Sermons

Living By Faith

Sun, Sep 11, 2022
Teacher: Mark Hull
Duration:28 mins 20 secs

Message text

LIVING BY FAITH
Hebrews 11:8-19

God …our Father …has made all things depend on faith
so that whoever has faith will have everything,
and whoever does not have faith will have nothing.

OPEN: A man once told a story about his 84 year old grandmother. Apparently, she fiercely maintained her independence and lived alone in the old family home. Her 4 children lived in the same town, but she rarely called them except in emergencies. It was with some apprehension, therefore, that the grandson drove to her house one morning in answer to her phone call. When he arrived, his grandma said she suspected that there was a burglar in her bedroom closet, since she had heard noises in there the night before.
"Why didn’t you call me last night?" the man exclaimed.
"Well," she replied, "it was late and I hated to bother you, so I just nailed the closet shut and went to bed."

That’s an example of the type of faith we read about in the 11th chapter of Hebrews . A faith, that nails the doors of doubt shut and then calmly leaves the rest to God. That’s the kind of faith that God tells us Abraham had, and it so impressed God that Abraham earned the title: Mentioned in Romans 4:11“The father of all who believe”

in Hebrews 11, we’re repeatedly told why Abraham was so highly regarded by God:
8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude,
and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:
19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

He believed in an inheritance, he himself never received.
He believed in a child he was too old to father.
And when asked to sacrifice this son as an offering, Abraham believed God could and would raise that boy from the dead.
That’s pretty impressive stuff.

In fact, these reports about Abraham are so impressive that we might find it difficult to relate to him. We might be excused if we said: “well, it was easy for Abraham … he was DIFFERENT than me. I could never BELIEVE like that! I struggle too much with doubt!”
(pause) God knew that. He knew we find it hard to relate to a “super-hero” of faith – this Abraham.
And so God told us a few things about this man, this Abraham, that Abraham might have preferred God had not revealed.

For example:
* God told Abraham in Genesis 12:1 to "Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”

Notice the part that says “leave your father’s household?”
Well, Abraham didn’t quite fully obey that part of the command. He took his nephew Lot along with him.
Granted it was a “little” disobedience… but this little disobedience resulted in family conflicts all along the way. Conflicts between Lot’s sheepherders and Abraham’s.

It got so bad that the time came that Abraham attempted to settle the matter by giving Lot a choice of pasture land.
Lot, you take one way and I’ll that another. So Lot chose the green grass close by Sodom… and of course, you know the rest of the story.

* Then there was the promise God made that Abraham would have a son. Now, Abraham may have believed that, but he had a hard time convincing his wife Sarah. After all, they were both getting on in years. And so Sarah talked Abram into observing a quaint custom of the day. She asked him to have a child by her handmaid – Hagar. The resulting offspring was Ishmael and before long his presence brought conflict and strife to Abraham’s home.

Eventually Hagar and Ishmael’s were asked to leave, and the boy grew into a man who became the father of many nations… nations whose descendants have been enemies of the Jews from the days of Moses until this very day.
* And of course, no story of Abraham would be complete without the tale about the time he passed his wife off as his sister.

Genesis 12:11-13 tells us “As he was about to enter Egypt,
he said to his wife Sarah, ‘I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live.
Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.’”

God was not pleased with Abraham’s decision and made it clear that He wasn’t pleased. But Abraham didn’t do this just once… he did it twice: once in Egypt, and later in the city of Gerar

WHY?
Why would this great man of faith try to pass his wife off as his sister?
Because he was afraid!!!
The man who would be called the “father of all those who believe” was so scared that he was willing to give up his wife in order to live!

That’s all very embarrassing.
Why would God tell us all those embarrassing stories about Abraham?

God told us those stories so that you & I would realize that this great man wasn’t that much different than you and I.
Abraham made mistakes
He struggled with his faith
He stumbled in his obedience
He sometimes floundered in the darkness of uncertainty.
In short… he was just like you and me.

BUT, how then could God call Abraham a man of “faith?” – the father of all who believe?
How could this man who obviously disappointed God on a number of occasions,
who obviously fell short of being the giant WE would expect him to be,
who obviously made mistakes,
and whose mistakes produced many problems for God’s people later on…
How could this man, be such a great example of faith?
ILLUS: Years ago, when John D. Rockefeller was running a gigantic empire known as the “Standard Oil Company,”
one of the employees made a disastrous decision that cost the company more than $2 million.
Fear swept through the company as everyone expected Rockefeller not only to fire the man responsible - but take out his wrath on them as well.

Edward T. Bedford, a partner in the company, was scheduled to see Rockefeller that day and as he entered he saw the this powerful man bent over his desk/ busily writing (with a pencil) on a pad of paper.

Bedford stood silently, not wishing to interrupt.
After a few minutes, Rockefeller looked up.
"Oh, it’s you, Bedford," he said calmly. "I suppose you’ve heard about our loss?"
Bedford said that he had.

"I’ve been thinking it over," Rockefeller said, "and before I ask the man in to discuss the matter, I’ve been making some notes."
Bedford later told the story this way:
"Across the top of the page was written,
’Points in favor of Mr. ______.’ And there, underneath that title, was a long list of the man’s virtues, including a brief description of how he had helped the company make the right decision on 3 separate occasions.
Decisions that had earned the company many times the cost of his recent error.

That man kept his job, and Bedford left the meeting forever changed in how he viewed other employees of the company.
Now, why did I tell you that story?
I told you that story so you’d understand how God viewed Abraham… and how He views us:
Yes, Abraham made mistakes
Yes, Abraham failed God on a number of occasions
Yes, Abraham had a past filled with miserable disappointments…
BUT God didn’t look at Abraham to see his past,
God looked at Abraham, to see his potential.
He looked him to see his possibilities.
You see, nobody is ever 100% sinless and pure.
Every one of us is going to stumble somewhere along the path… just like Abraham did.

But, there was something distinctly different about Abraham. Something that made him stand out above all those who lived around him in his day.
Something that made God pick him from among thousands of others, to be the father of a great nation and the father of all those who believe.
What could that have been?

Abraham BELIEVED God.
He may not have believed perfectly, but he believed God.
AND he didn’t just believe that God existed…
He believed God would reward him if he earnestly sought Him.

As Hebrews 11 tells us… “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Notice what it tells us about why Abraham acted “by faith…”
* In verse 8 we’re told “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”
Why would he do that?

Because in verse 10 we read that “…he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
In other words, Abraham didn’t care where he went – as long as it was with God!

He didn’t care where he lived
He didn’t care that his home was nothing but a tent.
He didn’t care that he never owned any land except the land where he buried his wife
ALL Abraham cared was – would God be there.
How did he know that would happen?
God had made a promise!

* In verse 11 we’re told “By faith Abraham,
even though he was past age— and Sarah herself was barren— was enabled to become a father…”
Why would Abraham believe that?
“…because he considered Him faithful who had made the promise.”

In other words – Abraham never doubted he’d have a son.
WHY?
Because God had made the promise.
And even if it didn’t make any sense that an old man like him with an elderly wife like Sarah could have children – it didn’t matter. God had made a promise.

* In verses 17 & 18 we’re told “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.
He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”

Why on earth would Abraham be willing to do that?
Because “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead.” Verse 19
Had Abraham ever seen the dead raised before? NO!
Had God promised that Isaac would be raised up from the dead? NO!
THEN why would Abraham reason this way?
Because God had made a promise – Isaac was going to be THE SON from whom a great nation would rise.

It didn’t make any difference that Abraham had never seen the dead raised, God had made a promise –
and it was up to God to figure out how Isaac could be offered as a sacrifice on some lonely hill and still become the father of many people.
God had made a promise!

There’s a lot of talk about “blind faith.”
Abraham is the ultimate example of blind faith
He left his home and obeyed God, even when he didn’t know where he was going

He believed he could have a son even when it defied all known reality
AND he believed God could raise the dead even tho’ he’d never seen it done before
That’s about as close as you get to “blind faith.”

My point is this. There will come a time when that’s all you’re going to have – blind faith.
All the circumstance and all the facts and all the human reasoning around you will tell you that God can’t possibly do what He has promised.
And you’ll be left with “blind faith – just like Abraham.
And you’ll have to make a choice.

Do you believe God, or do you believe what you can see, handle and measure?
That’s precisely why God made Abraham the poster child of kind of faith.
Abraham’s faith was the kind that took all uncertainties of his life and placed them to one side of the scales… and then, on the other side, he put, simply and solely--GOD.

Worries SCALE
Cares
Uncertainties GOD___
One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof.
The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you."
He knew the boy had to jump to save his life.

All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof.
His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you."
But the boy protested, "Daddy, I can't see you."
The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters."

Abraham may not have been able to see how it would all turn out, but he trusted His father’s voice.

 

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