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About this series
Good to Great in God's Eyes
Ten Practices Great Christians have in Common
Are you tired of the status quo Christian life? Do you long for a spiritual breakthrough? Are you looking to go to the next level or get a fresh infusion of faith and spiritual passion? Great Christians live out their faith with purpose. In Mark 10:43, Jesus says, whoever wants to become great among you must - what? You'll explore the idea that there are certain practices available to every believer, at every maturity level, to move us from good to great, in God's Eyes. ACSI approvedMore from this series
Did you ever wonder why God uses some people more than others? Two people – let’s say they both have the same IQ. They both know the same amount of the Bible. They both come from the same kinds of homes. Why is it that God uses some people a lot more than He uses others? Why is it, when you talk with some people, there’s a sense that, when they pray, that God is answering vivid, specific prayers, and they have these amazing stories of supernatural things that occurred? I think, over time, we think, Well, they must be in a special category, and I’m just a regular Christian.
I want to suggest that every Christian’s life is marked by windows of opportunity that demand a radical step of faith in order to follow Christ, and fulfill His agenda for their life. We’re going to get down to why God, in fact, uses some people way more than others, and you’re going to find, it’s not because they know more. It’s not because of the kind of home they came from, necessarily.
Listen carefully. Every Christian, your life is marked by windows of opportunity that demand that you take a radical step of faith in order to follow Christ, and fulfill His purposes for your life. And what makes that step radical is that they always involve significant risk.
There are little times where God is going to bring an opportunity – and it may be in your marriage, it may be in your career, it may be with regard to your finances, it may be in regard to a relationship, and there’s a little window, and He’s going to say, In order to obey Me, in order to follow Me, in order to do exactly what I want you to do, this is what you need to do in this situation.
And everything in you is fearful, Oh boy, if I do that – God, surely You don’t want me to do that. And it’s this little window of opportunity, and it takes a radical step. And the reason it’s radical is because you say to yourself, You know what? If this doesn’t work out, this relationship could fall apart. If I do that, I would be leaving all my family back here, and our family is going to move to this new place. If I do that, that may ruin my career possibilities in the future. If I do that, I won’t be able to pay my bills in three months. God, You don’t want me to make a radical step with my finances?
But listen carefully, where there is no risk, there is no faith. Mark that one down. Where there is no risk, there is no faith. And where there is no faith, there is no power. And where there is no faith, there is no joy. And where there is no faith, there’s no intimacy with God. And where there is no faith, there aren’t those supernatural miracles. And where there is no faith, there is no reward. And get this one down: Where there is no faith, there is no pleasing of God. Think of that.
In fact, where there is no faith, what you do get is hollow, religious activity, moralistic rules, and dead orthodoxy. And the reason a lot of kids growing up today, and a lot of you went through some very difficult times, is that, in many, many organizations, and in many, many churches, they can run nice programs, and they can talk about God, but, over time, it becomes religious activity, and the focus is on, “Do this. Don’t do that. Do this. Don’t do that.” Lots of rules.
But there’s not power. There’s not the presence of God. There are not supernatural, vivid miracles occurring. There’s not this sense that God is moving. People’s lives aren’t changing.
Because I’ve got news for you: You can actually pastor a church without faith. And you can run all the programs, and you can have people meet, so you have activities, and meetings, and mornings, and committees, and Bible reading, and hollow prayer meetings. But without faith, it’s impossible to please God. And without faith, there is no power. And without faith, there is no reward. And without faith, God isn’t pleased.
And so, we’re going to talk about what is a common denominator of great Christians. Great Christians think great thoughts. Great Christians read great books. Great Christians pray great prayers, and dream great dreams. And one thing great Christians do: All through Scripture, as you go through this Book, you will find, whether it’s Moses, or David, or Esther, or Deborah, or Peter, or Paul, God brings windows of opportunity, and each one of them took a radical step of faith.
And that radical step of faith meant that if God didn’t show up, Peter was going to fall through the waves. If God didn’t show up when Paul returned, after persecuting the Church, he was going to die. If God didn’t show up, Esther was going to knock on the door, and the king, instead of holding up the scepter, would have said, “Sorry, Esther.”
Every person’s life that is greatly used by God, that experiences God in powerful ways, takes great risks. Great risks. How in the world do you live out a life of great risks, when, down deep in our heart, you’re human? There are some of you with a personality – you have bungee jumped. You have jumped out of an airplane. Your portfolio is all the high-risk stocks, and the idea of bonds just sort of nauseates your stomach. You want to take great risks. But for most people, risks are scary.
God’s calling on our lives, if you want to be a great Christian, it always demands we take great risks. Now, what I want to do is, I want to prove that, from Scripture. I want to give you some Old Testament examples, and I want to give you some New Testament examples. I want you to see that this isn’t something that superstars do. I want you to see, this is the normal Christian life.
Let’s look at the Old Testament. Old Testament examples of great risk takers: Abram. I call him “Abram,” because he wasn’t Abraham until after he believed. What does he do? He leaves his home, his land, and his family. Would that be scary? When we read in the Bible, “And Abraham went out from…”
I’ll tell you what, it wasn’t like that for him. He had a home. He had a family. He had security. An invisible God, gives him a voice and says, “Abraham, I want you to leave this, and I want you to go.” “Where do You want me to go?” “I’ll let you know later.” He took a risk. He believed that the invisible promises of God were more real than the visible reality that he lived in. He leaves.
Or take Moses: He returns to his home to deliver God’s people. Can you imagine the risk that he felt? The last time he was in Egypt, he had killed someone, and they had a contract out on him – “Reward for Moses: Dead or Alive.”
Forty years later, God says, “Moses, I want you to deliver My people. You had the right idea. You did it in the wrong way. I want you to go back.” And he’s going, “What? You’re kidding.” And then, when he does go back, instead of being greeted with, “Oh, we’re so glad you’re here,” what happens? He took a great risk, and, early on, it didn’t look very good.
Or you take David: He fights a giant that others refuse to face. Yes, he’s young. Yes, he’s idealistic. But there were hundreds of other people in the army that looked at that giant, about nine feet tall, and they said, “Hmm, yes, he’s sure insulting God’s name and character, and I wish someone would do something about it.” But not a single person stepped up to the plate and took the risk of his life.
I think there were probably a lot of guys that had learned to use a slingshot in Israel. In fact, they were adept at it. But it wasn’t his accuracy with a slingshot. It was his heart that said, “You can’t talk about my God that way.” And so, he took a radical step of faith. He put his life on the line, and he didn’t even do it in someone else’s armor. He had to do it the way God made him. And he stepped up, and a giant fell, and the rest is history.
Or, finally, Esther: She confronts evil in the highest position of authority. And we read through that, and we think, Oh yeah, that was really great. She was a beautiful woman. You’ve got to remember the culture. It was easy to get a new wife back then. The guy’s got a harem of hundreds of women, and when he didn’t like – remember the last queen? She had a bad day, and she’s gone. And so, Esther, she risks her life to save her people.
The point I want to make is, all through the Old Testament, what you find is great risk is a part of radical steps of faith. And if, for some reason, you think, Well, maybe that was the Old Testament, and God’s economy has changed, let’s look at New Testament risk takers.
Peter. We read through those gospels, and it seems so natural. And Jesus is walking on the beach, and he says to Peter, “Follow Me, and I’ll make you fishers of men.” And Peter drops his nets, and follows Him, and we think, Oh that’s a nice story. We go onto the next verse: Peter’s dad is thinking, Wait a second, Pete. You’re going to do what? What do you mean? I’ve been building this business. And James and John, they dropped their nets. And Peter’s wife – later, we learn he’s married – she’s going, “Hey, honey, what’s this deal with this itinerate preacher? What do you mean you’re going to be gone from home for weeks at a time?”
Peter left his security. Peter left his financial base. Peter confronted his fears. Peter confronted the status quo of a religious establishment that said, “Anyone who follows this itinerate Rabbi Preacher is going to be cast out of the synagogue.” You think that’s a radical step? You think that’s risky? You better believe it is.
Or Paul returns to those he sought to kill, to obey God’s call on his life. Remember the Damascus Road? He comes to Christ. Then, he preaches, very briefly, and then they lower him in a basket. And then, remember, he goes back, and the apostles – he’s been killing them. He was not a welcome visitor. If it wasn’t for Barnabas, they would have not even seen him. And then, after he goes back and meets the apostles, and confronts that, then he returns, and God gives him this little time in Arabia, where He does, apparently, some very personal counseling to prepare him for his ministry.
And then, there’s a time of waiting, and Paul returns – are you ready? – to Tarsus. Guess where Tarsus is. That’s where he grew up. He was a Roman citizen. He was wealthy. He was taught by the supreme of the supreme rabbis, Gamaliel. And for a period of years, he lived in the city where everyone’s thinking, Paul, you’re a fool. You’ve learned under the best rabbi, and now you’re a follower of this sect? You see, sometimes, risk means leaving. Sometimes, risk means returning.
The third example is Jairus. He fights the religious status quo, and lays his reputation and career on the line to seek help for his daughter. You would be cast out of the synagogue. This isn’t just a Jew. Here’s a leader of the synagogue. And he takes his career – he’s going to ask help of this Man named Jesus. The religious leaders have already said, “Anybody who messes around with this guy named Jesus, you’re out of here.” But he’s desperate, and he’s heard His words, and he believes His promises, and he’s seen His power, and he takes all of his life, and he puts it, literally, you know those poker things that they have on TV now? It used to be, like, ESPN; now it’s the Travel Channel. You can watch poker on four stations, and they’re all playing this Texas Hold ‘Em. What’s the big moment? What do they do? “I’m all in.”
You know what a radical step of faith is? It’s saying to God, I’m all in. I’m all in with me and my family. I’m all in with me and my finances. I’m all in with me and my future. I’m all in with my reputation. Lord, I’m all in.
And what do you know? When they push those chips to the middle of the table, they start dealing the cards, and there’s great risk, and there’s great reward. And what you find is that Jairus said he’s all in.
And then, you have the woman with the issue of blood. And if we had time to study it, when she reaches out and touches His garment, she violates so many cultural norms. A woman reaching out, touching a man, a very private culture. And then, remember what it was? She was trembling with fear. And then, Jesus begins to question what’s going on. Even in our day, but can you imagine in that day? And she’s going to explain, “Well, I sort of had a female issue, and I’ve experienced a healing.” There’s such humility. There’s such a radical step of faith.
But I think, behind it, is her sense that – what? She had expended all of her money; she had tried everything else. She’s desperate.
Radical steps of faith often aren’t taken because you come to some noble, godly moment in your life, where you want to be God’s man, or God’s woman. God often brings these windows of opportunity at times where you are desperate, and you don’t know anywhere or anyway to go. And what you think is for bad, God means for good.
And He causes you to say, You know what? I want you to take a new job. I want you to deal with this marriage issue. I want you to go to counseling. I want you – yes, I really do. I want you to take this amount of money that has become your security, and I want you to give it away. I want you to stop what you’re doing, and I want you to get your family around the table, and talk about the real issues. I want you to own your stuff, and face that addiction.
And I mean to tell you, it is people who take a radical step of faith that God greatly uses. And the reason most of us don’t is radical steps of faith are risky – very, very risky.
There are a couple of observations I’d like to make. Number one is pretty obvious: Faith involves risk. Right? And number two, risk looks very different in different people’s lives. If you think of risk or faith, we always think it’s stepping out. But from those examples, sometimes risk means you leave. And for some of you, God may say, You know what? That’s an unhealthy relationship. Or, That’s not the right place for you, and you need to leave.
But for others, risk is what? It means you return. It means you face the broken relationship with a mom or a dad, or an ex-mate, or with one of your kids. And for others, it means you fight. Like David, you step up and fight. And for others, it’s confront. And you either confront someone else, or, like the woman, you confront your own issues, at a very deep level. And so, we’ve got to be careful of thinking that faith is always something “out there.” Radical steps of faith, what they have in common is God’s clearly defined will, and they always involve risk.
The other observation is, what I’ve observed is that all great risk takers have three things in common. And this is very encouraging. And I wish you could see your face right now. And this is good. God is speaking. When I look at faces, and the brows that are going, Oh man, should I leave? Should I go? Boy, you are messing with my mind today. I just wanted to hear God’s Word, and my mind – that’s God. Don’t fight it.
Here’s the thing that risk takers have in common: number one is fear. Does that help you? Those emotions that you’re feeling and thinking, risk takers all have – they fear what might happen. People who take great risks – Esther, she wasn’t at the door, going, “Okay. Come on, come on, come on. I’ve got to go talk to the king. Got to get this done, because I get my hair done at two thirty.” She was scared to death.
Peter didn’t drop his nets and go, “Oh, this isn’t a big deal.” Barnabas didn’t go back to his hometown. That woman, it says she was trembling with fear. Fear and faith are not antithetical. I will tell you, at least my personal experience, the greatest steps of faith I’ve ever taken, I was scared to death.
The greatest thing that’s said, the most common thing said in the Old and New Testament – get out your concordance. Or, now, you can do it on computer. Find the little phrase, “Fear not,” or “Be not afraid.” And what you’ll see is, what God says to His people, through angels, or directly, more than any other thing, is, “Fear not. Fear not. Fear not.” Why? Because we’re afraid. It’s okay to be afraid. It’s not okay to allow your fear to paralyze you from taking the step of faith.
The second thing that risk takers have is, not only are they afraid, they have faith to step out, in spite of their fear. They do it. They’re afraid, but they do it. The last part is very encouraging is they not only have fear, and faith, but they have favor – God’s reward, and God’s blessing on their life.
We often quote the first half of Hebrews 11:6: “Without faith it’s impossible to please God.” Right? That’s true. And then, it explains a little bit about what faith is as that verse goes on, “For he that comes to God must believe two things.” And on this one, we usually quote the first half of it, and, like some verses, you memorize part of it, and that last part may not be that important. The last part’s really important: “Without faith it’s impossible to please God, and he that comes to God must believe two things: one, that He exists.” You actually live your life as though an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving, compassionate God actually exists, and cares about you. But the second is, “...and that He richly rewards those who diligently seek Him.”
Do you believe in a God that, instead of His arms crossed, and is down on you, that He literally is like that parent on the edge of the pool, saying to the child, “Come on, honey, jump. Jump. Come on, jump in. I want you to experience the water. There’s a whole new world here.” God is saying to many of us, Take the step. Jump. I want to reward you. I want to reveal Myself. The reason God uses some people more than He uses others is, some people take a radical step of faith. And when you take a step of faith, it pleases the heart of God.
Read the gospels with new eyes. Get a cup of coffee. Get up really early one morning. Or, if you’re a night owl, stay up late. And start in Matthew, and read as fast as you can, only looking for the word faith – and read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It’s a short novel. And just look for only one thing.
And you know what you’ll find? Jesus has one agenda. The only time He ever gets upset with the disciples is – what? Their lack of faith. And the one thing He’s teaching them, the number one agenda, is, “I want you to trust Me – My character, and My word.” And faith is simply doing what God tells you to do, whether you feel like it or not – and in fact, especially when you don’t feel like it – regardless of the circumstances, because He said it, and His word is true.
Great risk takers always have fear, but they operate in faith, and then they experience God’s favor. And the reason people who experience God’s favor is not because they’re better, or smarter, or often know more of the Bible, or come from a better home than you, or don’t have baggage. I think God put these people in Scripture on purpose. I thought I had baggage and I didn’t grow up reading the Bible. When I read through the New Testament, and the Old Testament, I thought, Man, I thought I had a dysfunctional family. Jacob, these people have got real problems! But isn’t it hopeful? Isn’t that neat? If He can use these people, He can use us.
Question for you: Where do you sense God is challenging you to step out in faith? Where do you sense, as I have been talking, as the Spirit of God has been using those examples – where is it, in your life, that you feel maybe that not-so-gentle voice, not-that-small voice? Where is it that you feel, as I was just rattling off – it might be in a relationship. It might be geographically. It might be in your job. It might be in your finances. It might be in your security. It might be – which one of those things resonated in your heart, and you’re thinking of yourself? Would you just jot that on the bottom of your page for you?
Because the key in life, as we come to God in Scripture, is not to get more Bible knowledge; it’s to apply what we know. Life change never occurs as a result of knowing more and more and more. Life change is always a function of acting on what we know. Jesus said, “If you respond to the light, the truth that I give you, I’ll give you more light. If you do not respond to the light or the truth that I give you about your life, even what you have will be taken away.” That’s why it’s a scary thing to be under the teaching of God’s Word, and to be in the Bible, in the sense that we’re held accountable. It’s even more scary not to be in the Bible, and to be ignorant of the truth, knowing that God will hold us accountable for truth.
Well, let me propose something. If, in fact, God is about, in every single person’s life, if He really is bringing little windows of opportunity in your life, and mine, and your life is really going to be determined by how you respond to these windows of opportunity that require a radical step of faith, and if that radical step of faith is going to require risk, here’s the question I’d like to ask: How can ordinary people like me and you become great risk takers?
Even some of us whose personalities are, what you had for breakfast in 1973 is what you have for breakfast now. “Why change it? It’s good. I like it.” Two eggs over easy, whole wheat toast. Or it’s oatmeal, with just a little bit of this, and a little bit of brown sugar. Or you always buy your coffee at the same place. There are some people that do not like risk. But I will tell you, that is not one of the options in the Christian life. And we don’t like risk because change is scary, and there are security issues. And God understands. But where there is no risk, there is no faith. And here’s the question: So, how could we become great risk takers?
What God is going to say to you is, number one, you need to refocus your fear. He doesn’t say that you don’t have fear. He’s going to say that you need to refocus your fear. He’s going to say, you need to rejuvenate your faith. And then, you need to recall His faithfulness.
End of Hebrews 10, and all of 11, that’s basically all He’s going to say. If you want to become a great risk taker, refocus your fear, rejuvenate your faith, and then recall His faithfulness. And when you do that, you’ll gradually, progressively become a great risk taker. And what we know is, this is a practice that all great Christians have in common.
So, let’s jump in. Refocus your fear – Hebrews 10, beginning at verse 38. Follow along as I read. The context is a group of people that are averse to risk. In fact, they’re so averse to risk – is they’ve accepted Jesus. The name of the book is Hebrews, right? For Hebrew Christians. They’re born-again Christians, following Jesus, but they’re Hebrew Christians. And they have found Jesus as the Messiah. He’s wonderfully changed their life. And they’re beginning to walk with Him, and things are going really, really well. And persecution comes. And the price tag for following Jesus is getting higher and higher and higher and higher.
And so, there are some people, they’re called Judaizers, they’re coming around and saying, “I’ll tell you what. Part of that Jesus stuff is okay, but what you really need to do is come back into Judaism, and be a Jew first, and follow all these rules. And if you can fly under the radar as a Jew, then you don’t get all this persecution.”
And the writer of Hebrews is talking about how God feels about people that want to sink, or slink, back into religiosity, and moralism, and hollow religious activity, as opposed to living by faith.
Listen to what God says in verse 38 of chapter 10: “But My righteous one will live by” – circle the word faith. That’s the only way. That is the organ of relationship with God. “‘My righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.’ But we are not those who shrink back and are destroyed, but those who believe and are saved.”
Well, what exactly is faith, if it’s that important? Verse 1 of chapter 11: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Faith is operating on the reality of, “I am certain.” When I hope for, and the word hope, in Scripture, isn’t like how we use it: “I hope it’s going to be a sunny day.” And, “I hope the stock market goes up.” No, no. That’s wishful thinking.
Hope is, there is something out in the future that is a guaranteed thing, that will happen for sure, and I’m going to live in my present temporal reality in light of that hope that is sure. So, faith is being sure, or certain, of what’s hoped for, and it’s a certainty of what you cannot see.
And then, notice, “This is what the ancients were commended for.” It wasn’t that they made all the sacrifices on time, in all the right ways. It was their faith. He says, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” So, even a cursory reading of this, it gets very obvious. Number one, the righteous person is going to live by faith. People who are unwilling to take a radical step of faith/risk do not please God as they shrink back.
And then, he goes on to say, “What is faith?” Faith is living with this reality: The invisible. God’s promise is certain to us. In the past, that is exactly what God commended. And by the way, first example – because what’s the object of your faith? Who are you going to believe in? Then, he says, “By faith” – what? – “we understand that the universe” – just so you get it down – “the universe was formed.”
There was this infinite, eternal Being, before time, self-existent, who spoke words. And as He spoke – and He didn’t expend one tiny, little aspect of energy in doing it – He spoke, and two billion galaxies came into existence. Whoo. And then, we have this one little thing called the Milky Way, with two billion stars in it. And then, inside of it, this tiny, little solar system called ours. And then, inside of that, this little thing called a planet called Earth. And on it, this tiny little dot called you. And you, in this whole thing of all eternity is, that little dot called you, has something so microscopic, called time, and you live in that, and you are just a breath of vapor.
God created all of that, and He says, “That’s who I want you to believe in.” The God who speaks, and a universe comes into existence, is the God who says, “I am with you always,” the God who says, Confront the issue in your marriage. “You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.” The God who says to you, I want you freed from your greed, and your security. Give liberally. The tithe – great start. I want you to give liberally. I want you to believe in Me. “I can supply all your needs according to My riches and glory by Christ Jesus.” I want you to face the addiction. I want you to understand that – you know something? “No temptation has taken you but such as is common to man.” But with the temptation, I will provide a way of escape that you, you can be delivered.” So, they say, “This is the key. This is the kind of God.”
And you might be saying to yourself, Well, Chip, why did you call this “Refocus Your Fear?” Here’s my theory on this is I think we’re always going to be afraid. I just have decided, I think I’d rather be afraid of God, than afraid of people. Great risk takers fear the loss of God’s favor more than the loss of people, or things. And the reason I don’t take risks, and the reason many of you don’t take risks, is, you’re afraid of losing people, and you’re afraid of losing things, and you’re afraid of losing security.
But you know what? I can keep my wife happy when God wants me to do something, or I can keep conflict at a minimum in the home if I don’t do something, or I can make myself feel like I’m secure, when God has tapped me on the shoulder when He wants me to let loose of something, because of what other people would think. And if I please them, I don’t please God.
Or I can fear God – sort of a novel concept in our day, but it’s pretty biblical. “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” And wisdom is how to do life God’s way. It’s a skill. That’s what it means. The Hebrew word for wisdom, it’s: how to do, how to understand how God has put life together, and how to cooperate, and do priorities, and relationships, and money – everything – His way. Wisdom, in a life that honors Him.
I remember reading an article, I’m reading a book, The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham. And I came across a section of it that really struck me. You’ve got to go back to the 1950s, and remember what was happening, racially, in this country: the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. And as Billy’s ministry was really beginning to grow, and they had the big L.A. movement that occurred. So, in northern places, and in California, he was speaking to mixed audiences of whites and blacks. And then, when he went into the South, it was segregated audiences. And the reporters were asking him, “Billy, why are you doing this?”
And key people around Billy – I’m sure they were good-hearted people; a lot has changed in the last fifty or sixty years – said, “Billy, you know, in the South, you’ve got to speak to the blacks, and you’ve got to speak to the whites. You can’t have them mixed together because you’ll lose your base. The people that are financing your ministry, and your reputation, and...don’t go there. Don’t get involved in all of this.”
And pick up the story; it’s really good. “At first Graham tried to carve a middle ground that opposed both forced integration as well as forced segregation. But, over time, it became such a hot issue that Graham could no longer find any middle ground. And they asked him – reporters – over and over why he would never address racism in his messages in the South. Billy chose to make a stand in the heart of the segregated South. He initially agreed to segregate the audience during his 1952 campaign in Jackson, Mississippi, but rejected Governor Hugh White’s suggestion to conduct separate meetings for blacks.”
All the blacks, or African Americans, were on one side, all the whites were on the other side, and you had a rope down the middle. Very interesting. You talk about a radical step of faith.
But rejecting Governor Hugh White’s suggestion, he says, “Meanwhile, Billy prepared to make a much bolder statement. Holding segregated events had always struck him as wrong, but he’d never chosen to take a decisive action – until now. Walking toward the ropes that separated blacks and whites, Billy tore them down. Mystified and uncomfortable ushers tried to put the ropes back up. Billy personally stopped them.
“This symbolic, powerful gesture marked a major ministry watershed. He never again led a crusade with a segregated audience. Graham then got up and said, ‘There is no Scriptural basis for segregation. It may be there in places, there may be places where it’s desirable for both races, but certainly not in the Church,” Graham told his Mississippi audience. “The ground at the cross is level, and it touches my heart when I see whites standing shoulder to shoulder with blacks at the cross.”
And you know what? An awful lot of what we experience now – and we still have a long way to go – is because Graham took a radical step of faith, and he and Martin Luther King, Jr. faced some issues that they got incredible flack for, with huge risk.
And so, you say, “Well, so, why does God use some people more than others?” Because at critical windows in Graham’s ministry, and in his life, God said, I want you to take a radical step of faith. And the moment he went and pulled down those ropes, he knew his whole ministry could fall apart. His financial base could be gone. So, he either is going to fear God, or he’s going to fear man.
Question: Who do you fear? Who do you fear? And what makes you so afraid of what they think? And what makes you think that doing things God’s way, instead of what you think might happen if you don’t do it His way, will make such a difference?
The second thing we need to do is rejuvenate our faith. The writer of Hebrews goes on, and let me read verses 4, 5, and 6, and just make a point of each. It goes on, now, and develops this: “By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.”
Moving on. So, you get this first story about faith. It’s Abel, and he talks about an offering. And then, verse 5: “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so he didn’t experience death; he couldn’t be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.”
So these first two examples about radical steps of faith are kind of interesting. One guy comes and gives an offering, and another guy has this relationship with God, where God says, “I don’t want you to die. I think I’ll take you right now.”
And then, the third one, it says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
I just want to make a couple brief observations. The first is, if you want to rejuvenate your faith, start with the little things. Start with the little things. It’s not this big thing over here. And you know what the little thing is? Isn’t it interesting? Why would God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, when He talks about faith, the very first opportunity to talk about it, He talks about finances? He talks about finances.
One of the quickest, easiest ways to rejuvenate your faith is – what you find is, Jesus was really clear, wasn’t He? “You can either worship mammon” – money, materialism, security – “or Me.” Option A, option B – no middle ground. Right?
You are all looking at me like you’ve never heard that verse before. Okay? Matthew 6 – you can read it for yourself. I’m not making this stuff up. Okay? And then, in Luke 16, we have this very interesting parable that Jesus tells, about money. And then, in verse 10 of Luke 16, He says, “He who is faithful in a very little thing” – speaking of finances, or money – “will be faithful also in much. But he who is unfaithful in a little thing” – money – “will be unrighteous also in much.”
Translation: “If you can’t trust Me with your money in the spiritual game of life, you’re not out of the batter’s box. You’re barely on the on-deck circle. You’re not on first base, rounding second, rounding third.” You may be a believer, you may love God, you may go to church regularly, you may lift your hands when you worship, you may have ooey-gooey feelings about God, but if He doesn’t have your treasure, He doesn’t have your heart.
If you want to rejuvenate your faith, God deserves the first, and the best. Minimum is the tithe. The first ten percent – one hundred percent belongs to Him. The first ten percent you give regularly, just to remind you that one hundred percent belongs to Him, and then, the ninety percent you’re held morally accountable for, and then, you ask God. He says if He gives you a lot – like, if you’re an American, or an executive, or have a good life, Well, then, I expect you to proportionally give over and above that, over time, and test Me and see how powerful I am. I did speak, and the universe came into existence. Like I can’t take care of you financially?
The average evangelical believer in America gives two point five percent of their income. And they’re just standing before God, screaming, I think You created the universe. I love You, Jesus. I think You can forgive my sin. I think You’re taking me to heaven. I want You to provide for all my family. But I’ll tell You what, I don’t think You’re big enough to handle my money – ooh, sorry, I mean, Your money entrusted to me. I don’t believe You. I just don’t believe You.
And God says, Okay. I accept that. Then I will remove My blessing, and you work out your life, with your resources. This whole point was – I don’t need your money. My whole point of giving was, I wanted to cultivate your faith.
And the quickest, easiest, most clear way to see God work in supernatural ways is when you give, wondering where it’s going to come from, and you watch Him supply. A lot of Christians have never experienced that. So, if you want to rejuvenate your faith, start with your finances.
The second way to rejuvenate your faith is by pondering big things. You need to start with little things, but ponder big things. And this is one of those stories I really wish I could spend more time on. Enoch is such a cool story. There’s very little information, but it is a very cool story.
And I ask myself, I don’t know, when you do Bible study, or when I’m reading Scripture, when I come across something that I think, That’s odd. And then, I go to, That’s weird, to, I wonder why that’s here, to, I have no idea. I don’t understand this. Is this how you read the Bible, as well? I hope.
And I’m thinking – there are a lot of examples. And here, he’s giving: this is the Hall of Fame of faith. This is about how to really walk with God. And He starts with Abel, money, and then He goes to Enoch: “And he pleased God.” And I’m thinking, Lord, I don’t want to tell you how to write your Book, but I think I could come up with a lot better ones than Enoch.
And then, you go back into Genesis, and you say, “Well, what was it about Enoch?” And he’s just in one of those genealogies, right? “So-and-so begot so-and-so, that begot so-and-so, that begot so-and-so, and he lived a hundred years.” And you skip through that rather quickly. And then, you hit Enoch, and then it says, “And Enoch had a son, and after that, Enoch walked with God.” And then, the last, and then we learn, “And he so pleased God, after that God took him.” And then, you get it.
See, something, Enoch was doing life. Enoch had a lot of emails to return. Enoch had a lot of voicemails. Enoch had a lot of pressure. Enoch had to make a living. Enoch had to prove himself. Enoch was blowing and going. He lived a long time there. He had time to make a lot happen. And then, he had a son. And he saw life, and he saw birth, and he realized, life is about relationships.
And you know what? When they stick you in the box, everything you earned, everything you gained – a hundred years from now, no one knows your name. The only thing you ever, ever leave is the people you touch, and the people you love. And, apparently, Enoch pondered big things. Enoch had this experience where, because of the birth of his son, he realized what really mattered.
And I wonder how many people, if the Lord doesn’t return, and the clock ticks twenty years ahead, will be sitting alone, because you’re so busy with stuff that relationships really haven’t had the priority, in your own home, and with your children, with your grandchildren, with friends.
See, if you want to rejuvenate your faith, you first start and say, Well, okay, God. You know what? Let me get my wallet out here, and look at my finances, and my security, and I’m going to take a radical step.
And second, God, I want to ponder what matters. Why do I get up when I get up? Why do I go where I go? Why is the to-do list on this to-do list? What really matters in my life? And I think I’d better invest in the things that are going to last forever.
And then the third is not just the little things, or pondering the big things, it’s remembering the main thing. The main thing is pleasing God. Without faith, it’s impossible to please God! I think we think, unconsciously – and it’s sort of in the air, and in the culture. We think, If I can get my morals straight, get my family in line; if I’m single, if I can finally get married; if I can find the right person, and, they say if I fill out all those forms, someday, some way, I can find that right person.
And then, I’ll go on a mission trip, God. Ooh. Ooh. What do You think about that? And I’ll get all these things right. And then, I’m going to get my life to work, so I’m fulfilled and happy, and everything is pictured just like in my mind. And I’ll stop doing these things, and I’ll start doing these things. And I’m sorry. And I can’t keep all the rules, but You’ve got to understand some. And we just think, somehow, the goal of life is that our life works out wonderfully. Bzzzz! – wrong.
The goal of life is to please God. And you can read your Bible, and you can go to church, and you can be involved in ministries, and you can volunteer at the hospital, with no risk. Am I saying those things are wrong? Absolutely not. What I’m saying is just what the Bible says here: “Without faith, it’s impossible to please God.” And where there is no risk, there is no faith. There may be religious activity, maybe a nice moral person, maybe doing some good things. I’ve got news for you: There are cults all over America that are really nice people, that make great commercials, that emphasize the family, and they’re not pleasing God. Because faith is what pleases God. And to please God, you must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
The summary here is, great risk takers see faith as a verb, and not as a noun. We think of it – faith, I have faith. I believe. But when you read this passage, what you realize, it’s a verb. Do you have the kind of faith – Abel gives. Noah builds. Abraham leaves. Daniel prays. Isaac submits. Sarah waits. Faith is an action. Faith is, God, You said this. There’s the chasm. I’m afraid. I’m going to take the step. It’s an action to put into practice what Your Word says, based on Your character. You want to be a great risk taker you’ve got to refocus your fear, and get more afraid of God than you are of people and things.
And then, you have to rejuvenate your faith by saying, Okay. Here’s my money. That’ll get it started. I want to think on the things that are really big: relationships. And then, God, I want to please You. I don’t know if my life’s going to work out all perfect, and nice, and wonderful. That’s what they say in American Christianity is the goal, but I read the end of Hebrews chapter 11, and there are some people that You said so pleased You that the world wasn’t even worthy of them. But, You know what? They didn’t receive what was promised. Their life didn’t work out wonderful. They didn’t see the city. Some were sawed in two. Some were hiding in caves. Some lived lives of intense suffering.
And they brought You holy pleasure because they were great risk takers. And for all eternity, and ever and ever and ever and ever, the God who spoke the world into existence will be honored by them. And they will experience You, and have experienced You, and glorified Your name in ways than group of people that were trying to use You to get You to be their self-help genie, to make their life work out.
The final thing is that we need to refocus our fear, and then rejuvenate our faith. But we need to recall God’s faithfulness. I don’t have time to go through this, but verses 7 through 40 – the rest of the chapter – this is for you and a great cup of sweet tea, Diet Coke, coffee, or water with lemon. I don’t know what your drink of choice is, where you put up your feet, and just read, really slow, verses 7 through 40 of Hebrews chapter 11, and you recall God’s faithfulness.
You ever wonder why that chapter is so long? What’s he really doing? Noah saves the human race. Abraham – it’s scary, but he gets his own nation. Sarah, ninety years old, gets a child. Not bad for a ninety-year-old woman. Why? Because she went from laughter to believing. Moses delivers God’s people. Daniel is delivered from the lion’s den. Jericho – the walls fall down. Rahab goes from prostitute to hero. David becomes a king.
But it doesn’t start, stop at the end of Hebrews 11. Church history, and your life, and my life, the goal is that names just keep getting added. And God brings little windows of opportunity to you, and to me, with our money, our families, our ministry, our security, our jobs.
And He says, This is what it looks like to trust Me. Would you take a radical step of faith? Would you risk? And the only way to risk in the future is by recalling His faithfulness. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a lot of demands in my life, and I get afraid. And so, other than reading God’s Word every day – you know why I read God’s Word every day? I get up in the morning, and I read it first. I need to remember that He’s been faithful to all these people, and He promises to be faithful to me. Because left to myself, I forget that.
And then, the second thing I do is, I take all those crazy fears that I have, nearly every morning, and I list them, and think, Oh, I don’t know about this, and I don’t know about this, and I don’t know about this. And, literally, I just write down numbers.
And then, after I write down these in my journal, then I say, Lord, I can’t handle this. I want to give these to You. Show me what the step looks like. What does it look like to trust God? What a great question to ask God every day: What does it look like to trust You today, in this meeting, with this decision, with this person, in this video, in whatever You want me to do?
And, often, when God wants to do something broader through you, He will take you, after your radical step of faith, to a deeper time with Him. And suffering creates dependency. And pain brings an aspect of a purity, and a purifying of your motives, that nothing else can do.
And then, what does He promise? He rewards those who diligently seek Him. And you know what, guys? I think a lot of men, especially – especially men who really love God, and want to serve their wives and families – I think a little thing happens, over time, where we get into wanting to please our wives and please our family more than God. And I think every now and then, God will tap you on the shoulder, and I think He’ll say, You know what? Could we reestablish who the real Lord of your life is?
And every decision I’ve ever made, we’ve been in agreement. And God made it very clear I was to do this. And my wife said, “I don’t have any verses not to go. I don’t have any reasons not to go. I just don’t want to go. Okay? If you, I will trust you. If you believe it’s God,” but we were always together on this. “Just know, I don’t want to go.” I’ve lived with her for a while, okay? Her not wanting to go – this is not going to be like we decide to go, and everything’s going to be okay. We’re going to work through this for a while. And I’ll never forget, it was one of those, “Do you fear God, or do you fear man?”
But God’s reward, God’s grace, God’s love for you never is realized until you take the radical step of faith. And the radical step of faith means you will be afraid, and there’s risk.
And, so, here’s my question: What does that look like in your life? Your next step, what would it look like for you to take a radical step of faith? Is there something or someone God wants you to leave, or break off, aligning with Scripture? Is there something or someone you need to return to, and make right? Is there something or someone that you need to confront in another person, or in yourself? And is there something or someone that you need to step up and fight for, and not worry what people think, or the implications? God is looking for great Christians. Great Christians take great risks.