I had the privilege of sitting through a great Bible study last week on the relationship between genuine faith and emotions. We live in a day and age when “faith” is spoken about but in a very vague sense. It does not matter what you have faith in, you just need to have faith. Part of that is true, as people, we need faith to continue on in this journey of life, but faith in itself is not enough. You have to have faith in the correct source. If you just have faith, not emphasizing the object of your faith (God) then your faith will not help you. In fact, that “faith” will be overcome by emotions when you go through difficult times in life. There is a popular heresy among the Protestant churches these days. Many people are falling into the trap of the Prosperity Gospel and Word of faith teachers. This is a heresy because it takes the emphasis off of God and places the emphasis on YOU. Emotions are played to and people are deceived. This heresy teaches you to place yourself at the center of the universe. You must have health and wealth at all times and if you are sick then it is because of your lack of faith. If you are not wealthy, it is because you lack faith. You should always feel well. This “gospel” flourishes in areas where poverty and sickness predominate. If you are not firmly grounded in the Word of God then you will easily fall into this heresy because they manipulate the Scriptures in order to manipulate you. This is Satan’s tactic (see Matthew 4 and Genesis 3). Many Christians fall for this false gospel because it promises something more than you have. If you are struggling emotionally then you are already predisposed to being deceived. As born again Christians, we still live in the body of flesh and still have emotions like we had before we were born again. If our faith is not strong, or if we are not being fully obedient to God in one area of our lives, then our emotions can overcome us. Knowing all of this, our senior pastor, Vasile Filat, taught a Bible study on faith and emotions, explaining what we need to do in order not to be overcome by emotions or deceived by false teaching. I want to share that Bible study with you. I have also written another article on “What do you do when a fellow believer is led astray by false teaching?” I pray that these 2 articles will help you overcome your emotions, live by faith, and not fall victim to false teachings about the Bible.
We begin in the best place to explain Christian faith, Hebrews 11. As we look at the faith hall of fame, we see that each person’s faith was strong, built up on the Word of God. When negative emotions came upon them, they chose to believe the Word of God over their emotions, and were victorious. The same can apply to us today, if we take God at His Word and live by it. I encourage you to read Hebrews 11.
I. The definition of faith sets the tone for the battle between faith and emotions. True faith is the assurance (100% convinced no matter what anything else around me says) of the things hoped for (the hope does not come out of thin air, hope is based on the promises of God that are found in His Word, the Holy Bible) and the conviction (I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will receive it) of things not seen (the promises are there even though I cannot put my hands on them now, ex. Eternal life). If the promises of the Word of God are not the foundation of your faith, then sooner or later, your faith will be overcome by your emotions or an emotional experience. Here is an example of something that we have to take on faith (belief in what God has said in His Word). The worlds were prepared by the Word of God (it requires faith because no one was there to see it, neither the Creationist nor the Evolutionist). The visible that we see now came about from the invisible (God). Faith is extremely important because verse 6 says that without faith, it is impossible to please God. A child of God, who does not please his Father, will not be able to overcome his/her emotional state. He/she will not be victorious in the face of very difficult obstacles.
II. Real live people faced this battle between faith and emotions during their lifetimes and those with genuine faith overcame their emotions and lived by faith, “gaining approval” as verse 2 says. The Bible is a book for real life, not just high minded theory for only a few to understand. If is for the common man, like you and I are. That is why I love the Scriptures and the wisdom that they offer to the ordinary citizen of planet earth. I would like to take a look at a few of these examples in the faith hall of fame and see how they were able to overcome their emotions. We will also see that they were not different than we are when it came to trials and life’s difficulties.
1. Noah -He was warned by God that the world was about to be flooded and that rain would fall from the sky. He was told to build an ark. He spent 120 years doing this, even though he had never seen rain because up until the time of the flood, it had never rained upon the earth. Noah had to trust God and take Him at His Word. Noah’s emotions were probably telling him to stop, that he was crazy, get to work living life, why waste your precious time building an ark in a landlocked area, etc. Plus, the evil people around him mocked him and his family night and day. From an emotional point of view, Noah should have quit and “enjoyed” life like everyone else. He chose to believe the Word of God, the promises of God, to live by faith and not be led by his emotions and as a result we learn the following;
By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. (Hebrews 11:7)
Noah is know to this day as a righteous man, a man of faith, because he chose to listen to and obey the Word of God over his emotions. Do you face a similar situation? How are you going to respond?
2. Abraham – He is known as the father of faith because he was ready and willing to give up everything to follow God completely.
8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance ; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise ; 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11)
Just put yourself in Abraham’s shoes for a moment. He is living in his land, his country. He has been there all of his life. He has good contacts. He has possessions and support from his extended family. All seems to be going well yet he hears the vice of the One true God. Abraham is told to rise and leave his land and follow God to the place where He will show him. Abraham has to leave his culture, customs, and contacts to go to a place that he does not know, to a different culture with different customs and all he has to rely on is his conversation with God. Emotionally speaking, leaving everything behind would leave a person in a state of an emotional wreck yet Abraham was okay with it. He chose to obey the Word of God over the voice of his emotions. Abraham lived the rest of his life as a foreigner based on the promises of God, many of which he would not see in his lifetime. The promise of his heir, his only son, did not come about until after 25 years had passed from the time it had been originally declared. I am sure that every single day his emotions were telling him that he had made a mistake and should go back to where he came from. He had to remain strong for 25 long years, living by faith.
Abraham gets 2 mentions here because after the 25 years had passed and he finally had his son, the son of the promise, God calls on him once again to live by faith and not by emotions.
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; 18 it was he to whom it was said, “IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED.” 19 He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type. (Hebrews 11)
Abraham’s emotions must have been telling him that he had a hallucination. How could you put your only son to death? How could God contradict Himself (calling Isaac the descendant through which would come the Messiah and then asking him to put Isaac to death)? These would have been legitimate excuses if Abraham would have been led by emotions instead of faith. Yet since he is the father of faith, he walked by faith and trusted that God could and would raise Isaac from the dead in order to keep His promise.
3. Moses – He came from a family of faith.
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child ; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt ; for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king ; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them. 29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land ; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.
His parents believed against all hope that their son would live and that God had a plan for him. They were ready to sacrifice their lives (the Pharaoh ordered all male Hebrew babies to be put to death during the time that Moses was born) for their faith. Moses lived by the same faith that his parent’s lived by. He gave up a life of luxury (emotions want to live well) in order to live as a servant of God and the stiff-necked people of Israel. There was no luxury in that lifestyle yet he chose to ignore his emotions and life by the promises of God.He had to trust God’s Word about the Passover, the exodus, the parting of the Sea, and defeating Pharaoh’s army. All of this was done by faith because his emotions were probably telling him not to even attempt to go against the most powerful man in the world at the time, yet he overcame his emotions, lived by faith, and was victorious.
I want to close with this quote;
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God (Hebrews 11:16)
Can the same be said about you?