On Easter Sunday at Gateway Church in Austin, we started a new series called “Why God: Asking God the Tough Questions.”
These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.
Audio of the Message I Shared at Gateway Church in South Austin:
Here are notes from the message by me and John Burke:
Why faith? Why is faith so important? Scripture tells us:
“And it is impossible to please God without faith…” – Hebrews 11:6
For those who are exploring faith in God, this is very important to understand. God is not looking to see if you can clean up your act and be good enough. His priority is not for you to be religious or try harder. His first desire is that you have faith in Him. Without faith, you can’t please him, no matter how hard you try to be good. But conversely – Faith is all it takes to please God.
“Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” – Hebrews 11:6
It’s actually not hard to please God. And for those of you who do believe, it doesn’t end with a first step of faith. Growing in faith is what it’s all about, and always has been that way.
Why is faith such a big deal? And what is faith?
The last few weeks we’ve been talking about how this unseen, hidden God stays somewhat hidden for a reason. God’s aim is to create a loving family, not obedient slaves, but a family of eternally free, loving children. He hides to not force us, yet also reveals himself enough so that those who seek him and want to know him can find him.
We talked about some of the reasons to believe Jesus was actually the long-awaited One God foretold, and that history confirms it. The truth is there is a lot of evidence that all this is true…and yet…it still requires faith. At the end of the day, freely giving your life back to your Creator is not primarily an intellectual exercise—it’s a matter of the heart and will.
All the evidence in the world will not convince a person who doesn’t want God in their life.
What we’re looking for often determines what we find. So ask yourself honestly, “What am I looking for? Am I seeking God? Do I want to know my Creator? Or am I looking to find reasons not to believe? To stay Master of my universe, and not submit to anyone, even my Creator.
Everyone has faith.
We couldn’t live without it as finite beings who can’t know everything. Faith is not religious, it’s human. Even the atheist has faith.
We can’t possibly know everything, so we must trust beyond what we can fully know or control.
We all have faith. We all trust in something for life, security, hope—it may be God, it may be ourselves, it may be another person—but we all have faith. The question is, how reliable is the object of that faith?
The faith God wants is about love. God wants to be known by you, and God wants that knowledge to change your life, and he wants us to love Him back…by faith. Why faith?—because that’s how all relationships work.
“Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. – James 2:23
It was faith, trust, belief that made Abraham right with God. And it was his continued willingness to trust God—to take God at his word and trust his promises even when his faith got tested that made him God’s friend. Faith matters to God because loving, trusting friendship with you is what God wants—but relationship always requires faith.
Relationships take faith.
Relationship is a dance of trust, or faith. You must trust me enough to reveal who you are. The more I know you, the more willing I am to trust you, and let you in—entrust myself to you, only as we entrust ourselves to each other more does the relationship grow. Relationship takes faith and risk and trust.
Now, all of us have an image of God in our heads that is distorted in some way since God knows all and God transcends our tiny understanding. Yet all of our experiences of family, and church, and movies and life have influenced our view of God. How do we really know that the image of God we carry around in our heads is really who God is? It depends on two things – God honestly revealing himself, and us really seeking to know and understand him for who he truly is.
We can only have an intimate relationship with God by seeking to know and trust more and more over time.
Trust is the bedrock of relationship. Friendships are built on trust, on faith. When I hear people say “I just don’t feel close to God. It just isn’t working for me.” It’s almost always because they don’t know how faith works. Faith grows like a spiritual muscle. Just like physical muscles, the more they get stretched and tested, the stronger those muscles get over time. It takes time, and you only build muscle when you keep pushing beyond what’s comfortable over time. It takes time with God, and God allows our faith to be tested over time, so we can trust, and grow stronger in our relationship. But many give up with the slightest test of faith or when it’s not instant gratification.
A relationship with God begins by trusting God’s promise that God loves us, forgives us, and will make us right-related if we turn back in faith.
We can’t see or know much at all about the invisible God unless he chooses to reveal himself. So the scriptures claim that God revealed himself in a form we could relate to—One of us.
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only [Son], who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. – John 1:18
In Jesus, God answered the questions of relational trust, so that we would have faith in him.
We were created for relationship with the Creator. So God removed every barrier between us and God except one—our free will—we must Choose God by faith. The book of Romans in Bible explains faith and relationship well:
23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin…God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith.
– Romans 3:23-28
God loved every person so much, he made a way to forgive and take back anyone who wants his forgiveness and loving leadership. God accepts you, not for what you did or will do, but in love through Jesus.
Jesus said, this IS God’s heart toward you:
“…his father [God] saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him….We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. – Luke 15:23-24
God says when one person turns back home to God, all heaven celebrates.