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The Faith That Pleases God

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THE FAITH THAT PLEASES GOD

Hebrews 11

 

"And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."
Hebrews 11:6ESV

Every true Christian desires to please God.  God has made it extremely clear to us how it is possible for anyone to please God and that is by faith. 

If you accept the validity of that statement, that our means of pleasing God is by faith, and I hope you do accept the validity of that statement since it is rooted in the Scriptures.  If you accept the accuracy of that statement, then a most important question must be answered.  That question is what is faith?  Can you give a biblical definition of faith? 

Faith is another one of those words that is used so very much in the church yet it is used with so very little understanding.  For many; faith is nothing more than sanctified hope.  They have faith that something is going to happen, but in reality their “faith” is nothing more than a hope that they have.  Yet others equate faith with a feeling.  They have to wait for a feeling before they will attempt to do anything for God.  Yet others throw faith around like it’s simply a slogan or words of motivation.  Your hear people say “Just keep the faith!” 

Faith is more than simply believing it to be so because you believe it to be so.  Did that confuse you?  Some people mistakenly believe that if they just believe hard enough, if they never have any doubts that something is going to happen then it will surely happen.  That is how the modern day false prophets and faith healers work.  Because few professing Christians have biblical understanding of faith, they are easily duped into believing that faith is simply believing hard enough that something is going to happen.  I would dare say that a large percentage of the church holds to that definition of faith.  Perhaps that is why we have so many discouraged Christians, who have given up on ever accomplishing anything for God.  People believe that God is going to heal them or their child and when that healing doesn’t come they think that God has let them down because after all they had faith, they believed that God was going to heal them!  Unfortunately many professing Christians see faith as their own personal Jeannie in a bottle if they rub the bottle the Jeannie will pop out and grant them their wish.  That’s the kind of teaching and belief that exists in the church.  Faith is now all about getting what we want, rather than seeing the exercising of true biblical faith as the accomplishment of what God wants.  Can I repeat that?  Listen carefully; faith has become more about getting what we want when in reality faith is one of the means that God has chosen to use for the accomplishment of his will.  What have we learned about prayer?  Prayer is always answered when it is aligned with the will of God.  The same is true about faith, faith always accomplishes when that faith is based upon the will of God. 

Therefore what is faith?  Biblical faith is simple obedience.  Faith is your obedience to God’s will as it has been revealed in God’s Word.  This truth is abundantly illustrated in Hebrews 11.  For instance…

Ø      Abel offered his sacrifice because God had told him to

Ø      Abraham left home because God told him to

Ø      Sarah had a baby not because she believed, she had been hoping for a child all of her life, but when did she have one?  When God told her she would have one

Ø      Abraham offered Isaac not because he thought it was a good idea, he did it because God told him to

Ø      Moses left Egypt because God told him to

Ø      Noah built an ark because God told him to

Ø      The children of Israel crossed the Red Sea because God told them to

Ø      The children of Israel walked around Jericho because God told them to

Faith is exercised when we simply obey what God has revealed to be His will in His Word. 

I believe that a proper comprehension of this truth has some tremendous benefits for you.  First of all it eliminates wasted time and unnecessary frustration because the onus is no longer on you as an individual or us as a church to sit around and try and figure out what God wants us to do.  God has in His word told us what He expects His church to do.  We are to bring Him glory by obeying His command to go and make disciples.  Within that command we have flexibility and a certain amount of freedom as to how we carry out that command.  Every culture, every situation is different and therefore God allows us to use our minds, our gifts, our talents in carrying out His will.  When we comprehend faith as obedience we are liberated from trying to figure out some gland plan, or some grand accomplishment that we are going to pull off in God’s behalf.  

Another reality that comes out of this truth is that it quickly removes so many of the excuses that we tend to fall back on to explain away why we don’t do things.  You’ve probably said something like this, “Well if I had their faith I could do that too!” or “I just don’t have the faith like they do.”  But when I see that faith is obedience to God’s will as it is revealed in God’s Word then all of those excuses evaporate.  I’m not a person of great faith, that’s fine, then be a person of great obedience. 

In my last message from Hebrews 11 I said that Hebrews 11:1 was not so much a definition of faith as it was a demonstration of faith.  Let me clarify that a little more.  I do believe that Hebrews defines faith for us, but not in the way that we like to have things defined for us.  We want a textbook definition.  We want faith is… But the Bible comes to us as truth applied.  Faith is defined for us in the lives of those who had faith.  So therefore if you want to know what faith is study the lives of those who the Bible says had faith.  What I want to do in this message is to examine some of the principles connected with a life of faith, to encourage you as you begin or continue live a life of faith and obedience that pleases God.

1.  A FAITH THAT PLEASES GOD DOES NOT ASSURE US AND WAS NEVER INTENDED TO GIVE US A PROBLEM FREE LIFE.  Hebrews 11:36-37

"Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—" Hebrews 11:36-37ESV

These verses offer a different view of the Christian life, a very different view of the Christian life than the one that is so popular today.  As Ray Comfort so ably demonstrates in the Way of the Master the gospel is presented today as a way to enhance your life.  The modern day gospel is the gospel of life enhancement.  If you doubt that just walk into the Christian bookstore and look at the best selling titles.  For instance the number one selling book in Christian circles is Joel Osteen’s book Your Best Life Now.  Jim Eliff in reviewing Your Best Life Now writes that the focus of parts one through three of the book is on  financial success and material gain. In the introduction, the reader is encouraged to dream, "Someday, I'll earn more money, and I won't have to worry about how to pay the bills." "God wants to increase you financially," Osteen writes on page 5. "Even if you come from an extremely successful family, God still wants you to go further" (p. 9). "Get rid of that small-minded thinking and start thinking as God thinks. Think big. Think increase. Think abundance. Think more than enough" (p. 11). "Many people settle for too little . . . 'I've gone as far in my career as I can go. I've hit the peak. I'll never make any more money than I'm making right now'" (p. 23).

On page 5 Osteen explains that this quest for financial and material increase is actually pleasing to God. He claims that "God wants to pour out 'His far and beyond favor.' God wants this to be the best time of your life" (emphasis mine). You see, according to Joel Osteen, God particularly wants you to experience His goodness, in physical, financial, and social ways, here and now. Hence, the title of the book, Your Best Life Now.” [1]

But is that what we find when we compare the modern day message to the Words of the Scriptures?  No we don’t.  Do you think these un-named hero’s of the Christian faith as their lives are described in Hebrews 11 would agree with Pastor Osteen’s view of what God has in store for according to him everybody?  Do you think that those who were mocked, beaten, put in prison, cut in two, run through with the sword, do you think they would be writing endorsements for a book such as Your Best Life Now? “I lost my head over this book!” signed J.B. (John the Baptist)

Do you think all of these folks who suffered and some died for their faith would agree that the gospel is a sure fire way to enhance your life here and now?  I don’t think they would.  Let’s be honest this list of people in Hebrews 11 represent people who have had true biblical faith all through the ages who have suffered and suffered tremendously because they had faith. 

The Scriptures do not engage in bait and switch tactics like so many preachers do today. The modern message is God has a wonderful plan for you life!  Really tell that to John the Baptist!  Tell that to Paul as he is bobbing up and down in the cold waters of the Mediterranean Sea holding on to a piece of what used to be the ship he was sailing on.  Tell that to the modern day martyrs who even as we speak are in prison, some being tortured and some will be executed because they are Christians.  Scripture is clear that we will suffer for our faith.  We may not be beaten or killed but we will suffer. 

Jesus said in John 15:18

"“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you."
John 15:18ESV

Paul wrote in Romans 8:17b  “if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”

"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;"
2 Corinthians 4:8-9ESV

Finally Phil 1:29

"For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake," Philippians 1:29ESV

Why is suffering so intimately connected with the Christian’s experience?  At the risk of seeming superficial or shallow, let me suggest one reason.  As we suffer and when in our suffering we patiently endure that suffering, when we don’t complain about that suffering, when we don’t lash out at God in our suffering we pay God a high compliment.  What I mean by that is our patience and endurance in suffering is confirming to us and revealing to others the incredible treasure and wealth that God truly is.  When we patiently endure in our suffering we bring Glory to God!  Our actions are like a meg-phone shouting to everyone who sees what we are going through that God you are worth it!  You are worth the pain, you are worth the suffering, you are worth the physical problem, you are worth the mental duress you are worth it God!  Is it easy?  Of course not, but very little greatness comes from anything easy!  When you get called a “weirdo” for sharing the gospel and you endure that you are showing that person just how worthy God is.  When you knock on that door even though your knees are knocking louder than your knuckles are you are showing others just how valuable God is.  Faith is not a guarantee of a problem free life.

Then why oh why would anyone make a big deal out of faith?  We throw the word faith around so glibly, and it has been mis-used so much that when we suffer for our faith, the un-believer mocks us and the self-righteous condemns us, and they both wonder if we have done something wrong to cause our suffering.  The reality is we suffer when we do right.  The sinner suffers little in this life.  The writers of the Psalms understood this and they pointed it out to God.  God uses suffering in the life of those who profess faith in Christ as a way of validating our faith, or proving the genuineness of our faith. 

2.  THE FAITH THAT PLEASES GOD IS A FAITH THAT SACRIFICES IN THE PRESENT AND ENDURES PRESENT TROUBLE FOR THE CERTAINTY OF FUTURE BLESSINGS. 

I find this principle in four different verses here in Hebrews 11.  Let’s begin with verse two.

"For by it (faith) the people of old received their commendation."
Hebrews 11:2ESV

“By this he condemned the world and became and heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
Hebrews 11:7bESV

"These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth." Hebrews 11:13ESV

"He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward." Hebrews 11:26ESV

Ask yourself, what is the common thread running through these verses?  The common thread is that they all were willing to sacrifice the here and now and whatever short term benefits that may have gained for much larger, longer and certain blessings. 

Again this attitude runs counter to the prevailing attitude of our culture.  Let’s stop and consider the life of Moses.  Humanly speaking he was offered what everyone wants today.  It’s quite possible that Moses would have one day been the Pharaoh of Egypt that means he would have been the president, the king, the prime minister.  He would have been number one!  With being number one comes power, fame, and fortune!  Isn’t that exactly what people want today?  That’s why television shows like “Who wants to be a millionaire”, “The Apprentice” and “American Idol” become tremendously popular shows.  They offer the average Joe or Josephine the chance to become rich, powerful, and famous.  The vast majority of people would jump at the chance that Moses had.  If they could be powerful now they would take it.  If they could be famous now they would take it.  If they could be rich now they would take it!  All of that was available to Moses yet the Scriptures teach that by faith he walked away from what this world was holding out to him. 

There is something else that I want to point out to you.  Was Moses immediately rewarded for choosing to obey God?  This is important now, because the T.V. preachers would have you believe that your reward, your blessing will be swift and immediate.  But again when we examine the Scriptures, particularly the experience of Moses we find something drastically different.  Look at Hebrews 11:25

"choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin." Hebrews 11:25ESV

What did Moses immediately get for his obedience?  According to the Scriptures he was mistreated!  The word mistreated means that he chose to suffer affliction, he chose to suffer the same kind of mistreatment, to suffer the same kinds of affliction that his fellow countrymen were undergoing.  Moses spent the largest portion of his adult life away from the limelight, wandering out in the desert.  Very little comfort, very little ease, very little blessing as we see define blessing today.  What did he have?  Lot’s of toil, and lot’s of trouble. 

Again I ask a very simple question; “why would anyone do that?  There is only one reason that makes sense to me, and that is because Moses believed the future held something much better.  You and I can tell what kind of faith we have by the choices that we make.  The faith that pleases God is a faith that is willing to trade short term benefits for long term and much more valuable blessings that only God can provide.

There is still yet another lesson that can be learned about the faith that pleases God and that is the faith that pleases God is a faith that effects a change in our value system.  Look at Hebrews 11:26

"He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward." Hebrews 11:26ESV

To be a reproach means that you are being unjustly insulted, you are being unfairly criticized; you are being unfairly torn down.   How or why did Moses endure this kind of treatment?  What does the text say?  “for he was looking to a reward”.   He wasn’t looking back, he was looking forward to his reward!  What is the reward he was looking to?  Heaven!   When you begin to think all this through it becomes apparent the Heaven must be a place of incredible blessing.  This is why Paul wrote in Phil. 3:14

"I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14ESV

There are more principles from this chapter that we will examine next week. 

Why are we taking the time to explore what true biblical faith is?  Because only true biblical faith pleases God.

What is biblical faith?  Is it a feeling?  Is it a sanctified hope?  Is it simply believing hard enough and your dreams will come to pass?  No faith isn’t any of those things faith is our obedience to God’s will as He has revealed it in God’ Word.

What are two characteristics of the faith that pleases God?

1.  A FAITH THAT PLEASES GOD DOES NOT ASSURE US AND WAS NEVER INTENDED TO GIVE US A PROBLEM FREE LIFE. 

2.  THE FAITH THAT PLEASES GOD IS A FAITH THAT SACRIFICES IN THE PRESENT AND ENDURES PRESENT TROUBLE FOR THE CERTAINTY OF FUTURE BLESSINGS. 


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[1] http://www.ccwonline.org/osteen2.html

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