Strengthening Your Faith

Nov. 5, 2011 Crawford Loritts

Session Transcript

Pastor Crawford Loritts: Faith is a verb even when it’s a noun. The Christian life presupposes movement. Henry Blackaby is famous for saying, “You can’t go with God and stay where you are.” And that’s true. There’s constant moving; the clock is ticking; the calendar is going by. The assumption is that you’re going somewhere; you’re doing something; you’re becoming more than what you were yesterday.

Faith is driven into the DNA of Christianity. There is no Christianity—none—apart from faith. Christianity is not just a series of beliefs. It’s not a series of creeds. It’s not just a series of discussions and understanding. The very nature of Christianity presupposes movement. Discipleship means to be a follower of Christ. So you can’t say that you’re a Christian unless there’s faith.

Paul put it very succinctly in Colossians 2:6: “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”

Faith is the banner under which we live. So—please forgive me for being so direct here—but if you’re saying, “Well, I just don’t want to be a person of faith,” that’s categorically irrelevant. It’s not a matter of whether or not we want to. If we know Jesus, we have to be. Faith is exactly what we do.

I made the observation last night that nothing happens in the Christian life apart from prayer. If I had a third session with you, that’s what I’d talk about. Nothing happens in the Christian life apart from prayer, nothing happens apart from faith, and nothing happens apart from leadership. God raises up someone to do something for His glory, and as leaders, the theme of your leadership is faith.

If you would push me in the corner and say, “Crawford, from a transferable perspective, bottom line, what is Christian leadership all about?” It’s believing God when others have a difficult time doing it. It’s being that portrait of the first one that puts his foot or her foot in the Jordan River. That’s what it’s all about.

To be called to lead means to be called to trust God. To be called to lead means that I want to go to a place where I’ve never been before, and faith is what we’re really all about.

Today I want to talk about the certainty of faith. At our church we’re right in the middle of a series on Hebrews 11, God’s “Hall of Fame,” and I’m going through this text. I want to begin with verses 1–3 and then verse 6 of Hebrews 11. I’d like to read those verses to you. I’m reading from the English Standard Version:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. [If you write in your Bibles, circle that word commendation.] By faith, we understand that the universe was created by the word of God so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

Verse 6: “And without faith, it is impossible to please Him for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”

I want to do two things today. I really want to spend time sort of dissecting the verses that I read, because I think they’re terribly important, extraordinary, familiar passages; but sometimes the problem with familiar things is that we begin to make assumptions about the meaning, so I want to walk through that. Then, at the very end, I want to give you seven keys to strengthening your faith.

Here in Hebrews 11, the apostle—I started to say apostle Paul, which is my bias, but we don’t know exactly who did write the book of Hebrews—is underscoring to us that, practically speaking, if we never do more than we think we can do, we will always do less than we should do.

I think that is the transferrable message of Hebrews 11. It’s like he’s reaching out and grabbing the readers by the lapels. He says, “If you never do more than you think you can do, you will always end up doing less than you should do.”

I don’t mean to throw anybody under the pile, but faith is God’s way of growing us. By the way, even when I say that, I need to correct myself, because it’s really not doing what we should do—it’s becoming everything God wants us to become. It’s not lodged in our personal capacities. That’s not what faith is all about.

Faith is the biography of God through my life. That’s what faith is. It’s not a statement of your own personal growth potential.

That’s the reason you have to be very careful of borrowing the motivational language and inspirational speech from our culture. It’s not about you reaching your capacity. It’s never about you reaching your capacity. The truth of the matter is, we’re dead in our trespasses and sins. We’re depraved. We don’t have the capacity. Faith is about people who do not have a capacity, but they trust a God who has everything under control.

So faith is really the biography of God through your moment in history. That’s what faith is really all about.

I want to say this at the beginning—I’ll come back to it later on—I want us to understand that faith presupposes opposition. There is no such thing as faith and its twin sister courage unless there’s opposition.

When you’re believing God for something, that something does not exist, and often everything around you presses in against it. Faith always presupposes opposition. There is no faith apart from opposition.

Faith believes in spite of. That’s the reason you have faith. It reaches out beyond our circumstances, beyond where we are, so that when we’re under pressure, that’s the time to “pick up the pace” in terms of believing God, and not go the other way.

I love what A.W. Tozer says. He says, “Faith is less about what you say you believe and more about how you behave on a consistent basis despite your circumstances.”
Faith is not the expressions of creeds or even the articulation of dreams and visions. That’s not faith. I’ve met great people who are great “visionaries” and they can articulate what their intentions ought to be, and they can put the brochure together and this kind of thing, and the power point presentation, and it pizzazzes everybody, but that’s not faith. Faith is movement on those things, consistently, despite what’s going up against you.

Now, I promise you I’m going to get through these verses, but I think I needed to make a few general observations about Hebrews 11 so that we keep these words in their proper context. Let me make three quick ones:

First: When you read Hebrews 11, it’s easy to make the mistake that these are the people who made it into the Hall of Fame. They did, but these are not the only people.

These are not the only people who are commended for their faith. These are just examples of faith. We are all a part, potentially, of Hebrews 11. So these are people who are commended for their faith.

Second: The word commend appears five times in chapter 11. It is a commendation toward God. So God is not celebrating our faith so much as He is celebrating our faith in God. It’s His pleasure, His response, His presence with us. So it’s not just about giving us a standing “O” for our faith. It’s about what pleases God.

The word commend comes from the Greek word martureo. We get the English translation “martyr” from that. Literally, the word means “to bear witness,” and here’s the remarkable thing about that word here in Hebrews 11. This is amazing. When we exercise faith, God points us out as models or examples of what pleases Him.

It’s like God’s saying, “Look at her!” with a big smile on His face. “Angels, come here! Gabriel, come ... come ... come ... look ... look ... look at her! She believes Me! That’s My child! She believes Me! You know what’s happening in her life? You know what’s up against her? You know the crazy, immoral, idiot decisions some of her kids have made? You know her husband’s acting like a complete you-know-what? But she believes Me! That’s My child!”

I can’t help this, but you know what my newest favorite commercial is? You see, they’ve got to be careful about making these commercials so good, because you forget the product they’re selling. I don’t even know what this product is, but my newest favorite commercial is the three turtles on the couch. You know it? You’ve seen that one?

Mama turtle, baby turtle, and daddy turtle—they say something—I don’t know what it’s about, but they’re talking, and the baby turtle isn’t supposed to be able to talk. So they’re saying something about it, and the baby goes, “Slow.” And Daddy goes, “What?” He says, “Slow.” And he says, “That’s my child!”

I think God doesn’t necessarily do that, but in Hebrews 11 God says, When you believe Me, you not only have My attention, but you have My heart approval. Our faith commends us—commends us to Him.

Third: One other anchor perspective before we get into these verses. Hebrews 11 is really about motivation. It really is.

Generally speaking, the chapter divisions are fairly accurate, but there are a few times in the Bible where the chapter divisions don’t really finish the thought. Most scholars believe that the end of Hebrews 11 should be chapter 12 verse 3. That really completes the thought of faith as a tool, faith as a motivator, faith that keeps us going, faith that causes us not to give up.

So he gives these biographical snapshots of great men and women of God who kept moving and kept believing, and the “and others” in the last few paragraphs, and then he gives us the ultimate illustration in chapter 12:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [What witnesses? All those people that I just mentioned to you], let us also lay aside every weight of the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus [He’s the ultimate visible illustration of faith], the founder and protector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before us endured the cross, despising His shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. And now consider Him who endured for sinners such hostility against Himself” (vv. 1-3).

Now here’s the point: I really believe this last clause in verse 3 is the summary of everything that he said in chapter 11. The whole point of looking to Jesus, looking to these great men and women of God that comprise the great cloud of witness, this dominant purpose clause is: “so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

Literally, they could have translated that word “so that you don’t faint in your souls, and you don’t go, “[Sigh] I’m quitting.”

Now, having said that, let’s look at Hebrews 11:1–3, and then verse 6. In this section, the writer is talking about the certainty of our faith. In verses 1–3 he underscores our security, and then down in verse 6 he talks about our ambition.

It begins by our security. It’s as if he’s saying, “Okay, here’s the foundation for your Christianity.” Then he says, “And here’s the ambition that keeps you driving forward.” There is a foundation; there is an ambition.

So verses 1–3 is the introduction to the Hall of Faith. The writer basically is saying two fundamental things in these three verses about our faith: It is sure, and it is certain.

He’s not talking about speculation. He’s not talking about a blind leap into the dark. He’s not talking about “best case scenarios.”

All things being considered, we could be doing this. He begins with a ring of certainty, a declaration of certainty. This faith needs to be as sure as the chair you’re sitting on. There’s a certainty about it.

Now, verses 1–3 ... I know that we say this, but technically this is not a definition of faith so much as it is a description of what faith does and how it works. So in these first three verses he’s telling us what this faith does and then how it works.

Another thing it says in this verse: The word faith that he uses here is the Greek work pistos. You say, “What’s the big deal about that?”

The Greek word pistos that he uses here, most scholars believe is a word that means “a state of certainty with regard to belief.” Again, it’s just giving a little more support to my observation that it’s not speculation. It’s not hope, wish, maybe—no. This is a state of certainty with regard to our beliefs.

I think it’s interesting that right out the gate, he says, “Look! Stop being intimidated by the devil, by the world, by the uncertainty of this life. If you’re going to move forward, Crawford, you’re going to have to believe this about faith and about God.”

In the first part of verse 1, he describes a concrete faith. He says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.” The word assurance—and hang in here with me, because I really believe this is very important—the word assurance literally means to “stand under and support.”

It is not an assurance based on my own track record and experience; it is an assurance based on something that is unfailing. It “stands under.”

So faith is to the Christian what a foundation is to a house. It gives confidence and assurance that it will stand. This assurance is the title deed for what we’re believing God for. It’s the title deed, and it’s in my hands.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to be preaching on that great passage later on about pilgrims and wanderers and strangers, and the whole point is that faith is movement. We’re going someplace, and what kept Abraham moving, kept Moses moving, what kept those living in caves and who didn’t experience what they’re believing God for moving was this assurance, this title deed that’s been given to them. It’s in their hands. God said it, and that’s enough, and they kept going and moving.

Then there’s the certainty of faith in the second part of the verse. He says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The word “conviction” there is alegmos. It’s a Greek word that means “that by which things are proved, tested, in the sense of persuasion.”

It’s the same idea Paul uses in 2 Timothy 1:12 that, “I am persuaded [or convinced] that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.”
It is that degree of certainty that faith says we have. We’re persuaded. We’re not rattled. We keep moving forward. We know that God has spoken. There’s an intrinsic proof in our hearts.

Now, I’m going to disagree with about two-thirds of the commentaries that I’ve read on this text. Most people at this point will wax eloquent and say that the faith we have and the certainty is the faith in God’s Word that he’s talking about here. I want to disagree with that a little bit. I think it includes that. Obviously, every word of this book is concrete. But he’s not only talking about the revealed will of God, but dare I say that he’s talking about the existential will of God.

“What do you mean by that?” He’s talking about the experiential will of God. He’s talking about the things that God lays on our hearts to believe Him for. If he was just talking about that transcended word, then three-fourths of the people he’s talking about here in Hebrews 11 don’t fit that. He’s talking about the things that He’s placed on our hearts to believe Him for as well.

“How can you be certain about those things?” I think you can be certain. Please forgive me, but God does not have a speech impediment. He really doesn’t. I believe that where there are consistent desires in your hearts, God puts it there. Obviously confirmed under the umbrella of this Book. God will never give you a desire that conflicts with this—never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever. Am I clear about that? (laughter) He won’t do that. He ain’t going to tell you to leave your husband. I can get in a ditch on that one. I better come back. He’s never going to do that—ever.

So it is confirmed by His Word. It is borne out by the witness of the Spirit in our hearts. It is compelling—”I gotta do this!” There’s a pound the table and weep in your soul about this. And I really believe to a large degree that’s the kind of faith that he’s talking about here in Hebrews 11.

By the way, and it’s justified in the text when he says, “things hoped for—things.” So it’s not just the revealed body of truth, it’s also the leading of the Holy Spirit directing us.

The inference is to live as if we have what we are believing God for. Faith is confidence—faith is confidence. If you’re not sure as a leader, the people following you will be terribly uncertain. Faith is confidence.

It’s not confidence in myself. I don’t own it. My neck is not on the line. God is on the line. My conviction has to do with that degree of certainty. The presence of faith is the confidence that God will do what He promised and keep his Word every single time—every single time.

I want you to note the expression “things hoped for.” Now, I don’t mean to insult your intelligence, but faith always has to do with the stuff that’s in the future. It doesn’t exist yet. If it existed, it’s not faith. So faith has to do with stuff that doesn’t yet exist. It’s in the future—”things hoped for”—”and things not seen.” That mean they’re visibly not evident.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s a balance here. The book of Proverbs is in the Bible. We need to use wisdom. There’s nothing wrong with measuring things and nothing wrong with analyzing things and that kind of thing, but don’t become a negative critic in the name of wisdom. Just because it never happened before, just because it’s not a part of your experience, and just because you don’t see it as a likelihood, don’t assume it’s not of God. The very nature of faith says I’m trusting Him for stuff that ain’t been around—evidence of things not seen.

Every Christian’s mission statement ought to be to glorify God by believing Him to experience and accomplish everything He has in store for me. That’s what he’s talking about here.

Dr. J. Oswald Sanders made this observation: “Faith enables a believing soul to treat the future as present and the invisible as seen.”

I just tweeted the other day this little line from Spurgeon—I love it, love it, love it. He talked about the young, little girl that was praying for rain. She’s praying for rain, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, but she left the house with an umbrella. I love it. She treated it as if it’s going to happen. You’ve got to believe that it’s going to happen, that it will take place.

Then there’s the community of faith in verse 2. He’s reassuring us here. He says, “For by it [meaning faith] the people of old [those who went before us] received their commendation.” Martureo—their commendation. What he’s saying to us is, “Look. Faith is a legacy of the people of God.” This is not new. You’re not the only one who ever lived who had to believe God. You’re not the only one whose neck was on the line, so to speak. This is part of what the people of God do. Faith is a legacy of the people of God.

I think there’s another inference here, and that is we’re not the only one whose faith has been challenged. Because he goes on as he gives these biographical snapshots in this text, he talks about people who went through amazing challenges.

He talks about Abraham leaving when he didn’t even know where he was going to go.

He talked about Abraham believing God when he didn’t know when God was going to provide.

He talked about Abraham offering up his son and doing the excruciating when he didn’t know why God was saying it.

All of us are going to be challenged. Your faith will be challenged. My faith is going to be challenged. So he states that we are a part of this amazing community of the peoples of God who have always had to believe God here in this journey, because the journey should not reflect the world in which we live. The journey should reflect the fact that we are pilgrims and strangers. Our homeland is there, and we borrow from that homeland to live down here. We don’t borrow from this land to try to get there. Do you follow me?

Then he speaks of the continuity of faith in verse 3. “By faith we understand the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” When we read our Bibles, we should read it in its context.

I used to think that, “Boy, he’s really talking about the Master Designer, the argument of an intelligent being that created the universe with order and design.” I don’t think that’s what the writer had in mind. I think what he’s saying here is, “Look, you need to understand how God has always worked in human history, and how He intends to work in human history is how human history began.”

Look at the verse again. He says: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the 2ord of God [He spoke it into existence] so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

“What are you saying, Crawford?”

Here’s the point: This is the way that God has always worked in the world. God is all about making the invisible visible. He began it that way, and that’s the way He constantly works. That’s the way He’s going to work in your life. That’s the way He’s going to work in my life. He’s always making the invisible visible—the invisible visible. That’s the signature of the authentic work of God.

The difference between a Christian organization and a Christian movement is that an organization exists for the perpetuation of processes. A movement exists to respond to God. God’s called us to be movement people, believing that God’s going to translate into reality what I see in my soul today.

What do you see in your soul? What do you see in your soul? What are you believing Him for?

Now, that’s the assurance, our confidence. Drop your eye down to verse 6. He talks about our ambition. He says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

I really believe the over-arching thing that he’s saying in this verse, obviously, is that faith pleases God. It really pleases God. Paul said that the passion of every follower in 2 Corinthians 5:9—it’s that whole text dealing with the uncertainty of life and “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” He says in that transition verse before he gets into our responsibility to be ambassadors of reconciliation. He says, “And we make it our ambition to please the Lord.”

So negatively stated, if I would state it strongly, Hebrews 11:6 says, “You know, Crawford, if you don’t believe God, you can’t please Me. I don’t care how many books of theology you’ve read or the stuff that you do. If you don’t believe God, you can’t please Him.”

In fact, I think the language of this verse says that this ambition should be all consuming. To believe God, to exercise faith, to should be a consuming passion for those of us who are followers of Christ.

I think he’s saying two things in this verse about God: One is that God is real and, number two, that God rewards. He is real, and He rewards. Look at the text very closely. He says, strongly, “And without faith it is impossible to please him for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists.”

Now, I’m not trying to show off any insight into the Greek language here, but I do need to point out something that we can’t get in our English text. There’s no way of translating this, and what makes the Greek language so beautiful are the various tenses of verbs. We have simple past tense, future tense, some would say a perfect tense, but in Greek, they have several past tenses. One of them is not just a simple past tense, “I did this yesterday.” One is what they call the eros tense. The eros tense speaks of a definitive, historic benchmark action—something that you will never forget; something that is a game changer. It’s sort of like beyond a shadow of a doubt.

He employs the eros tense here with the word believe. He says, “Without faith it is impossible to believe him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists.”

Again, it’s not an argument from apologetic that God exists—I think you could go there with that—but he’s talking about personally believing, with everything that’s in me, that God is real.

He says, “Don’t expect to get anything from God if you don’t believe that He is real.”

I also think, by the mere fact that he uses the eros tense there that there are shades of implications in terms of personal experience with the reality of God. It’s as if he says, “Wait, wait, wait, you know what I’ve done in your life. Why are you hesitant to come to Me? Why do you have all this fear? Why do you have all of this uncertainty, Crawford?”

I don’t know if you’re like I am, but one of my biggest frustrations—I’ve been living by faith, Karen and I have been living by faith our whole married life. It’s amazing. With every challenge there’s this little, like Alka-seltzer moment. You know what I’m saying? It’s crazy. We go, “What am I going to do?” (slapping sounds) “Hey! Hey! Hey! Leroy! It ain’t like you ain’t been here before! You know what I’m saying?”

“Okay, okay, I have to choose to believe God again.”

You’ve got to believe that He’s real. God is not the product of a Saturday morning cartoon. He’s real. At any moment He could say, “Give Me back My breath. I sustain you. I’m the one that sets the rhythm of your heartbeat. So if you come to Me, you’ve got to believe historically that I am real.”

You see the gap between where we are and what God wants us to do is called faith. I mentioned that gap last night, but when you look at it this way, it’s not really a gap, is it? It’s all about the certainty of God.
If you want to get close to God, then you have to believe in Him. There’s no such thing as getting close to Him without believing Him. He’s in control. He has everything we need. He has a purpose and a plan, and He cares about every area of our lives.

He’s omniscient. He’s omnipresent. He’s omnipotent. He’s self-existent. He is holy. He is kind. He is merciful. He needs nothing from us. There’s nothing we can do for Him but get out of His way. And we have to believe that.

“Suppose it doesn’t work out?”

And? It didn’t work out. God is real.

The second part of this verse is that God rewards. He rewards. “And without faith it is impossible to please him for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

Now, I’ve used this verse as a prayer promise to say that I’m claiming this thing, and I know God’s going to reward me for it. I think it’s a good secondary application, but always pay close attention to verses in their broader context. What is the reward here? Is the reward getting what I desire from God? Or is the reward God Himself?

Look at verse 5, the story of Enoch. He says, “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended [there you have it—martureo] he was commended as having pleased God.”

Why did God take up Enoch? He said, “Look, you love Me so much, you walk so close, I’ll bypass that. Come here, buddy!”

Now look at verse 6: “And without faith it is impossible to please him for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists [a similar faith as Enoch had] and that he rewards those who seek him.”

I really believe that the reward here is God Himself. He rewards those who seek Him in the sense of going to get God to bring Him to the challenges of our faith. It’s kind of like the little boy that’s over his head, and he says, “Hold on. I’ve got to go get my dad.”

When our faith is being tested, it’s not really about my veracity or my reputation or my image. When my faith and your faith is being tested, it’s really about God being tested. Do you hear me? It’s about God being tested.

Quickly, let me give you—and I’m really making an abrupt segway here—let me give you seven keys to strengthening our faith. Based upon this backdrop of assurance and ambition, how do I press into the battle? These seven things are biographical. These are things that have come out of my own life of trusting God, believing Him, always being over my head. What do you do when you get weary? How does that work? What’s up? There’s probably more than seven, but let me give you the seven that I use.

One is this: Accept the reality of opposition. Quit going through life thinking that you’re going to be unopposed. We have a real enemy, and you know you’re flying over the right target when you’re being shot at. So I think it’s time for all of us to grow up. I think too many Christians have this entitlement mindset. We think that Christianity exists for God to make me happy and make me fulfilled. I can have my Bible studies and do all these nice wonderful things. There ain’t nothing wrong with that, but, no. We have to accept the reality of opposition. We’re in the middle of warfare and the devil is not sitting back in his Lazy Boy lounger while you obey God.

Secondly, stand ready to resist—stand ready to resist. Take up the shield of faith. You’ve got to believe God when the darts are hurled at you. It’s easy to believe Him when there’s nothing being thrown at you. Stand ready to resist.

Number three: Keep your mind focused and filled with truth—with truth. It’s important to think right—always to think right—but particularly when you’re under pressure.

I’m writing a book now, the working title of it is Stumbling in the Streets. It has to do with the fact that in our evangelical community within the last fifteen to twenty years, expositional preaching has taken a blow. We want to talk about experiences, and we want to talk about our journey stuff, and we want to feel good about the message and general stuff like that. It’s no wonder we’re so anemic spiritually and morally. There’s all kinds of nonsense taking place (applause).

I’m telling you—the next generation tends to believe how we have behaved as leaders. If we don’t honor the truth of God’s Word and preach it and stop apologizing for it and stop trying to be little Jay Lenos in the pulpit, I’m telling you, the thing that’s going to help you, you’re going to need more than a drama when you go through some of the pressure out there. You’re going to need more than a story. You’re going to need the truth of God’s Word. So keep your mind focused on it and filled with truth.

Number four: Embrace the growth pains. Just because you’re hurting and it’s hard does not invalidate your faith. Sure we’re going to be hurt. Sure it’s hard. Welcome to the big leagues. It’s kind of like working out. I was sore yesterday. I got back into working out. My wife has got me eating better but I kind of, like, stop on the way home from the office—don’t tell her—(laughter). Nancy’s going to tell Karen. I’m in trouble. (laughter) I’m working out more, and just because you’re sore doesn’t invalidate—sometimes the fact that you’re sore means that it’s working.

The condition of our faith is a key indicator of the level of our spiritual maturity. You can give me all kinds of ministry strategy, all kinds of insights into the Bible and all the correct theology you want to, but the real indicator of our spiritual growth is the condition of our faith. So don’t stop working out because you’re sore.

Number five: Stay in God’s presence. Stay with Him. Commune with Him. Love Him. Get past just having a regular time of devotion and practice His presence throughout the day. Talk to Him. “Pray without ceasing.” Invite Him in.

Number six: Associate with faith-filled people. Negative critical Christians dismantle the faith of others. I want to encourage you—don’t make it a steady diet of associating with Christians who are critical. I just have to tell you. As a pastor, I’ve got to be with some of them a lot, but I don’t hang out with them a whole lot of times, and I tend to challenge them quite frankly about their attitudes. That stuff is toxic.

And while I’m at it, be careful of your own unbridled criticisms. Watch your mouth. Watch your mouth because sometimes those words are used of the enemy to destroy and dismantle and unroll the faith of those around us.

Then finally: Act. Faith is what we do not just what we talk about. Faith is not theoretical.

Father, we ask You in the name of Your Son that You help all of us. It’s easy for me to stand up here and talk about this stuff, and yet I realize I’m like everybody else. I’m one text message or phone call away or email away from being thrown into the deep end and having to believe You for stuff that I can’t see.

So, Father, we cry out to You in the name of Your Son that You will help us embrace the journey, to take down the rearview mirrors, to keep pressing into the heart of God, to realize that faith is not an option. It is the very thing You will use to translate Your vision for our lives and future generations into reality.

So, holy Father, strengthen our weak faith, we pray. Help us to just take the next step and trust You to strengthen us, in Jesus’ name, amen.