Monday, July 1, 2024

A Great Cloud of Witnesses: Faith-Living vs. Me Centered Life

Faith is a mystery to the world. It seems crazy. It seems stupid. But I’ll tell ya what’s stupid. I’ll ya what’s dumb. What’s dumb is trying to control my own life and manipulate events to make things I want happen.

It just doesn’t work. And even if it does work, I’m not happy. I get exactly what I wanted, and it’s just twice as bad because I realize it didn’t make me happy.

There are only two ways to live in this world, by faith, or by me.

Living by faith is kind of like following a GPS, but here’s the twist, you don’t know where it’s taking you.

You trust that God is moving you in the right direction. Make a left here, go straight, now make a right, one more right, now go straight for a long time. And I like to get in there and tell God where I need to turn next. God, I’m pretty sure this is the road. God says that isn’t the road, keep going. But we’ve been going straight for like 2 hours we gotta turn.

How in the world am I going to get to where God wants me if I keep trying to change the route?

Faith is like following that GPS each day. What does God want me to do? What does God have next? What is His plan and purpose?

Now if it were my uncle calling and telling me where to turn, well I’m not gonna trust it, how does he know where I’m supposed to go?

But this is God. And faith is trusting that God is giving me the right path to take. Even when it seems odd or even crazy.

We’ve all been at that point of decision: You know God is telling you to leave this job and take a new one. You know God is telling you to move there. You know God is telling you to do something that is risky.

Many times it’s just God saying go talk to that person about my son Jesus.

And I’ve gone both ways at times. Sometimes I draw back, well no God I’m not gonna do that. And I move on. And I miss the blessing. I miss something special.

How do I know that?

Because there have been so many times when God called me to step out and by a miracle I did step out, and my goodness, it was exactly right. I couldn’t tell before. But I could tell after.

Let me say that again, we can’t tell before we jump in, but we find out after. We find a blessing we didn’t expect.

I have these supernatural stories, where I was just doing something boring, going to the store or whatever, and God interrupts me, and then I make a friend, I get to pray with someone, I get to see God do something. And it’s amazing.

The miracle of faith is when we say yes to the crazy thing God calls us to do.

So I want to tell you about some people who did the crazy thing, and it opened up a portal, to a God-moment that changed their lives forever.

You can sense it in the moment, the portal is open in front of you, will you jump in? These people of faith stepped forward boldly into the unknown.

It says in Hebrews 11:8-12, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.”

The land that Abraham was walking on was his inheritance. As he walked those hills and valleys, do you think he ever dreamed that his people would inherit it?

God called Abraham to step out in faith, leave the land you are in and come to a place you’ve never heard of. Live your life in tents. Leave it all behind. And he does.

Abraham was looking forward. We too have to learn to look forward. Human beings we focus on the next paycheck, the next party, the next movie, but we’ve got to look beyond all that, to beyond the grave. What comes next? A New City of God.

Set your life around that hope. It sounds crazy. But it’s true.

Yet here’s the thing, it seemed impossible. God does that. It can’t be done. Abraham’s and Sarah have no child. They are too old to have a child. It can’t be done.

God does that time and again. He does the impossible to show us His glory. The hard part is to have faith that God can and will do it.

What is God calling you right now to stay in faith about?

It is a family member or child who is lost in addiction? Is it an unsaved parent or grandparent? Is it a sickness you’ve had for many years? Is it tough finances? Is it not giving up in times of depression? God is faithful.

But God will test you. He will test you and make you wait on the promise.

Are you really going to trust Him?

From a man and woman who were near 100 years old, came a miracle child, and from that, untold descendants, an entire nation.

That’s walking by faith, which is very practical, day by day, trusting God, living different, denying the flesh, refusing sin, loving our enemies, praying for people who persecute us, that is faith living. And it’s radically different from the world.

What about a me-centered life? I used to live that life, for many years before Jesus changed my life.

It’s doing the next thing that I want to do. It’s indulging the flesh. It’s getting high. It’s trashing someone’s on social media. It’s cheating on that girlfriend or boyfriend just to be bad. It’s cheating on that test. It’s waging a quiet war against a coworker whose job you want. It’s cheating on your taxes. It’s spending all my money on me, me, me. It’s building my life around getting what I want.

Can you get away with it? Sure. Can you survive that way? I suppose you could. But you’re gonna be empty. And each day living like that, inside you’re gonna die a little bit more.

If you’re stuck there today, or maybe you’re living a double-life, acting one way in church and another way the rest of the week, talk to God right now, close your eyes, pray and ask God’s forgiveness.

Lord, I’m sorry, I’ve been living a double life. Lord, I’m tired of it. Lord, set me free, make me whole again, I crucify the flesh, get behind me Satan!

No secret sin is too powerful. The enemy has been lying to you saying oh God took away this and that but he can’t touch that porn issue, he can’t do anything with the pride. He can’t deal with the lying or backbiting. Wrong, that devil is a liar, and you can be free!

Start to believe. But stop fighting it. Stop pulling at those chains. You can’t break them. Instead surrender. God I give up. I can’t fight it. Lord, you’ve got to take it away. Take it away today!

Walk by Faith. Trust His promises.

That isn’t easy friends. Leaving my last appointment after five years wasn’t easy. But I knew it was God’s will. It was hard to pack everything up and move to a town where I’ve never been. But I knew it was God’s will. And if God said tomorrow, pack up again and go to the moon, well… I better start packing. God is trustworthy.

We are surrounded saints, by a great cloud of witnesses. Millions and millions of people across human history who have chosen to live by faith. Well, I could never be like them, wrong! You make the choice. I’m going to live by faith. You chase prayer, you chase God, you chase the word, and slowly but surely, you find faith, you grow in faith, and your life more and more becomes defined by faith.

It’s a journey, you get it?

By faith, Abraham was told to kill his own son. Offer him up. Abraham didn’t refuse. He so completely trusted God, he thought to himself, well, if God tells me to sacrifice Isaac, God can raise Isaac from the dead. Wow!

It didn’t make sense, it seemed crazy, but he simply did what God said. And Later he realized, wow, good thing I listened to God on that one.

Remember that friends, do what God says even when it seems odd. Even when I’d much rather chase that relationship, God says it isn’t right. Save yourself some heartache and just say no.

I remember when I came to Owosso my last appointment and the DC said we got this thing called dinner church. I didn’t get it. But God confirmed it and we did it. And it ended up being one of the most blessed ministries I’ve seen. But it meant going against what I thought was best, and trusting what God was doing.

How do I do this? How do I live by faith? You learn to think in way that is connected with God. You hedge every big decision in prayer. I better pray about this one before I take an action here. I better open up my Bible and see what God is going to say about this.

As you do that, you’ll find God’s power surrounds the problem. I’m not kidding you will feel it. As you seek God, as you pray, as you page through the word, as you listen to sermons and podcasts, God begins to reveal the next step on the path ahead.

In this you learn to live a supernatural life. You go from a debased, pleasure-based, empty life, to a supernatural journey, a God-driven adventure.

It says in Hebrews 11:32-38, “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.”

They went from weakness to strength, because they had trusted in their God. You are part of this great adventure. You are part of this faithful family from all history, if you really walk by faith. If you really let God supernaturally lead your life. Then you will see weakness turn to strength. You’ll also face difficulties, challenges, even death itself, on this journey of faith with Christ. But it’s so worth it!

Lastly, Hebrews 12:1-3, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Let’s bring it all together now, what hallmarks are part of a real walk of faith?

First, we throw off everything that hinders our walk with Jesus, and the sin that easily entangles. I used to comfort myself that well they are gossiping, so it’s ok for me, they are in lust, so I guess Jesus must be ok with lust, wrong, wrong wrong. Don’t mimic the world around you, even those in the church who live double-lives, instead, look to Jesus himself.

Second, its running with perseverance the race God has for you. It’s different for each of us, what has God called you to? For me its being a corps officer. And that means going here and there, and wherever Jesus wants me. What is the race before you? You know what it is. It’s in front of you. Walk in it.

A Real Christian is known by these two factors:

1, they are radical about dealing with sin in their life. 2, they are radical about following God’s path for their life.

Finally, how do we do all that? By fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, remember what Jesus did? He went to the cross anyway, even though in the garden he had prayed, Father if its possible take this cup away from me. He followed the path anyway. If Jesus was willing to do that, then I can be willing to follow His path too. Fix your eyes on Jesus.

Consider Jesus who endured such opposition, and didn’t give up. Then you won’t be tempted to grow weary and lose heart.