[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #345 ---- 7/19/04

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From: "Bob Tolliver" <lifeunlimited@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 12:25:55 +0300
Standing Shoulder To Shoulder Together As 
We Fight the Good Fight of Faith

A personal letter of encouragement to You, written solely to "lift up hands that hang down".

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SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #345 ---- 7/19/04

Title:  "Simple Truth ---- About Faith (part four)" 
            ("Consistent in Its Progress")



My Dear Friend and Partner in Ministry:

It is a personal joy to greet you today from back home in Kiev after two wonderful weeks of conferences and brief holiday stay in Switzerland.  We returned to a group of happy church members who welcomed us home with hugs, handshakes, kisses, and huge smiles.  Even though the attendance was down because of Ukraine's traditional Summer "disappearance" that begins in early to mid July and continues through August, the welcome was thrilling.



ABRAHAM'S FAITH:

Five weeks ago I began writing about the subject of faith as a result of the catharsis Jo Ann and I have been going through with our family concerning the birth of our newest grand child, Nicole Grace.  The first such letter on June 14th was written just four days following her birth.  I talked about the "Fingerprints" of God showing up all over the circumstances and conditions of this little girl who, by man's diagnosis, should not be living today, more than five weeks later.  A week later I wrote about the issue of trusting God enough to be willing to "Ask in Faith" for impossible things.

The following week I began sharing from the life of Abraham ---- First, I discussed five simple truths about faith that Abraham understood.  Then I wrote next that Abraham had confidence in a Person and not just a set of beliefs or systems or even in his faith itself.  He knew that the key to faith was the object in which it was placed.  Third, Abraham was Convinced of God's Promises, recognizing that all promises are only as good as the one who makes them and keeps them.

That brings me to today's letter and some new insights God has given me as a result of the situation with Nicole Grace.  I shared these thoughts yesterday with my church; they have been praying intensely for our little "Victorious Heart" (the meaning of her name), and I wanted to talk about how our faith must always be in a growing, strengthening, deepening process . . . . such as Abraham demonstrated.  

Take a look at Romans 4:18-21:  In hope against hope he believed, in order that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, "So shall your descendants be."   19 And without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb;   20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God,   21 and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform.

There's another passage to consider . . . . Hebrews 3:17-4:2   And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?   18 And to whom did He swear that they should not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient?   19 And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.   4:1 Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it.   2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.

In one case the issue deals with the nation of Israel; in the other with Abraham.  It becomes evident in Hebrews that many of God's people never reached the land of promise because they never understood the principle of faith's progress.  They did not allow their obedient faith that took them out of Egypt to also take them into the land of Promise.  It clearly says they never reached the ultimate end result of rest, simply because they disobeyed in unbelief.

In Abraham's case, just the opposite is true.  In fact, in Romans 4:20 alone, we see three characteristics and three consequences of his faith.

Three Characteristics of Progressing Faith:

+  First, Abraham's faith was Persistently Stable . . . . "he did not waver".  This word is used only twice in the Bible; both are used in terms of promises.  Jeremiah 4:1 tells us that God makes a promise to Israel that He will keep, if only they do not "waver".  Romans 4:20 shows us a man who did not waver.

The word is closely akin to what James describes a "double-minded" man . . . a man who is spiritually "two-faced".  Such a person whose faith is in both the world and in God (a double-minded man, in other words), is unstable . . . . he wavers.  In II Peter, as he writes to the believers in Rome, Peter warns of the danger of a "wavering heart" not stable enough to stand up against deception and enticements.  James indicates that a man with a wavering heart will also waver in all other areas of life.

Abraham was a unique man.  He had a stable faith that didn't waver, even when everything else around him gave evidence to the impossibility of what God had promised him . . . . a son in his old age.  Somehow, Abraham believed God enough that he didn't waver one inch as he endured year after year of the promise being unfulfilled.  He simply believed the God he had come to know so intimately.

+  Second, Abraham's faith was Progressively Strong . . . . he "grew strong in faith".  It occurred to me yesterday morning as I was reviewing my thoughts for the sermon to come that, in many ways, faith is a living thing . . . . it almost has a life of its own.  It has the capacity to grow and to shrivel.  As a living thing, it has the capacity to become stronger or to grow weaker.  That's why you and I so often fight with an erratic behavior in our lives of faith.

As a living entity, it must also be fed, nurtured, and exercised if it is to grow.  That's a primary reason God gives us the experiences of life.  Those experiences become the arena in which our faith is fed, nurtured, exercised, and tested.  As it is so treated, then we also can "grow" strong in faith . . . . if we so choose.

+  Finally, Abraham's faith was unselfishly Focused . . . . "giving glory to God".  By this time in his life, Abraham had been commanded, challenged, tested, and corrected enough times that he had grown to understand that this great promise to be the father of many nations, occupy a great land and have a son by whom the world would be blessed, which he had received  20 or 30 years earlier, was going to be fulfilled in such a way that it would be impossible for him and Sarah to take either the credit or the glory ---- only God would receive the glory, so, it was a natural habit he had developed over the years of doing just that . . . . "giving glory to God".

When you think about it, it's an awesome thing to just consider the decades, the dark times, and the diversions of life that he faced, and yet believed God through it all.  Most of us would have folded and given up on the promises years earlier.  And, when you really consider it, he never did receive in his lifetime the complete fulfillment of those promises did he.

Because Abraham's faith was stable, it was strong, and it was focused, the end result was that it was constantly increasing . . .  it was progressing all the time.  If he had two occasions of despair, he found three occasions to rejoice and believe and push on.  His faith was not passive or static; it was always at work in his life.  Why?  Because God was.

Three Consequences to Progressing Faith:

That type of trust in God has certain consequences that will not be denied.  When we subject our faith to the sovereignty and mastery of a holy God, things begin to happen, as it did with Abraham.  For example, . . . .

+  First, He found himself believing God for something that was unbelievable.  I used to say that he believed the unbelievable, but then realized that's not an accurate statement for him.  If he had believed the unbelievable, he wouldn't have needed God; his own faith would have been his own deliverance.  Instead, he believed God for something that was not otherwise believable.  It was believing God that opened the unbelievable into living reality.  To do otherwise is to have faith in your faith, or to reach your goal through simple positive thinking.

+  Second, because he believed God for what was unbelievable, he ended up receiving the impossible.  It was not humanly possible for Abraham and Sarah to have a son at their age, and yet it happened.  Over and over in Hebrews 11, the phrase, "By faith, Abraham . . . " is used.  And because of Abraham's willingness to believe God for what could not happen, he received that which could not happen . . . . not by the power of his faith, but by the power of the God upon Whom he had rested his faith.

+  Finally, the end result was that Abraham ultimately accomplished what could not be accomplished.  He did receive the land of Promise, he did have the son of Promise, he did become the father of many nations, and he did ultimately bless the nations of the world through his seed, the Lord Jesus Christ.  While he did not live to see the fulfillment of the promised "seed of Abraham", his confident faith accepted it, based on his knowledge of a faithful God and on the evidences of the other fulfillments of the past.

What a thrill!  To come to the end of your life knowing beyond any doubt that God had kept His promise and had fulfilled His plan . . . . just as He said!



THE PROGRESSION OF FAITH:

As I finished reviewing my thoughts yesterday morning, I tried to imagine the pilgrimage of faith which Abraham had traveled from his earliest days in Ur of Chaldees.  What was it like back there?  What was Abram like?  How did he react to God's initial approach to him?  Fascinating possibilities.  

While considering his experiences of encountering God and ultimately becoming the "father of faith", it occurred to me that he wasn't always a man of such confidence in God.  In Genesis 11 we find that Terah decided to leave Ur and go to Canaan.  He took Abram and Sarai, and his grandson, Lot, who was the son of Terah's son, Haran, who had died earlier.  When they got as far as Haran, Terah decided that was far enough, and they settled for Haran instead of Canaan.  He died there.

Following Terah's death, God spoke to Abram, told him to leave Haran and all the relatives, and go to a land which He would show.  God made amazing promises to Abram, who was 75 years old by this time.

You know the rest of the story, . . . . but here's my point.  What was it that brought Abram from being a man who was probably initially ignorant of the things of God to the point that he was willing to trust God and follow Him to the ends of the earth . . . . and even be willing to do some things that would clearly destroy any possibilities of God's promises being fulfilled in the future?

Have you ever considered that?

Well, let's consider something still more extraordinary . . . . what is it that we can possibly identify as a faith that is consistent in its progress and growth?  Why do you and I probably face ups and downs in our trust levels?  Why is it easier at some times to follow God while almost impossible at others?

Paul gives us a little hint in Romans chapter five in that he identifies what I call the cycles of faith ---- justified, we have peace with God because, by faith, we entered into this incredible world of grace through the Lord Jesus Christ.  Knowing we are no longer God's enemies because of this peace, we rejoice in that plus in the glory of God's presence.

But, we also rejoice in something else . . . . we rejoice in our suffering and tribulations.

How is that possible?  Because the Holy Spirit has somehow gotten through our dull brains that suffering produces the opportunity for perseverance; and perseverance produces character; and character builds hope.  And hope prepares us and strengthens us even further so we are able to endure more suffering that will come as part of life's package.

The point is this . . . . there appears to be an upwardly spiraling process of faith building.  We apparently live in a life-time work-out room where our faith comes from nothing and ends up at rest in God's total adequacy.

Now, I don't know if the following logic is Biblically sound or not, but at least consider this possibility:

Ignorance:  At one point you and I were totally ignorant of the things of God.  Perhaps we didn't even know He existed.  Spiritual things were an unknown to us.  We lived in spiritual ignorance.  Then, out of nowhere, someone told us about God and the possibility of a personal relationship.

Unbelief:  If someone told me for the first time that something called electricity existed, I wouldn't believe.  Why?  Because I was ignorant of its existence.  Nothing about it made sense.  The same is true with spiritual things.  When we were first approached about spiritual things, it would be natural to deny their existence.  We would not believe.  Unbelief comes out of ignorance to the truth.

Curiosity:  But, that exposure at least got us thinking about the possibility.  We became curious.  We began to explore . . . . and wonder.

Wishful thinking:  That curiosity eventually manifested itself with "What if . . .?"  "Maybe, . . . "  "Could this really be true?"

Acknowledgement of faith's existence:  Somewhere in that process, the Holy Spirit plants truth in our hearts, and we finally acknowledge that something inside us wants to believe . . . . wants to know God.

Intellectual agreement with facts:  Because this is all I know to do, I make a conscious decision to intellectually agree that all that is said about God is true.  I make a logical, intelligent decision to believe what I've heard.

Emotional desire for experience:  It won't take long for that intellectual dryness to no longer satisfy.  I'll either have to walk away from it, or recognize an unexplainable tug in my inner being that draws me toward God.  At this point I not only believe He is real, exists, and can change my life, but I begin to desire Him . . . to long for Him.

Unstable, hopeful, belief in promises:  Still filled with fears and uncertainties, I reach out in simple, "baby-sized" faith that, though not fully understanding, risks the step and chooses to accept God's promises.  This is a life-changing moment from which time I will never be the same again.  I have moved from darkness into light . . . . the shadows and deception have been relegated to the far corners.

Circumstantial belief that still wavers under circumstances:  A new life has begun, and with weak legs and baby steps, I begin the pilgrimage of faith, moving, like Abraham, "from faith to faith" . . . . from one moment of trust to the next . . . . from one situation for faith to the next one . . . . walking the upward pathway toward total, complete, and constant trust in the God I am learning to know.

Confident Expectation developed by experience with God's faithfulness:  Because of God's faithfulness my faith has grown from unsteady faith that seems to both wonder and wander at times, to a faith that demonstrates absolute confidence in God.  It's no longer a matter of "if", . . . but "when" and "where" and "how".  It's no longer a matter of whether or not God has heard and will answer, but now is a matter of simply waiting for God's response to be revealed in the visible world.

Courageous, bold, authoritative faith that now has some backbone:  Out of such confident expectation, my faith increasingly expresses itself with courageous and bold expressions based on judicial authority God provided in His Son.  Because all authority belongs to Christ, and He seated us beside Himself in the world of spiritual realities, I learn to rest in His finished work, trust His final word, and walk in His leading footsteps, knowing that it is not by my works of righteousness of any kind, but is all about Him.

Militant declaration that refuses to give ground:  The more I see of Christ's victory and God's sovereignty, both expressed in perfect righteous compassion and grace, the stronger I become in my willingness to declare to the rulers of darkness that the Kingdom of Light has come and that it has absolute supreme authority and power over all the works of darkness.  By now I fully understand that fully believing the God of the universes has given me access to the power of His Name and the authority of His reign.

Abandoned submission and surrender to the sovereignty of God:  So, what better place of safety, effectiveness, and service can there ever be than at the feet of the Creator of all things, the healer of all diseases, the ruler of all kingdoms, the forgiver of all sins, and the giver of eternal life!  Like Paul, we agree,  "I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to keep what I've committed to Him against that day."

Rest ---- "Faith Rest" or "Rest of Faith":  When my faith progresses to that point of total and complete abandonment and trust in a never-changing, never-failing, God, my soul is at rest.  I have entered the "Rest of Faith".  No matter what storms swirl around me, I am safe, unafraid, content, confident, and at peace in every situation.

Obedient response that is immediate and unquestioning:  From that point on in my life, I am absorbed with only two things . . . . knowing Him more deeply, and obeying Him more fully.  My reputation is unimportant, my ears no longer hear the jeers of the doubters, my eyes no longer wander toward the world of the temporal, and my heart no longer craves the tasteless crumbs and garbage on the world's table.

Apparently faith, when it has reached full circle, brings us to a "faith rest" where relinquishment is constant, obedience is immediate, and quiet rest is the testimony.



FINALLY:

I realize that this sequence may be either out of order or totally unsubstantiated.  I make no claims that this is really the way it is.  But, this one thing I do know.  Recent events in my life have reminded me that my level of faith moves upward and downward, sometimes as if it had a mind of its own.

And, I also know that the closer I draw to the Father, the deeper and stronger my faith becomes.

So, for that reason, I believe there is clearly a "process of progress" in the life of faith that keeps us moving ever onward and upward.  My prayer is that, whatever else may happen from my letter today, you and I will be drawn at least one step closer to the "soul rest" that is found in the "rest of faith" that expresses itself in instantaneous obedience to the promptings of the Spirit.

Have a wonderful week, dear friend.  May your faith be Consistent in Its Progress.

In His Bond and For His Kingdom,

Bob Tolliver -- Psalm 2:8
Copyright JulY, 2004
Life Unlimited Ministries
  lifeunlimited@...
  http://www.hope4kiev.org/team/members.asp?ID=10 (Personal ministry)
  www.hope4kiev.org (General team ministry)
  http://community.webshots.com/user/01lum for our pix albums.

If this letter has blessed you, feel free to forward it, with proper credits, to any and all you wish.

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REMEMBER ---- "We will not Work where we have not prayed."  (Todd Golden)

May I Recommend . . . .

If you have a heart for God and would like to be encouraged in your life and ministry, 
    and you have a burden for your church, your community, and the world, 
    then you may want to receive . . .
http://frangipane.org ---- for excellent brief words of encouragement from 
    one of America's premier evangelical writers/thinkers.
www.cnsnews.com for daily world news without a liberal, godless bias.
www.worldprayerteam.org ---- A world-wide network for praying together.
www.watchword.org ---- excellent resources on revival, prayer, missions.
www.waymakers.org ---- resources on prayer, evangelism, etc.
www.operationiraqcare.org ---- To adopt and pray for a special historic city in Iraq.
http://www.nppn.org ---- "National Pastors' Prayer Network" newsletter.  ~  
    email: phil@....  Register your PPG: http://www.nppn.org/ppg/ .
Usprayercenter@... ---- U. S. World Prayer Center.
www.cityreaching.com ---- City Reaching/City Impact Roundtable.
www.LifeAction.org ---- "Life Action Outreach".
www.yifa.org ---- "Youth Interceding For America".
www.missionamerica.org ---- "Mission America" .
www.lighthousemovement.com ---- "The Lighthouse Movement". Click on "Lighthouses".

Other Great Resources Are:
www.sermonindex.net for access to over 3900 downloadable audio sermons.  Exceptional site.
www.biblemaster.com for great Bible resources and downloads.  Exceptional site.
www.e-sword.net (one of the best free download Bible study site I've ever seen!)
http://associate.com/camsoc/ctt/"Christian Communications Toolkit" (using internet wisely) 
http://www.associate.com/camsoc/crop/software.html#freewin. Free software or shareware listings, 
www.associate.com/camsoc/crs/ for church related software from CAMSOC.
    To subscribe to CAMSOC update newsletter, go to grga@....
www.ccmag.com.  "Christian Computing Magazine", 
http://www.christiangraphicdesign.com/premierinfo.htm  Thousands of Free Christian graphics.

Online Resources on Ukraine are . . . .
   www.uazone.net
   www.relc.com/kiev/index.htm
   www.travel.kyiv.org/map/e_kyiv.htm
   www.mindspring.com/~goliath74/kiev.html
   www.hope4cee.org
   www.ukraineinfo.us
   www.peopleteams.org/ukrainians
   www.reachukraine.org 
  http://www1.excite.com/travel/travelguide/destination/0,20310,europe-550,00.html

Secular News on Kiev and Ukraine will give you interesting views at . . .
   www.kyivweekly.com
   www.kievpost.com
   www.kyivpost.com
   www.ukrainenews.com 
   www.ukraine-observer.com




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