THE FAITH THAT PLEASES GOD - Part 2
THE FAITH THAT PLEASES GOD
"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."
We are taking a short detour from our study of the book of Galatians to examine true biblical faith. Just to refresh your memory, the book of Galatians was written by the Apostle Paul to defend the gospel of Jesus Christ, to defend the biblical truth that sinful mankind cannot be made right through their works only through faith. You cannot defend the gospel of Jesus Christ apart from what is really the heart, the central tenet of the gospel and that is how sinful man is made right with a thrice holy, righteous God. Sinful man is made right with a holy righteous God by faith and faith alone in Jesus Christ. That is the doctrine or the teaching known as Justification by faith.
The Christian life begins with faith, and in order for that life, in order for our Christianity to be pleasing to God it must be lived by faith. I draw your attention back to verse 6 of Hebrews 11, “without faith it is impossible to please Him…”
If we were brutally honest with each other our hearts sink when we read that verse. When we read that verse and the writer of Hebrews says that it is impossible to please God apart from faith. We look at ourselves and our lives and we say I’m not pleasing God because I’m not living by faith. I just don’t have the faith that other people have. Therefore I must not be pleasing to God. And what is the result? Discouragement, perhaps a sense of frustration, maybe even failure and what happens to most Christians is that because they have been taught unbiblical concepts about what faith is they just give up and they don’t attempt to do anything at all for God. Or there are still others who again they don’t truly understand biblical faith, so they keep on trying and despite their failure they paste on a fake smile and keep plugging alone, and all the while down deep inside they wonder what they are doing wrong. The problem isn’t with them; it is what they have been taught.
Many people hold false beliefs about faith.
1. Faith is more than just a 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.
2. Yet others equate faith with a feeling. They have to wait for a feeling before they will attempt to do anything for God.
3. Faith is more than simply believing it to be so because you believe it to be so. 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.
4. Faith for others is coming up with some big plan, some grand scheme and then we either ask God to bless our plans while we neglect His plan, or we leave God out of the equation and we set out to accomplish some big thing for God that God hasn’t told us to do.
I think at this point we must stop and ask ourselves this question. What kind of faith are we talking about here? What kind of faith is the writer of Hebrews talking about?
As far as I know there are only two kinds of faith. (Let me say at this point, I realize that the term faith is used in the Scriptures as an all encompassing term of what we believe as Christians) The Bible recognizes that there is a faith that is divine in its origin. The bible also recognizes that there is a faith that is natural in origin. Divine faith comes from God and natural faith comes from man. The faith that comes from God’s gift and results in salvation, that faith is called saving faith; saving faith is a faith that produces life. The faith that comes from man is non-saving faith, it is a dead faith. Therefore is cannot, it will not produce spiritual life.
The faith that is demonstrated throughout Hebrews 11 is saving faith. It is the faith that comes from God. Please don’t take my word for it, let’s see what the Scriptures teach.
Look at Hebrews 10:39.
"But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” Hebrews 10:39ESV
Pay particular attention to the last part of the verse. ‘…but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” A faith that preserves your soul is what kind of faith? It is saving faith! What are the practical implications resulting from the discovery of this truth?
Hold on to your seats, because when this sinks in it will open up a new world of possibilities for you. The writer of Hebrews is talking about saving faith, the faith that comes from God and then he immediately launches into a demonstration of what that same saving faith produced in the lives of all those that are mentioned in Hebrews 11. That means that the kind of faith that is demonstrated in Hebrews 11 is the same kind of faith that every child of God, that every true born from above Christian possesses! If you have been born again, if you have been born from above then you too possesses the faith to build an ark if God would tell you to; to have a child when you are eighty years old; to offer your only child as a sacrifice, to march around the walls of Jericho. To suffer mocking, beatings, or being put in prison. That is the kind of faith that God gave to them and it is the kind of faith that God has given to you. Please don’t take my word for it, go home and study what comes before and what comes after Hebrews 11.
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.
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.
You’re not a person of great faith? Alright, then be a person of great obedience.
Let me remind you one more time that Hebrews 11 is not designed to be a strict definition of faith; rather it is a demonstration of faith as it was lived in the lives of people who faced the same struggles that you and I face. That is not to say that Hebrews 11 doesn’t teach us about faith, in fact it teaches us a great deal about faith.
What does Hebrews 11 teach us about 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. 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
Again this stands in stark contrast to the modern day message of the gospel that God has a wonderful plan for your life. If you ‘accept” Christ then your life will be one of ease, of plenty, and your trouble will just melt away like an ice cube on a hot sidewalk. That is the popular message that is masquerading as the gospel. Yet the Scriptures are full of examples of those who truly had faith and their lives were full of problems and suffering and in some cases death.
Many Christians live a life of discouragement because they have been sold a bill of goods that the Christian life is a problem free life and when that doesn’t materialize they either think something is wrong with them or with their faith and sometimes they give up on God because they think He has somehow let them down, when in reality they hold a false view of faith.
Listen to what A.W. Pink wrote about faith.
Faith endures as seeing Him who is invisible (Heb. 11:27); endures the disappointments, the hardships, and the heart-aches of life, by recognizing that all comes from the hand of Him who is too wise to err and too loving to be unkind. But so long as we are occupied with any other object than God Himself, there will be neither rest for the heart nor peace for the mind. But when we receive all that enters our lives as from His hand, then, no matter what may be our circumstances or surroundings—whether in a hovel or prison-dungeon, or at a martyr's stake—we shall be enabled to say, " The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places" (Ps. 16:6). But that is the language of faith, not of sight nor of sense.
—Arthur W. Pink
2. THE FAITH THAT PLEASES GOD IS A FAITH THAT SACRIFICES IN THE PRESENT AND ENDURES PRESENT TROUBLE FOR THE CERTAINTY OF FUTURE BLESSINGS.
"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
Again this attitude runs counter to the prevailing attitude of our culture. The illustration of this truth is Moses. Moses gave up everything that the world has to offer, the very things that everyone wants today, power, fame and fortune yet he walked out of the palace and into the wilderness to wander for the next eighty years of his life. Why did he do that? He did that because he understood that although he gave up the pleasures of the here and now, he was going to receive something much greater and would last much longer in the future.
The illustration of Moses leads us to the third truth about the faith the pleases God.
3. THE FAITH THAT PLEASES GOD IS FORWARD LOOKING, NOT BACKWARD LONGING!
"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. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 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 for them a city." Hebrews 11:13-16ESV
"By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau." Hebrews 11:20ESV
God is not pleased when we continually look to the past. God is pleased when our faith propels us forward. What was the sin of the children of Israel once they had been delivered from Egypt? Their sin was that they always wanted to go back! They were willing to go back into bondage rather than keep pressing on to the land that God had promised them. Continually looking to and longing for the past displeases God! Why? Here is one reason for you to chew on. If we continually live in the past, we rob ourselves of God’s working in our lives in the present. The past holds no new revelation of God for us! It is only as we press on and encounter the problems of progress that we learn more about God as He reveals Himself to us in the midst of our problems. The future holds both possibilities and problems. Neither can be properly handed apart from God. The past holds no new lessons, no new truth about God.
The faith that pleases God is forward looking not backward longing. Its okay to visit the past, but it’s not okay to live in the past. As a church to have a faith that pleases God we must have a faith that looks to the future.
The faith that pleases God is a forward looking faith and this forward looking faith has two characteristics.
1. Faith that looks to the future is forgetful.
"If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return." Hebrews 11:15ESV
2. Faith that looks to the future seeks something better.
"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 for them a city."
A country is more than just a place, your country is where you live, it a place that you love. The country in which you live affects your lifestyle. The child of God recognizes that regardless of where they live it’s not their real home. They have a better country, a better dwelling place. And that knowledge affects the way they live here. They invest their lives in that better country, they actively pursue it, they seek it, and they long for it. Do you know what I enjoy most about traveling? Getting home! Sometimes I just can’t wait to get home. Let me ask you a question? When is the last time you thought about going home? Is this important? Let’s see what the Scriptures say. Look at the last part of 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 for them a city."
Notice what that verse teaches us, those who desire a better country, a better home; for all of these God is not ashamed to be called their God. Stop and think about this for a moment. What is the opposite of being ashamed of someone? Isn’t it being pleased with some one? How do we please God? By faith!
4. THE FAITH THAT PLEASES GOD IS A FAITH THAT IS GROUNDED IN AND DEPENENDENT UPON THE CHARACTER OF GOD
Many Christians mistakenly believe that that have to be both the source of faith and they have to supply the power for that faith. Many people believe that faith is simply believing hard enough that something is going to happen. Or they believe that they must come up with some big plan, some big dream and if they just believe hard enough it will happen.
Unfortunately that is the message that is heard in many churches. But please know that it is not a Christian idea, it is not a biblical idea. So where do these come from? They come from the self proclaimed self help experts. That kind of thinking is common fare in the world of positive thinkers. For instance Napoleon Hill wrote the book years ago “Think and Grow Rich”, and he was famous for many of his quotes. For instance he said “Man, alone, has the power to transform his thoughts into physical reality; man, alone, can dream and make his dreams come true.” W. Clement Stone has made perhaps one of the most repeated mantras of the positive thinkers, you have probably heard it. He said “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” That sounds good, and many people get fired up by that and it may provide some motivation for awhile. But in reality we all know that is not true. For example I can conceive myself as being the greatest baseball player to ever play the game, and I can truly believe it, I believe it with all of my heart. Therefore because I have conceived it, and I have believed it, it will become a reality for me! Put me in coach I’m ready to play! But guess what? It ain’t going to happen!
But that is exactly the kind of attitude, the philosophy that is being dished out as faith. I don’t deny that with hard work, creativity, the right personality, and the right contacts you can pull off some pretty big accomplishments. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t attempt to do big things for God, as long as what we do is based upon God’s will as it is revealed in God’s Word. I think we should do everything we can to be actively involved in making disciples. We should be planning to reach as many people here are around the world with the gospel. What is the basis for plans like that? That plan would be based upon God’s revealed will to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Charles Spurgeon perhaps that greatest pastor the world has ever known said, “I make bold to assert that, in the service of God, nothing is impossible, and nothing is improbable. Go in great things, brethren, in the Name of God; risk everything on his promise, and according to your faith shall if be done unto you.”
The key words in that quote are “risk everything on His promise”. In other words
Spurgeon based everything he did, his plans, his vision were all based upon who God is.
The faith that pleases God is a faith that is rooted in and depends upon the character of God. I see this principle in two verses in Hebrews 11. Look at verse 11
"By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised." Hebrews 11:11ESV
Ask yourself this question, what was it that allowed Sarah to conceive when she was well past child bearing age? Was it her faith, or was it who her faith was in? According to the Scriptures it was her faith that was grounded in and dependent upon the character of God that allowed her to conceive that child. That is the kind of faith that pleases God.
The same principle is demonstrated again by Sarah’s husband Abraham. Verse 17 says
"By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son," Hebrews 11:17ESV
"He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back." Hebrews 11:19ESV
How was Abraham able to even begin to contemplate such a thing? According to the scriptures Abraham’s ability to obey God even when God asked him to do the unthinkable, was based upon his confidence in God’s character. God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation. Abraham’s son Isaac was the only hope Abraham had for God’s promise to be fulfilled. Yet he was willing to obey God in offering his son because he knew, he believed that God would do, God could do whatever was necessary to fulfill His own plan. Abraham’s faith was rooted in and dependent upon God’s character.
If you are going to live a life of faith that pleases God, that faith must be a faith that is based upon who God is.
When God asks you to do something, your obedience is never based solely upon your own abilities. Your obedience, your faith is always, should always be based upon the character of God. Therefore when God asks you to tithe, your obedience is not based upon your resources; your obedience is based upon God’s Word in which He said I will supply all your need. When God asks you to share the gospel, your obedience is not based upon your resources, your obedience is rooted in the Word of God, who said “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses.”
Why does faith work this way? Because this way God gets all the glory! And that is the way it should be! Lack of faith, lack of obedience dishonors God in that it is a denial of who He is; it is a denial of His character!
5. THE FAITH THAT PLEASES GOD IS A FAITH THAT ACCOMPLISHES
I’m going to develop this more next week, so just let me say this. You have the faith, to do what God has asked you to do. Why does God give you faith? God grants you faith to give you the ability to do that which you could not do on your own! Let that sink in. You say prove it. I can in one word. SALVATION!
The Scriptures teach that you cannot save yourself. Then how is a person saved?
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
The faith that pleases God is a faith that accomplishes!
A true faith in Jesus Christ will not suffer us to be idle. No, it is an active, lively, restless principle; it fills the heart, so that it cannot be easy till it is doing something for Jesus Christ.
What will you do for Jesus Christ this week?