“Preach faith until you believe, and then when you believe, preach faith. You cannot do anything without faith. Now if you start looking for faith in yourself you’ll never find it.”
That’s OK. Nothing wrong with a good bit of cold water in the face. It’s a great way to wake up. It’s better to get it now rather than when you meet the Lord at the Last Judgment Day. It really is. You know don’t want to get the Last Judgment Day and, you know, sort of squeak through by the skin of your teeth. Or say, “Oh good night! Look at what I thought were my good works. You know that big mound of fire over there is my good works. That little pile over there, what’s that? You need a magnifying glass to find it.” Well, you see, you don’t want to go through that. Your life is going to be just this once. Make it last for Christ.
And so I think the key issue, though, is going back to that faith that works by love. It’s faith that leads you to say, “OK I’m not going to worry about my past record. I’m not going to worry about all my failures. I’ll confess those that are sins as sins. I’m not going to go beat myself over the failures. I’m going to repent of them and turn away from them. I’ll not live in them. And I’m going to go forward. Because I have the Spirit. I am in Christ. And I no longer condemn by the law. I’m no longer condemned by God.” And now I’m going to see my conscience get stronger by doing things that are wrong. And I’m going to be facing up to things in my life that are not right. And so every day then becomes a kind of an exciting adventure as to what will God enable me to do today that I couldn’t do yesterday in the way of showing love to other people. Don’t you like that? Really, that sounds pretty good. It really does.
Now what is going to happen is that you hear it, and I think the difficulty comes that, at some point you’ve got to see this as something you’ve got to practice before you believe it can happen. That is, if I tell you about something and you’ve never seen it, it’s very difficult for you to understand or believe that that really exists. Or if you tell me about something that I don’t know exists, I’ll have problems, won’t I, getting aboard that? You know I tell you, “God is love,” and you feel God hates you. How are you going to get aboard that? It’s very difficult.
And so it means then, that you’ve got to cultivate a friendship relationship with the Father through Christ. You see, you can’t just hear all of this as kind of the foundational truth. You’ve got to understand it. You can’t take something like the book of Galatians and just sort of put it in your head. It’s got to go there. You can’t grasp it in your mind and the heart unless it goes through the mental processes. But it’s got to become life transforming. And you’ve got to—again and again—simply say, “I believe.”
Now you may not think that we as pastors ever have any faith problems. Well we do. And I remember one period in my life where I think probably my conscience was troubling me. Looking back I think that God was trying to say to me, “I really want you to be more in love with other people, with Christ holy love for them, and less concerned about yourself.” And I wasn’t responding.
And so the result of it was, I was kind of depressed and discouraged. I really wasn’t listening that much to God, and my faith was going lower and lower. Well how do you get out of that? You could start out by saying, “Well I’m just going to love people more. I’m going to grit my teeth and love him or her if it kills me,” you know … Or [kills] them. I’ll love you or I’ll break your neck, you know. This is very strong in us: “I’m just really going to do this.” And it doesn’t work.
And Dan Herron’s mother, we were talking about this, and I didn’t know exactly what was wrong with me. But I sensed some of it vaguely. And she said to me something like is this: “You are a preacher and you preach faith in Christ.” She said, “What I want to encourage you to do is preach Christ and faith in Christ without even worrying about whether you believe it. Just preach Christ, and preach to people to believe in Christ, and let the message itself capture you.”
Preach faith until you believe, and then when you believe, preach faith. You cannot do anything without faith. Now if you start looking for faith in yourself you’ll never find it.
When you heard me say, “This takes faith,” immediately you went into despair, because you say, “My faith is so weak or non-existent,” you know. And you started probing to find more faith. You’ll never find it that way. Where you find it is in Christ. You find it in a strong Christ.
And therefore, the key to it, is knowing Jesus. And if you don’t know Jesus today, today is the day to come to know Him. But take this Christ and take and memorize [these verses]. One of the things that I have done to build my faith is just simply memorize passages like [Galatians 5:13–15]. And then pray that those passages would take hold of a kind of a message in my mind, not a brainwashing, but a real a liberating friendship with Christ through His Word until I was filled with faith.
You must believe. You must believe. And then you see you can be free in yourself, and you can have confidence. You don’t need to hate yourself anymore. You can see your gifts. That is very significant. They are related to Christ. They are in His service. And you don’t have to have all that self-despisal. You don’t have to have that self-worship. And that garbage can begin to go and freedom can come in.
I just want to speak to you in closing as a Christian person, not as a pastor. I know this Jesus really does do these things. I want you to have confidence in him. Trust Jesus. Trust Him all the way. He’s alive, and He is always ready to listen when you want to talk. Let’s pray.
God our Father, we thank you for this time together. We thank you that in some very special way, it is a time that you have given. we thank you that you’re bigger than we are. That Christ’s sacrifice, and the power in that blood, is enough to take away all of our sins. And we believe that He’s done that for us. And we believe that if there is anyone here today who has never really trusted in that Jesus, His person and work, that they can now come through faith in Him. Just a simple trust to rest their life in Him, and take Him into their hearts. And then have this wonderful love in their lives.
And then for the rest of us who’ve known him, perhaps even for years, we plead with you for the gift of faith, and a faith that will produce obedience, love to others, a wholesome respect for ourselves and our own dignity and worth, and of freedom to serve them. We pray that you give us eyes to see, believing eyes, to see every hard situation as an opportunity to show love. We pray that You’d produce some miracles through this particular class in many lives. In Jesus name. Amen.
Excerpt taken from “Class 5,” Studies in Galatians.