By Pastor Glenn Pease
Jerold Kennedy, the great Methodist preacher, was surprised to learn of the new business called Proxy Pickets. If you want to protest and picket a place, but it would not be convenient for you, and would break into your routine, for a price they will do it for you. They will send pickets to march and protest and do whatever you are willing to pay for. It is a crazy world we live in where you can get somebody to do almost anything for you. If you want to fight a war, but don't like the mess of it, and you can't get the time off, you can hire mercenaries who will fight your war for you. If you would like a baby, but you can't have one yourself, or would prefer not to put on the weight, you can hire a surrogate mother to have your baby for you.
Right along with a do it yourself craze is the don't do it yourself trend. 450 years ago King Louis XII of France had a prime minister who was capable, and so he let him take over more and more of his responsibilities. His name was George, and that is where the saying got started, "Let George do it." If you have got the money, there is some George today who will do for you whatever you want done but don't want to do yourself. There seems to be no limit to how far man is willing to carry this thing, but there is a limitation set by God in that no man can pay another to have faith for him. Believing in and trusting in Jesus Christ is so personal that nobody can do it for another. In the realm of faith it is a matter of doing your own thing, or it just will not get done.
I cannot believe for you, nor can you believe for me. This does not mean we cannot be helped by others to have faith, but they can't have it for us. Paul begins this letter to Titus by making it clear that he is a servant of God and an Apostle of Jesus Christ for the purpose of increasing the faith of God's people. Paul could not have faith for them, but he could aid them in growing in faith. He could be a faith builder. Some other versions differ. The RSV says, "To further the faith of God's elect." Today's English Version has it, "To help the faith of God's chosen." The Living Bible says, "I have been sent to bring faith to those God has chosen." Williams has, "To stimulate faith in God's chosen people." Goodspeed has, "To arouse faith in those whom God has chosen."
Paul can't have it for us, but he can help us have it for ourselves. This means that if we are to benefit from Paul's being selected by God to be an Apostle, we must by his influence become people of increased faith. That is what God selected Paul for. If you want to know what an Apostle is for, it is simple. He is for motivating and stimulating faith in the people of God. This letter, and all of Paul's letters, are faith builders, for they give us a basis for our beliefs, and what we believe determines the degree of our faith. Faith comes in all sizes. You can have little faith, medium faith, or big faith, and what you believe makes the difference.
A number of tests have shown that if a man is hypnotized and told that he is weak he will only be able to squeeze a gripping device with one third the pressure he usually does. On the other hand, if he is told he is strong his grip will go up in strength by 40%. In other words, they have demonstrated scientifically the biblical truth that as a man thinketh in his heart so is he. The strength of your faith can vary tremendously depending on what you believe, and on the intensity of that belief. Paul believed this or he would not have spent so much of his life writing letters like this one to Timothy, and urging him to teach the true doctrines of Christianity, and to refute heresy and rebuke those going after Jewish myths, that they might be sound in the faith.
He could not have faith for them, nor could Titus, but both of them, and other godly leaders, could do and teach and live so as to increase the faith of weak Christians. Paul was a faith builder, and Titus was a faith builder, and all the leaders were to be faith builders. Every Christian was to be this, for being a faith builder and being a good Christian are, for all practical purposes, synonymous.
Even the slaves are to so live that their masters will find the message about Jesus attractive. A slave can be a faith builder in his master. Every Christian is by the very nature of the Christian faith in the business of being a faith builder. If our lives do not lift and increase and strengthen faith, then we are part of the problem instead of part of the answer. Some of the Christians in Crete were part of the problem, but the goal of the faith builder is to help all Christians get out of that category and into the category of being faith builders themselves. We want to look at two aspects of faith that will help us see the importance of this task.
I. THE NECESSITY OF FAITH.
If the purpose of Paul, the purpose of his letters, and the purpose of leaders and God's Word are all for the producing of faith in God's people, then we are dealing with a rock bottom necessity. This is confirmed by Heb. 11:6 which says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God." It does not say it is highly unlikely or improbable, but impossible, and so faith is a necessity not only for salvation, but for sanctification, and for all that is pleasing to God.
No wonder the disciples said to the Lord in Luke 17:5, "Increase our faith."
That is what Christian growth is all about-the increasing in one's faith. Paul wrote in II Cor. 10:15, "Our hope is that as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand." Paul is saying that a growing faith is the key to a growing ministry. You can't get anywhere with a static faith. A faith that stops growing and increasing is like a bike that stops moving. It will soon stop and fall.
There can be no doubt about it, every time we slip backwards in our Christian walk there has been a lack of faith, or a ceasing to grow in faith. When we cease to expand we begin to shrink. The greatest frustration Jesus had with His disciples was their lack of faith. He became weary over their weakness due to lack of faith. When Peter's faith gave way and he sank into the sea Jesus said, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt." When the disciples were unable to cast the evil spirit out of the little boy he said, "O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I endure you?" To the two on the road to Emmaus who did not believe the report of his resurrection he said, "O dull witted men with minds so slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" What a perpetual pain it was to Jesus to be constantly dealing with men of such little faith.
Jesus was impressed with people like the Centurion and the Syrophonesian woman, for they had such great faith. Faith is where its at. It pleases God, it delights Jesus, and it opens the door for the Holy Spirit. It is the key to every door of advancement in the kingdom of God. It is not a luxury. It is a necessity. That is why God made Paul an Apostle, that is why his letters became a part of God's Word to man. It is all a part of God's effort to help believers increase their faith. Why do we worship God? It is to increase our faith. Why do we read the Bible? It is to increase our faith. Why do we pray for God's help and guidance? It is to increase our faith. Why do we want Christian fellowship? It is to increase our faith. The goal of almost everything we do as Christians is to increase our faith.
Because weakness of faith is the number one cause of missing God's best in life, we must do all we can to strengthen our faith. The people of Israel could not enter the promised land because of their unbelief. Their faithlessness caused them to miss their goal in life. So the people of Nazareth missed the power of Jesus in their lives and He could do no mighty work their because of their lack of faith. Lack of faith is the basis for all the sin and folly of man. If Adam and Eve would have believed and trusted God, they would never have fallen. All of the folly of man since has been for just this same doubt and disbelief in the Word of God. On the other hand, the big blessings and the great successes of life all revolve around the presence of, and the increase of, faith. Heb. 11 takes us through the great people of the Old Testament and links them all to faith.
Spurgeon said, "Faith is the mother of virtue...Faith is the water which nurtures the root of piety. If you have not faith, all your graces must die. And in proportion as your faith increases so will all your virtues be strengthened." The clever sign outside of church spoke profound truths when it said, "Come to church and have your faith lifted." That is why we come to church, for we all need a faith lift, and we need it perpetually to be pleasing to God and to be growing Christians.
Someone said, "Always be content with what you have, but never with what you are." We always have the capacity for greater faith, and this is the challenge of the Christian life, to be ever adding to and increasing our faith. Peter said in II Pet. 1:5-7 that we are to make every effort to add to our faith a whole series of virtues that lifts our faith higher and higher. He said to add goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. This is the same thing Paul is helping Titus achieve in Crete. Faith is a necessity for salvation and for sanctification, and for becoming all that a Christian is meant to be. Paul was God's instrument for building up the faith of His people, because faith is a necessity. If something is a necessity, it is important for us to have a better understanding of its nature, and so we look next at-
II. THE NATURE OF FAITH.
We have already seen that faith is more like a liquid or gas than a solid. It is fluid and elastic. It can increase or decrease, and it can expand or contract. It is not a solid and stable thing, but very variable. It is a force in our soul like fluids in our body. You cannot just take it for granted and assume that once you have faith all is well, and so you can neglect and ignore it. It needs constant monitoring and attention for balance and growth in your Christian life.
As you study this letter to Titus you discover that faith is not some part of your being, but it is that which pervades your whole being. Paul links faith to the intellect, the emotions, and the will. The reason you can't please God without faith is because you cannot think, feel, or choose anything pleasing to God without faith. A deep study of faith shatters a lot of myths and misconceptions about this vital virtue. Faith does not mean to be gullible and to swallow everything that comes along that sounds good and religious. Paul is telling Titus to silence false teachers who are into religion just for the money. There were deceivers in Crete who were conning people out of their money with religion. Having faith does not mean you should not be skeptical and critical. The world has always been full of false prophets, and you have to be a skeptic as a person of faith or you will be deceived at some point.
Paul links faith and reason here in Titus. So many people think you have to check in your brains to be a person of faith. This is nonsense. Faith and the intellect are partners. In the first verse of this letter Paul links faith and the knowledge of the truth. In verse 2 he says this partnership of faith and knowledge is based on the hope of eternal life which God, who does not lie, promise before the beginning of time. So now we have 3 vital parts of the Christian life tied together. We need to see that the biblical view of man has always been what is now becoming a popular concept in the world of medicine and psychology.
Holistic medicine is popular today. It is an awareness that you cannot treat a part of the body as if it existed by itself. It is a part of a whole system, and the whole system is a unity and not just a pile of parts. This is true even for a machine. You cannot just deal with a carburetor or fuel pump or spark plug in isolation. You have to deal with the whole car and the function of all of its parts together. In the parts department they deal with each part separately, but on the whole car you have to deal with all the parts in their togetherness and cooperation with all other parts.
In theology we sometimes tend to deal with the issues of life like a parts department. We look at faith as an isolated reality and virtue, and try to figure it out, and then go on to look at hope and love. This has its value, but the Bible does not deal with them that way. It deals with them holistically. They are all tied in together and are dependent one upon the other just as parts of an engine, or parts of a body.
Faith is first here in Titus, but you cannot separate it from knowledge or hope. You cannot have faith in what God has promised if you do not know what He has promised, and so the knowledge of the truth is vital to the existence of faith. To try and keep these two separated would be like trying to keep a car going by separating the carburetor and fuel pump, or keeping your body going by separating your heart and your lungs. The point is, faith is never separated from anything in the Christian life. It is a part of the whole, and part of every other part of the whole. Faith is a part of all we think, feel, and will. If you don't think right, feel right, or choose right, the problem is with your faith.
The nonsense about Paul being the promoter of faith and James being the promoter of good works is shattered by this letter also. You will not find anywhere in the New Testament a greater emphasis on good works than right here by the Apostle of faith. He never for one moment saw these as opponents, but always as two parts of the Christian life operating in harmony with the whole.
Titus was left in Crete to do good works in getting the church organized. The elders were to love good and do good works. The trouble makers in Crete were those who were not doing good, but who were hurting people, and they were unfit for doing good works. The whole second chapter is about getting the Christians of all ages doing what is good, and even the slaves. Paul says in 2:14 that the whole point of Christ redeeming us was to have a people eager to do what is good. The third chapter begins with the Christian responsibility as a citizen of the secular state to do what is good. In verse 8 he stresses it again that Titus is to get the Christians devoted to doing what is good. In verse 14 he says again, "Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good."
Thinking right and doing good are both vital parts of faith living. Faith does not relieve the Christians of any intellectual, moral, or social obligations. Faith is not some spark plug that goes off and operates on its own apart from the rest of the car. It is a part that ties into an functions in harmony with the whole. So when we talk about increasing faith, that involves the total man in increasing knowledge of the truth, increase of hope, love, joy, and actions to do what is good in all areas of life.
Nobody can have faith for us, but they can help us have faith and an increase in faith, and that is what Paul was called for, and what all of us are called for. We are called to grow in faith and so live that we will be faith stimulators and promoters in others. The question we need to ask is this: Is it easier for others to have faith because of me, or am I a hindrance to the faith of others? Increasing in faith is caring to the point where you can more and more say with confidence, I am a faith builder.
Stanley did not find faith in Christ until he found Livingston in Africa. He lived with Livingston for four months, and he saw his love for people, his gentleness and hopefulness, and faith. That example of the Christian faith in flesh conquered him, and he too came to faith. It is the story of Naomi's influence on Ruth repeated, and so it is all through history. You cannot have faith for another, but you can be the key to their having their own faith.
E. Stanley Jones tells of the amazing experience of one of the poor Christian women of India. An epidemic took many lives and the bodies were laid in piles. A poor sweeper woman, who was an untouchable, saw one of the bodies move. She went to a doctor and told him, and he took the body of a woman off the pile. She needed a blood transfusion, and the sweeper woman volunteered to give her blood. The woman lived and though she was a Brahmin, who would have nothing to do with an untouchable, she found this sweeper woman who saved her life, and in finding her she also found eternal life, for the sweeper woman was a Christian. The impact of her love and faith led this Brahmin woman to trust Christ as her Savior. This sweeper woman's faith, which led her to the good work of giving her blood, led to the faith of another. She was a faith builder.
This is what Paul was, and this is what he expected Titus to be, and this is what all Christians are to be-faith builders.