The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Overcoming Faith for Overwhelming Times

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. - 1 John 5:4

God, in His word, promises to provide the means to overcome overwhelming times of this world. That means is faith. There is an overcoming faith that victoriously gets us through overwhelming times. And that is exactly what we need. Hurricane Sandy submerged countless homes in unprecedented numbers. Thousands are displaced. Thousands have had their world turned upside down. A Nor’easter added insult to injury. We are just now beginning to catch our breath. But the enemy is ruthless and not about to give us any mercy. Like a merciless combination puncher he is hitting us again before we can recover.

A dagger has pierced our heart. The governor of Connecticut has aptly said, “Evil has visited us.” This evil came in the form of a deranged twenty year old gunman who awoke from his sleep and started his day by shooting his mother in the face. Can’t get more personally hateful than that; or can you?  The deranged merciless murderer then inexplicably took his mother’s car, drove to the New Town Elementary school and proceeded to shoot the principal, other adults, and TWENTY CHILDREN ages 5-10! This was the product in part of a society steeped in ruthless, mindless, and cheapening of life. We are reaping the years of promoted godlessness and selfishness in our nation.

What was he thinking? It’s doubtful we will ever fully know. He was deranged and himself overwhelmed. But he is without excuse no matter his sick tale. What devilish evil had overtaken him? The world and even we may process this event with psychological terminology. But who can doubt that the demonic was the real fiendish, maniacal, genocidal, brutal and malevolent spirit behind these horrific and overwhelming actions?  This was a dark and overwhelming attack on our heart.

Coinciding with recent storms and tragedy is a rising tide of world economic crisis. There is the political and social upheaval in our nation as well as the Middle East. There is the pending nuclear arms capability in terrorist Iran. Then there’s the moral breakdown of society (e.g. rise of homosexuality and legalizing of same-sex marriage). These are sources of much grief especially for the righteous.

And all of this is compounded in its heart heaviness by the season in which it is occurring. Christmas time is here. Usually children are anticipating gifts; toys to enjoy; fun in the snow; a white Christmas. Is there a happier more joyous time than Christmas? Even if the world has trashed this holy time with materialism and myths, it’s still supposed to be and usually is a happy time. But those who have suffered lose know that Christmas time and thoughts of bygone happy times can intensify our sense of loss. We remember these happier times when we are forced to sorrow. We miss them. We yearn for them. We grieve for them and our lost or departed loved ones. And Christmas, in light of New Town, for many years to come will now be spattered with images of blood. It’s overwhelming.

Are you overwhelmed? After a while it just becomes too much for us. On our own we will wilt and fall. There is only one way to survive. We need to turn to God for His overcoming faith. The Bible says when the enemy comes in like a flood the Spirit of the LORD will raise a standard against him (Isaiah 59:19). The Spirit has what we need.

We will never be the same. Lives are changed forever. But there is a way to get through. God has provided an instrument to keep our heads above water. He has given a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. There is something that can get us on the road to recovery. We will never be the same. But we can survive. We can overcome. How?

God gives faith. His special kind of faith can get us through. But there are different kinds of faith. Not all faith sustains. Not all faith overcomes. Some faith is strong; some weak. The kind of the faith we have makes all the difference in the world in terms of overcoming or being overcome.

Did you know even demons have faith? They believe in the existence of God, and they tremble (James 2:19). Some of the first statements of who Jesus was in the gospels come from demons. Demons believe God but perform evil. Their faith in God has no impact, no fruit in their existence. Jesus rebuked such faith (Mark 1:24-25). Some people have this kind of faith.

Some have faith in “faith.” They fear offending others so they trust in a generic faith that in the end is meaningless. Faith is only as potent and sustaining as the object it trusts in. If you don’t even have enough faith to express who or what you have faith in, how strong is your faith? Not strong but weak.  

Christians, even disciples of Christ, can have weak faith. Jesus referred to this kind of faith as “little faith,” faith that was easily overcome with the things of this world (Mat. 6:30; Luke 12:28). This kind of faith falters in the storms of life (Mat. 8:26). It fails because it doesn’t keep its eyes on Jesus (Mat. 14:31). It is dull of understanding (Mat. 16:8).  

But there is a faith that victoriously overcomes in overwhelming times. That is the faith we need. Difficulty, disaster, and confronting the dark things of life prove the genuineness of our faith. Hardship reveals whether the faith we have will stand the test of trials (e.g. 1 Peter 1:6-9). Jesus said some reject the seed of His word outright. Some only receive what He offers in a shallow way. Some receive but then let the things of this world choke off any fruitfulness. Then there are some who take Him and His word down deep into their heart and the fruit of faith grows (Mat. 13; Mark 4; Luke 8). Which best describes you? Do you have an overcoming faith that is fruitful and nourishing in overwhelming times?

The faith that overcomes is a special kind of faith. It is not a faith that comes from within us. On our own, we couldn’t experience it. Look at its description in Psalm 33. It is a faith that praises God even when our heart is heavily burdened (33:1-2). It worships God in song, even if it is a sorrowing song (33:3). It is rooted in God’s word of truth (33:4). This faith trusts in God as Creator (33:5-9). It trusts in God as sovereign over the nations of the earth (33:10-12). It trusts in God to care for the particulars of individuals throughout the earth (33:13-15). This overcoming faith knows that if we trust in the Lord in the end we will come through victoriously rejoicing in Him (33:16-22).

In Psalm 37 the Holy Spirit has breathed out a description of a faith that does “not fret because of evildoers” (37:1-2).  We see a faith that trusts in the LORD; in the LORD! The LORD is the object of this faith. This faith does good and feeds on God’s faithfulness (37:3). It delights itself in the LORD, commits itself to the LORD, and doesn’t get angry but rests in the LORD (37:4-8). This is a faith that realizes evildoers will be cut off and dealt with in due time by the LORD. The person with such faith knows God watches over the righteous (37:9-22). They may give their life, but not lose their soul. Such faith knows a righteous person may fall, but God will always raise them up (37:23-26). This overcoming faith does good waiting on the LORD. It trusts that God will save, strengthen and deliver the righteous in the end (37:27-40). This is what we need.

There is one more essential particular of overcoming faith. It is the most critically important part of it. Overcoming faith is faith in Jesus and the rock of His word. God in His word very clearly reveals, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”  (1 John 5:4-5). It is faith in Jesus that leads to overcoming the world.

Jesus said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:24-27). In these difficult times turn to Jesus and His word. He is there for you. He has promised to never leaven or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). He said He would be with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). The end of the world is closer than ever before. We’re not alone. Jesus is with us. How will you build?

What kind of faith do you have? Do you have a faith that will overcome times of testing? Is your faith in faith? Is it demonic? Is your faith weak, faltering, dull of understanding? Or is your faith an overcoming faith that trusts in Jesus and is built on the rock of His word? There are overwhelming times ahead. Will you overcome or be overcome? Will you sink and be shaken in the tsunamis of life? Every good thing comes from God (James 1:16-18). That would include faith in Jesus and His word. Pray to God in Christ as led by the Spirit. Receive His overcoming faith.





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