Robert Jeffress - Going Without Knowing - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Have you ever faced a major life decision that required making a leap of faith? Well, you're not alone. In Hebrews 11, the writer identifies 11 men and women of faith, who truly demonstrated what it looks like, to believe that God will do what he's promised to do, and then acting accordingly. And today we're going to look at two particular individuals whose faith was submissive to God's will even when the outcome was uncertain. My message is titled, "Going Without Knowing", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
During the Vietnam war, a woman discovered that her husband was missing in action. For weeks, she had to live with the fact that her husband might be dead. As the weeks turned into months, she had to learn to live with the fact that her husband might be still alive. As the months turned into years, she had to realize, that she would spend the rest of her life without knowing. You know, living without knowing requires maturity. But obeying God without knowing requires faith. And that's what we're talking about in this series. Spiritual Fitness strengthening your faith in troubled times. Faith is the necessary ingredient when we go through chAllenging circumstances.
When the writer of Hebrews was riding Hebrews 11 he wasn't trying to compose the most eloquent treatise on faith that has ever been written. He was addressing a real problem that was being experienced by real people in a particular time. These were Jewish Christians who had come of Judaism, and had just embraced the Christian faith. But instead of solving all their problems, their faith was actually causing problems. They weren't suffering from a pandemic but they were suffering other problems. They were going through persecution, they were dealing with unanswered prayer and they were beginning to wonder, maybe this new found Christianity isn't all that it's cracked up to be. And so they were in danger of giving up their Christian faith and going back into Judaism. And in Hebrews 10, the writer says, "Before you do that, don't give up your confidence in him".
What is it that keeps you from letting go of your beliefs instead of holding onto them? What is it that will keep you from buckling under life's pressures, and instead enduring under those pressure? In a word, it is faith. Faith is the necessary ingredient, so the problems don't shatter your faith they strengthen your relationship with God. And that's where we've come to in our study of Hebrews, what is faith? What is this faith that will strengthen us in troubled times instead of destroying us in troubled times? Well, in the first two verses of Hebrews 11, the writer defines what faith is. The best way to understand what faith is, is to first of all understand what it isn't. Mark Twain the American humorist was at most an agnostic. He said, "Faith is trying to believe what you know ain't so". That's how an unbeliever looks at faith, but that's not how a believer looks at it.
In Hebrews 11:1 the writer says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, it is the conviction of things not seen". That word assurance, hupostasis, is a word that refers to a concrete foundation that holds up massive pillars that support a building. That's what faith is, it's not a hope, it's not a wish. It is the concrete assurance but it's also a conviction that goes one step further. It's not only believing, it's believing enough to do something. Acting out your faith. It's a conviction of things not seen.
Remember, I gave you this definition last week of faith. Faith is believing that God will do what he has promised to do and acting accordingly. Faith always requires action. And by definition, faith is in that which is not seen. It's in invisible things. It doesn't take any faith for me to believe that Tyler Brinson exists. I see him, I watch him, every week. He's visible than me. What it takes faith to believe in is something that you can't see. And frankly, this was what the challenge was to these Hebrew Christians, these new Christians, they said, "We're tired of believing in things that we can't see. We want to go back into Judaism. We want to believe in a faith that we can touch and feel. We want a priests that we can touch. We want a temple that we can go into. We want a sacrifice that we can smell. We're tired of this invisible priest who's in an invisible temple in heaven, who's offered this invisibile sacrifice".
Do you ever feel that way sometimes? But real faith requires believing in that which is invisible. And so the writer in Hebrews 11 reminds these new Jewish Christians that the Old Testament was filled with examples of people who believed in the unseen, in the invisible ball. And he goes through example after example, of what it means to believe God and act accordingly. We looked at Abel who demonstrates a faith that saves. Abel had never seen God and yet by faith, he obeyed God offered that better sacrifice. Or Enoch, demonstrates a faith that sanctifies. For 300 of his 365 years, the Bible says, "He walked with God, he obeyed God". Never saw any result of it. He was living and surrounded in an ungodly culture but he kept obeying God. And until the very end he obeyed God and God him to heaven raptured him to heaven instead of allowing him to die. But it was because he believed that God was a rewarder of those who diligently follow him. Even though he's never seen that reward.
Today, we're going to come to another aspect of faith. Faith that not only saves and sanctifies, but a faith that is submissive to God's will. If you're going to obey God, you have the have faith in that which is invisible. And today we're going to look at two people who demonstrate that kind of submissive faith. The first is Abraham, who demonstrates that submissive faith walks with God even when we can't see the future. Look at verse 8 of Hebrews 11 "By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance. And he went out not knowing where he was going". Abraham was to the Jewish people what George Washington is to Americans. I mean, he was the father of their country. He was the beginning of the Abrahamic promise that extends through this day until the Lord returns. Abraham was a man of faith.
You know, Abraham was the only person in the Bible who was called the friend of God. That's how God referred to Abraham, "My friend Abraham". Can you think of any greater compliment than having God call you his friend? That was Abraham. He was a friend of God. And what made him a friend of God? Some people say, "Well, is his willingness to go through that painful procedure of circumcision without any anesthetic". Other people say, "Oh no it was his willingness to give up a better land to his nephew lot to keep the peace in the family". Other people say, "Well, it was his willingness to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God". As we'll talk about next time. All of those things were great, but that's not what caused Abraham to be called the friend of God. It was Abraham's faith that made him righteous in a right relationship with God.
And we see that so well illustrated in Romans 4:1-8. Remember, Paul is talking about the fact that we are saved by God's grace through faith and not through our own works. And he uses Abraham as the example. Look at Romans 4:1. "What then shall we say about Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified that is declared not guilty by works. He has something to boast about but not before God. For what does the scripture say"? And then Paul quotes, Genesis 15:6. "Abraham believed God, and it was credited in his faith was credited to him as righteousness". What made Abraham the friend of God? What caused him to be declared righteous in a right standing with God was not his works, but his faith in God. His works were the result of his faith. Paul is reminding the readers of that night that God took Abraham out of his stand and said, "Look up into the sky Abraham, see all the stars, so shall your descendants be". Even though Abraham didn't have one child yet, the Bible says, "Abraham believed God. He believed what God said".
We don't know how much he believed. He may have had a lot of faith or he might've had the faith of a mustard seed. But the Bible says, "With whatever amount of faith Abraham had, he believed God". And what did God do? He took that little bit of faith and in the great accounting room of heaven, he exchanged that faith for God's righteousness. How was Abraham saved? He was saved by God's grace that was received through faith and would be ultimately paid for by the blood of Christ. The way we're all saved. Abraham was saved by grace through faith. That's what he said here, and then Romans 4:4. "Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due". You realize that. If you were and employee you don't thank your employer every two weeks when you get a check, that's not a favor he's given to you, it's what he owes you. If you work for something you deserve to be paid. But look at verse 5. "But to the one who does not work, but believes in him, God who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness".
Do you know why God will not allow you to work for your salvation? Because if you're allowed to work for your salvation, then salvation is not a gift from God, it's an obligation from God. If salvation, the forgiveness of your sins is 99% God's grace, and even 1% of your works. Then again, salvation is not a gift, it's an obligation. And God refuses to owe any man or woman salvation. It is a free gift of God. It was for Abraham. Abraham believed God, and that belief was counted as righteousness. But the writer of Hebrews is saying, "Because he was righteous not guilty, he acted accordingly". Every good thing that Abraham did, sprung out of his right relationship with God. And it gave him the faith to walk with God even when he couldn't see the future.
Now the story of Abraham actually begins at the end of Genesis 11. We won't turn there right now, but most people don't know their story actually begins there when Abraham was 60 years old. Abraham lived in Ur of the Chaldees, a metropolitan advanced civilization in the mesopotamian valley. He was the son of terah. Terah was the commander of Nimrod's armies. The one thing they all had in common is they all worshiped idols, including Abraham. Abraham was a worshiper of idols. You know some people wonder, why did God choose Abraham to be the father of this great nation? Maybe it was because Abraham was the only person in ur who didn't worship an idol but worshiped the true God. That'd be a nice story, but it's not true. The Bible says he worshiped idols just like his father terah. The only reason God chose Abraham, is the same reason he chose you. His grace, his grace, and grace alone. God spoke to Abraham when he was 60 years old and told him to go to a land that he would show him.
You see, now I can read Genesis 11. And there's nothing about God's called Abraham, and when he was in Ur of the Chaldees, where do you get that pastor? Well, it's in act 7:2 in the New Testament. Paul tells us that, that Abraham's initial call came when he was 60 in ur. So he picks up his family, and they get as far as Haran, and they settle down there and they spend 15 years there. And then when we come to Genesis 12, God repeats and expands his calling. And says Abraham you've been here long enough, it's time for you to pack up again and go to that land that I will show you. And I will make you the father of a great nation. And I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you and through you all the nations of the world, will be blessed. So what did Abraham do? Look at verse 4 of Genesis 12. "So Abraham went forth as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lord went with him. Now, Abraham was 75 years old when he departed from Haran".
Now, I don't know about you but I don't know many 75 year olds who are crazy about changing their life. I don't know many people who like change of any kind. But just imagine what it is like, to pick up, uproot, and go to a land you'd never seen before with all of your family. But Abraham did that when he was 75. Look at verse 5. "And Abraham took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, thus they came to the land of Canaan".
Just think of all the stuff Abraham and Sarah had accumulated in 75 years. 75 years of living. I went into our garage yesterday and it is packed to the brim. And it's interesting, it's kind of like, geological strata in our garage. The bottom portion strategy. That's the garland years from the 1970s. And then on top of that are the east land years. And then the 15 years in Wichita falls above that, and then our Dallas last 13 years above that. I'd hate to try to find anything in there. You can imagine all the stuff that Abraham had but he picked it up. He gathered it together. And what did he do? Did he call Daryl Flood Movers and say, "Come pick up this stuff, send it ahead to Canaan"? No, the Bible says that they tied it to the backs of the donkeys and every other beast they had an out they went to Canaan. But the real remarkable thing about this move is not the inconvenience of it. It's the faith that it took to do that just saying, they left Ur of Chaldees. They were leaving their family, they were leaving their religious traditions, they were leaving their friends, everything familiar to them, to go to a place that was unidentified at this point to them. All because God said to go.
Think of the loneliness that would take to leave everything you knew to a strange and distant land. When I was preparing this message this week I couldn't help think of the first time I left home. I was 18 years old and was leaving Dallas, and leaving my family, and leaving the church here I had grown up in, to go 90 miles south to Baylor university. And I remember that Saturday so well that I went to Baylor. I was already feeling a little bit blue because my wife my girlfriend at the time Amy, had gone on to Austin to the university of Texas. So I was feeling kind of lonely. And so our family decided not to just to send me by myself but we went in a family caravan. It was not just me, it was my mother, and my father, my sister sitting right out there, and my brother, my grandmother, and grandfather and my great grandmother, we all got in a caravan and headed down I-35 to WACO. They dropped me off in my dorm and my grandfather said, "Let's all have a prayer together".
So we got in a circle and he prayed for me. And then he left, they left. And I'm telling you, I have never felt lonelier. I was surrounded by a lot of people. I would eventually make some great friends there but that day I was lonely. And I remember that Saturday night going down to the fifth street bridge, the bridge that spans i-35 on fifth street. And I walked into the center of that bridge. I didn't jump, but I just walked to the center of that bridge. And I looked to the north and thought about my family and my friends, I had left. I turned and looked toward the south, toward Austin where those pagans were holding my girlfriend Amy at the university of Texas. You know, I was lonely. Perhaps you've felt that kind of loneliness too. The loneliness of moving to a new city, moving to a new church, moving to a new job, even though you're surrounded by people, you feel all alone. That's what it took for Abraham. Why did he do it?
Let me tell you why he didn't do it. It's not because he calculated that the new land was better than Ur of the Chaldees, he didn't study the housing market, or the job market, or the climate or anything else and say, "I think I'd like to move there". No, he went there by faith. Look at verse 9. This gives us great insight of what happened even after he got there. By faith, Hebrews 11:9, "By faith Abraham lived as an alien in the land of promise. As in a foreign land dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob fellow heirs of the same promise".
This is interesting. Even when he finally got to the Promised Land, the Bible said he lived, he sojourned, that word means to live as an alien, not a citizen. In the Old Testament times an alien was one step above a slave. Had very few rights, was not really tied to the country that he went to. And that was Abraham. The whole time that he and Sarah would live in Canaan did you know they never built a house? They were wealthy, but they never built a house. They lived in tents. They never bought a piece of property except to be buried on. Why would they do that? Why would they live such detached lives? Verse 10 says, "For he Abraham, was looking for the city, which has foundations whose architect and builder is God". Abraham was looking for a better city. A more lasting city, he was looking for that New Jerusalem. He knew that's where his reward would be.
Let me just say this as simply as possible. You know what it means to walk by faith? Walk by faith means taking that next step even when you can't see the outcome. Taking the next step you know God wants you to take. There are some of you right now who are living in a fog of confusion. Maybe about your profession, about your marriage, about your children. And this pandemic has even thickened that fog. It's harder now than ever before to see what's going to happen three months from now. Six months from now. God didn't call you to see the future, to know what's going to happen, he's asking you to take that next step in obedience to him. Walking by faith when you can't see the future. That's what Abraham illustrates. His wife Sarah illustrates another aspect of submissive faith. Sometimes submitting to God's commands means walking with God when you can't see the future. But sometimes it means waiting on God when you can't hear his voice.