Stepping Up to Faith
By Iverna Tompkins
Transcribed by Jane Vaughn
Editor’s Note: This is actually the fourth in a series of messages on Faith. It will build on what has already been laid for a foundation, but it also can stand alone with full understanding. The earlier messages may be consulted on this website: “An Introduction to Faith,” “Foundations of Faith,” and “Growing in Faith.”
We have been looking at Faith, attempting to see it in its simplicity, because I think we in the church have made this topic so complex that many people just throw their hands up in despair. They feel it has become far too overwhelming of a concept, and the conclusion is: “I don’t have faith. I haven’t enough faith to accomplish a thing!” And many walk away discouraged.
1st, we redefined faith arriving at the understanding that it is as simple as “believing or trusting the word of another,” or “relying on” someone else. The noun faith is the absolute certainty that God is – you just know that you know He actually exists (Heb.11:6). The verb is the action of believing – that you simply believe. When James said, “Faith without works is dead,” (Jas.2:17), many people picked up on that and endeavored to teach us we should make something happen and then call it “faith.” But what really are the “works” of faith to which James refers? We discussed earlier that obedience is the operation of faith. Walking in obedience to God’s Word, will, and ways, is the “work of faith.” We cannot separate faith from obedience just as we cannot separate love from obedience.
2nd, we saw how many times faith is refused. We selected only a few cases in scripture and saw ourselves in those same spots. How often the Lord speaks a word to us, couples it with His faith, and still we totally resist it and Him. We ultimately refuse what He has told us to do. Obedience escapes us and in effect we deny Him.
3rd, was the reduction of faith. That’s when we only partially move into the things that God would have for us, not trusting Him completely for the details. We can accept part of what He says, selecting what is easier for us to follow, but settle for less than His whole plan.
4th, we saw faith reaching, or perhaps it would be clearer to say, planting the seed of faith for a future harvest. We saw this not as exercising ourselves in things too great for us to handle. It is also not starting at the top of the ladder, but beginning at the level at which we live. It’s believing God step by step by step as we go along, reaching out for what He has yet in store for us.
One of the things in faith-reaching has to do with how we relate to another person. The following quote tells about a man, Irving, so filled with faith for others that he treated them as though they already possessed some quality, whether they actually did or not. “He addressed ordinary individuals as if they were heroes and princes... He made poor astonished women of tiny London apartments feel themselves ladies, in the light of his courtesy, and unconsciously elevated every man he talked with into the ideal man he ought to have been.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if each of us would treat people that way, instead of looking up to some and down on others. How wonderful it would be if we could exercise faith on behalf of another by expecting from them more than they expect from themselves.
Here’s the 5th point. We have seen faith redefined, refused, reduced, and reaching. Now we want to see it realized, faith that has come to fruition, to fulfillment. In Hebrews 11, we are going to see some faith that was realized. This chapter opens with, “Now faith is,” (that’s the noun) “the substance of things hoped for, it is the evidence of things not seen.” The writer continues in verse 2, “by it, the elders obtained a good report.” Verse 3 - It’s “through faith that we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Then, it talks about Abel, Cain, Enoch... “But” – and this is what we want to emphasize here – verse 6 – “without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”
Some Christians have a problem with this point because they’ve asked God for something specific and have yet to realize (receive) an answer. A spiritual blessing, healing, guidance, direction, the salvation of unsaved loved ones, or something else important to them and now they are on the verge of completely laying down their "faith." They have waited a period of time and feel, right at this moment, almost in desperate straits. Are you one of them? These particular people have come to the point that if God doesn’t do it now, they are through; they will simply give up.
Please look at this scripture once again. God says here that we must believe that not only is He God, but that He is “a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” “Well, then, why isn’t it happening in my life?” I don’t know. I can’t answer that for you. I’m not God. But I do know He promises to reward you as you purposefully and diligently seek Him. I could add: “in spite of what your circumstances look like.”
Hebrews 11 goes on to talk about Noah and Abraham and others. Verse 32 continues by listing these great people of faith in the Bible. “And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets.” The next several verses summarize what the biblical personalities did – through faith. Of all these, it says, “who, through faith…” did these many different things, “works of faith,” or the realization of faith. They “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again, and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment; they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented” (vss.33-37).
The author of this letter we call the Book of Hebrews, wanted to encourage the contemporary believers of the first century. It basically says, “Then, look at Jesus (Heb.12:3) so you do not become weary in this walk of faith – for we have not yet striven unto the death!” (vs.4).
We think we have it so tough. From our personal vantage points, this has been the most difficult season of our whole Christian walk. There are thousands of Christians who would raise their hands in agreement to that assessment. Yes, these have been shaking years. Truly, these are difficult days, but they really don’t compare to what we just read, do they? We have not yet “striven unto death.” We still live in, basically, a Christian nation with constitutional liberties and freedoms to express ourselves in every way. We have opportunity for service unto the Lord wherever we are, and yet we sit around and feel terrible about our little problems.
How does heaven view these people in Hebrews 11? How does heaven look at you as you walk in faith? You who have felt you’ve been hanging on by a mere thread of faith? You who “brethren” have pointed their fingers at you and concluded, “There must be something wrong in your life or you wouldn’t be going through what you’re going through. Things wouldn’t be so tough for you if there wasn’t sin in your life.” Or maybe their rationale has been, “You’re probably out of order with God. You must need to get your vertical alignment straightened out. If you were rightly-related to God, everything would be going along smoothly.” All of these things that you are going through – the verbal persecution, the not being understood, the feelings of rejection – how does heaven view an individual today who rides through the storm with this positive attitude: “I don’t understand everything; I don’t have to understand everything. ‘My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.’”
What is the view from heaven? Look at verse 38 – “Of whom the world was not worthy.” Heaven looks down and says, “The world doesn’t deserve them. They are saints. They’re lights. They’re beautiful!” Then, why are we still here in the middle of this muddle if we’re so wonderful? Jesus said, “Ye are the salt of the earth” (Mt.5:13). We are here to influence, to flavor, to preserve our world until He comes. Don't you know that the whole world is saying, “Pass the salt, please?”
The “greats” of Hebrews 11 wandered in deserts, on mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (vvs.39,40). Does this verse strikes a question in your mind about your own doctrine? The only reason that would be possible is if your doctrine is really more “tradition” than Bible. They “received not the promise…” Their prayers were not necessarily answered as they wanted them to be, or when they wanted the answers to come, and yet they are held here before us as examples of faithful living – in spite of their outward circumstances.
And at the risk of causing another question, I wonder if, in the heavens, there is actually a specific date written down for the Second Coming of Christ. I wonder if God wears a hidden tattoo with the date Jesus is to return and Jesus keeps looking to God wondering and saying, “Now?” And the Father says, “Not now. Not yet.” I grew up having been taught that God had a set moment in time for Jesus’ return.
Then, there is another extreme teaching today. It teaches there is no "rapture of the church" – that things just sort of evolve into the Kingdom of Heaven on the earth. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes about the reality of Christ’s resurrection (vv.12-19). He questions how some can say there is no resurrection in the face of God’s truth. His argument posits that if there was no resurrection, then biblical preaching has no foundation – nor does faith (v.14). Verse 17 goes on to say, without Christ’s resurrection faith is worthless. Paul concludes, “If we have placed our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone” (HCSB). The King James says, “we are of all men most miserable.” So, don’t take away my rapture. I’m going up. I don’t care what you do. :-) The question remains, when?
Now, what about that fixed date? Is it possible that, in the immutable plan of Almighty God, He looks for the generation of believers who so “walk by faith and not by sight” (2Cor.5:7) – who appropriate revelation as it is revealed to them “line upon line and precept upon precept” (Isa.28:10,13), who the minute they hear it walk in it (Rom.8:1; Eph.5:16) – and when that generation comes into fullness – completeness – maturity – and becomes the Bride – He will get the job done. It is THEN that He’s coming. Hallelujah! Is that a reasonable possibility? Just a question.
We have one more complexity to think about. What does the scripture mean when it says, “By faith they subdued kingdoms?” (Heb.11:33a). Are we going to subdue kingdoms? I think this is the greatest position of prayer that we have in the Bible. Paul said, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood” (Eph.6:12). (Sometimes I add “but we do”). Too often we seem to be confused about just who is our enemy! We mistakenly believe some human is the enemy, but this scripture is clear: we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, against people, but (the indication of the verse is straight forward) we do wrestle against principalities and powers of darkness and rulers in high places. These are spiritual rulers. I don’t believe Americans ever have fully understood that like we presently understand it today. Never did we dream that the powers of darkness would be so engaged, so operative, amidst the rulers in high places of our beloved country! Undiscerning individuals are easily duped and controlled by the enemy of our souls!
When I hear leaders say, “If you think this is a Godless nation, you haven’t traveled in third world cultures,” I would have to say “Amen” that. Thank God, this is the most Godly of all nations, but I’m not satisfied with where we stand, as a nation, or even as the Church in this nation. I still hold to God’s promise, “If My people who are called by My Name,” – My people. Listen Church, God has always dealt with a nation according to His own people. “If My people… will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways… I will heal their land” (2Chron.7:14).
Here is a shocking thought: God is not one bit surprised today at the treatment He is receiving from unbelievers. He is a bit amazed, however, at what He is getting from His own. Church, I could weep with that statement. When I can see my Jesus – and I’m not endeavoring to be dramatic, I feel this clear down to my toes – when I see my Jesus looking over the city of Jerusalem and saying, “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem. How I would have gathered you unto Myself. I came like a mother hen to lift My wing and bring you under the protection and warmth and care and prosperity of it. I came for you and you wouldn’t have anything to do with Me” (see Mt.23:37; Lk.13:34). And then the Bible says He wept. That hurts me – deeply.
Do you know how it devastates His heart to weep over this country – that was born for the divine purpose of being the Light of the world? The birth of the United States of America, the very purpose of its existence, was that we would be the missionary country to the world. Do you know that? That’s why we are so prosperous. That’s why we’ve been first in so many things. But when success and prosperity happened, we became very proud of ourselves as a nation. In so doing we have allowed the influence of other nations to come into us until we aren’t much different from Israel of the Old Testament. We have embraced too many of the attitudes, and behaviors, of the Godless philosophies of the world. We, even in the church, worship their idols (humanism, materialism, wealth, power, control) and we have taken credit for what was actually the blessing of God!
What’s going to break that pride? Will our talking about it with one another, saying, “Oh, woe! Oh, what a terrible world! Isn’t it awful?” You can always engage someone in conversation if you start off with a negative position. That’s the truth! If you begin speaking with someone you don’t know, in a non-church setting, and begin by saying something positive, watch what happens. You walk up to an unbeliever and say, “Isn’t this a wonderful day? Isn’t the sky lovely? Don’t you just love it?” They’ll try to escape thinking, “What kind of a creep are you?” But if you walk up to that same individual and say, “Isn’t this muggy weather? It’s almost unbearable.” They’ll say, “I know. I get so I just dread being here this time of year!” We can find instant agreement over the negatives. Our mission is cut out for us, Church, isn’t it? We are to influence our world. We are to make a difference as light and salt (Mt.5:13-16) and that begins in the power of prayer.
Go to Part 2