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Daniel Plan #5: "The Awesome Power of Faith"


Nov.8, 2015 Mark 9:14-29

(adapted with permission from Rick Warren, Saddleback Church)

God gives us power when we make the right choices; when we choose to do it His way we have additional power in our lives. Today we're looking at the Awesome Power of Faith.

What kind of person does God bless? What kind of person does God use? It's people who are not afraid to trust God completely - what we call the faith factor. God blesses people who are not afraid to trust Him completely. When you do that it produces enormous power in your life.

The Bible tells us there's a direct connection between faith and power. That the more faith you put in God, the more you let Him steer your life, drive your life, the more power and the more blessing you're going to have in it. Jesus illustrated this in Matthew 13. He'd gone to Nazareth, His home town. Mt 13:58 "Jesus did not do many miracles of power in His hometown, because of their lack of faith." Notice the connection between faith and power.

In the Bible Abraham is called the father of faith; why? Rom 4:20 "Abraham's faith did not leave him, and he did not doubt God's promise; instead his faith filled him with power."

Would you like to have more of God's power in your life? If you don't have God's power in your life you're going to be running on your own energy, and fatigued. God never meant for you to go through life just on your own power: it's like having a laptop unplugged - the battery eventually is going to drain. Plug into God's power, His "Niagara Falls" or "Bruce Nuclear" generator, and have enormous amounts of energy that you never thought possible. What's the secret? It's getting more faith.

Today we're going to look at four ways that you grow in faith so that God's power and blessing can be more evident in your life.

1) Faith is choosing and believing God's dream for my life

It all starts with a dream. It all starts with vision, an idea. What does God want to do in my life? Proverbs 29:18, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." You need to perceive, envision, God's future for you. Not just what the world or Big Commerce would try to sell you on. If you don't have a goal in life, you're liable to just go through life drifting by default. You need to find God's focus for your life. Faith gives us "eyes of eternity" to see that goal. To perceive God's dream for your life, you do three things.

First, Ephesians 3:20 "God, by His mighty power at work within us, is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of - infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes." It's as if God were to say, "Think of the biggest dream you can think of for your life.Guess what? I can top that! I can do something bigger in your life than the biggest thing you could dream of."

Circle the phrase "dare to ask." People of faith dare to ask. You ask first, "God, what's your dream for my life? What do you want me to do?" Maybe He's already put a heaven-inspired God-sized dream within you. Ask yourself, "What have I always dreamed of doing?" God does put desires in our hearts. Is it a God-honouring dream? Something that would bless others and cause His Name to be praised, OR is it just a dream for your selfish pleasure, usually involving sunshine on a warm beach in the Caribbean? If it's truly a God-worthy dream, why don't you ask God for it? James 4:2 "You have not because you ask not." Here's a question to ponder: "What would I attempt for God if I knew I couldn't fail?" Once He gives the vision, set a goal: goals are statements of faith - I trust that, with God's help, I'm supposed to do this by such and such a date. I believe God will empower me. So if you want God's blessing on your life, first you dare to ask.

Second, you believe God's promises. Jer 32:27 "I am the Lord, the God of all people of the world. Is anything too hard for me?" The answer is obviously no! Nothing is impossible with God. Just because your heaven-driven dream seems "impossible" doesn't mean you shouldn't go after it. God is the God of the impossible. That's where faith works - in the realm of the impossible.

Hudson Taylor said there are three stages to God's will in your life: impossible, possible, done. Start by believing God's promises: there are over 7000 of them in the Bible! And beware Satan whispering, "You can't do it."

Dare to ask; believe God's promises; three, you dream big. Psalm 2:8 "Ask of Me [there's that word "ask"] and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession." The size of your God should determine the size of your goal. You don't experientially exercise faith in God until you've attempted something that can't be done in the power of the flesh, or done in your own effort.

God shows you what he wants to do in your life, and how, and when. The when is the timing and God's timing is always perfect. You need to patient, and not try to hurry God. God's not going to show you what he's going to do in your life all at once; if he did it'd frighten you! He shows you a little bit at a time. If it's a dream you can say, I can give the rest of my life to this, you can really dream big.

Also ask yourself, "What am I really shaped to do?" SHAPE - Spiritual gifts, Heart, your Abilities, your Personality, your Experiences. The five things that make you you. Look at yourself and be honest and say, "What's my heart? What do I love to do? What am I gifted to do? What are my abilities?" Be honest - both optimistic and realistic at the same time. How do you know when you're shaped to do something? It's fun; you love to do it, you get an I-can't-wait-to-go-do-that. Stress comes from trying to be something you're not. Also, you create stress for other people around you when you're doing things that you weren't gifted to do.

The challenge here is to dream great dreams for God! It's your first step in the walk of faith; and it pleases God.

2) Second step - Faith is being willing to risk failure

Once we get a dream, we've got to take some risks to go after it. Faith is willing to risk failure to go after the dream that God has put in your mind and in your heart. Acts 15:26 "They risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ." Have you ever had to take any risks for the Lord Jesus Christ? Behold the turtle! He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out! Don't be afraid to go out on a limb because that's where the fruit is. Go ahead and take that risk.

Failure is no big deal. You just get up and do it again. That's how you learn: now we know what doesn't work. There's a great example in the book of Daniel. The book of Daniel was written when the Jewish nation of Israel had been uprooted and taken captive over to Iraq. For seventy years all the Jews lived in Babylon as captives. King Nebuchadnezzar made a rule that said, "When I ring the bell everybody's to bow down and worship this statue of me because I'm god." The Jews said, "We're not going to do that; we only obey the real God, not some phony idol." There were particularly three guys who refused to do it: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Nebuchadnezzar brought these guys and said, "All right boys! I hear you're not bowing down to the statue. If you don't bow down we're going to throw you into this big fiery furnace." We're going to throw you in there and you're going to be a crispy critter. They said, we're not going to do it. Dan 3:17f "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. [That's faith. He's able to do it and we believe he's going to do it.] But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

Faith, real faith, does not demand a guarantee of a miracle. It says, "We believe God wants us to do this; we believe God wants us to do this and will make us successful and protect us. But even if He does not, we're still going to do the right thing.

Faith doesn't demand a miracle. Faith says for example, "I believe God wants me to go start this business. I've prayed about it, I've sought advice; it's not just my idea, I've talked to godly counsel, who also think it's a good thing. So I'm going to go out and start it. Even if it bombs it's ok because even the bombing is part of God's plan. It's not my plan! My plan is for it to be a success." In other words, we're willing to make our plans and go God's way and if it doesn't work out, we're willing to risk failure. In fact we're willing to give our lives for it! That's faith.

You've got to learn to live for an audience of one. "God, I'm going to focus on you. I think this is the dream you've given me. I'm going to go after the dream. It doesn't matter the cheers or the jeers, the strokes or the pokes, the complaints or the criticisms or compliments: I'm just going to keep going." Goals are based on what you believe God can do, not what you believe you can do. The size of your God should determine the size of your goal.

Fear of other's opinions can hold us back from taking a faith-risk. Prov. 29:25 "The fear of human opinion disables." Or, fear of failure holds us back from taking a faith-risk.One thing we can do to get rid of the fear of failure is to stop comparing yourself to anybody else. Galatians 6:4 "Each one should test his own actions.Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to someone else." Notice: did you see that there is a legitimate pride? There's a good kind of pride and there's a bad kind of pride. The bad kind of pride is comparing. "I'm better than so and so!" The good kind of pride is "God, I'm proud of what you're doing in my family… I'm proud of what you're doing in my business… I'm proud of what you're doing in my life, you're helping me grow." That's fine. But what's bad is if you start comparing yourself to others.

One day God's going to judge you. He's going to evaluate you on your life. He's not going to say, how did you do in comparison to Mother Teresa? He's going to say, "What did you do with what you were given?" That's what you're going to be judged on. "Did you use the talents I gave you, the abilities I gave you? Did you grow? Did you trust me?" You're not called to be the best in the world; you're called to be the best God made you to be.

Jesus asserted in Mark 10:27, "All things are possible with God." Really believing God frees you to try something He wants that can't be done on your own energy and power.

Here's step three in learning to live a life of faith.

3) Faith is expecting God to bless and to use me

Paul had an expectation to be used by God for a great purpose - that Christ would be made much of. Philippians 1:20 "I expect and hope that I will not fail Christ in anything but that I will have the courage now… to show the greatness of Christ in my life here on earth, whether I live or die." David also had an expectation of God's blessing: Psalm 27:13 "I believe I shall enjoy the Lord's goodness in the land of the living."

Throughout the Bible, everybody God uses - it's because they expect Him to use them.When God does a miracle in Scripture, it's because somebody believed. Faith is getting God's dream, being willing to take a risk to head off in that dream, then expecting God to help you and bless you and use you to accomplish that dream.

Jesus said in Matthew 9:29, "According to your faith it will be done unto you." This implies God's saying, "You get to choose how much I bless your life, how much I use you, what I do in your business, your family, your relationships: "According to your faith it will be done unto you."

So what are you believing God for? You might say, "If I really expect God to do great things in my life, isn't that kind of like pride?" No, it's not pride at all. The Bible calls it faith. God does want us to live with humility. Trusting Him, our great God, reinforces that - that He's God and I'm not! God hates pride: He's against the proud. The middle letter of "pride" is "I"; the middle letter of "sin" is "I". Pride's when I want to be my own god and I want to do my own thing, I want to call the shots; I feel I don't need God. I'll do what I want to do in life. That's called pride.

If you get a big dream from God it will be so big you're bound to fail unless God bails you out. You will have problems that are so big they will be solvable only by prayer. You'll have to be on your knees in dependence and humility. If you can accomplish it on your own it's not a dream from God. So you're going to have big problems that you'll have to be in prayer for and trust God for.

Another thing that may happen as God blesses and uses you is: other people taking credit for your work. You get a big dream and other people will claim the credit for it. God can do great things through the person who doesn't care who gets the credit. So you just keep moving on.

It's very easy for God to humble you; it's much harder for God to get you to believe bigger than you've ever believed before. Hebrews 11:1 says God wants us to expect things from Him: "Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot see." We just come to God and say, "Ok, God, take over. Here's the dream. Here's my life. Here's my reputation. You call the shots and I'm going to trust you from here on out." You take the wheel, Lord. You call the shots; you be the CEO of my life, chairman of the board. I'm under new management: You're in charge and I'm not.

So what you do is you get God's dream. "God, you put this dream in my heart; I think this is what you want me to do so I'm going to go after it and I'm going to go after it in faith. I'm even going to take some risks. I'm going to be willing to risk failure. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, even if it doesn't work out I know you're going to be pleased because I went after the dream you put in my heart. I'm going to keep on going at that." That brings us to the last point.

4) Faith is never giving up

It's never giving up! When Jesus is at the wheel of your life you don't have to worry about it. Faith is persistent, diligent, it keeps on keeping on. Psalm 31:24 "Be brave.Be strong.Don't give up." Great people are just ordinary people who don't quit. Too many people just want to do what's convenient, what's comfortable, what's popular. When you're coasting you're always headed down hill! Great people never give up. Psalm 118:109 "My life hangs in the balance, but I will not give up obedience to Your Word." Some of you may feel like your life is in the balance. You say, "My finances are in the toilet. My marriage is about to come apart. My relationship with my boyfriend or my girlfriend, it's just not working out. I'm having conflict with my parents, with my kids. I'm dealing with illness after illness. All these other things - my life is hanging in the balance." But despite all this, what's the person of faith say? "But I will not give up obedience to Your Word." You need to get that kind of conviction about God's dream for your life. Not giving up obedience to God's teaching, what He's shown you.

Proverbs 24:16 "Even if good people fall seven times, they'll get back up." Even good people stumble! We all make mistakes on a daily basis; the difference between righteous and unrighteous is the good people get back up. It says if they fall, they get back up: failure is never final; and you're never a failure until you quit. You don't determine a person's greatness by their talent, their wealth or their education: you determine a person's greatness by what it takes to discourage them.

So what does it take to discourage you from going after your God-inspired dream? What about one word like, "I don't think that's a good idea," from a friend or relative or family member? Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:9 "Let us not get tired of [doing good] doing what is right, for after a while [notice there's a time delay there] we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't get discouraged and give up." God says, "Just keep on keeping on." I may not be real bright sometimes, but I don't know how to quit, how to give up.

God works in your life according to your faith. As we saw in Hebrews 11:6, "Without faith it's impossible to please God." The Bible says, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Matthew 9:29 "According to your faith it will be done unto you." So what are you doing in faith? Ask yourself every day when you get up, "God, what can I do today that will require faith?" Because that's what's going to please God.

There are a lot of things in your life you don't have control over - who your parents were, when or where you were born, your natural gifts and talents, how you look. There are a lot of things you don't have control over. But the most important thing you have 100% control over, which is: how much you choose to believe God. God uses people who expect him to act. Who never give up. Who take risks in faith. Who get his dream and go after it. That's the kind of person God uses. That's your choice.

[Story from Cheryl W.] The other day on 100 Huntley Street, a man by the name of Sean (last name?) was sharing his testimony. He was a homeless person on the streets of Vancouver. One day a family with 6 children came by with a pot of hot soup in the back of their van and offered him a meal. Afterwards, they invited him into their home. He showered, was given clean clothes and became a part of this family. He said "I was so loved on" (and described how he played with the children and bounced the youngest on his lap). One Sunday he went to church with his new family and accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord. Today he is a Pastor at Glad Tidings church, and reaching out to other homeless people. I could not stop crying as I listened to his story. I was so moved, by God's love, and the love of this family that was willing to take a God-led risk to invite this man into their home and make him a part of their family. Isn't this what Jesus would do?

How do you grow in faith? You ask God - "Help me grow. Help me with my unbelief." And start reading His Word, the Bible, which is chocked full of His promises and the proof of His trustworthiness: how He always came through for His people in the past. And His patience with and compassion for those who are at the end of their rope. People who faced their own problems, just like you. You get into the Bible. In Mark 9, a man came to Jesus, his child was sick; this father cried out with tears, "Lord, I believe.Help me with my unbelief!" Jesus challenged him - "Do you believe I can heal her?" The man answered, "Lord, I believe! Help me with my unbelief!" Jesus said, "that's good enough!" and healed the child. You need to say that to him right now. Let's pray.