Today, I want to talk to you about faith. Specifically, faith in the middle. It’s easy to have faith at the start. When you marry that beautiful person. When you have that new baby. When you start that new business. When you graduate and start that new career. That’s exciting.
It’s easy to have faith at the end, when you can see the finish line, the dream is insight, you have fought the good fight. Having faith at the start and having faith at the end can be easy. The real challenge is having faith in the middle.
From the time you are born until the time you die you are living in the middle of your life. Its here in the middle where Jesus says you will have trouble. It’s in the middle where you lose your job, your spouse leaves you for someone else or for no one else. Its in the middle where the doctor gives you a bad report. It’s in the middle where you worry about whether your kids are going to love Jesus. It’s in the middle where you find your marriage becoming cold. It’s in the middle where you find yourself getting older and time seems to be running out.
It’s here in the middle where we need faith. It’s in the middle where it seems like God is far away or doesn’t care. That’s when we need faith. This place I call the middle is where the disciples are about to find themselves in. They are about to be in between Jesus being with them and Jesus being resurrected. While they are in the middle Jesus will die on the cross and be placed in a tomb. When you are in the middle it appears that God is losing, but in reality He is winning. It’s in the middle when you feel like God has left you, but in reality God is closer than you think.
This is why David could say in Psalm 23, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil. You are with me.” While you are in the middle it can seem very dark, uncertain, and sometimes feel hopeless, but that’s when you need to trust God the most. That’s when you need to have faith in God.
Let’s read Mark 11:12-25 learn some lessons on having faith in God.
The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!” And the disciples heard him say it. When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching. That evening Jesus and the disciples left the city. The next morning as they passed by the fig tree he had cursed, the disciples noticed it had withered from the roots up. Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, “Look, Rabbi! The fig tree you cursed has withered and died!” Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” (NLT)
Jesus responds to Peter’s statement about the fig tree by saying, Have faith in God. The Lord’s response seems strange at first. Why would Jesus begin talking about faith, prayer, and forgiving others on the heels of the cursed fig tree and the cleansing of the temple? Things were about to change and during major changes you need to trust God.
The cursed fig tree represented the death of the old religious system. The sacrificial system and the temple were not going to be needed anymore. Jesus had arrived and He would fulfill every prophecy and be the ultimate and last sacrifice for the sins of the people. It would take faith in God to move from the Old Testament Law to the New Testament of Grace.
A change was coming, but however, before the needed and wonderful change occurred the disciples and followers of Jesus would need to trust God. It would look like Jesus had been defeated. It would feel like God had abandoned them. It would appear they had been wrong about Jesus. It would be during that time they would need faith in God. Jesus is about to be arrested, beaten without mercy, humiliated publicly through the streets, crucified between to thieves like a common criminal, and buried in a tomb with guards protecting it. It would look like and feel like God had lost.
The same is true for you. There are going to be times in your life when it looks like God has been defeated, that He doesn’t care, or that He is not interested in your problem. When you are in the middle of your valley you can’t see back how to get out and you can’t see far enough ahead to see your way out. You will need faith in God. You will need to trust Him through this seasons of “middle.”
If having faith in God in the middle is that important, then what is faith in God? What does it mean to have faith in God?
Having faith in God is trusting God
Number one, having faith in God is trusting God. When you trust God you are relying on Him to guide you and lead you through the middle of the valley. God may have you do things that don’t make immediate sense, but that is where you trust Him and that’s faith. Trusting God does not mean understanding God. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (vs. 5-6, NLT).
When you are trusting God you are relying on God’s character, God’s ability, God’s strength, and God’s truth. You can trust God because He is loving, caring, compassionate, and wise. You can trust God because He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present. You can trust God because He will not lie to you. He will tell you the truth.
When you are in the middle, when you are in the valley, when you are in that season where He seems like you and God are losing that’s when you need faith in God. You have to trust who He is, what He can do, and what He is trying to accomplish. That’s having faith.
Having faith in God is waiting on God
Number two, having faith in God is waiting on God. When you are in the middle, in the center of a painful situation it can feel like God is not at work, that God is not doing anything. You can get in a hurry and start thinking, “When is this going to be over?” or “How long is this going to go on?” or “Maybe I need to take over and move things on.”
When you are waiting on God you will be tempted to feel desperate, in a hurry, and feel like you need to do God’s job for Him. You will feel the need to take control. You may feel afraid that what you think needs to happen is not going to happen.
During your time of trusting and waiting you may look around at other people and see how blessed they are and wonder why God is not blessing you. Don’t do that, keep your eyes on God and wait for Him to reveal Himself to you and what you should do during your season of trusting and waiting.
You may be waiting for your children to get saved and fall in love with Jesus. You may be waiting for your spouse to love you once again. You may be waiting for God to heal you. You may be waiting for God to bring that special someone in your life. You may be waiting for God to give you children or grandchildren. You may be waiting on God to open a door for that promotion. You may be waiting on God to create an opportunity to share the gospel with someone in your life.
What does faith in God and waiting on God look like?
Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord” (NLT). That means don’t get in a hurry for what God is trying to do. God is an on-time God, He will not be early and He will not be late, He will be there right on time. Don’t try to get ahead of God, do only what He says. While you are waiting keep on loving the people in your life. While you are waiting keep on giving. While you are waiting keep on serving. While you are waiting keep on following. Waiting patiently on God is having faith in God.
It is not always easy to wait, you have to be brave and courageous. During your time of waiting, you will be tempted to give up on God, to quit praying, to quit loving, to quit serving, and to give up. Courage is the ability to do something that frightens you. Bravery is the mental or moral strength to face difficulty. When you are in the middle of your valley, you will be tempted to compromise. Bravery to do the right thing will keep on God’s path. Waiting patiently on God is having faith in God.
Psalm 37:7 says, “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes” (NLT). When people who lie their way to the top or cheat their way to success, don’t get upset and don’t lose your cool. Be still (be aware, calm, and present) in the presence of the Lord. When you are in His presence wait patiently for him to act on your behalf. This is where God opens a door or closes a door. He brings about what appears to be a chance in encounter that sets your life in a new direction. This is when God brings something or someone into your life that you needed that you didn’t even know you needed.
Waiting patiently on God is having faith in God.
Having faith in God is obeying God
Trusting God is having faith in God. Waiting patiently on God is having faith in God. Number three, having faith in God is obeying God. Faith in God is the willful submission of one’s life to the authority of God.
When you obey God you are saying, “God, you are right. Your way is the correct way. This is how it should be done. This is truth and this is what we should believe.” Obedience is a display of faith in God.
When you disobey God you are saying, “God, I don’t trust your way. I don’t believe you know what is best in this situation.” Disobedience is a display of doubt and disbelief.
Hebrews 11:8 says, “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land…” (NLT). Faith produces obedience. If you believe what God says about money, then you are going to do what God says about money. If you believe what God says about being a wife or husband, then you are going to do what God says about being a spouse. If you believe what God says about the gospel and evangelism and missions then you will be a part of spreading the gospel to those who are still lost. Faith produces obedience.
James 2:17 says, “Faith is dead without good works” (NLT). Your actions will tell you and others whether you have faith in God. The things you do day after day and week after week demonstrate whether you have faith in God or not.
Faith is willfully submitting yourself to the authority of God. Faith says, “I will obey God. I will do what He says. I will believe what He tells me.” That’s faith.
Having faith in God is focusing on God
To have faith in God is to obey God, wait on God, and trust God. Number four, having faith in God is focusing on God. We can get so distracted so quickly, but faith keeps your attention and focus on God.
Hebrews 12:2 says , “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, 2 [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith….” (AMP). Jesus is the creator and developer of your faith. The more you focus on Him the stronger your faith will be. Having faith in God is focusing on Jesus.
2 Corinthians 4:18 says, “Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. 18 So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (CSB). Having faith in God is focusing on the spiritual, the unseen, the heavenly things, and the things above. Having faith in God is believing there is a heaven, there are heavenly rewards, there is something eternal that we cannot see and there is something greater and bigger happening around us that we can not see. Faith in God is focusing on the things of God.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:6, “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” (MSG). When you are in the middle of your crisis, don’t forget about God. Be intentional. Find a quiet and secluded place so you can be real and honest with God with how you feel about Him, about others, and about yourself. When you do this your focus will shift from you to your amazing God.
Having faith in God is focusing on God.
The disciples were about to find themselves in a very confusing time and they would need to have faith in God. When you find yourself in a very confusing time you will need to have faith in God. You will need trust Him even though you don’t understand. You will need to wait on His timing and not take control. You will need obey Him and submit yourself to His direction. You will need focus on Him and not get distracted by everything that is going on around in your season of middle.