and return back to his father.
6. This conviction was a defining moment in this man's life. It forever altered his life, his choices, his priorities
7. Before you can ever have faith, you must, like the prodigal son, come to yourself, come to your senses. You must see and recognize your sad condition and determine to get up and out of the muck and filth of your own sin and come to the heavenly father. Without this point of conviction you will never soar to the heights of faith.
D. Conviction leads to conversion
1. The conviction of the faith of those on Pentecost caused them to cry out and seek God's means of conversion (Acts 2:36-37).
2. The conviction of the Philippian Jailer led to his conversion (Acts 16:25-31).
3. These were crucial moments in their lives.
a. Their hearts were pricked, they were convicted of their sin and their need to turn to God.
b. This conviction led to their conversion and a life of faith, a life altering course in their purpose and relationship with God.
4. "If you don't make up your mind, your unmade mind will unmake you" (E. Stanley Jones, Preaching Resources, Spring 1996, p. 71).
A. Faith requires more than conviction, it also demands commitment.
realize that one must be not just convicted but committed to go all the way. There is no excuses. There is no turning back. There are no other priorities. It is God first and God all the way.
3. Commitment to a Cause
The toughness of both Yankee and Rebel soldiers was amazing. Their lives were filled with deprivation and danger that is hardly imaginable today. It was not unusual for the troops to make a two-week forced march during which commanders would threaten the stragglers at sword-point.
The men were often thrown into the heat of a terrible battle just moments after reaching the front. They would engage in exhausting combat for days, interspersed by sleepless nights on the ground in freezing rain or snow. During the battle itself, they ate a dry, hard biscuit called hardtack, and very little else. In less combative times, they could add a little salt pork and coffee to their diet. That was it! As might be expected, their intestinal tracks were regularly shredded by diarrhea, dysentery and related diseases that decimated their ranks. The Union Army reported upwards of 200,000 casualties from disease, often disabling up to 50 percent of the soldiers.
The Confederates suffered a similar fate. Combat experience itself was unbelievably violent in those days. Thousands of men stood toe to toe and slaughtered one another like flies. After one particularly bloody battle in 1862, 5,000 men lay dead in an area of two square miles. Twenty thousand more were wounded. One witness said it was possible to walk on dead bodies for 100 yards without once stepping on the ground. Many of the wounded remained where they fell among dead men and horses for 12 or 14 hours, with their groans and cries echoing through the countryside.
They believed in their cause, whether Union or Confederate, and they committed their lives to it. Most believed that they would not survive the war, but that was of little consequence. But their dedication and personal sacrifice remain today as memorials to their time.
There is, perhaps, no better illustration of this commitment to principle and honor than is seen in a letter written by major Sullivan Ballou of the Union Army. He penned it to his wife, Sarah, a week before the battle of Bull Run, July 14, 1861. They had been married only six years.
My Very Dear Sarah: The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more ... I have no misgivings about or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing, perfectly willing, to lay down all my joys in this life to help maintain this Government and to pay that debt... Sarah, my love for you is deathless: it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break, and yet my love for country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on, with all these chains to the battle-field. The memories of all the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most deeply grateful to God, and you, that I have enjoyed them so long. And how hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood around us. If I do not (return), my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle-field, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless, how foolish I have often-times been... O Sarah, if the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you in the gladdest day and in the darkest night, amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours always, always: and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall by my breath, or the cool air cools your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah, do not mourn me dead: think I am gone, and wait for me, for we shall meet again... Sullivan
Major Ballou was killed one week later in the first battle of Bull Run. I wonder, don't you, if he did indeed utter Sarah's name as he lay dying on the battlefield. She undoubtedly suffered the greater pain in the aftermath of that terrible war. (Focus on the Family Newsletter, March, 1994).
4. One black preacher put it this way: "Faith is taking hold of God, holding on to God and not ever letting go!"
5. Commitment is the cry of Isaiah. "Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me" (Isa. 6:8).
B. Faith without commitment will lead to damnation.
1. Some come to this moment of commitment and turn away from faith and God.
2. God is not pleased by faith without commitment.
"(38) Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. (39) But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul" (Heb. 10:38-39).
3. God was highly displeased with the tribe of Ephraim for not being committed. "(8) And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God. (9) The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle. (10) They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law; (11) And forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shewed them" (Psa. 78:8-11).
A. In every life of faith there are times of challenge
1. James tells us how to face these challenges (Jas. 1:2-4, 12).
a. Why face faith's challenges with joy?
b. Because it builds our faith and perfects us.
c. Challenges are like practice and exercise for our faith. It strengthens it, toughens it and prepares us to enter into eternal life.
2. Mountain Men
Not long ago Newsweek magazine reported on what it called the new wave of mountain men.
It's estimated that there are some sixty thousand serious mountain climbers in the U.S. But in the upper echelon of serious climbers is a small elite group knows as "hard men." For them climbing mountains and scaling sheer rock faces is a way of life. In many cases, climbing is a part of their whole commitment to life. And their ultimate experience is called free soloing: climbing with no equipment and no safety ropes. John Baker is considered by many to be the best of the hard men. He has free-soloed some of the most difficult rock faces in the U.S. with no safety rope and no climbing equipment of any kind. His skill has not come easily. It has been acquired through commitment, dedication and training. His wife says she can't believe his dedication. When John isn't climbing, he's often to be found in his California home hanging by his fingertips to strengthen his arms and hands. (Charles Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, p. 236).
B. Consider the challenge to Abraham's faith
C. The challenges in a life of faith are the moments that define and mold our faith and our lives.
1. Peter tells us that challenges will refine us like precious metal and fill us with joy (1 Pet. 1:6-9).
2. The More Iron Is worked the More It Is Worth
"F. B. Meyer explained it this way: "A bar of iron worth $2.50, when wrought into horseshoes is worth $5. If made into needles it is worth $175. If into penknife blades it is worth $1,625. If made into springs for watches it is worth $125,000. What a trial by fire' that bar must undergo to be worth this! But the more it is manipulated, and the more it is hammered and passed through the heat, beaten, pounded, and polished, the greater its value."
Are you wondering about the trials, the challenges through which you are passing? With impatient heart are you saying, "How long, O Lord?" The heat of the flame and the blows of the hammer are necessary if you are to be more than an unpolished, rough bar of iron. God's all-wise plan, though it calls for the fire, produces the valuable watch spring of maturity. His very best for your life has behind it His perfect timing." (P.R.V. Our Daily Bread, February 23).
A. Every life, even a life of faith will face and have to deal with conflict
1. The life of faith is defined by conflict with:
2. How you face and handle these conflicts will make or break your faith.
B. Conflict with those without
1. Some meet up with conflict in the form of mockery perhaps even persecution.
2. This tries the faith and can cause some to lose their faith as they wilt and fail under the pressure of the conflict (Mk. 4:16-17).
3. How are we meet this kind of conflict and maintain our faith?
1. Some defining moments in a life of faith are confrontation and conflict with false teachers.
2. Paul spoke of those who were led away from faith by such conflict (2 Tim. 2:16-18).
3. Paul tells us how to face these conflicts, by shunning the false teachers and their false doctrines.
D. Conflict with brethren
1. Some have their faith tried by conflict with brethren.
2. No one finds this kind of conflict pleasant. Some use this conflict to leave the life of faith. My uncle used a supposed conflict with another Christian as a pretext for leaving the faith.
3. How are we to handle these conflicts so that they build our faith instead of destroy it?
a. Eph. 4:1-3.
b. Healing Spirit
Labour mightily for a healing spirit. Away with all discriminating names whatever that may hinder the applying of balm to heal your wounds...Discord and division become no Christian. For wolves to worry the lambs is no wonder, but for one lamb to worry another, this is unnatural and monstrous. (Thomas Brooks, quoted in Credenda Agenda, Volume 5 Number 2, Page 3, I.D.E. Thomas, A Puritan Golden Treasury, Banner of Truth, 1989, p. 304).
A. What about our day to day routine living.
1. Not all our lives will be filled with conviction, commitment, challenge or conflict. Most days will be calm, routine, even dull and boring!
2. We have to live and walk in faith during these long times of lull and calm.
3. Do you realize that Abraham lived 175 years and that out of all those years we have only a handful of events in his life between the age of 75 and 140.
a. We know about some mountain-top demonstrations of Abraham's faith and we know about a couple of the dark valleys when Abraham did not walk by faith but by sight.
b. But when you add up the events we have very few actual days in Abraham's life.
What about all those hundreds and thousands of days and decades that were flat, calm and uneventful?
c. How did Abraham live and walk by faith during those long periods when He did not hear from God?
4. The best answer that I can find in the scriptures is this:
a. "And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Ai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord" (Gen. 12:8; See also, 13:3-4; 13:18; 21:33).
b. These describe the typical life and days of Abraham. He worshiped and served the Lord, where ever he went!
B. Not all life is on the mountain tops.
1. What we do with the time we have between, which is most of out lives is the true defining of our faith.
2. It is how we live day to day that makes us or breaks us. What you do daily, not what you did once or twice in your lifetime.
3. It has to do with your outlook, your attitude and your routine actions.
4. Peter gives us a view of the calm times in a life of faith (1 Pet. 3:10-15).
C. We need to live the long stretches of our daily routine lives by faith also.
6. Exhorting, encouraging one another (Heb. 3:13).
Have you faced the defining moments of faith in your life? "His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord" (Mt. 25:23).
By Wayne Greeson
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