Robert Jeffress - Going Without Knowing - Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. When facing a major life decision with high stakes, wouldn't it be nice if God would simply come forward and point you in the right direction? Well, God rarely gives us a clear cut answer like that, but he does give us some principles to help us make important decisions, and today we're going to look at two well-known figures in scripture who illustrate how faith enables us to submit to God's will for our lives. My message is titled "Going Without Knowing", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Just think, they left Ur of the 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. 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 nine. 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's 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 gonna 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.
I remember so well, in a previous church, we were having a great ministry there, but the possibility of going to another church opened up, and Amy and I were really considering whether or not to go to this new church, and we tried to keep it quiet, but we couldn't keep it quiet, and other people in the congregation began knowing that we were considering leaving. And so I'll never forget a senior adult woman, very wise. She slipped me a note one day that I'll never forget. She said, "Pastor, remember, sometimes it takes more faith to stay in a place than to go to a new place". And we ended up staying for a number of more years and had a great ministry there. But that's really true. Faith doesn't always mean going. Sometimes it means staying where you are, staying in that job, staying in that marriage, staying in that church, or wherever God has you. Waiting on God without hearing serves a great illustration of that.
Look at verses 11 and 12. "By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered him faithful who had promised: therefore, there was born even of one man, Abraham, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore". When this promise came that Abraham and Sarah were going to be the progenitors of a great nation, Abraham was 75 years old. Sarah was 65 years old. Now, to be honest, their faith wavered at times, like the time that Abraham and Sarah decided to fulfill God's promise in their way by having Abraham have relations with Haggai, the maidservant of Sarai, and that didn't work out well. That was a complete disaster. Then there was the time the angelic visitors came and announced that, in the very next year, Sarah, when she was 90 years old, would give birth, and she laughed at God. Yeah, they had some momentary lapses in their faith, but they still believed God most of the time.
By the way, aren't you glad that God doesn't judge us by one or two slip-ups in our life? That he doesn't judge us because we stumble here and there? Instead, God evaluates our life by the general direction in which we're headed. Are we headed toward God or are we headed away from God? Abraham and Sarah believed God, even though they had lapses of faith, and you have to understand what a tremendous thing it was to believe God. I mean, today, for a woman to have a baby when she's 60, I mean, that's thought of as just outrageous, miraculous. It doesn't happen. Imagine a 90-year-old woman having a baby. I mean, that would be something for the supermarket tabloid, right below the latest sighting of Elvis Presley. I mean, you just don't hear about that, 90-year-old women having babies, and think about Abraham, Abraham, a hundred years of age. The Bible says in verse 12, "He was as good as dead".
Now, some of you ladies know what it means to be married to somebody who is as good as dead. You can't tell the difference. That was Sarah. Doesn't God have a great sense of humor? But God said when they were 75 and 65, "You are going to be parents". He gave the promise, and then they didn't hear another word the next year, the next year, the next year, until the year before the birth. They waited 24 years, believed God without ever hearing a word from God. Waiting on God when he is silent. Some of you know what that's like as well. You're waiting on God to do something miraculous in your life. You're waiting on God to turn your child or grandchild's heart back to the Lord again. You're waiting on God to change the heart of your husband or wife toward you. You're waiting on God to bring healing to yourself or somebody you care about. Faith means believing God will do what he has promised to do and acting accordingly, and sometimes, acting accordingly means waiting on God.
Abraham demonstrates that a submissive faith walks with God when you can't see the future. Sarah illustrates that submissive faith means waiting on God when you can't hear his voice. Why were Abraham and Sarah able to exercise this kind of profound faith? Remember, they had no Bible, old or New Testament. They didn't have thousands of years of church history of men and women who had gone before them. What is it that allowed them to exercise this invaluable quality of faith? Remember Hebrews 11:6? "Without faith it's impossible to please God". How did they do it? I'm gonna give you three reasons they were able to exercise a submissive, obedient faith. Number one, they released their grip on the present. They released their grip on the present.
Look at verses 13 and 14. "All these died in faith without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own". Even after they arrived in the Promised Land, they never got too comfortable there. They never built the house. They never owned the property. Why? They knew this world is not their home. They were just passing through, and they realized how easily their lives could be uprooted. After all, when they were 60 and 50, God had uprooted them from Ur of the Chaldees. How did they know God wouldn't do the same thing to them again? They knew the best way to go through life walking with God is to hold on to life loosely, holding onto their possessions, their plans loosely. That's why they were able to walk with faith. They released their grip on their present circumstances. Paul said it this way in Philippians 3:20. "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly await for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ". Our citizenship is up there.
Now, some Christians take that to the extreme. They think because our citizenship is up there, we can forsake all our responsibilities here. No, we live on earth, too. We have responsibilities to our family, to our work, to our government. We have responsibilities, but we're never to get too tied up with those responsibilities to the point that we forget where our real citizenship is. You know, every now and then, we get a reminder that helps us loosen our grip on the present. Have you ever had a doctor say, "There's something suspicious on that x-ray. We need to run some more tests". And sometimes you go for weeks or days, wondering what the outcome is going to be. When you're confronted with the possibility of your death, it's interesting how those things that seemed urgent are now unimportant, and those things a few days earlier that had seemed unimportant now seem urgent. That's what the possibility of death does for you. It makes you prioritize the things that are essential.
I think one of the benefits, frankly, of this pandemic, has been that it's cut through the illusion that we're in control of our life. It was just an illusion anyway. We don't control our life. We've been forced to confront our own mortality. It's helped us release our grip on our present circumstances. That's key to walking or waiting in faith. But not only did they release their grip on the present, secondly, they renounced their past. Look at verse 15. "And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they could have had an opportunity to return". You know, as they made their way to Canaan, they faced some real struggles, Abraham and Sarah, and it would have been tempting to think, "Oh, for the good old days of Ur of the Chaldees. How I long for being with my friends and fellow idol worshipers. I wish I could go back home". That's a common temptation for anybody who's trying to walk forward in faith.
I think about that song that our friends the Hoppers sing. "I've come too far to look back again. There is nothing behind me. All the treasures I used to love have faded from view. There's a new day ahead of me. All my heartache is over, for I left it at Calvary, where my new life began". Those who want to please God, walk with God, cannot afford the luxury of looking back. For some of you, God has called you out of a certain city. He's called you out of a certain profession. Maybe he's called you out of a certain lifestyle. Don't look back. Don't long for the good old days, because frankly, the good old days aren't as good as we remember anyway. God wants us to set our hearts on the future. And that leads to the third principle of submissive faith. That is, Abraham and Sarah refocused their affection on the future.
Look at verse 16. "But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them". Their focus was not just on Canaan, but it was on heaven, the new city, the new Jerusalem. Have you ever heard the expression, people who are just too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly good? Have you ever heard that before? People who are always thinking about heaven. There's no such thing as a person who thinks too much about heaven. In fact, c. S. Lewis said, "The problem is not that we think too much about heaven. It's that we think too little of it". And he went on to say, "History has shown that those who have made the greatest difference for God are those who thought most about the next life, while doing the most in this life". And that was the secret to Abraham and Sarah. They were focusing on the future.
Ladies and gentlemen, before you will ever refocus your affection on the future, there is an issue you have to get settled in your heart once and for all. Are you living your life to please yourself, or are you living your life to please Jesus Christ? Is the focus of your life on acquiring as many possessions and achievements and pleasures as you possibly can, or is the focus of your life doing everything you can to build the Kingdom of God? Your focus is one or the other. It can't be both. You know, when I think about this idea of Abraham and Sarah focusing on the future because they believed that God is a rewarder of those who diligently follow after him.
When I think about that, I think about the Scottish brothers John and David Livingston, who lived more than 200 years ago. John Livingston had as his life's goal to accumulate as much money as he possibly could, and he did. He achieved a pile of money with his life. But if you looked up the name John Livingston in the old encyclopedia, remember encyclopedias? Remember those? If you had looked up the name John Livingston in the Encyclopedia Britannica, it would have had one line about him. "John Livingston, brother of David Livingston". And who is David Livingston? He was that Scottish minister, missionary, medical doctor who spent his life in Africa, died in Africa Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible.
Why would somebody give their life to do that? Early in his ministry, David Livingston knelt before God, saying, "I will place no value on anything I have or may possess, unless it's in relationship to the Kingdom of God". Today, if you travel to Westminster Abbey in London and look at the plaque above his burial spot, it says this. "For 30 years, his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelize". Why? Because David Livingston was looking for that better country, that more lasting country, and like Abraham and Sarah, he believed that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek after him.