(A request was made for the entire message I drew from for this morning’s post, so here it is for what’s it worth!)
Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. 2 Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation. 3 By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.
8 It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. 9 And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. 10 Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.Hebrews chapter 11, verses 1 thru 3, and verses 8 thru 10; from the NLT
This new year begins today. Remember I see Irony. And isn’t it Ironic that the first day of 2023 falls on Sunday—Resurrection Day! New Year’s Day often produces a sense of a new start, where things will be different from last year. If Changing The Outcome Of The Future Were As Easy As Changing Calendars, Now Wouldn’t That Be Great. But changing calendars will not bring about different results.
At the core of our walk with Jesus is Faith. Without Faith, there is no walk. And if we are going to talk about Faith, well, Hebrews 11 is a great place to start—and Abraham is the model we need to understand—and to follow. Let’s focus on this question: What Exactly Is Faith? Dictionary.com defines it this way: “Belief In God Or In The Doctrines Or Teachings Of Religion”.
That’s the way a lot of people see faith—that we believe God exists, that Jesus is God’s Son and Savior of the world, and what we believe about the doctrines of the church. If this is the case, then Satan has Faith. But when the writers of the Bible talk about faith, it’s not in the beliefs about God or Jesus or doctrines. It’s much more. For the writers of the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament, the word they used for Faith was “Pistis” and it means: “Conviction Of The Truth”. It’s not “doctrine”, not the “what we believe”—it’s all about conviction of The Truth.
Think of the difference between faith as the things we believe versus faith as conviction of the truth this way: It’s Opinion Versus The Certainty Of The Truth. Opinions are what we hold—all of us have opinions. Convictions are what grab us and hold us tightly, regardless of what happens around us—and it’s rooted in the Truth.
That word translated Faith comes from the root word “peithō (pi-tho) which means—“To Trust, Have Confidence.” In other words, faith is trusting and having confidence in Jesus. Ask yourself this question: Which Kind Of Faith Do YOU Have In God? Do you have your answer? OK, let’s check your answer against God’s description of what faith as trust and conviction looks like—it’s all here in the story of Abraham. Look at the story of Abraham: What are the requirements of real faith?
- Faith Requires Appropriate Action! Look at that pattern: Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. Abraham’s action verified his trust in God. God said “Go” and Abraham went. Abraham’s faith required the appropriate action—doing what God wanted.
- Faith Requires Us To Surrender Control! Abraham could not be in control of the future. Look again at today’s passage: He went without knowing where he was going. Can you imagine that conversation between Abraham and Sarah? If I could have Doc Brown’s Time-Traveling DeLorean, I would love to have heard that conversation. Because Abraham was operating out of faith, he didn’t need to be in control. He knew who was in control of the future—it wasn’t him and He was more than OK with that.
- Faith Requires Confidence In God’s Trustworthiness. OK, so Abraham leaves everything he has known behind. He doesn’t have a clue of where he is going, but he goes anyways. When God finally says, “You have arrived at your destination”, what Abraham does next is critical, and pay attention: When He Reached The Land God Promised Him, He Lived There By Faith—For He Was Like A Foreigner, Living In Tents. No eviction notice for the Canaanites to move out. It’s Abraham who lives as an immigrant. Why? Because Abraham is held by the conviction that God is trustworthy. Listen again to Verse 10—Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. For Abraham, it was all about what God is doing.
I need to make a confession to all of you this morning. As many times as I have read and studied the story of Abraham, there’s a part of his story that I have missed. In Genesis 12 God calls Abraham to leave Haran and head out to the Land of God’s Promise. The part I have been missing is from Genesis 11, verses 31-32. It is a connection I never made until just a few years ago. Here are the verses:
31 One day Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai (his son Abram’s wife), and his grandson Lot (his son Haran’s child) and moved away from Ur of the Chaldeans. He was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there. 32 Terah lived for 205 years and died while still in Haran.
Now get this: God Gave The Vision To Terah And Terah Set Out Following That Vision. There’s a tragedy in the life of Terah that’s so very clear when our eyes, mind and heart are open to it. “He was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there.” Terah was heading into God’s future, to The Promised Land but Terah stopped at Haran and settled there.
What Have You Settled For Instead Of God’s Promise? As tragic as it was for Terah to settle for Haran instead of The Promise, the worst tragedy for Terah is Verse 32: “Terah lived for 205 years and died while still in Haran.” If Terah had died while headed towards The Promise, there would be no tragedy. The tragedy was: He Died While Still In Haran, The Place He Substituted For The Promise. The Bible tells us that Terah lived for 205 years—more than enough time to settle in The Promised Land. If Terah had not settled for Haran, then we would have read this morning about the Faith of Terah instead of the Faith of Abraham. Terah settled in Haran and died there instead of moving into God’s Promised Land. Let this thought sink in: He Died Where He Settled.
And here is Today’s Big Idea: The Promise Of God Is Not Found Where We Settle, But Where We Leave Everything Behind And Live By Faith. Terah missed it all. When Terah settled on Haran, God chose another for the Promise—Abraham. The Vision was now given to someone else. And I believe God still works this way. If we refuse to follow God’s Vision by settling down at our Haran, then God is going to take the vision away from those have settled for some Haran, to those who are willing to trust God, who will live out the Going Without Knowing Faith in God.
The lesson Terah teaches us is this: Don’t settle for Haran when The Promise is in front of us. When We Stop Trusting, We Start Rusting. Faith Is Expressed Through Our Trust And In Our Obedience. When I read this passage from Hebrews, there are 3 questions that challenge me, and should challenge you:
1. “Will I Give Up Everything To Follow Jesus?”
Everything means, well, everything—nothing held back, all in. But when we say, “I trust you God, but I’m not doing that; I trust you God but I’m not giving up this; I trust you God but I’m not going there; I trust you God but I’m not changing what’s important to me”—Then it’s no longer a trust relationship. It becomes a negotiation; and God is not a negotiator. You cannot know the depths of this relationship until you stop negotiating with God and begin trusting Him.
2. “Will I Give Up What Makes Me Feel Comfortable And Secure?”
All of us have things that make us feel comfortable. That’s why it’s called “Comfort Zones”. There is little risk and no challenges, in our Comfort Zones—and neither is Jesus. What things are in your Comfort Zones? Better yet, when it comes to the direction God is calling us into, what makes you uncomfortable? Jesus does provide us Comfort—but it’s never meant to make us Comfortable.
It’s OK to feel uncomfortable, even uneasy, when following Jesus because Faith is never found in our Comfort Zones. If we wait until it feels safe or we feel like we can succeed, then it’s NOT faith NOT trust, NOT love. It’s just another one of our projects. Jesus isn’t interested in our projects—only our absolute surrender.
3. “Will I Choose Today To Go Deeper With Jesus?”
Trust is like a swimming pool. I know, I know, you’re thinking I’m the only one who could come up with that analogy. If you think about it, it makes a whole lot of sense—and it’s the truth. Most swimming pools have 2 ends—shallow and deep:
First, There’s The Shallow End. It’s the end where our feet touch that solid bottom and our head is above the water. It takes no effort on our part to keep our heads above the water. Unfortunately, this is where many seem to want to live their faith—where it takes no effort to keep their heads above the water. It’s safe on the shallow end, but here’s the truth: Jesus Is Not Found On The Shallow End.
Then There’s The Deep End. The deep end is where trouble may happen. It takes effort to keep our heads above the water. It’s not always safe on the deep end. Things may happen, and we go under. But here’s the other Truth: Jesus Is Always Found On The Deep End. And Jesus isn’t interested in helping us just keep our heads above the water. He wants us to walk on top of that water—like that night when Jesus called Peter out of the boat.
Now some of you may be thinking, “Well, I could walk on the water at the shallow end of the pool, too.” You could, but you won’t—because you know your feet will touch bottom and your head will stay above the water. God called Abraham to the deep end, where he would drown unless he held on tightly to God. Faith is Trust, and Trust only happens in the deep end. Which end of the pool will you live in starting today?
And since we can’t follow Jesus and stay where we are, Here’s Our Next Steps:
- If You Have Settled On Haran, Move On!
- Model Unconditional Trust In God By Doing The Right Thing—Following His Vision. Don’t Be Like Terah