7/26/2017 Message: Keeping The Faith

by jpack, July 26, 2017

The following are the notes from this week’s CROSSROADS lesson.  Words in bold identify key phrases from notes pages handed out each week.  If you would like copies of our slides, please feel free to reach and request them.  As these are from the notes pages for each week, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors.

Slide 1

I had the chance to join Caleb at the mission track a couple weeks ago at CentriFuge.  One day we went to a care facility with people who were mentally disabled or needed assistance.  I volunteered to speak to a man who was bed-ridden with a couple of the teens.  Two girls and I went back and spoke to the man for a while.  The teens were eager to practice all their skills in sharing Christ with the man, but it was obvious he didn’t want anything to do with it.  The phrase he kept repeating was that he couldn’t have faith in something he couldn’t see.  It is a frustrating thing to hear, but very understandable.  If I told you to jump off a cliff with my assurance that there was something at the bottom to catch you, you’d probably have a hard time ‘keeping faith’ in me unless you could see what was at the bottom for yourself.

The problem with people who say ‘seeing is believing’ is that it only makes sense if you have NO FAITH in anything around you.  Take money, for example.  Money only has value because we have faith that the government guarantees it’s worth.  The actual piece of paper has no real value.  You have probably never seen for yourself the math or items that make our money valuable.  If you haven’t seen it, then how do you have faith?  Because others have been a WITNESS to the things that you trust.

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation. (Hebrews 11:1-2)

The Bible is full of historically supported records that demonstrate the faith of others.  It’s important to note that these records are not just ‘stories’; they are things that really happened to real people with, in most cases, other supporting historical records and archives to back-up the claims in the Bible.

Slide 2

Let’s look at some of these examples.

By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.

It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.

It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.”[a] For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. 10 Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.

11 It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed[b] that God would keep his promise. 12 And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.

13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, 18 even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.”[c]19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.

20 It was by faith that Isaac promised blessings for the future to his sons, Jacob and Esau.

21 It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff.

22 It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left.

23 It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command.

24 It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. 27 It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. 28 It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons.

29 It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned.

30 It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.

31 It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. (Hebrews 11:3-31)

In this passage we see 19 different examples of faith.  In most of these examples of faith, there is this pattern of great RISK combined with great PROMISE.  If I were to define what faith is, I would say it is trusting in the ”promise” of God, even when faced with great “risk”.  Think about how this plays out in our own lives. How often does your faith involve ‘risk’?  Do you ever have to talk about your relationship with God to someone who you know doesn’t believe in the grace of Christ?  What is the risk? Ridicule? Rejection? Looking uninformed or ‘backwards’ in a progressive society?  What is the ‘promise’ God offer?  Is it protection or victory in our struggle?  If you said yes, you probably aren’t paying attention a lot to the history of Christianity.

God’s promise is His GLORY.  What does that mean?  God’s glory is the fulfillment of His plan.  You can think of God’s master plan for salvation and creation of a new kingdom on earth in Revelation as the physical embodiment of his glory.  The promise God offers is that his glory WILL come, regardless of what happens.  For some of us, that means we’ll see amazing miracles here on earth and that God will actively show us his power.  We see this in people who have inexplicable health recoveries and stories of ‘coincidences’ that are nearly statistically impossible.  For others, glory may look very different.  Paul addresses that glory in the following several verses.

Slide 3

32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight.35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection.36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half,[d] and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us. (Hebrews 11:32-40)

In this section, we see that faith doesn’t always mean earthly victory, power, and riches.  In fact, often times faith involves NOT receiving that ultimate reward and yet still knowing God is at work.  As Paul puts it, many of the early Christians experienced great PAIN and even DEATH simply for affiliating with Christ.  Some were beaten and imprisoned and others were decapitated or sawed in two.  What a way to go!  What Paul points out to us is that despite these earthly punishments, God’s promise still lives on.  As he says in verses 40, God has something better in mind for us so in the scheme of eternity, whatever happens here is simply insignificant, both pains and victories.

This is where we see the true power of faith.  See, the man at the assisted living center was missing the point.  Faith isn’t about proving that God has a promise before you believe.  It’s about believing in God’s promise, then opening your eyes to the amazing things he can do.  The man had it backwards and so does most of the world.  They think that the only things you believe in are the things you can see.  What Paul tells us here is that we believe even though we have never SEEN and in return God will reward us with his infinite glory; maybe here on earth, but certainly in eternity.

When you think about things as either getting a little bit of good here on earth for a few years or getting an infinite amount of something amazing for eternity, it really tips the scales in God’s direction.

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>