Passionate Faith - Part 2
Pastor Arn Buck
Heart Song Worship Center
Isaiah 26:2-4 (NLT) Open the gates to all who are righteous; allow the faithful to enter. You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the LORD always, for the LORD GOD is the eternal Rock.
The Role of Trust in Relationships
When people form any dependency with each other, they expose themselves to hurt and injury. Laws, contracts, and prenuptial agreements exist because mankind has a track record of exploiting trust. Over time we learn that even our closest friends can lie to us, double cross us, and abandon us in times of need. Things such as these cause us to be cautious with our trust. Although this posture helps protect us from hurt, it hinders the development of deep and loving relationships. These cannot exist without a high degree of trust.
God understands betrayal by those close to Him. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. His own beloved nation of Israel forced the unwilling Pontius Pilate to kill Him in an indescribably cruel and painful manner. When we think of these things, we must remember that God is not without emotions. Just as we do not comprehend His limitless love, we cannot imagine the intensity of His pain whenever we reject or disappoint Him.
Christian faith is not an entity to itself. God uses faith as a means of reducing the barriers between Himself and us by strengthening our trust in Him. Many verses throughout the Bible speak of His faithfulness. Knowing and accepting this truth intellectually is a first step. He wants to re-enforce this truth by having us experience it. He wants His faithfulness to be as much a reality to us as our very existence is to us.
Throughout history Jews and Christians have shown that they often rely more on the tenuous promises of man than in God's trustworthy provision. Apparently we feel that a visible potential threat offers more security than an invisible benefactor who has always been faithful to all His promises. If we could only step back and see our foolishness!
Entrusting All We Have
Joseph was so despised by his brothers that they almost murdered him. If it were not for Reuben's persuasion, he would have been killed. Instead he was sold to Midianite traders who, in turn, sold him to Potiphar in Egypt. Potiphar was captain of Pharaoh's guard.
Genesis 39:2-6a (NLT) The LORD was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master.Potiphar noticed this and realized that the LORD was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did.This pleased Potiphar, so he soon made Joseph his personal attendant. He put him in charge of his entire household and everything he owned. From the day Joseph was put in charge of his master's household and property, the LORD began to bless Potiphar's household for Joseph's sake. All his household affairs ran smoothly, and his crops and livestock flourished. So Potiphar gave Joseph complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn't worry about a thing-except what kind of food to eat!
Joseph did not appear to loose His trust in God after being betrayed by his brothers and finding himself alone in a foreign land as a slave. I do not believe that the scriptures would say that, "God was with him and he succeeded in everything thing he did," if Joseph had lost his faith. He served Potiphar so impressively that Potiphar put him in charge of all that he had. As we exercise our faith, God is desiring to prove Himself to us as Joseph proved himself to Potiphar. As Potiphar put Joseph in charge of everything he owned, God wants us to do the same. He wants us to trust Him to such a degree that we ultimately surrender all we that have to Him.
Imagine the sense of peace and joy we would enjoy if we could achieve total surrender. Imagine how powerfully God could then use us. We could say to a mountain, "Be removed" and it would be so. Although sustained total surrender is idealistic, our journey toward His heart is reality. Each step that we take toward Him has its rewards. It's amazing to realize that the most powerful force in existence desires to be so intimate with everyone of us. He wants us to hear His heartbeat and know His thoughts. Our admiration for God should grow as we see the goodness of His heart and learn who He is. This should naturally move us to emulate His nature and align our hearts and desires with His.
As trust increases in a relationship, it produces and encourages a stronger voluntary dependency upon each other. Our sense of security and comfort grows stronger. This, in turn, makes the relationship more transparent and brings both parties closer together. Trust counters our sense of fear that has been nurtured by many disappointments. A deep trust in God has a healing affect on these wounds. It gives us the strength and courage to develop relationships with others. This is a key factor in the ministry of the Body of Christ.
Resisting Great Tempation
Genesis 39:6b-12 (NLT) Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man, and Potiphar's wife soon began to look at him lustfully. "Come and sleep with me," she demanded. But Joseph refused. "Look," he told her, "my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God." She kept putting pressure on Joseph day after day, but he refused to sleep with her, and he kept out of her way as much as possible. One day, however, no one else was around when he went in to do his work. She came and grabbed him by his cloak, demanding, "Come on, sleep with me!" Joseph tore himself away, but he left his cloak in her hand as he ran from the house.
Sometimes we give super human qualities to Biblical characters. When we do, this we short-change ourselves from receiving the full meaning and impact of the passage. It is beneficial to remember that their feelings and struggles were probably not unlike our own. It was probably a great struggle for Joseph to resist Potiphar's wife. As captain of Pharaoh's guard Potiphar must have been able to attract a very beautiful woman. Joseph's refusal to surrender to her must have puzzled her. It also must have challenged her to try harder to get him. After a while her own self image was on the line. She had to prove to herself that she was woman enough to seduce him.
There were four things that helped Joseph successfully resist the daily attempts of Potiphar's wife to seduce him. Firstly, he did not want to violate the earned trust that Potiphar had in him. Secondly, and probably more significantly, he knew that it would negatively impact his relationship with God. God's love must have been very precious and tangible to him. He could see and was capable of touching the beautiful temptress in front of him. The God who he could not physically see or touch had to be at least as real to him as her. He knew that giving in to her would adulterate his intimacy with God. This must have been very precious to him. Giving in to her would also be a shameful display of ingratitude. God had blessed him far beyond that which he should have expected as a slave. Thirdly, he avoided her as much as possible. It is hard to resist sin when we focus our attention on it and stay within its reach. Fourthly, he fled after being entrapped by her.
The Triumph of Enduring Faith
Genesis 39:13-20 (NLT) When she saw that she was holding his cloak and he had fled, she called out to her servants. Soon all the men came running. "Look!" she said. "My husband has brought this Hebrew slave here to make fools of us! He came into my room to rape me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream, he ran outside and got away, but he left his cloak behind with me."She kept the cloak with her until her husband came home. Then she told him her story. "That Hebrew slave you've brought into our house tried to come in and fool around with me," she said. "But when I screamed, he ran outside, leaving his cloak with me!" Potiphar was furious when he heard his wife's story about how Joseph had treated her. So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king's prisoners were held, and there he remained.
Potiphar trusted Joseph with everything he owned. Potiphar was furious when he heard his wife's charges against Joseph. I am sure that part of his his fury was fueled by pain. In his eyes, Joseph betrayed his absolute trust. A strong relationship that was built on respect and trust was demolished by a single lie by a selfish and frustrated woman.
Life can be unfair. Joseph should have been rewarded for his obedience to God and his faithfulness to the trust Potiphar placed in Him. Instead he found himself falsely accused and thrown into jail. I would imagine that the prisons in those days were a terrible place to be. Joseph strove to please his worldly and heavenly masters. Potiphar who trusted him with all he had no longer even gave the slightest credibility to Joseph's alibi. That is if he were even willing to listen to it. Joseph finds himself alone in a foreign land with no family or friends to comfort him. No one was there to come to his aid. Where was God in all of this? Why did God not come to his defense and prove his innocence? Had God abandoned him? Joseph could easily have given up all hope and harbored bitterness toward God. Instead his faith in the invisible and unseen God endured. His relationship with God remained strong.
Genesis 39:21-23 (NLT) But the LORD was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the LORD made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. The warden had no more worries, because Joseph took care of everything. The LORD was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.
God had not abandoned Joseph. He was with him all along. He again caused him to find favor with the warden. God needed to move Joseph to a place where he would eventually meet Pharaoh and become the second most powerful man in Egypt. Joseph must have known that God's ways were higher than his. He probably heard extraordinary stories of of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob directly from Jacob. Joseph was his favorite son. Jacob must have invested time to ensure that he knew and understood the God that he loved.
Animals can be trained by rewarding them immediately after they perform as expected. Sometimes we expect God to bless us shortly after we are victorious in a difficult trial. When this does not happen we can feel that God has been unfair. We can even allow ourselves to become discouraged and give up before a trial is complete. If we catch ourselves doing this, we should question our motives. Are we serving Him to gain a reward that brings us pleasure or is bringing pleasure to God our reward?
Hebrews 11:35b-40 (NLT) But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
As an expression of His love God often rewards with things that bring us pleasure. Joseph was eventually rewarded with the perks of being the second most powerful man in Egypt. Job was blessed more in the second half of his life. God will bless us in His time. He is a good God who delights in the well-being of His servants. We should learn to delight in His well-being.
Faith Exercised Correctly Costs Something
1 Chronicles 21:24 (NLT) But King David replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on buying it for the full price. I will not take what is yours and give it to the LORD. I will not present burnt offerings that have cost me nothing!"
Unless we are desperate with no alternative, faith has a cost to us. Faith is a sacrifice. In obedient faith we sacrifice our will and our desires to please God. Often we find ourselves giving up our sense of security for something promised but not seen. We are surrendering our comfort in order to bring pleasure to God. When done whole-heartedly, this is an expression of love. It reflects the sacrificial love mothers naturally have for their children. Although love can sometimes be deceptively self-serving, this is generally not true of a mother's love.
There was a single-parent family that I visited often as a young Christian. The mother, although she was well educated, a hard worker, and a good hearted person, did not earn much money. Occasionally I would watch her cook for her family. She would ensure that each one of her children had a good complete meal. Sometimes after that there would be nothing left for her. She would then fry some lard and dip a piece of bread in it. That would be her supper. She never complained. Faith should be compassionate. It should be an expression of our love and our trust in our God who is worthy.
In John chapter 15, verse 13 Jesus says, "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 13, verse 3, "If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing." These two verses together make it abundantly clear that the greatest act of love that a person can express is absolutely worthless in God's eyes if it lacked passion. Hopefully we now understand faith and trust are critically important to the love relationship we have with God. It's not only the act. It must have the right motive to make a difference.
This two part series began with by quoting Hebrews 11:6 "But without faith it is impossible to please Him." This verse should have greater meaning now that you have seen the relationship between faith, trust, and love.