How to Overcome Challenges to Faith
Why talk about faith? Faith is one of life’s most important topics. We know this because Heb. 11:6 teaches us that “without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.” And yet, to have and hold faith is not easy—it is constantly under assault by life’s challenges.
Have you ever had someone teach you about something who lacked credibility and therefore made it difficult to embrace? This morning, I will be sharing with you about How to Overcome Challenges to Faith. But I believe it is important to preface my remarks by sharing my own experiences in suffering so that at least you know I know firsthand what I’m discussing and believe wholeheartedly in what I will share. Here are just a few of the biggest challenges I have had to overcome in my life.
1. At age nine I lost my mother to cancer after she suffered terribly for four years. Before she died she said to her mother . . .
2. On Dec. 12, 1985 Two hundred and forty-eight soldiers I served with died to on a plane crash in Gander, Newfoundland. On that flight was my best friend from West Point and fellow company commander. My son Bryan is named for him. We also lost our chaplain and all 24 of my men who were married or engaged that I sent home a week early. The only reason I was not on that flight was the majority of my men were still in the Sinai desert.
3. My oldest son, Bryan suffered a brain stem tumor at the age of three and received seventy-two radiation treatments before God miraculously cured him. When we moved to Colorado from Oregon in 21015, he suffered a stroke at the age of 28 taking away the dexterity of his right hand and limiting his ability to walk.
George McDonald once wrote, “A man’s real belief is that which he lives by.” One of the best measurements of a person’s faith is to observe how that person responds to adversity.” I placed my faith in Jesus when I was 4 and have walked faithfully with him for over 57 years now. I believe in overcoming faith!
Mark 4:37-41—A fierce windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke Him up and said to Him, “Teacher! Don’t You care that we’re going to die?” He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Then He said to them, “Why are you fearful? Do you still have no faith?” And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
1. Don’t focus on the Problem recognize that Jesus is in the boat! All the disciples could see was the storm. If they trusted Jesus why be afraid? Jeremiah 1:6,7—But I protested, “Oh no, Lord, God! Look, I don’t know how to speak since I am only a youth.” Then the Lord said to me: Do not say, “I am only a youth,” for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever I tell you.
Exo. 3:11; 4:1,10--But Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” . . Then Moses answered, “What if they won’t believe me and will not obey me but say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” . . . But Moses replied to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent—either in the past or recently or since You have been speaking to Your servant—because I am slow and hesitant in speech.”
Instability is a big hindrance to faith. When the boat is rocking it is hard not to get motion sickness, not to become afraid. Change is hard—imagine transitioning from a calm lake to a full-blown storm—that is actually terrifying!
We have His presence in the form of the Holy Spirit as Pastor Brian reminded us last Sunday. Did you ever as a child experience the loss of electricity in a storm and the house became completely dark? How comforting was it to hold the hand of your parent and hear the calming assurance that everything would be alright! Consider that we have our Almighty Father with us through every storm we encounter.
The prophet Daniel gives us a great example of what right looks like! Daniel modeled tact, discretion and faith when his life was threatened (2:12-14; 6:17). He made no attempt to escape the trap his enemies set. Instead, he submitted himself to God’s protection. He valued prayer and habitually conversed with God (2:17,18, 6:10; 9:3,4,17-21; 10:12).
2. Swallow pride and don’t be afraid to cry out for help!
Mark 10:47,48—When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out, “Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me!” Many people told him to keep quiet, but he was crying out all the more, “Have mercy on me, Son of David!”
Bartimaeus knew he had a need and he did not care whether or not the people around him approved of his behavior. He wanted to see! Had he listened to their admonitions to shush, he in all likelihood would have remained blind. Bart yelled louder and his efforts paid off as Jesus stopped, called him, asked him what he wanted and then healed him. Is it possible that God does not answer our inward faith because we are outwardly cowed into silence? Do you have a need? Don’t let people shame you into silence or pressure you to accept your condition. Beware of letting others’ comfort-level determine your actions. If you believe the Master can fix your problem, if you need mercy, by all means yell out to Him!
3. Refuse worry and fear. Let me share some powerful thoughts with you. The Bible in 119 verses tells us not to fear or be anxious or worry. Thirty-two out of the sixty-six books of the Bible share this truth with Isaiah and Matthew being the most frequent contributors.* God does not suggest that we live without fear, He commands it. “Do not fear!” There are great reasons for this. If we engage faith we disengage fear. If we feed faith we starve fear. Faith is like spinach to the body, fear is like candy. One makes us strong the other is addicting and gives us cancer.
Our propensity or tendency as humans is to doubt. There are at least three reasons why this is true:
1). We focus on our limitations. “Is anything impossible for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14).
2). We prefer our ways to God’s ways. Often the motive behind questioning is an unwillingness to budge. The Israelites repeatedly experienced the supernatural leadership of God in rescuing them from Egypt and an unforgiving desert. Still, they questioned Him.
3). We don’t think that we really matter to God. In the throes of heartbreak, defeat, sickness or what seems like a boring life, we forget that because of His great love and mercy, God miraculously made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in sin (Ephesians 2:4,5).
Matthew 6:34—Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
James 1:12—A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.
4. Have patience and persevere holding on to godly values. Life is like a marathon. There are times we run joyfully (my apologies to those of you who hate running). There are times when the rain and wind whips against us and we wonder why we ever bothered. But always in our mind should be the realization that we are not running alone. Our Lord is with us and promises to bring us safely to the finish line where He will change us in a twinkling of an eye! Our worn bodies will be replaced! Sin will be a thing of the past. Life will be perfect. We must persevere. The finish is not only out of this world, it is eternally rewarding!
“Patience is not simply the ability to wait—it's how we behave while we're waiting.”—Joyce Meyer
1 Samuel 13:7-14: King Saul was told by Samuel to wait until he arrived so he could offer sacrifices for the people. What happened when Saul didn’t wait? He lost his crown.
“Tenacity is more than endurance; it is endurance that has at its heart the absolute certainty that what we look for is going to transpire.”—Oswald Chambers in God’s Workmanship
Former U.S. President Dwight David Eisenhower said, “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
What are some of the godly values we are to hold on to? In 36 years of serving in the Army we emphasized seven values: Loyalty, Duty. Respect. Selfless Service. Honor. Integrity. Personal Courage. All of those are Scripture but I would certainly add Love, humility, self-control, courage, forgiveness, and others . . .
Romans 8:24-25—Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.
5. Trust In God’s Promises. “ It is not our trust that keeps us, but the God in whom we trust who keeps us. We are always in danger of trusting in our trust, believing our belief, having faith in our faith. All these things can be shaken; we have to base our faith on those things which cannot be shaken.”—Oswald Chambers in The Pilgrim’s Song Book
Our hope is eternal fellowship with God free of pain and suffering. Sin and death will not defeat us because of our Redeemer—Jesus whom we have given our trust. This is not a truth to forget or set aside.
Psalm 105:8--He remembers His covenant forever, the promise He ordained for a thousand generations . . .
Psa. 119:50, 116,133, 154--This is my comfort in my affliction: Your promise has given me life . . . Sustain me as You promised, and I will live; do not let me be ashamed of my hope . . . Make my steps steady through Your promise; don’t let any sin dominate me . . . Defend my cause and redeem me; give me life as You promised.
2 Co. 7:1—Therefore, dear friends, since we have such promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, completing our sanctification in the fear of God.
Heb. 10:23—Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
2 Peter 1:4—By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires.
6. Beware of being stationary! To have faith requires testing and exercise!
Amos 6:1--Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and to those who feel secure on the hill of Samaria—the notable people in this first of the nations, those the house of Israel comes to.
Hosea 13:6—When they had pasture, they became satisfied; they were satisfied, and their hearts became proud. Therefore they forgot Me.
Embrace suffering by taking the offensive. You take the offensive by having goals!
Hebrews 10:34,35—For you sympathized with the prisoners and accepted
with joy the confiscation of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves have a better and enduring possession. So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.
2 Corinthians 10:4,5—since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.
Dad: I have been giving thought to a list of things that I would like to do daily. I call it the Daily Resolution.
1 a. Thoughtfully and Prayerfully review a minimum of 24 verses each day.
b. Read through the Bible this year
2. Pray daily for my spiritual sons (and now one spiritual daughter...Lee OLeary)
3. Exercise Daily
4. Read through 50 years of journaling to help Dan with his book project.
5. Stir up the flock regarding evangelism every chance I get. (lead by example).
6. Add to this list as God leads.
May 20/20 be the greatest year of your lives (and ours as well)....my prayer for Jesus glory and honor.
I avoid being stationary by constantly looking for opportunities to minister. In 2000 I started a leadership development organization called First Cause. Today we minister throughout Africa and Spanish-speaking nations. Beginning in January I’ll be teaching weekly using Zoom to teams in Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria. Each week I write out and send a devotional and podcast called Reveration. This helps me stay fresh! The result of writing a weekly devotional is seven books. Each year I set a goal to read at least two books a month. Last year I read about 65 books this year I will have read 52 books. I do this to learn, to keep growing in my faith—the day we stop learning is the day we die! We cannot afford to needlessly die—there is a world out there that needs to hear the gospel and to be discipled!
7. Don’t trust in your own thinking.
Pastor Joseph Shikokoti was advised to build a small church—he did the opposite!
Psa. 18:27—For You rescue an afflicted people, but You humble those with haughty eyes.
Pro. 12:15—A fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise.
Pro. 26:12—Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Ask God for Discernment. Sometimes the obvious blinds us: Matthew 14:17—“But we only have five loaves and two fish here,” they said to Him.
There are those who walk by faith and there are those who walk by reason. There are those who think they trust in God and those who trust in their thinking.