There have moments in my life when my faith was weak and expectations low. In that moment, I had to increase my faith level. Do you need to increase your faith level? Maybe you began this year with your faith at a high level or maybe you have been struggling. Even spiritual leaders who know the Word, sometimes need to see their faith increased.
I want to tell you a story of one such great leader. Many years ago a young Midwestern lawyer suffered from such deep depression that his friends thought it best to keep all knives and razors out of his reach. He questioned his life’s calling and wondered if it was even worth attempting to follow it through. During this time he wrote these words, “I am now the most miserable man living. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell. I awfully forebode I shall not.”
That man was Abraham Lincoln and he was at the low point of his life. He needed encouragement. His faith in God and himself had crashed. But somehow, from somewhere, Abraham Lincoln received the encouragement he needed, and the achievements of his life thoroughly vindicated his bout with discouragement. I wonder what it was that sustained him during those days? He never wrote of how he overcame. It is known however, that after the desperation of those days that Lincoln stayed in the home of one Lucy Gilman Speed who was known to be a devout Christian. Perhaps it was her encouragement that allowed his faith to be sustained.
Do You Need To Increase Your Faith Level?
Let me ask you this question today, How is your faith level? That is a very important question. I wonder if in the conversations that took place between a depressed Abraham Lincoln and Lucy Gilman Speed if that question wasn’t asked, “Mr. Lincoln, how is your faith?”
There is nothing more important than the faith level of both an individual and a group of believers. 1 Thessalonians 3 reveals the heart of a pastor for his flock. The Apostle Paul had founded the church in Thessalonica. He has been concerned about how they are doing spiritually. It was a new church plant. Interestingly enough, Paul did not ask, how many are coming? Are the finances holding up? Is the church growing? Have you secured a permanent location? He asked none of those questions. But he did inquire about the faith of the people.
I want you to know there is an indicator in the heart of the church that shows how good a church is doing spiritually. That indicator is the level of faith. When the faith of an individual crashes, they crash. When the faith of a church crashes, spiritually the church goes down.
When most of us think about how we are doing spiritually on an individual level, we think about surface things. We zero in on behavior patterns. We think of how they are doing in an outward sense. We forget that there is a deeper spiritual factor going on. Paul recognized that spiritual factor as faith. Paul had but one concern…how was their faith? He knew that if their faith was okay…everything else would eventually turn out well. He wanted to take a temperature reading of their spiritual health, and faith is what he is looking for. Paul doesn’t just assume that because they are Christians, they are automatically walking in robust faith.
Notice how Paul was so concerned, he sent someone named to Timothy to help them. 1 Thessalonians 3:2 “We sent Timothy…to strengthen and encourage you in your faith,” Apparently even Christians needed their faith strengthened and encouraged.
1 Thessalonians 3:5 “For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out about your faith…” When we visit someone in the hospital, or if someone has lost a job,
or if someone has suffered some loss, Jureen and I go to see them and the first thing we ask them how they are doing and we try to be quiet and let them talk. Here is why? Their words will reveal their faith level.
Fortunately, in this case Timothy was able to bring back a positive report. Yes, their faith is holding up, they are doing fine. Because Paul writes to them and says, 1 Thessalonians 3:7 “Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith.” That didn’t mean that all the outward circumstances had changed for this group of people. In fact they were under intense persecution.
Outward circumstances aren’t nearly as important as what is happening on the inside.
Your job may be giving you grief. The client you have may be acting like the devil himself. But if you have victory on the inside, you will be okay. The important thing was that their faith was holding up well.
In fact, the battle for faith is what all spiritual leaders want to win. Paul had been praying to be able to see them. He wanted to give them what their faith needed. 1 Thessalonians 3:10 “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.” A true spiritual leader will always bring encouragement. A true spiritual leader will always speak words that have faith. Because they know it doesn’t take much negativity, criticism, or doubt for someone’s faith to crumble.
Pastor why did Paul have such an emphasis on faith? What Paul knew and what we seem to have forgotten, is that when people break down in their behavior. When people backslide into sinful behavior, grow cold in the Lord, stop coming to church, and fall into depression and discouragement. It is because their faith has broken down first.
When a marriage crumbles, or someone starts drinking again, after years of sobriety, it may not be simply because the stress of life got to them. It more than likely is because there was something lacking in their faith.
And that is why God wants you to keep your faith strong! I am talking about the essentials of a victorious faith. It is our faith that causes us to triumph in life. “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.” I want you to understand that the level of your faith is more important than how much money you have in the bank or if you have a college degree.
Because it is faith God responds to.
How do I know if my faith level is weak?
Let me give you some indicators of a weak faith level.
- Your prayer life is practically non-existent
The reason you aren’t praying is because you don’t believe he really answers.
- You easily fall into the following patterns.
Worry – you worry because aren’t sure God has you.
Stress – you are stressed because you don’t think the Jesus in you is big enough to handle life.
Escapism – you turn to something else to cause you to forget life for a while because it seems easier that way. Maybe you have little hope that the present may change.
Negativity – you constantly assume the worse is going to happen.
Fear – you are concerned about what will happen to you or kids in the future.
- You haven’t read the Word for weeks because you aren’t sure you really believe it
- You don’t have any praise in you anymore because you doubt can act on your behalf.
If that is you, you need to increase your faith level.
Here is how to increase your faith level.
GET BACK INTO THE WORD AGAIN.
Paul tells the church in Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 “Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.”
Paul was confident they would abound more and more because they knew the commandments that had been given them through the Lord Jesus. In other words: Faith comes when you heard the Word. Romans 10:17 says “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Imagine that you got a computer or a phone three years ago and you never updated it? It was running on three year old software or firmware whatever you want to call it. It is not going to function well.
Your mind is not going to function well either if you don’t constant refresh it and update with new faith giving, life giving verses. If you want to increase your faith level, pick up the Word again, go to church again and hear the Word preached and taught and soon your faith will increase.
RECOGNIZE THAT LIFE PRODUCES TRIALS AND TESTS
The gospel that Paul preached was not a gospel that exempted those who believe from tests and trials. Paul even understood that if you are a Christian, it is very possible that you could have more trials. Non-Christians don’t get persecuted. Christians do, they not only have all the trials of life but on occasion they are persecuted because of their faith.
Paul had warned the church in Thessalonica that he didn’t want the church to become unsettled by trials. He said in 1 Thessalonians 3:2-4, I am sending Timothy “…to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.”
There is a false gospel that says that if you have faith in God, your life will be perfect.
You will never face any difficulties. Your kids will be perfect. It will be one raise after another.
All will come to you with ease and no stress. How I wish that were true! What did Paul say here?
Don’t be unsettled by trials. Many times, there are wonderful Christians whose faith sinks into the ground of unbelief simply because they are suddenly facing a trial.
I have good news and bad news today. Trials will come! That is the bad news. Here is the good news. You are going to maintain your faith, and become stronger in the Lord as a result of it.
In our time, the notion of faith has been derailed into an emphasis on saying certain words,
saying a “positive confession.” Or announcing a super confident description of health, prosperity, or other blessings. I have dealt with some who try to convince themselves that nothing can ever go wrong in their life and that if they somehow keep speaking certain words, it will keep all the bad away.
That is obviously not the kind of faith Paul preached. Paul didn’t tell them, I am sending Timothy over to teach you guys how to say, We aren’t being persecuted. That isn’t true faith. Faith is not a mind game. The faith God wants us to have does not shrink from facing the reality of the problem head on!
I love this verse in Romans 4:19-21 “Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.” It is okay to face the facts of your life. The facts may say, hey, you have some difficulties. You some issues. You have some tests. Abraham faced the facts and you should too! “Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”
Faith is not pretending that you don’t have a problem. Faith is facing the facts. Faith is looking at those facts accurately and still being fully persuaded that those facts do not negate the promises of God.
You need to expect to have some tests on occasion. You need to expect some trials. When they come your way…don’t be unsettled. Don’t freak out. Don’t break down. Don’t waver. Don’t slide into unbelief. It’s going to be all right. Don’t go into a tail spin. Don’t get depressed. But rather go to the promises of God, and allow your faith to be strengthened.
God is faithful! You can trust him. He will see you through! Because on the other side of the trial and test, our faith will be stronger. Faith is being fully persuaded that the Word is true and that the promise is going to happen.
LEARN HOW TO RECEIVE STRENGTH AND ENCOURAGEMENT FROM OTHERS
Paul understood that every believer needs people around him to encourage and strengthen them. You may think, “I don’t need anyone else, I mean isn’t it enough to know the Word?”
If you spend time in the Word, you actually learn how to encourage yourself by the Word. That is true. But a further understanding of the Word lets you know that you need others to strengthen your faith. Paul knew that. He could have just sent a letter to the Thessalonians, But he also sent Timothy.
1 Thessalonians 3:2 “We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith…”
That is why coming to church is so important.
That is why Sunday School is important.
That is why fellowship with other believers is important
That is why Celebrate Recovery is important.
That is why having lots of Christian friends on Facebook is important.
That is why every believer needs a telephone number in their cell that they can call. Because everyone needs encouragement. Pastors need encouragement. Elders need encouragement.
Sunday School teachers need to be strengthened in their faith.
Who has God sent to strengthen your faith? You might think, well pastor, I went through something and no one was there. Really? Did you come to Gods house and open your mouth and say, “I need some prayer today!” Even Paul who wrote one third of the New Testament knew how to do that. 1 Thessalonians 5:25 he said, “Brethren, pray for us.” Sometimes it is wonderful when the phone rings and out of the blue it is that sister or that brother that the Lord sent. But other times, the impetus is on you calling someone else. Is any sick? Let him call for the elders of the church. If your faith starts to crumble…get someone who speaks faith and will encourage you.
Here is some wise counsel: Steer clear of the negative ones. Run from that guy who is all the time speaking doubt and unbelief. Because your faith level depends upon your ability to learn how to receive strength and encouragement.
There is a supply to whatever your faith is lacking! 1 Thessalonians 3:10 ‘Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.”
It might be a spiritual touch that you need from God at an altar.
It might be a promise from his word.
It might be that all your faith needs is someone to listen and validate your feelings.
It might be that you just need to hear some words of hope in a hurting world.
I might that you need to be pointed towards heaven where there will be no more crying or sorrow or sickness or disease or death!
REMEMBER WHEN YOU STAND FIRM IT STRENGTHENS AND BRINGS JOY TO OTHERS
This is an incredible chapter because it shows the power of the true body of Christ – believers who care deeply about one another. No one lives in a vacuum. A lot of people believe that who they are and what they do and their Christianity is a private thing between them and God.
Nope. You have an effect either by your absence and being unconnected or by your presence and what you bring to the table. A key to having an established faith is considering that what you do affects others.
I heard a message one time from one of the greatest pastors in the world. Dr David Yonggi Cho.
He is a pastor of a super mega church in Korea. The day came early in his life when he was in the middle of building a huge project. The economy of Korea tanked. Everything went crazy.
The money stopped and it looked like the whole project was going to go belly up. He was a tall apartment building. This great man of God literally considered jumping out of the window and committing suicide. But almost immediately he thought what would do to the people.
So, he went over to the unfinished building and went inside and began to pray. Soon others joined him, until there was a large group of believers in prayer.
And that is when one of the most humble members of the congregation came. She brought the dish that she ate out of and she said, I am giving this to the Lord perhaps it can be sold and the money used to pay for a small portion of the building. But he saw that woman’s faith. And others did too. Suddenly because she was standing in faith, other began to as well. Suddenly people began to bring and sell all kinds of possessions. Ultimately all the finances of the building program were met. If Dr. Cho needed his faith strengthened don’t we as well?
Paul started out the encourager and he is the one that wound up getting encouraged. 1 Thessalonians 3:7-9 “Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?”
Think of those words, now we really live because you stand firm. You have an impact.
That is why finding a church is not finding a Wal-mart. We are connected to each other.
When your faith level is up, and you are standing firm it matters so much. I sometimes think we don’t tell those who stand firm how important they are near enough. You can’ build a church or extend the kingdom on those who waver, and those who flip flop, and on those whose faith level is like a great roller coaster.
In every church God plants those who are like rocks. They are steady.
They are sure.
They don’t get shook up.
They don’t fall.
They just lend support.
That should be your goal.
1 Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”