The Crisis of Belief
With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God. (Mark 10:27)
We face the same crisis of belief the people in the Bible experienced. Anytime God leads you to do something that has God-sized dimensions, you’ll face a crisis of belief. What you do next reveals what you really believe about God.
When God invites you to join Him in His work, He presents a God-sized assignment He wants to accomplish. It will be obvious you can’t do it on your own. If God doesn’t help, you will fail. This is the crisis point at which many people decide not to follow what they sense God is leading them to do. Then they wonder why they do not experience God’s presence, power, and activity the way some Christians do.
The word crisis comes from a Greek word that means “decision.” The same word is often translated”judgement.” We aren’t talking about a calamity in your life such as and accident or death. The crisis is not a disaster or a bad thing. It is a turning point or a fork in the road that calls for a decision. You must decide what you believe about God. How you respond when you reach this turning point will determine whether or not you proceed with God in something only He can do or whether you can continue on your own way and miss what God has purposed for your life. This is not a one-time experience. How you live your life daily is a testimony of what you believe about God.
We forget that when God speaks, He always reveals what He is going to do- not what He wants us to do for Him. We join Him so He works through us. We are not called upon to accomplish the task by our ingenuity, ability or limited resources. With faith, we can proceed confidently because we know He is going to bring to pass what He purposes.
Henry and Richard Blackaby
If we have the means or ability to accomplish something, even in the kingdom of God, we do not then require faith. There are many who claim to have faith and yet never venture beyond the place where they can see their way clear to accomplish something. We often set goals, personal or church that fall well within our inventory of resource and talent but when we allow God to set our goals and plans they are beyond the scope of our natural ability to accomplish them.
I realize that we as the church have become comfortable in working along within the measure of our abilities and perhaps this is why we are not achieving great things in the kingdom of God. When we read the Bible we find that everything God purposed to do through humans required faith. The tasks He assigned to them were far beyond their abilities to accomplish and when they tried to achieve the God-goals on their own, they were colossal failures.
The book of Hebrews in the eleventh chapter records the accomplishments of those of faith:
“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which it was testified of him that he was righteous (upright, in right standing with God), and God testified by accepting his gifts. And though he died, yet through [this act of] faith he still speaks. By faith [that pleased God] Enoch was caught up and taken to heaven so that he would not have a glimpse of death; and he was not found because God had taken him; for even before he was taken [to heaven], he received the testimony [still on record] that he had walked with God and pleased Him. By faith [with confidence in God and His word] Noah, being warned by God about events not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his family. By this [act of obedience] he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith. By faith Abraham, when he was called [by God], obeyed by going to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as a foreigner in the promised land, as in a strange land, living in tents [as nomads] with Isaac and Jacob, who were fellow heirs of the same promise. By faith even Sarah herself received the ability to conceive [a child], even [when she was long] past the normal age for it, because she considered Him who had given her the promise to be reliable and true [to His word]. By faith Abraham, when he was tested [that is, as the testing of his faith was still in progress], offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises [of God] was ready to sacrifice his only son [of promise]; By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau [believing what God revealed to him], even regarding things to come. By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and bowed in worship, leaning on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, referred to [the promise of God for] the exodus of the sons of Israel [from Egypt], and gave instructions concerning [the burial of] his bones [in the land of the promise]. By faith Moses, after his birth, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful and divinely favored child; and they were not afraid of the king’s (Pharaoh’s) decree. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, By faith the people [of Israel] crossed the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; but when the Egyptians attempted it they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days [by Joshua and the sons of Israel]. By faith Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed along with those who were disobedient, because she had welcomed the spies [sent by the sons of Israel] in peace. And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith [that is, with an enduring trust in God and His promises] subdued kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promised blessings, closed the mouths of lions, extinguished the power of [raging] fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became mighty and unbeatable in battle, putting enemy forces to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured [to death], refusing to accept release [offered on the condition of denying their faith], so that they would be resurrected to a better life; and others experienced the trial of mocking and scourging [amid torture], and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned [to death], they were sawn in two, they were lured with tempting offers [to renounce their faith], they were put to death by the sword; they went about wrapped in the skins of sheep and goats, utterly destitute, oppressed, cruelly treated ( people of whom the world was not worthy ), wandering in deserts and mountains and [living in] caves and holes in the ground. And all of these, though they gained [divine] approval through their faith, did not receive [the fulfillment of] what was promised, because God had us in mind and had something better for us, so that they [these men and women of authentic faith] would not be made perfect [that is, completed in Him] apart from us.”
Now let’s apply this thing of faith to us. For some time I have been feeling that these are defining times for Christians and the church. I felt the Spirit say this to me even before the pandemic and it is certainly obvious now. We are being defined by our response to the crisis and how we respond is a reflection of our faith. Now I don’t mean that by not choosing safe practices that we are somehow more faithful or spiritual than those who may have gone to the extreme of great caution. This is a foolish comparison. Whether we wear masks or not and whether we continue our normal activities and sanctuary worship or not is not an indicator of faith. The crisis of faith was happening before the pandemic. The pandemic only revealed it in a powerful and obvious way. Most of us were unprepared to God-led work pre-pandemic and with the pandemic found ourselves in reaction mode rather than having pro-active approaches in place. The pandemic only escalated the timeline of what was already coming. For years we have been seeing the slow decline and march toward death in the Western church. I truly believe that the root of this decline and now the pandemic escalation of if stems from our lack of operating by faith.
I remember at one church I was serving, in one of our annual business meetings, our treasurer after giving the financial report said this to the congregation; “We have been blessed this year and all our financial obligations have been met. For that I am thankful.” He went on to say, “What concerns me is that we have no challenge and I’m afraid that we will become no longer people of faith.” “Faith and struggles,” he said, bring a congregation together for in the challenges we work together but in the easy times we fall apart.” At that time there was, as is the norm, a lot of petty bickering among the congregation about insignificant things. The board met and chose to present a challenge/ opportunity to the congregation that was beyond its means to accomplish. That began a change in the atmosphere within the whole church. The petty issues ceased as the congregation focused on moving toward its goals. The spiritual atmosphere deepened as the church moved toward unity. New ministries developed and the church grew, all because the church was called to live its faith. Out of that challenge, the youth raised over $13,000 to self-fund a mission trip. Our Christian Education program was revitalized with Sunday School classes, Children’s Church, Youth Group and many other groups as the enthusiasm swept the church. On every hand, but as the congregation moved in faith and faced each challenge in faith, they saw the hand of God in every endeavor. To be sure there were challenges but the congregation faced each one with faith and prayer and experienced the hand of God in their endeavors.
The pandemic has offered us an opportunity at this crossroads and how we will respond will paint the picture of our faith. Those who choose to adapt- both individuals and churches- will do so with faith. Those who choose to drop out, to become non-functioning and non-effective will attempt to substitute human ability for the work of God. We may have been unprepared for the pandemic, but God wasn’t. Those individuals and churches and individual that take Romans 8:28 as the very promise of God Himself will ask different questions than those who rely on human wisdom and strength. Their questions will be something like these: God, what are your plans for us as a church? How do we impact and encourage our community? What different ways and opportunities have You set before us? Is/has our old ways been effective in doing the work of God or have we been focused on creating something for us to enjoy? Are we/have we made church and it’s activities about us or about Your desires? God, what needs to be changed and what needs to remain the same and how do we know? What is our purpose, our vision, our mission as individuals as well as the church?
If the answers to these questions rely on and are determined by our capabilities, then they are not questions of faith. My prayer is that every individual and every church will be stretched beyond their abilities and resources and in that moment of crisis, they will respond in faith.
“Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses]. But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].”
Dr. John Thompson