“I believe…” Nic Kyalangalilwa examines this repeated phrase in the Apostles’ creed, exploring the true meaning of faith in his African context.
A true believer is somebody who trusts God and based on that trust, he acts upon it.
“Actually the theme today is not really part of the Apostles’ creed. If you look for it, you won’t find it. But I think it’s overarching; you find it everywhere not explicitly but implicitly. It’s actually the words, “I believe”. And in the Apostles’ creed you have it many times, over and over again.
I Believe… Is This Faith?
Nic Kyalangalilwa delivers his last in a nine week sermon series unpacking the foundations of the Christian faith – working through the Apostles’ Creed, a statement of belief penned in the 4th Century AD.
The Apostles’ Creed is really the foundation of what a Christian believes.
“It’s really the foundation of what a Christian believes. This is what makes the difference between what we would call a Christian faith, and a non-Christian faith.”
This sermon looks at the repetition of the phrase “I believe” which points us to examine what we mean by faith. It’s not enough to just know what Christians believe – faith is way more than head knowledge. Biblical faith is a personal, trustful commitment built upon God’s promises.
Understanding The Apostles’ Creed
Find the other sermons in this series here:
- I Believe… In God, The Father Almighty
- I Believe… In God The Creator
- I Believe… In Jesus’ Incarnation
- I Believe… In Jesus’ Death & Resurrection
- I Believe… In Jesus’ Ascension & Return
- I Believe… In The Holy Spirit
- I Believe… In The Church
- I Believe… In The Life Everlasting
- I Believe… What Is Faith?
Text: Romans 4
Date preached: 1 June 2016
Location: Le Phare Church, Bukhavu, DRC-Congo
You know, we are now almost at the end, we are at the end of a series which has turned out to be a marathon, nine weeks into the Apostles’ creed.
Now, maybe by now already in your dreams you’re already having nightmares about this and I hope that’s not the case. But I will have wonderful news for you today, today is the last one, right? Next week we move on to something else, right?
What Does “I Believe” Mean?
And today we’re talking really, actually the theme today is not really part of the Apostles’ creed, right? If you look for it, you won’t find it in the Apostles’ creed which we’re going to read just now. But I think it’s overarching it; you find it everywhere not explicitly but implicitly. It’s actually the words, “I believe”. And in the Apostles’ creed you have it I think four or six times which says, “I believe”, “I believe”, “I believe”, “I believe”, “I believe”.
Now normally I should have started by this, right? Normally I should have started by this and explained like “Okay, well what does the I believe mean?” And then we move on into the Apostles’ creed. But I chose to do it otherwise and if it works, good. If it doesn’t work forgive me for that. But I chose to do it otherwise because in the end all these things can be head knowledge. And so, it’s good to know that the way the Bible looks at faith is very different from the way we actually tend to talk about it.
Two Definitions of Faith
So, today we’re talking about I believe in faith. And I think a good question would be, what is faith?
What is faith? Have you ever stopped and asked yourself that question? What is faith? There’s a dictionary, it’s called the Webster collegiate dictionary. Now, I never read that word, I always look at the web something, something and I just jump in. And this is what it says: faith has two main meanings. Now, the first meaning is trust – allegiance to duty, right? So, it’s almost like loyalty. So, faith is trust – allegiance to duty or a person. The other word for it is loyalty.
Now the second definition for faith is firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Firm belief in something for which there is no proof. So, somebody actually believes or trusts in something strongly but there’s no proof. And let me say that I would argue that when I asked the question, “What is faith?” Chances are your answer was the second one. Because we know in church that’s what we have. You know, faith is you trust in something, there’s no proof.
A Firm Belief, With No Proof
So, let’s say we say the moon is red. Now we believe the moon is red. Is the moon red? Well, we don’t know, there’s no proof, but it’s just a belief that it is red. Firm belief in something for which there is no proof.
Many a times they say that you must believe that Jesus is going to heal you, you must have faith. What we are really saying to people is close your eyes and hope that it happens. Now, I don’t know if you’ve heard of the story of an ostrich. Have you ever heard of the story of an ostrich? No? Now the ostrich is a bird, right. It’s a bird with very long feet, and a very long neck, and a small little head, and it’s really, really big in the middle, right.
And the ostrich generally – well they say – I’ve never actually seen this myself. I’ve seen an ostrich, but I’ve never seen this. Now, I’m told that when the ostrich is near a predator, or it’s surrounded by predators, right? The first thing the ostrich does is what? It runs. And when the ostrich can’t run, what the ostrich does is it takes its neck and brings it back within its wings which are really, really big and it hides there. And it just pretends that nothing is there. It has faith, isn’t it?
The “Just Close Your Eyes” Approach
And I think sometimes that is what they ask us in church! In places like this they say, “Just close your eyes, ignore everything else that is around you, and just trust and believe”.
A similar scenario is a father sitting in a plane – now most of you might know planes, you know ‘avion’, a plane. And the father is reading, and the son is playing and all of a sudden, the child looks on the side in the window and sees one of the engines is burning, and it’s on fire. So, the son turns to the father and says, “Father this thing is burning”. And everybody is a little bit panicked in the plane and the father says to the child to calm the child, “Just close your eyes do as if there is nothing is happening, right? Close your eyes”.
And many of us are like:
“I want a job, so I close my eyes and I hope there’s a job. There’s no proof that I’m going to get a job, but you know what? I have faith”.
“I sit at my house and I just close, and I’m like, I’m sick, I don’t wanna go see the doctor because I have faith”.
“Well, you know I ‘m just gonna do well”.
“Well, how do you know?”
“I’m gonna do well because I have faith, there’s no proof”.
Let me say that that’s not biblical faith, that is positive thinking. Now you can think positive and you can think of all the good things that is not biblical faith. You see biblical faith is different.
Biblical Faith Is Different
Biblical faith – and that’s what I… that’s the whole point today – biblical faith is a personal, trustful commitment built upon God’s promises. It’s a trustful commitment. Personal: “I”. Trustful: “I believe, I trust”. Commitment: action. So, I do this because I trust this. And what is it that I trust? It’s what God has said or it’s because of who God is.
Biblical faith is a personal, trustful commitment built upon God’s promises.
So biblical faith is not a faith that doesn’t have proof. It’s not just the belief in something – a firm belief in something – and there’s no proof. No. Biblical faith is a firm belief that leads to action based on who God is and what he has said or what he has revealed himself.
So, when Christians say, “I have faith or I have believed”, they’re not saying, “I close my eyes and I just hope that things happen”. You know, there’s a word for it in English it’s called the leap of faith, right? You know you just jump, and you hope that things are gonna be well. It doesn’t work like that in the Bible.
This Is Being A True Believer
So, my hope this evening, and my goal, is really to encourage you and me to be genuine believers. And what is being a genuine believer? What is it to be a true believer? Well, it should be somebody who trusts God and based on that trust he acts upon it.
You act: there’s trust, there’s action. And all this is based upon God and what he said. It’s not upon me closing my eyes and falling.
What is a true believer? It’s somebody who trusts God and based on that trust, he acts upon it.
My hope is to encourage us to be genuine believers. Having explained biblical faith, which is a personal, and sometimes it can be collective, but I do wanna insist on the personal, trustful commitment based upon what God as revealed himself.
Am I Acting On My Faith?
The big question really I hope to ask at the end of the service, and if you forget everything else you might remember my question and try to figure out an answer to that question is: is my faith translated into action? Because if my faith is not translated into action, it’s not biblical faith. It can be anything else, it can be knowledge, it can be whatever but it’s not biblical faith. Biblical faith is always translated into action. It’s because I believe like, Paul says, we spoke because we believe. I speak because I believe.
If my faith is not translated into action, it’s not biblical faith.
So, we will ask the question what is biblical faith? And you know already I’ve said that to you. It is a trustful commitment, it’s a personal, trustful commitment based upon God’s word.
So, we will start with the first section, trustful commitment, and then we will move on to personal, and then we will try and apply this.
The Apostles’ Creed
Now let me quickly say we’re going to do one thing that I almost forgot to do. We’re going to read the Apostles’ creed. And then let me also say that I come from a school of thought where what I’m going to preach now looks a little bit more like a topical preaching, right? So, the passage I’ve used does not necessarily explain everything that I’m going to say. And you’ll bear with me for today, I hope. And I hope that it’s never gonna happen anytime soon, right? Dieudonne is smiling right. Let’s… is it ready? Okay. Is the Apostles’ creed ready? Good, well I’ll just read it and if it’s there you can read with me.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the place of the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father,
I believe he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy universal Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Good, trustful commitment. That’s what we said, faith is a personal: “I”, “I believe”, It’s a personal, trustful commitment based upon God and what he’s revealed himself.
Faith Is… A Trustful Commitment
So our first point is faith is a trustful commitment. It’s action from truth, right? Faith is a trustful commitment. It’s action that springs from truth.
Now in Romans 4 we have this wonderful story that is told us about Abraham. Now, come with me to Romans 4:3, and it says: “For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”. Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due”.
Now come with me to Romans 4:20, “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness”. Right.
Now I think Paul here is giving us an example. Now Paul, if you know a little bit of Romans, he started in Romans 1 saying I have this wonderful news about humanity that man is not gonna die any longer, God has made a way. God has made a way through his son. And so he moves on in Romans 1, to the end of Romans 1 and Romans 2 explaining the difficulties and the trouble in which man finds himself. Man has rejected God and therefore God is gonna punish man. And God is gonna kill man, well, literally kill man and cause him to die.
But what he says else is if man comes back and trusts in what God has done then there is a possibility for man to get out. And so, in Romans 3 he shows kind of all mankind has gone wrong, but God has provided a way for man to be right with him. And in Romans 4 now he kind of shows us that God has done this, but this comes through faith; It comes through trust; it comes through trustful commitment.
Abraham Trusted What God Said
And so, in Romans 4 he gives an example. What is the example he talks about? He talks about Abraham. And he says Abraham was counted, he believed God in Romans 4:3, and it was counted to him as righteousness. What is he saying? He’s saying Abraham trusted in what God said. In Romans 4:20, he moves on to tell us why is it that Abraham was counted righteous?
Now the word righteousness – again let me quickly explain this – is how does man get in good, friendly relationship with God? How can man stand before God and not be punished by God? And that’s what the Bible uses as righteousness.
And so here we see that Abraham was not counted righteous just because he had a leap of faith; just because he believed in something he didn’t know. No. Abraham believed God. Now that’s interesting! He says Abraham believed God, Abraham trusted God, Abraham was committed to God and who God is.
Abraham had to choose whether he was going to agree that God’s promise would come true or not.
Now, if you look there in Roman 3:20, what did Abraham believe about God? What did he trust about God? Well, it says there that God was able to do what he had promised. So, Abraham’s faith was not a faith based on no proof. Abraham’s faith was trust in what God had said. He didn’t just close his eyes and think, “Yeah, things are gonna be good”. No! He had God’s promise and he had to choose whether he was going to agree that God’s promise would come true or not.
Now, we are going to go and look for ourselves what is it that Abraham believed. So come with me to Genesis 12.
This Is What God Said To Abraham
Now this passage that we see in Romans first of all referred to a passage in Genesis 15 – we’re going to read that just now. Now I want us to read these two passages to see what were the promises and how they evolve and why did Paul bring them down there.
Now, Genesis 12:1-4, I’m going to read, “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Now what do we have here? We have God who calls Abram and says, “Well this is what I want to do with you, and this is what I promised to do. Now if you go, you will go from your house and I’m gonna be with you, I’m gonna bless you, I’m gonna give you a land, I’m gonna give you a nation, descendants, I’m going to make you a great nation. And I’m gonna keep my hand of blessing over you”.
Abraham believed. Why? Because God gave him his word.
Now we flip a few chapters later on – Genesis 16 – it’s probably one or two pages on your right. And we will start again from Genesis 16:1. And we see a few years later, Abraham. Now most of you might know the story about Abraham. Abraham had a wife, Sarah. And Sarah never had a child, she was barren. And so, when God is saying to Abraham in Genesis 12, I will make you a great nation now Abraham is maybe sixty or seventy. So, it’s still okay. You know what, he still has great hope. Now we’re in Genesis 16, Abraham is getting close and close, and years and years have gone past.
Genesis 16:1: “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant…”. No, no. What I’m I saying? Sorry. Genesis 15. Right. Genesis 15. Genesis 15:1-6. Sorry for that!
From No Offspring, To Innumerable
“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”
Now you see that same verse? That same exact sentence came back in Romans 4.
Now what we have here is a man whom God told something. This is what God says, and God says, “I’m going to make you into a great nation”. Now a few years later he still doesn’t have a child. God takes him – and this the wonderful thing about God. God doesn’t ask people to believe in… with no basis, in a vacuum. God takes him outside and God says, “Count. If you can count, then know. I’m gonna give you as many and probably more”.
Abraham believed. Why? Because God gave him his word. God gave him his promise. He was not asked to believe in the blank, out of nothing. He was called upon to act based on God’s promises, based on God’s revelation about himself.
Abraham Had A Choice
God promised and Abraham had a choice, he could choose to trust or not trust. God had called him, Abraham had a choice, he could choose to trust or not trust. And believe me, if Abraham did not choose to trust God and act upon the trust, well it wouldn’t be because God had not given his promise and God had not showed him that he is capable of doing it.
God promised and Abraham had a choice, he could choose to trust or not trust.
So, biblical faith is not a faith that is based on nothing. It is a call to response, it’s a call to trust, it’s a call to commitment. It’s a call to action based on the truth of God, on who he is, what his character is. But also based on what he has done in the past.
You see, what Abraham knew about God will push him to decide on whether he was going to trust God or not. That’s why it was a big mistake for him to have this slave in Genesis 16 and trying to scheme to have a child. That’s why it was wrong, why was it wrong? Because he did not choose to trust.
Hebrews 11: The Hall of Faith
Another great passage about faith, and that’s in Hebrews 11. So, you come with me to Hebrews 11, I think it’s very difficult in Christian circles to preach about faith without looking at Hebrews 11.
Now Hebrews 11 is called the hall of faith, right? It’s not the hall of fame, it’s the hall of faith! And it’s a place where you move, and you see pictures of great guys who trusted God and they’re telling you one after the other.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken, he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she passed the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore, from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore”.
What Was Their Faith Based On?
Now, I hope you have noticed something here. Each time somebody was called upon to act in faith, there was God’s promise. And because they trusted in God’s promise, they acted. There was trust, and there was action. The action flowed from the trust. And the trust was based on what God said, what God promised.
If God is saying this, and this God is trustworthy, then this is how I should act.
So although the things they were promised were not things they could see, but that promise was not absent. It was not faith in something that does not exist. It was not faith with no proof. No. It was, “If God is saying this, and this God is trustworthy, then this is how I should act”.
So I hope you’ve noticed that pattern, my dear friend. It’s assurance, conviction, that leads to action: It’s trust that leads to action.
It’s About Who You Are Trusting
Now, I want us to go back to that Romans 4 again. And remember that it says: “Abraham believed God”. So, biblical faith is less about our… it’s less about the trust process and more about who we are trusting. It’s less about the action of believing and more about the object of our belief. And biblical faith calls people to trust in God.
The object of our trust is God and what he can do and less our process of trusting. So faith, in itself, has no value unless the person we’re trusting is trustworthy and able to do what he promised.
Faith has no value unless the person we’re trusting is trustworthy and able to do what he promised.
And so, every time we saw Jesus saying, “Your faith has healed you”, in the Bible, he’s not saying “because you just trusted and you have this positive thinking, and that it’s…” no, no, no. He’s saying you chose the right person to trust. And because of that choice, then you’re healed.
So the principle is very clear, isn’t it? Biblical faith is action from truth. Trust, based on what God has said, that leads to commitment.
It’s All About Trust
Now, if that’s biblical faith then I think the biggest problem of man is the problem of trust. And I would actually argue that sin can be redefined as a lack of trust.
Now, if you go back to Eden, to the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, what was their problem? Their problem was not just eating the fruit, the fruit wasn’t the problem. The problem was could they trust God? Could they trust that God knows better? Could they trust that God is good? Could they rely fully on the trust that they have in God and therefore act accordingly?
Every time people sin, every time people reject God’s rule, it’s because they don’t trust him.
You see sin now can be redefined as a lack of trust. Every time people sin, every time people reject God’s rule, it’s because they don’t trust him. They don’t think it’s good for them, they don’t think he knows best, they don’t think he has their best interests at heart.
And that takes us to the wonderful message of the gospel, isn’t it?
The wonderful message of the gospel is that man did not choose to trust God. And because man did not choose to trust God, man has messed up the world.
We Are Under The Curse
Now, I don’t have to tell you that the world is broken. You just have to look around, watch the news. I was actually, I don’t know who told me this, was it…? I can’t remember. But I watched this somewhere. And apparently there’s a TV in Russia that decided that for a few minutes, for one day I think, for one day, they will just show good news, alright? They will not show bad news.
So, when you watch the news what do you hear? They raped somebody, they killed somebody, airport crash, right? And the people were like but that’s not news, we want to have good news, right? So, for one day we are going to have good news. And apparently guess what? Who watched it? Very few people. Nobody watched it. Their rating, that’s what they call how many people watched them it went like this (Vuuuuuu). Because we are so used to that! And we know how broken the world is. And that’s why when we watch the news, we want to know how broken it is!
The Bible says that’s God’s initial judgement. The world is broken, it’s broken, Romans 1, because God has started judging it. So, spiritual death, lack of connection with God, will lead to man destroying the world; man hurting one another.
But that’s just a small little picture of what will happen later on when we have the big judgement of God, which is eternal judgement, eternal death, eternal punishment.
The Gospel Is About Trusting God’s Solution
But the wonderful news that we find in the gospel, and this is what Paul is arguing in Romans 4, is that it is possible for men to avoid that. And how can man avoid that? Well man avoids that not by going to church, not by praying, not by doing all these things, but by trusting God.
Man can avoid that judgement by trusting in God. And what does man trust in God? Now come with me to Romans 4 and then I will show you where we start.
Romans 4:22: “That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness”. But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification”. That’s the wonderful news! It’s I put my trust in God and I believe that God not only sent his son on earth and that son lived a perfect life and that son died on the cross. But I believe, I trust firmly, that that son died on that cross in my place, on my behalf, he was raised for my justification. And therefore, if I trust that what God says is true, if I trust that what the son says is true, then I know I’m right with God. That’s what Paul says.
I’m not acting out of nothing, I’m acting based on what God has said and what he’s revealed.
So, it’s a choice that me and you have to make. Are we going to trust God? Are we going to trust in what we do? Or are we going to trust in God? Are we going to trust that what he did on that cross was enough for me to be right with him? And therefore act accordingly, act knowing that I am right with God, or are we going to ‘do our best’ and see how far we get? But I think if you read carefully, you will realise that it won’t get you anywhere.
Biblical faith is not based on nothing, right. It is anchored on truth, the truth that we find in the Bible. The truth of God as he reveals himself to different people through history and through the Bible. It is because of who God is that I can trust him. It is because of who God is that now I can act. And although people don’t know where I’m going, although I might not even know where I am going, but I trust that God knows.
So I’m not acting out of nothing, I’m acting based on what God has said and what he’s revealed.
Faith Results In… Truthful Action
Trustful commitment, truthful action, action that springs from truth. I wanna ask one or two questions and then we can move on.
You say you believe; do you act on it? Do you have specific action that springs from what you trust about who God is? Does your knowledge of God stay in your head or is it translated into action?
Living As Practical Atheists
Now, there’s a concept that I heard somebody say it for the first time and I was like, “Wow he’s so right”. He said, “In church there is a disease these days. And the disease in church is what we call ‘practical atheists’. It’s people who believe all the wonderful things about God and they know the Bible from A to B, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. They know all these wonderful things. They have in their house the forty names of God. You know, I can’t even say all of them, but they have them. And yet in their lives you don’t see it. They just live like people who don’t know anything”.
Can God provide? “Oh yes, I know God can provide”. But then why are you corrupt? Because you don’t trust that God can provide. Can God protect? “Yes, I know God protects”. But then why are you going to see those people? Anyway…
So, my question is, are you also one of those practical atheists? What you know about God is in your head and that’s it: you can’t see it in action, it’s not there.
Now sometimes we inherit that. Sometimes me and you we went to school and they taught us all those things and we went to Sunday school and they teach us all these things and we’re born in a church, in a home where they sing every day, and you learn how to pray, and you know when you raise your hand, and you know when to raise your voice, and you know when you’re supposed to cry because that is how it works. But I’m asking is it springing from a trusting God? Or is it just stuff that you’re doing? Because if it is stuff that you are doing just stop, you’re wasting your time, you’re wasting your time.
Biblical faith is not based out of nothing, it’s based upon God’s word, and God’s character and God’s promises but that should lead us into action. And actually, we are studying the book of James in the French service and the big theme of James is what? Why do you believe so much stuff about God and you don’t do it? Do it! Show me that you can do it then I know that you believe it! Now, I will come back to that just now.
Having Faith Is An Active Choice
It is a personal faith, right, it is personal. It’s not just I believe, it’s not just I have trustful commitment, it’s not just I act upon what I know about God. It’s also personal – it’s not collective. Right.
Now, let me first say that it is a choice. Faith is a gift, and I don’t argue about it, God gives it to us in a wonderful way that’s not the point here I’m not arguing anything about that now. But I’m arguing as well that it is a choice.
When everybody says, “You can’t trust!” Abraham says, “I choose to trust”.
Now if you look at that verse, Romans 4:3 it says, “For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God …” Now, in English there is what they call passive verbs and active verbs. Right. What is a passive verb? What is a passive verb? Somebody? You guys are studying English. What is a passive verb? Okay! So you’re almost… it’s just happening to you. You can’t do anything about it. Now give me one, on top of your head. A passive verb yeah, yeah, I want an example. I was broken, okay, yeah. I was arrested! It just happened to me! I was broken, I was insulted that’s passive.
And then there’s active: I broke, I insulted, I arrested, I’m acting. Right. What did you see here? It’s Abraham believed! It’s active, it’s a choice.
Now, move with me, let’s go back again to Romans 4:18, “In hope he believed against all hope.” Right. When everybody says, “You can’t trust!” He says, “I choose to trust”.
“I choose to trust”.
“You can’t just leave and go wandering you don’t know where you’re going!”
“I choose to trust.”
Faith Is Personal: “I Believe”
“In hope against all hope he believed that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been being told. “So shall your offspring be”. He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or what he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God”. It is personal, it is the “I choose”.
And that’s why Hebrews becomes very important and that’s why I understand that sometimes people can mislead others and think that biblical faith is believing something out of nothing. No, no, no, that is based on the reality present and where you are going.
So, where you are going is almost unknown to people’s eyes, but God has told you what’s going to happen. God has promised to walk with you. And so now, it’s raining, and you are waiting for the sun. But it’s raining and you look at your TV, the guy from the, you know, weather, weatherman or ‘meteo’. And he tells you, “It’s not gonna rain, it’s not gonna be sunny for the next forty years”. But you say, “No. God says it’s gonna be sunny, I trust God”.
It’s not out of the blue, it’s based on what God has said, it’s based on who God is, but it’s a choice. Faith doesn’t happen to you, it’s not a passive thing, “It just happened to me, I have faith!” No, it’s active. And I would argue that biblical faith it almost calls us to position ourselves based on what God has said daily, it’s every day!
“Do I really believe that God is good? Do I really believe that God can help me? Do I really believe that God can heal me? Do I really believe that God can comfort? Do I really?” It’s every day, every moment. That’s the question, do you? And I hope the answer is “I do”.
So, biblical faith is a choice. It’s a choice we make every time. Is God the one who’s saying the truth or is it my parents saying the truth? Is my tribe going to look after me or is God going to look after me? Is my money going to look after me or is God going to look after me? It’s a question that we have but it’s a choice! It can’t just happen to you; you have to make it.
Faith Is Not Inherited
Faith is not inherited. I hear many people say, “I was brought up in a Christian home”. Yes, that’s your parents’ faith. What is yours? And that’s where things like, you know, this body of truth that we believe, and I know there’s a collective point to this, but they can be very dangerous.
We can read the Apostles’ creed and say, “I learnt that when I was young. My pastor preached through that the whole two months!” But is that your faith? Is that the thing you have chosen?
And then that’s when now when you look at the Apostles’ creed, the Apostles creed says, “I believe”. Now we read it and you know if you want, I can re-read that to you again. It says, “I believe in God” and not “we believe”. Now of course the whole church is saying it but it’s a personal choice! “This is what I know to be true and based on this truth I trust in God and I’m gonna act upon it”.
So let me ask a question, right. We say we believe in God; do you believe in God? Is this like really something you are convinced of – that there’s a God out there and that God is a creator of heaven and the earth and that God is almighty, and he is a father. Do you believe that?
Now that moves you to action.
Do You Truly Believe This?
Do you believe that there’s a man who was born, his name is Jesus, and he is the son of God, and he was conceived in a miraculous way? He lived, suffered for you, was crucified for you, died for you, and then he rose again on the third day. Do you believe that? Is that like something you know to be true and you choose to trust to be true? Or is it something that you think?
Do you believe that there’s such thing as the Holy Spirit that inhabits every Christian that is in you, and is busy transforming you and working through you? Or is it something that you know in your head? And you haven’t chosen it.
Do you believe that there’s such a thing as the church as the communion of saints, that all God’s children are part of a family and you belong to a family of God? Do you believe that? Where’s the action?
Do you believe that there’s forgiveness of sin, that your sins have been forgiven and that the sins of everybody else can be forgiven? And are you’re calling them into that, into this forgiveness? Do you believe that once this life is over you will raise again from the dead and be with Jesus forevermore? Is that something you look forward to?
True Faith Spills Out of Us
There’s a man that just encouraged me so much in my Christian walk and impressed me. And I guess there’s a few mannerisms. So, when you see me preaching, and it’s okay, one day if you see him and you say, “Oh you see those mannerisms are coming!” But he’s impressed me so much. And this is one thing that I like about him. Every day when it’s his birthday, and it’s on March 25th, when everybody is singing happy birthday, you know what he always says? “Nicholas, one more year before I’m with the Lord”.
It’s not just head knowledge. It’s moved to something that you can see in your life.
And it shocked me the first time I heard it! And I thought, “What can you say he’s a pastor?” But he says it again, and again, and again. Because it’s just so in him that even small things like a birthday he’s just like, I look forward to being in heaven.
I was just talking to a friend lately and he says this man is on a mission to be with Jesus before the end of the year. I was like oh wow. Anyway, but I’m just saying there is somebody who believes this. There is somebody who believes this. It’s not just head knowledge. It’s moved to something that you can see in his life.
You see biblical faith is that. Based on what God has promised, we take action, and we choose to take action and people can see that into our lives. Personal conviction that leads to trust, and trust that leads to commitment, and commitment that leads to action.
Is Your Faith Leading You To Action?
Now, I’m gonna finish on a very kind of personal note and ask a few questions. Because the application here is “I believe in faith”. And that’s what we’ve been saying every day, “I believe in God, I believe in the Church, I believe in communion”. And it’s good. But are these things that lead us to action? Are these things that create action in our lives? Because if biblical faith is a personal decision to act upon what we know about God, to act upon what we trust about God, and what God has revealed in his word, then I need to pay attention on what I do with the word of God. Because the more I know about God the more I will trust him and the more I’ll act. The less I know about God, the less I trust him and the less I will act.
The more I know about God the more I will trust him and the more I’ll act.
So, how I read my Bible and what I do with my Bible – how I read it and the way I read it – is very important. Do I study it? Do I try and understand the mind of God so as I can act upon it?
Now here are a few challenges, and I encourage you to think about this. Now I don’t know where you are, I don’t know what God is saying to you. But I do know what he’s calling us to do today is to stop and ask ourselves: “What we believe about God? Does it impact our lives?” Because if it doesn’t, it’s not biblical faith. It’s not.
You know a lot about God, you can get a PhD on that, you can get a degree on that and that’s okay. But don’t go out and say that you trust God, you don’t. All these wonderful truths we know about God, do they make our life different?
Do You Seek First The Kingdom of God?
Now, I want you to read with me Matthew 6. Because I want us to read this and we’re not gonna be too long. But I want us to read this passage together. Because I think these are just a few, I mean there are so many other challenging passages in the Bible that call us to action. But Matthew 6:33, now anybody who knows the passage by heart? Nobody knows the passage by heart, right. Matthew 6:33.
When you look at your future, when you’re making decisions, where you’re going to live, what you’re going to do, what are the criteria you use? Matthew 6 says what? “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added on to you”.
Now, what are these things he’s talking about? He’s talking about food, and clothes, and where you’re going to sleep, and what you’re going to eat. Those are the things he’s talking about. And then Matthew 6:34 he says, and I will come back to it in a few seconds, but he says, do not be anxious by these things. Are we gonna trust God or not?
It’s easy for us to say, “I trust God because I am sick”, because it’s stuff you can’t do. Do trust God that if I seek his kingdom, he will look after me and therefore my priorities in life are seeking his kingdom? Or am I trying to build my own kingdom and seeking my own things and then I will try and patch up God’s kingdom to it once I’ve succeeded?
This Is Not About Being A Pastor
You see many of us, many of us, if they ask you, “Is this really the primary thing, the primary motto of your life? Is this the thing that you’re pursuing?” I’m saying, now let me correct a little bit. People here might think pursuing God’s kingdom is becoming a pastor, that’s wrong, right? It’s very, very wrong.
It says, “seeks the kingdom of God”, “Seeks to expand the kingdom of God”. And that can be through being a doctor, or a lawyer, or whatever, it can be in any field of life. But are you pursuing the kingdom of God where you are? Or are you pursing money and connections, your own security and satisfaction?
You see it’s one thing to say, “I believe”. It’s one thing to pick up your Bible, put it under your arm and come to church with a lot of “Amens”. Are you pursuing the kingdom of God in your business, in your relationship, in everything?
Trusting God Means Not Being Anxious
Romans 8:1, let’s just do this now, right. Matthew 6:31-34, we’re still in Matthew 6. Jesus is saying wonderful things. What is he saying? “Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all”.
Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble”.
When you think about life is this what you take on and you say, “God says I shouldn’t be worried about this, God will look after me”. Right? I’ll tell you, you know, like it’s almost a little bit of a confession, but I think three quarters of my stress is because I don’t obey this.
Most of the time I’m thinking, “What’s gonna happen tomorrow? You know, what’s gonna happen in five years? What’s gonna happen in ten years?” Jesus says don’t worry about those things!
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:10, it’s all verses that we know, and some people might have even memorised them and know them by heart. Philippians 4:10 he says, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”
Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”. Do we believe that? Do we believe that we can do all things through him who strengthens us? And therefore we can endure suffering, or we can endure plenty, we can endure lack because through him,” I can withstand anything”.
You see, Paul believed, that’s why he acted. He believed that God could strengthen him and so he endured all things.
We Fear Death
When you think of death, when you’re going to die. Now, I know at our age it’s not a very good thought. And very few people actually think of when they are going to die at our age because we think we’re invincible, right? The truth is many of us are going to die anyway, there’s people your age, my age, younger than us, born on the same day, or probably younger, who are dying now as we speak so we are not exempt from this.
But John 11:25, it’s a good place. Now Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead. And Africans I know – isn’t it Fidel? We are scared of dying hey. We don’t want to die. If they ask you, “What is the last thing you want on your list?” you put death.
Now, I was going to tell you a story, but I don’t have much time, right. Maybe I should tell you? A guy is visited by death, right? And death visits this guy and says, “I have come to take you”. He’s African, right? and he says, “Eh! What do I do with this guy? I don’t wanna die now!” So he smiles and laughs and walawala and says, “Okay, give me a few minutes I will give you my food”, right? So eat. Death is like, “This is such a warm welcome, I’ve never received a welcome like this! Go, thank you, give me food. And can you get me some water? I’ve been wandering around the earth and I’m really thirsty”. So, the guy goes to his kitchen and puts a little bit of diazepam or whatever to you know to make people sleep, a huge dose like this and he gives it to death.
Death now drinks and says, “This is awesome! And then now I’m even feeling sleepy. I’m gonna sleep and rest for a few minutes”. And the guy quickly goes into the bag that death has and looks at the list, takes his name from the top and puts it at the bottom, right? He’s African, “I wanna be the last to die!”
And then a few hours later death wakes up and says, “You’ve been so kind to me and I’m gonna do what I never do to anybody, I’m gonna start at the bottom of the list”.
But Jesus Has Conquered Death!
We’re Africans, we don’t like dying, right? But when you’re faced with death, what comes to your mind? You see, this passage should come to our mind. When we’re faced with death, our death or the death of a friend. John 11:25 what does it say? “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, shall live. And everybody who lives and believes in me shall never die”.
The question, Jesus says is, “do you believe this?” Do you believe that even if they take your life now, you’re not going to die and therefore death is not something you fear? Death is not the worst thing that can happen to you. And hopefully next time you’re visited you won’t change your name on that list, right?
God Is No Longer Angry With Me
Romans 8:1, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. Do you believe that? Do you believe that I have accepted Jesus and therefore there’s now no condemnation? God is not angry with me, no, no I don’t see that. Because for many people I meet, the child fails at school: “Oh God are you angry with me?”
There’s rain outside and he’s putting his best attire. He’s like, “God what did I do wrong?”
Can you rejoice in what Jesus has done? And just apply that to your life and say, “God I know, I know, I know that you’re not angry with me anymore. And I know maybe life is hard and things are difficult, but I know you’re not angry with me anymore because of what Jesus has done”.
Do we believe those things? Or is it that, is it that we don’t? Because if we do believe those things, they should be seen in our life. If we’re scared of death then we don’t believe that there’s a resurrection, right? We don’t believe that when Jesus says that even though we die we’ll be alive remember. We don’t believe that. We don’t even believe that heaven is much better than hell, we don’t believe it.
2 Peter, and I’m gonna finish, I’ll end there because our time is gone, I’ll end there. 2 Peter.
God Has Given Us Everything
Now as Christians sometimes, when we are in the church, sometimes we feel that we’re missing out on something on the outside. As Christians sometimes we feel that God did not give us everything, God is hiding something. And 2 Peter says, is it true?
Come with me, 2 Peter 1:3: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire”.
Now my friend let me ask this, and maybe I should rephrase it in the best way that Paul says, are we content? Do we believe that God has given us everything that we need in that book? Through his promises we have everything for this life and the life to come.
Now I have, as a pastor here in Africa, I have to answer this question many times: “Somebody came with a vision and he could tell me my whole life – what do I do with him?” And I’m like, “Do you believe that God has told you everything that you need for this life and the life to come in his word? Then you tell that guy, ‘Thank you very much for telling me but I already know everything’.” No, we don’t, do we?
Actually, sometimes we are the ones going there saying, “Tell me, tell me, tell me about my life. Tell me what’s gonna happen tomorrow, tell me, tell me”. And then we get abused because we’re not content.
There’s a wonderful passage Exodus 29:29 and it says there, Exodus? Deuteronomy, I think Deuteronomy, forget, I whatever the passage is. But it says something, the same thing, it says what God has revealed to you is for you and for your children and what God has kept is not for you to know. Yet we don’t believe that, as Christians we don’t believe that. Because if we did, we wouldn’t be running around asking for prophesies and words of prophecy whatever. We would say, “I have everything that I need. And although I am confused, I have everything that God wants me to”.
This Is Biblical Faith
So, a faith that is not translated into action my dear friend is not biblical faith. I don’t know what it is, it’s not biblical faith. It must change the way we see reality. It must change the way we see things. It must add colour to reality. We will see things that nobody else sees. It’s almost like everybody watching a game on a black and white TV, and you’re watching the game on a plasma TV. You’re seeing way more than they are seeing!
And of course, the person watching in black and white will say, “You don’t see clearly”. But you know you do because yours is more colourful.
So, what are you going to do today so that your trust can be more and full in God? Why not start with a prayer? And that’s what we’re going to do. Why don’t we start with a prayer? Why don’t you when you go home make a list of the things, the area where you feel like, “I’m not trusting God here and I need to. And I believe firmly in what it says here but I’m not trusting, there’s no action in my life”. Why not make a list?
Why not find a friend here, somebody you trust, preferably from your own gender right? Somebody you trust, except for Mark and his wife, right? Somebody you trust and tell that person right, “These are areas that I think I’m not trusting God. Can you, when we meet, remind me of this? Can you challenge me on this?”
Because in the end my dear friend, if your faith is not translated into commitment then it’s not biblical. Let’s bow our heads.