Imagine a situation that you would find terrifying? For example, for me, it might be being lost, swimming in a rough sea at night, struggling to stay afloat, going under for long periods, gulping down salt water, and not knowing what sharks or whatever were circling. Are you imagining your situation?
Is it conceivable that you would be able to say, “I have complete confidence in God”? Because, God is powerful enough to shut the mouths of sharks, isn’t He? He shut the mouths of lions for Daniel. God knows your predicament, doesn’t He? God does love you, doesn’t He? All of those things mean that you should be able to have complete confidence. And even if you were to die, God is able to give you peace and to take you to heaven, isn’t He?
That might sound overly glib and silly and, remember, even Jesus experienced extreme stress in the Garden of Gethsemane and again on the Cross. I am not saying you would have no fear but Jesus worked that through in prayer and came to the point of “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.”
In your terrifying situation, you would need the grace of God to have that sort of confidence. It might not come naturally. But could you conceive of having complete confidence in God?
Who knows what doubts David had when he went out to fight Goliath, or Elijah when he faced the 450 prophets of Baal, or Abraham when asked to sacrifice Isaac but the stories read as if they had complete confidence in God. The result was victory in each case and God received glory.
What would it be like to have complete confidence in God? For one thing, we wouldn’t worry. Worry shows that we are not confident.
Imagine you have just received a bad diagnosis from your doctor. What difference would it make to be able to say, “I have complete confidence in God”? I know God is powerful and is able to heal but even if He doesn’t, I know that God will give eternal life, in heaven, to all who have put their faith in Jesus.
Imagine you were on a plane in the midst of turbulence – or on a plane hijacked by a terrorist. Would you like to be able to say, “I have complete confidence in God”? Do you believe that God is powerful? Do you believe that God is in control? Or do you think events are out of God’s control? Do you believe that God loves you?
Imagine you truly believed that God had asked you to pray for someone who had just died – to raise the dead like the disciples did. Could you say, “I have complete confidence in God”? If God has asked you to do it, can you believe He has a good reason?
We could name lots of other scenarios – every aspect of life. What difference would it make to have perfect faith?
Mark 9:23 Everything is possible for the person who believes.
Matthew 17:20 (In the context of talking about having faith the size of a mustard seed) Nothing will be impossible for you.
How can we grow our faith? I want to look at that over the next three weeks because we might find our lives, and our church life, was completely different if we had stronger faith.
The first key to a stronger faith is this: Get to know God better. The only way we can have confidence in Him is by getting to know Him better. You need to know a person before you can trust him or her.
Read Luke 24:13-35
Those two people on the road to Emmaus were the very picture of a lack of faith. They were downcast and dispirited. They were defeated. They had no hope, no expectation. They said, “We had hoped (v.21). We had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” They had but they didn’t now. They had hoped but the Jewish authorities had killed Him. Even the reports of the empty tomb didn’t cheer them up. It seems to have only added to their confusion and depression. The women claimed to have seen angels who had said that Jesus was alive, but these two people still didn’t believe.
Indeed, Jesus chided them for being slow to believe all that the prophets had spoken (v.25).
How well did they know Jesus? They didn’t even recognise Him. I know the passage says they were kept from recognising Him. God, somehow, closed their faith eyes. Obviously their natural eyes were still open. They could see the road and the hills. They could see Him. But they couldn’t see who He was. Likewise, we need our eyes opened to see God.
This story tells of a journey from not seeing and not understanding and not knowing to having their eyes opened. At first He was a stranger. By the end He was known to them. By the end, He had revealed Himself; He had taught them; He had inspired them so that their hearts burned within them; He had fellowshipped with them; and He had given them faith where there had been only despair. How can we go on a similar journey and move into a deeper knowledge of God; from knowing about God but Him being something of a stranger, to also recognising Him, hearing His voice, being taught by Him, being inspired by Him, fellowshipping with Him and having a new faith?
The number one way of getting to know Him better is by reading the Bible. If you want to be a person of faith, read the Bible. That was the method Jesus used here – which might be quite surprising. Surely He could have simply shown them His wounds to prove that He really was Jesus – let them see that He was alive. Surely He could have performed some miracles and restored their faith.
But He chose to take them on a journey through the Bible, from the beginning of the Bible – from the books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible and then through all the prophets. He surveyed the whole of the Old Testament and explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning Himself. I guess they had never seen Jesus in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Haggai, Daniel, and all the other books. But all of the Bible is about Jesus. He revealed brand new truth to them in such a way that their hearts burned with excitement.
But why do a Bible study rather than just show them His hands? Because He wanted them to know more than just that the man who had died was alive again. He wanted them to know who He was. He was the Messiah whom God had been revealing in the scriptures since the beginning of time. It is the scriptures that reveal God to us.
He opened the scriptures to them to answer the question “Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?” They had recounted to Him the events of the last few days. In their minds it was a story of failure. But He showed them that these things were exactly what God had foretold in the Bible. These things had to happen. They weren’t failure; they were God’s plan. When they saw that, their hearts burned. All this made sense – exciting sense.
It went a step further when they shared the meal and Jesus broke the bread. Their eyes were opened and they recognised Him. It wasn’t just truth; it was relationship. Despite having a new understanding of God’s plan as revealed in scripture, they still didn’t know that this stranger in their midst was Jesus, until He opened their eyes. They knew the truth about the Messiah; and they met the Messiah.
How do we know if we can have confidence in God?
In the Bible we see the character of God. For example, what do we see of God in today’s passage? We see the power of God. This story is about the resurrection. The disciples spoke of the arrest and the sentencing and the crucifixion, plus the confusing reports of an empty tomb. All of the disciples had been confused and doubtful. This story is one of a series about the reality of the resurrection. Cleopas and his friend rushed back to Jerusalem and discovered the other disciples saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen!” and they were able to tell their own story about fellowshipping with the risen Jesus.
Primarily this story is about the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead. What difference does it make to know that God is powerful? And, of course, there are masses of other biblical stories of the power of God, starting with God creating just by saying, “Let there be…”. We can read story after story of the power of God. That builds faith.
In this story we also see the sovereignty of God. God is in control. God is on His throne. God is working His purposes out. Even the arrest and sentencing and death were part of God’s plan. These things had to happen. Amazingly, God had been predicting them for centuries and God had caused them to happen.
So often life seems out of control. But in the scriptures we find a God who is in control. If you were in your terrifying situation, could you have peace knowing that God is in control – whatever the outcome? In the Bible nothing defeats God. Satan must have thought that he had won when Jesus was crucified but no, it was actually all part of God’s plan. Joseph’s sale into slavery his brothers meant or evil, but, actually, it was all part of God’s plan for good.
I think the sovereignty of God is something that I need to understand better. It is only recently that I have realised that this is foundational for faith; can I trust that God has a plan and He is working it out. He is boss; He will not be defeated.
We also see in the Emmaus story, the compassion of God. Jesus was willing to spend considerable time with two depressed people and to open their eyes. We see His concern for the suffering individual throughout the gospels. This is the character of God and even though we frequently talk about the love of God, do we understand how much He loves each one of us? The more we read the Bible, the better we know the reality of what God is like.
When you combine the power of God and the sovereignty of God with the love of God, you know that God uses His power for the good of His people. Can I trust a God who loves me and is all-powerful? That is not saying that everything will go smoothly for me. It is saying that God cares about me and He knows what He is doing. Knowing that, can I say, “I have complete confidence in God”? It is as I read the Bible that I become more convinced that He loves me, He has a plan, and He is powerful.
There are more aspects of the character of God. It is by reading the Bible that we learn what He is like.
But we don’t see only the character of God. We also see the promises of God and He keeps His promises. We also see the Kingdom of God with all the hope that that contains. We learn the ways of God. Everything we learn about God helps us to know that we can trust Him. Having complete confidence in God changes how we face adversity, how we deal with temptation, the readiness with which we obey Him, everything. Could we pray for the dead to be raised?
The number one key to growing in faith is getting to know God. And the primary way to do that is to read the scriptures.
Romans 10:17 Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.
As you read the Bible, hungry to know God, He will reveal Himself and your faith will grow. And nothing is impossible for the person who believes.