19 Oct 2013 by Jason Law CM-
Last Sunday, City Harvest KL was blessed by the sharing of the Word from Rev Phil Pringle, and the message to be bold and full of faith couldn’t be more relevant or apt for a church filled with the young generation. Rev Phil exhibits a visage that belies his age, and is probably one of the most dynamic and vigorous evangelists that you will ever get to meet. Even before sharing the Word, Rev Phil shared about the joy and confidence we have in Christ, and that we need to show this excitement of a relationship with God to others in a clear and visible way. We are called to rejoice as the people of God, and joy is the evidence of the presence of God. Unless we exhibit clear signs of this joy, we will never extend His presence convincingly to pre-believers.
Rev Phil’s topic, ‘Rise and Build: Step of Faith’, is an encouragement for Christians to rise and build up to be effective and influential servants of God, through the exercise of faith. Rev Phil shared that to be authoritative and influential Christians, we need to possess a certain level of faith and the God-led ability to be decisive and not double-minded. James 1:6 states clearly that one who doubts in faith has no firm foundation regarding their identity in God, but is easily swayed or tossed about by the cares of the world. Many of us have the tendency to be distracted by the ‘voices’ that fill our minds. Issues such as job responsibilities, personal image, entertainment, problems of life, and relationships fill up our time.
Amidst all these, God is still speaking. God’s voice is gentle and soft in nature and He is a respecter of our free wills. He does not force us to listen to Him, but He is still concerned and interested in us. Many people are controlled by fear. To be anchored in our identities as children of God, we need to quieten down and learn to listen to His voice. As Christians, we should have the confidence and faith in God’s leading in our lives. The steps of men are ordered by the Lord. Having this confidence will empower Christians to make a decision and commit to it.
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
Barriers to Faith
Rev Phil shared about four common barriers to faith:
1. Some people are nervous of the unknown and unfamiliar. Taking new steps in a completely strange environment scares people and hinders their faith level.
2. Some people are afraid of commitment. Commitment entails responsibility and many people are afraid that they’re unable to fulfill their ends of the promises.
3. Some people can’t keep decisions. They are easily swayed or tempted by the cares of the world. This may sometimes involve a change of lifestyle or require one.
4. Some people are afraid of taking up the responsibility of making decisions. Rev Phil gave the example of Adam and Eve. Instead of taking the decision to warn Eve about the forbidden fruit, Adam too fell into temptation, and then placed the blame on Eve.
Rev Phil encouraged us to stop being victims of circumstances. We can’t control what happens to us in our lives, but we can determine our response to them. Stop making excuses, instead learn to take control and make decisions.
The Positive Always Requires A Conscious Decision
Unlike the devil who forces his way into our lives, God gives us freedom of choice, and does not violate this freedom. This is clearly illustrated in the biblical passage of Luke 14:16-12. Do you realize that often temptations are harder to resist than God’s direction? For example, God encourages us to share the Good News as a blessing to others, but many people find it difficult to do so because of the freedom of choice we have. We are not pressurized to share the Good News, and God is not going to zap you if you do not follow His guidance. Conversely, many people easily fall to the wiles of the devil, pursuing a self-indulgent lifestyle without being self-controlled because of the psychological pressures that accompany such temptations.
On a deeper level, however, what this means is that the positive things in life such as success and health always requires a conscious decision. If we want to be successful, we have to discipline ourselves to study and work hard. If we want to have good physiques and health, we have to discipline ourselves to an exercise schedule. In the same way, if we want to grow as Christians, we have to make a conscious decision to place our faith in God’s direction and have a daily relationship with our Father. If we purpose to do nothing, we will lack a sense of direction and expose ourselves to vulnerability. Don’t leave things to chance. Take control of your decisions and move with God. God moves us even further and breakthroughs take place when we are moving with Him.
Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
Character of Strength Rests on Commitment
To be influential Christians, we also need to develop the ability to trust in God and look to the future. Rev Phil shared an example of the windscreen and rear-view mirror in our cars. Do you realize that the windscreen in our cars takes up the whole front view, while each rear-view mirror is much smaller in size? This is a useful reminder that the forward view is much more important. The past serves as a guide towards the future but we need to focus to the future. Don’t be half-hearted in our Christian walk. Forward-view mentality helps us to be steadfast Christians, and we need to develop such a commitment if we want to be influential ministers for God.
Rev Phil shared an example from the Bible found in 2 Corinthians 8:10-12 as an example of a practical application of such commitment. In this passage, Paul encourages the Corinthian Church to live up to their commitment to bless the less fortunate churches and community, and held them up to accountability.
2 Corinthians 8:10-12
And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
Character of strength rests on commitment. Keep our promises and be people of integrity, with marks of trustworthiness and reliability. Often, in our weaker moments, we make promises just to keep the peace without any confidence and intentionality in keeping it. We should learn to place our faiths in God, and make that commitment a pledge with all its earnest implications.
The Step of Faith is the Greatest Step We Can Take
Rev Phil also shared that the step of faith is the greatest step a Christian can take. Because God has a gentlemanly nature and respects our free wills, He will not force us to take those steps of faith. They need practical action. We need to step out of the boat. Often, we may hit the boundary of doubt, but this boundary of doubt is evidence that we are stepping out of our comfort zone. Faith requires risk. If there is no doubt, it wouldn’t be called faith which is a state of trust.
The activation of faith require us to step out despite of our doubts. Many great Christian men and women started out taking that first step, knowing God is with them but unsure, and their faith rose from one level to another each time they rose above a threshold of doubt. Rev Phil shared that there are 365 ‘Fear Not’s in the Bible. This means that God does not want us to fear for a single day in our life. Everyday God is with us. This gives confidence to Christians to look to the future and beyond circumstances.
Examples abound in the Bible of such testimonies of faith. Some examples are Matthew 9:6 and Luke 17:11-19. In both testimonies, men were healed because of their faith. In the example from Luke, a man from the despised ethnoreligious Samaritan group took the step of faith of approaching a group of Jewish priests despite the possible consequences that could have fallen on him.
But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
God Wants Us Agile Not Fragile
We serve an awesome God, and He intends us to be agile, and not fragile. We need to stretch ourselves and be bigger people. Our God is limitless. He is the God that created an immeasurably huge universe, and a multitude of lifeforms as well as inanimate objects, just simply because He loves Creation, Diversity, Life and His people. And if we have faith and strength through our awesome God, we can rise above any circumstances. Christians are meant to be big people. We ought to be large and not small-minded. God doesn’t think small. He thinks everlasting abundance. Miracles happen when people take steps of faith and think big.
Probably the best example to illustrate faith in action is Matthew 14: 28-29 about Peter walking on the water. The thing to note here is that Peter took a step of faith, and for a while, he did the remarkable. He walked on water. No other human in history ever did that. When Peter stepped out of the security of the boat, he took a step of faith and stepped into the supernatural. The reason Peter faltered was because he lost sight of Jesus. Don’t be nervous about the power of God. Keep our eyes focused on Jesus.
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
Our identity in Christ brings us huge promise and potential to achieve great things through Him. In order for that to come, however, we need to be decisive people of faith in God. Rev Phil’s message was a great encouragement and reminder of this point of significance to Christians.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us
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