Text: Hebrews 11:8-10 — By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was yet to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
Walking by faith means following God’s plan even though you don’t know WHERE it will lead you.
Hebrews 11:8 — By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was yet to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
Application: The only One who knows where you’re going to finish is the Lord Himself. The choice to follow God’s lead makes any uncertainty about one’s future only a minor obstacle to be overcome by faith.
Walking by faith means trusting God’s promises even though you don’t know WHEN He will keep them.
Hebrews 11:9 — By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.
Application: Waiting on God to keep His promises is never easy, especially when it doesn’t happen right away. But that’s what separates people with great faith from the rest of us.
Walking by faith means adopting God’s priorities even though others around you do not.
Hebrews 11:10 — For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
- People of faith follow God’s plan for their lives even though they don’t know where it will lead them;
- they trust God’s promises for their lives even when they don’t know when He’ll keep them;
- and they adopt God’s priorities for their lives even when everyone else around them is pursuing something different.
What faith risk is God calling you to take?
What promise from God are you waiting for Him to keep?
What change in your life is God asking you to make?
Opening: We live in a world plagued with uncertainty. Not knowing what or where or when or how things are going to happen seems to be a universal concern that fuels all kinds of anxieties. It’s as if most of us are just standing around waiting to see what the future holds and feeling like very little of it is under our control. This sense of unpredictability and powerlessness leaves us (and I mean all of us to some degree) feeling vulnerable. It’s as if we’ve managed to hold it together to this point, but we’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop. If you think I’m off-base here, if you would argue that doubts about the future are not as widespread as I’m suggesting, then consider this: The titan of e-commerce, Amazon, actually tracks the passage on their Kindle Bibles that people highlight more than any other. Of the 31,102 verses in the Old and New Testaments, we might expect it to be John 3:16 or Psalm 23 (the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul …) or the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6: 9-13 (Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name...). But surprisingly, it is none of these. It turns out, according to Amazon, that the most highlighted verses for their customers are Philippians 4:6-7. Do you know them? Here’s what they say: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. I find it very interesting that the most highlighted Bible passage on the Amazon Kindle is one that addresses our battle with anxiety and gives us instruction about how to deal with it! That didn’t convince you that we’re a nation filled with worriers? Maybe this will. The Unisys Security Index surveys more than 13,000 people in 13 countries. It measures anxiety about issues like national security, disasters or epidemics, and personal safety. The most recent survey taken in 2017 shows that levels of U.S. anxiety jumped sharply (by 20%) since the last survey in 2014. In fact, it came in at the highest levels since the surveys began. A Unisys senior vice-president commented: “It’s an understatement to say that anxiety level is high, … we live in very uncertain times … we definitely have seen a huge spike (in what we worry about) over the last three years.” Yes, it seems that most of us find it difficult to live with uncertainty. We would prefer to know what’s coming and do our best to emotionally prepare for it, than not know at all. This morning I’d like to share a different perspective on this whole idea of not knowing the future and what it holds. I would suggest that this lack of seeing what God has in store for us is actually a blessing from Him, rather than a cause for increased anxiety. Here’s what I mean: Suppose God gave you the opportunity to know everything that was going to happen in your life, would you really want to know? Now think about it before you answer. You would know every good thing, like that you’re going to graduate with honors from college, win the lottery or marry the person of your dreams. But you would also know every bad thing, like when and how your spouse is going to die, all the negative choices of your children and the bad consequences that will result, or that you’re going to battle a painful and chronic disease beginning at the age of forty for the rest of your life for which there will be no cure. When you consider both the good and the bad, perhaps it is better not to know what the future holds. Because we live in a fallen world where bad things happen to all of us, you have to wonder if knowing what’s coming would only increase our anxiety. Wouldn’t it be better, instead, to know the One who holds your future in His hands and who loves you with an unfailing and perfect love and who you can trust to help you overcome any obstacle you may face no matter how great? That’s what walking by faith in God is all about!
A couple of weeks ago, we began a new series on Unstoppable Faith from Hebrews 11. So far, we’ve learned what faith is (the choice to cling to what is promised (by God) and hoped for (by us), because we know with certainty that it will come to pass) and what some of its implications are for us (we believe God created, accepts, rewards and saves us). Now this morning, I want to look at the life of a man who faced great uncertainty, but who, because he trusted God with the details of his life, provides us with an example of faith that we can all learn from. His name is Abraham and a brief summary of his story is found in Hebrews 11:8-10. From these few verses I would like to share with you three “faith” principles we can draw from his experience and apply to our own.
Walking by faith means following God’s plan even though you don’t know WHERE it will lead you. (Hebrews 11:8 — By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was yet to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going). Abraham was a man who was guided by his faith in God. We know this because at the call of God, he was willing to leave behind his family and everything he was familiar with even though he had no idea where he would wind up. Talk about uncertainty! Here’s how God puts it to him: Genesis 12:1-3 — God said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed. So Abraham went… This was what I would call a “high risk, high reward” venture that God had put before him. “Leave everything you know, follow me, and I’ll make you into a great nation (this is the promise of many descendants); I will give you a great name (this is the promise of fame and honor). I will bless you and those who bless you (this is the promise of favor from God and others); and I will bless the whole world through you (this is the promise of great purpose and significance).” On the one hand we can see why Abraham jumped at the opportunity. But on the other it makes no sense at all. These were only promises and none of them had actually happened yet. It actually took a great deal of faith for Abraham to believe God to the point where he was willing to leave behind all the comforts of home and family. Abraham lived in a place called Ur of the Chaldees on the bank of the Euphrates River. It was a large and prosperous city where most of its 250,00 inhabitants worshipped the moon god, Sin. We can assume that life was pretty good for Abraham and his wife, Sarah. But once he heard the voice of God, he packed his bags and prepared to relocate. I can imagine his family arguing with him, “Now let me get this straight. You heard a voice and now you’re leaving for where?” “Um, I don’t know.” ” Okay, and when will you return?” “Um, I won’t be.” Despite what had to be tremendous outside pressures to stay with his extended family, Abraham left at God’s command and promise, burning his bridges behind him as headed for an unknown place. And that, men and women, required real faith! I’m not talking about the kind of half-hearted stuff that says to God, “I’ll follow if it requires no hardship” or “I’ll follow you if your plan does not deviate too far from mine“, but the kind that says, “There’s a lot I don’t know about your future plans for me, but because I trust you, I embrace them nonetheless.” This is the kind of faith that God really honors …. when we obey without putting any conditions on where it will take us. Illustration: Some of you have heard about my journey in the Christian life. I grew up in a God-fearing family, but not one that actively pursued Him. Through a series of circumstances, I gave my life to Jesus Christ when I was in high school. At the time, I admit that at the time I didn’t understand everything that God had in mind for me. I didn’t know that I would become the first in my family to go to college and that while there, I would get involved with Campus Crusade for Christ. I didn’t know that I would move away from my family after college and spend nine years of my life working for CCC in Tennessee and Texas. I didn’t know that I would relocate again to Deerfield to attend seminary at Trinity and train for pastoral ministry. I didn’t know that I would serve on the staff of a nearby church with my wife for nearly twenty years. And I certainly didn’t know that we would be involved in a church plant as exciting as this one. The only thing I knew when I first met Jesus was that I was lost and going to Hell without a Savior who was willing to pay for my sins in my place. And I knew that God offered forgiveness through faith in His Son’s sacrifice for me. And so I took that step of faith and have not looked back with any regrets since. Application: Now let me say this to those of you who may be wrestling with God’s call on your life today. The only One who knows where you’re going to finish is the Lord Himself. No one else possesses that kind of knowledge, no matter what they say. But how risky is it to step into this great adventure, living your life moment by moment, step by step for God purposes, knowing that you are fully loved and that your life will fulfill an eternal purpose and provide you with real and enduring meaning? In my experience (and Abraham’s), the choice to follow God’s lead makes any uncertainty about one’s future only a minor obstacle to be overcome by faith.
Walking by faith means trusting God’s promises even though you don’t know WHEN He will keep them. (Hebrews 11:9 — By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise). Sometimes it takes only a few moments for a promise to be kept. Like when my dad would say, “You keep that up and I promise I’ll come in there and give you a real reason to cry.” At other times, people seem to wait a little longer. When General Macarthur told the people of the Philippines, “I shall return,” it took him two years. There are also promises that take a lifetime to fulfill. I read this week that the longest engagement on record was between Octavio Guillan and Adriana Martinez. They were betrothed to be married in 1902 and finally took the plunge 67 years later in June, 1969 in Mexico City. Both were 82 years old at the time. (By the way, my son Jordan just got engaged to his fiancé Brittany on Friday.) And then there’s Abraham. In his case, he waited longer than a lifetime. Let’s consider again the promise God made to Him. (1) “I will make you into a great nation.” This didn’t happen until long after he was dead and buried. When Abraham’s grandson (Jacob) relocated the whole clan to Egypt during a worldwide famine, there were only about 66 people who made the move, not counting the wives. That’s not a bad sized family, but a nation? My wife’s family is bigger than that! (2) “I will bless you and make your name great.” Now to be fair, God had blessed Abraham by preserving his life and providing for him and his family, but fame and glory alluded him for the most part. Certainly, he was not honored like he is today by most of the world … Jews, Christians and even Moslems alike; (3) “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” Yeah, that happened. God showed His favor to those who treated Abraham well and His righteous anger to those who did not. And God continues to do the same even to this day; (4) “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” This promise was fulfilled when Jesus came into the world about 2,000 years later and provided salvation for both Jews and Gentiles. Furthermore, the land of promise mentioned here in verse nine did not become a reality for Abraham’s descendants until Joshua led the Israelites to conquer the Canaanites five hundred years later. The truth is that throughout his life, Abraham lived in tents as a sojourner in the very place that God promised to give him. Yet we’re reminded by the writer of Hebrews that he never wavered in his faith. I find that remarkable! Application: Waiting on God to keep His promises is never easy, especially when it doesn’t happen right away. But that’s what separates people with great faith from the rest of us. Most Christians give up when the Lord doesn’t come through based on our timetables. We grow discouraged and quite praying about it. But some continue to persevere in faith, waiting patiently on God to keep His word. Illustration: I’m reminded of Joni Eareckson Tada. If you’ve ever heard her speak or sing, I’m sure you were inspired to keep on trusting in the Lord. In 1967, at the tender age of 18, she was left a quadriplegic as the result of a diving accident. Since that time she has been forced to embrace a new normal in her life of chronic pain and immobility. Yet she remains a woman of great faith who trusts God’s plan for her, knowing that it will only be after she has passed into eternity that she will leave behind her broken body and step into the new life and body that awaits her. It is that promise that she clings to every day of her life. It’s not easy to wait that long on God to keep His promise, but it sure marks her as a woman of faith.
Walking by faith means adopting God’s priorities even though others around you do not. (Hebrews 11:10 — For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God). One of the most difficult things to do in the Christian life is to live in light of eternity when most everyone else around you is living for the moment. This kind of self-discipline demands a completely different set of priorities, and that’s what Abraham had. While everyone else was investing their time, talents and treasures in worldly matters, the Father of the Jewish Nation was looking forward to a kingdom that exists outside this world. Listen, everything we can see comes with a huge dose of frustration built into it. None of it was designed to satisfy the deep longings of the human soul. For that we have to look elsewhere. That’s why the Apostle John tells us not to love this world. It is passing away (1 John 2:17). And so Abraham, though he was wealthy, put no stock in temporal riches, but chose to look forward to the city that is not built by men, but God. The Bible refers to it as the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21. This is what Abraham was excited about and it changed his entire perspective on everything else.
Application: People of faith follow God’s plan for their lives even though they don’t know where it will lead them; they trust God’s promises for their lives even when they don’t know when He’ll keep them; and they adopt God’s priorities for their lives even when everyone else around them is pursuing something different. Now here are three questions to consider as we wrap this up:
- What faith risk is God calling you to take? Has God been speaking to you about your future and His plan for your life? Perhaps He’s been calling you into a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus. Have you taken that step yet? If not, why not? Don’t worry that God will lead you to places you do not want to go or make you into something you do not want to become. By the time it happens, it’s where and what you’ll want to be!
- What promise from God are you waiting for Him to keep? All I can to you is don’t give up the faith. God is the promise keeper. He will never disappoint those who put their trust in Him.
- What change in your life is God asking you to make? Maybe you haven’t completely made the break that Abraham did from chasing after the things of this world. I want to encourage you to live with a view to the eternal and heavenly city, built by God and prepared for you.
Conclusion: Author and preacher John Ortberg, in his book Faith and Doubt, shares that as long as the Christian life requires faith, believers will also be attacked with doubts. He sometimes use this illustration to make his point. He tells his audience that he has a twenty-dollar bill in his hand and asks for a show of hands as to how many believe him. Usually only a few hands go up. Then he tells the believers in the room that he’s about to destroy their faith. And that’s when he opens his hand and reveals the twenty-dollar bill. The reason he can say he’s destroying their faith is that once they witness the truth for themselves, his audience no longer needs faith. They know with certainty what is true. His point is that faith is required only when we do not know something with certainty. Once we see it for ourselves, faith is no longer necessary. Now sometimes a person is tempted to think, “I can’t trust God with my life because I still have doubts. I don’t know for sure if He’ll come through for me…if He’ll keep His Word” And my answer to those who wrestle with this kind of mental conflict is, “That’s why we need to have faith. It is only necessary so long as doubts are still a possibility. To remove all doubt is to eliminate the need for faith. Certainly, that’s what God will do, at least on one level, when we see Him face to face. Until then, we have to have faith, just like Abraham did, in God’s holy character and unbreakable promises.” This is the true test of faith.