The Progress of Faith - Abraham
Believing God • Message 5
Joshua J. Masters
July 19, 2020
Today we continue our summer series, Believing God, as we walk through the Heroes of Faith described in Hebrews 11, but before we get into our text today, we wanted to take a moment to encourage one another.
This pandemic has been difficult for everyone.
Everything about this has been difficult—and it’s impacted our ability to build one another up as a body.
We have people here onsite that wish they could hug one-another, and others in our online campus—that for various reasons can’t join us here in person.
But we are still one church—we are one body, and it’s vital that we continue to reach out to one another and support one another.
So, please make sure to do that throughout the week. Be intentional in reaching out to others—but for today, I’d like those of us onsite to encourage the people in our Online Campus who would love to be here with us in person.
So, when I count to three, everyone here in the room look at THIS camera and wave, and hoot, and holler to the people watching at home so we can all feel connected for a moment. Ready? 1-2-3.
Thank you for doing that. It may seem silly, but during times of trials and testing, it’s vital that we stay connected.
Because trials and hardship can either propel our faith forward or cause us to surrender in spiritual apathy.
And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
As we turn our attention back to Hebrews 11—building a deeper faith through trials and hardship is exactly what we see in the life of Abraham.
Our faith deepens as we learn to TRUST God through trials and HARDSHIP.
I know what some of you are thinking…
“Well, I don’t want to stay for this message.”
I get it, but suffering is going to come—so rather than ignore it, we should learn how to grow through it.
Our theme verse for today is Romans 8:18:
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later. Romans 8:18 (NLT)
And if we can grab on to that truth, if we can learn to focus on the coming glory—we not only learn how to overcome our struggles but emerge stronger from them.
Building faith is about the revelation of God’s truth, and that often happens in our suffering because that’s when we learn to rely on Him.
So, are you ready?
We’ll walk through these sometimes-difficult truths together—and encourage one another.
Go ahead and turn or swipe in your Bibles (or in the Brookwood App) to Hebrews 11.
If you’re in our online campus, you can click the Bible tab in your chat window.
It’s important to remember that the book of Hebrews was written to a Jewish audience, and Abraham is not only considered the father of the Jewish faith, but teachers of the law taught that Abraham was the pinnacle of righteousness.
But like all the people listed in Hebrews 11, the author is using the Jewish Scriptures to prove the importance of faith in the Christian life to believing Jews—that the Jewish heroes they honor were elevated not through their own righteousness but through their faith in God’s righteousness.
So, let’s dig in.
We’re first introduced to Abram
(who God will later rename Abraham)
in Genesis 12, He lives in a land of pagan worship and idolatry—so right off, we know Abraham is not innately righteous or good, right?
But God intervenes in his life.
The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. Genesis 12:1 (NLT)
Now jump forward to Hebrews 11. Verse 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. 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. Hebrews 11:8–9 (NLT)
Think about this. Abraham lives a life of idolatry, but when he has an encounter with the one true God, who asks him to leave everything he knows behind, Abraham immediately obeys.
In fact, the language used here in the Greek for “when God called him,” indicates that Abraham started moving even as God was still speaking.
As soon as he knew what God was calling him to do, he began preparations to leave.
And it wasn’t as if Abraham was looking for a way out of his life.
He was living in Mesopotamia, the most beautiful, bountiful area in the known world, but God said, “Go,” and Abraham packs up and leaves for a land he knows nothing about.
How does that apply to my walk with God?
My faith deepens as I learn to trust God by living in…
1. The expectation of being UPROOTED.
We can expect that our lives will be uprooted.
It might be changing our location, but it could be a physical, emotional, or spiritually uprooting as well.
Verse 9 said Abraham was like a foreigner living in tents.
Well, even in Abraham’s day people didn’t live permanently in tents.
It was a symbol of pilgrimage—a willingness (and even an eagerness) to pick-up and move at a moment’s notice whenever God spoke.
The problem is, we’ve been conditioned to seek stability and security.
That’s the American Dream, right?
But reliance on God—faith in God, is never found in what we provide for ourselves.
It’s only found in pursuing God and trusting His provision.
By our nature, we want things to remain the same.
And when we accumulate a false sense of security in this world, we deny our need for God.
Christ didn’t have a stable life.
None of the apostles had a stable life (unless you count John who was a prisoner).
And I’ll be honest, it’s hard for me to grasp a desire to be uprooted.
And as I was wrestling with this, I came across something.
I’ve been reading C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, which was written before his Narnia series, shortly after he became a Christian.
It’s not as elegant as Narnia, and to be honest, it’s a little strange, but I’m on book two of the series, which is an analogy for creation and the temptation of Eve.
And as I took a break from studying this idea of Abraham being uprooted, I picked up the book and “just happened” to read this.
The planet where the Eve character lives in Perelandra has land masses that move like waves. The land is always changing, always moving.
There’s just one land mass on the planet that’s fixed and doesn’t move, and they’re forbidden to go there.
But the character that represents Satan keeps telling them that God wouldn’t have created the fixed land if He didn’t want them to have stability. And when the enemy’s plot is revealed, the Eve-like character says this:
“… my mind was cleared … The reason for not yet living on the Fixed Land is now so plain. … And why should I desire the Fixed except to make sure – to be able on one day to command where I should be the next and what should happen to me? It was to reject the wave – to draw my hands out of [God’s] … to put in our own power what times should roll towards us.” Perelandra, Chapter 17. By C. S. Lewis
Most of us have fallen to the temptation of the Fixed Land. We want to control what happens today and prepare what will happen tomorrow.
So, our faith becomes stagnant.
It doesn’t progress.
Yes, we should be responsible with the things God has given us stewardship over—obviously.
But this temptation toward the fixed is an illusion. It doesn’t matter how much security you think you’ve gathered.
Because deep down inside, we know that every one of us is just one phone call away, one market crash, one fire, one action away from our lives being completely devastated.
Everything we think of as secure in this world is just a wave that will eventually crash on the rocks of eternity.
NOTHING is unchanging, nothing is secure in this life… except Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8 (NLT)
“I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.” Revelation 1:8 (NLT)
God will allow our lives to become uprooted. Not because He wants us to suffer, but because He’s trying to move us out of a boat that’s crashing into a place of true security in faith.
He will move us from the Fixed Land so He can fulfill a greater promise than we can see in the here and now.
To have a growing faith, we must be willing to surrender the familiar.
God cannot lead us into a new life while we cling to the dead security of our old one.
When we are uprooted, God leads us to a greater promise.
But that promise is almost never fully revealed or fulfilled quickly.
That leads us to our second fill-in.
My faith deepens as I learn to trust God by living in…
2. The hope of PATIENT anticipation.
See, we not only expect to be uprooted, but then we have to learn how to wait patiently once we’ve been uprooted.
What had God promised Abraham when he left Mesopotamia?
I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:2–3 (NLT)
Then when he gets to Canaan:
… the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.” And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the LORD, who had appeared to him. Genesis 12:7 (NLT)
But what we learn from the New Testament is that while Abraham was dwelling in tents, he wasn’t focused on what he was going to get…
He wasn’t even focused so much on what his descendants would get.
Once he had an encounter with the Lord, he became focused on the ultimate promise.
Hebrews 11, verse 10:
Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. Hebrews 11:10 (NLT)
Now we don’t know how much, but the Lord clearly revealed glimmers of Christ’s plan of salvation and His reign in eternity to Abraham.
In fact, Jesus Himself said this:
“Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to My coming. He saw it and was glad.” John 8:56 (NLT)
The more you trust God with the things you don’t know about your own life, the more He will reveal to you about Himself.
Abraham saw the coming of Christ and he saw the coming of eternity, because he surrendered his today.
Abraham wasn’t looking forward to the first city God might let him build… he was looking forward to the one he knew God would build.
The final city—Abraham was looking to the New Jerusalem before the first one was ever built.
Remember, God promised to bless the whole world through His promise to Abraham.
Abraham didn’t know how the promises in his life would be fulfilled, but that was okay… because he understood that whatever God did in his life, whatever gifts he was given was moving toward God’s greater promise to humanity.
Do we live to serve the final promise, or are we just looking to get our piece of it?
Abraham’s focus on the final promise is what allowed him to live a transient life of patient anticipation.
Which, it turns out, he would need.
Jump down to verse 13 in Hebrews 11 (We’ll skip the verses on Sarah for now because she’s a hot mess. We’ll come back to her next week.)
Why was it so important for Abraham to live in patient anticipation? Because…
All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:13–16 (NLT)
I don’t know about you, but if I’m honest, that last sentence makes me shudder a little.
Because for it to say that God is not ashamed to be called their God, that must mean the opposite is possible, right?
We must be very careful how we represent Christ in this broken world. Because we carry the name of God in every action we take, every word we speak, and every opinion that we post.
--Abraham could live in tents;
--he could be a nomad;
--he could die knowing he was still going to get what God promised him…
because he knew he was journeying toward something greater. And he knew it wasn’t here on earth.
Because Abraham was looking through his circumstances to eternity, he could be content in the storms of an uncertain life.
Last week, a friend of mine sent me a text. He asked me, “What does true belief feel like?
(I told him I was actually talking about that on Sunday, so he’d have to tune in to find out)
True belief feels like peace in a storm.
It’s the assurance that whatever happens in this moment can’t shake the ultimate promise of Christ.
That doesn’t mean we never grieve. But it does mean we can grieve with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
It doesn’t mean that we don’t face struggles, but it does means that we can have peace in those struggles (John 16:33)
I get too focused on the conflict of today when I should be focused on the peace of eternity.
Because that would bring me peace now.
They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth … they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. Hebrews 11:13b, 16a (NLT)
See, we are nomads here on earth too. We’re called to be citizens of the Kingdom and ambassadors to a broken world.
But we too often take root in this broken world.
That’s where our conflict of faith happens.
We want to belong to the here and now when we’re called to belong to kingdom of eternity.
But what about when the here and now seems so awful that we can’t see the kingdom in it?
Well, now we come to the greatest test of Abraham’s faith.
And yes, God does test our faith.
That’s another whole sermon. But I will say this:
When the enemy tempts us, it’s designed to make us fall away from our faith.
But when God tests our faith, it’s designed to draw us closer to Him and reveal His grace.
Abraham and Sarah see a miracle in the birth of Isaac, and God made it clear He will fulfill His promise to Abraham through the descendants Isaac.
But before Isaac gets married or can have children, this happens:
God says (Genesis 22:2):
“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” Genesis 22:2 (NLT)
Can you even imagine?
Yet in the morning, Abraham chops the firewood for the sacrifice, loads the donkey and he sets out to Moriah with Isaac and some servants.
And when they get there, Abraham binds his son, puts him on the altar, and raises the knife.
But the Angel of the Lord intervenes…
“Don’t touch the boy!”
The passage says, The Lord Himself will provide a lamb for the offering.
And make no mistake. God had no intention of Isaac ever being harmed.
I love how David Jeremiah put it, “God wasn’t after Isaac. He was after Abraham.”
We read this story, and think… Could anything be more horrific?
What must Abraham have gone through as he traveled there, and as he bound his son, as he raised the knife?
Genesis doesn’t tell us what he was thinking. But Hebrews does.
It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead. Hebrews 11:17–19 (NLT)
And you have to understand that when this happened, there had never been a record of anyone ever being raised from the dead.
Abraham’s faith discovered that resurrection was possible because he knew the promises of God are unbreakable.
The truth of God’s promise was so deeply imbedded in Abraham that he knew the sacrifice could not be permanent.
My faith deepens as I learn to trust God by living in…
3. The truth of God’s PROMISES.
To Abraham the promises of God were more real to him than the pain of his circumstances.
Do we believe the promises of God with that kind of depth?
How many of us believe the promise that Christ is returning?
We say we believe Christ is returning, but most of the time we live our days as if He’s not.
I know this is a hard truth, but if we were really living in the truth of Christ’s promise,
--Christians wouldn’t argue over whether or not we should wear masks.
--We wouldn’t tear one another down on social media.
--We’d give away more than we keep and
--We wouldn’t watch a full season of Netflix in a weekend.
If we lived with a focus on the same promise Abraham focused on, we would be completely engaged in the eternal work of the Kingdom, disregarding our own wants and desires.
But I’m not here to beat us up… I’m asking us as a community to move the needle.
We can start to look toward the eternal city and the King who will rule from that city.
It’s possible. We can see a glimmer of what Abraham saw.
Because Abraham wasn’t the only one God showed that eternal city to.
John was given a glimpse of the same city and savior.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:1–4 (NLT)
That’s what we’re journeying toward.
And that promise is only possible because while God spared Abraham’s son, He didn’t spare His own.
And when the time comes for our judgement, the Lord will say,
“Don’t Harm Him! I have provided a lamb for the sacrifice”
Can we focus on that?
That promise from Revelation is our memory verse this week. Spend time with it. Meditate on it. Because if we keep our focus on that… if we’re looking to that promise, and that city, and that King, God will refine our faith to endure every hardship that comes.
And if you need help seeing that, if you need help reaching for that, we want to be an encouragement to you.
If you’re in our online campus, you can click the Care and Support link that’s about to pop up or simply say you’d like to talk with someone in the chat area and a pastor will connect with you in private chat.
If you’re here onsite, we have pastors and care volunteers outside who would love to talk with you as you leave.
As we close in prayer, I also want to thank you for your continued giving through this pandemic. It makes a big difference in God’s work in our community and for our partners around the world.
The offering baskets are in the hallway as you leave, or you can click the GIVE link in our Online Campus.
Don’t be afraid to be uprooted. The Lord says,
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:2–3a (NLT)
Let’s continue to encourage one another and journey together, looking to that great promise.