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A CRISIS OF FAITH

by Robert L. Cobb
-Administrator, News For Christians Dot Com

    Why do Christians who have served God faithfully and successfully for many years suddenly "go back" on God?    A certain preacher has a loving family, and successful church of over 300 members.  But yet he forsakes it all for a younger woman who is a member of his church.  He leaves his family, his church, his hometown and his God to try to start a new life because he is so tired of the old one.
         The adult Sunday School teacher has taught the same class for over 20 years.  He has outlined his own lessons and blessed many through his ministry.  One day his wife comes home to find that he has left her.  She goes through some of his belongings that he did not take with him, trying to find a clue as to "why."
         She finds pornographic literature and letters from a lover.  A MAN!  This sunday school teacher of over 20 years in a fundamental church had been living a "double" life for over 2 years.  He leaves his wife to begin  openly living the homosexual lifestyle.
         The missionary couple felt the call to go to Germany.  They had both been stationed there in the Army and had met there.  They got their support up to 75% and took off for the mission field.  They stayed for 3 years, but it was not what they thought it would be.   They begin disagree-ing and arguing over the slightest things.
         The mission church was averaging an attendance of only about 10 and both of them were tired of trying.  The mission work and the marriage were too much of a hassle.  They came home defeated and were divorced about a year later.  He had to find a job and the missionary was no more.

WHAT IS WRONG IN CHRISTIAN'S LIVES?

     What happened to these people?  Were they lost and didn't know it?  Were they impostors who finally were caught up with?  Were they pseudo Christians who never really repented and believed?
         I submit to you that such illustrations as these show a crisis of faith in a person's life.  God has a work for all of us to do, preacher and lay person alike.  It is not a "hobby' or a "sideline," it is a "work of God."  He calls us, he equips us, he empowers us, and he works through us.  So why are we such failures?  Why are we such quitters?  Again, I believe, at times, we experience a crisis of faith in our lives.
         These "crises" should be periods of development.  God uses two methods to develop his people, "process" and "crisis."  Process is slow, sometimes unseen.  But the crisis is a sudden turn of events, most times public, that changes the individual forever, for either good or bad.
         How many of us have made "resolutions" and "promises" to God and  ourselves about a particular area of our lives only to come up short.  How many of us have begun good works for God only to quit when the going got tough?  The sunday school class, the visitation program, the bus ministry, the lady's work, the nursing home, the shut-in ministry, the mission project.
         The crisis of faith is that which either "makes" us or "breaks" us.  It is the vehicle that God uses to let us see inside ourselves, let us learn just what we are as Christians.  God uses crisis in our lives to build and make us, not tear us down.  Why, then, do so many fail during these times?

FAITH IS A PRE-REQUISITE TO OUR SERVICE

         The real problem that many Christian workers need to acknowledge is that they are not personally fulfilled in their service to God.   We are not really everything we present ourselves to be. Now is it God's fault that we are unfulfilled?  We all know that it most certainly is NOT God's fault.  The failure, no doubt,  rests with us  --but where? --IN THE AREA OF FAITH.
 Hebrews 11:6 tells us that "...without faith it is impossible..." to please God.  We want to please God in our Christian service but we attempt to do it without faith, or with little faith.  Let me show you what I mean.


I.    THE RECRUITMENT OF NEEDED LABORERS  Mat. 9:36-38
36  But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, 
because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
37  Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers
 are few;38  Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

    The "heartbeat" of God can be found in these verses.  God's sole purpose for leaving us here after saving us is that we would be His laborers in the harvest.  We seem to lose sight of this at times in our lives.  It doesn't matter how big your bank account is, or what kind of house you live in, or the car you drive.  What matters is, "what are you doing in the work of God?"
         THERE WAS A PLENTEOUS CROP.  What a monumental task it is!  Such a great undertaking!  I was raised in rural surroundings.  I know what it is to look over a large field that is ready for harvest, knowing that I must be one of the workers.  The crop cannot wait. There is an urgency in Jesus' words.  There should be an urgency in our labors for God.
         THERE WAS A PITIFUL CONDITION.  Jesus said that the "laborers were few."  There is no bigger shame in agriculture than to let a crop ruin on the vine.  It is a shame to the landowner and a shame to the laborer.  What kind of person could walk past a field ready for harvest and not offer to help?
          THERE WAS A PRAYERFUL CONCERN.  Jesus said to pray that the Lord of the harvest  will send laborers.  This means to become concerned for the same things God is concerned for.  Don't just walk past the field without at least praying for help.  In the beginning, God just wants to get us to become concerned.  Don't worry about doing anything yet, just  pray.


II.   THE RESOURCES OF THE PROPER LEADER   Matt. 10:1-15
1 ¶ And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power 
against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and 
all manner of disease.5 ¶ These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, 
saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans 
enter ye not:

    When we commit ourselves to pray, an amazing thing happens.  Our prayer turns to a burden and we find ourselves being impressed to serve in the work of God.  As God's workers, many times we forget that we are "just hired hands."  The responsibility to succeed does not fall on us, only the responsibility to be faithful.  The resources that we need as God's workers are supplied to us by our leader, Jesus Christ.

        HE CALLS THE LABORERS.  It is not our business to judge God's workers.  It is our business to do the work that God has called US to do.  Many times we get bogged down in personalities and personal problems in the service of God.  Remember, God calls the laborers and He is the boss.  We are just his "hired hands."
        HE PROVIDES THE EQUIPMENT.   The employer is responsible for providing his employees with what they need to do their job.  In the scripture above, we find that God can be unorthodox in His choice of equipment.  His provision for the disciples was His Power.  "He gave them power..."  Notice that He expressly told them not to be concerned with money or extra clothes or shoes. 
         HE GIVES THE INSTRUCTIONS.    In verses 5-6, Jesus gives explicit instructions to his workers.  He says to bypass the gentiles and the Samaritans and go directly to Israel.  God does the same for His workers today.  He will lead us into the service He has for us.  These instructions are for us individually.  No one else can fill our place in the plan of God.


III.  THE REWARDS OF APPARENT SUCCESS  (Luke 10:17)
17 ¶ And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, 
even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.

    When you begin a work for God, there are two extremes  -success and failure.  What constitutes success in Christian work, and what do we consider failure?  With some it is attendance numbers; with others it is the prestige or acclaim we gain from others.
        In the business world, success is determined by dollar amounts or sales figures.  In sports, success is determined by wins and losses.  The disciples in the above verse counted success by the number of devils cast out.  Notice the headings speaks of "apparent" success. 
        These disciples measured success by external means.  We need to learn that success in the Lord's work cannot be determined the same as a business or a sports team.
        As we consider the above verse, lets think of some of the rewards of apparent success in Christian ministry.

  1.    There is a Sense of Purpose  (with joy...us..)

  2.    There is a Sense of  Power   (subject unto us...)

  3.    There is a Sense of Promise   (even......)

         There is a fleshly attraction to all these things.  Many ministries and ministers have been sidetracked by these human emotions.  Notice that these reflect some of the most basic needs of man. The  only problem is  that God's work is not accomplished in the flesh.  In the next point, we will see the rebuke of Christ because of the emphasis on the "external" things.


IV.  THE REBUKE OF MISPLACED PRIORITIES   (Luke 10:18-20)
18  And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.
19  Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, 
and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
20  Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; 
but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.

    Jesus seemingly responds in a strange way to the disciples joy.  His response reveals a seldom stressed principle of God's word.  Why did Jesus puts a damper on their "rejoicing" about their success?  Here we find the secret to Christian work.
       A MENTION OF SATANIC RUIN       The disciples based their rejoicing on the success that they achieved in casting out devils.  Of all the great works done, this was the most exhilarating to them.  Jesus reminded them that he saw and oversaw the fall of Satan from Heaven.   The devils being subject to them was not because of their skill or power, it was because of God's plan.

       A MINISTRY THAT IS  RESULTS ORIENTED  v. 20a     The problem that the disciples had was a problem that we have in our Christian service today.  We base our success on results.  We begin a work for God because we believe it is in the will of God.  We rejoice because of "good" results. We quit and become discouraged because of "bad" results.
         There is nothing wrong with establishing goals.  But it is wrong to base the quality or power of a ministry on the external results of that ministry.    God puts some in that Sunday school class to reach ONE person.  God could place you on a certain job to reach ONE co-worker.  Don't concern yourself with results.!!!
        How many times have you been "run off" from a house when you tried to present the gospel to those that were within?  Do you really believe that God will not reward your faithfulness to knock on that door if you did it in faith and for Jesus' sake?  Truly, the results are in God's hands.  The faith to do what God calls us to do is in our hands.

       A MINISTRY THAT IS RESOURCE ORIENTED  v. 20b     But rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven, Jesus tells them.  Rejoice because you are in the family.   Rejoice because you are part of the plan of God.   Rejoice because God is willing to use you.   Rejoice because God has given you faith to work for Him.
        These are the resources that He has given us and we should rejoice in Him.  He is our motive!  He is our ministry!  He is our success!   We should constantly remind ourselves that we are laborers for Him.  He judges us by our faith--   not our apparent success or failure.


V.    THE REALITY OF ABSOLUTE FAILURE    (Mat. 17:14-19)
15  Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed:
 for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.
16  And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him

    Sooner or later, if your ministry is RESULTS oriented, you will meet with apparent failure.  We all have a drive to succeed,  to prosper, to win.  We want to see results.  When we judge our service by our results, we bind ourselves to our own failures.

        A SAD CIRCUMSTANCE            These were the same apostles that were rejoicing at how the demons were subject to them.  But this was a hard case.  There were extenuating circumstances with this case. In Luke we find that this was the mans only son.  It is certainly a sad situation.  He had come to the right place, in the right way, for the right reason.  But the disciples "could not."  What happens to us when we "can not" ?

        A POWERLESS CHRISTIAN         We all have times in our Christian lives when we are not what we should be for God.  The sad truth is that many people could suffer needlessly because of our lack of power.  "...and they could not.."   We are finite beings, sinners, poor representatives of our God.  There was no reason for failure here.  Everything was in place.  Authority, power.  What was missing?  Faith!!!!   A Crisis of Faith.

        A REVEALING CONCLUSION   (Mark 9:22:25)   "If thou canst do anything..."  the father says to Jesus.  Because of  the disciples failure, the father now had less faith in Jesus.  That is still true today.   "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth."  Jesus deals in the currency of faith.  The disciples lacked the faith to heal the boy.


VI.   THE REQUIREMENT OF GREATER FAITH   Matthew 17:19-21
19  Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?20  And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have  faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to  yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.21  Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

    "Why could we not?" the disciples asked.  It was a legitimate question.  We all should learn from our mistakes and this was a situation that the disciples knew they could learn from.   He answered them plainly.  "Because of your unbelief."   Christian work is accomplished by faith, and the disciples didn't have enough.
         What can we as the Lord's disciples do when we lack the faith to accomplish God's works?  Should we quit?  Start over?  walk away?  No!!
But sadly, many are doing just that.  Here is a crisis of faith for the disciples and they handled it correctly.  They came to Jesus privately and asked Him about their failures.  How do you handle failures?
        The answer that Jesus gave the struggling disciples is the answer that he gives His struggling disciples today.  Notice His words.

          THIS KIND... There are works for God that require "extra" faith.  There are times in all our lives when we need "extra faith."  Who knows when we will come upon a "this kind."  It was a surprise to the disciples; they were not expecting it.

          BY PRAYER....      This speaks of  the spiritual life, the Christ life, the Spirit filled life.  It is not enough just to avoid sin and live a clean life, we must place Christ at the center of our lives, "not I, but Christ liveth in me..."
Prayer represents that special "abiding life" that we can enjoy in Him.  How do we accomplish God's work? ....By abiding in Him!  There is no turmoil, temptation, or trial that can overcome one of God's children when he is abiding in Christ.

        .....AND FASTING   This speaks of the fleshly life.  There must always be a powerful control over the flesh.  What is fasting but controlling the flesh?  We must, like Paul, bring our bodies into subjection if we would be effective laborers for God.    God is telling us that greater faith or extra faith is gained through a self-control over the flesh of man and God-control over the spirit of man.

CONCLUSION:  Here are nine principles that we can gather from these scriptures:-
-

PRINCIPLE #1
Success or failure  is not determined by the quality 
of our work but by the quality of our faith!
PRINCIPLE #2
TO PRAY FOR THE WORK OF GOD IS THE FIRST STEP IN DOING 
THE WORK OF GOD.  PRAYER SHOWS YOUR CONCERN FOR GOD'S 
HARVEST, AND IS THE STEPPINGSTONE TO GREATER THINGS.

PRINCIPLE #3
We all are ALL called of God into His service.  We have no more 
right to disregard His call than does the preacher or pastor.
-
PRINCIPLE #4
SUCCESS IN GOD'S WORK IS NOT MEASURED 
THE SAME AS SUCCESS IN SECULAR WORK.
-
PRINCIPLE #5
WE SHOULD TAKE PLEASURE AND JOY IN THE FACT THAT GOD 
IS WILLING TO USE US, RATHER THAN WHAT GOD ACCOMPLISHES
THROUGH US.  WE CAN NEVER FULLY KNOW WHAT GOD IS DOING 
THROUGH OUR SERVICE TO HIM.
-
PRINCIPLE #6
HOW WE HANDLE ADVERSITY DETERMINES HOW
FAR WE GO WITH GOD.
-
PRINCIPLE #7
GOD GIVES US AS MUCH FAITH AS HE CAN TRUST US WITH.
IT IS UP TO US TO MAKE OURSELVES USABLE TO GOD
-
PRINCIPLE #8
WE FAIL BECAUSE OF A LACK OF FAITH. WE LACK FAITH
BECAUSE WE FAIL TO WALK DAILY IN THE SPIRIT.
-
PRINCIPLE #9
A CRISIS OF FAITH WILL COME TO ALL OF US AT DIFFERENT
TIMES IN OUR LIVES.  WE NEED TO BE READY.

 

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