Part 7 – The Habit of Faith
· We are going to pick up on this 4th quarter idea and carry it over into this next habit: The Habit of Faith
o How many of you agree that faith should be a habit?
o How many of you agree that it should be a habit in every quarter of your life and especially the 4th quarter.
o Just because you are old or older does not mean you get a break from believing God.
Luke 18:8 (ESV)
8 … Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
· Personalize this verse
o It is not “Well you know the whole world is just going down the drain – no faith – no one’s believing God… etc.”
o What about you dear heart? Aren’t you part of the world?
§ There are 76 million baby boomers in America – all hitting or getting the 4th quarter of their lives –
§ Here is the question Jesus asked – “Do any of them have faith?”
o “When the Son of man comes will he find Emery believing God (put your name in here)
o He needs to find us believing Him, really, no matter what quarter of life we are in?
o You want to be strong in faith all throughout your entire time on planet earth.
o So we are talking about the Habit of Faith – a habit is something you do all the time.
§ But let us want elongate that thought to this – “Faith that is Four Quarters Long” or “Fourth Quarter Faith” or how about “FAITH THAT FINISHES: “Making The Last 10%”
2 Tim. 4:7 (NKJV)
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
· The easiest thing in the world is to start something.
o ILLUSTRATION: Did you know?
§ During the last 14 years of Michangelo – he did not finish a painting. Did you know that during the last 22 years – he did not finish a sculpture? There is a museum in Florence, Italy that has in it many (or all) of his unfinished works. People that have not made it out of stone – what would the world have in it’s possession if it’s greatest artist had some staying power?
· Ask yourself this question
o What projects for God do I have in my life that have not made it out of stone?
o Works for God that are unfinished because I stopped believing Him?
· It’s always that last 10% that makes the man.
ILLUSTRATION: By 7 p.m. on October 20, 1968, at the Mexico City Olympics Stadium, it was beginning to darken. It had cooled down as well.
The last of the Olympic marathon runners were being assisted away to first-aid stations. Over an hour earlier, Mamo Waldi of Ethiopia had charged across the finish line, winning the 26-mile, 385-yard race looking as strong and as vigorous as when he’d started.
As the last few thousand spectators began preparing to leave, they heard police sirens and whistles through the gate entering the stadium.
The attention turned to that gate. A sole figure, wearing the colors of Tanzania, came limping into the stadium. His name was John Steven Aquari. He was the last man to finish the marathon in 1968. His leg was bandaged, bloody. He had taken a bad fall early in the race. Now, it was all he could do to limp his way around the track. The crowd stood and applauded as he completed that last lap.
When he finally crossed the finish line, one man dared ask the question all were wondering. “You are badly injured. Why didn’t you quit? Why didn’t you give up?”
Aquari, with quiet dignity said, “My country did not send me seven thousand miles to start this race. My country sent me to finish.”
· I am here today to tell boldly that God did not send you to start anything – He sent you to finish.
· I am talking the Habit of Faith – I am talking about Faith that Finishes.
· What is it that keeps people from finishing?
· We want to know – we want to understand…
· Why is that people start but don’t make it out of stone, why is it that people don’t finish – why is it that people don’t excel during the 4th quarter?
FOCUSING AND FINISHING
DOCTRINE OF THE DITCH
Some people don’t finish because they get sidetracked
o If you want to finish effectively, you are going to have to understand the ‘Doctrine of The Ditch.’
o You have heard this I am sure
§ The main thing in life is to keep the main thing, the main thing.
o The hardest thing in Christian life is to get yourself balanced and in the middle of the road.
o There are people, all kinds of people, in between the ditches; strewn in between.
o We are supposed to increasing in God as we progress through the quarters – not wasting time ditch hopping, going from ditch to ditch.
o ILLUSTRATION: Anybody a racing fan here?
§ Daytona 500 – do you know that most of them did not finish the race.
§ Here is a simple but profound statement – a fortune cookie moment J
· He who wants to finish the race must stay on the track.
o Peter got sidetracked?
§ He was a ditch jumper! (early in his walk)
§ Mat. 16:13-23
Matt. 16:13-16 (NLT)
13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
14“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
15Then he asked them, “Who do you say I am?”
16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
· vs. 14 shows 4 different opinions;
o the truth that Jesus was the Christ was in the middle and there were people on both sides of the truth.
o Always remember the majority is not always right.
· Only one man had the right answer.
o The multitudes all had their opinion and it was wrong!
Matt. 16:17-20 (NLT)
17Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. 19And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you lock on earth will be locked in heaven, and whatever you open on earth will be opened in heaven.” 20Then he sternly warned them not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
· vs. 18 – ‘And I say also unto thee…’
o i.e. the Father has revealed one thing to you that I am the Christ and now I am going to reveal something else to you and here it is.
§ ‘Thou art Peter’ – nothing new, he already knew this – In John 1:42, Jesus said to Peter thou art Cephas.
§ Cephas is Aramaic and Peter is Greek for the same word which in English we translate as stone.
o The rest of vs. 18-19 is the new revelation that Peter receives from Jesus about the rock of revelation.
o Peter is doing well – he has two revelations in the same day!
o And now Jesus tries to give Him a third revelation concerning His imminent death and Peter cannot handle this 3rd revelation.
Matt. 16:21-23 (NLT)
21From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that he had to go to Jerusalem, and he told them what would happen to him there. He would suffer at the hands of the leaders and the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, and he would be raised on the third day.
22But Peter took him aside and corrected him. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”
23Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, and not from God’s.”
§ Understand this about spirit life
· There are reasons why you do not know some spirit realm things and one of the reasons is found here – because you are not in position to handle it!
o vs. 22 – ‘Be it far from thee…’ is Peters reaction to this 3rd revelation
§ It translates as ‘God have mercy on you. This shall never be!’
§ Like Peter was personally going to stop this from happening.
o vs. 23 – ‘Get thee behind me, Satan…’ i.e.
§ Peter you are stone but now you are a stumbling stone
§ Jesus is saying, You are a stone block but right at this moment now you are a block head.
§ That is Peter – One ditch to the other!
· Mat. 26:31-35
· This was not the only time Peter went ditch hopping.
Matt. 26:31 through Matt. 26:35 (NLT)
31“Tonight all of you will desert me,” Jesus told them. “For the Scriptures say,
‘God will strike the Shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
32But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.”
33Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.”
34“Peter,” Jesus replied, “the truth is, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”
35“No!” Peter insisted. “Not even if I have to die with you! I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same.
· To Peters credit, he did not stay in the ditch
o He got converted – he got focused
o Later on, he did die for Jesus – crucified upside down
· ILLUSTRATION: Billy Graham said this…
o A compass is narrow-minded-it always points to the magnetic north. It seems that is a very narrow view, but a compass is not broad-minded. If it were, all the ships at sea and all the planes in the air would be in danger. We must discipline ourselves, personally, to fight any deviation from the course Jesus set for us. We cannot be tolerant of any other course. To deviate is to sin. — Billy Graham (1918-)
o We cannot deviate from believing Him.
o So find areas were you are not and get on your faith.
o Heard a great man of God say, “In every situation ask yourself, “What does the Word say about this.’”
§ Then when you find out – get into faith about that.
§ Always, always go towards God.
§ Which brings us to the next point…
Some People Don’t Finish Because They Don’t Receive Help From On High.
· I didn’t say help wasn’t available, I said they don’t receive it. – Faith is receiving!
· In Order To Finish In Faith The Heart Must Be Full of Faith
o So just like last week, where we talked about getting ready for the 4th quarter physically –
o Ask yourself, shouldn’t we be ready to minister for Him.
o And isn’t getting ready to minister for Him mean being ready to believe Him?
John 6:29 (ESV)
29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
ILLUSTRATION: A recent television documentary pointed out that the cheetah survives on the African plains by running down its prey. The big cat can sprint seventy miles per hour. But the cheetah cannot sustain that pace for long. Within its long, sleek body is a disproportionately small heart, which causes the cheetah to tire quickly. Unless the cheetah catches its prey in the first flurry, it must abandon the chase.
Sometimes Christians seem to have the cheetah’s approach to ministering for God. We speed into projects with great energy. But lacking the heart for sustained effort, we fizzle before we finish. We vow to start faster and run harder, when what we need may be not more speed but more staying power–stamina that comes only from a bigger heart. Motion and busyness, no matter how great, yield nothing unless we allow God to give us the heart.
· Your Life’s Race Requires Help From On High
o That help must be received by faith
o The Just Shall Live By Faith
o Mentioned 4 different times in scripture
§ Rom. 1:17
§ Hab. 2:4
§ Heb. 10:38
§ Gal. 3:11
· It’s obvious that if you are to live by faith, then we are to finish by faith!
· Faith is mentioned over 500 times (the words faith and believe not counting words like trust, confidence etc.) in the N.T.
o What You Live By You Exist By
o There is no existence in God apart from faith.
o It’s obvious that we are not talking physical life only. Because there are people who live and breath but do not love the Lord.
o It’s quality of life that we are talking about.
o There is a danger in not trusting the Lord – Isa. 30:1-3
Isaiah 30:1–3 (ESV)
1 “Ah, stubborn children,” declares the LORD, “who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; 2 who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! 3 Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation.
· God calls not trusting him – spiritual adultery
o There are people from one ditch to the other and all in between in this area of faith. Some can trust God for certain things and not for others.
o If you do not trust Him, you trust someone else. Your trust or your confidence is somewhere in every situation.
Some People Don’t Finish Because They Try To Take Shortcuts
ILLUSTRATION: One fella said, when I was in college, I ran cross-country (another running story). Our competitions were held on area golf courses. Race officials placed flags on the course to mark the way for runners. A certain color indicated “left turn,” another meant “right turn,” a third
meant “straight ahead.”
If the runners wanted a medal, they had to follow the proper course. A runner couldn’t decide, “This is a six-mile race, but I’ve only got four miles in me this morning. I’m going to take a shortcut. I hope nobody minds.”
It’s true for Christians, too. We have to run the race God intended us to run, not somebody else’s race or the race of our own choosing. Yet it’s easy to compare ourselves with others. When the race seems tough, it’s easy to look at someone else and say, “If I had his race to run, no problem. If I had his paycheck, if I had a spouse, if I had his good health, I could run with perseverance.”
We’re tempted to quit because our course is harder than someone else’s, but God says, “I want you to run this race. Don’t think about others. Just look at me.”
o Although we become Christians instantaneously by faith in Christ, knowing God and developing faith is a gradual process. There are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity.
§ It takes time to be holy.
§ It takes to grow in faith – that’s why you have 4 quarters!
o There are no 99 cent or buy one get one free sales.
o There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.
§ Generally speaking the longer course is the right course
§ You can either pay on the front end or you can pay on the back end.
· Paying on the back end is much more expensive.
ILLUSTRATION: A man confined to bed because of a lingering illness had on his sunlit windowsill a cocoon of a beautiful species of butterfly. As nature took its course, the butterfly began its struggle to emerge from the cocoon. But it was a long, hard battle. As the hours went by, the struggling insect seemed to make almost no progress. Finally, the human observer, thinking that “the powers that be” had erred, took a pair of scissors and snipped the opening larger. The butterfly crawled out, but that’s all it ever did–crawl. The pressure of the struggle was intended to push colorful, life-giving juices back into the wings, but the man in his supposed mercy prevented this. The insect never was anything but a stunted abortion, and instead of flying on rainbow wings above the beautiful gardens, it was condemned to spend its brief life crawling in the dust. That gives me the idea that God knows what He is doing.
· Sometimes it’s the struggle that makes you strong.
o Wigglesworth used to say great faith comes from great tests.
1 Pet. 1:7 (KJV)
7That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
o The human body and the human spirit adapts and rises to the level of demand
o This is the reason why so many people who retire and don’t have a plan for the 4th quarter – they have nothing to do all of a sudden – no pressure – just die.
Some People Don’t Finish Because They Have Unrealistic Expectations
· Everything costs twice as much and takes twice as long as you think it does.
o We want everything now – we want all the anointing now – we want all the questions we have answered now
o It took Paul almost 13 years before he began his life’s ministry.
o It took Jesus 30 years before he began His.
o It took 4000 years just to get Jesus here into the earth.
o Dreams do not materialize overnight.
§ They happen when people turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones.
§ They happen when people plow through walls instead of autographing them.
· “I was here…” – big deal – you were here – you left the wall standing!!!!
· Take the wall down by faith – speak and shout at the wall and command it to come down and expect God to do it.
Some People Don’t Finish Because They Lack Tenacity
· Moses started his race but he didn’t go into the Promised Land – he didn’t finish
o It takes courage to finish
· Josh. 1:7 through Josh. 1:8 (NLT)
7Be strong and very courageous. Obey all the laws Moses gave you. Do not turn away from them, and you will be successful in everything you do. 8Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed.
o Tenacity is just plain old fashioned guts for God
§ It takes guts to change
§ It takes guts to speak to walls
§ It takes guts to build a life
§ It takes guts to parent
· It’s easy to get between the sheets and start something but where is the courage to finish what you started?
· It happens with parenting
o Many do well raising the first child but slack off with the remaining children.
o It takes tenacity to keep the standards straight and true for every child.
§ It takes guts to get an education and be someone
· It’s easy to be on welfare! and do nothing
· And if you are African American or Native American, it may take you 2x as long! Because the deck is stacked against you.
o But instead of whining about it and feeling badly about – plow through the wall with tenacity
§ in Jesus Name anyway!
§ With Faith in God
§ With the Word
§ With the direction of the Spirit of God
· If you accept the easy way out just because things are against you – you do dishonor to all of the people that fought and gave their very lives for the right for to have a chance at equality.
George Washington carver said, “Ninety Nine percent of failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” Carver was no stranger to adversity and could have easily made excuses for not succeeding. But that was not his way. Despite being born into slavery. He rose above his circumstances. He earned a BS and then an MS in agriculture from Iowa State, and he dedicated himself to teaching poor African American farmers. He developed an extension program at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute to take to the classroom of the people of the South, teaching agriculture methods and home economics. And his research resulted in the development of hundreds of products made from crops such as peanuts and sweet potatoes. He did that despite working with limited resources and opportunities because of segregation. Where others offered excuses, Carver achieved excellence.
CONCLUSION: NEVER STAY DOWN (another running story)
The 1981 movie Chariots of Fire portrays the true story of Eric Liddell, a man who competed for Great Britain in the 1924 Olympics before becoming a missionary.
One memorable scene that appeared to be Hollywood fiction, actually happened. A year before the Olympic showdown, Liddell ran in a meet between England, Ireland, and Scotland. In the 440-yard event, moments after the gun sounded, Liddell tangled feet with J.J. Gillies of England and tumbled to the track. Dazed, Liddell sat there, not knowing whether he could get up, when the official screamed, “Get up and run!”
He jumped to his feet and pursued the pack, now a full twenty yards ahead of him.
With forty yards to go, he pulled into third place, then second. Right at the tape he passed Gillies, stuck his chest out, won the race, collapsing in total exhaustion.
The next day The Scotsman newspaper reported, “The circumstances in which Liddell won the race made it a performance bordering on the miraculous.” Some described it as “the greatest track performance they had ever seen.”
There is something to be said for finishing!
Don’t let your faith down until you finish your course!!!