Faith is like a muscle; that is the title of this message. And it is a message that has been re-affirmed through the radio audience and congregation. The many challenges that we have faced, and are now facing, has strengthened my faith and belief that God's Word is the truth, and that the Word lives and breaths in His Church. God is truly speaking to this body because we are all of the same mind, and play an equally important role in His ministry. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 - “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.” Before you begin to read this chapter, let us pray that our individual faith and our faith as a body, is strengthened day by day.
Faith is like a muscle that must be exercised in order to become strong, so that it can perform and persevere in any and all situations. It must be exercised individually, in our families and as a ministry. In this time of God's mercy, He is putting us through a remedial training of sorts. In order to pass the “exam,” a score of good enough is not enough. You must have a faith that is 100% and not just 99.99%. An unwavering faith is what is required to weather the coming storm.
What I have come to understand is that God allows us to go through “trials by fire” to strengthen us, and to remove the impurities in our lives. During one of these rather intense trials, one which would eventually bring me to an understanding that a total dependence on the Lord is required of His people, I began to question the Lord as to “why” He was allowing my family and I to suffer. I have to admit that I also allowed my anger to be misdirected towards Him. However, our God is faithful and will be with us through our struggles. I thank Him because He had me realize how my own weaknesses affected my ability to fully trust and surrender. Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us: “It is the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”
During our times of struggle, the Lord will provide. He will speak to us in many ways. It's at these times that we must diligently seek His face and listen to what He is speaking to our hearts. As I began to question why I was facing such adversities, He spoke to me through my dear brother in Christ, Ron Alfredson. The following excerpt is from an email that Ron sent to me which answered the question I presented to the Lord.
Excerpt from Rev. Ron's Email
Dear Pastor Ray,
I give you this thought if Little Ray was not quite understanding what you are teaching him, what would you do? Do you move on to something bigger or do you keep repeating to him what you are trying to get him to understand? You may have to change your tactics, but you keep working with him. Chances are he will get upset and frustrated, and maybe angry, but then he will search and search to find ways to help himself to understand, what it is you are teaching him. And when HE fervently searches, it will soon hit him like a ton of bricks, and he will then grasp what it was you were teaching him.
In His Service,
Do you seem to be involved in similar fights time and time again? Has the Lord taken you to the last minute of the final hour on numerous occasions? What the Lord is trying to tell us is that He loves us so much that He will allow us to go through these challenges until we get it right. And by getting it right that means to put our faith and trust FULLY in Him.
We must be faithful in all that we do before the Lord can truly move us to that next level. Faith is knowing. Faith is believing. Faith is unwavering. Faith is not based upon our own understanding. Rather, its based upon the knowledge that we serve a mighty God, who answers the prayers of the faithful; those who call Him Lord.
Proverbs 3:1-6 KJV
1 My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:
2 For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.
3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:
4 So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
As I was going through this “wilderness” experience, the Lord continued to teach me to depend solely upon Him, for the trials that I faced were there to “strengthen” my wings so I could fly. During this time, He spoke to me in many ways; one being my wife Jennifer. The above verses that I have shared with you, were the verses that my wife shared with me in a wonderful letter she wrote to me. In that letter, she challenged me with the Word of God, which is all the encouragement that one would need.
In Proverbs 3 verses 1-6; we find a message of both encouragement and urgent advice regarding obedience and faith. And how relevant is that, for all that we are facing as individuals, as a family and as a ministry. In verse 1, the focus here is on obedience to God's commandments. We must not just profess our obedience with our lips.....but with our hearts.
All throughout the old and new testament; we find this message of keeping the Lord's commandments. But I want to look specifically at Joshua 22:5 - But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord charged you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with allyour soul.
To cleave – to adhere closely, to cling, to remain faithful
Now let's go to the NT and look at Jesus word's. Matt 19:17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
What I want to look at in this passage is where Jesus says, “but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” What is the life He is speaking of? It is eternal life; and that is what is in question for each and every one of us. In order to enter into that eternal, we must embrace Jesus Christ as the Lord and Saviour of our life. We must totally surrender to Him and enter into that beautiful relationship. By accepting Him; by calling Him Lord; we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, the great teacher and the one who will guide us. Because we are that new creation, we desire to be righteous. The convicting and loving nature of the Spirit helps us to keep the commandments. 1 John 5:3 tell us For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
When we look at verse 2 we find that health and peace are commonly enjoyed by those who keep God's commandments. As I meditated and prayed on that verse, the word that I used, “commonly,” kept coming into my view. We know that commonly means to become ordinary, or to occur frequently, habitually. It essentially becomes a usual occurrence; standard.
With that being understood, I felt as though this had a deeper meaning for all of us at this time. I prayed on it and asked the Lord what He was trying to tell me. He began to show me how His message related not only to each of us, but to this ministry and the church as a whole. As I looked up the definition of commonly; I found that it also means; of or relating to the community as a whole.
So my question is for each and every one of us. Are you doing all that you can do, and should be doing for the body that you have been called too? Are you allowing your personal feelings to prevent you or stop you from giving it your all?Are you taking it personally?
So many times we make this about ourselves. And when we do that, when we allow those feelings to get in the way, we essentially hinder what God is doing in our lives. I know there have been times when I felt as though I just needed to forget about HIA, because I felt as though the people were not doing what they said they were going to do, or they were just doing nothing. I indeed was taking it personally. I was allowing a spirit of spitefulness to take my focus away from my calling.
Are there those among us today that might be doing the same?
Verse 3- Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them up about they neck; write them upon the table of thine heart. What is that saying to you? Let not mercy forsake thee. So what is God's mercy. God's mercy is promising, because it applies to even the worst sinners and offenders. Romans 3:23-24 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
None of us are worthy....plain and simple. None of us are worthy to be called into His service. But we have been justified by his grace. God's mercy is promising and His truth will not forsake us. His truth is real and is performing in our lives, at this time, at this very second. So we are continue on. We are to seek His word diligently and strive to live up to them daily. But furthermore, we are to take comfort in the knowledge of God's mercy and truth, and how they apply to our lives.
Verse 4 - So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. In this verse we find two things spoken of (1) Divine favour and (2) Human favor. I want to first focus on divine favour. There are many verses of scripture that talk about Divine favour, but I want to look a little further in Proverbs; specifically 8:35 which says, “For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.”
Human favour – Again, we find many examples throughout God's word. But I want to first look at Exodus 3:21 which says, ”And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty.” So we see that even at the hands of their own enemies, those who are obedient and are faithful, are recipients of human favour.
Let's go to Exodus 11:3 which says, “And the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreove the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh's servants, and in the sight of the people.”
Now let's look at a word from the NT. Acts 2:44-47; which spoke mightily to me in regards to this ministry. “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
Romans 14:18 “For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.”
Is this speaking to you at all?
Is this message convicting and loving on you? Is it giving you hope for a better tomorrow?
I know that it is having an effect on me. God is truly training us and allowing us to be built up; individually and as a body. We should be thanking Him and rejoicing; for we are Children of God.
Do you fully trust in the Lord? Do you trust Him with your life, the lives of your family members? Do you trust Him with your finances? Or are you still looking to the world to fix your issues?
Verse 5 - Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. We must fully trust in the Lord with all our hearts. We must believe that His wisdom, His understanding, and His ways are wiser than we could ever be.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. Isaiah 55:8
The Lord must be our strength. And that can only happen when our faith is strengthened; by being worked and tested. But we must trust. Isaiah 26:4 ”Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.” In verse 5 the Lord's word tells us to trust with all our hearts. For me this is best expressed in verses that some of you have heard many times on the radio program. Jeremiah 29:11-13 - “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
Do we see how this is all coming together?
Now I want to address that last part of verse 5; in which it warns us and expresses to us the dangers of leaning on our own understanding. We find one such warning in Proverbs 28:26 - “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.” That word fool has great significance in the bible.
A fool is one who acts contrary to biblical wisdom in his choices and behaviors. The term is often used for a sinful, wicked or immoral person who will not obey the commands of the Lord. A fool can also be described as one who lives for the moment; essentially living for the insignificant pleasures of the fallen world, while forsaking the eternal reward given to us by the Father.
Matthew Henry's commentary on this verse made reference to a “broken reed.” He wrote, “We must trust in the Lord with all our hearts, believing he is able and wise to do what is best. Those who know themselves, find their own understandings a broken reed, which, if they lean upon, will fail.”
We are at the point in which we have no other options. We are at a place where our reliance must be only on the Lord. In order to overcome the obstacles in front of us; we must be united and BELIEVE, we must have FAITH, and we must be totally totally dependent upon the Lord. We can't continue to say we are in the service of the Lord, but then look to man to fix our problems.
How many Christians are doing that today? How many are looking to an election, to a president or to a system to help fix the issues in their lives?
Finally, lets take a look at verse 6 - In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. It doesnt say in some ways acknowledge Him. It says in ALL our ways. Everything that we do, all our ways, must acknowledge Him and glorify His precious name.