Andy Stanley - Better Promises
I would like to begin with public confession of an adolescent sin, and I'm gonna ask you to raise your hand in just a minute and confess. So get ready. And some of you're so nervous 'cause it's like, oh, no, no, no, not that one. No, not that one. If you ever forged your parents' signature, whew. If you ever forged your parents' signature to anything, a permission to leave class to get out, check out early, to leave campus, to go to lunch, or to not dress out for pe. If you ever forged your parents' signature as a teenager, would you just raise your hand please? Oh, keep 'em up. Look at that. I'm telling you.
So, okay. See if this is your first time, it's like now you know the kind of people that are here at our church, okay? And you're thinking, I, I fit in maybe better than I thought I did. And isn't it true? You feel better now. You have been carrying that anger, you've been carrying the weight of that guilt all these years and you were just able to confess in front of me at, at church. Anyway, so, so that kind of sets us up because I would like to confess something as well. I just wanted to make sure I was, I was surrounded by sinners like me anyway, preachers, and I try not to do this. And maybe I've been guilty of this in the past, but I really try not to do this. But I'm gonna gonna con kind of confess on behalf of my whole industry, you know, my whole group of people, preachers, we have a habit. We have a habit of forging. God's signature.
Preachers have a habit sometimes of forging God's signature to promises that God never made. And I understand why we do this, and I understand why we're tempted to do this. We're tempted to do this because there's a, there's pressure on us to put a bow or to put a happy ending to onto everything associated with faith. Anything that happens that is associated with faith, we wanna say. And if you do, then here's what God will do for you and things will be great and your life will be great and everybody will be fine. You know? So there's just pressure to do that and, and part of the pressure to do that. The reason we do that, if you said, why would you do such a thing? Is because to be honest, it's, I'm not blaming you, but I will say this church, people like that kind of stuff.
I mean, they just do that. We wanna believe, we all wanna believe that faith comes with real world guarantees, right? I mean, if I then God, or, or, or here's kind of how it really goes. If I do, then God must, now you just need to know that sells, that sells books and that fills up churches because this is what we want to believe. But the problem is just to kind of burst our bubble to get us started today, the problem is it overlooks the fact that from the very beginning, from the very launch of Christianity, from the very launch of the church, it overlooks the fact that from the very beginning, Christians have always believed that the worst possible thing happened to the best possible person. That a man who had done absolutely nothing wrong, was falsely accused and, and then executed for the, and the most shameful and painful way imaginable in his day by jealous religious leaders.
So this is the tension we're gonna wrestle with today. If God didn't spare his own son to get the job done, what can we expect from God today? We're in part two of our series under the circumstances holding onto God when it appears that God is no longer holding on to you. And you may be in those circumstances right now, you're trying to hold onto God, you're trying to maintain your faith, or you're trying to get your faith back when it appears that God is not responding. And God doesn't even seem to know what's going on in your life. And the, the question that we're exploring is what do we do? What do we do when our circumstances and seem to point to a God that's not there? Or how do we, you know, how do we interpret circumstances when it seems like God's not there? God doesn't care.
The presence of God is, you know, in question, the existence of God may be in question and we're all tempted, I mean, me, me included, we are all tempted to jump to conclusions about God based on our circumstances or really our ability or inability to interpret circumstances and to kind of try to line up our circumstances with the existence or the presence or the faithfulness of God, positive circumstances and negative our circumstances and other people's circumstances. I mean, your, your faith may have taken its biggest hit not because of something that happened to you, but because of something that happened to someone. You love, someone you were raising, someone you were married to, someone you grew up around, or maybe a group of people that went through extraordinary heartache and you began to doubt God based on what they were going through.
And when things are up to the right, you know, we, we all assume isn't God good things are going great at work, things are going great at home, things are going great in our marriage, things are going great in the nation. You know, God is good. Look at God. Go, go God go. Right? And then when things are down to the right, it's where is God, what did I do wrong? And then we start playing the, the formula game. What can I do? Right? So that things will go right. What can I do right in order to get God's attention? In fact, and no guilt, no shame. Okay, maybe you're here, maybe you're attending one of our campuses, one of our churches. Maybe you're watching online because it's like, okay, my life isn't going well. I need a little favor of God.
So I'm gonna show up at church, maybe give a little money, kind of pay attention, find my Bible. I used to have a, where's my Bible? You know, it's like, you know, we all do that. Okay? No shame, no blame. This is just, it's the formula. It's the in instant, instant teller. God, if I can just find the right combination, then God's gonna respond. Then I can get things back on track. And then there's this question, okay, this is what really drives us crazy, is this one. It's, hey, and why is God blessing everybody else? I mean, I don't wanna be critical, but she is, she's not near as nice a person as I am. And her life is like perfect. And I'm like the best person and okay, I'm one of the best people I know and my life is not going so great.
You know why David and the psalmist, he, he asked the question this way. He was more blunt, you know, it was a prayer so he could, it was just to God, he wouldn't, I dunno if he'd say it to a congregation, but he said, God, why do the wicked prosper? And you think about somebody at work or somebody in your neighborhood, and you wouldn't call him wicked, but in your prayer life you can use that language. And so he, David used it. Why do the wicked, why do the bad people get all the breaks? Now if this is kind of where you're stuck, do not miss part three of this series. Next time we're together, we're gonna go way down the rabbit hole on this one. This is such a big, big deal.
But anyway, back to today, part of the reason, part of the reason that this is so confusing for Christians and people really of all faith traditions, but for Christians in particular is, well, it's what you hear from people in my position, from pastors, as I said a few minutes ago, we have a tendency, and I try hard not to do this, we're gonna talk about why in a minute. But pastors, preachers have a, a, a, a tendency to sign God's name to promises that God never made. And part of the reason they do this and, and the reason that they slip into this is the way that they use and the way that they approach and the way that they understand the Bible. They, pastors, preachers, priests, because of their understanding of the Bible, they blend, and I'll explain what I mean by this language in just a minute. They blend the covenants, they blend the covenants.
Here's what I mean. Your Bible, your your English Bible, the, the Christian Bible, as you know, is divided into two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. Yeah, that was, that should have been an easy question. Old Testament and the New Testament. Okay, I know you don't wanna answer too out loud, I under understand that old and New Testament, and unfortunately the word testament should have never been used, but nobody asked me, okay, it should say the old covenant and the new covenant, because that's what the word testament means. It's referring to a covenant, the old covenant and the new covenant. So those are the two parts of the Bible. The old covenant, not the entire Old Testament literature, but the old covenant that is contained in what we would call the Old Testament.
The first part of the Bible is a re is a covenant relationship between God and ancient Israel and God's. This is so important, a little technical, but we're gonna get practical in a minute. God's arrangement or God's covenant with ancient Israel was in fact 100%. And if I do, God must arrangement, it is absolutely in there. Or more precisely, if we do, God will arrangement the old covenant, the covenant between God and ancient Israel was not an arrangement or a contract or a covenant between God and individuals. This is so important. It was a covenant or contract between God and an entire nation, the nation of Israel. And when Israel's leaders and who set the direction, when Israel's leaders got it right, when they were faithful to God, when they kept his commands, God blessed the entire nation. He blessed them financially, he blessed them in terms of their land. He blessed them in terms of their health. He blessed them in terms of children being born healthy. He blessed them in terms of being protected even from natural disasters.
And you can read this, I mean, this is all laid out for you and you know what we would call the Old Testament, but when the leaders disobeyed God and worshiped other gods and were unfaithful to God, when they broke the terms of the contract, when they broke the terms of the covenant, then God judged and punished everybody, not just the wicked and not just the ones that broke the rules. Everybody suffered when the leaders disobeyed God and led the nation astray and he judged and he judged them militarily, economically, geographically, all kinds of ways. And this is so important because of this contractor, this covenant between God and a nation, ancient Israel, ancient Israel knew where, knew they were on good terms with God, by looking at their circumstances.
That's how they knew things are going great. Our leaders must be keeping God's contract. Things are not going so great. What are our leaders up to? Are things are going great that our leaders must be, you know, worshiping Yahweh, they're being faithful to Yahweh. They're, you know, they're doing everything right. Oh no, things are going bad for us. What are our leaders up to? It was a national contract. It was a national covenant, and the leaders were responsible for obeying God and leading the nation in a specific way. If you want evidence of this, just start reading the Book of Exodus. You can read first and second Kings when you read what the prophets say.
You know, the angry prophets that we find in the first part of our Bible, they always seem angry. They were angry because in most part they were going to the leaders saying, you're doing it wrong. You've abandoned God. You're, you've built these high places, you're worshiping foreign idols, you've made contracts and you've made agreements with foreign kings. And God has told you not to do that. So the prophets were always going to the leaders saying, Hey, if you don't turn around, if you don't repent nationally, then God is gonna judge Israel nationally because this is a national contractor covenant between God and ancient Israel. But us new covenant people, I'll explain what I mean in a minute. Those of us who aren't part of that national contract between God and ancient Israel, those of us who actually accepted God's invitation to participate in the covenant that Jesus established, we don't look to circumstances to determine where we stand with God.
Lemme say that again. We don't look to circumstances to determine where we stand with God. We don't look to circumstances to determine whether or not God loves us, whether or not God is with us, whether or not God caress for us. Do you know where we look? We look to a single event that took place on a hill outside the walls of Jerusalem. That's where we look, where God sent his son to pay for all of your sin and all of my sin. And that was his way of saying, I have removed every obstacle between you and your heavenly Father so that you can have fellowship with God, and God can love you unconditionally. And God can hear your prayers regardless of your sin. And God can intervene if he chooses not to. And God can comfort if that's what he chooses to do.
But you are in a right relationship with God. And you never ever, ever, ever, ever have to wonder if God loves you, if God caress about you or if God is with you. But when preachers mix and match the covenants, the old Covenant Testament covenants made between Israel and God and the New Testament covenant between God and the entire human race, when preachers mix these up, Christians have a tendency to begin doing what Israel was supposed to do. We begin looking at our circumstances now in, in highlighting this, okay, in highlighting this distinction between the old covenant promises and new covenant promises, oftentimes I'm criticized and you're not criticized, you're criticized for listening to me. Okay? I don't know if you know that. Okay, just stay off Twitter, okay?
Anyway, but I'm often and criticized Andy doesn't believe the Old Testament. Andy doesn't teach the Old Testament, they doesn't, all these crazy things that aren't true. Because if you listen to not just me, but all of our communicators, goodness, we dip into the Old Testament all the time. We tell the stories. I mean, of course we believe that God was at work in the Old Testament, but what we don't do is we don't extract promises to Israel and say those are promises to you and you shouldn't either. But what's interesting, and if you read the New Testament, this is so clear, this isn't buried somewhere, okay? Jesus and the Apostle Paul, in particular, Jesus and the Apostle Paul in particular are very clear about the relationship between God's covenant with Israel and God's covenant with the human race through Jesus.
Jesus made this so clear during this final Passover. We've looked at this passage many times, and if you grew up in church, this is, these are the verses that the preacher often used when they were serving communion. And he focused on the communion part, not on the part I'm about to focus on. You, you, you've heard this before there, he's gathered with his apostles, this is his last Passover meal. He's gonna be arrested in a few hours. He's gonna be crucified the next day. He says this in the same way after the Passover supper, Jesus took the cup saying, here it is, this cup in my hand. In other words, this is an event that's being established right now in front of you guys.
This cup is the new covenant, the new contract, the new arrangement in my blood, all that, that other contract, that other covenant that God established with the nation of Israel, it was, it was inaugurated and remembered with the blood of animals. He's like, this is brand new. This is a brand new covenant with a brand new command, with a brand new operating system, with a brand new value system. And it is being established right now. And tomorrow when I'm arrested, and tomorrow when I'm crucified, and a couple of days later when I'm raised from the dead, it is being established right now, the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you or poured out for all of you. In other words, the old covenant between God and ancient Israel had an expiration date. It was perfect for what it was designed for.
In fact, I've said this before, it was way ahead of its time. I mean, women were treated better than how they were treated in the surrounding nations. Foreigners were treated better. It was way ahead of its time, but it had an expiration date. It was coming to an end. It was a means to an end. And the apostle Paul constantly, like in throughout all of his letters, constantly reminded Gentiles, us non-Jewish people, that we weren't included in God's covenant with Israel. It's not our covenant, or to be specific, those old covenant promises are not your promises. You weren't included. Your promises are better promises. That's what we're gonna talk about in a minute. But on the surface, our promises don't seem as promising in terms of this life. But they are better promises because Jesus promised something that Torah didn't promise. In fact, Torah didn't even explore. Jesus promised eternal life and eternal fellowship with God, your Father. Here's what the author of Hebrews says.
Now, Hebrews is an interesting part of the New Testament. Hebrews is like a sermon. We call it a book of the Bible. It's, and it is, you know, one of the parts of the New Testament, but it's like a sermon. And we don't know who wrote it, but the first century apostles and the first century Christians believed it was so valuable and so true, specifically because of what it addressed. They valued it, read it in the early church, and it made it into the cannon, made it into the ne New Testament. But here's what the author of Hebrew's rights, we're gonna come back to this a minute. He says, for this reason, Christ is the, here is again. I mean, this is buried in plain sight here. For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant. That those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. That your promises and my promises are better promises because they are eternal promises.
And here's the shocker. And if you don't believe me, you get to check this out for yourself. And anything I can say to get you to open your Bible, Hey, I, I, you know, even if it's a taunt, God's covenant with Israel did not promise eternal life. In fact, you may be shocked to know that most ancient Jews did not believe in an afterlife at all because their scriptures never mentioned it in any significant way and didn't teach that there was such a thing. There were all kinds of theories. And by the time Jesus came along in the first century, there were multiple theories about what happens to the righteous when they die. But the, even the experts, even the experts in the synagogues and at the temple, they did not agree because they didn't have anything to refer back to in the old covenant teaching that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai.
In fact, you may remember this, a very educated man, a teacher of the law, a sort of a lawyer, we would call him probably a lawyer. An attorney came to Jesus and in front of a crowd of people, and he shouts out this question, Hey Jesus, I have a question. What must I do to inherit eternal life? And to which Jesus could have said, well, I mean, you're like one of the most educated people in the crowd. Have you not been to synagogue? And he would've said, oh yeah, I've been to multiple synagogues. I've talked to multiple religious leaders. They don't agree. We don't know. Answer this question for us. The Sadducees, that group, they say there's no, there's no spirituality, there's no angels, there's no demons, there's no afterlife, there's no nothing.
All you get is what you see, that we're here for God's purposes and God's pleasure. And when you die, it's over. The Pharisees have some kind of vague idea that there's some sort of a resurrection for the righteous, but we're not sure exactly who gets resurrected and who doesn't. And what happens to the people who aren't righteous. So we, we just, we don't know because their text never talked about it. And then Jesus comes along and what does he talk about? Almost all the time? Eternal life with the Father in heaven who's paved the way and who would pave the way through sending his son to remove every obstacle to you having eternal fellowship and fellowship now with God, your father. Our promises are anchored to Jesus new covenant, which means if you can't find it in there, be careful looking elsewhere. Elsewhere.
If you can't find it there, if you can't find it in the New Testament in terms of our promise, be careful looking elsewhere. Otherwise, you run the risk of being disappointed by God's unwillingness to keep a promise he never made to you. You'll be tempted to do what ancient Israel was supposed to do. You'll be tempted to judge God's presence by your circumstances, which is what they were supposed to do, but what not what you're not supposed to do because of the cross, you'll be tempted to judge God's faithfulness by your circumstances, which you aren't supposed to do, which is what Israel had to do because it's all they had to go on. Because again, we don't look to circumstances to determine where we stand with God. We look to a single event that took place outside the walls of Jerusalem when God allowed his son to die, to pay for your sin, to assure you you are and can be and right standing with God. Any questions so far?
Good. Okay, now switching gears a little bit, but, but, but, but, but, but there is one Old Testament promise. A promise that shows up in our Old Testament, but not in the new covenant. It's two different things. I know it's kind of confusing, but you get the point. The whole Old Testament. Then within that is this covenant or contract God made with Israel. There is a promise in our Old Testament that does apply to you. It's not a promise that was made to you, but it applies to you. And it preceded God's covenant with Israel by hundreds and hundreds of years. And I'm talking about God's promise to Abraham. Little, a quick little timeline might help. I like timelines, right? 2000 BC God calls Abraham and says, I want you to go somewhere you've never been before. I'm gonna do something I've never done before. 1400 BC hundreds of years later, God establishes his covenant with Israel through Moses.
But God made Abraham a promise, a promise he did not fulfill here a promise that he fulfilled 2000 years later when a king was born, when Messiah was born, when Jesus was born, and the author of Hebrews, this is so amazing, this is why we're gonna look at this passage real quick. The author of Hebrews going back to Hebrews, the author of Hebrews, speaks directly to the issue of how new covenant people know that God is with us. He speaks directly to this issue because he knew he had many people in his Jewish audience. In fact, the reason it's called the book of Hebrews is because it was written to Jewish Christians and he knew he was talking to a group of people that were accustomed to looking at circumstances to determine if God was with him and their circumstances were bad.
And consequently, they're like, I don't know if we've done the right thing. I don't, you know, we kind of want to go back to Egypt. We want to go back to the old ways. We're wondering, is God with us? And the author of Hebrews is saying, absolutely, God is with you, but you don't look to circumstances to determine that you look to Jesus. And the way he does this in his, in his long sermon is by attempting to review the circumstances of the key players between Abraham and Jesus. But there are so many players, there's so many key figures in this story between Abraham and Jesus. He starts off by listening and telling some of the stories, and then he realizes, okay, this is gonna take forever. And he even says, I don't have time to do all of that.
So then he begins summarizing. And that's where we're gonna pick up this text. This is so important. This is important for those of you who are suffering and wondering. This is important for those of you that have suffered and maybe lost faith. And this is important for all of us because life happens and life is life. Here's what the author says. He says, I don't, I wish I did, but I do not have time to tell you about everybody in this long litany of, of stories and people. I don't have time to tell you about Gideon. That's a whole story about Barack, about Samson, about David and Samuel and the prophets who all, all of them who through faith, he, I could, you know, these, each of these are multi-layered stories. But all of these through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice and gained what was promised to them in that era who shut the mouths of lions.
We know who he's talking about. Quenched the fury of the flames. We know who he's talking about, and escape the edge of the sword whose weakness was turned to strength and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. And see, when I read that, I'm like, abs. Yeah, yeah, that's what I wanna be. I that's what I wanna do something and God do something. I wanna do something big. And God does something bigger and it's like, Hey, I was part of what God did. I, you know, this is all up and to the right. You know, that's what we love. We love the up and to the right days, right? And then he turns the corner. He's like, yeah, but it wasn't like that for everybody. In fact, throughout this story, it wasn't like that for the people who were part of this long story arc between Abraham and Jesus. He says this, there were others who didn't win, who weren't victorious.
There were others. And there was no bow on their story. There was no happy ending. There was no smooth landing for others. They were tortured and they refused to be released. They refused to lie. They refused to recant so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging and chains and imprisonment. Some he says, were put to death by stoning. Some of them were sawed in two, they were killed by the sword. They were destitute. They, they were so destitute, they had nothing to show for any, they had nothing they went about in sheepskins. That's all they had for clothing and goat skins, destitute, persecuted, and mistreated. And then my favorite part, this is this, this should, there should be like music behind this. This is so powerful. It's like he, he's, because he, I'm just reading part of it. He's gone through all these people, all these stories leading up from Abraham all the way to the coming of Jesus.
And it's like he puts his quill down or his pen down, and he just stops and takes a deep breath and there tears in his eyes and he picks it back up. And he writes these words, the world was not worthy of them. They endured in spite of to be a part of what God was up to. And they never doubted that God was up to something in spite of what they experienced. The, these were all, he goes on to say, these were all commended for their faith, their confidence in God, their in spite of circumstance, confidence in God. Yet none of them, this is amazing. Yet none of them received what had been promised, promised to Abraham, yet none of them received what had been promised since God had planned something. And here it is. If you haven't been paying attention, come on back.
This is important. All of this was building, building, building, building, building. Some were victorious, some suffered, some were victorious for a while, but everybody died. Everybody's body decayed. It all ended the same for everybody regardless of their circumstance. He said, in all of this, built and built and built since God had planned something better for us, better for you, better for me, better for those of us who have embraced and accepted Jesus' invitation to participate in the new covenant between God and the human race. He says, be now in light of all that, because of all that. Having said all that, therefore since now, he now he asks us to use our imagination. He says, now therefore, since we are all surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, he says, imagine somewhere in heaven are all these people I just listed who were faithful, faithful, faithful.
Some of them submitted, all of them sinned, all of them were unfaithful at times, but they maintained their faith in God. Even when they departed from God, they came back to God, maintained their faith in God. Were part of the story since we're surrounded by these extraordinary, extraordinary people, men and women who kept trusting and following and believing who did not interpret hardship, who did not interpret hardship as God's absence. Since that is the backdrop of our faith. How should I respond to hardship? How should you respond to hardship? How should I, how should we respond to circumstances that seem to say God is foreign and God is absent and God's not paying attention? He says, here's how.
Therefore, since we're surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, ready, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. He says, anything that would mitigate against you, understanding and trusting that God is faithful and with you through this. He says, you just disentangle yourself from those thoughts. You cast that away. Don't allow, he, he mentioned sin. Don't allow the difficult times to cause you to depart from God. Because when you depart from God, it does not make your life better. It just, it's just gonna make your life more complicated. So he invites you and he invites me to join this cloud of witnesses that we're faithful in spite of. And then he says, lemme give you a word picture, and I want you to, I want you to run. He says, and let us run, run with perseverance. The race marked out for each of us.
So let's talk about this. See, right now you might be in the se the section of the race. That's the downhill section. It's the easy section. It's the wrinkle-free section. Everybody's in school, everybody's dating somebody you like, you know, you got a bonus. Things are good. You know, even your lawn even looks great. Your grass survived. You know, all, you know, it just, I mean, it's just, it's just good. He says, you need to make sure you persevere through the good times because in the good times, you will be tempted to abandon your Heavenly Father because you won't sense or see a need for others of you. That's not the stretch of the race you're in, right? You're in the, you're in the divorce stretch of your race, and you've been married 25, 26 years, and suddenly he or she decides, Hey, I'm done. I'm out. You, you've only been married three years and all of a sudden you discover, you discover something about her, about him. And it's like, oh no.
And you just never saw this coming. Or maybe you're in the prodigal son or prodigal daughter season of your race. And you raised him right? You raised her right, you did everything you could have possibly done. You paid extra for stuff. I mean, you, and, and now that it's just like they've become a different person and they don't care and they don't connect and they're not interested in any of the stuff, any of the values that you raised them with. And you, you just can't figure it out. And they're friends and now they're dating and it's like, oh. And they, it's like you just, you don't know what to do. Or, or, or maybe you're in the health crisis stretch of your race and, and you're too young to have to deal with what you're dealing with and there's no good answer. There's no good treatment. And the doctor's kinda scratch their head and they try to sound confident. And you get in the car and you realize they don't know or they've prescribed something that's like months.
And at the end of those months, we hope it works out. And that's the season you're in. Or maybe it's the job loss or the job loss again, or a financial, financial pressure or bankruptcy season. Well, whatever it is, you didn't choose it. You're just running your race and you came around the bin and there it was. And you wonder, where's God? Peter, the apostle Paul, John who brought us, the story we talked about last week, would say to you, okay, before you panic, before you hit, eject, before you hit, I don't believe, I just want you to look at the promise God made Abraham. And I want you to imagine all the details that happened between Abraham throughout the story of Moses and the ancient Israelites in the Old Testament, all the way to Bethlehem. When a king was born on your behalf, who grew to be your savior and punctuated his love for you, his care for you.
And remember, this is so important, like Jesus, like the Father, if you wanna know what the Father is like, you look at Jesus, don't look past Jesus. You're looking past God. If you wanna know what the Father is like, you look at the son, the Son who came to give his life for you to demonstrate how much he loves you, how much he caress for you, and how much he is in fact there with you. And for you, the author's words, those are my words. You just fix your eyes. Make sure you're looking in the right direction. He says, lemme just say it for you. The race marked out for you, regardless of what that race looks like, fixing, focusing your eyes, not on your circumstances, not on the person who hurt you, not on the doctors who just don't seem to cooperate and don't seem to care as much as you think they ought to care. Fixing your eyes on Jesus.
And to address what I'm sure somebody out there is thinking or somebody in here is thinking, this is not just preacher talk. This is not just theory. I have seen it over and over and over. I've sat with, I've wept with people for whom there was no bow, there wasn't gonna be a happy ending, there wasn't gonna be a safe landing walking through the valley of the shadow of death. In fact, some of you are there right now. I'm telling your story, walking through the valley of the shadow of death. And you keep trusting and you keep believing and you keep hanging on to God when it appears that God isn't hanging on to you. And you're not trying to explain you've, you've gotten past explaining well maybe this, and maybe that you quit explaining because there is no emotionally satisfying explanation for what you're going through.
And if that's you, I would say about you, what the author of Hebrews said about the men and women, he wrote about the world, the world is not worthy of you. Because when I sit with you and I pray with you, and my heart breaks with you, my faith gets bigger because I am Remi. I'm reminded, as many of you has been, have been reminded when you've been in situations like that with believers who are hanging on and believing. Anyway, I'm reminded there is, this is the promise, there is a grace, there is a strength, there is a power, there is an energy, there is a something that you won't experience until you need it. But it is there when you need it.
Back to the author of Hebrews, he says, and let us run with perseverance. The race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the leader and the completer, the author and the perfecter of our faith. He's the reason we can have confidence. The author's point is, fix your eyes on Jesus and not on your circumstances, not preacher talk. This is how you lean in and experience the power and the presence of God in the midst of circumstances you didn't choose. They just showed up in the course of your race, who he says, for the joy set before him endured something you will not have to endure. Although it may feel like it at the time. Who endured the cross for you? Scorning it. Shame.
This is such a powerful word. I wish I could spend more time on it. It's as if Jesus is hanging on the cross saying, is that all you got? Is that all you got? When you see what's waiting for me on the other side of this? This is nothing. And the author of Hebrews says, and after he died and rose from the dead, he went and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God and he says, come on Don, come on, come on, come on. Consider him. Consider him. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners. Why? So that here it is, so that you'll not grow weary, so that you'll not lose faith. So that you'll not lose confidence so that you'll not grow weary and lose heart.
And then earlier he says this, here's the invitation I want you to approach. He says, I know you're not perfect. I know you got stuff, but come on, come on. I want you to approach. Let us then approach. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence. And why can you approach God's throne of grace with confidence? Don't miss this because what has he just told us? Because sitting next to your heavenly Father is the Son who endured such opposition and such pain. He knows, he feels that he felt it. And he's there seated by the Father interceding for you because he cares. You're been there, felt that faced that savior. And then here's the kicker, here's the promise. 'Cause there's a promise so that, so that we may receive. And here it is.
Do you know what you can bank on? Do you know what you can count on? Do you know what you can hold God accountable to? This is, this is the part where you can say, heavenly Father, you promised me, this is your promise. This is my promise. This is the new covenant promise. And certainly there's more, but this is the core that you may receive with confidence, mercy, and find grace to help in your time of need. Mercy, God weeps with you, grace in this context, strength to endure, strength to persevere, strength to endure without giving into the temptation of despair. The question is, is that enough? And the answer is yes.
And if you're not sure, I would like to try to demonstrate it for you. Because in this room with me and in the room where you're sitting, if you're at one of our churches, maybe in the living room where you're sitting with some other people, watching people from all over the world, it's not a great cloud of witnesses. It's a great crowd of witnesses to the reality of what the author of Hebrews tells us. Because among you, around you sitting beside you are people who experience God's sustaining grace in the midst of extraordinary circumstances.
And so I'm gonna ask you in just a minute, if you have experienced God sustaining grace in extraordinary and extraordinarily difficult circumstances, in about four seconds, five seconds, I'm gonna ask you to do something a little awkward at all of our churches. I'm gonna ask you to stand. And if you are in the midst of extraordinary circumstances and you are experiencing currently God sustaining grace, I'm gonna ask you to stand as well as evidence for those who wonder if this is a reality.
If may or maybe just preacher talk, if they're wondering, is that, could that be available for me? So if that's you in the past or currently, would you stand? Hmm. And if you need it right now, would you stand? Yeah, I'd love for everybody to stand at this time. Here's your promise, approach. Approach God's throne of grace with confidence because there is no barrier between you and your heavenly Father, thanks to Jesus. And you will receive mercy and you will find grace to help you in your time of need. Because he sees, he knows he caress, his grace and his strength are available to those of us who lean in and ask for it.