Faith Starts Before
The commitment of faith must precede the experience of having your prayers answered -- there's the joy of believing.
Alright. Thank you very much. And hello again, dear radio friend. How in the world are you? How grateful I am for these times we can spend together. Invest, I guess, is the better word because it’s gonna pay out for eternity, isn’t it? Invest together in the Word of God, God’s inerrant, infallible, eternal word, the Bible. And although we’re separated by many miles from continent east to continent west all across the country, this broadcast is heard here and there. Yet the miles drop away and here we are, you and I together, in the presence of our Lord. It’s wonderful, isn’t it?
I’ve gotten a new appreciation for the verse of the hymn that says, “Though sundered far, by faith we meet around one common mercy seat.” And when we pray and worship and look into God’s Word, we are indeed together, aren’t we? For some of you who have to be separated, your husband is traveling or because of some other circumstance you’re separated, parents from children, husband, wife, loved ones and the miles are between, learn the comfort of praying together at a certain time even though you’re separated by many miles. You’ll be together at the throne of grace. And the loneliness drops away, and you know that Jesus is real, and that your love is real, and that God answers prayer.
Well, we’re looking at 1 Thessalonians, and we’ve come to that list of admonitions that are very short but extremely important and meaningful. Verse 16 of Chapter 5 of 1 Thessalonians says, “Rejoice ever more.” The apostle Paul reversed the order of the words for emphasis. Instead of the way we have it here, “rejoice evermore,” if you looked in your Greek New Testament, it would be “Evermore, all the time, always under all circumstances.” That’s what it means. Evermore, keep on rejoicing. Rejoice and keep on rejoicing. Now that’s pretty hard to do, isn’t it? There’s some things that you just can’t be joyful about, unless indeed the Holy Spirit of God is working in your heart and gives you that second fruit of the Holy Spirit. This fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith and so on.
The miracle of the Christian life shows up under pressure. It’s not what you say and do when everything is peaches and cream, everything coming up roses as they say. It’s what you say and do when you’re under extreme pressure that proves whether or not Jesus is real. You know that, I guess, already, don’t you? Rejoice, said he, evermore. Nehemiah said to the people, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” A drooping heart, a sorrowful heart doesn’t have much strength or power either to serve or to sustain, but someone who’s rejoicing in the Lord has power in his life. The joy of the Lord is your strength.” That comes, of course, from the presence of the Lord. Psalm 16:11, “In thy presence is fullness of joy.”
I’ve often gone to a time of prayer burdened and even discouraged. But waiting before my Lord and praying honestly about things, you have to be honest with God. You can’t try to put something on and fool him, because he knows how you feel. Praying honestly before the Lord and then waiting in his presence, looking into his Word and waiting and bowing and praying and worshipping and waiting. I have to tell you, and I think many of you already know this, do you not, that the result of his presence, just waiting in his presence is that your heart begins to sing for joy. Circumstances may not have changed a bit and the hurts that are there are still there, although they’ve been eased a bit by the balm of Gilead, God’s tender touch upon you. But somehow, in spite of unchanged circumstances, you who have changed, and your heart begins to sing, in thy presence is fullness of joy. “Oh thou,” said the hymn writer, “Oh thou in whose presence my soul takes delight.”
I swear to you, in thy presence is fullness of joy. There’s joy in the presence of the Lord. Of course, that comes then from the joy of salvation. David prayed, “Restore to me the joy of thy salvation.” Isaiah said, “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” The joy of knowing that you’re saved, that you’re right with God, that Jesus’ blood cleanses for every sin, and that God has put all of the past sins under the blood of Christ, and he’s removed them as far as the east is from the west. The old time holiness, preachers used to say, “God put all my sins in the depths of the sea and then posted a ‘no fishing’ sign.” The joy of salvation, knowing that you’re right with God. There is the joy of soul-winning. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. The joy of soul-winning.
Do you know anything about that, by the way? Have you prayed with anyone for salvation? Recently, that is. If you want a life that for yourself is joyful, learn the joy of leading others to the Lord Jesus Christ. You don’t have to be an eager proselyte or dragging people in. Just share your Savior with folk when God gives you the chance. You’ll find hungry hearts everywhere, people who God has made ready for your word of sharing and love, and you’ll find, as a result, that there’s great joy in your heart. The joy of soul-winning. Then there’s the joy of the word, “Thy Words were found, and I did eat them, and thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” I learned that early on.
My father encouraged me, after I learned to read, learned actually to read from my mother’s Bible. That was my primer. Then he introduced me to some of the McGuffey’s old readers, and I learned to read more out of them. But I stuck with that Bible, well worn, even when I got it, it was my mother’s big teacher’s edition of the Bible. And I would read it, and then now and again, something would touch my heart, and I would toddle over to my father and say, “Hey, pop, look at this. Isn’t this great?” Well, that must have blessed his own heart because he loved God, loved the Word. And so all my life I’ve been discovering things that just delighted me from his Word, the joy of the Word of God. Now it becomes joyful to you when you internalize it. “Thy words were found, and I did eat them,” said Jeremiah, “and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” When you internalize God’s Word, that is, you make it your very own.
Stephen Olford told me many years ago, back in the early 1940s, something that I put into my little book now that I believe, and it’s gone around the world and been helpful, I’m sure, to many. He said, “Stay with any passage of Scripture till it says something to you. God’s Word will speak to your own heart if you stay with it. Stay with any given passage of Scripture till it says something to you, then write that down. You can’t write it if you haven’t got it, as any schoolteacher would tell you. Write down what God said to you, then pray that back to God until your heart becomes warm and tender and yielded to the truth, and then share it with someone that very day.” That’s what Stephen Olford told me. It’s a good, good formula. I’ve used it through the years. But you internalize the Word of God by listening to what he says, and then praying it back to God until your own heart has yielded to that truth, and it becomes yours in very deed and truth, then you share it with others.
The Word of God brings joy. And then, of course, there’s the joy of exercising faith. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost.” “The God of hope fill you with all joy,” said he, “and peace in believing.” So there’s abounding hope and joy and peace as a result of committing yourself to God in some specific situation, in believing. Our idea of faith is the idea of risking the situation on God. Have you learned that? We talk about faith, and oftentimes it’s a matter of a mental assent, mental point of view. My faith, we speak of, I am a Presbyterian. My faith is Presbyterian. Well, that is all right. I’m not against that. But what the Bible teaches is that faith is risking the situation on God. Faith is the essence of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. It’s acting on what God says before you see it, risking the situation on God. We say, “Show me, and I’ll believe. I’m from Missouri, show me.” But God says, “Believe, and I’ll show you.” You see, the order is reversed.
The commitment of faith must precede the experience of having your prayers answered. And so there’s the joy of believing. “Fill you with all joy and peace in believing,” of committing a thing to God. What joy there is in saying, “Lord, I don’t understand it. I can’t control it, but I’m gonna commit it to you, and you handle it.” Then, you have peace, and you have joy. The joy of commitment of faith. The fruit of the Spirit is joy. The result of yielding to the Holy Spirit of God is God’s joy in your life. And then, of course, there’s joy under pressure, and that’s where we started when we began this broadcast, wasn’t it? Joy under pressure. Peter says, “Don’t be upset because of the trials that you’re facing as though some strange thing happened to you, but rejoice in as much as you are partakers of Christ’s sufferings. That when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” “Rejoice,” he said, “think it not strange concerning the fiery trial as though some strange thing happened to you.”
See, we always say, “I don’t know why this should happen to me.” The unspoken part of that sentence is, “when I’m such a nice person.” We don’t deserve this, we think. Well, all that you and I deserve is the lake of fire. Everything outside of that is pure grace, isn’t it? So he says, “Don’t do that, but rejoice. Rejoice because you are partakers of Christ’s sufferings.” Now, this is a deep and wonderful thought. In God’s wonderful way make you a sharer in the sufferings of Christ at Calvary. “Oh,” he says, “rejoice, you’re partakers, you’re sharing Christ’s sufferings.” So he’s coming, and when his glory be revealed, he’ll be glad with exceeding joy. Well, the verse was, “rejoice all the time.” We’ll come back to it and wind it up the next time we get together.
Dear Father, have your way with each of us and grant to us to show your joy when we’re under pressure. In Jesus’ name. Amen. Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing.
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