Proven Faith

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel… “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

“Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 

David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

1 Samuel 17:8, 10-11, 26, 28-29, 32

Faith in the Living God and courage to do what He’s called you to do often looks like arrogance and conceit to those who live consumed with fear and doubt. David did not have faith in his own abilities; he had faith in the God of Israel and God’s ability to use David. People with this kind of faith come across as arrogant to those who struggle to trust God and don’t believe God can use them for great things.

But David had more than faith in God and confidence that God could use him. He had experience in trusting the Lord and seeing the Lord use him.

Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

1 Samuel 17:33-37

It wasn’t just that Eliab struggled to trust God. It wasn’t just that Eliab doubted how God could use him (In other words, he didn’t have an identity grounded in the Lord). But it was also that Eliab didn’t have experience trusting in the Lord in difficult situations and seeing the Lord come through for him. David did.

For David, this wasn’t blind faith. This was proven faith. God had proven Himself faithful time and time again as David stepped out in faith. Goliath simply represented the next step of faith, not a “giant” leap.

The problem with many of us is not that we don’t possess “giant level” faith. The problem is that we haven’t been taking the smaller steps of faith behind-the-scenes when no one else was around. We haven’t been taking the smaller risks to trust in the Lord and see Him come through. This is what prepares us for the day of battle–the day where giant faith is needed.

In other words, the real issue isn’t that we don’t have the faith to face a Goliath. The real issue is that we haven’t been taking the smaller steps of faith to go after a lion or a bear. We haven’t been willing to take those risks when we were in charge of sheep, and we wonder why we can’t take charge of an army and face a Goliath.

David was full of faith and confident in how God could use him because of all the risks he took leading up to this moment. Goliath was simply the next logical step. What seemed impossible to the rest of the army just seemed reasonable to David.

It’s not blind faith that makes the impossible seem reasonable; it’s proven faith. Tested and proven faith–faith that’s been seasoned with real experience–is what is able to face down impossible situations. Proven faith is something that grows in the life of a person willing to continually take risks that require trust in the Lord. It’s a lifestyle, not something that is mustered up in a crisis.

Stepping up and stepping out with proven faith will often look arrogant to those who have confused doubt with humility. For too many Christians, humility looks like uncertain timidity, waffling doubt, and the fear of what other people will say. But is that the humility we see Jesus live out? Is that how we would describe Jesus? Timid? Waffling in doubt? Afraid of what people will say? No way! And yet Jesus walked in absolute perfect humility.

What David did to face down Goliath took tremendous humility because it required him to trust not in his own strength and ability but in the Lord. So what looked like an act of arrogant conceit to his brother was actually radical humility on display. This teaches us that radical humility may, at times, look like meekness, yet at other times it will look like bold courage. David’s action was radical humility in bold courage form. David had to trust that the Lord would come through for him. He also had to trust what the Lord said about him. He had to trust that God could use him powerfully. David risked his life based on that trust. That’s true humility.

I’ve seen this same accusation of arrogance and conceit in the Christian community launched against people stepping out in proven faith and bold courage for the name of Jesus. We have whole churches, and sometimes whole denominations, full of Eliabs. Timid uncertainty–waffling doubt–is not humility. Most of the time it’s a symptom of unbelief.

Eliabs mask their fear and unbelief by calling it prudent wisdom. They only want to do what seems reasonable, measured, safe. Is that how the New Testament describes the life of following Jesus? Safe? Reasonable? Measured? Not even close.

I don’t want to be an Eliab. I want to be a David, don’t you? I want to walk in bold, proven faith. I want to step out and take risks for the name of Jesus regardless of the whispers and gossip it creates around me. I want to lay my life down and trust the Lord. I want to believe what He says about me in His word, and I want to trust Him for big things. Don’t you?

It doesn’t start with Goliaths. It starts with sheep. It starts with lions and bears. What risk is God asking you to take? What steps of radical faith is He requiring of you in 2020?

Humble Yourself

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:1-4

They ask Jesus about being the greatest in the Kingdom of God. But Jesus answers that just to enter the Kingdom we must become like children. And in order for adults to become like children we must change. The key to becoming like a child is to humble yourself.

It’s as if the doorway into the Kingdom of God is designed only for children. And if a regular-sized adult wants to get through the door, they are going to have to duck their head, drop to their knees, and bow low. Humility is the key–humbling oneself to engage in child-like faith, child-like trust, and child-like joy.

Love, forgiveness, faith and joy seem to flow easily for children. They are not hampered by skepticism, cynicism, bitterness or prideful self-consciousness. For adults to enter the Kingdom, we must return to this child-like heart posture toward God and toward others.

Later, Jesus reiterates this point when He tells His disciples:

The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Matthew 23:11-12

Both Peter and James must have heard this message so much from Jesus that they repeated it in their own writings.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

James 4:10

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.” [Proverbs 3:34]

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

1 Peter 5:5-6

The message is clear. Humble yourself. Don’t wait for circumstances, other people, or God Himself to humble you. Humble yourself. Become child-like. Let go of pride. Fast. Pray. Serve. Humble yourself.

It’s as if spiritual attacks are launched at us from a certain angle. And we’ll get hit right between the eyes unless we duck our heads, bend our knees, and bow low. Yet, when we bow low, humbling ourselves, we will find that we are tucked neatly behind the shield of faith and protected from the flaming arrows of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16).

How is God calling you to humble yourself?

Rewards

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 

But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:3-4, 6, 17-18

In Matthew 6, Jesus continues His Sermon on the Mount. Here Jesus lays out what life is like as a citizen of the Kingdom of God on earth. Specifically, He describes some spiritual disciplines that should be a part of the normal Christian life.

The pattern here is: 1) assumption, 2) command, and 3) promise. Jesus assumes His followers will give to the needy. He doesn’t command that it be done because He assumes it is a natural part of life with Christ (“…when you give to the needy...” verse 2). So the command is to do it in secret. The command is to give to the needy in a way that doesn’t flaunt your gift. It’s not a call to secrecy but to humility. And finally, Jesus gives a promise that Father God will reward us for doing this.

Then Jesus does this again with prayer. Jesus assumes we will pray (“…when you pray…” verse 5), commands us to do it in secret/private (in a way that is humble), and then promises us that Father God will reward us for it.

Finally, Jesus repeats this pattern with fasting. Jesus assumes we will fast (“…when you fast…” verse 16), commands us to do it in secret/private (in a way that is humble), and then promises us that Father God will reward us for it.

One of the hardest parts of this for American Christians to accept–besides the need to actually do these spiritual disciplines for a healthy spiritual life–is the fact that Jesus promises us that the Father will give us a reward. In our culture, we always suspect people’s motives to be impure if they do something for a reward. We treat it like it is bribery. We assume that if the person was more altruistic in their motivation, they wouldn’t need or want a reward.

Part of this is false humility (which is really pride in sheep’s clothing). Everything we do in life comes with some kind of reward, we just don’t label it that. Our own bodies were designed to release “feel good” chemicals in our brain any time we exercise or eat food or have sex. The whole world was designed this way. Of course it can get abused and become an addiction or selfishness, but that is only evidence of the human ability to allow our sin to corrupt good things. The reward system in itself is a good thing, created by God for our good.

The other part of being skeptical of God’s rewards is not realizing that God’s reward is actually more of Himself. He can give us more of Himself in a variety of ways. It can look like experiencing more of His provision, more of His revelation, more of His Presence, more of His gifting, more of His love, but ultimately, God rewards us with more of Himself.

In human terms, God’s reward isn’t like a father telling his son he’ll given him $20 if he cleans his room. God’s rewards are more like the father saying, “After you clean your room, we’ll go the park, throw the ball around, and practice your hitting.” The reward, ultimately, isn’t baseball but the father giving of himself to his son.

Our God is a God who rewards. Over and over again we see this in scripture. False humility struggles to receive rewards (because it is really just pride). But true humility can gracefully and gratefully receive rewards that are given to us. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

In other words, part of living a life of faith in Jesus is believing the truth that God the Father is a rewarder–specifically a rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him. And three of the ways that we earnestly seek Him in the Kingdom of God is through prayer, fasting and sacrificial giving.

Do you tithe and give to worthy nonprofits?

Do you pray? How consistent is your prayer life?

Do you fast? Weekly? Monthly?

God the Father can’t wait to reward you!

Resist

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith… 

1 Peter 5:6-9

The enemy is real. Satan is not a fictitious personification of evil. On several occasions I’ve ministered to a demonized person and seen the demon take control of the person’s body, face, and voice. I’ve had demons talk to me through these heavily demonized people. And while I shut down their chatter immediately, these occurrences only verify the truth of scripture that warns of the reality of our enemy.

This passage clues us into areas that can come under attack by our enemy, the devil, who prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour. Any area of our life where we haven’t humbled ourselves becomes an easy target. That’s why the exhortation to humble ourselves comes before the warning about Satan’s attacks. An area that we’ve not submitted to the Lord but have pridefully held under our own control becomes an easy target. It becomes a weak spot in the wall of our spiritual defenses.

Likewise, any area of anxiety becomes an easy target. Fear is like artillery that softens up our spiritual defenses before the enemy attacks. Any area of our life where we are full of anxiety, fear and worry will be targeted. This is why we must cast our cares upon Him because He cares for us.

If there is an area of our life where we are not “alert” and of “sober mind,” it will likely be targeted as well. These tend to be areas of addiction or ways that we indulge in escapism as a way to cope with pain and hurt we experience in our life. These become areas where we no longer operate with a “sober mind” because we are self-medicating with our favorite drug, pleasure, or form of escape.

We need to sure up these vulnerable areas in our life. We’re commanded to stand firm and resist the enemy’s attack. We need to strengthen these weak spots in our walls. We must remember that these words from scripture were written to Christians. Just because we have the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean that we’ve automatically surrendered every room in our house to the Lord. And any room in our heart, mind or body that hasn’t been given over to the Lord can be broken into and occupied by the enemy.

The Holy Spirit has infinitely more power than the demonic invaders, but we must hand the Spirit the keys to that room. We must give the Holy Spirit permission to take over and revoke the right of the enemy to be there. Otherwise, we remain a house divided.