What is the Object of Your Faith?
Tuesday, December 4, 2018 at 02:25PM
Pastor Marty in Discipline, Faith, Idolatry, Rebellion, Trust

Numbers 14.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 02, 2018.

We are continuing to talk about the importance of faith in our lives this morning.  It is impossible to belong to God or to walk with Him each day without it.

Today we are going to focus on the mechanics of faith.  There are two aspects to faith that are often confused in the thinking of people.  First, there is the thing for which we trust or hope.  We will call this the subject of our faith.  Second, there is the thing in which or upon which we trust.  We will call this the object of our faith. 

The subject of our faith is in the future in some way.  It may only be throughout the rest of today as I have faith that God will help me today etc., but it can be something that is tomorrow, or farther in the future.  There are many things that are the subject of our faith.  Although the subjects of our faith are important, the object of our faith is even more critical. 

The object of our faith is presently with us in some way.  The object also has a past that we have become aware of to some degree.  The Christian is a person who has come to trust in Jesus Christ as the object of their faith.  The subjects of such a faith should come out of the object upon which we trust.  Because I am trusting Jesus, there are certain things for which I have faith.  One of those is to trust that He will be with us and never forsake us throughout each and every tick of the clock into our future.  Some of the subjects for which we have faith are in the future.  There is nothing of them here in the present.  Thus we trust God that though we die, yet shall we live at the Resurrection of the Righteous.

When you think about a person who first puts their faith in Jesus, you will see that they generally did not really know Christ before that event.  However, they hear the testimony of those who have had a relationship with Christ in the past and in the present.  They believe because the testimonies help to convince them.  Yet, there is also a spiritual component where the Holy Spirit is drawing people to Christ.

The most important thing you can do in the area of faith is to quit worrying about the subjects for which you trust, and focus on the object in which you trust.  If that object is not really Christ then it will not be able to hold up all that you expect from it.  If that object is Christ then you will learn that your expectations and desires are less important than your relationship with Him.  He should be the object of our faith and anything beyond spending eternity with Him really doesn’t matter.

The strength of our faith can be weak.

In Numbers 14:1-10, the people of Israel had been delivered from slavery in Egypt through amazing miracles.  There were the 10 plagues that God brought upon Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea to help Israel escape, the collapse of the Red Sea to destroy Pharaoh’s army, and the supernatural provision of water, bread and meat in the desert.  At this point they have reached the land that God had promised them.  They have followed Him through all that had transpired in the past, but now they balk at His command.  It is important to recognize that the land was everything God had promised them.  It was often described as “flowing with milk and honey.”  The testimony of the spies in Numbers 13 was that the land was very fruitful and indeed a clump of grapes was so large that two men carried them.

It is here that we see that our desire for a particular subject is not enough to keep our faith strong.  No matter how strongly I want something, the power of that desire will not sustain my faith very long.  It is easy to let the desirability of the subject also serve as the object of our faith.  Of course this is somewhat irrational and cannot last.  Just because something is extremely desirable does not mean there is any hope of attaining it.  That is to say, there is no correlation between the desirability of the subject and the likelihood of reaching it.

In fact, God was supposed to be the object of Israel’s hope for the Promised Land, which is the subject.  In this passage it is revealed that their faith was not really on God because He hadn’t changed.  He was the same God who had delivered them from Egypt and the desert.  So what was the object of their faith?

No matter how badly they wanted the Promised Land and no matter how wonderful it was, the circumstances that surrounded them looked bad.  The true object of their faith was circumstances.  If they could see how something could happen then they would “believe.”  Of course, by definition this is actually a lack of faith.  At each miraculous point in their past, they typically failed to believe that God would help them and grumbled and complained.  Yet, God blessed them anyways with liberation, protection, and provision.  They only reason they made it this far with God was because He was being merciful with them.  In truth they had exercised precious little faith in Him.  There is a certain amount of power and momentum in the desire that we have for something, but do not be deceived.  That power will not be enough to sustain you through what lies ahead.  Trying to live by the power of our desires and how favorable the circumstances are is a road that leads to spiritual destruction and more.

In truth the strength of faith depends upon our trust in God and Him alone.  All along the path from Egypt to Canaan, God had been showing Israel that He could be trusted and that He had the power to do all that He promised them.  At each step of the way, at each new circumstance, and each new fact that their minds recognized, they were being tested.  Do you trust Me now?  Have you ever thought that the difficulties you run into in life and the adverse circumstances that seem to get in your way are simply God asking you to trust Him again and again?  Do you trust Me now?  Weak faith has nothing to do with the subject, but it has everything to do with the object.  If you are having trouble trusting God it is not because He hasn’t proven Himself.  It is because you do not really trust Him in the first place.  You are trusting something else.

Our faith can be made weak by circumstances and interference.

In this passage we have on display a common event.  We appear to believe God for something and then circumstances change.  We then lose faith.  For Israel this is when they saw that the land was filled with giants.  Similar to Peter seeing the waves and beginning to fear, or us looking at the world around us and beginning to doubt, the Israelites saw that they would have to fight giants to take the land and they lost any faith they had.  When you have that, “Oh no!” moment in which some circumstance seems to be too much, and you say, “I can’t do this,” you are revealing that you were trusting in yourself and the circumstances more than you were trusting in God.  Yes, the land was everything that they were promised, but it is inhabited by giants.  That which appeared to be great conquering faith melted like wax over a flame, or butter on the stove.

In contrast to the 10 spies and most of Israel, we that Joshua and Caleb still believe in God regardless of the circumstances.  These guys are not stupid.  They see the same things that everyone else can see.  However, their faith is not in what they can see.  They know that the Creator of the universe is not intimidated by giant humans on earth.  If the circumstances make it likely that you will win, then it really isn’t faith to believe that you will win.  Think about it.  They don’t know how God will give them victory over the giants, but they know it must happen for God to keep His word to them.

In verse 9, Joshua and Caleb remind the people that the Lord is still with them.  God hasn’t left us, and He is the one who led us to this place today.  So, why not trust Him?  In fact, Joshua and Caleb declare that not having faith in God is itself a rebellion against Him that is instigated by fear of people.  Do you believe that God is present in your life?  Has He led you to this place, and does He have a plan to take you through whatever you face?  This is what He is asking you to do.  Trust Him.  Now let’s look at the rest of this story.

We need trust in God more than we need the things it can get us.

In Numbers 14:34-45 we see that God disciplines Israel.  He is not going back on His word.  However, He tells Moses that they will have to go back into the desert for 40 years and then He will bring them back again to the Promised Land.  Of course, the people of Israel did not like that response and so they decide that they would rather die fighting giants than go back into the desert.  Thus they double-down on their rebellion against God.  They refuse to fight when He tells them to do so, and then when He says to leave, they try to fight.

In biblical terminology the Promised Land had become an idol in their heart.  Instead of God being seated on the throne of their heart, they had put the subject of their faith on the throne of their heart.  This is a human tendency.  We tend to put the ability of man and favorable circumstances as a kind of ruler that dictates to us whether to do something or not, and to believe for something or not.  This is rebellion against God and it is idolatry.

God in His love disciplines us so that we will see that we do not fully trust Him.  Even God’s discipline will lead to good things if we trust Him.  Yes, that generation would not live in the Promised Land.  However, they could infuse in their children the lesson that they had learned, so that the next generation would not repeat this error.  When God disciplines you, don’t double-down on rebellion.  Rather, embrace it and learn the lessons that He has for you to learn.  It is more important to have God than all the food of Egypt, or all the comforts of the Promised Land.  If we don’t have faith in Him then we really have nothing at all.

God will not bless our idolatry, or our rebellion against Him.  We can’t force it or make it happen.  When Israel went to battle against the giants in rebellion to God’s discipline, they ended up being defeated.  God refused to help them.  Many Christians today do not realize that they have put the subjects of their faith on the throne of their heart.  They follow a theology that tries to force God to give us what we want.  If I only do this enough or that enough then He must do what I pray.  Yet, such things are folly.  God told the Apostle Paul, “No” when he asked God to heal a physical problem that he had.  Why?  Surely God doesn’t want us sick, but rather healthy, wealthy, and wise.  God said, “No” because He knew what was best for Paul.  The thorn in Paul’s flesh would serve to keep him humble.  Besides, God’s grace is enough for us.  I don’t have to have the things I want.  Having God and being in relationship with Him in this life is enough for me and for you.

Final Thoughts

In 1 Samuel 17 we have the story of David and Goliath.  At this point in time, we have a new generation that had to learn to conquer giants themselves.  No matter how many giants that Joshua and their ancestors had taken out, none of it could replace David’s generation stepping up to the plate.  Yet, they did have an example in front of them that could help them believe.  Take time to hear the examples of the Bible and those elderly believers who talk to us today.  You need to learn to trust God for yourself and discover by faith those things that He has for you.

Have you ever thought that perhaps God likes impossible odds?  Why do we balk at this?  It makes sense that an all-powerful being would enjoy helping us through impossible situations.  Perhaps the more impossible it looks the more likely it is God who is bringing us to it.

We look to many things in this world to be the answer:  money, people, equipment, technology, skills, knowledge, etc.  However, our answer is not in those things.  Our answer is in putting complete faith in God.  Yes, we have those things, but it is God who blesses them and provides what they cannot.  So, why would I put my trust in them?  With God you can be in a desert and be filled with food, but without Him you can sit in the midst of abundance and be empty.

Lastly, faith is not about obtaining things, but rather about remaining in a place of absolute trust in the Lord Jesus.  Is your faith completely in Jesus?  If so, then you will not be derailed when the things you want seem impossible, or God tells you, “No.”

Article originally appeared on Abundant Life Christian Fellowship - Everett, WA (http://totallyforgiven.com/).
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