MISSING IN ACTION SERMON SERIES
A FAITH THAT NEVER FADES
OCTOBER 29, 1995
We love adventure. Whatever we can climb, capture, stalk, glide, ride, ski, or hunt, we go after it with reckless abandon. We desire to live that adrenalin rushing, envelope pushing, risk taking kind of existence. So we bungie jump and car race and shark fish and barefoot ski our way into oblivion. The net result? Large numbers of us are kind of like the Generation Xs on the Mountain Dew commercials, we have been there and done that. We are bored with life. The great news is, God does not want us to be bored. He wants us to experience adventure, vitality and excitement and the thrill of stepping out into the unknown, the excitement of facing a challenge and conquering it. God loves to see His children do that.
Have you ever wondered why we have this capacity for adventure? It is God given. We are custom made to be a part of it. In fact, the Bible mentions the spirit of adventure over 300 times. There is a word for it. Faith is God’s word for the spirit of adventure. Faith makes a difference in just existing or in really living.
Today I am beginning a brand new series called Missing In Action. Over the next four weeks we are going to talk about the four most mentioned values in the Bible, faith, hope, love and giving. Today we are going to learn how to have a faith that never fades. And to do this we need to ask and answer three paramount questions and each question builds on the prior one. Question number one, how do I get faith? How do I get this thing called faith? We can have faith in a lot of things. We had faith that our cars would start this morning, we had faith that the theater seats would hold us up. But I am talking about Biblical faith and the basis of Biblical faith is Jesus Christ. I love what the Bible says in Hebrews 11:1. It says that “To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.” I am going to do a brief demonstration for you, watch very carefully. One, two, three. I just jumped. I didn’t stay in the air very long, that is why I rode the bench at Florida State University but I did jump. After I jumped, I quickly descended to the stage. What made me descend? It is a force and the word begins with G. What? Gravity. Did anyone here see gravity? No. We noticed the result of gravity, but we didn’t see it.
I love my wife. Lisa and I met when we were fourteen years of age in the fourth grade and we dated each other all the way through until we got married at the ripe old age of twenty-one. I have never seen our love. I have never been able to say to Lisa, “Wow, Lisa, look at this love here, the beautiful facets and everything. I think I will take this love and put in on a necklace or bracelet or ring.”
Yesterday I was running and as I was running I had to conquer a couple of hills. The wind was blowing and it really slowed me down. I didn’t see the wind, I felt it. Faith is just like that. I have never seen it, but I have felt it and I know it is there. The most powerful forces in the world are things that we cannot see. Faith, Biblical faith, has to have an object and the object if you are going to really experience adventure and excitement and an adrenalin high has to be Jesus.
I have got to start right here. I could jump into question two and question three but I have got to start at question one, how do you get it? How do you get this thing called faith?
A couple of days ago I had lunch with a friend of mine, I will call him John. He is a very successful business man. He deals in transactions worth millions and millions of dollars. During the course of our meal, I felt led to ask him a straight-forward question. I said, “John, what if one of these waiters walked up to you in this Mexican restaurant, tapped you on the shoulder and asked you how he could get to heaven. What if they asked you how they might become a Christian. What would you say? He thought for a minute and answered, “I would say that I pray every night to God and I try to live by a moral code. I am not perfect but I do try to live by this code.” And I said, “John, those are good things but I want to tell you what God’s word, the Bible, says about how to get to heaven and how to know Him personally. Would you like to know that?” He said, “Yeah, I would.”
I told him, “The Bible says there are basically two ways to get to heaven. Let’s call the first one plan A, the performance plan. God says if we are flawless in our life, not one off day, not one bad mood, not one cuss word when we hit our thumb with a hammer, if we never get in one argument, if everything is perfect, then God will see us on the day we face Him and say, ‘You did it, you were perfect, give me a high five, welcome to heaven, come on in.’ That is the performance plan. I don’t know about you, I messed that up years and years ago. John, one little sin will throw plan A in the tank.” He admitted, “Yeah, I sin all the time.” I said, “So do I, we are not perfect.”
Then I say, “You know what the great thing is about the Bible, God didn’t stop with just plan A. God gave us plan B. And here is what plan B says. God saw the performance plan would not work and we matter so much to Him, He sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for everything we have ever done wrong, our past sins, our present sins and even our future sins. He rose again. And, John, if we come to a point in our life where we believe it and receive it, by faith, then we get to heaven. Then we have power, we have a purpose and we have true, God-directed, God-inspired adventure. It is not easy but it is the best decision you could ever make. But I can’t make it for you. You have got to make it for yourself.” He thought about it for a couple of moments and said, “I want to make the decision right now because if I was to die right now, I am facing a Christless eternity.” I said, “Before we do this I want to read to you a verse of scripture. Ephesians 2:8, ‘For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourself, it is the gift of God.’ I don’t want you to make a decision without knowing the implications here. Again, it is a gift from God.”
I showed him my watch. I said, “John, my wife bought this watch for me for Christmas last year. What if I decided to give this watch to you right now? Here you go, John, no strings attached, it’s yours. When I give you something, it demands a response. You either receive it or you don’t. You didn’t deserve it, but you just receive it. That is precisely what God does when He offers Jesus Christ to us. It is the same thing.” And then I said and I know the Lord gave me these words, “I want to draw up a little contract for you. We have been talking about millions of dollars and big transactions that take place in your business.” I drew up a contract with a line for his name and a line for my name. I said, “If you want to make the decision right now in this restaurant, since you understand what it means, all you have to do is sign your name. And the moment you sign your name an incredible cosmic transaction takes place. All of the sins, all of the guilt, all of the suffering, all of the pain in your life immediately, in a nanosecond, is transferred to the shoulders of Christ. And, here is the good part, the righteousness of Christ, the peace that surpasses all understanding, is transferred into your life the moment you sign your name. It will be the most important thing you have ever done.” Friends, he almost grabbed the pen out of my hand and he signed up and I signed as a witness to that event, that faith event. That is how you get it. You can’t perform your way in, you can’t give your way in, you can’t work your way in, you have got to admit it and receive it.
I don’t want to go on in this message until I give you a chance to make this commitment. I can’t do it for you, I can just tell you how to do it. But if you want to do it, you can do it right now. We may have some folks here, some men and some woman, who are in the same boat as my friend was a couple of days ago in the Mexican restaurant here in the Metroplex. Bow your heads for just a moment. Every head is bowed and every eye is closed. You know a lot of us have faith in different things but I am talking about the object being Jesus Christ, the most important faith step you will ever make. And if you want to make it, you can do it right now. This is between you and God. Say these words to the best of your ability, “God, I realize that I am not perfect. I don’t understand it all, God, but by faith I believe that you sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for all of my sins.” Would you say that? “I admit to You that I have messed up, I want to tell the truth about my condition, turn from my sin and ask you, Jesus Christ, to come into my life. I give you everything I am right now, my mind, my body, my future and everything I ever will be. Thank you for loving me and saving me and giving me true faith. In Jesus name. Amen” If you made that decision just now with me, it is the best thing that you will ever do. At the end of the service I will pinpoint some people who would love to talk to you about that decision. The Bible says when you tell people whose side you are on, Jesus will tell His father about it. So tell someone about it. We can talk about faith as I said, but we have to know how to get it. That is how you get it, by receiving Jesus Christ into your life, by signing this incredible contract.
Question two, it’s going to get deeper now, once I have this faith, how do I build it? How do I build faith? How do I grow in my faith? I want to direct your attention to Acts 20:32. “And now I entrust you to God and to His wonderful words which are able to build your faith.” Circle the phrase wonderful words. How do you build your faith, a couple of suggestions. First, expose yourself regularly to God’s teaching in a corporate fashion. Church is the catalyst for life change. The catalyst for transformation in the church is anointed teaching. And our teaching begins once you walk in, from the songs, to the drama, to the video, to the spoken word, it is the message. And the Bible says that we are to come together weekly with other brothers and sisters in Christ and also those who are investigating the Christian life, to see what God says to us. Expose yourself to teaching corporately. Secondly, expose yourself to teaching relationally. You know Christianity is not some solo sport, it is not a Gilligan’s Island thing, it is not a Lone Ranger thing. Christianity is meant to be grounded on community and relationships. That is why our church applauds you when you come to church, one of our four services. Great. You are here, excellent. That is the corporate deal. But you have got to get deeper and depth occurs when you are in relationship with other people. We have mid-sized groups that meet throughout our church. The next hour we have singles classes, during this hour we have married adult classes. We have children’s church, pre-school lessons, lessons for those in mid-life and for those who are elderly. Those are mid-sized relational Bible Study groups. Also, though, we have small groups that meet throughout the metroplex so our members can sit in someone’s home, or condominium, or dorm room and discuss the scripture. Being under that teaching relationally, that is where real life change takes place. Don’t just come corporately but also expose yourself relationally to God’s word. Accountability, authenticity, integrity. Try that and watch your faith build.
Also we have to expose ourselves to God’s teaching individually. That is the one on one time. Do you keep your appointment regularly with God. God wants to meet with you and me every day. And I try to make that appointment every day. I miss some days, but about five days a week, at least, I am there with God writing out my prayers to Him, reading His word and allowing Him to speak to me. I have never heard God’s audible voice, “Ed, take a left.” “Ed, go straight.” “Slow down, Ed. A cop is right behind you.” I have never heard Him say anything like that. But I feel His presence and I feel His promptings in my life.
You know when I was a teenager my parents took us on an incredible trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica. It was a sweet deal. We stayed in some man’s house. He had a butler, a maid and we were really enjoying Jamaica. But I was kind of lovesick because I had met this girl, 5’8″, dark skin, light brown hair, brown eyes. Her name was Lisa Lee, now Lisa Young, my wife. I missed her. She wore this Charlie perfume that I loved. And to show you how smitten we were, she sent me from Columbia, NC, a love letter all the way to Montego Bay, Jamaica. I get the thick letter, Charlie perfumed. I loved reading it. My parents teased that perhaps they should hear what Lisa wrote. They kept kind of kidding me. I read this love letter about five times a day. I carried it around with me because it was written by a person who loved me. And I loved her. And I wanted to read more and more about her, because it was written to me on a very intimate level.
This book right here is basically God’s love letters to you and to me. That’s what it is, God’s love letters. It is about love, it is about how much we matter to him. Read his love letters, study the letters, memorize the letters and your faith will begin to build. Don’t just stop after you have it, begin to build it.
Another way that we can faith build, this is tough here, is to persevere through trials and difficult situations in our lives. The Christian life is not perfect. We don’t just push the cruise control button, the autopilot, sip Perrier and relax and say, “OK, I’m a Christian now, no big deal, no problems, no challenges.” Here is what the Bible says in I Peter 1:7. “These trials are only to test your faith, to see whether or not it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests gold and purifies it.” One of the most beautiful pictures in scripture of trials and tribulation is found here in this quote. And the picture is that of a gold smith who would pour liquid gold in a vat and slowly turn up the heat. And as he turned up the heat on the gold the impurities would rise to the surface, he would scrape the impurities off and throw them aside. Scrape them off and throw them aside. He knew the gold was ready as he was turning up the heat when he could see his reflection in the gold. The Lord Jesus Christ puts us in a vat and he slowly turns up the trials, the difficulties, the tribulations and those impurities in your life and mine rise to the surface and he scrapes them off and throws them aside, scrapes them off and throws them aside. He knows we are ready to leave this trial, to enter another domain when He can see His reflection in your life and mine. Persevere through trials. It will build your faith.
How do I get it? Through faith in Christ. How do I build it? We just talked about it. The third question, how do I use it? How do I use this faith. A couple of years ago I went to a high school basketball game and I saw a team that was one of the most gifted teams I had ever seen play on that level. But the great thing about it was the cheerleaders. The cheerleaders had this cheer that I will never forget and it went something like this. “If you got it, now use it. If you got it, now use it.” The whole place was rocking. I found myself joining in. Let me tell you something. This team had it and they could use it. There were probably thirty-four slam dunks in the game, they won by fifty points and they took the state championship that year.
That is what God is saying to you and to me. If you have faith, if the object is Jesus Christ, if you are building your faith, now use it. How do I use it? It gets deeper. Here we go. Look at Hebrews 11:8. This chapter is God’s Hall of Faith, it is a list of true risk takers, people who really stepped out there, men and women who had the spirit of adventure. “It was by faith that made Abraham obey when God called him to go out to a country which God had promised to give him.” Now father Abraham was old, he was seventy-five years of age, he was thinking about retirement, Geritol, all those things. And God said, “Abraham, I want you to go.” And Abraham didn’t say yo, he said he was ready to go. He obeyed God. But check this last part out. “He left his own country, which happened to be Ur of the Chaldees…” Isn’t that a great name. Where are you from? Ur? You ur? Ur of the Chaldees is now where modern day Iraq is located. “He left….without knowing where he was going.” Does that sound like a man, women, without knowing where he was going. We all have a poor sense of direction. I get lost everywhere I go. I will not ask for directions, though, you know that. I let my wife point where to go and follow her lead. So he left without knowing where he was going. Here is the principle here. Follow the Lord, even when you can’t figure Him out. That is the way I use my faith. I follow the Lord even when I can’t figure Him out. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”
One of our twins is named Laurie. She is fifteen months old. I call Laurie the electrician because she loves to play with the extension cord on her humidifier. I saw her do that one time and I told her an emphatic no. I have had to tell her that about five time. “Laurie, no.” And now she does not mess around with the outlets. I just said no and she obeys me. What if I had done this when I saw her messing around with the outlet? What if I had said, “Laurie, wait. You see, Laurie, electricity is flowing behind those wall, behind the sheetrock and you can get electrocuted and all the volts would rock your body. It would not be healthy for you so, Laurie, I would advise you, not to mess around with the plug and the socket. OK?” That would be crazy, wouldn’t it? That would be ludicrous, wouldn’t it? She trusts me because I am her father and she now makes a wide berth around the electrical outlet. For some reason we think God owes us an explanation for everything. We have got to figure everything out. “Well, God, I will go here, I’ll do this, I’ll make this choice but I have to understand everything first, You put it on paper or put it in my computer and then I will do it.” That requires no faith. And the Bible says, if we understood everything, it would explode our brains. If God explained to me and to you why everything happens, we couldn’t take it. We are finite, He is infinite. The Bible says, though, one day we will know why everything has occurred. And that will happen for us when we get to heaven. Just like my fifteen month old, when shes get to be about ten or eleven, she will understand and get a better handle on electricity. But she can’t take it right now and she has to trust me. You have got to trust God. And to trust Him means to follow Him, to say yes even when you can’t figure Him out.
When I was a kid I learned something profound, delayed obedience is disobedience. I think you know what I am talking about. The same thing is true in our relationship with Lord. When He says do something, it doesn’t mean to check my intellect at the door, but that I follow His lead even when I can’t figure it out. “I’m going to obey you now, I’m going to do the Abraham thing.” Because Abraham obeyed God he was the father of a great, great nation. Follow God’s lead even when you can’t figure Him out.
Two. Trust completely, even if you don’t feel like it. Hebrews 11:24. “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be know as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” Now that is a big verse, right there. Moses was a Hebrew adopted into Egyptian royalty. Pharaoh’s daughter took him in. And Moses, when he was older, had a choice to make. He could either become the Pharaoh of Egypt or he could live the life of a Hebrew slave. “Let me see, what will I do? I can be an Egyptian with fame, fortune and the cush life or I can be a Hebrew in slavery. Hummm. And I going to trust God completely even though I don’t feel like it or am I going to go with my feelings because ‘if it feels good, do it'”. Moses thought about it, he prayed about it and the Bible says that Moses chose to be a slave with his people. And because he trusted God completely, even when he didn’t feel like it, what did God do? God led him to bring out all of His people from Egyptian bondage and to be one of the great men of faith who has ever walked on this planet. We know about Moses and we know that he is God’s man and he is not an ordinary Egyptian mummy stuffed in some obscure museum somewhere in the middle east. He is Moses. Charlton Heston even played him. You see we either live our lives by faith or by feelings. If it feels good, it must be right. No, not always. I don’t always feel like reconciling with someone I have hurt. I don’t always feel like spending quality and quantity time with my kids. I don’t always feel like studying for four weekend services. But I have to do it. I don’t always do it, but I have to do it because it is right. Trust God completely even when you don’t feel like it. Hebrews 2:13 sums it up. “I will put my trust in Him.”
A third way to use my faith is found in Hebrews 11:4. It is going to get quiet now. Give generously even when I don’t have it. He is talking about giving? Give generously even when I don’t have it. For the first couple of years of this church I was shy when talking about giving. I knew I didn’t want to come across as some way-out television evangelist, or someone who preaches ‘sow a seed’, we need your money. But as I read the Bible I have noticed that there are more promises concerning money than any other subject in the word of God. Jesus taught more about money than He did about heaven or hell. God is not sitting up there in heaven saying, “Oh boy, that single man right there just got a raise. He is now making $45,000 a year. Yea. That means if he tithes he will give $4,500 a year. All right. Wait a minute. This person in the back row, they are worth one million dollars. That means that I can get $100,000 a year.” God doesn’t need your money, God doesn’t need my money. He doesn’t need it. He uses it, though, as a testimony of faith. Faith and giving always go together hand in hand. He uses money to test us. “OK, I am blessing you here, I am giving this to you, I am going to see if you give back to Me.” God gives generously to us. He keeps giving and He says for us to continue to give. Continue to do what I have done for you. And if we continue to do it, our lives keep getting better and better and better, not just financially but God blesses in ways that money won’t even touch.
We got back to the Hall of Faith, not in Canton, Ohio but right here in God’s word. ” It was faith that made Abel’s offer to God a better sacrifice than Cain’s.” Abel is the first man mentioned in the Hall of Faith. He was mentioned because of an offering he gave. Abel was the son of Adam and Eve. After Adam and Eve had raised Cain, then they had Abel. Abel’s offer to God was a better sacrifice than Cain’s. “Through his faith he won God’s approval as a righteous man, because God Himself approved of his gifts.” It was not the amount. Some accountant in here might be asking, “How much did he give?” It was not the amount, it was the attitude. That is the exciting thing about giving to God. God does not look at the amount, he looks at the heart. And we have two options when we give. We can either give by reason or by revelation. If we give by reason, we take our calculator out and figure how much is coming in and therefore what we can give. That takes zero faith. None. I’ve learned as I have grown as a Christian, to give not by reason but by revelation. Revelations says, “God, you want to give some great stuff through me and I know you want to bless me.” God says if we begin to give, He wants to bless us. So when God blesses you, you must remain faithful to continue to give to the local church I am involved in. When you give by revelation, your faith, joy and spirit of adventure all increase.
When we began this building campaign three years ago, my wife and I made a commitment that I shared with you about a year ago. It was far beyond what we could even comprehend, I mean out of the hemisphere for us financially. Once I made that commitment,
let me tell you what happened. Out of the blue Word Publishing came to me and I signed a contract with them. A windfall. I gave it to the church. I have had some other things happen to me financially that I had no idea would occur. Now my wife and I are well ahead of the pace that we should be on to make this commitment that was out there in left field for us. Adventure? Yes. Excitement? Yes. Pushing the envelope? Yes. Adrenalin rush? Yes. You can’t beat it. The choice is up to you. the choice is up to me. By reason or by revelation.
II Corinthians 9:6 says, “Remember this; Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” You throw a little seed in, you will get a little return. You throw big time seed in, you will get a big return. What are you doing? Not the amount, the attitude. It is not equal gifts, it is equal sacrifice.
II Corinthians 9:8 says, “God is able to make it up to you by giving you everything you need and more.” Every time I have made a commitment to God financially, the money has come in from unexpected resources. Often I have ended up with more money after the commitment. God is able to make it up to you by giving you everything you need and more. “…so that there will not only be enough for your own needs, but plenty left over to give joyfully to other.” Give generously, even when you don’t have it.
Let me say something briefly to the members here at the Fellowship. We are in this building campaign and we are going to break ground in a couple of months on this first phase. It is going to be a beautiful facility. We can have just a couple of services to begin with. That will be great, won’t it? Our own speakers, lighting. We won’t have to get up at 3:00 am and move all this tons and tons of equipment. We won’t have to lease this space any longer. It will be wonderful. God is going to say that what we build is great but He is not going to freak out because we have a building. He will not focus on the building. Instead here is what God is going to say. “Hey, the building, yeah, that is fine and dandy but the good thing is look what happened to My people in the process. Look at the faith that was built, look at the hope that was build, look at the love that was build, look at the giving that was built. That is the great part.”
So what would God say to us concerning faith? Simply this. “Go for it.”