Welcome to this morning’s worship. The title is faith that works. It’s a subject we will be considering this morning. I invite you to turn your Bibles with me to Revelation 14:12. “Here is the patience of the saints, here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” So this is a prophecy describing God’s people living in the last days. There are three characteristics in this verse about these people. They have patience, they keep the commandments of God, and they have faith of Jesus. These three things are actually related. The very basis of it all is as we have been studying is faith. Without faith it is impossible to keep the commandments, and what does the trial of our faith produce? How do you think these people got patience? The trials of their faith in James 1:2-4 says “My brethren count it all joy when ye fall into adversities.” The trying of your faith works patience. It says let patience have her perfect work that ye may be entire, wanting nothing. So these people that are described here in Revelation 14:12 have gone through a series of trials and their faith shines forth, their faith is evidenced by the fact that they are keeping the commandments and that they have patience. So it’s not something that happens overnight, is it?
I’d like to invite you now to turn your bibles to Titus 3:8. Here it says, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.” Isn’t this what we have been studying this weekend, about belief in God and faith and to examine ourselves whether we are actually believing in God? But it says here that we must affirm constantly that they which have believed in God might do what? That they must be careful (that word careful means thoughtful) to maintain good works. These things are good and proper to man.
Before we move on, let’s see if we can come up with a simple definition of faith. We should be able to do that, since we have been studying about faith for the last few mornings and days. What is faith? Trusting in something or someone outside of ourselves. So it’s trusting in his word because his word has power. So something we don’t see with our physical sight. Having confidence in something that is not visible but that you know is real. Something we receive that works by love. The Galations 5:6 definition of faith is there.
Something that I think has come out in our studies so far, is that faith is not only believing what God has said, but expecting that God will do it. So it’s believing what God has said, but also depending on that word to do what it says it will do. Has anyone here read the book “Lessons on Faith” by Jones and Waggoner? Its wasn’t written by them as in everything in the book is by Jones and Waggoner, but it is a compilation that somebody put together after they died. If you haven’t read it I’d recommend you read it because that book is very, very good in explaining what faith is. And as we know, Ellen White said that these men received a special message from God to give to us. I think sometimes we hear that Jones and Waggoner taught some things that weren’t quite correct, and that’s true. But nevertheless God still gave them the message and we have to be careful how we treat that message. I will read to you a little statement from the pen of Ellen White. This is published in EG White materials 1888 page 565. It says “I believe without a doubt that God has given precious truth at the right time to Brother Jones and Brother Waggoner. Do I place them as infallible? Do I say that they will not make a statement or have an idea that cannot be questioned or cannot be error? Do I say so? No, I do not say any such thing. Nor do I say that of any other man in the world. But I do say God has sent light and do be careful how we treat it.” So let us be careful how we treat the light that God has sent through these men. I think being careful involves reading what they have written, comparing it with the scriptures and the Spirit of Prophecy and holding fast to that which is good. So I highly recommend that book. And there are other things that they wrote that are very, very good in relation to faith that is not found in that book. So just read their writings.
With relation to faith that works, which is the title of our topic I want to have a look at Hebrews 11:7. I believe this is a beautiful illustration of how faith works. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of the things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” So we see certain elements in Noah’s faith that showed that it worked. That it was true genuine faith. First he heard God say what he said, that the end of all flesh is come before me. Prepare an ark, he was going to send a flood. Now Noah heard that and he believed it. That is the first element of faith that we have discovered in our studies, that we must believe what God said. But what did the belief in what God had said move Noah to do? It moved him to do two things mainly. To build an ark, and to preach. To preach to others and warn others about what was coming. If Noah didn’t believe what God had said, he would have done neither of those things. So faith then, faith that works, is believing what God has said. It is depending and expecting what God has said will happen, will happen just as he said it would. But then it is also a response. It is a response to God that draws you into action. That’s what true faith does. It works.
So what does true faith look like for example, if God commands us to do something like he did to Noah; build an ark for the saving of your house? It looks like obedience, doesn’t it? Faith responds by being obedient. What about if God sends us some reproof? What does faith look like? It looks like humility. Faith moves us to be willing to hear the reproof. What about encouragement? What does faith look like? Praise, thanksgiving. What about exhortation? The bible talks about exhortation, but what does it mean? It actually means an urgent appeal. What if God sent an urgent appeal to us, what does faith look like in response to that appeal? Prompt response. What does faith look like in response to a warning or prophecy? Preparation, doesn’t it? Do you see how faith works? Faith looks different in different circumstances, but without fail faith always works in response to what God has said. This is what was mentioned before about Galations 5:6. What avails with God, what avails with Christ, is faith that works by love and purifies the soul. But faith is the very beginning of this experience; faith is like an experience with the Word of God. The word of God is the basis of faith but faith is the beginning of that experience that leads to obedience. Turn your bibles to 2 Peter 1:5-8. And I would like you to notice here what is the first ingredient in this instruction we find here. What are we to add to? “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue.” Everything flows on from there. Everything flows on from faith. Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge temperance, to temperance patience, to patience godliness to godliness brotherly kindness and to brotherly kindness charity. You see it goes from an exercise of the mind in having faith in what God has said. It goes from working within us to working without us. It goes from adding virtue knowledge, becoming temperate in our own self, self control which leads to patience and godliness and then it leads to brotherly kindness. It leads to service to those that are around us. So we are to be diligent, it says here. Be diligent to add to our faith.
All of us have faith don’t we? Is there anybody here that believes they don’t have faith? We all believe we have at least a little bit of faith. Why do we believe that? Romans 12:3. He has given to every man a measure of faith. And there is another verse in Galations 5. Remember the fruit of the spirit? Faith is a fruit of the spirit. So every one of us has some faith. The Apostle Peter here tells us that we are to add to that faith. We are not to be content with just having a bit of faith. Because the LSord does not give us great faith, does he? He just gives us a portion, a measure of faith to exercise.
So just finally as we conclude I want to look at three possibilities. Now Luke mentioned there are two possibilities, and I agree with that. Remember what Luke mentioned were the two possibilities with regard to your salvation? You believe or you don’t believe. These are the only two possibilities. But within belief there are actually three possibilities to our belief. First of all there is the not believing, which is having no faith at all, and this is found in Hebrews 4:2. “For unto us was the gospel preached as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” So what is the word of God supposed to be to us? Profitable. All scripture is given by inspiration of God and it is profitable for four things. For doctrine, for reproof, for correction, instruction in righteousness. For what purpose is this profit coming to us? The next verse says that we might be thoroughly furnished or equipped unto all good works. So you see here why the word of God did not profit these people in Hebrews 4:2? Because they didn’t believe it. So that’s one possibility. We may not believe the word of God. And then the word of God will not profit us. It will not be useful to us. I’d like to ask you a question for you to consider. Is the word of God useful in your life? Is it profiting you? When you think of a profit, it’s a gain, isn’t it. Are you gaining in the word? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves. Are you gaining in the Word of God? It is profiting you? Paul wrote to Timothy and asked if he was nourished up in the words of faith. That is what the word of God is supposed to do to us.
So that is one possibility; having no faith and we don’t receive a benefit. The next possibility is of believing. But within these are three possibilities. First is having little faith, which we have naturally because God has given it to us. The other possibility is having great faith. And the one in between is having a faith that goes from little to great; so it’s having a strengthening faith. Lets have a look at little faith first and what it looks like. Matthew 14:24. The ship was now in the midst of the sea, this is when the disciples were without Christ. Christ had gone up by himself to pray away from the disciples after he had sent the multitude away. He went up into a mountain. When the evening was come he was there alone. In verse 24 it say the ship was in the midst of the sea tossed with waves, for the wind was contrary. What does little faith look like? We know he has little faith because later Jesus comes to Peter and says “Oh ye of little faith.” He says to Peter “Why did you doubt?” Verse 25 says “In the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.” Just imagine that. These are grown men. Can you imagine if we were all in that little boat? It’s dark, waves are wild, the wind is wild, we are already fearful and suddenly we see this figure walking on the ocean. How would we feel? Would we feel fearful? These grown men cried out in fear. Have you ever cried out in fear? Have you been frightened that much to cry out in fear? Verse 27 says “But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” Verse 28 “And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bit me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught him, and said unto him, “Oh thou of little faith. Wherefore didst thou doubt?”
So what does little faith look like? Let’s just go through these verses here. Verse 26. Little faith has fear; is fearful. Moving on to verse 28, do you see how Peter responds to Jesus? It is a response of faith, isn’t it, because he says, “Jesus if it is you, tell me to come to you and I will come. Bid me walk on the water.” So little faith is actuated by the occasion of the moment. It can be inspired by things that can happen that appeal to our senses. Little faith believes in the word of God because Jesus says come, and Peter did he believed. But little faith is also easily distracted. And this is what happened with Peter. He was distracted by the wind, distracted by his own self. Little faith also cries out in emergency. It cries out for help when we are in trouble. And it is also mixed with doubt. So that’s what little faith looks like. And if you go over to Matthew chapter 16, there is another occasion where Jesus tells his disciples that they had little faith. Let’s read that from verse 5, and try and see what else makes up little faith. “And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, it is because we have taken no bread. Which when Jesus perceived he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? Do you not understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many baskets ye took up? How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees?” And then, it says, they understood what he was meaning.
What does little faith focus on? When Jesus was trying to instruct them in truth, when he was trying to speak to them the truth about a certain point, how does this little faith respond? It misunderstands it, it doesn’t understand. So Jesus is saying here, there is a connection between little faith and faulty understanding of the truth. It also shows that they were just looking at the things that were temporal, right in front of them. So little faith is concerned about things like bread, what we eat, what we drink, that sort of thing.
So that’s one possibility in the realm of belief; to have little faith. The other possibility is to have great faith. And Jesus pointed out he was amazed by a couple of people in the New Testament that had great faith. One is the Centurian, the other one was the woman of Cana . And notice though that these two people that he was amazed at were not, you could say, “church members”. The people that had little faith were all “church members. But he said “I have not found so great a faith, no not in Isreal”. Or, the church. But he finds great faith outside of the church.
In Matthew chapter 15 we find the example of the woman’s faith here of Cana, so let’s read this. From verse 21. “Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.”
So this woman comes and speaks to Jesus. And remember this woman was a heathen, she was a pagan. Ellen White in Desire of Ages says that she had offered gifts to her gods prior to this, to try and get some relief for her daughter. Nothing worked. And she had heard that there was this man who could heal people, who could cast out demons. And she had heard that he was the Christ, and the Messiah, and so a little, just a little seed of faith sprung up in her heart. And that little seed of hope led her to Jesus as he was travelling through that place. But how does Jesus respond? He ignores her. Does she give up? No, she goes to his disciples because it says they came later to Jesus and said to Jesus, “Send her away because she is bothering us.” Verse 24 says; “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Now here again the second time Jesus says something that seems to be quite discouraging to this woman. Do you notice that? But what did the woman do? Verse 25; “Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.” Now notice this, the third time now Jesus does something that is supposed to totally discouraging here. If I was this woman I would probably be running the other way. He says “It is not meet to take the children’s bread and to cast it to dogs.” How does she respond? She said, “Truth lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” It’s like she thought of herself as a pet. Jesus called her a dog, and she says, “Yes I’m a pet, Lord, I’m your pet. Because even pets have the right, the privilege to eat of the masters crumbs that fall from the table.” You see why Jesus said to her, “Oh woman, great is thy faith.”
So what does great faith look like, as opposed to little faith? Great faith also believes in the word of God. She had heard about Jesus, how he was able to heal and cast out demons, and so she believed that. What else does great faith look like here? It perseveres, endures, persists. It is not discouraged by slights or no response. It just perseveres. In fact, you know when Jesus said to her, “It is not meet to give the children’s bread cast to dogs”, where there was no hope, she saw some hope. Isn’t that amazing? That’s why Jesus was amazed at her faith. Her faith led her to believe that what Jesus was doing was for her benefit, even though it seemed totally that it wasn’t the case. The fact that he was ignoring her just moved her to think, “Oh he just wants me to plead more”. The fact that he said “I didn’t come but for the lost sheep of the house of Israel”, she saw some hope in that. Because she was a lost sheep. Do you see how she sees hope? The faith that the Lord gave her, that little faith was transformed into great faith because of her great need.
So this is what faith that works looks like, and as we have seen here, and through our studies this morning and yesterday and Friday, faith is the beginning of this journey. Faith in God, in the word of God is the very beginning. Do we have little faith or do we have great faith? If Jesus found great faith outside of the church, why then does he call us who are in the church, who have such little faith? Why doesn’t he call only those people that have great faith? He calls us to strengthen our faith. If we all have little faith, the Lord wants us to increase that faith to become of great faith. And it is a study in itself to see how that happens. So I encourage you to go from here and think about that in your life, how the Lord is strengthening your faith. Amen