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Building God’s House
“Building a Faith Life”
The other week, one person suggested I do a series on the three pillars we adhere to at Living Waters Fellowship. One of our pillars is that of discipleship, which we call, “Building Up The House of God Within Each Person.”
This got me thinking about doing two series of messages in this one area. The first series, which we’re starting today, is about the type of house we’re suppose to build, and the second series we’ll look at those values we’re to hold while building God’s house within us.
Now, some people think that the way they please God, and build His house within them, is through rituals. They chant certain ritualistic prayers. They light incense and chant mantras. Or they light candles and perform certain ritualistic moves.
But, that’s not what the Bible says in how we please God.
Other people think the way to please God, and build His house within them, is through keeping rules and regulations. They make a list of all the things that they’re suppose to do, and make a list of all the things they’re not suppose to do. And if they do more of the things on the “To Do” list, and less of the things on the “Not To Do” list, then somehow they’ll be okay with God, and that God will be okay with them.
But, that’s not what the Bible says pleases God.
And then there are those people think the way to please God, and build His house within them, is through religion. They keep certain holy days, or go to certain church functions deemed necessary by the church, and then God will say, “You’re on my ‘A’ list.”
But again, the Bible doesn’t say that.
What the Bible does say is that God isn’t interested in ritual, rules, regulations, or religion. Rather, God is interested in having a personal and intimate relationship with us. This is seen in the Great Commandment where we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, that is, we are to love God with the whole of our being.
And so, having that personal intimate relationship with God is what pleases Him the most. But how is such a relationship possible? Well, it only possible through faith.
The Bible says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)
So it is by God’s grace that such a relationship begins. But, like any relationship it takes two to tango. And so, what brings God’s grace into our lives is our faith in Him, which is why the Bible says that faith is what pleases God. In fact, the Bible says that without faith it’s impossible to please God.
The writer of Hebrews says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6 NKJV)
As I said earlier, in our series, we are going to be looking at several aspects and characteristics that we need to build into our lives upon so that miracles can take place, especially if we want to make a difference in our community for Christ, which is the third pillar of Living Waters Fellowship.
This week I’ll be looking at the biblical mandate to build our lives upon a foundation of faith in God.
“But you, dear friends, must continue to build your lives on the foundation of your holy faith. And continue to pray as you are directed by the Holy Spirit.” (Jude 1:20 NLT)
Therefore, if we want to please God, and if we want to build up His House within us, then it begins with our faith. It is therefore imperative that we learn what faith then is all about.
Some have likened faith to a multi-faceted diamond, and so today we’ll be exploring these various facets of faith as we look at the Bible’s faith chapter, Hebrews chapter 11. It is also referred to God’s Hall of Faith, because it lists out men and women who, according to God, did it right.
It is through their lives that we’ll explore these various facets and learn how we can build a great life of faith.
Faith is Believing Without Seeing
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)
Faith is all about visualizing the future in the present. It is being certain of what has been promised, and what we know to be true, even though we do not see it.
We often say things like, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” But God says, “Nope – that’s backwards. You have to believe it in order to see it.”
This is true in all aspects of life. Whether you’re an architect planning a building, an artist creating a sculpture, an athlete trying to break a record, or an inventor trying to create something totally new: you have to believe it before you can see it. This requires faith. You have to believe it is possible long before it ever takes shape.
Warner von Braun, considered to be the father of the space age, and who built the Atlas and Saturn rockets said, “There has never been any significant achievement in human history that was not accompanied by faith.”
It all started when somebody believed it was possible, and believed it in advance.
A little league coach had a hard time learning the names of his players, so he would call them by the numbers on their uniforms. He’d yell, “Number 5, you’re up,” or “Number 7, go into right field.” But then he called number 1 up to bat. But no one responded. Then he asked, “Who’s number one?” To which the team responded, “We are coach. We’re number one.”
Faith is believing without seeing.
Faith is Obeying Without Understanding
God gives us several examples of this facet of faith in our chapter. First there was Noah. Just think of the doubts that Noah must have had. Can you imagine if God came to you and said, “I’m going to wipe out the whole world and start over with you?”
Knowing something about ourselves, we’d doubt that seriously, and then start second-guessing that pizza we had the night before. But while Noah didn’t understand it, he still obeyed.
“It was by faith that Noah built an ark to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about something that had never happened before.” (Hebrews 11:7 NLT)
Faith is obeying when we don’t always understand. It didn’t make sense to Noah. This sort of thing, rain and flooding, never happened before. The Bible says that prior to the flood the earth was watered by a midst. It was an entirely different atmosphere back then.
And so, when God said, “Noah, I want you to build an ark,” God had to tell him how. And Noah obeyed. And so, through Noah’s example we see that faith is obeying without understanding.
Next we have Abraham.
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8 NKJV)
At the time of this call, Abraham was 75 years old and living in a land called “Ur,” or that we know as modern day Iraq. Just about the time he’s ready to retire and go on social security God says, “I want you to pull up stakes and go to another country, and you have no idea of where it is.”
Now, like Noah, I’m sure Abraham had doubts as well.
Abraham obeyed when he didn’t understand it, and because he obeyed he became the father of the Jewish people. Many people, including all of us, are the beneficiaries because Abraham obeyed even when it didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Faith always involves a risk. Unfortunately most of us want a guarantee before we obey. But that’s not faith, and God says that it is only when we believe without seeing, and obey without understanding that pleases Him, and builds His house within.
During WWII in England, a father and son, after hearing the air raid sirens, couldn’t get to a shelter fast enough and the bombs started to land. The father saw a large hole that a previous bombing had produced and bringing his son to the edge, jumped in first and then told the boy to jump and that he’d catch him. The boy balked saying, “I can’t see you.” But the father said, “But I can see you.” Well, the boy obeyed and was saved.
That is faith. It believes that our Heavenly Father will catch us even though we don’t see Him, and obeying Him even though it didn’t make sense.
God is the creator of the universe, and has given to us His manual for life called the Bible. And to ignore it is foolish, because in the end, we’re the only ones that are going to get hurt if we do.
For instance, God says that when people hurt, abuse, or misuse us that we are to forgive them. But that doesn’t sound quite right. What sounds right to us is to retaliate and get even, but when we do, what happens is that we end up hurting ourselves instead.
The point is this; if we learn to do what God tells us to do, even though it may not make sense, then God will bless our lives through our obedience, and we’ll be building up a life of faith. But if we ignore what God says, doing whatever we want to do, which in essence is being our own god, then we’re going to miss out on all of God’s blessings.
Now, if you were to ask Michaela if she could think of a time when she obeyed God when He told her to do something that didn’t make sense, she’d say, “It was when God told me to marry Dennis.” But see the blessing!
Faith is Giving Without Having
Giving and faith go hand in hand. God uses our finances to test our faith. When we have to decide between paying the tithe, or using the money for something else; that’s the test. God is saying, “Who are you going to trust: My promise to take care of you, or yourself?”
In Hebrews 11, Abel gets a shout out, not because he did something great. He had no mighty deeds. The only thing Abel did was to give God an offering. And God put him in the Hall of Faith for it. The reason wasn’t because of the amount he gave; rather it was in how he gave.
“By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings.” (Hebrews 11:4a NIV)
There are two ways we can give. We can give by faith, or we can give by fear. We can give by reason, or we can give by revelation. Giving by faith through God’s revelation pleases God and helps build His house within us.
Giving by reason means we look at our bank account trying to figure out how much we can afford. Giving by revelation comes in two ways, first though the revelation of God’s word, and second is through prayer. God’s revelation says to give the tithe, that is, the first ten percent of what we make, and when we do, God says that He’ll open up His heavenly storehouse upon us.
That is giving by faith, because while it doesn’t make sense, God said it, and therefore we obey it. That is what pleases God.
Now, some people say, “God, when I get that job, or when I get my refund check, or when I get my raise, then I’ll give.” But that’s not faith. That’s called gratitude.
Look at what Paul said about the giving of the Macedonian churches.
“Though they have been going through much trouble and hard times, their wonderful joy and deep poverty have overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford but far more. And they did it of their own free will.” (2 Corinthians 8:2-3 NLT)
Faith is Persisting When We Don’t Feel Like It
This goes directly against our culture. Our culture says, “Do everything based on feelings.” If it feels good, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t. And so we tend to live by our emotions and as a result, we end up being manipulated by our moods.
But to be mature, we are to live by our commitments, not our emotions, because emotions can go up or down. Persistence is when we keep on doing the right thing, even when we don’t feel like it.
We don’t always feel like being nice. Sometime we want to be selfish, grumpy, and grouchy. We want everybody to serve us, and that’s because we live in a culture where it’s all about us, and our needs.
Truthfully, there are a whole lot of things that we just don’t feel like doing, even though, we know that they are the right things to do. Like reading God’s word, praying, going to church, and giving, to name a few godly disciplines.
I’ve discovered that when I don’t feel like praying or reading God’s word, that’s usually when I need pray and read God’s word, or do this or that particular discipline even more. You might think of it like this, if the only time I want to pray or read God’s word is when I feel like it; then Satan will make sure that I never feel like it.
Faith is being persistent. Faith is refusing to give up. Faith is doing the right thing, even when we’re tired. Notice Moses’s persistence.
“By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:27 NIV)
Moses led an entire nation that had been in 400 years in slavery. He led them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and for 40 years in the wilderness getting the people ready to enter into the Promised Land. And the reason he was able to do so was because he saw God, and that’s the key. It is to keep our eyes upon the Lord.
Some people are at their quitting point. They feel ready to quit their marriage, school, job, career, dream, or in some cases, even the Lord. Some feel like their situation is hopeless. Their health isn’t there, and their finances are gone, and they feel like giving up.
Let’s not give up. Let’s keep believing when we don’t see it, obeying when we don’t understand it, giving through God’s revelation, and persisting when we don’t feel like it. And through it all, let’s keep our eyes and heart focused on God.
Faith is Thanking God Without Receiving
A good example is the story of Joshua.
“By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.” (Hebrews 11:30 NIV)
After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, Joshua leads the children of Israel into the Promised Land, and the first test of their faith came in the form of a very fortified city by the name of Jericho. Now, there’s no way that a bunch of slaves on their own, no matter how many they were, were going to conquer it.
And so God gave instructions to Joshua. Here is the second facet of faith we looked at. Obeying without understanding. God told Joshua to have the people march once around the city for six days, and on the seventh day to march around it seven times, and then to blow the trumpets and shout in victory.
In essence they were thanking God in advance of the victory.
Faith does not just believe God can do something, because God can do whatever He wants whether we believe it or not. Again, faith believes that God is working out His will whether or not we see it. And so faith is thanking God in advance of the answer.
If you wait until your prayer’s been answered to thank God, then that’s not faith; it’s gratitude. Gratitude is thanking God for what we receive. Faith is thanking God before we receive it.
Let me put it like this. If you are hungry and God tells you to go out and catch Moby Dick, then faith takes along tartar sauce.
Faith is Trusting God Without Receiving
Some people think God is like some big vending machine. Say a prayer and it out pops. But God is not a vending machine. Vending machines give us things that we don’t need, food that will kill us. But God never gives us anything bad. God gives us our daily needs, not worldly greeds.
The one thing that I have found out over the years is that God is far more interested in our character than He is in our comfort. God is far more interested in making us holy than He is in making us happy.
You see, faith is trusting God even when we don’t get what we ask for. Yes, God hears all of our prayers, and He will answer, but not always in the way that we want Him to. God may say “Yes,” He may say “No,” He may say, “Not yet,” or He may say, “I got a better way.”
We see this facet of faith from all the other faith Hall of Famers whose names are not mentioned. Look at what the writer of Hebrews says,
“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39-40 NIV)
Living by faith doesn’t exempt us from problems. Sometimes God doesn’t remove the difficulty, but gives us the strength to go through it, which builds up our faith, not to mention character, strength, and maturity.
Anybody can trust God when things are going great. Anybody can give when they have extra money. Anybody can persist when they see the finish line. But real faith is built on trusting God when we don’t get what we want the way we want it.
So how does God build up our most holy faith?
a. Through God’s Word
“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17 NKJV)
The more we’re in God’s word, the Bible, the more our faith will grow, and that’s because the Bible is the food that builds up spiritual muscle.
b. Through Trials
“These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold.” (1 Peter 1:7a NLT)
The trials of life are not meant to harm, but to test our faith. God will use our finances to test our faith in our giving. God will use tough times to test our faith to see whether we will continue to follow His way or our way.
Let me end then with these words
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9 NKJV)
Today, let’s begin to build God’s house within by allowing Him to grow our faith by putting into practice these facets of faith; believing, obeying, giving, persisting, thanking, and trusting.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study