James Merritt - Believe Me
So, I thought it would be a great, great question to flip and that is, okay, what if we took the time just to say, "Well, what does God want from me"? So, we're beginning a series today that we're calling "What in the World"? as in what in the world does God want from me? Now, let me state the obvious. If we're going to know things like that about God, he has to tell us. We couldn't figure something like that out on our own. If I came to you and I said, hey, if you didn't have this book, if you didn't know anything about God, but you just believed in God, and I said to you what do you believe God wants from you? You could take a guess, but you really wouldn't know whether you're right or not.
If we want to know what God wants from us, He has to tell us. He's got to let us know, and I believe He has, and I believe He has in this book called the Bible, and what I'm going to be doing over the next month, I'm going to be sharing with you four things that God wants from every one of us, and here's the good news. It has nothing to do with your money. So, just relax. It's not about money, but there are four things that God wants from you, and I'm going to make a money-back guarantee here. If you will begin on a daily basis beginning your day by saying, Lord, whatever else happens today, I'm going to give you these four things, you will be amazed at how your relationship with God is going to go to an entirely different level, and what I'm going to do today is I'm going to share the first thing, and the reason why this is the first thing is because it is the foundational thing, and the reason why it's foundational is this.
Okay, are you ready? If you don't start giving God what I'm going to tell you today God wants from you, you'll never give God anything else. If you don't give Him this, you'll never give Him anything else that He wants. It all starts with this because the first thing that God wants from us is faith. That's not the second, not third, not fourth. You don't get to second, third, or home plate. You go to first base. This is the first base of a relationship with God. God wants your faith. Where did I get that idea? I get if from something that was written in a book about 2,000 years ago. It's in a book called Hebrews. If you like to follow along with me if you have a Bible, you can just turn to the back of the Bible. That would be the quickest way to find it, and you'll go about, I don't know, four, five, or six books, and you'll find the Book of Hebrews or you can look at it on an iPhone, iPad, whatever it is that you have, but we're in Hebrews 11.
Now, before we kind of get into this, let me kind of make an admission to you. There's a lot more I don't know about God than I do know about God. Believe it or not, even though I've been a pastor for a long time and even though I have a, quote, unquote, Ph.D., and I'm a voracious reader, I guarantee you everybody in this room could ask me a question about God I can't answer. If you were to ask me a question to get me to admit I don't know, I promise you it's not that hard to do because even though I've been a follower of God for many, many years and even though I've been a big student of this book, the more I know about God, in some ways the less I realize I know about God, and there's a lot more I don't know than I do know, but I can tell you one thing I know, and I know it from not only a lifetime of studying God's word.
I know it from my own personal experience with God. I've learned one thing about God above everything else. Here's what I've learned. Nobody will change your life like God, but even God will not completely change your life until you place your faith in Him. Until you put your faith in God, and I mean the kind of faith we're going to talk about today, God will not change your life. The road to a relationship with God is paved with the cement of faith. As a matter of fact, it's very interesting. If you go back to the very earliest days of Christianity, they did not call themselves Christians. Christian was a name the outside world gave them. Do you know what they called themselves at the very beginning of the Christian faith? Believers. That's what they were called.
So, we're going to talk about believing. We're going to talk about faith, and there are all kinds of definitions of faith. You may be asking the question, well, what do you mean by faith? Well, here's some definitions. Some I like. In fact, I like them all. Some are different. Faith is climbing out on a limb, cutting it off, and watching the tree fall down. That is faith. That's a kind of faith. I love this one. Doubt is putting your circumstances between you and God. Faith is putting God between you and your circumstances. Here's another one. I love this one. Faith is eliminating every fear you have except the fear of God. How different your life would be and my life would be if we really decided I'm not going to fear anything, death, the economy crashing, war, it doesn't matter. I'm only going to fear God. That's faith. Faith is taking the first step before God takes the second step.
Now, regardless of how you want to describe faith or how you define faith, here's the truth about everybody on the planet. Everybody has faith. Everybody exercises faith every day. We demonstrate it, we display it, every single day. Whether we know it or whether we don't. You came to church today because of faith. You got in a car that you believed would crank. You got in a car you believe would start. You got a call that you believed would be here. You came here believing that I would be. You came. You had faith. However, the thing I want to emphasize is this. What makes faith such a big deal is not faith. What makes faith such a big deal is whatever you put your faith in.
The quality of your faith is determined by what you place your faith in or on, and you're going to see today that the only road that leads to God is the ramp of faith, and now you're going to learn today why the first thing, the foundational thing, the most important thing that God wants from all of us is not money. It's not even our time. It's not our talents. It's not our treasure. God says the first thing I want from you, I just simply want simple faith. The question is why. Well, first of all, by faith we perceive God. That's how we can even perceive God and conceive God is by faith. We're in Hebrews 11:1. Here's the way the author describes faith. He says, now, faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Now, there are two key words I want you to notice in that verse. There's the word confidence and there's the word assurance. Now, the word confidence is a very interesting word. It's a word that literally means substance. It means reality. It comes from a word that means to stand under or something to stand on. In other words, what he's telling us is faith has a foundation. The point of faith is it's something that's solid. It's got substance. It's based on substance. Let me tell you why this is such a big deal. Our kids are being told today in school, and our young are being told today in college, we're being told today in culture there's no substance to faith. Faith has nothing to do with reality.
As a matter of fact, I found there's a lot of confusion about faith not just outside the church, but inside the church because one of the most common assumptions about faith is, well, faith is just kind of a blind leap in the dark. It's illogical. It's irrational. It's for superstitious people. We had a guy come to our house about a month ago, and he works for the cable company, and he came out to do some work on our television, and I got talking to him. He's not a believer. So, I tried to talk to him about the Gospel. He just put the brakes on. He said, hey, wait a minute now. He said, Pastor, I don't mean to be disrespectful, but he said, I don't believe in Jesus. I don't believe in the resurrection. I don't believe in all that kind of stuff, and he said the reason I don't is it's just kind of blind faith. I just go by reason. And that's kind of the way we're being told today in the culture that, hey, there's things that's real and then there's kind of things that you believe in.
For example, Newsweek religion editor, Lisa Miller, put it this way. She said reason defines one kind of reality. That is what we know, but now faith defines another one; what we don't know. In other words. What we really know, we figure out. What you believe. You really don't whether it's true or not. Harvard psychologist, Steven Pinker, said the same thing, but he put it a little more strongly. He said, universities are about reason, pure and simple. Faith, believing something, now watch this, without good reasons to do so, hey, red alert here. That's not faith, but I'll get back to that in a minute. He said, faith, believing something without good reason to do so has not place in anything but a religious institution that is like ours and our society has no shortage of these.
So, let me just kind of get something straight today. All right? I don't believe the Bible, and I am not Christian because of blind faith. You know, faith does not require you to check your brain at the door. As a matter of fact, I'm going to show you if you exercise the right kind of faith in the right thing, you're not walking on eggshells. You're not walking on Jell-O because remember the word confidence and the word substance? He's talking about something that you're standing on that is solid. Faith is when you're standing on something that you've got strong reason to believe that it is true because, listen, if you believe something, but you've got no reason to believe it, that's not faith. That's presumption. We're not talking about presumption. We're talking about believing something because you've got reason to believe it, and this is so important. You've got to understand this or we can't go any further in this message.
Let me put it to you this way. Faith is not believing something in spite of what you think is true. That's not faith. It is believing something because you've got reason to believe it is true. I'm going to say that again. Faith is not believing something in spite of what you think is true. It is believing something because you've got reason to believe it is true, and listen, we all exercise that kind of faith every day. Everybody does that. For example, you get on the internet, and you order something, and you give them your credit card number, and they email you a receipt. All right, now here's my question. So, you've ordered something, and they've emailed you a receipt. You printed out the receipt. You've got the receipt.
All right. Here's my question. Do you have the product? Well, no, I don't have the product. So, it's not in your hands? No, it's not in your hands, but you know what you're going to start doing starting tomorrow? You're going to check the mailbox every day. Why are you going to do that? I mean, you don't have the product, and it's not in your hands. Why are you going to be checking the mailbox every day? Because you got a receipt. You got a receipt that says that thing is coming in the mail. It may be tomorrow or the next day, but I know it's going to come. Or, for example, you make a reservation. You and your wife are going to take a romantic weekend out of town, and so you make a reservation somewhere 300 miles away, and so you call, and you get on the phone, and they give you what's called a confirmation number.
So, you get in your car, and you drive 300 miles to this hotel. Here's my question. While you're in that car, do you have a room? No. When you walk into that hotel, do you have a room? No. Well, if you don't have a room before you leave, and you don't have a room when you get there, why in the world did you drive 300 miles? Because you've got this little thing called a confirmation number. So, you believe what you believe because you've got a reason to believe it is true.
Now, here's what I want you to understand. Faith in God is just as real as that kind of faith. It's just based on different evidence. That leads us to that second word which is the word assurance because you remember what he said? He said faith is the confidence in what we hope for. Then he said it is the assurance of things we don't see, and this is when the skeptic jumps up and says, see there, I told you. You believe in what you don't see. You're sure of what you can't see. By the way, that word assurance is a legal term that literally means evidence or legal proof. Faith is based on proof of things that we can't see.
As a matter of fact, he goes on to say this in Verse 3. He says it's 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. So, the skeptic says, ah ha, so, you believe in things you can't even see, and my response is so do you. We all believe in things we've never seen every day. I ask the question. You know I have to ask this question because one of my best friends is here today, and he has a degree in engineering from Georgia Tech. So, he knows what I'm about to say is true. Has anybody here ever seen electricity? No, you may have seen the effects of it. You've never seen it.
Okay, now, even though you've never seen it, my advice to you would be don't stick your finger in a socket. That would be my advice. You can do what you want to do. I wouldn't do that. Or, here's another one. How many of you have ever seen gravity? All right, you've never seen gravity. My advice to you would be not to jump off the Empire State Building without a parachute. That would be my advice. I mean, you can do what you want to do, but you know, we all believe in things every day that we don't see. The author of Hebrews says faith is the legal proof and the absolute assurance of things we can't see, and that's why the first thing that God wants from all of us is faith because God says you cannot perceive me, and you cannot conceive me without the eyes of faith.
So, number one, by faith we perceive God. Number two, it gets stronger now. By faith we please God. It is by faith that we please God. Now, listen to this statement right here. Listen to this. He says and without faith it is impossible to please God. Now, you talk about a though-provoking statement. Now, thing about this. So, God says to you, I don't care what you do, and I don't care how well you do it, and I don't care how many other people it benefits. God says if you don't believe me, and you don't believe in me, if you don't put your faith in me, you will never please me. That means it doesn't matter how much money you give to the poor. It doesn't matter how many times you attend church. It doesn't matter how many good works you do for people. If you do not believe in God and believe God, you will never please God.
Now, I'll tell you why that's a big deal to me. I believe the number one purpose in life is to please God because I want to challenge you with something. If you live a life and you do anything you want to in that life and everything you ever dreamed of doing in that life except pleasing God, what did your life really matter? Because if you think about it, if there is a God and that God is supreme, then if you've pleased God, it doesn't matter who you displease, but if you displease God, it doesn't matter who you please. Now, that raises a question. So, what is the first step to pleasing God? Glad you asked. He says and without faith, it's impossible to please God because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists. In other words, God says you want to have a relationship with me? Yeah, I really do.
God says, okay, step number one, you've got to believe I'm here. You've got to believe I'm real. You've got to believe that I truly do exist. You've got to believe in God even though you can see Him. You've got to believe that God speaks even when you can't hear Him. You've got to believe that God is with you even when you can't feel Him. You've got to believe that God is there even when you can't touch Him. Now, I know some of you think, oh, that's hard to do. No, it's not. You know, we have a saying. You fill in the blank. Yeah, seeing is believing. Well, I've got news for you. The opposite of that is also true. Believing is seeing. You see what you're looking for. You put faith into what you expect to find.
Now, somebody raises the question. It's a fair question. Well, if God exists, why can't we see Him? Why can't we hear Him? Why can't we feel Him? Because there's a thinking behind this, and some of you know what I'm about to say because we hear it in school all the time, and the thinking is no, no, no, no, no, I can only believe in what I can see, what I can taste, what I can touch, what I can hear, or what I can smell. Now, the only problem with that is that's just not true. See, this is the dirty little secret. A skeptic says, well, you just believe there's a God by faith, and I say to him, yeah, and you know what? You believe there is no God by faith. We both have faith. The issue is where does the evidence lead? The issue is where does a reasonable look at the world and the life and people? Where does that leave us?
You know, you can believe that this worship center got here because there was an explosion in a junkyard. You can believe that. But where does the evidence lead you to say I think somebody built it? Well, you can look at the oceans and the mountains and the stars and planets and the universe, and you can say, beep, just happened. You can believe that, but the evidence says, no, I think somebody built it. I think somebody put it together. So, by faith we perceive God. By faith we please God, and here's the last thing. We're wrapped up. By faith we purse God. Now, watch how this works. We've already learned one thing above all that pleases God is faith.
So, without faith, we've already learned you can't please God. Okay, well, we know that. Without faith not only can you not please God, but let me tell you why this is such a big deal. I bet you never thought about this. It is not only impossible to please God without faith. You can't even please yourself without faith. If you don't put your faith in God, you won't even please yourself. You say, okay, I don't get that. Well, let me give an illustration. Have you ever considered that if you are a believer, and I'm just talking to those of you who are. If you ever considered the fact that if you are a believer, almost every problem you have in life is caused when you don't believe God.
Here's an example. When you quit believing in the grace of God, you'll feel guilty. When you quit believing in the goodness of God, you'll start worrying. When you quit believing in the guidance of God, you'll start making decisions on your own and get out of God's will and mess your life up. You look back at every problem you have in life. I guarantee it will blow you mind how many times you had those problems because you didn't believe God. That's why you need to understand the difference between the ordinary kind of faith that everybody exercises and the kind of faith that I'm talking about this morning because remember, the quality of faith that you have is totally dependent upon the object in which you place your faith.
You can place your faith that this water is fit to drink, but it might be poison. You can place your faith that the brakes work, but they might fail. You can place your faith that you've been paid for a sale, but the check might bounce, but when you place your faith in God, you put your faith in a God who cannot lie. You put your faith in a God who cannot fail. You put your faith in a God who never changes. You put your faith in a God who never makes a mistake. You put your faith in a God who always gets it right, and one sure fire mark that you have real faith in the real God is this.
Here's how you know. You've got real faith in the real God. That is when you make up your mind I'm going to pursue this God, I'm going to go after this God, I'm going to run after this God, I'm going to prioritize this God believing that if I do, I will find this God because the author of Hebrews goes on to say without faith it's impossible to please God because anyone who comes to Him must believe the He exists and, now watch this, that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
See, too often we get this idea that God only rewards us when we do something good for God. So, if I put money in the bucket, God does something good for me. If I go serve somebody else, God does something good for me. If I do a good deed or do good work, God does something good for me. God rewards me, and here's what God says. God says, forget that. My greatest reward is when you just pursue me. When you come after me. When you lay the world aside and you put down your cell phone and your iPad and you turn the T.V. and the radio off and you get off the internet and you just spend time with me and focus on me. That's what pleases me. That's when you get your greatest reward. God says if you pursue me, if you come after me, I will reward you. So hopefully now, you understand why the first thing God wants from us is faith.
Now you understand that if you've never met God in your life and all of a sudden you just kind of bumped into God and turned around and realized it was God, the very first two words that God would look at you and say are believe me. Would you just believe me? And here's why. You can't please God without faith because you can't know God without faith, and you can't be saved without knowing God. So, next step, we're done, next step. I want to apply this. It's not going to be one of those series that you're going to walk out and go, well, that was really nice, and I enjoyed that and that was great, and things don't change. No, not this time.
Here's my question, and it's a hard question, but let's be honest. What do you need to start believing God for right now that you don't believe God for right now? Finances? Family? Your future? Your marriage. Your children? There's a God in heaven. I believe He says almost sometimes with tears in His eyes, will you just believe me? I don't lie. I tell you the truth. I do what I say I'll do. I go where I say I'll go. I perform what I say I'll perform. Will you just believe me? Your source and your supply, it's not your job, it's not your checkbook, it's not your bank account, it's not the United States Government, it's not the economy, it's not interest rate, it's not Wall Street, it's not the stock market. I am your source. I am your supply. If I can take you to heaven, don't you think I can take care of you on earth? Will you just believe me?
That's why God sent Jesus. That's why Jesus Christ left heaven and put on flesh on bones and blood and lived and died and came back from the dead. Not just so that we could believe in God, but we could perceive God and we could please God, and we can pursue God because I'm going to tell you, and I'm done, the God that I know or the God that I love and the God that I serve and the God that I follow and the God that I preach, you can trust that God with your possessions, and you can trust your God with your problems, and that's the only way to live, believe me.