KEYS FOR THE KINGDOM - FAITH
A Gracious greeting to you today! I hope you are well and counting your blessings. Counting our blessings will keep us from complaining. God doesn’t like to hear our complaints and neither do others. It’s impossible to be grateful and grumpy at the same time. The hymn “Count Your Blessings” was written by Johnson Oatman, Jr. and is a reflection of optimistic faith! The song is also a good prompter to keep us from taking our blessings for granted and thereby taking God for granted! Martin Luther wrote in his book “Table Talk, “The greater God’s gifts and works, the less they are regarded.” We often exhibit a degree of thanksgiving in reverse proportion to the amount of blessings we’ve received. For example, a hungry person is more thankful for food than a person who dines sumptuously every day. A lonely person in a nursing home appreciates a visit more than a healthy person surrounded by family and friends at home at a party given in his or her honor. If the birds only sang once a year, we would really notice them, but since they sing every morning, we take them for granted and scarcely listen at all. This would be a real good time for all of us to stop reading this newsletter, find a quiet spot and start naming some of our blessings. I’ll bet we could count some we’ve never counted before. And for sure, when we name them one by one, it will surprise us to see what the Lord has done!
One pile of blessings we must never overlook is our fellow church members and friends at SPBC. Not only are they blessings to count, but they are also blessings that can be counted on. Christian fellowship is a means to enable us to sense the presence of God.
"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Matthew 18:20
And not only is it a blessing to be together in fellowship, it is also a blessing to have fellowship even when we are apart when we pray for one another. Praying for one another is a great way to express and expose our love for one another. I know for sure that I would not want to try to serve a church that didn’t pray for me. Thank you for your prayers, I need them so!
It’s hard to believe that it’s already August. Even though time flies, it doesn’t mean a lot doesn’t happen. July was a “hot” month both in heat and activities around the church. Covid kicked up again but symptoms were mostly mild. With the rise of Covid, common sense, precautions, and personal hygiene choices, the church pressed on with hardly any interruption in scheduled services. The Southern States Bible Conference met at St. Simons Island and the Music Workshop with Jubal Ministries presented a brass orchestra and hand bell choir concert in the sanctuary of SPBC. At the July conference, the church elected a new deacon, Brother Jeff Jones. SPBC has always been blessed to have men filled with godly wisdom who also are willing to serve the Lord by serving one another.
The church is the body of Christ and its head is Jesus Christ Himself. And, like unto our human body, no part is unimportant even though some parts are more prominent than other parts. A healthy body happens when all the various parts of the body are functioning properly in their appointed place and time. A healthy church happens when the Holy Spirit blesses us with such an “awe” for Almighty God that we humbly prefer others before ourselves and prefer God above all. The conse- quences of such a wonderful atmosphere are that believers rejoice in their salvation and gladly take their place of function by faith. Remember, it was not the size of Gideon’s army that defeated the Midianites but it was that every man was in his place.
" And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled." Judges 7:21
Neither was it because Gideon’s soldiers carried big guns or had access to a nuclear arsenal. They did however possess the greatest fighting weapon for waging spiritual warfare - faith! Marching around Jericho seven times, breaking a pitcher and shouting may not have made much sense, but they believed what God said and they did what God said do. In the end, God got the glory and the Israelites got the victory.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Believing God always makes sense! It may not make common sense, but it makes spiritual sense. God’s ways and our ways are way different, and we must believe that to unlock many of life’s difficult closets and open the way to truth and freedom in fellowship with our Heavenly Father. Please read Hebrews chapter eleven as soon as you can. This Bible chapter is known as the “Hall of Fame for the faithful” as it cites one after the other of the ancient people of God who faced challenges, difficulties and dire circumstances yet used faith to make a mark for God and leave a legacy for us to live by. Some saw the end of their faith by receiving the promises of God with great victory. Others were cut in half and thrown to the lions. Some names are mentioned, but not all are! It is noteworthy to see that our faith is more important than our name, gender, or position in life.
Since faith is such an important, even vital element of our relationship to the One whose kingdom we are so blessed to grace, it be- hooves us to know what faith is, where it comes from, what it does and how we can get more of it. All of these concerns regarding faith are addressed in Hebrews chapter eleven. Hebrews chapter eleven is sort of like chapter eleven bankruptcy in that its focus is reorganization, not complete liquidation. It may be we will greatly benefit by the kingdom key of faith by simply reorganizing our priorities and practices so that God and His promises take precedence over all things. When we do that, the door of difficulty that seems to be stuck and shut will be unlocked and will swing wide open on the hinges of God’s faithfulness and unconditional love. Sometimes we should use what we have instead of fretting about something we don’t have. A little faith goes a long way in God’s Kingdom!
Faith is defined by God as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. This means faith is real confidence that all things are going to turn out just right. And this confidence is concrete because what is hoped for can be seen though it’s invisible to the natural eye. If I tried to describe to you the blooms on the rose bush in my back yard, it would not do the blooms justice, you would have to see them yourself to appreciate the beauty.
The source of faith is the Holy Spirit. Faith is the fruit of the Spirit. That means that the Spirit produces the faith. Every true Christian has a measure of faith. Although our faith may be weak and small, it is a powerful key that will open many of life’s locked doors. Recently, I locked my keys inside my truck. I remembered several years ago when I did that, that OnStar had a service which unlocked the door through GPS. Even though I had not used OnStar at all, nor was I paying for the service (that I was aware of anyway), I called them because I believed they could open my door, even from a great distance! After recollecting an old password and finally using our landline phone number instead of my cell number, the door was miraculously opened!
Faith is important, even vital to the believer not only because it is a key to His Kingdom, but also because faith pleases God. Actually the scriptures teach us that without faith, we cannot and will not please God.
God likes faith because faith produces righteousness. We can get caught up and tied down trying to produce our own righteousness. We never do please God by our works apart from His will. When we use our God given faith to believe in the imputed righteousness of Christ, God likes that. This is how we experience that truth really does make us free!
Certainly, when we realize the value of such a treasurable, spiritual resource, we want to increase it as well as share it with others. God knows we need to increase our faith so he sends trials and problems into our lives just for making our faith grow. Faith has a way of stretching our hearts so that we can hold more blessings. The key to enhancing our faith is to realize there are degrees of faith. Getting more faith is not like opening the refrigerator and getting more milk or reaching for the can of beans sitting on the pantry shelf.
The first degree of faith is sign faith. Gideon is a good example of this faith. There may be stages in the Christian life when we cannot believe unless we see a sign. We feel our fleece, like Gideon, and if it is wet we are willing to trust God. This may be true faith, but it is imperfect and needs maturing. Feeling faith believes when there are favorable emotions.
The second degree of faith believes even though there are no feelings or emotions involved. The Word of God is enough, says fact faith. Fact faith too is
a multiplier because the more we study and meditate on God’s Holy Word, the more faith we’ll have. Fact faith is a faith that pleases God and is very useful in His Kingdom every day. To trust in the “Bare” God so to speak, whether He blesses us or not is truly freeing and a worthy witness of who God is and what He means to us.
Facing Fear Faith
There is a third degree of faith that exceeds the signs of wet fleece and factual truth of God’s promises. This highest degree faith is not based on circumstances nor emotions. The only feelings involved in facing fear faith is the feeling of being overwhelmed and deep in despair. Yet, this faith believes anyway because God’s Word says it when appearances, people and human reason tells another story. The Apostle Paul exhibits facing fear faith during ship wreck on a stormy sea:
“And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.”
“Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.” Acts 27:20, 25
Let’s all pray to the Lord that He will grant us faith that will believe and trust Him when everything is going against us. Did you know that the higher degree of faith you have the happier you will be? It worked for the Apostle Paul at sea and it will happen to you and me in kingdom life on Earth. Faith is the right key to unlock our happiness. Be of good cheer, believe God!