Characteristics of a Healthy, Growing Faith

“Characteristics of a Healthy, Growing Faith”

2 Timothy 2:22-26 (NIV) “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

PLEASE TAKE OUT YOUR NOTES AND FOLLOW ALONG….

I WANT US TO TALK FOR A FEW MINUTES ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS TO EXPERIENCE A FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST THAT REALLY MAKES A DIFFERENCE IN LIFE. A GENUINE FAITH…A FAITH ROOTED IN REALITY…THE WAYS THINGS REALLY ARE: NOT MERELY THE WAY WE WISH THINGS WERE.

OUR WORLD IS FULL OF EXAMPLES OF UNHEALTHY FAITH IN GOD. AND IT ALMOST SEEMS SOMETIMES THAT THE MORE UNHEALTHY THE BELIEF….THE MORE PEOPLE FLOCK TO IT.

I WANT US TO TALK THIS MORNING ABOUT 4 MARKS OF A HEALTHY, GROWING FAITH. NOW…THERE ARE MORE THAN 4….I FOUND SEVERAL LISTS OF AS MANY AS 8 OR MORE.
BUT I HAVE FOUND THAT THESE 4 ARE ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL.

IF YOU WANT YOUR FAITH TO BRING YOU STRENGTH AND COMFORT…IF YOU WANT YOUR FAITH TO BE THERE WHEN TIMES ARE TOUGH…..IF YOU WANT YOUR FAITH TO CONTINUE TO GROW RATHER THAN WITHER AND DIE….THEN MAKE THESE 4 MARKS OF A HEALTHY, GROWING FAITH PART OF YOUR DAILY WALK WITH GOD.

4 MARKS OF A HEALTHY, GROWING FAITH

1. A Healthy, Growing Faith is CENTERED ON JESUS CHRIST.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)… Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

There are 1435 references to “Jesus” in the New Testament!

THERE’S AN INTERESTING WARNING IN THE N.T…..FOUND IN MATT. 24:23-24…JESUS HIMSELF WARNED THEM…
At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time.

WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE THERE ARE LITERALLY HUNDREDS OF FALSE CHRISTS….AND FALSE PROPHETS….FALSE IDEAS ABOUT JESUS…THE ONLY WAY WE CAN COMBAT THOSE COUNTERFEITS IS TO KNOW….COMPLETELY…THE JESUS OF THE N.T.

ONE OF THE AMAZING THINGS IN EVERY WRITER OF THE N.T….WHEN DIFFICULTIES COME…WHETHER IT BE HEALTH….PERSECUTION….STRESS….TRIALS….WHATEVER…THE ONE COMMON DENOMINATOR IN THEIR FAITH WAS THAT THEY “FIXED THEIR EYES ON JESUS!”
EVERYONE OF THE DISCIPLES…EVERY BOOK IN THE N.T. WAS STRENGTHENED AND SUSTAINED BY FOCUSING THEIR FAITH IN THE PERSON AND LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST!

WHEN LIFE BROUGHT THEM HEARTACHE AND SORROW…THEY REMEMBERED THAT JESUS WAS CALLED “A MAN OF SORROWS, ACQUAINTED WITH GRIEF.”

WHEN LIFE BROUGHT REJECTION AND EVEN PERSECUTION….THEY REMEMBERED THAT JESUS FACED THE VERY SAME CIRCUMSTANCES.

WHEN FAMILY AND FRIENDS SUFFER BECAUSE OF POOR CHOICES AND STRUGGLES WITH DISOBEDIENCE AND SIN IN THEIR LIVES….THEY REMEMBERED THAT JESUS SAT ON A HILL OVERLOOKING REBELLIOUS JERUSALEM AND WEPT.

WHEN A LOVED ONE DIED…THEY REMEMBERED THAT JESUS TOO WEPT AT THE GRAVE OF HIS FRIEND LAZARUS.

YOU SEE….I REALLY BELIEVE….THAT IF YOU AND I WOULD BECOME THOROUGHLY FAMILIAR WITH THE LIFE OF JESUS…WE SEE IN THE SCRIPTURES….IT WOULD BE THE BEST PREVENTATIVE SPIRITUAL MEDICINE AVAILABLE. IT WOULD BE THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO KEEP FROM BEING DECEIVED OR STRAYING FROM OUR FAITH.

JOHN ORTBERG IN “THE LIFE YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED”…TELLS THE STORY OF MABEL.

MABEL WAS A PATIENT IN A STATE-RUN NURSING HOME. IT WAS NOT A PLEASANT PLACE. HE DESCRIBES IT AS LARGE AND UNDERSTAFFED….OVERFILLED WITH SENILE, HELPLESS, LONELY PEOPLE WHO ARE WAITING TO DIE. WHEN YOU WALK IN THE DOOR YOU CAN TELL WHERE YOU ARE BY THE SMELL.

JOHN’S FRIEND, TOM SCHMIDT WENT THERE ONCE OR TWICE A WEEK…AND HE SAID IT WAS VERY DIFFICULT FOR HIM.
ONE DAY….HE WAS WALING THE HALLWAY THAT HE HAD NOT VISITED BEFORE. HE WAS LOOKING IN VAIN FOR A FEW PEOPLE WHO WERE ALERT ENOUGH THAT HE COULD GIVE THEM A SIMPLE FLOWER AND A FEW WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT.

LET ME READ IT TO YOU IN HIS OWN WORDS….

FRIENDS…THERE IS AN INCREDIBLE POWER IN A HEALTHY, GROWING FAITH THAT IS CENTERED NOT ON OURSELVES….NOT ON OUR PAIN OR PROBLEMS…BUT ON JESUS CHRIST!
2. A Healthy, Growing Faith is A PERSONAL FAITH.

LISTEN TO THESE WORDS FROM SCRIPTURE…

Isaiah 43:1-2 (NIV)… “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…”

YOU SEE…THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES OF JESUS TIME OBJECTED VERY STRONGLY TO JESUS CONSTANTLY CALLING GOD…”FATHER”. IT WAS TOO PERSONAL. TO FRIENDLY. THEY, IN FACT, THOUGHT IT WAS IMPROPER TO PRONOUNCE GOD’S NAME AT ALL.

AND SO THEIR FAITH BECAME A RELIGION….RATHER THAN A RELATIONSHIP!

BUT LISTEN TO HOW JESUS TRIED TO CONVEY HIS HEAVENLY FATHER TO HIS DISCIPLES: IN YOUR NOTES….

Luke 12:6-7 (NIV)… Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

FRIENDS…THERE IS STRENGTH AND COMFORT IN A PERSONAL GOD!

THE GOD OF THE N.T….IS A GOD WHO KNOWS ALL ABOUT US. THERE IS NOTHING THAT ESCAPES HIS ATTENTION.

HE KNOWS WHEN WE ARE DISCOURAGED….HE KNOWS WHEN WE ARE IN PAIN….HE KNOWS WHEN WE FEEL LONELY AND REJECTED….HE KNOWS IT ALL!

AND WHETHER WE FEEL IT OR NOT……….HIS WORDS ARE:

Isaiah 43:1-2 (NIV)… “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…”

Luke 12:6-7 (NIV)… Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

A HEALTHY, GROWING FAITH….IS A FAITH IN A PERSONAL GOD….WHO KNOWS AND CARES AND UNDERSTANDS EVERYTHING ABOUT US…..AND LOVES US ANYWAY!

3. A Healthy, Growing Faith Is VUNERABLE and Able to Be OPEN and HONEST with Human EMOTION.

YOU KNOW, DON’TYOU…..THAT MANY CHURCHES DISCOURAGE BEING VUNERABLE…WITH HONEST EMOTIONS. I DON’T KNOW WHERE WE GET THE IDEA…BUT SOMEHOW WE THINK THAT WE MUST ALWAYS PUT ON A FACAD OF COMPETENCE AND CONTROL.

WE FEEL WE CAN’T LET PEOPLE KNOW THAT THINGS “GET TO US”……OUR AUTOMATIC RESPONSE TO….”HOW YOU DOING??”” IS ALWAYS: “FINE, JUST FINE.”

WHILE…INSIDE….WE ARE OFTEN QUITE THE OPPOSITE.
WHERE DID WE EVER GET THE IDEA THAT A REAL CHRISTIAN….MUST ALWAYS BE ON TOP….THAT TO EXPRESS OUR HONEST EMOTIONS IS SOMEHOW A DENIAL OF FAITH??

WE DIDN’T GET IT FROM LOOKING AT JESUS! LOOK AT THESE VERSES:

Isaiah 53:3 (NIV)… He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.”

Matthew 26:37-38 (NIV)… He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

A HEALTHY, GROWING FAITH GIVES OURSELVES AND OTHERS PERMISSION TO BE HONEST AND OPEN ABOUT HOW WE FEEL AND WHAT’S GOING ON IN OUR LIVES.

WITHOUT THE FEAR OF CONDEMNATION….OR JUDGEMENT.

BEING A GENUINE CHRISTIAN….MEANS THAT WE CAN BE JUST AS HONES AND OPEN ABOUT OUR EMOTIONS AND STRUGGLES……AS JESUS WAS!

AND THAT, MY FRIENDS, IS HEALTHY IN EVERY WAY. THAT IS THE ONLY WAY WE CAN FIND HEALING AND THE SUPPORT THAT WE ALL….EVERYONE OF US NEEDS…..

THAT, IS THE POWER OF BEING A PART OF A SMALL GROUP…..

LASTLY……..

4. A Healthy, Growing Faith is FOCUSED ON LOVE.

Galatians 5:13-14 (NIV)… You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I John 4:16,19-21 (NIV)…”God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him…19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

“Love is the predominant characteristic of a healthy faith.”

I LIKE THE WAY THE MESSAGE VERSION TRANSLATES I CORINTHIANS 13:3…

“NO MATTER WHAT I SAY, WHAT I BELIEVE, AND WHAT I DO, I’M BANKRUPT WITHOUT LOVE.”

“Life is all about love! Because God is love, the most important lesson he wants you to learn on earth is how to love. It is in loving that we are most like him, so love is the foundation of every command he has given us; ‘the whole Law can be summed up in this one command; ‘Love others as you love yourself.”
Rick Warren; The Purpose Driven Life.

“THE BEST USE OF LIFE IS LOVE…..THE BEST EXPRESSION OF LOVE IS TIME….THE BEST TIME TO LOVE IS NOW.”

I CORINTHIANS 14:1….PUTS IT BEST: “MAKE LOVE YOUR AIM!”

4 MARKS OF A HEALTY, GROWING FAITH:

1. A Healthy, Growing Faith is CENTERED ON JESUS CHRIST.

2. A Healthy, Growing Faith is A PERSONAL FAITH.

3. A Healthy, Growing Faith Is VUNERABLE and Able to Be OPEN and HONEST with Human EMOTION.

4. A Healthy, Growing Faith is FOCUSED ON LOVE.