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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
“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.”
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.
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 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.