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I would like to begin our message with Acts 6:1-5, 8. "And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost. . . . And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people."
In these verses we discover that Stephen was a man full of faith and full of the Holy Spirit. The reason Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit is because he was full of faith.
Was does it mean to be full of faith? We will consider five different ingredients that make up faith. But first, imagine for a minute one of your favorite recipes that is made out of five different ingredients. It is absolutely delicious with those five ingredients mixed together. But if you were to take away three of those ingredients it would not taste the same. So it is with faith. To have a strong faith we need all the ingredients that make up faith. Otherwise our faith will be weaker.
Now everything that the believer does and everything that the believer receives depends upon faith.
Imagine the difference it would make whether our faith is strong or whether it is weak when it comes to:
Daily struggles or trials
Our communion time with God
Witnessing for Christ
If our faith is strong we will make better spiritual decisions, we will face life's struggles with greater strength and determination, we will be walking closer with the Lord, and we will be more effectual in our witnessing for Him.
Before we look at the ingredients of faith, let us first consider some basic concepts concerning faith.
The Bible says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8, 9. We are not saved by faith, rather, we are saved by grace through faith. No one will go to heaven and say, "I was saved by my faith." It is the grace of God or the power of God that saves us. But I must appropriate the grace or power of God through faith.
According to Titus 2:11, grace has appeared to all men. "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men." What does this mean? It means that the Holy Spirit has been wooing every human heart to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Does this mean that everyone is saved because grace has appeared to all men? We know that not everyone will be saved. According to Jesus the way is broad that leads to destruction. See Matthew 7:13. According to Revelation 20:15, there is a lake of fire for those whose names are not written in the book of life.
In the healing of the two blind men, Jesus touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith be it unto you." Matthew 9:29. While grace has appeared to every man, and the Holy Spirit has wooed every human heart, everything is according to our faith. While we are not saved by faith, we must exercise faith in the grace of God.
According to Titus 2:11, 12, we learn that grace teaches, or that the Holy Spirit is trying to lead us all in the right path. ""For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men. Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world." So we are taught by the grace of God, but it is by faith we understand. As Paul wrote, "Through faith we understand. . ." Hebrews 11:3.
So the more faith we have the more we can understand what God is trying to teach us.
According to Hebrews 11:6 it is impossible to please God without faith. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."
According to 1 John 5:4, we overcome the world by our faith in Christ, who is mighty to save. "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
Let us now consider the ingredients of faith. Like a good recipe, faith is made up of many different elements. Take away any one of them and it is not the same.
Jesus began His sermon on the mount with these words, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3.
One of the most important ingredients of faith is recognizing our own weakness. We are helpless human agents. And the more we realize our helplessness the more we will exercise faith in divine help.
However, if we are content with our spiritual condition, then we will not seek to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. If I see myself as reasonably good, then I will not sense my need for Christ. However, the more helpless I see myself, the more I will realize my need for divine help and the more faith I will exercise in the power of God.
Let us consider the following texts that describe our true condition:
"Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it . . ." Isaiah 1:5, 6
"Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil." Jeremiah 13:23
We will receive power proportionate to our daily need Christ. If I sense no need for divine help, then my faith in God's power will be weak. In fact, it would not be possible for me to appreciate the help that Christ can bestow. However, with much faith in Christ's power to deliver from sin will come much power in the Spirit.
Paul wrote, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe [or trust] that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Hebrews 11:6. According to this text we must "believe" or trust God, that if we seek Him He will reward us with His grace. But many do not trust that God promises are for them. They do not believe that they are forgiven, even though the Bible says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9.
Tragically some believe they are too sinful to come to Christ just as they are. They believe that they must first reform their lives before coming to Christ. Here is where thousands, if not millions, fail. They do not come to Christ just as they are: needy, sinful, and helpless. But we need His pardoning grace. We are to believe in His promise to forgive.
Do not think that God's love and grace is not for you. It is for every repentant sinner. Nobody is so sinful that they cannot find forgiveness in Christ. He is waiting for you to come to Him just as you are. Only trust that His promises are for you. Trust that He will forgive you. Trust that He will also strengthen you.
It has always been the devil's intent to cause doubt. The more doubt we have in the saving power of Christ, the weaker our faith. But the more we believe, the more we trust, the greater our faith will be in Him.
Imagine how much fuller our faith would be if we trusted God one hundred percent. But if we trust Him only about fifty percent of the time, then are faith is weaker.
"Yea , a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works." James 2:18
We are not saved by works. Rather, works are the evidence of faith.
"Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?" James 2:22. It is by works of faith that faith is made perfect, or that faith is made complete, or that faith reaches its goal.
The devil believes, but there are no corresponding works of faith and love in God. There is no obedience to God.
Here is how the cooperation principle works:
God asks us to do something.
By ourselves we know that we cannot do it (We realize our helplessness).
By faith we move forward (Trusting in God's love and power toward us).
Then God empowers us to do what He has asked.
By the pool of Bethesda lay a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years. Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk." John 5:8. The man could have replied, "Lord, if thou wilt heal me, then I will rise." But he didn't. He knew he had no power to stand, yet he believed in Christ's power, and obeyed His command. AS he put forth his energies/by faith to act upon Christ's word, he received the strength he needed.
Other examples Luke 17:14-It was as the ten lepers obeyed Jesus command that they were healed.
Joshua 3:13-It was as they stepped forth into the Jordan River that the waters were parted.
As soon as we resolve to obey God's Word, He supplies the strength to obey.
Philippians 4:13, reads, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
In the building of faith we must learn to cooperate with God. He does not do everything for us, nor do we do everything by ourselves. Rather, we can do all things through Him that provides us the strength to fulfill His perfect will.
The choosing is ours, but the power is God's.
When Jesus asked the disciples to feed the 5,000, they only had five loaves of bread and two fishes. See Mark 6:34-44.
God often asks us to do things even though we lack the necessary resources. But we are to use what we have and move forward. As we do, God supplies our needs.
God's ability to accomplish great things through us has never been limited by our lack of large resources, but only our failure to utilize the resources that are available to us.
Jesus attends a wedding that runs out of wine, but they used all that they had, namely, water. As the servants filled the pots with water, Jesus miraculously transformed the water into wine.
When God called Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, Moses replied, "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharoah, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" Exodus 3:11.
In other words, Moses was saying, "I do not have the skills or resources."
Yet, with a staff in his hand, God performed mighty miracles through him.
Faith does not fret over what it does not have, but moves forward using what is available, trusting God to supply every need.
Our great need is not for larger resources, but faith in God and stepping forward with our available resources.
Paul wrote, "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19. Here is a promise that God will supply all that you need.
So what is our part in this equation? We are to make a beginning. We are to move forward with a determination to do what the Lord has asked us to do. As we move forward by faith in obedience to God's command the way will be open for us. But we must exercise unwavering faith meshed with earnest effort.
Love is the motivating factor for true faith. As Paul wrote, ". . . but faith which worketh by love." Galatians 5:6. So it is as we behold the love of Christ for us that our faith is motivated to serve God and our fellowman. But if we do not beholding that altogether beautiful life of Christ, our faith seems to waver and lessen.
Love is the power behind a growing or active faith, "For the love of Christ constraineth us. . . ." 2 Corinthians 5:14. What led these early followers of Christ to go and preach the gospel throughout the whole known world? It was the power of Christ's love for them. They knew that He had given all, and now they in turn wanted to give all.
Paul teaches us that faith without love is worthless, as he wrote, ". . . and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity [or agape love], I am nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:3.
John teaches us that our obedience to God is the evidence of our love for God. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous." 1 John 5:3. When we obey God's will by love, His commandments are not grievous. They will not seem like a burden. The power of love can even beautify hardships. Love can make sacrifices a delight.
In another sermon, The Ingredients of Love, we learn that love itself is made up of many different ingredients. We can find these ingredients in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
To have great faith we need to spend much time in our contemplation of the life of Christ, especially the closing scenes. As we behold Christ from Gethsemane to Calvary, we see the greatest expression of love. It is this love that Christ demonstrated to us while we were His enemy that motivates our faith to love God with our whole heart and our neighbor as our self.
In closing, we want all the ingredients of faith that we may hear these precious words, "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Revelation 14:12.
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