My primary text tonight is found in the second book of Peter, chapter 1, verses 5-7. In this passage, Peter is telling his readers how they can live a Godly life. "For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and brotherly kindness, love." He gives us a laundry list of what Godly living looks like.
How many of you remember the devastation that Hurricane Katrina inflicted on New Orleans back in 2005? I remember watching the news footage of the thousands of homes that were flooded. Many had water up to 8-10 feet inside their homes. Others were luckier...the water only came up as far as the porch, and barely entered the house at all. From the outside, there appeared to be a big difference in the damage done to the houses on the two extremes. But, the sad news is, almost all of the homes will need to be torn down...not because of the exterior or interior damage, but because the foundations had been weakened by all of the floodwater.
I read a book recently by Warren Wiersbe where the author made the following statement: "People who try to live what they have not really learned are going to face difficult struggles..." You see, people are like those houses in New Orleans. They can be painted and made to look good, but for the owner, that clean looking house is just trouble waiting to happen. We see people like that all of the time. They learn a little bit, and suddenly, they are the expert. As a former school teacher, there were many times when a student would end up in an advanced class like trigonometry or calculus in math, or maybe a second year of a foreign language. And before long, they class would become a great struggle. Why? Because they hadn't really learned the foundational concepts in their earlier classes. Many times, they tried to take short cuts and learn the bare minimums, or just cram to pass the test, but not really learn anything.
Often times, we are like that in our Christian walk. We want so much to be Godly, to please our Lord, that we look at all of the outward characteristics and practice those, without ever truly understanding the importance of the foundation to our Christian walk.
Let's look at our passage in 2 Peter 1:5-7 again. Notice what the foundation is that Peter identifies. It's not the readily identifiable traits like goodness or kindness or perseverance or even love. Those are all important, but none of them can be sustained unless they are built on a solid foundation of faith! Tonight, I want to focus on faith and why it is essential to our walk with Christ. We will also look at how we get our faith. What I want to do is use the Scriptures to show you why you must set a foundation of faith in order to live a Godly life. I don't want you to take my word for it. I want you to be like the Bereans described in Acts 17:11 and always examine the Scriptures to verify what I will say, or what any may who stands up here says, aligns with God's Holy Word.
So, why is faith essential? First of all, Hebrews 11:6 tells us that "without faith, it is impossible to please God..." God is our Father, and we should desire to have a "sonship" relationship with Him. How many of you are dads? Do you want your wife to trust you? Do you want your kids to have faith that they can rely on you to do the things you have promised? You know...take them to the park, play ball with them, listen to them practice the piano for their recital, be there when you say you're going to be there. How will you feel if instead of calling you, they look somewhere else for the promises to be kept? Like an old boyfriend, or their ex-husband, or their step-dad? God is the same way! God is not, and will not, be pleased if we don't place our total faith in Him. We will not have a strong relationship, and when things start to get a little rocky, and I can assure you that they will at some time, you will look someplace else.
Secondly, you are saved from eternal damnation and separation from God through faith. In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul tells us that "it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast." Paul tells us that there is no other way to receive salvation, except through faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Son of God. We can't buy our salvation. And we can't "good work" our way into the Kingdom of Heaven. Look again at 2 Peter 1:5-7. Eight characteristics of Godly living are listed, but only one provides our pathway for salvation. It's the foundation...faith.
How many of you know who Bill Gates is? Well, if you haven't been following Forbe's magazine lately, he's the richest man in the world. A multi-billionaire. I remember when I was a little kid, I would dream sometimes that I had a long lost uncle somewhere, like Bill Gates, who would name me in his will and give me a big inheritance. Well, my dream came true, only better. In John 1:12, John tells us that by believing in His Name, He gave each of us the right to become children of God. We were name in His will! We have received the promised inheritance of spending eternity in Heaven with our Lord and Saviour. I don't know about you, but for me, that inheritance is so much greater that what Bill Gates could give me to enjoy for a paltry 10-20 years. Because of our faith in God, our names have been written in God's "last will and testament", the Book of Life. Thank you god for accepting me into your family!
The fourth reason it is essential to have faith is that it gives us access to God. Ephesians 3:12 tells us that "through faith in Christ, we may approach God with freedom and confidence." In John 14:6, he tells us that "no one comes to the Father except through Christ." It is important to have access. When most of us leave this place, we're going to have to go out and get a job. I don't have to be the one to tell you that it's not guaranteed to be easy. What will make it easier for us...having the right connection out there. Someone who will say a good word on our behalf. We have that in our relationship with God. We know the "One" who has the right connections. But it's important to note what Ephesians 3:12 says. It doesn't say that "through Christ", we can approach God. There are many people who have heard of Jesus Christ who cannot approach God through Him. Why? Because they haven't placed their faith in Him as the risen Lord and Saviour of their life. They didn't set the foundation.
There are many other reasons faith is essential as a foundation to Godly living that I don't have time to discuss in detail. Romans 3:25 tells us that our sins are atoned for in His blood. Acts 15:9 explains that our hearts are purified by faith and in Ephesians 3:17, we learn that Christ dwells in our heart through faith. It's faith that we can resist the devil by (see 1 Peter 5:8-9). These are just a few reasons. I pray that you can see the importance of establishing a firm foundation of faith and why it is essential to your walk with God.
So, now you know why faith is important, but you may be wondering how do I get it. I don't know how many times during conversations with my brothers here, or during prayer time, where the issue of a weak faith comes up. Once again, Scripture gives us the answer.
I've got great news for you! Where to you get the faith you need to set the foundation? It's almost too easy. You don't have to climb to the top of some remote mountain to get it, and you don't have to spend your life savings. God gives it to you...free of charge! Romans 12:3 tells us that God gives each of us a measure of faith. I don't know how big a measure is. I don't even know if He gives everyone the same size measure. It sure seems like some people have a lot more that some other people do.
For those of you, who like me, sometimes have what seems to be a really small measure of faith, I have more good news...your faith can grow! Paul tells us this in 2 Corinthians 10:15 and in 2 Thessalonians 1:3...our faith continues to grow. How does it grow? God answers that through Scriptures too. In Romans 10:17, Paul says that "faith comes by hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ." Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, has freely given us this gift. All we have to do is receive it.
Tonight, some of you might be sitting here thinking, "I've heard this before, Mark, buy you don't know my circumstances! You don't know what I face! You don't know how long I've been praying and God still hasn't answered me yet. It's just not that easy." If you're out there, I'll agree with half of what you're thinking. You're right, I don't know your circumstances, your story...but God does! And He knew there would be some tonight thinking just those thoughts. So, He left us a message in the book of Hebrews (4:2), "the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard it did not combine it with faith." It IS that easy! If it's hard for you tonight, it's because you are making it difficult, not God.
The Bible is full of stories about faith, and the lack of faith. An entire chapter in the book of Hebrews is dedicated to faith only...chapter 11. God wants us to know how essential faith is, and He gives us examples that He doesn't always answer our prayers right away. We may not see His faithfulness until later, if at all on this side of Glory. There have been many grandparents who prayed for the salvation of their grandkids who die before they see them accept Christ, but they never give up.
I'd like to close with Luke 6:46-49. Here, Jesus tells us what happens when we don't have a solid foundation. "But why to you call 'Lord, Lord' and not do the things I say? Whoever comes to Me hears my sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like; He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like the man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately, it fell. And the ruin of that house was great."
We can't pick and choose when we'll have faith in God...it's all or nothing. In every situation, every circumstance, either you have faith in God's promises and believe they are true...or you don't. You way want, and try, to live a life demonstrating all of the qualities in 2 Peter 1:5-7, but you can't maintain them unless you set your foundation on faith in Jesus Christ first. Let's pray.
Presented at TCI on January 11, 2007