Home Media Sermons by other preachers Sermons by Pastor Johan Hulshof . Got faith? It's a relationship

. Got faith? It's a relationship

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

 

Hebrews 11 contains some of the most thought provoking verses found in the entire Bible.

The lesson we just read is a celebration of God’s people who DIDN’T receive the promises of God. Notice the underlined and emphasised portion of Chapter 11 : 13

 

(Heb 11:13) All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

Friends, these are the people you and I are encouraged to imitate in our faith.

What is interesting is: They didn’t receive the promises of God. But when they died they were still united with God, holding onto His promises and trusting in Him.

FOLKS... the reason that all these people of faith, were able to hold onto God, even when they did not receive the promise, has to do with the nature of FAITH itself.

 

And that's our theme for today..... Living as people of Faith and trust, despite the outcome.

So let me begin with what I believe Biblical faith is not :

 

  1. Biblical faith is not just an emotional sensation, some sort of warm fuzzy religious feeling.
  2. It is also not just trying really hard to believe things we don’t understand, or may even wonder if they are actually true!
  3. Biblical faith isn’t just some sort of generic “spirituality.”
  4. Many of you here have come out of a traditional, mainline Church denomination and you may even be familiar with the Creeds: The Apostles Creed : The Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed. The first two are short statements of the Church regarding what we believe; the last is a little lengthier.

 

Yet as important as the creeds and doctrines of the Church are for guiding us into the truth about God –I want to suggest to you today that, ….belief in those points of doctrine is also not the faith that is being spoken of here in Hebrews.

 

Biblical faith is exercised and experienced as a relationship of trust in and with a Person, ....God.

 

It is the kind of trust that even when we “DON’T SEE ANY VISIBLE CONFIRMATION OF GOD’S FAITHFULNESS, WE KNOW HIS CHARACTER SO WELL THAT WE STILL TRUST IN HIM”.

That’s what the first verse indicates:

 

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Heb. 11:1

 

Biblical faith is being certain that God will keep His word even when there is no visible sign of Him doing it. I get the idea, when looking at various Biblical characters, that Faith is often ascribed to those who simply risked everything... to trust in God.

 

  1. Let’s ask ourselves: How did those people, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac & Jacob, learn to have that kind of trust in God?

I want to suggest that they came to this trust because they had entered into a covenant relationship with God. And further, that through that relationship they had come to know something of the Fathers goodness, His love, and His power.

SO... How can we know that we can trust God ?...  Also ONLY by living in relationship with the Father revealed through Scripture, and experience through His H/S.

Further I want to add that this relationship with God is never intended to be static.

The relationship we have with God is DYNAMIC. …. (CHANGE / MOVEMENT)

And folks ...this involves change in us...

 

My understanding is that God is always increasing the stakes of the relationship, He increases the risks, takes us to new and greater levels of love and trust in Him.

Let me give a classic example:

Abram when he was called by God to go to a foreign, unknown country, exercised Faith by trusting in God who called him. He entered into what the theologians call the Abrahamic Covenant. Just look at some selected verses with me.

 

(Gen 15:3) And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir."(Gen 15:4)  Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir."(Gen 15:5)  He took him outside and said, "Look up at the sky and count the stars--if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."

The Lord then gives instructions on how to prepare the offerings for the Covenant, which Abram does and we read in vv.17-18:

 

(Gen 15:17) When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.

(Gen 15:18) On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—etc.

 

In v.3 Abram + Sarai have no children

v. 5 He is promised offspring.

v. 18 the Covenant is confirmed.

If he was obedient to God then God would make his descendants as numerous as the stars.

So that seemed to be the end of it. Abraham proved his Faith through trust and obedience to God. When God told him to go to a foreign land. He uprooted and went.

But there was more to come, God wasn’t prepared to leave Abram all satisfied with himself.

We know that Abram fathers Ishmael, a son of mistrust in God, and he then fathers Isaac, the son of promise.

(Gen 22:1) Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied.(Gen 22:2)  Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, whom you love--Isaac--and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you."

 

V 3 TELLS US;  Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. AND he set out for the place God had told him about.

 

(Gen 22:4) On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.

(Gen 22:5) He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you." Notice the we.

 

In v 7 Isaac wants to know where the lamb for sacrifice is and

(Gen 22:8) Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.

In the next few verses we find God saying

(Gen 22:12) "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."

Folks,.. God wants us to realize that the relationship with Him and the life that flows from that relationship is intended to become deeper, richer, more mature and more exciting.

 

I’m not sure if it’s true for all new believers, but for many at the beginning of our walk with Jesus Christ we believe that God is faithful because He seems to grant us His favour and blessings immediately.

But we are not supposed to remain SPIRITUAL INFANTS. You see it’s not difficult to trust God and obey God when the answers to our prayers seem to be answered that same day.

I believe God wants us to mature....He wants to shift our focus from the answers to our prayers or the"blessing" . IOW.....  We need to move from loving the things of God’s, to loving God for whom God is.  And that is despite not seeing God at work.

 

Also note : In order for our relationship to be alive and growing we may or even possibly must at times endure uncomfortable times of testing or refining or stretching.

WHY ?   ….. because FAITH ONLY HAPPENS PAST THE POINT WHERE WE THINK WE CAN MAKE IT ON OUR OWN. I don’t have time to spend on this but I must just remind us that Faith isn’t something that comes from us in the first place.

EXAMPLE:

People are not Born again because they decided to place their faith in God. New Birth is from above, from God, and in essence that’s when we were given the measure of faith from God.

Friends, the everyday faith and trust that you and I live out is first and foremost from God, and not something from ourselves. And is only available to us because we are in relationship with God.

 

I love Job’s response to his wife who basically said, “Haven’t you had enough of this suffering!?  Curse God and die!”

Through his agony Job, in hard-headed faith growled out the syllables:

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him… Job 13:15a

That is the faith we should display.

 

2nd Point

 

The ultimate risk of faith is that all God’s promises ARE NOT FULFILLED IN THIS WORLD!

That’s precisely the reason why these people are described as still living by faith when they died.

All these people were still living by faith when they died.    YET....They did not receive the things promised; ….they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.

And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. All of God’s best promises for us will also never be experienced in this life, in this world.

We are also strangers and aliens here.

We are also just passing through.

We also must await the final consummation of the Kingdom of God when all the fullness of the promises of God will be ours.

 

FOLKS….  God is bringing us to the point where we realize that ….

IN SPITE OF WHAT CAN BE SEEN, EVEN WHEN THINGS LOOK AS IF THEY CANNOT GET ANY WORSE, WE CAN TRUST GOD TO BE FAITHFUL.

Even when evil wins, when injustice triumphs, faith believes that it will have the ultimate victory because the One in whom we trust is faithful.

And make no mistake, evil does triumph – for a little while.

Even in believers lives evil seems to gain the upper hand…for some it’s, for a day, a year, a lifetime, the reality is that evil often gains the upper hand.

But faith knows that even when evil seems to win, that the final punishment on evil hasn’t been carried out yet.

 

Friends, there is a final act before the curtain falls.       John tells us in:

 

(Rev 20:1) And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. (Rev 20:2)  He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.

(Rev 20:7) When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison

(Rev 20:8) and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth--Gog and Magog--and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore.

(Rev 20:9) They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.

(Rev 20:10) And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

 

FRIENDS, our lives of faith, are rooted in this promise.   Just think….On Good Friday evil had triumphed.   Satan had won!

Human injustice had connived and schemed so that even the very agents of truth and justice – i.o.w the religious authorities and the state – perpetrated the greatest injustice ever known!

Jesus Christ, the spotless, holy, innocent Lamb of God was falsely accused, found guilty, and punished nearly to the point of death.

 

Someone wrote words to the effect that and I quote:

“ As Jesus dragged the cross through the city streets and out to Golgotha the hosts of hell mocked and jeered. Priests and scribes and teachers of the Law snickered in glee to see this do-gooder, this prophet, this healer, brought down a notch!  O, he had made them look bad, but now it was their turn”.

 

Jesus was stripped and beaten and mocked! And many wanted to know where all His  “Kingdom of God” talk was now? And so they threw Him to the ground and drove the nails through His hands and feet and roughly dropped the cross into place.

And there at Golgotha they spat at him and laughed and the legions of demons He had once terrified with His very presence smirked with glee when He breathed His last.

 

Someone once wrote:

“The sun itself could not bear to shine down on such a display of evil in victory.

And the sky darkened and the rocks cracked when the very fabric of justice that knits together the universe was ripped asunder”.

 

FOLKS...................Evil wins.

 

For a day, or a year, and sometimes for a generation. But God’s great plan for hell is that just when evil thinks it has conquered, God uses hell’s own schemes to bring about His greatest victory! Because secretly, quietly, with gathering power in the dark of the tomb –

beyond all possible hope..... something happened. The fortress of hell began to crack and crumble.

And from hopeless death, JESUS DESTROYED DEATH’S POWER, AND ROSE, BEYOND HOPE, TO LIFE AGAIN.

 

 

CONCLUSION:

 

God is at His most surprising when all hope is gone, when the demons of hell delight because they think they have won. Our Faith tells us; that’s when Gods best is yet to come.

 

I don’t know what particular trial or burden you have today,

Maybe you have been praying for a particular need or hurt or pain, maybe for relief of a certain situation. Perhaps you need an issue or issues resolved, and despite your calls to God, and despite your exercise of faith, you  still seem no nearer to an answer from God.

My encouragement is, continue in a relationship of trust with Almighty God, even if you don’t see the final outcome yet.

 

Just think for a moment:

 

When does God show His power and faithfulness?

 

  1. When He promises Abraham & Sarah a child only AFTER they know that they are way too old to do anything about it!

 

  1. After Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery, and his employer falsely accuses him of rape, and he is thrown into prison.

 

  1. After Moses and the children of Israel have their backs up against the waters of the Red Sea and all of Pharaoh’s chariots are thundering down upon them and there is no hope, no chance of escape.

 

  1. After the Israelites are stuck in the middle of the desert and all their supplies have run out and their children are crying for food and they know they will surely die.

 

  1. After the three Hebrew men have been sentenced because their faithfulness to God would not permit them to worship anything other than God and they are thrown into the fiery furnace.

 

  1. After Daniel has been framed by the schemes of wicked men and he is hurled into the lion’s den.

 

  1. After Jairus begs Jesus to come and heal his little daughter and then his servants come to tell him not to trouble the Teacher any longer because she is dead.

 

That’s when God is at his best!

WHEN ALL OUR HOPE IS GONE, WHEN THE STARK REALITY OF OUR SITUATION SETTLES IN UPON US. WHEN THERE IS NO MORE REASON TO KEEP ON BELIEVING.

GOD IS AT HIS BEST WHEN OUR FAITH IS TAKEN BEYOND THE POINT OF NO RETURN.

 

After the doctor tells you that medically speaking the cancer is untreatable.

After you have lost your job.

After the cold sleep of death has taken you from this world.

 

FRIENDS WE HAVE ALREADY WON! WE ARE MORE THAN CONQUERORS THROUGH HIM WHO LOVES US!

We are victors.

 

The Communion we shared last week, sustains us by bringing us again and again into the presence of our faithful God.

 

His presence here, where two or three are gathered in His name, is a testimony that His word is trustworthy.

 

Brother and sister in Christ, we need to keep on going, keep on exercising faith, keep on trusting, keep on in relationship with Jehovah God, until we see with our own eyes what John saw:

 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. Revelation 21:1-7

That promise and all Gods other promises all believers will see.

 

Amen.