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Watch 2022 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - The Necessary Ingredient - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - The Necessary Ingredient - Part 1


Robert Jeffress - The Necessary Ingredient - Part 1
TOPICS: Spiritual Fitness, Faith, Spiritual Growth

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Perhaps you've seen bumper stickers on cars in the church parking lot with a cross and the word faith. Or perhaps during a difficult time, you've had a Christian friend tell you you just have to have faith. Yes, faith is absolutely central to Christianity, but a lot of Christians could benefit from a refresher course on this important topic. Well, today we're beginning a brand new study of Hebrews 11 - 13. I'm calling Spiritual Fitness and we'll start by identifying the biblical definition of faith by looking at some examples of faith in action. My message is titled, "The Necessary Ingredient", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

I remember at the beginning of this pandemic, the very outset of it, a reporter asked me, "Pastor, what do you think the long-term consequences are going to be if this quarantine, the shut down goes for months and months"? And I said, my prediction is you're going to see divorce rates rise dramatically. And sure enough months later, that is exactly what we have seen happen. We're seeing divorce rates go up in Texas, in California, in Florida. In fact, I came across an interview with a divorce attorney this week who explained why that was. He said, "I would say the phone is ringing much more for it used to be that a couple was able to get away from each other during the days or in the evenings with their extracurricular activities. Now they don't have that opportunity. So now people are more acutely aware that they just can't stay together".

Now will you listened to what that attorney is saying? He is saying that being cooped up with your mate, let me change that, spending quality time with your beloved is not the cause of problems in the marriage, but it reveals problems that were already in the marriage. That's an important distinction. The fact is pressure from the outside doesn't always cause problems, it's simply reveals problems. Think about a hairline fracture in a sidewalk or in a road that you can't see with the naked eye. But you put pressure on that fracture whether it's a 4.000 pound truck or an 18.000 pound semi, you put pressure on that, that fracture becomes visible, and it even widens because of the pressure. That's true in almost every aspect of life, including our relationship with God.

The fact is problems from the outside don't fracture our relationship with God. Problems from the outside simply reveal fractures in our relationship with God and widens them. We don't hear that often in Christian teaching these days. Haven't you heard people say, "Oh, problems are wonderful. You've lost your mate. You're going through an illness. You're experiencing financial difficulty, well, you ought to rejoice in that because that strengthens your faith in God". We even have verses we quote to say that, like James 1:2, "Count it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance".

Well, sometimes that's true, but not all the time. That verse, testing of your faith. That word testing, is a word that refers to the process by which a potter forms a piece of pottery out of clay. And then he puts it in a firing oven, turns up the temperature, hundreds and hundreds of degrees, and the heat of that oven sometimes strengthens that piece of pottery. But sometimes that oven, the heat reveals a problem in that piece of pottery and causes it to shatter. If the piece of pottery survives the firing oven, the potter takes it out and he writes on the bottom, he would write the Greek word, tested, approved. It's made it through the fire, and it's stronger because of it. But if that piece of pottery would shatter in the oven, it was discarded, thrown away forever. It's the same way with our faith.

When we go through fiery problems in our life, sometimes those problems can strengthen us, but sometimes they can cause our to shatter. What's the difference? What is it that determines whether or not problems strengthen us or destroy us? In a word faith. Faith is the necessary ingredient that allows us to survive and even thrive in problems rather than be shattered by them. Whether or not problems draw us closer to God or drive us away from God depends upon faith. And faith is the subject of our chapter we've come to in our study of the book of Hebrews, Hebrews 11.

Today we're beginning a new series based on these final three chapters in the book of Hebrews. I'm calling this series Spiritual Fitness, strengthening our faith in troubled times. Now you probably are familiar with Hebrews 11. It has many names. People have called it the Westminster abbey of Christianity. God's hall of honor, the roll call of faith. But the problem with Hebrews 11 is sometimes we become so familiar with it we miss the teaching of it like Psalm 23 or 1 Corinthians 13. We get caught up in the beauty of the language rather than the meaning of the text.

When the writer of Hebrew sat down to ride Hebrews 11, he wasn't trying to write the most eloquent treatise on the subject of faith ever created. Instead, he was addressing a very real problem among the Hebrew Christians, these new Christians who had come out of Judaism and embraced Christianity were starting to feel the heat for their decision. They were facing pressure, testing from the Roman government that was beginning an empire wide ban on Christianity, but they were also feeling the heat from their own family members, Jews who didn't understand why they would abandon tradition and their families for this new religion called Christianity. How are these Hebrew Christians reacting to that pressure? Some were allowing it to shatter their beliefs and they were considering going back into Judaism.

And so the writer of Hebrew says, "Don't lose your confidence. Don't give up your faith in Jesus, that superior priest who offered the superior sacrifice to obtain a superior salvation. Why would you let go of what you know to be true"? And so he says, "The key to holding onto your beliefs is your faith". How can you as Christians today, living in the 21st century make sure that you endure rather than buckle under the problems you're facing? What is the key to holding onto your beliefs rather than letting go of them in difficult times? What is it that will preserve your relationship with God until Christ returns one day? Again, in a word it's faith. And today in these first seven verses of Hebrews 11, the author is going to do three things. First of all, he's going to define faith. Secondly, he's going to give us two examples of faith. And then third, he's going to explain the two requirements of faith.

First of all, let's talk about a definition of faith. When we're talking about faith, what are we talking about? I think the best way to explain faith is to begin by explaining what it's not. Today, there is a lot of fuzzy thinking about what faith is. I remember reading a book by the late Robert Schuller and Robert Schuller had some good things to say but also some not so good things to say. He was America's premier possibility thinker. And I remember reading a paragraph in one of his books and he said, "The greatest threat to the world today is not thermo nuclear war. It's not environmental disaster". No, this is what he said the greatest problem was, "The greatest problem is that the human being will lose faith that he can manage to overcome those problems. What is the solution to the biggest problem? I am and I can. Powerful positive self-esteem is what we all need".

By the way, when you hear people say, "Well, I'm a person of faith," or he, or she's a person of faith, we're going to hear that a lot in the next few months. Oh, they're a person of faith. You always need to ask the question, faith in what? Faith in what? Faith in yourself like Schuller says, "I am and I can," faith in other people, faith that somehow everything's going to turn out okay? Faith always demands an object. And the only worthy object of our faith is God himself. That's what faith is about. It's not faith in me or faith in circumstances, it is faith in God. No, faith is not positive thinking. It's not conjuring up this emotion that oh, I believe, I believe, I believe, that if you believe something hard enough, you can will it into existence. That's not faith, that's presumption. No, he tells us exactly what real biblical faith.

First of all, by words, look at verse 1. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, it is the conviction of things not seen". Underline those words, assurance and conviction. Look at that word assurance. It's the Greek word hupostasis . It comes from two Greek words, actually, stasis , which means a concrete pillar that holds something up. Hupo means underneath, bellow. It refers to the foundation that holds those pillars in the faith. In other words, hupostasis , assurance, isn't some mystical hope that something might happen. It is the concrete assurance that something is going to happen. And what is our concrete assurance in? Again, it's not that what we want to happen will happen. Faith is the assurance, listen to this, that God will do what he has promised to do. It's not that God will do what I want him to do. It's that God will do what he has promised to do.

So many Christians get mixed up on this. They think to pray in faith means to just get this positive attitude that says God's going to do what I want him to do, and if I believe it long enough, hard enough and say it often enough, God will be forced to do what I want him to do. I say it's like that little engine that could, remember going up the hill, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. A lot of people think that's what faith is. I think God will. And somehow, if you say that long enough, God will be forced to do it. That's not faith. That's presumption. Faith is believing that God will do what he's promised to do. Well, what is he promised to do? Listen, God never promised to spare you from illness. He never promised to spare you from heartache. He never promised to spare you from death. But what he has promised to do is to redeem you when you die and take you with him forever. That is what you can know for sure that God has promised to do.

I remember talking to a couple a while back. They were suffering pain and heartbreak of infertility. They had prayed and prayed and prayed that God would give them a child. They'd gone through expensive treatments, nothing worked. I remember what they said to me. They said, "Pastor we believe that whether or not God gives us a child, God is going to use our experience to help and encourage others who are going through this problem". And they ended up leading a support group in our church for those who go through infertility. You see, they exercised faith. Not the faith that God was going to give them a child. In fact, he never gave them a child, but faith that God could use their pain for good.

Faith that like 2 Corinthians 1 says, "God comforts us in our affliction that we can comfort others with the same affliction or the same comfort with which we are comforted in all of our affliction". That's what God has promised to do. He hasn't promised to take you out of your problems right now, but he's promised if you're willing to use you as an encouragement to others as well. That's what biblical faith is. It's an assurance that God will do what he's promised to do. But notice the second word, it's not just an assurance, it is a conviction. It's a conviction of the things not seen. Verse 2, "For by it," that is faith, "The men of old gained approval". Conviction has the idea of doing something as a result of your faith. It refers to obeying God. As we look at Hebrews 11 in the next few weeks, we'll discover one thing all of these men and women had in common is they believed God and they acted according to their belief in God. They did something as a demonstration of their faith.

That's what conviction is, and that leads me to the definition of faith that I want us to use throughout the study. Faith is believing. Faith is the assurance that God will do what he's promised to do and acting accordingly. Faith without works is a dead faith. Faith is the assurance that God will do what he's promised to do and acting accordingly. Notice the illustration he gives of what it means to be convicted of things not seen. Look at verse 3, "By faith, we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God so that what is seeing was not made out of things which are visible". In other words, the first thing you have to believe, the first example of faith is the first verse of the Bible, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. We didn't see that happen. We didn't see how God did it, but we believe that by faith. In fact, if you can believe Genesis 1:1, you don't have any trouble believing in the resurrection or the incarnation or any of the other miracles in the Bible. That's the most basic miracle. By faith, we understand that these things happen.

Now, it's true that there's a lot of evidence that God created this world, that it didn't just happen. I think about the 18th century minister, William Paley he used this analogy. He said, "If you're walking through a field and you stumble upon a rock, a large rock, you can assume that that rock is there by chance. It's just a sliver of a larger mineral deposit that just ended up there. But if you walk a little further and you see a gold or a Nate pocket watch there, you open it up and you open it, and inside, see that intricate mechanism, you know that watch isn't there by chance. There is a designer, an intelligent designer who made order out of chaos, who put that watch together". It's the same in looking at the creation, you can look around this creation and know it didn't happen by chance. That's why the Bible says the fool has said in his heart there is no God, only a fool would believe that all of this happened by chance. We believe that God created this world.

Do you remember the name Carl Sagan, the astronomer, who spent his life studying the cosmos. Carl Sagan died when he was 62. But before he died, he's said to a religious friend of his, he said, "You're so smart. How can you believe in God"? And she replied, "Carl, you're so smart, how can you not believe in God"? She then asked him, "Carl, do you believe in love? You've never seen it, but do you believe it"? He said, "Well, yes, I love my wife with all my heart". She said, "Can you prove, love exist"? He said, "Yes, I can prove it". But then he agreed he really couldn't prove love exists. Fact is we believe in things all the time that aren't visible to us, but we believe in them. I think about Vance Havner who said one time, "I have never seen electricity, I don't understand it, but I don't plan to stumble around in the darkness because of that". You believe in the things you haven't seen. It's the same way in our relationship with God. But ultimately it's a matter of faith.

Now to give us an example of what it means to be assured of what God has said and acting accordingly, notice the two examples of faith beginning in verses 4 and 5. First of all, he takes us back to the story of Abel. Abel, who demonstrates a faith that saves. Faith is integral. It is basic to salvation. Look at verse 4, "By faith, Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous. God testifying about his gifts, and through faith though, he is dead, he still speaks". Remember Cain and Abel were the first two children of Adam and Eve? By the way, Adam and Eve had other children, sons, and daughters, the Bible says, which answers the old question, where did Cain get his wife? Have you ever heard that before? It was from the other children?

I know you're thinking, "Oh, that is so gross and disgusting," if you think about marrying your sister, but the fact is that's how they procreated in those early days. But Cain and Abel were the first two children of Adam and Eve. And remember God said to them, "I want you to bring a sacrifice to me". And he prescribed the kind of sacrifice he wanted. And Abel brought a sacrifice. He was a shepherd, and so he brought one of his animals and offered a blood sacrifice to God. Cain decided that he would try to offer his own sacrifice to God, and he brought some of the produce that he had raised. And the Bible says that God accepted Abel's offering, but he rejected Cain's offering. And Cain was so despondent over the fact that God rejected him that he became enraged at his brother Abel and killed him, the first murder in the Bible.

Why is it that God accepted Abel's sacrifice, but rejected Cain's offering? I've heard pastors speculate about that. I've read Bible commentators who said, "Well, it was in their attitude". Abel brought his sacrifice as an act of love, but Cain brought his to satisfy a religious ritual, and it was their attitude that made the difference. That sounds so good, but it's so wrong. I mean, the fact is the Bible tells us exactly why God accepted Abel's sacrifice and rejected Cain, look at verse 4 "By faith, Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain". Apparently in words, we don't have recorded, God told both men exactly what he wanted. He prescribed a blood sacrifice, a blood offering of an innocent animal that would foretell the coming many years later of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
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