How to increase faith. Discover a bigger Jesus.
Last year a friend invited me to come to his place to use the gym he had built in his garage. He has spent a lot of time, energy and money building an excellent home gym, but probably more importantly, he has invested time to be able to help train others how to use the equipment properly and safely.
To begin with, I thought it would be fun and a good alternative and addition to the tennis and running that I do to try and keep fit physically and mentally. And it would also give me a chance to get to know Stephen better too. It did all that, but I discovered it also helped in a surprising way.
I’ve been running for about 3 years now and managed to build myself up to a level where at least once a week I’ll do a 10 km run. Sometimes more often, and sometimes longer, but 10 km is a good distance for me in that I can do it in about an hour. I’d got to a pace that I was pretty happy with and there seemed to be a ceiling in terms of time that I could almost touch, but only on very good days.
However, after spending a couple of months in the gym I discovered one day that I could get past that ceiling, and not only that, the next week I backed it up again, and then again the week after that. Building muscles had been the key to achieving more.
So building muscle is good in fact studies have shown that muscle-building exercise can do lots of good; improve balance, reduce the likelihood of falls, improve blood-sugar control, improve sleep and improve mental health. And on top of that there can be positive weight-loss benefits too.
Why am I saying this? Because we have a spiritual muscle! That spiritual muscle is our faith, and we can work on our faith, and build up our faith in a very similar way to which we build up our physical muscles.
So we are beginning a new series today we are studying through the book of Hebrews and as we do we are going to see lots of things along the way (amazing), but – be paying particular attention to building our faith we are going to the faith gym we are going to develop a ripping faith.
That’s the title of the series ‘How do I build a ripped faith?’ We hear people speak about a ‘ripped body’ well we are going to be developing a ‘ripped faith’.
I cringe a little at that title just like a cringe a little at the ‘ripped body’ phrase but the more I looked into it, the more appropriate it was to what we will be speaking about. Because getting a ‘ripped body’ is not just about building bigger muscles, it is also about removing the fat from around them so that the muscle is more defined and easier to see.
I’d say that there is some ‘fat’ that we should be removing from around our faith muscles, so our faith is more defined and easily seen too. So are you ready for a ripped faith?
The first way, the foundation to help us develop a ripped faith is to have a healthy and growing understanding of God, and a growing relationship with Him. The four verses in our reading today make it perfectly clear that everything we could ever possibly need to be able to know God is within our reach no matter who we are we can know God we can grow in understanding, in knowledge, and importantly in relationship with God.
Doing that is the foundation, and the first step to building our faith.
The more we grow the bigger God seems
Many of us know and love the Narnia stories. In Prince Caspian, the four central children from “The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe” are called back into Narnia to help restore the country. Lucy, the youngest of these children and the first to discover Narnia finally meets her beloved Aslan again. For those who don’t know the books or the movies, Aslan is the Lion. The moment she sees Him her heart is filled with joy as they embraced again and then she voices her surprise. “Aslan, you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered Aslan.
“Not because you are?” Asked a confused Lucy.
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
Of course, in this series, for Christian writer and scholar C.S. Lewis who wrote the books, Aslan is a picture of Jesus and his point is well made, that the more we grow in our knowledge, understanding and relationship with Jesus, the bigger He becomes to us, and it has been my experience too.
When I first went to Bible College, people would ask me how it was going and what I was learning. There were always lots of things I could share, but I remember one thing stood out to me. The more I learned about God, the more I discovered that there was to know. Just like Lucy’s experience with Aslan. As I grew in my relationship with Jesus, I grew in knowledge of Him, and He just kept getting bigger.
That growing knowledge of, and relationship with Jesus is the foundational key to building our faith. And all of that is possible, because as the Bible teaches us, God has made Himself known to us. This is what Biblical Scholars refer to as Divine Revelation. The way God reveals Himself and keeps on revealing Himself the more we grow in knowledge and relationship with Him.
God reveals Himself through Creation
Romans 1 describes the first way that God reveals Himself to all people, and that no one has any excuse for not recognizing and honouring God:
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. (Romans 1:20)
And the Psalmist writes:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. (Psalm 19:1-2)
The vastness and the precision of space is a masterpiece that demonstrates beyond question the creative activity of a magnificent God.
Kepler a renowned scientist, known as the founder of modern astronomy and the man from whom we get the term ‘satellite’: Noting the magnificence and order of the universe, he said: (The Laws of nature) are within the grasp of the human mind, God wanted us to recognize them by creating us after his own image so that we could share in his own thoughts.”
He also said, “The undevout astronomer is mad.” To him it was all that obvious. In his mind, anyone who studies the universe is immediately confronted by the creative activity of an intelligent being who is infinitely greater than the human mind. And that space itself is there, all the time pointing to the existence of God.
God reveals Himself through the Prophets
But we have more than revelation in creation to teach us about God. In the very first verse of Hebrews, that we have read today the writer declares:
Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. (Hebrews 1:1)
The emphasis here is on the diversity of God’s speech throughout the Old Testament. God went to great lengths and used incredible illustrations to get his message across through prophetic men and women.
- Thunder, lightning and the voice of a trumpet when He spoke to Moses and the Israelites on Mt Sinai,
- A still small voice when He spoke to Elijah
- He used Visions for many prophets including Ezekiel
- He used dreams to prophets like Daniel
- To some, He would send an angel
- And to others He would appear personally in human form
And then when the prophets delivered the message they did so in all kinds of ways. Amos gave direct oracles, Malachi used questions and answers, Ezekiel performed captivating and bizarre symbolic acts, Haggai preached sermons, Zechariah performed mysterious signs, and God authenticated the message of His Prophets by miraculous acts to get their attention and prove that the message was from God. (EG MOSES)
The significance is this is that God will go to great length to communicate to us to all of us. God’s message was never boring, never beyond comprehension for the people to whom it was intended and who were willing to listen. It was never irrelevant, it was always timely, and it revealed more and more of who God is without ever contradicting the previous words of God.
Through revelation, via creation and the prophetic word, men and women rose to life at the highest level. Abraham achieved great faith, Moses overcame the mightiest empire of the time, David slew Goliath, Daniel achieved and maintained integrity and turned the heart of the dictator Nebuchadnezzar to God. (Daniel 4)
God reveals Himself through Jesus
But as grand and as sufficient was God’s communication in the Old Testament, the best the perfect was yet to come. As the second verse of Hebrews 1 declares:
And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. (Hebrews 1:2)
The idea of the writer is that Jesus is the ultimate, the perfect communication of God. Let me give you an example:
There is a story of a man who didn’t believe in God, and was thinking one day of what he considered to be the impossibility of knowing God, even if God existed. He was thinking in terms of a writer of a novel or a play and saw the gap to be so vast as to be impossible to reach. He declared, ‘we could no more know God than Hamlet could know his creator Shakespeare.’
But he continued to think on the matter, and as he did, he realised, or maybe it was revealed to him, that his analogy actually suggested the very opposite to what he thought. He came to understand that Shakespeare could write himself into the play and talk with Hamlet, relate to Hamlet, reveal as much of himself as he wanted, and Hamlet could indeed know who he is.
When God became a man, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, God wrote himself into human history and provided the ultimate communication of Himself it simply couldn’t get any clearer than this.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews was deeply concerned for the lives of persecuted Christians in the 1st Century. They had put their faith in Jesus, but now that faith was getting thin. They were facing troubles, even bitter persecution and they were moving away from their knowledge from their relationship with Jesus.And so the author lifts Jesus higher and higher and higher. He reminds them, if they want to know God know Jesus relate to Jesus stick with Jesus. He knows that they are facing almost overwhelming circumstances and he wanted to help them in the best way he could.
Maybe you are facing overwhelming circumstances today, certainly it feels that way sometimes.
But the author is convinced and the Holy Spirit knows and I’m here to tell you, that growing in knowledge growing in understanding, and growing in relationship with Jesus is the absolute key to be able to meet the challenges that we face.
Holding up Jesus Christ is the most helpful thing that we can do. Building our knowledge and relationship with our Lord will help to build our faith, and a stronger faith is the key to living the life of the overcomer in joy and Christ centred peace.
As we study Hebrews together, over the next little while, we will discover that it is a practical book. It is a book to be acted upon. And so, each week throughout this series I’ll be putting together a series of questions to help us reflect and to act on what we are learning. If you indicate that you have watched the service, I’ll send you an email with the questions, and if you like, you can email me back with your thoughts so we can discuss them together or I can pray with you and for you.
We may or may not be suffering like the first generation of our brothers and sisters in Christ were, but no matter how difficult our circumstances might be, learning from the book of Hebrews will equip us to live the victorious life of the Christian.
It will be like bodybuilding for our spiritual life building our faith. And the foundation of a growing faith is made clear in these first few verses God has revealed Himself to us in the most complete way through His Son our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Like Lucy’s discovery of Aslan in Prince Caspian we discover that it doesn’t matter how dark the battle we are facing seems to be the more we come to know Jesus I mean know about Him and Know Him personally then the bigger and bigger He becomes in our sight and the more he overshadows everything that life could possibly throw at us.
I believe that God’s word to you and me today is this: “Jesus Christ is sufficient for us. And so we should lift Jesus higher!”
What is the struggle you are facing right now, is it health, is it work or lack of work, is it loneliness or hopelessness? Lift Jesus higher! If that was the answer for our brothers and sisters 2000 years ago, surely it is our answer also.
As we dig deeper and deeper into this amazing book my prayer is that Jesus will become bigger and bigger in our sight bigger than He has ever seemed before and as He grows so too will our faith.
Rev. Brad Rumble
Senior Pastor – Oakleigh Baptist Community