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A Faith That Works
“Receiving God’s Promises”
Who in the Bible had the greatest faith? Was I Noah who built the Ark? Was it Abraham, the father of the Jewish race? Was it the prophet Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Elijah? Each of these and many more whose stories are found in the Bible displayed great faith. But the person with the greatest faith was the most unlikely of them all, a Roman Centurion.
The story is found in the eight chapter of Matthew’s gospel.
Jesus had just entered the city of Capernaum, near the Sea of Galilee. The centurion came and pleaded for Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus then shocked the Jewish crowd saying that He would go with the centurion to his house and heal him.
But the centurion told Jesus that such a trip wasn’t necessary. He probably knew his house was unclean according to Jewish law, but more importantly he understood obedience and authority.
He said, “All you have to do is speak the word, and it’ll be done, because not only am I am man under authority, but I have men under my authority, and if I tell them to do something, they’ll do it.” And the implication is that they’ll do it no questions asked.
After hearing what the centurion said, Jesus marveled saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel.” And then He said to the centurion, “Go you way, as you have believed, so let it be done for you.”
At that very hour the servant was healed.
The key then to great faith is linking God’s authority with our obedience. This understanding is what made the centurion’s faith so great. Faith and obedience go hand in hand. When you trust someone, you’ll do what they say. If you don’t, then the trust really isn’t there.
God has linked trust in him, i.e. faith, with obedience. All of God’s promises are conditioned upon our following His directions. And when we do then God says we’ll have success and a life lived to its fullest.
“Walk in obedience to all that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” (Deuteronomy 5:33 NIV)
God has made incredible promises and has linked them to our obedience, it’s the “if,” and “then,” promises of the Bible. If we obey what He says, then He promises that He’ll save us, watch over us, take care of us, and give to us our needs.
If we follow God’s directions then we’ll be happy, live longer, lack nothing that is good, live in perfect freedom, have greater wisdom, dwell in peace and security, have success and prosper, and be great in the kingdom of heaven.
Behind God’s promises is the premise of our obedience to His word.
God gives us His commandments, which by the way aren’t suggestions. They’re found in His word so we can live our lives to the fullest. And while God’s commandments may sound unfair and unreasonable, God always knows what’s best. God’s not out to cramp our style or limit our lives. Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life, and that more abundantly.” (John 10:10 NKJV)
From our perspective these commands don’t make a lot of sense. Like giving God the first ten percent of what we make. It’s called the tithe. Or if someone hurts us we’re suppose to forgive them, not return their evil with our own.
But no matter how unreasonable these commandments may sound, God tells us to obey anyway. It’s a matter of trust, it’s a matter of faith, and since God created us, he knows what’s best for our lives.
Obedience to God’s word is then our statement of faith, and it’s the key that unlocks all the promises of God. Tonight I’d like to look at how we can receive God’s promises through our obedience.
Don’t delay, wait, procrastinate, put off, or make excuses. Instead we to just do it.
“I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.” (Psalm 119:60 NIV)
If there’s ever a time to be in a hurry, this is it. When God tells us to do something we should do it immediately, whether we feel like it or not. Further, we don’t have to understand something to benefit from it.
I don’t always understand God’s commands, but by obeying them I’ve greatly benefited. Like the command to tithe, we have a hard time understanding how when we’re in debt and can’t pay our bills, how can we benefit from giving the tithe? Yet God promises that He’ll open up the windows of heaven and remove the devourer that’s taking it all away.
Every parent knows that sometimes when we tell our children not to do something they’ll say, “Why.” Most of the time our response is, “Because I told you so.”
The reason we do this is because of how long it would take to explain it, especially to someone who’s not old enough to comprehend. One day they will be, but not now, we just hope we’ll be around before we die from the aggravation.
As God’s children we do much the same thing. When God tells us to do something we ask, “Why.” It’s as if God says, “Because I told you, and I know more about this stuff than you do, for My ways and thoughts are much higher than yours, so for right now you have to trust Me.”
And just as a side note, it’s pretty audacious of us to question the Creator of the universe if what He’s doing it right?
It also helps when we obey God to do so with the right attitude. But even if we have a wrong or negative attitude, it’s still better to obey.
Again, do we tell our children to clean their room only when their attitude is right? If that were the case their rooms would never get clean.
We are also to walk by faith, not by feelings. That’s because feelings lie, and we have an incredible ability to believe our feelings rather than God’s word. Therefore, we’re to do what is right according to God’s word whether we feel like it or not, and we’re to do it immediately, not later.
Here’s a question. “What if God responded to our needs with the same speed that we obey Him?”
If God tells us to do something we’re to do it immediately, and if we continue to pray about it, or go to counseling about it, then it’s the same thing as delayed obedience, and delayed obedience is disobedience.
We can’t just cherry pick God’s word. It’s not like we’ll obey this but not that.
“Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.” (Psalm 119:2 NIV)
To seek God wholeheartedly is to obey God completely. To do this there are two truths for us to consider.
God’s standards for right and wrong have never changed, and they never will.
“I am the Lord, I do not change.” (Malachi 3:6a NKJV)
If it was wrong 6,000 years ago, then it’s still wrong today. Lying was wrong then, and it’s still wrong now. Cultures change, popular opinions change, lots of things change, but truth doesn’t change. What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong regardless of opinions.
God has a much better perspective than our own, because He can see things we can’t. He knows the future, we don’t. The Apostle James said,
“But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you” (James 4:11b NLT)
Our trying to see from God’s perspective is much like an ant trying to see life from our perspective. We’re not capable of seeing it as God sees it. He’s infinite, and we’re finite! He’s all knowing; at best we know that we don’t know. So we need to trust God and His word.
The Lord said, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV)
Did you know the oldest temptation isn’t lust or gluttony? It’s the desire to be like God, and with that temptation comes our doubting God’s word. Satan said, “Did God really tell you not to eat from this tree?”
Every time we’re tempted Satan uses this exact same line. He hasn’t changed his strategy. He says, “I know the Bible says this, but is that what God really means? This is the 21st century, the Bible was written over 2,000 years ago, so God surely didn’t mean it for today!”
Faith is not only trusting God, but it’s also doing it Gods’ way. That’s what Solomon said,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
The Bible also tells us about another army commander, a Syrian named Naaman. He had leprosy. No one in Syria could heal him, so he goes to Israel because he hears the prophet Elisha could. He goes with all his pomp and circumstance only to be greeted by Elisha’s servant, who tells him that Elisha said to dunk himself seven times in the Jordan River.
He initially balked at the suggestion and felt offended, but he did it anyway and was healed. It wasn’t the water that healed him; rather it was his obedience. While he didn’t feel like it he still did it. And he didn’t stop after the first several times, but dunked himself the full seven times. He obeyed completely.
This brings out another truth, and that is partial obedience is disobedience.
“I will delight myself in Your commandments, which I love.” (Psalm 119:47 NKJV)
The psalmist enjoys obeying God’s commands. It’s enjoyable to do what God says.
God is the creator of this world. He created every one of us, therefore we should follow His directions for life. Further, these commands aren’t burdensome, but a joy. When you love someone you don’t mind doing things they may ask.
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3 NKJV)
When we realize just how much God loves us, and what He’s done for us, then we’ll love to follow His commandments. When we realize that God loved us so much that He gave His Son to die for us so we can have everlasting life, then following His commands aren’t burdensome at all, rather they are a pleasure.
God measures our love for Him, not by what we say, but by our obedience. Jesus said that if we love Him then we’ll keep His commandments.
In last week’s message entitled, “Running God’s Race,” we saw that life is a race, not a hundred yard dash, but a marathon. Therefore our obedience needs to be continual, not sporadic so we can reach the finish line.
“Your laws are my treasure; they are my heart’s delight. I am determined to keep your decrees to the very end.” (Psalm 119:111-112 NLT)
Obeying God is something we’ll want to do until the very end.
“Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end.” (Psalm 119:33 NKJV)
We need to come to God by faith saying, “Whatever you say, Lord, I will follow.” But here’s the point, why should God tell us anything when we haven’t done what He’s already said. God isn’t going to give us further revelation until we act upon the revelation He’s already given.
Obedience is the key then to receiving God’s promises.
Here are a couple of questions for us to answer.
And so receiving God’s promises is all about obedience by faith.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study