What FAITH Can do in Your Life

Pastor Jeff Struecker

Let’s just be honest; the best gifts are the kind that you use all the time. They’re not like the gift of the family heirloom that somebody passes down and you put it on the shelf and take it down twice in 50 years. Those gifts are pretty awesome, but you don’t get a chance to enjoy them. 

The best gifts are like a T-shirt that your best friend gave you, and you wear it every day. Guys, you know what I’m talking about. It stinks so bad, you could stand it up in the corner and smell it as soon as you get in the room. Ladies, you’ve worn that T-shirt so much that it’s completely falling apart; it’s threadbare. That’s an awesome gift. The best gifts are the gifts that you get to use all of the time.

And then there are some gifts that if you don’t use them, you lose them. Now I’m talking specifically about the gift of a gym membership. Women, when your husband gives you a gym membership, I don’t know what that means, but I do know this: if you don’t use it before the membership expires, you lose it. 

Or guys, maybe she gave you some power tools, and there is a definitely a reason behind those power tools. She expects you to pull them out and to use them to fix something in the house. That’s why you got the power tools. Some gifts you use all of the time. Some gifts, if you don’t use them, you’re just going lose them. 

I want you to think about faith as a gift from God. I want you to think about it as the gift that you get to use all of the time.

But I also want you to think about it like this: if you don’t use it, that faith gift starts to wane. In fact, I’ll just tell you where we’re going to go with this sermon. I’ll make it really easy for you. Here it is in one short statement: the gift of faith gets better the more or often that you use it. 

The gift of faith gets better the more you use it.

It’s not one of those gifts that you use one time when you pray a prayer to get out of Hell. It’s a gift that you depend on every day, all day long. There’s never a day that you get up and you don’t need the gift of faith, that you don’t need to use your faith.

We’re in this Christmas season, and we’re studying through this really unusual passage in the Bible for Christmas. But if you do the Advent calendar or Advent wreath, the ideas in Romans 5 are exactly what you talk about during the Advent season. Last week, we looked at Romans 5:1. Today, we’re going to build on it and add verse two to this passage. Let’s take a look at Romans 5. Here’s what the book of Romans says about faith, and pay attention to how often this word faith shows up in two verses. 

Ro 5:1–2 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

What we said last week is that the greatest gift ever given was given around Christmas time. And it wasn’t wrapped in a package with a bow on top; it was actually God giving His people the gift of Himself. God is the ultimate gift. That’s what Christmas and the incarnation, God taking on flesh, is all about. And when we got the gift of God, He also brought us a few other gifts. 

So last week, we looked at verse one and we saw the gift of peace. Today, we’re going to look at verse two, and we’re going to dissect this verse and look at the gift of faith. The perfect gift-giver gives perfect gifts.

And so, I just want you to understand something about faith. Faith is like a muscle. The more you feed it, the stronger it gets. The more that you exercise it, the stronger it gets. If you don’t use it, it starts to wane. And if you’re thinking to yourself, Jeff, I need you to help me figure out how to use my faith, how to grow in my faith, well I’m going to give you three things. 

Faith is your doorway to God’s grace 

The first way to help grow your faith this week is for you to know that faith is ultimately THE doorway, not A doorway, but it is THE doorway for you to have access to God’s grace. This is what Romans 5:2 is saying. If we were to break these two verses down, you see twice in these two verses about what faith does for God’s people.

Back in verse one, it said that faith justifies us. Now the word justify is like you committed a crime. You committed that crime in public, and the judge saw you commit the crime. And now you’re going to have to stand in his courtroom, and you’re going to have to plead guilty for this crime because you know that the judge saw you. That’s the setup for the word justified. 

But justified really means, instead of getting the punishment that the crime deserves, the judge gets off of the bench and goes and takes your punishment for your crime that you committed right in front of him, and he pays the penalty for that crime.

That’s what the word justified really means. And the writer of the book of Romans, a guy by the name of Paul, says that we have been justified. The judge of the universe, got off of His throne and took our penalty. And He did it because of our very simple faith. 

Then in verse two, it takes it a step further. He says, “Not only did He justify us by faith, but He also gave us access by faith.” Do you realize that that word access is literally describing a doorway? It’s saying that there is a doorway that you can’t get through any other way, except by going through it with faith. And if you will place your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (we call Him King Jesus around here). If you will put your faith in King Jesus, he gets you into a room that nobody else on the planet can get you into.

He gives you access that nothing and no one else can give. Your good works, your religious deeds, or giving money, cannot give you access to what Jesus gives you access to. It only comes through faith: very simple, but very honest faith. 

And then verse two wants to make sure that you totally understand the access that he’s talking about. So he says that the access you get through faith is the grace of God. I want you to think about it this way: We’re talking about Christmas, right? God in Heaven loves you so much that rather than leave you in your state of sin and separated from Him, He would leave Heaven and come to earth in the form of a child; he would take on flesh on our behalf so that we could have access to Him. 

And then we get a chance to see this child grow in wisdom and stature with both God and men. Then one day, this child who is perfect and pure and innocent will die a terrible martyr’s death on the cross. The Roman soldiers that are executing him say, “Surely, this man must have been the Son of God.” Because of the way that He died, they get to see the grace of God on display for the world. And then some ladies show up to anoint his body three days later. They go to a tomb in a garden, and that body is no longer there. They get a chance to see the grace of God because they see him in his full glory and his resurrected state. 

That’s what we get access to through faith. You see, what the Christmas message really says is that God doesn’t leave us to figure it all out ourselves. God really does love us. God really is involved in what’s happening in our lives. Christmas shouts to the world, that our God loves us, that our God is gracious, and that our God still speaks today in 2020 in the midst of all of our problems and the virus that’s spreading around the world. Our God is still involved, and He still speaks. 

And to help drive this point home, I want you to watch this really short video.

(Video Shown) 

“The nation longed for deliverance, a leader to free them from tyranny. They knew the story well. God would send a mighty warrior, but they never expected a defenseless child. It was said the government would be upon his shoulders, but so would a criminal’s cross. He would take the throne of his father, David, but first, he must pass through the veil of death. Each Christmas, we remember the unconventional arrival of this King, and we too know the story pretty well. We see the wise men on our Christmas cards tracing the westward journey. But these are Gentiles. They’ve come to worship a King for all people. Each year, we sing of shepherds watching flocks by night, but these aren’t exactly royalty; they remind us that this King lifts up the lowly. At Christmas, we celebrate a child’s birth, but this infant is also the eternal King who spoke creation into existence… And He still speaks.”

The Word of God spoke the universe into existence, took on flesh, according to the gospel of John, and dwelt among us so that we could see his grace with our own eyes. That should strengthen your faith. 

Faith helps you to stand strong 

And the second thing that really Romans 5 says should massively influence our faith is that, faith is what helps you stand up in the midst of struggles. Faith is that thing that the more you feed it, the stronger that it gets, the muscle that the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. But if you don’t use it, it starts to get weak. So what I want to do now is, I want to transition to one of the most incredible examples of faith found anywhere in the Bible.

It just happens to be a teenage girl. This is found in the book of Luke in chapter one. I want you to hear Mary’s faith, and I want you to hear how strong this girl’s faith is. Here’s what the Bible says:

Lk 1:26–38 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. 30 Then the angel told her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.” 34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not had sexual relations with a man?” 35 The angel replied to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 “See, I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary. “May it happen to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

I want you guys to place yourself in Joseph’s shoes for just a second. Ladies, I want you to place yourself in Mary’s shoes for just a second, because what she is being asked to do could possibly, should definitely, cost her her life. When people realized that this young girl is married or engaged to be married to Joseph and before she is married is found to be with a baby, that is a capital offense in Mary’s day. 

This angel shows up and says, “Hey Mary, I’ve got good news for you. You’re going to have a baby. And it’s not from Joseph.” Any other woman on the planet would naturally freak out. And I think Mary’s freaking out a little bit, but for some reason, out of all of the women who have ever lived on planet earth, God decided this is the one that I am going to put (get this language) the salvation of all humankind, literally in her lap. And I’m going to trust her with the deliverer of all people. And I’m going to trust her because I know her faith and I know that she can stand strong against the difficulties. When Joseph hears about this, Joseph is a good man. And Joseph says, “Well, I can’t marry her.”

He decides that he’s going to separate from her, and an angel has to show up and say, “No Joseph, this really is a miraculous baby. Joseph, this child comes directly from God. That is God placing a baby in Mary’s womb. You go and help raise this child and take good care of him.” And both Joseph and Mary get access to the grace of God; they get a chance to see the glory of God like few human beings ever on planet earth get a chance to see, because they were able to stand strong in the midst of this incredible miracle and the great challenge that God is putting in front of them. 

Do you know what Romans 5:2 is really saying to Christians? It’s saying that when God invited you in and gave you access by faith through His Son Jesus, He didn’t just invite you in temporarily. He invited you in to become a permanent resident of His home. He adopted you into His family. 

Would you think about it in these terms? Let’s say that you have a friend who is pretty wealthy and they’ve got a REALLY nice house… like a really, really nice house. And they say, “Hey, I want you to come over to my house. Why don’t you celebrate Christmas with me and my family at my house? I want you to come and to enjoy time with me and hang out.” 

That doesn’t really adequately describe the access that God is giving his people. You see, if they invited you to come over and to hang out for a little bit, it would be pretty cool to hang out in a mansion for a little while at Christmas time. But really what God is doing is saying, “I prepared a bedroom for you. It’s all yours. I don’t ever want you to leave. You move into this, and you spend the rest of your life with me in my house.”

That’s the access that God is giving His people. That’s what faith does for us. And when you get up tomorrow morning in that house, you know that you’ve got nothing to worry about, because the guy who handles the house, the master of the house has everything under control. So I’ve got nothing to worry about. 

I need you to hear this right now. If you’re stressed out and freaking out just a little bit about what 2021 is going to bring because the entire world is in turmoil right now in the year 2020, nobody on the planet saw us going through what we went through this year. And lots of people, all over the planet are stressed out a little bit, maybe stressed out a whole lot about what the future’s going to bring, but I just need you to hear this from me.

I’m not worried at all. And the reason that I’m not worried is because I know my father who owns houses bigger and better than that has got everything in the palm of His hand. And I don’t have any reason to stress. By faith, I can stand strong when everybody else around me seems to be freaking out just a little bit on the inside. I need you to hear this when you’re stressed out a little bit. I need you to hear this when your faith starts to get a little bit weak. Listen to me, y’all; it’s not the strength of your faith, it’s the who you’re putting your faith in. 

It’s his strength that really matters. And when you’ve got the sovereign King of the universe who says, “I want you to come be part of my family. I want to adopt you into my family. I want you to live in my house and I’m going to take care of everything,” you have nothing to worry about. You can stand strong when you’ve got faith in a glorious God like that. 

Faith helps you see God’s glory more clearly

Which brings up number three on the list. My faith, your faith helps you to see the glory of God. Maybe more clearly than you’ve ever seen it before.

 Lk 1:46–55  And Mary said: My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 because he has looked with favor on the humble condition of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and his name is holy. 50 His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear him. 51 He has done a mighty deed with his arm; he has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. 53 He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering his mercy 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he spoke to our ancestors.

Picture in your mind how bad Abraham longed to see the face of God. I want you to think for just a second about how much David, the warrior poet king of Israel wanted to see God with his own eyes. 

Mary gets a chance to see what our faith fathers for thousands of years longed to see. She gets a chance to see God’s glory on display. She gets a chance to look at the face of God as he grows up with her, in her home. If you want to see just how bold, just how strong this teenage girl’s faith is, listen to how she responds to the angel. Listen to the way that she responds to this messenger from God.

 Lk 1:46–55  And Mary said: My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 because he has looked with favor on the humble condition of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and his name is holy. 50 His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear him. 51 He has done a mighty deed with his arm; he has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. 53 He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering his mercy 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he spoke to our ancestors.

Mary knows, I get the privilege of seeing something that Abraham longed to see. I get a chance of seeing something that David could only dream about, could only write hymns and poetry about. I get a chance to see it with my own eyes. And God didn’t do this for the proud. He didn’t do this for the wealthy. He didn’t do this for the powerful. He did it for people that just simply turn to him in faith.

Mary says, “I get a chance to see the glory of God right in my living room. And I’m telling you, God is still available. God is still accessible to His people, just like he was when he showed up on that Christmas morning with Mary. God wants to enter into this relationship with you. And if you have a relationship with him, he wants to strengthen this relationship. But it all starts with faith. 

I need to define this word for you now. Because faith is much more than just some intellectual belief that there really is a God. His name is Jesus, and He lived 2,000 years ago in Palestine. That’s simple knowledge. No, faith is more like a rock solid hope, that no matter how steep the mountain gets in front of me, I know he’s got me. I know he will be with me. I will not worry. That’s the difference between knowledge and faith. 

And when you have this genuine faith, you get a chance to see the grace of God. You get a chance to stand strong amidst whatever life throws at you next. You get access to the glory of God, that the fathers of our faith back in the Old Testament could only dream about. 

I’ll wrap up today by telling you this story. It’s a true story about this long drive that I did through the mountains of Afghanistan, back in the Global War on Terrorism. I was a chaplain serving in the U.S. Army in the 2nd Ranger Battalion. We were doing a mission, way in the remote part of Afghanistan.

We went in by vehicles, on our gun trucks. And while we were in there on the target doing our thing, one of those gun trucks lost their infrared lights, which means for the rest of their trip, back to our base, we were going to have to either drive with our white lights on, which is a invitation to die. Or we were going to have to drive with no lights on this gun truck, which is also an invitation to death, because these steep mountain roads were nothing but just two rocky paths, where the wheels of your vehicle would fit along.

If you went too far to the right or to the left, you would tumble down a cliff, a thousand feet or more. Several gun trucks in a convoy. And one of them, the infrared lights went out. So the boss said, “Hey, does anybody have any experience driving completely blacked out?” 

And of course, I’m the guy who, when I was a Sergeant drove the back roads of Fort Benning, Georgia at 70 or 100 kilometers an hour with no lights whatsoever, back before we figured out how to put infrared lights on vehicles.

I was like, “Well actually, I’ve got a lot of experience driving blacked out.” They said, “Chaplain, we need you to drive this gun truck in the middle of the convoy. We’re going to put gun trucks all around you, but we need you to drive this gun truck back because we can’t leave it here. And if we turn the lights on, you can see us from miles away. We just become an easy target for everybody in the valley.” So I started driving this gun truck in the middle of this convoy. Everybody else had infrared lights on, I was using my night vision goggles, and I could not see inches below me.

Listen to this. I could see the headlights of the truck, the gun truck in front of me. I could see what was down the road coming towards me. And I could see the headlights of the gun truck, the infrared lights of the gun truck behind me. So I could see what was around me and what’s behind me, but I was totally black, pitch dark underneath me. And I spent hours driving hundreds of kilometers in pitch darkness underneath me, trusting, in faith, that the vehicle in front of me was in the right place and the vehicle behind me was in the right place. 

And all I need to do is stay in between them. And as long as I stay between those two vehicles, me and everybody else on this gun truck might possibly make it back to our base alive. Spoiler alert: I survived (though I did drive the truck into a ditch one time before getting back to our base that night. But I didn’t tumble down the side of a cliff). I need you to hear this because sometimes faith feels like taking steps in total darkness, but I know the one in front of me has got everything under control, and I know he’s got me in the palm of his hand.

I’m totally trusting in Him because I have no idea what’s happening around me or what to do next. But I know He does, and I can drive by faith. Listen to me. I can live by faith tomorrow because of the one that I’m placing my hope in. I’m telling you this because tomorrow morning, when you get up, you have a choice, I have a choice to make. 

Are you going to live by sight, or are you going to live by faith? And if you will make the conscious decision, I’m not going to call the shots. I’m not in charge. Someone else is. I will die to self and live by faith. You have a chance to see something that most other people will never get a chance to see. You have a chance to see the glory of God, put on display.

You’ll get the chance to experience the grace of God. And you just might find strength that other people will never have because of the one you’re placing your faith in. I’m going to say it again: 

It’s not the strength of my faith; it’s the strength of the ONE that I’m placing my faith in that matters. I’m not trusting in myself; I’m trusting in someone who is big enough to handle whatever life throws at me.