Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Measure of Faith

(This past Monday my pastor contacted me with the thought that it might be good to have some other perspectives on our ongoing study of the Book of Romans. With that in mind he asked if I would care to take a look at Romans chapter 12 and see if something caught my attention that I could give a short 5 to 8 minute message on. He would then cover the rest of the chapter in a full length sermon. The following is the message I presented)

Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

The measure of faith. Interesting term. If I read this correctly, God deals out, or measures out a specific amount of faith to each person. And by that I mean that each person may not receive the same amount of faith.

That faith is a gift of God is shown several places is scripture. For instance:

1 Corinthians 12:8-9 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

We tend to look at faith as something that is ours in that it comes from within us. Sometimes this has the potential of being a source of false pride. In fact, if we add Ephesians 2: 9 to verse 8 it reads "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." It is true. If your faith came from somewhere inside yourself, then you would have something to boast of.

But that God gives this gift of faith in differing amounts is a thought that may be even more foreign to many of us but is made quite clear in the Bible. Have you ever noticed how often Jesus used the phrase "Oh ye of little faith"? Often he was speaking to his apostles and he said it many times.

Luke 17:6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.

We read that verse and see great faith, though Jesus calls it as small as a mustard seed. Then there is the story of the centurion:

Luke 7:9 When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

Have you ever looked upon another Christian (perhaps a pastor or a missionary) in awe, thinking they have such great faith. That may explain why we tend to assume that faith is something we generate; seeing someone with more faith shows us our own lack. So we blame ourselves. But maybe the truth is we were not dealt the the same measure of faith.

So if God deals out the faith to us and he gives each person a differing amount does that mean we are "off the hook" so to speak? After all, if God only gave us so much faith, then isn't it natural for us to only act in accordance with that faith. Maybe.... But on the other hand we also see from scripture that the amount of faith we have is not a constant, unchanging amount.

Luke 17:5 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.

The apostles obviously knew where the faith came from, and who to ask for more. And that it is possible to get more is also shown in scriptures.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;

"Faith that groweth exceedingly". Wow, I want some of that!

It is pretty clear that faith is extremely important.

1 Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 1:9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

Yes, that makes faith extremely important. Scary important in fact. But there is one more verse that gives me a lot of comfort when I contemplate these things.

Romans 11:29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

That means God will not change his mind or take his gifts back. Some Bible versions use the word irrevocable in place of "without repentance". That means that this faith that Romans 12: 3 tells us is a gift, this faith which 1 Peter 1: 5 says God will use to keep you unto salvation, is something he will not change his mind about. Whatever the measure he has dealt you.

1 comment:

Joe Blackmon said...

I think you make an excellent point here, Lee. God does not deal with all of us exactly the same. Even those of us who have been given the spiritual gift of teaching do not all have the same level of ability to teach. This should be a source of great humility and encouragement for us as believers.