By PASTOR JOHNATHAN SANDERS
Faith begins where the will of God is known. Those words coming from my pastor, Ronnie Sims, resonated with me after I began my walk with the Lord.
Before that, I had no desire to pursue the will of God. I was operating as if there was no God, and my life was spiraling out of control. My relationships were being affected by my poor decisions. All of this changed when I responded to the Lord’s calling. I began to pursue Him and His will for my life. As His plan for me began to unfold, I found my place in this world and my purpose for living. After searching the vastness of God’s Word, I began to receive deeper revelations of faith.
Faith is connected to relationships that we build. The deeper the relationship, the deeper the faith. God’s devotion to you as His child is so great that “He will never leave you nor forsake you.” He is eternally devoted to you and your well-being.
The apostle Peter must have realized this while praying in the 10th chapter of Acts. Through a vision of God, Peter had to abandon his entire thought process concerning relationships in order for the will of God to be done. Peter had to forsake what he had learned in his household and community. He could either cling to the wisdom of the world or embrace the wisdom of God. His decision plunged him into a deeper relationship with God and ultimately into a relationship with a Roman citizen named Cornelius.
Peter was being led into uncharted waters. It took a deeper level of faith to trust that God had a plan even though Peter did not know what the outcome would be. In the end, he witnessed that God was no respecter of persons and that His love for the Gentiles was just as strong as His love for the Jews.
God is in the people business. Seeking a deeper relationship with God will ultimately result in a deeper relationship with humanity. Your depth of faith in God shows in how you treat your neighbor. Like Peter, I too had to step across the invisible line of race to purposefully engage in relations with my neighbors.
I grew up learning of the struggles of my race from my parents who were in the middle of the civil rights movement. I would hear of horrid stories about how family members were treated based on the color of their skin. That caused me to wonder if a white person could legitimately have my best interest at heart. However, as I grew in faith, I learned that God was the great equalizer. He could make enemies be at peace with you and convert them to become friends. The appearance of someone should never be a deterrent to walking in the will of God. As a child of God, we are called to racial reconciliation. In fact, regardless of what divides us, we are called to bridge that divide.
Mission Mississippi has been a catalyst toward intentionally bridging racial relationships. People of different races are provoked to build relationships through prayer breakfasts and other sponsored events. As African Americans, my wife, Kimberly, and I not only participated in these events, but the spirit of them spilled over into our work lives. It is easy to gravitate to those who look like you. But when your willingness to yield to His will deepens, becoming a bridge becomes less like a chore and more like an opportunity.
Although Peter did not initially understand the vision from God, he knew that visiting Cornelius’ house was connected. After God filled Cornelius and his family with the Holy Spirit, all doubt was removed from Peter’s mind concerning God’s will for all mankind.
When you establish relationships by faith with someone who is different, by trusting that you are operating in the will of God, it deepens your relationship with God. Faith pushes you through the fear of the unknown and opens you up to the wonderful possibilities of God’s will. The more you draw near to God, the more He draws near to you.
The scripture states, “The just shall live by faith,” and “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by God’s Word.” God gives you the ability to operate in His faith, that you may serve humanity. The more of God’s Word you believe, the more faith will be displayed through you. #DeeperFaith
Johnathan Sanders and his beautiful wife, Kimberly, of 31 years have been the pastors of Hyde Park Victory Church in Jackson for 20 years. They have five children and seven grandchildren.