#10. It took me five years to finish high school.
Mainly because I skipped school for two-and-a-half-years. Honest.
#9. I skipped my high school graduation…to get married.
Best decision I ever made.
#8. I once dressed up as a Native American and sang “Indian Love Call” to a room full of women.
I’m still in counseling for that one.
#7. I buy too many books.
It’s an addiction. Pray for me.
#6. I’m too much of a people-pleaser.
Please don’t hate me for that.
#5. I eat too much.
This is one of those confessions that’s already obvious to everybody, right?
#4. I’m an introvert.
People laugh when I tell them that…but it’s true. I can function as an extrovert, but I’m happiest when it’s just me, a book, and a bottle of Diet Mountain Dew.
#3. I get depressed pretty easily.
It’s partly an occupational hazard. Research says about 40 percent of pastors are experiencing depression at any given point. I think it’s because most of us are introverts trying to function as extroverts!
#2. I didn’t learn to pray regularly until I’d been in ministry for twenty years.
I was preaching about it, I just wasn’t doing it. That’s a story all in itself, too.
AND, the number one confession of this poor, pathetic pastor is…
#1. I don’t really believe God
Talk about deep, dark secrets.
Can a pastor get any deeper, darker than that?
Now, notice that I’m not saying I don’t believe there is a God…
I do believe that,
99.9% of the time.
And please don’t get bent outta shape about that…
I think most people,
even the giants of the faith,
have those moments when the thought crosses your mind,
Am I kidding myself?
Even if it’s just a fraction of one percent of the time,
I think those kinda thoughts come to all of us from time to time…
that’s why it’s still called faith.
That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.
100% certainty will come on that day, when,
as Paul wrote, “we shall see face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
BUT, I’m not talking about believing IN God,
I’m talking about believing God.
My sister-in-law believes IN airplanes…
but she doesn’t fly.
I believe IN beachfront property along the Florida coast,
but I’m not gonna buy a house there,
where hurricanes hit with such frequency.
That’s what I mean when I say I don’t really believe God.
At least not like I want to.
Not like I’m called to.
I believe that when I was a child,
God reached down from heaven and, young as I was, forgave my sins and made me new.
I believe that at the age of fourteen,
when my mom was dying of cancer, God put his arms around me
and held me and stuck with me and took me to a new level of surrender and commitment to him.
I believe that God has been unspeakably patient
to me over the years, a refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1, KJV).
while my faith is immeasurably bigger and stronger than it was years ago,
even just a couple years ago,
I still struggle to believe him…
Shoot, if I really believed God,
I mean, really,
do you think I’d worry as much as I do?
You think I’d stress like I do?
You think I’d get offended?
You think I’d have trouble forgiving?
You think I’d hold on so tight to my money?
You think I’d turn to food for comfort?
You think I’d get depressed so often?
And the same is true for all of us.
If you don't believe me,
take a look at Hebrews,
By the time he gets to chapter 12, the author of Hebrews
a long letter to Jewish Christ-followers
in the first-century world,
has been talking about faith,
and has listed a whole catalog
of people from the past who exemplified faith in God,
people who truly believed God,
who didn’t just believe IN him,
but believed him, with their lives,
…through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated….They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground (Hebrews 11:33-38, NIV).THESE, the author says,
are people who believed God ….
THAT, the author says,
is what believing God looks like….
And then he goes on to say,
to begin Hebrews chapter 12…
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV).He says, “all those people of faith,
who believed God at the point of a sword,
who believed him when their life depended on it,
who believed him enough to endure jeers and floggings,
and chains and prison,
all those people surround us like a crowd in a stadium,
and they’re rooting for us
as we run the race of life,”
shoot they’re praying for us,
according to our Orthodox and Catholic brothers and sisters,
and so the author of Hebrews says,
Therefore…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV).And you know what hinders?
You know what sin so easily trips us up?
I believe it’s unbelief.
Scholars and students debate this point back and forth,
but I think it’s fairly obvious,
for several reasons.
You see, of all the confessions I could make,
of all the sins you could confess,
we’re really guilty of only one:
not believing God.
That’s the sin that trips us up.
That’s the sin—
the one sin—
that constantly wraps itself around my feet
and drags me down
and steals my victor’s crown.
Wait for the LORD;But I don’t wait.
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD (Psalm 27:14, NIV).
I stamp my feet.
I hold my breath and clench my fists.
Because I don’t believe God when he says, “Wait.”
Delight yourself in the LORDBut I don’t do that.
and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4, NIV).
I delight myself in the desires of my heart.
I tell God all the things that delight me,
all the things I want him to give me,
all the things he oughta do for me.
Because I don’t believe God when he says,
Delight yourself in the LORDGod says,
and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4, NIV).
Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink (Matthew 6:25, NIV).And I say, “But…but…but…”
Because I don’t believe God will supply my needs when I trust in him.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38, NIV).But I measure my giving real carefully,
thinking I can only afford to give so much,
when if I really believed God,
I would give according to what measure I wanted to receive back from God!
I don’t believe God.
And I’m guessing neither do you…
Not like those people we read about earlier,
who conquered kingdoms,
who shut the mouths of lions,
who quenched the fury of the flames,
whose weakness was turned to strength,
who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies,
who received back their dead, raised to life again!
But we are surrounded by those people—
believe it or not, the author of Hebrews says they’re watching us,
they’re cheering us,
they’re rooting for us,
they’re urging us to take the risk
and believe God…
Joshua is there…
who, though it had to sound crazy,
declined to use typical siege technology and instead
marched his people around Jericho and blew the trumpets…
and watched the walls come down.
Daniel is there…
who, when he was thrown into a den of lions,
didn’t whine, didn’t beg, didn’t throw up his hands,
but prayed for deliverance.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are there,
who faced a fiery furnace
believing that God would deliver them FROM
or deliver them THROUGH the flames…
And Peter is there, too,
who I wonder if he could be the author of Hebrews,
or at least the one the author had in mind when he said,
“Let’s throw off the sin of unbelief,
the sin that so easily trips us up, and…
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV).Do you remember the story
of Jesus’ closest followers and friends
in a boat on the Sea of Galilee,
and how the men in that boat
looked out over that rough sea in the middle of the night
and saw Jesus walking toward them ON THE WATER?
And they were all freaked out,
but Peter called out to Jesus,
“Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28, NIV).And Jesus said, “Come,”
and Peter stepped out of the boat
and onto the surface of the waves
because he BELIEVED JESUS’ WORD!
But then the Bible says of Peter,
“When he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Matthew 14:30, NIV).“WHEN HE SAW THE WIND!”
When he took his eyes off Jesus, he began to sink.
When he took his eyes off Jesus, he lost faith.
When he took his eyes off Jesus, he stopped walking on water.
It’s when we take our eyes OFF Jesus…
when we see the wind,
when we see the clouds,
when we see the pile of bills,
when we see the mean people in our path,
we get afraid and we start to sink…
SO the author of Hebrews says,
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV).If your eyes are on Jesus,
you can conquer kingdoms,
shut the mouths of lions,
quench the fury of flames,
turn weakness into strength,
face jeers and flogging,
endure chains and prison,
emerge victorious from deprivation, persecution, and mistreatment.
But even so,
I don’t think that kinda faith comes all at once.
I do believe there’s a supernatural gift of faith, that some in this room know.
But I think most of the time,
for most of us,
our faith, our ability to believe God, our willingness to trust him,
GROWS in proportion to how many
and how big
I’ve trusted him in the past.
It’s that way with other relationships, isn’t it?
You’re not gonna hand me your house key the first time we meet.
But after you’ve known me a little while,
and I fed your dog while you were on vacation,
and put the trash cans out for you,
and as far as you could tell I didn’t steal anything…
you might trust me enough to give me a housekey, for emergencies, right?
It’s that way with faith.
Peter didn’t step outta the boat the first time he met Jesus.
By the time he stepped outta that boat,
he’d seen Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist,
he’d seen Jesus turn water into wine,
he’d seen him heal a man with leprosy,
he’d been there when Jesus commanded a storm to “settle down!”
Peter had a history with Jesus
before he walked on water.
So if you and I want to really find out what it’s like
to believe God,
to overcome fear,
to experience healing,
to shut the mouths of lions,
to quench the fury of flames,
then let’s develop a history with Jesus.
Let’s start looking to him,
letting him “author” and “perfect” our faith,
letting him get it started,
and make it stronger.
You can let him get it started,
even if you’ve never before placed any faith in God,
you can start developing a history with Jesus by praying,
Jesus, I confess that I am a sinner,
just like everyone else here today.
I ask you to forgive my sin,
and come into my heart
and sweep it clean,
and take up residence there.
Help me day by day to follow you,
and believe you,
in all I do, amen.
Once we make Jesus the “author” of our faith,
we can cooperate with him in “perfecting” our faith,
to use the words of Hebrews 12:2…
And how do we do that?
Like Peter did…
by following him day by day,
but MORE THAN THAT,
by consciously and consistently
stepping out of the boat,
whatever that looks like today….
risking a little more than I did yesterday…
sticking my neck out a little further than the day before…
believing a little more day by day,
until sooner or later, lo and behold,
I’m moving mountains…
I’m being healed,
I’m dancing in the furnace,
I’m walking on water…
So let me ask you…
what are you willing to risk on the possibility that God
might just keep his promise?
What are you willing to risk on the possibility that God
might just be worthy of your trust?
What is the biggest step of faith you’ve ever taken?
What is the next step of faith you’re willing to take?
I don’t always believe God like I should,
or even like I want to.
But, when I do,
it’s amazing what happens.
When I choose to believe God,
when I put my weight on his promises,
when I decide to chuck all my misgivings and just take a flyer on God,
when I give him half a chance,
he shows up.
I mean, he really shows up.
He leaves me wondering why I wasted so much time
and so much energy
He leaves me shaking my head—
and sometimes shaking in my boots—
at how amazing
and attentive he is.
He leaves me vowing
that the NEXT TIME,
I will believe him …
I will be less pig-headed and more humble,
and let him save me a lot of pain and trouble on the way to believing him more.
And I bet it will be the same for you.