Jack Graham - Champions of Faith - Part 2
Well, all the Bible is powerful, but certainly Hebrews chapter 11 is a powerful passage of scripture because it deals with the most powerful force on earth and that is the power of faith. We know, as believers and followers of Jesus, and we were called believers before we were called Christians, that we are saved by faith; by trusting in Christ and Christ alone, and through His grace by faith we receive eternal salvation. We by faith receive God's provision. Everything that we have comes from God, and when we pray in faith and believe in faith, God makes sure that our needs are met, not always our greeds, but always our needs are met in the Lord Jesus Christ.
And by faith we know that God's provision and God's plans and purposes are revealed by faith. We're motivated by faith. Faith has to do with hope because we have this tremendous living faith, we have a living hope and we're told that "The righteous shall live by faith". Now faith is, of course, something that is unseen. You can't see it or taste it. It's like a sixth sense that, it is the capacity of every human being, because God has given, according to Romans, every person the "measure of faith". We all have the potential, the possibility, the capacity to believe, but we must see things beyond the ordinary human eye and experience. We walk by faith and not sight, and that only means coming to Christ and becoming a believer for the first time, but then living this faith.
A man by the name of C. H. MacIntosh wrote: "Faith glorifies God exceedingly because it proves that we have more confidence in His eyesight than in our own"! I like that! We know that God sees and knows what we cannot see and know with the human eye and human experience. God knows, God sees, God wants the best for every life! And we have a faith in the promises of God that builds endurance and perseverance, and that's what this is all about; a living faith that produces confidence and certainty in our lives. So today we return to this hall of champions. We meet one by one these heroes of the faith. Last week we talked about Abel and Enoch, and also Noah. Today it's almost an impossible task. I have three Hebrew heroes, one by the name of Abraham, another by the name of Joseph, a patriarch among the others, and also Moses.
So, we'll get as far as we can. But as we get an overview, what Hebrews chapter 11 is really about, it's an overview of Old Testament adventures in faith. And all these things happened in the Old Testament as examples to us. So, when we speak of these champions of yesteryear, these hall of famers from the past, we also know that we are the champions when we trust in God, when we entrust our lives to Him. And that's really what we're talking about. We're talking about entrusting your life to believe and to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, to live by faith. So, let's get at it. And as we live by faith we need, first of all, to entrust ourselves to God's promises. We entrust ourselves to God's promises. And this is the story, beginning in verse 8, of Abraham, "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going".
And if you'll scroll down to Hebrews 11, verse 10, "For he was looking forward to the city", it's always forward by faith. "He was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God". And then again, dip down to verse 17, "By faith Abraham, when he was tested", and the faith that cannot be tested is a faith that cannot be trusted, "when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son". When you think about Abraham, you cannot help but think of the promises of God. That this man staked his life, his future, his family, everything on the fact that God made him a promise, that God called him out and commissioned him to be the progenitor, the patriarch of an entire nation. And Abraham who is revered by both Jewish people and Christians, became the father of the faithful.
In fact, we're told that Abraham is called the father of the faithful. He's the granddaddy of them all when you talk about faith, the father of all who believe. He's the greatest example in the Old Testament of what it means to live by faith. The Bible describes God as the God of Abraham. Is He your God? Is He the God of Sue and Bill and Joe and Mike? Is He the God not only of Abraham, but is He your God? And because he believed and by faith, he lived what he believed and followed forward in faith, he became known as the friend of God. And that's found in James 2, verse 23.
I told you last week I believe that my first message that I ever preached was on God being our friend. As a young man, just really beginning to live my faith as a teenager, and then called to preach the Gospel, I was taken by the fact that we could have a relationship with the God of the universe! That He could become actually not only a Father, but a Friend. God was not just a distant deity, someone way out there. Abraham was actually an idolater; he was a pagan living in a place called Ur of the Chaldees which is near the Persian Gulf. He was not, at this point, quote, a "Jewish believer". He was a man without God, a man worshiping false gods! But something happened that changed everything for Abraham who was known as Abram. Even his name changed to Abraham. And suddenly the God who was out there became the God who is in here. He heard from God. It says that God spoke to him.
Now how did God speak to this unbelieving man? God began to speak to him in the sunrise? Did God speak to him inside, just the emptiness of his own life and his idolatry? He knew he needed something more. Did God speak to him in the birth of a child? Did God speak somehow to Abraham in an audible way? I think so. Remember, Abraham didn't have the Scriptures, either Old Testament or New Testament, of course. So most likely God spoke to him in an audible way. God called out to him and God commanded him, and God made him a promise that if he would believe and obey this promise that he would change the world. God spoke to him and called him out. It was a command, it was a call, it was a promise. And when he acted in faith and obeyed God, his life took on new meaning.
Imagine this: He was called to leave his family behind, not his immediate family but his father, his mother, the generations before him. He was called to leave his job, to leave his security. Everything that he had known in life as security, God said, "I want you to leave this all behind and follow Me". And he goes home and says to his wife Sarah, "You know, Sarah, God's told us, I just met God. He changed my life, and God's told us that we're to leave here and follow Him". And Sarah who, you know, would like to know where, said, "Where are we going"? He said, "I don't know". She said, "Well, how long's it going to take to get there"? "I don't know". He didn't know anything, other than that God had called him. And that he was willing to go without Waze, without a GPS, and just follow God. Footprints through the desert to obey God, to go where God led him.
Now how does God speak to us like that today, so that we would know when, where and how to follow Him? Does God still speak today? Absolutely, yes! God speaks to us certainly as He's speaking right now through the Scripture. God may speak through a human voice, God may speak through the Scriptures that are delivered, God speaks through His Word! This is why we're always saying open God's Word, because when the Bible speaks, God speaks! Don't expect to hear anything from God if you're not willing to open the Scriptures and ask Him to speak! And the good news is that when you open the Scriptures, it becomes more than black ink on white paper! But rather the Holy Spirit interprets and illustrates it and illuminates it. It's a miracle of illumination, enlightenment when the Holy Spirit teaches us what the Bible is saying.
We have human teachers and preachers and leaders who can help us understand the Bible, that's what we're doing, of course, here today, it's vital that we do that. But also that we personally open God's Word. And when you have a question that is unanswered, when you have a future that is unsure, always, always ask Him first, and listen to Him. So often when we pray, we're running into God's presence at the last minute, saying, "Listen, Lord, your servant is speaking"! When in fact, we ought to come into His presence and say, "Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening" Because if you ask God to lead you, He will lead you. If you have a decision you need to make, ask Him and He'll speak to you. Not only does He speak through the Scriptures, He does speak through the Spirit. Romans chapter 8, a great chapter in the Bible, says, Romans 8:14, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the children of God".
So, in concert with the Holy Scriptures is the Holy Spirit! And as we are familiar and constantly in the Scripture, God begins to speak to us internally. It's a voice. A still small voice, according to Elijah. It's a whisper, if you will. And what happens when somebody whispers? You have to get very close to hear what they say. And amidst all the noise and the rabble and all the stuff that's swirling around us, all this white noise that's in the world, on our cell phones, on our screens, in the traffic, all that! You have to be willing to get alone with God and quiet enough to-hear-the-still-small-voice. God will whisper to you and let you know what you're to do. I've experienced this in my life many, many times.
You say, "Is it an audible voice"? No, it's louder than that! It's louder than loud! It's something deep within. Again, it comes by faith! It's not feelings; it's not fate. The will of God is not feelings emotionally; it's not fate; it is faith! And when we believe and trust in God, God reveals His will to us through His Word, through the work of His Holy Spirit, and we're able to know and again, we don't always know the results. We know the reward is coming because the securest, safest place in the world is in the middle of the will of God! So, don't worry about. Some people are afraid if they give their lives to do God's will and to go and do what God has called them to do, that He's going to spend, they're going to spend the rest of their lives miserable! No, God's will for you is good and perfect and acceptable. It's delightful.
Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord; He'll give you the desires of your heart". And so, when you pray and you ask God to speak to you, the inner voice will whisper, the Word will whisper in your soul. And your job, therefore, is to obey. Now don't ask God to show you His will, if you're not willing to do it. Why would God show you His will, if He knows you're not willing to do what He calls you to do? I tell you this: God will not take you one step further than your measure of obedience to Him. And some of you don't know what to do next because you haven't done what God's already told you to do! Start at the beginning and do what God is telling you to do, and then watch God unfold His will. Here's what Abraham did! He literally marched off the map and left no forwarding address. He just said, "God, I'm hard after you! I'm following you". And by faith he did it! And God blessed him and blessed a nation because of this one man's faithfulness to God. Abraham's outward obedience is evidence of inward faith.
There's another man we meet, very quickly, in the Scripture, Joseph. Love the story of Joseph. Verse 22, Hebrews 11, "By faith, Joseph at the end of his life made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones". Now that's a strange thing to do by faith. Recall that Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery to Egypt. He was a young man, 17 years of age with a lot of dreams. God had showed him these weren't just figments of his imagination. God gave him a dream regarding his future, and his brothers were insanely jealous of Joseph so they sold him into slavery. Told their father that he was dead. And Joseph has been taken to Egypt as a slave. But rather than giving up on his faith, by faith he continued; he perseveres. Rather than walking away. It would have been an easy thing to do, right, with such disaster?
So many people are willing to walk away from their faith when something is unexpectable, unexplainable happens to them. "How could God do this to me? What happened to those dreams"? And yet, he maintained his faith. And as a young man he was a faithful man. And he kept his faith in the midst of extreme tribulations and testing. He was even falsely accused by his boss's wife and put in prison. One bad thing after another happened to Joseph, yet he continued to believe, until ultimately, he was made prince over Egypt, the vice regent of the pharaoh. And when his own brothers came to get food in Egypt because they were starving in the land of Israel, he said to them, "You meant what you did for evil, but God meant it for good".
So, I say the story of Joseph is entrust yourself to God's providences. Do you know what the word providence means? Sounds like an antique word, providence, but it's provideo, to see before. God sees and knows before us the way that we are going to travel and we trust Him with our past, our present and our future. Even our bones! Love the song that we sing "These bones will sing". Joseph's bones were singing even in his death. You know, it's all about the legacy we live, and therefore, the legacy you leave. That's really what Joseph's story is about. It's about this continuing legacy of faith. He is the last of the patriarchs. His father, you know, Jacob, and before him Israel, and before him Abraham.
Here, you have the faith of these ancients. Lived 4000 years ago, and yet their faith is alive, their faith lives because they trusted in God. He entrusted himself to the providences of God, and that's what we are to do. What happened to Joseph is the Romans 8:28 of the Old Testament. You know what Romans 8:28 says? "For we know that God is working all things together for the good to them who love the Lord and to those who are called according to His purpose". So, no matter what you're dealing with in your life, what you're going through, God has a plan, God has a providence. There are no accidents with God. There are no uncontrollable circumstances. He's writing your story and sometimes there are tears on the pathway of faith, and even tragedies. But even in this, God is using everything in our lives to do what? To make us more like Jesus, that we might tell the world of His love and His grace, His power to save.
This is what Joseph did by faith. You can't see it; you can't see providence. It's the invisible hand of God! Got that? Say "Got it"! It's the invisible hand of God working in your life, moving you into that right circumstance, moving you through that open door or moving you to stop at a closed door. God is at work! His will is always weaving His way.
You say, "Well, I can't see what God wants me to do"! Just because you don't see it, doesn't mean God is not working! God is working creatively, constructively, continually in your life! He never lets you down, He never lets you go! Just read the story of Joseph, the dream that would not die that God put in His heart! Therefore, even his bones, He said, "When I die here in Egypt, don't leave my bones back there in Egypt when we go to the Promised Land! Take my bones with you"! Let those bones sing; let those bones shout all the way of the faithfulness of God in my life!
And then the third character that we meet is Moses. Moses, the prince of Egypt. And his story begins in Hebrews chapter 11:24, "By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter", verse 26, "He considered the reproach of Christ greater than the wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking for his reward. By faith", verse 27, "he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible". There it is again! Are we getting the point that faith is all about seeing the invisible? Seeing with eyes of faith. The Christian life is a supernatural life! All things should be spiritual and supernatural.
You know, if you have to act spiritual, you're not spiritual. That's hypocrisy. Spirituality, supernatural things just flow when you're living by faith. And I've seen that throughout my life. You see, Moses, he chose to leave the pleasures and treasures of Egypt. He was living as the son of pharaoh, the son of a king, adopted into the family of pharaoh, by pharaoh's daughter. But when he came of age, he realized who he was. His identity was not in the world; his identity was in God! Who God said he was, not who pharaoh said he was! And so, he chose reproach with the world to obey God and to follow God. Even calls it here the reproaches of Christ because God is in Christ reconciling the world to Himself: God is Christ, Christ is God.
And so, he left the world behind. He turned loose of the world, Egypt and all that Egypt offered him. What is Egypt? What did the world offer? Well, a lot of things. It mentions there he left the fleeting pleasures of sin. Don't tell young people, don't even tell your own kids that there's no pleasure in sin because you know that's a lie! There is pleasure in sin for a season, for a season, for a while, for a little while, until the fun is done, and so are you. Many have tried to live for pleasure and profit, possessions. Egypt represented wealth and riches, and he's going out to live in a desert with a bunch of Nomads, a bunch of fugitives because he obeyed and trusted God.
You say "What's the point"? He entrusted his life to the plans of God, entrusted his life to God's plan. As Moses, or rather, Abraham trusted his life to the promises of God and Joseph to the providences of God, Moses to the plans of God for his life which are always better. Don't feel sorry for me because I'm a Christian; I'm having a great time living for Christ! And the fleeting pleasure, they're fleeting. Here today, gone tomorrow!
Now you can live like that! Jesus told about a man in the Bible who said, "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow I die". You can live like that, as if there's no future, no eternity, no God, no heaven, and you'll spend your eternity in hell because you chose the pleasures of this world and the riches and treasures of this world. Jesus said, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul"? Moses made a better choice; so must you, to reject the world. "The world behind me; the cross before me. The world behind me; the cross before me". And to be willing to bear the rejection and the reproach of the world! You know, the world thinks we're crazy! The world without God, the world without Christ thinks we're lunatics! But we know better because Christ lives in us. And there's a reward in front of us.