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“Expecting God’s Best”
The Bible says, “Each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27 NLT)
So the question becomes, “How can we stand before a holy and righteous God after our death?” Is it by being better than we are bad? Is it by keeping the Ten Commandments? Is it by being religious and going to church?
To all these ways the answer is no. There’s only one way, and Jesus said that He is it. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
But to enter onto that path, and follow it throughout this life, takes faith.
The writer of Hebrews talks about the faith it takes quoting the Lord through the prophet Habakkuk (2:3-4).
“Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” (Hebrews 10:38 NKJV)
And then he tells us the faith we need to please God throughout this life in Hebrews 11:6.
“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)
Therefore, the only way to gain God’s approval is to live our lives by faith in Jesus Christ.
Faith is therefore an important issue, and it’s vital that we learn how to live and be strengthened by faith.
The first way we strengthen our faith is through God’s word, the Bible.
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17 NKJV)
Faith comes through our reading the Bible and allowing God to speak to us through it. So we might just call the Bible “faith food,” and the more we read and get into it, and allow it to get into us, the more our faith will grow and mature.
The unfortunate reality is that during these recent times people are turning to the Bible less, rather than more, and they are turning to it less than ever before. According to the American Bible Society in their newly released “State of the Bible” survey, they found fewer Americans (only 9%) are reading their Bibles daily.
The next way our faith is strengthen is when we pray asking Jesus to help and believing that’s exactly what He will do.
In Matthew 9 it says that two blind men came to Jesus asking for a healing, and Jesus asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this,” to which they replied, “Yes Lord.” And Jesus said, “According to your faith let it be to you.” (Matthew 9:29 NKJV)
Immediately their eyes were opened.
What Jesus said is that it was their choice to believe in Him or not. So what are we willing to believe God for. Are we willing to say, “Yes Lord” to Jesus.
But even in my bringing this out, it must be tempered with what the Apostle James said; “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:3 NKJV)
Here, James conditions what we pray for. Not only does it hinge on our faith, but also on God’s glory. Are we asking to further God’s kingdom, or is it about what we want the way we want it?
We are to pray and have faith in God for all things in our lives. The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6-7 that we’re to be anxious for nothing, but with prayer and supplications with thanksgiving we’re let our requests be made known to God.
In 2 Corinthians 5:7, Paul tells us that we’re to walk by faith, not by sight. And as we’ve seen, the writer of Hebrews says that God rewards those who live by faith and diligently seek Him.
Now, when it comes to exactly what faith is, the writer of Hebrews gives us the best description of what faith looks, and the type of faith that pleases God.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV)
Faith is then the assurance of those things we hope for and expect, because of the faithfulness of God, and it also convinces us of their reality even though we may not see them at the present time.
Faith is the key that unlocks the doors and windows of heaven as we saw last week in our message on how God meets our needs. It’s very important, therefore, that we grow, develop, and strengthen our faith, because faith is expecting God’s best for our lives.
Some object to this description, especially seeing how rotten life has become due to what we’re presently experiencing with the coronavirus pandemic, racial violence, and the economic devastation that is happening around the world, but God’s word says that He is at work even when times are tough turning them around for our ultimate good.
Consider Job. He lost everything, his family, possessions, and even his health, but God gave them all back with interest (Job 42:10-17).
But in saying all of this, it’s important to understand what faith is not.
Faith is not positive thinking. And while thinking positive and not dwelling on the negative is a good thing, it’s limited in its scope, and it certainly isn’t faith. Think about it. We may be freezing to death, but no matter how we spin the facts, no matter how positive we are, these thoughts are not going to warm us up.
Faith also isn’t wishful thinking. It’s not saying, “I hope I don’t have any problems!” Good luck with that one. We’re all going to have problems and difficulties, and no matter how wishful our thinking may be, that reality isn’t going to change. Jesus makes that clear.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NKJV)
We will have problems, but because Jesus has overcame through His death and resurrection, we can overcome those evils that aligned themselves against us. Wishful thinking will never do that.
Instead, faith is expecting God’s best. It’s the confident assurance that God is in control of the future and His plans for our lives are the best.
Look what the Lord says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” (Psalm 32:8 NKJV)
God will instruct and guide us on that narrow path we’ve been called to travel, His eye is always upon us. In other words, God is focused upon us.
This leads to another question, “Why should we trust that God has got our back, and that He has got our best interest at heart, when there’s been so much bad that has happened, and that is happening?”
To answer that question, let’s look at one of the better known stories in the Bible. It reveals the faith we need in facing life’s gigantic problems that we are facing in our world today. The story is about David and his battle with the giant, Goliath.
Israel and the Philistines were at war, and the Philistines had a giant on their side, Goliath. He was intimidation personified. The guy was nine plus feet tall, a basketball center if there ever was one. And so he would stand in front of Israel’s army and challenge them mano-e-mano.
This guy terrified Israel, that is, all except one small little shepherd boy by the name of David. While the rest of Israel saw Goliath as being too big to fight, David saw him as too big to miss. You see, one plus God equals a majority in God’s economy, and when God is on our side, how can we possibly miss?
From this story there are several things we can learn about faith.
1. Our Faith Honors God
David’s attitude can be seen in what he said to Goliath.
“This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand…that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel…for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:46-47)
Notice how proud we get when our kids or grandkids brag on us to their friends, like my mom is the best cook, or my dad can beat up your dad. I really think that God loves it when we brag on Him, because He really can do everything. William Carey, father of modern missions and founder of the Baptist Missionary Society said, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.”
2. Our Faith Strengthens Us
Expecting God to show up increased David’s strength and ability. David had the strength to hurl a stone and have it sink into one really hard head. God gave David the strength, courage, and ability to accomplish this task because of his faith.
Now the story reveals that David picked up five stones. Some have taken that as a lack of faith on David’s part. But Goliath had four brothers who were also rather big. So maybe David thought, “After I finish off Goliath I’m going to need four more stones for his brothers.”
When we act in faith, God will give us additional strength to face the difficulties and giants in our lives.
3. Our Faith Encourages Others
The Bible tells us that after David defeated Goliath, it encouraged the rest of Israel, and they attacked and routed the whole Philistine army. The entire nation of Israel was energized and encouraged by David’s faith. That’s the power of faith.
For so many, this coronavirus seems like an undefeatable foe, and so they become discouraged and fearful.
A Gallop poll, however, found that faith brings optimism. They discovered that people who have the great faith are some of the happiest people around, and the most helpful.
We all face giants in our lives. They can be financial giants, medical giants, or relational giants. The question then becomes, “How can we expect God’s best when everything seems to be going wrong?
Let me share with you three things that I believe helps.
1. Tune Into God
To expect God’s best when things are at their worst we need to get tuned into God every day, and the best time to start is in the morning.
All of us have our morning rituals and routines, our morning stretches or walks, or a cup of coffee and the news. But here in Psalms it tells us that if we want God’s best we need to start our day with God, and not with all this other stuff.
“My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up.” (Psalm 5:3 NKJV)
David received that spirit of great expectations from spending time with God every morning. He started his day talking with God before anybody else.
Some people, however, are naturally pessimistic, like the great theologian, Eeyore, from Winnie the Pooh.
One day Eeyore stood beside the stream looking at himself in the water and said, “Pathetic, that’s what it is, pathetic.” He then walked to the other side of the stream and looked again and said, “As I thought, no better from this side.”
Winnie the Pooh then comes along and greets Eeyore saying, “Good morning Eeyore,” to which Eeyore replied, “Good morning, Pooh Bear, if it is a good morning, which I doubt.”
Some people are just like Eeyore when they wake up in the morning. Instead of saying, “Good morning Lord,” they say, “Good lord it’s morning.”
We have to get up in the morning expecting God’s best for our lives. We have to get up and enthusiastically greet the Lord. I’ve thought long and hard about this, and the conclusion I have come up with is that most of the time we wake up miserable because we wake up to an alarm clock. Therefore, we’re not waking up to a great and wonderful day; we’re waking up alarmed.
And it just gets worse when we turn on the news. There’s an adage in the newsroom, “If it bleeds it leads.” And so if we haven’t got enough problems during the day, here we are waking up and adding the whole world’s problems to our own. How smart is that?
Instead let’s start our day with good news. Let’s open up our Bibles and get tuned into God before our day even begins. Let’s take this time and read about God’s promises and talk with Him, and then allow Him to talk with us. Studies reveal that our moods are determined in the first 10 minutes of the day. So let’s start our day with the Lord and see how much our day improves.
Let’s affirm what the Bible tells us, “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 NKJV)
The second thing we need to do to expect God’s best is …
2. Think on God’s Promises
Joshua told the children of Israel to meditate day and night on God’s word. The Psalmist tells us that this is absolutely vital when things look their bleakest.
“Though the wicked hide along the way to kill me, I will quietly keep my mind on your laws.” (Psalm 119:95 NLT)
When we keep and rehearse the promises of God throughout the day, then this is what will help us face the threats that come our way. In fact, they’ll keep us from going down the wrong path.
The Psalmist also said, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11 NKJV)
We need to memorize God’s word and deposit it in our hearts so that when we need them we can make a withdrawal.
The Bible says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23 NKJV)
And faith knows this certainty that God always keeps His word, and with over 7,000 promises in the Bible, there’s a lot to give us confidence and assurance that we’re going to make it, because God who promised is faithful.
The third thing we need to do if we’re to expect God’s best is …
3. Trust in God’s Love
In Psalm 91 the Lord says, “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.” (Psalm 91:14 NKJV)
When circumstances look bad or depressing, like what we are facing in these days we are in, we need to trust that God has our back and that He has our best interest at heart. When trouble came against King David and threatened to swamp his life, he knew where his hope lay, he knew to trust God’s love.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him.” (Psalm 42:11 NKJV)
While David was in the midst of trials, he speaks about a better future because of God’s love.
Prior to facing Goliath, king Saul questioned David’s credentials, and David responded, and I am paraphrasing here, “Don’t worry. God’s got my back. He’ll help me to defeat this giant, just as he helped me defeat a lion and a bear.”
Some of us are going through difficult times, while others have allowed fear to take hold and set in, and so we need to remember what God has done for us and then move forward with this knowledge that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. So let’s ask God to show us when He’s helped in the past, and then let’s expect Him to do it again.
And when things don’t make sense, let’s start with what does make sense, that is, let’s start with what we know as true about God, and that is, knowing that God loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus to die for us, and whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life. Let’s trust in that unfailing and unconditional love.
Now, while we might not know what’s going on around us, or why; there’s one thing we can trust, and that is that God has got a plan and a purpose for us, and He’s working all of these things out for our good.
Therefore, let’s start approaching these trials and tribulations of life with faith. Let’s face this coronavirus, and this violence that is happening, not only in the streets of our cities but in our world, and economic devastation that is happening as a result with faith, and then we can expect God’s best.
Let’s move forward by faith expecting God’s best for our lives, through tuning into Him every morning, thinking on His promises, and then trusting in His unfailing love.
And as I talked about in one of my recent devotionals, that while evil may be mighty, we serve a God who is Almighty, and just as Jesus won the victory over sin and death, therefore as believers in Jesus Christ, the victory is ours as well.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study