The Countercultural Disciple: Trust THE Higher Power
Pastor Russell Scoggins
Sermon Date: 9/1/19
Bible Reference: Hebrews 11:1-3,8-16
Bible Reference: Hebrews 11:1-3,8-16
11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
8 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. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
If you were asked to move tomorrow, could you do it? If you were asked to leave your house, could you do it? If you were asked to leave your city, could you do it? If you were asked to leave the friends and family you have in the area, could you do it? If you were asked to leave your job without any promise of a future job, could you do it? If you were asked to leave this church building, could you do it? And I get it, when pastor stands up here and asks questions like this, it’s easy enough to nod your head and say, sure pastor, I could do it. But hold on, don’t answer this one so quickly. If you had to leave your home, family, friends, city, job, and church… and set out into the unknown, could you do it? If we can’t humbly admit that it would at the very least be difficult, then we’re lying to ourselves.
Let’s raise the stakes a little…. What if God was the one who came to you and he said to you, drop everything—leave the things you love most, and go where I tell you—could you do it? And I asked my wife this question and she instantly said, “God would never ask me to leave you and Camille.” And that’s true, I get it, it’s a little bit of a ridiculous scenario—in fact, if God comes to you and tells you to leave your spouse, kids and job, consult with your pastor first—that’s something we should talk about... but at any rate, stick with me here for the sake of the illustration. If God told you to leave the things you love the most, could you do it? For me, this is what it would sound like: God would come to me and say, “Leave your wife and daughter. Leave the ministry. Go where I tell you to go.” The 3 things I love the most in life (wife, daughter, ministry)—if God told me to leave them behind, could I do it? I don’t know. What are the 3 things you love most? Job? Spouse? Kids? House? City? Church family? Could you really leave them?
Our verses today reference events from Genesis 12: God comes to Abraham and he says to him: “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” We’re not really given a window into Abraham’s thought process. Genesis 12 just says, “Abraham went, as the Lord had told him. Personally, I can't help but wonder if Abraham wrestled with God’s command to drop everything and leave. Obviously this is pure speculation, Genesis 12 tells us nothing about Abraham’s thought process as he packs up and leaves. But I have to imagine he did some mental wrestling because this command from God was a bit bizarre. As if the command to leave your family and your homeland weren’t enough, God says something even crazier. He told Abraham that he would give him and his wife Sarah a kid. Abraham was 75 years old—his wife was about 10 years younger—and yet, God tells him that he will give them a kid. If God came to any of you at 75 and said the same thing, I would think it would raise some red flags to say the least. And yet, Genesis 12 tells us, Abraham does it. He goes. Our reading today tells us, Abraham does it. He goes.
My goodness, where do we find a faith like that? A faith that comes with the ability to just up and leave at a moments notice? A faith that trusts God through thick and thin? Where do we find heroic faith? Faith like Abraham? Hebrews chapter 11—that’s the section we’re in today. Sometimes, Hebrews chapter 11 is called the “Hall of Faith” (it’s a wordplay on “Hall of Fame”). It’s sometimes called the “Hall of Faith” because it talks about several Old Testament characters that had heroic faith. It talks about Enoch—the man who was so close to God that he never experienced death, God just took him right to heaven. It talks about Noah—the man who was willing to let the entire world around him think he had lost his marbles… God told him to build a massive boat, so he built a massive boat. It talks about Moses—heroic and faithful Moses who led millions of Israelites out from under Pharaoh’s enslaving rule in Egypt. More than 10 names are mentioned. More than 10 individuals who had heroic faith of epic proportions that trusted God in even the most critical of moments. How could we ever hope to have such a faith?
Um, I don’t like the term “Hall of Faith” for this chapter. If you do, that’s fine, I’m not going to jump on you for calling Hebrews 11 the “Hall of Faith.” Let me tell you why I don’t like to call this chapter the “Hall of Faith.” It’s because of the image it conjures up in the real world. Have you ever been to a hall of fame? Whether you have or haven’t, let’s just imagine that we’re at one today. Maybe we’re at a sports hall of fame, or the rock-n-roll hall of fame, or, I don’t know, a fashion hall of fame, or fishing hall of fame—whatever it is you like, imagine you’re at the hall of fame for that thing you really enjoy. As you walk that hall of fame, you look and you see the pictures of some of the greatest athletes in history. You see sculptures of people who changed the course of music—people who changed and revolutionized their industry…. Now, as you’re walking the halls of fame, looking at people who changed history, how do you feel? You maybe feel a bit inspired. It’s inspiring to be in the presence of greatness. Even though it’s inspiring, let me tell you how your probably NOT feeling. You’re probably NOT thinking to yourself, “That could be me.” Unless you’re under 20, you’re probably not thinking to yourself, “Someday I’m going to be up on that wall.” It’s just not realistic. .000001% of us will make it into some kind of hall of fame. That’s why I prefer not to think of Hebrews chapter 11 as a “Hall of Faith” in the sense that the people who made it into Hebrews 11 were these incredible heroes of the faith that trusted God through thick and thin by the sheer might of their own will.
The individuals in Hebrews chapter 11 were sinners just like you and me. The life of a Christian comes with both moments of great faith, and moments of great failure. Abraham, Noah, Moses, they all had moments of great faith, and yet they all had moments of great failure. Noah built a massive boat on dry ground because God told him to… but he also planted a vineyard, got drunk, and passed out. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, but he also murdered someone, disobeyed God, and got caught complaining. Abraham just up and left his family, friends and homeland when God commanded, but he also took matters into his own hands when he felt like God had forgotten about his promise to give him and Sarah a son. Abraham slept with Sarah’s maidservant—”maybe THAT’S what God means when he says he’ll give us a kid!” Spoiler alert: that’s not what God meant—that’s not what he wanted them to do. Abraham had moments of great faith, and he had moments of great failure.
Isn’t that our life as well? When we look back, we can point to moments of great faith… and we can point to moments of great failure. I could maybe point to a couple instances of great faith—how about you? I could definitely point to several moments of great failure—how about you? That is life this side of heaven. I want you to leave here today feeling encouraged. The truth is, your name belongs in this chapter. You belong in Hebrews chapter 11. Here’s why. The individuals in Hebrews 11 aren’t in Hebrews chapter 11 because they were just the greatest individuals to ever walk the face of the earth. The individuals in Hebrews 11 are in Hebrews 11 because they had an incredible God in whom they trusted. The individuals in Hebrews 11 didn’t trust in some magical deity. They didn’t trust in some amorphous higher power. They didn’t trust in some sun god. They trusted in THE higher power. They trusted in the only true deity that exists. They trusted in God the Father—the creator of the heavens and earth. They trusted in the one who promised them that life on this earth is temporary and that there’s a better and eternal life in heaven that will follow this life.
Abraham’s faith wasn’t incredibly strong because he was a one-in-a-million individual who deserves a plaque on a wall. Abraham’s faith was incredibly strong because his God is incredibly great. His God is the one true God. His God is always faithful. Abraham trusted in God and in God’s promises. That is faith. That is heroic faith.
It surely sounded crazy to Abraham’s ears: “Pack up everything you own, leave your extended family, and go to a foreign country. Also, I’m going to give you a kid, even though you’re past the prime of your life. You’re going to have more great-great-great grandkids than you can count.” And yet, as bizarre as all that was, Abraham trusted in God and his promises. That is heroic faith. Our closing verses said that Abraham kept his focus not on this life and it’s situations and challenges, but he kept his focus heavenward—on the eternal home that his great God had promised him. Abraham trusted in God’s promise of eternal life. That is heroic faith. And you have that faith too.
God promises us that he uses everything in our lives—both the good and the bad—to mold us, shape us, and draw us closer to him, and when you really stop to think about it, that is a bizarre sounding promise from our human perspective, but God said it, so we trust it. That is heroic faith. God promises us that if we spend time reading and listening to his Word, our faith will grow—again, from a human perspective, that is a bizarre sounding promise, but God said it, so we trust it. That is heroic faith. God promises that if we live the way he encourages us to in his Word, it will be for our spiritual good and sometimes even physical good—that’s a message that is clearly contrary to a human perspective that says, “do what makes you happy.” Yet we trust what God says. We trust in his promise. That is heroic faith. God promises that because we believe in the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we will spend an eternity by his side in heaven. From a human perspective, that’s nonsense. But God tells us that in his Word, and so we trust it. That is faith—it’s heroic faith. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we fight him sometime on matters like these...sometimes we have to wrestle with the promises God gives us—some of them are easier to trust than others. But even if we go through periods of wrestling with some of the things God tells us, we still trust in him. We trust in his promises. That is faith—it’s heroic faith.
The one true God of the universe is the source and foundation of your faith. When God’s Word holds up characters like Abraham, it doesn’t do it for the purpose of making you feel bad, “goodness, I could never live up to the likes of Abraham…” It’s just not true. Faith in and of itself is miraculous—it’s heroic. With the help of God it trusts in his promises regarding this life and the next. We may go through moments of great failure we may go through periods where our faith is weaker, but even in those moments, the answer is simple, turn back to God. Run back to his Word and his promises and cling to them ever tighter. Your faith is miraculous, it is heroic. Not because of who you are, but because of who your God is. Your faith is a great faith… not because of your track record, but because it trusts in the one true God. Amen? Amen.