Stronger in Faith

Bible Reference: Acts 2:1-24

If I want to have stronger legs, I will do some exercises to make them stronger – like side lunges or pistol squats, or working out with some barbells. If I want a stronger grip, I will use a grip master hand exerciser or squeeze a tennis ball on a regular basis. A few years ago I had a serious neck surgery and needed to build my neck back up afterward. So the therapist gave me isometric exercises with a resistance band to build the strength in my neck.

Now let me ask you, how can a person become stronger in their faith? The standard answers are to go to church so you continue to be fed by the Good News of Jesus Christ and come to the Lord’s table for communion. Be with the family of God. That’s a good thing to do for strengthening faith. Others will point to prayer. An intimate relationship with God can be developed in a regular prayer life. Others will point to Scripture. Of course, we know that spending time each day in God’s holy Word has a way of building us up in our faith. Those are all correct answers.

While I do these things on a regular basis )maybe you do too(, I sometimes find myself feeling weak in my faith. I hit valleys sometimes, or it gets humdrum, boring, or lacks vitality. I find myself getting maybe even a little fearful and pessimistic, hesitant to step out and take on risks for God. Each day in my prayer time, I find myself praying for boldness and faith building to make me stronger, to overcome what weakness I have so that I might make a difference for Christ in this world.

Have you ever been in that place where you are searching for answers? How can I make my faith stronger? I feel stuck. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be like that. God’s power is available to the follower of Jesus Christ to make that strengthening happen.

I want to spend a few minutes with you this morning seriously considering a biblical principle to help a person grow stronger in their faith. The case study we’re going to look at is this story from Acts chapter 2.

If this is the first time you’ve ever heard the story, I’m sure it sounds quite strange and bizarre. Surreal, in fact. The violent wind, tongues of fire resting upon the heads of individuals, this praising of God’s mighty works in various languages, the babbling by the one hundred twenty in the Upper Room who soon found themselves on the street surrounded by crowds. Uneducated men and women talking like they’re experts at the United Nations in various languages.

But what grabs the attention is Peter. He courageously told the story of Jesus and what He has done for the world. Peter spoke to the crowds in the hostile territory who hated Jesus and had watched as He carried His own cross. Yet, Peter spoke on behalf of Jesus, and 3,000 people received Christ into their lives that day.

Have you ever wondered, What if Peter hadn’t spoken up when the people were questioning what was happening? What if he had just continued praising and worshiping God with the other disciples? I think it’s important to look at what perhaps was behind Peter taking action like this.

I believe some promises were rolling around in the back of Peter’s head when he saw the crowd asking about the mighty acts of God that day. Jesus had told Peter and the other disciples in the Upper Room that when the Holy Spirit came, some amazing things would be done through them. His last words before He ascended were, “When the Holy Spirit comes upon you )the power from on high(, you shall be my witnesses” Acts. 1:8. Jesus was telling them, You are going to have an impact on other people’s lives for me.

In John chapters 14 – 16, as Jesus talked with His disciples in the Upper Room the night before He was crucified, He spoke about the Holy Spirit. He described Him as the Helper for the disciples. I think these words might have been rolling around in Peter’s head when the crowd asked what was happening on that first Pentecost. Jesus had promised that when the Helper came, He would convict people of their sin and their need for a Savior. He also said the Helper would bring to remembrance the things Jesus had shared with them when the opportunities arose.

Now the moment was here; the waiting was over. The Helper had arrived, and Peter recognized this as an opportunity for action. He took a test run, so to speak. He opened his mouth and put in a word for Jesus. He told the crowds what was happening and how Jesus had gone to the cross and rose for the salvation of people. Lives were changed that day.

Matthew earlier spoke in his Gospel account about Peter getting out of the boat and walking on the water toward Jesus for a few moments. Now we see Peter getting out of the boat again, so to speak, on the basis of a promise from Jesus that the power was there for him to do what he was called to do – be a witness for Christ. And as Peter told the Jesus story that day, the Spirit of God showed up and went to work, and the people were cut to the heart.

Do you know what it means to be cut to the heart? They were convicted! They were convicted of their need for a Savior; they were convicted of their sinfulness, and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they put their trust in Jesus Christ, just as Jesus promised. And when the people asked what they should do now that Peter shared this message with them, Peter closed the deal. He called for a decision. “Repent and be baptized. Be saved, and you will receive the Holy Spirit yourselves.” About three thousand heard Peter and asked Jesus Christ into their lives that day. They surrendered themselves to the kingdom of God, to Jesus.

In the rest of the book of Acts, we see the boldness and strong faith of Peter at work following that great day. We see Peter standing before some religious leaders a few chapters later, who were telling him to be quiet about Jesus. But Peter tells them he can’t keep quiet. He’s on fire. Scripture reports that when they saw the boldness of Peter, James, and John, they realized these ordinary men had been with Jesus.

I want to point out a principle at work here. God promises power along the way as we step out in obedience and faith to what He is calling us to do for Him. Let me say it again. God promises power along the way as we step out in obedience and faith to what He is calling us to do for Him.

The book of Acts isn’t the only place you find this principle at work. It’s found in the Old Testament as well – a wonderful story about Joshua and the people of Israel at the Jordan River. It was time to cross over and take possession of the Promised Land after forty years of wandering in the wilderness. But it was the flood season, and the people were afraid, so Joshua had the priests, who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant containing the Ten Commandments, walk out, ankle-deep, into the water.

Guess what happened? The waters parted! Here is the principle. When you get your feet wet, God shows up with power along the way.

A book came out a number of years ago that I really enjoyed. It was written by John Ortberg and is called, “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat.” In it he writes, “Most people I know love to hear stories and images about the powerful God we serve. But here is the problem: That information alone is not sufficient enough to create courageous human beings. I can receive much information designed to assure me that God’s power is sufficient. But the information alone does not transform a human heart and character. In order for such a transformation to take place, certain actions and experiences are required.” You need to take that first step. You need to get your feet wet. That is how faith grows.

I find this to be true in my own life. For years I had not received any evangelism training. I knew I needed to be doing this, and I needed to train my people to do it. Yet, I was very hesitant and afraid of stepping out, so I just blundered my way through the activity. One day, though, I took a step in the right direction. I went to Evangelism Explosion training at a big Missionary Alliance Church in Omaha, Nebraska. And I found myself doing things I never dreamed I’d do. I knocked on apartment building doors )while praying at the same time that nobody was home – after all, I’m Lutheran!( But I was invited into some of those homes and as I was given the opportunity to talk about Jesus with someone I barely knew, I began to see the power of God at work, and my faith grew stronger and more alive.

This continues to be the case for me as I step into people’s lives and share the Gospel. Again and again, I’ve seen God show up and work in me as I step out for His cause. When I find my faith getting weak, I need to take a risk for God by asking what He is calling me to do these days? Whose life is He wanting me to touch for the cause of His kingdom? God is more than willing to display His supernatural power in the challenges of your life, providing you are willing to get in motion, to walk in obedience and trust toward those things He is calling you to do.

So I ask you, What great things are you attempting to take on for the cause of Jesus Christ these days? Or maybe a better question would be, Where have you sensed God calling you to boldly step out for Him, to take a risk for Him? Perhaps it’s in the area of loving some people in your life. For instance, maybe an individual is crossing your path who drives you absolutely crazy. You want to run in the other direction when you see them coming.

Maybe you are being called to pour some of God’s kindness into a person’s life. It might be something only you can do by the power of God working in you. I dare you to try it. Perhaps it’s forgiving someone you’ve been keeping at arm’s length for a long time. You tell yourself you just can’t forgive that individual, and it’s eating you up inside. Maybe taking a reconciling step toward that individual is something God is calling you to do.

Maybe someone in your life is traveling with an addiction, and it’s destroying his life and his family. Everyone is living with it but not saying anything. An intervention needs to happen. Perhaps that intervention would happen if you speak up.

Or maybe someone you know really needs to know what Jesus Christ has done for him. Bob, a friend in my Bible study group, came in to me one day to talk. He said, “I need some coaching. My relative is dying, and he doesn’t know Christ. I need to talk to him about Jesus. I don’t want him to die without the peace of knowing Christ.” So I did a little coaching with Bob that day.

A few days later I received an exciting phone call from Bob. “You won’t believe what happened! I visited my relative and took my brother along, who is an unbeliever. I shared the Gospel with him, and he prayed to Jesus with me. And then he died. The amazing thing is, my brother for whom I’ve been praying for a long time, asked me to tell him some more about this Jesus Christ!”

WOW! Power along the way!

Get up, and try this principle out. I dare you to walk in the general direction of where God might be calling you to serve Him. Believe that God will give you an infusion of His strength that will build your faith greater than you’ve ever experienced it before.

If you are a person who trusts Jesus Christ for your salvation but you’re feeling stuck in your faith these days – it’s gotten rather humdrum and is lacking vitality – then I plead with you to get up out of your seat or out of your pew. The Spirit is here! Ask yourself what needs to get started or what needs to get stopped in your life that would bring glory to God. Please stop the waiting. Get up and start walking in the general direction and experience God’s power along the way. Let me tell you something, you will find your faith growing stronger and stronger as you go. Lives will be changed because of your efforts through the power the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rev. Steve Kramer