The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Genuine Faith’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 5/6/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.
What does it mean to have genuine faith? How can we know if our faith is genuine?
Scripture introduces the term “genuineness of faith” in 1 Peter 1:3-9:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. – 1 Peter 1:3-9, bold added
In order for faith to be genuine, it has to be tested. Just because your life is not perfect, does not mean that God isn’t good!
Peter encourages us that God has given us a “living hope” through the Cross (v 3). No matter what happens during out life on earth, we have an “incorruptible” inheritance in Heaven (v 4): one that cannot be stolen, and cannot be lost. We should not be discouraged, then, if our life on earth is not perfect! We are not living for a reward here on earth, but rather for an eternal future in Heaven.
What happens when you give your life to Jesus? When you become a disciple of Jesus, does it mean your life will be perfect? When you become a disciple of Jesus, does it mean that your life will be easy?
Sometimes in the church, we paint a picture that once we give our lives to Jesus, all our problems will disappear. That creates a stumbling block that can be difficult for some Christians to get over. When something difficult happens, we lose hope. We wonder if God is really who He says He is. We wonder if He is for us. We wonder if He even exists at all!
Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean your problems will go away; it simply means they will fade away because God’s presence will be so big! God will give you a hope in Heaven that overwhelms your problems here on earth.
Did I Do That?
Just because you are going through something difficult, does not mean you did something wrong. We see this clearly in the Book of Job.
At first, Job had it all:
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. And seven sons and three daughters were born to him. Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East. – Job 1:1-3
Job was upright! He was blameless. He feared God, and shunned evil! He had happy, healthy kids. He was rich! In fact, he was the “greatest” (i.e. wealthiest) of all the people of the East.
But then calamity came. Job lost his children. He lost everything he owned. Then he was afflicted with painful boils all over his body: an outbreak that could easily become a terminal illness. But did Job’s affliction come because he had done something wrong?
Soon, Job’s friends arrived to help him sort things out:
Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great. – Job 2:11-13
At first, Job’s friends sat quietly and mourned with Job. But they couldn’t keep quiet for long. In Job 3, they started to speak up. One by one, they told Job how they really felt. You must be here, they argued, because you deserve to be here. You lost it all because you messed up! You did something wrong!
This is retribution theology. Retribution theology says that if you’re doing well, it means God is happy with you! But as soon as something goes wrong, it means God is angry with you. But retribution theology is not the Gospel. Retribution theology is Old Covenant, not New Covenant!
Job’s friends were just plain wrong. They had no idea what they were talking about. God would make that clear to them in the end:
And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.” – Job 42:7
Just because something goes wrong in your life, doesn’t mean God is mad at you! Just because life is not perfect, doesn’t mean you did something wrong!
Do you know why Job suffered? It wasn’t because he did something wrong. It was because Satan attacked his life (see Job 1:11). We have an adversary – Satan – who is trying to shake our faith. The only question is: will you let him? Will you let Satan rob you of your relationship with God when something doesn’t go according to plan? Or will you cling to the Cross, and proclaim that God will work it all out for good in the end?
Life Is Not Perfect
Chris Quilala is a worship leader with a band called Jesus Culture. He grew up in Bethel Church in Redding, California. He has spent his entire life worshipping God. But did you know his life has not been perfect?
Chris and his wife, Alyssa, lost their son in December, 2014. Out of nowhere – with no warning – their son stopped breathing in the final stages of pregnancy. Alyssa delivered the baby’s body, but their boy was already in Heaven with Jesus.
This was a Job moment if I’ve ever seen one. Here was a man who was righteous. He lived his life for God, and it showed! But then, out of nowhere, calamity came. Did that mean he had done something wrong? Did that mean God was mad at him?
Jesus Culture released their next album in January, 2016: a little over a year after the tragedy. Here is what Chris said on one of the tracks:
“My wife and I lost our son, as you know, back in December. While we were believing for a miracle, things didn’t quite turn out how we expected. But for us, the journey ahead of us was: can we still proclaim the truth? That God is our healer, that God is the God who raises the dead, that God is good.
“And so as we continued on from losing our son, it was really important for us to keep the truth of who God is in front of us. So we started writing song: songs about God’s miracle power. For us it was really important to proclaim that: even though we didn’t quite see what we had expected, and what we were praying for; but we still know it’s true.”
What an amazing response to calamity. This is genuine faith! If anyone had an excuse to question God’s goodness, it was Chris and his wife! Yet in the midst of tragedy, they didn’t back away from God; they pressed in all the more. Will you worship God as the God of miracles, even if you haven’t seen your miracle yet?
Thorn in the Flesh
The Apostle Paul was a man of great faith; yet even he had problems:
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Cor 12:7-10
Paul had a thorn in the flesh. He was going through something, and for whatever reason, God wouldn’t take it away! We don’t know what this “thorn” was; but we do know it was a tool Satan was trying to use to “buffet” Paul: to make him less effective and knock him off course.
He pleaded with God three times to take his suffering away; but for whatever reason, the problem persisted. But Paul didn’t let it phase him. He didn’t back away from his relationship with God. He pressed in all the more! He relied on the grace of God like never before; and God showed up in his life like never before!
Paul was going through something painful; and for whatever reason, God wouldn’t take it away. But Paul made a decision: I’m going to praise God anyway.
What is Genuine Faith?
Genuine faith doesn’t mean your life will be perfect. Faith in Jesus doesn’t mean all your problems will disappear! It simply means you make a decision to worship in the face of those problems. It means you abandon the perception that God is serving you, and embrace the invitation to serve Him!
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. – 1 Pet 1:6-9
Will you make the decision to worship God, no matter what?
© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
 Let It Echo, Track #6, Jesus Culture, released 2016