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March 22, 2012 / nickpark

A Free Sample Chapter from “Faith – The Real Thing”

Back in 1999 I published a book called “Faith – The Real Thing: A Practical Commentary on Hebrews 11”.  Although out of print for some years, it is being reprinted next month by Success Services Ireland.  It is already available on the Amazon Kindle and, to celebrate, Amazon are GIVING it away free for the next two days (up to 7am GMT Sat 24th March).  After that it will cost $9.99.  Kindle files can also be downloaded with the Kindle app onto PCs, Laptops, iPhones, Blackberries, Android phones etc.

Here’s a free sample Chapter.

FAITH – THE REAL THING – LOOKS FOR POTENTIAL, NOT PROBLEMS

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. (verse 11:23)

The King of Egypt had commanded that all male Hebrew children must be thrown into the River Nile (Exodus 1:22), but Moses’ parents defied the king’s command and hid Moses for three months.  They did this because they realised that this baby was ‘no ordinary child.’  Their awareness of the potential that lay within that baby was stronger than any fear that the king’s command may have been able to create.

Babies are, by their very nature, noisy and inconvenient.  For three whole months Moses’ parents lived under constant threat of arrest and execution.  Every time the baby Moses cried, it could have been enough to cause someone to inform on them, to attract the Egyptian soldiers.  But they reckoned the potential in the baby to be greater than the threat of arrest.  This shows us another characteristic of Hebrews 11 faith.  Real faith looks for, and recognises, the potential in people, rather than trying to find fault with them.

Words have a power all of their own.  With words we can build, affirm and encourage.  With words we can destroy, demolish and discourage.  It is significant that, when God saw men building the idolatrous Tower of Babel, He said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6).  The answer?  Simple, just confuse their speech.

It is always easier to destroy, demolish and discourage than it is to build, affirm and encourage.  Any fool can kick a window in, but it takes a craftsman to re-glaze it.  Anyone can criticise or run somebody else down, but it takes a person of faith to see potential in someone and to speak the words that can help unlock that potential.

Kids all over the world grow up discouraged and demotivated, making easy meat for Satan, because they have been bombarded by negative words.  From before they can walk or talk, they are told that they are stupid, that they will never amount to anything.  They grow up believing this.

I heard a story about two fish, a pike and a stickleback.  The pike is not only a big fish, he is also a hungry fish.  Apparently the pike is always hungry, even just after a meal!  Some researchers put the pike and the stickleback in opposite ends of a big long fish tank, and then put a sheet of glass across the middle of the tank.

The pike looked down the tank, saw a smaller fish that would obviously make a nice mouthful, and swam towards the stickleback as fast as he would go.  Wham!  His nose hit that sheet of glass.  So round he swam and tried again.  Wham!  He kept on trying.  The first day, that pike bumped his nose off that glass several hundred times.  The second day, he hit it a few times less.  The third day, even less, and so on.  A fish doesn’t have much brains, but even a fish gets tired of bashing his nose.  After several weeks the pike had given up going for the stickleback altogether.  That was the point where the sheet of glass was taken out.  The pike and the stickleback continued to co-exist quite happily in the same tank for several weeks.  Even though the barrier was now gone, the pike’s painful experience stopped him from trying to eat the smaller fish.

The world, and particularly the Church, is full of people like that pike.  The reasons for past hurts are long gone, but they can’t move on because the painful memories still hold them back.

It never ceases to amaze me that some Christians seem to feel that God has appointed them to heap more negativity onto people already broken by the words of others.  Their so-called ‘evangelism’ consists of abusing people and telling them how bad they are.  Then they wonder why no-one seems to be responding to their offer of the ‘good’ news.

Next they get angry at people for rejecting their message.  Their anger makes them more abusive, and makes their ‘Gospel’ even more a message of condemnation.  This creates a vicious circle with the ‘evangelist’ getting more judgmental, cranky and thoroughly unattractive, while the people he is trying to evangelise get more and more turned off any mention of Jesus Christ.

I have to confess that I got caught in such a vicious circle.  I was a young pastor, just out of Bible College and ready to save the world.  I really did want to reach people with the wonderful life-changing message of Jesus Christ.  The only problem was that I had decided that people who didn’t know Christ were proud, needed to be taken down a peg or two, and were trying to earn their way into heaven through good works.  So I began going round each evening, knocking on people’s doors, telling them what sinners they were, and how stupid and pointless it is to try to work your way into heaven.  Not surprisingly, no-one responded to my message, so I became more and more extreme, more and more judgmental, and more and more ineffective.

One day I was reading my Bible and I came across the verse that says, “whatever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).  The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “That’s your problem.  Your evangelism is nothing but sin.”

I was horrified and began to protest, “But Lord, how can evangelism be sin?  Anyway, I’m doing this because of my faith.  How can You say it is not of faith?”

The Holy Spirit replied with a simple question, “When you knock on someone’s door, are you expecting them to get saved?”  For a long while I just sat there, overwhelmed by a realisation of my own faithlessness and stupidity.  I had long ago stopped expecting people to get saved.  What I had may have looked like faith, may have sounded like faith, may even have smelled like faith, but it wasn’t the real thing.

That day God changed my whole approach to sharing the Gospel.  I began to listen to people, to talk with them instead of talking at them.  I came to realise that most people are not proud, but are crushed by guilt and condemnation.  Most people are not trying to work their way to heaven, they are rather so aware of their sin and inadequacy that they find it difficult to accept the Gospel message that God would ever want them in heaven.  I began to concentrate on releasing people’s potential, rather than hammering home their problems.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no Billy Graham.  My primary ministry is that of a teacher rather than an evangelist.  But, from that day onward, I began to have the joy, on a weekly basis, of leading people to faith in Jesus Christ.

We need to do the same within the Body of Christ.  When you look at other Christians, do not be looking for problems.  Look for the glorious potential that God has placed within each believer.  Each time I preach to a congregation, I am aware of the enormous reservoir of gifts and blessings that are gathered before me.  Faith – the real thing – the Hebrews 11 kind, looks for that potential rather than focussing on problems.  We are to develop and release that potential, for we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

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