God specializes in using ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Okay? God specializes. He loves to do it. He’s an expert at it. The pages of Scripture are filled with ordinary people. Fishermen, prostitutes, people that are uneducated, people that other people reject. And God specializes in taking ordinary, regular people of average intelligence and average gift and marred backgrounds and doing something extraordinary so that when the extraordinary happens, they realize it’s not the person but it’s God.
For some of you who think a little bit differently, let me state it negatively. Our limitations are not prohibitions to God using our lives but our limitations are the very platform on which God uses to display His grace. Most of us spend so much of our life, “I can’t do that because of…” “I’m not smart enough, I don’t have the training, I’m not bold enough, I’m not courageous enough, I don’t know the Bible well enough, I have…” The list goes on.
God specializes in taking that very limitation and making it the platform where He shows His greatness and His glory and His grace.
But for that to happen, for ordinary people, people like the person who is roughly not sitting to your left or to your right, but the ordinary person, if you look straight down, who is in your seat.
For an extraordinary thing to happen through an ordinary person like the person who happens to be sitting in your seat, something has to happen. Something has to happen.
In fact, it’s God primary agenda for every single person in this room. And it centers around one, simple, profound thing that has to happen in every single believer’s life.
And I want you to know, it’s not dependent on your intelligence, it’s not dependent on your education, your giftedness, your background, your wealth, or your personality. This one thing is available to every believer of every age without partiality.
This one thing is what separates religious people from people who revolutionize the world. This one thing can transform the most mundane and ordinary of our world into people who transform and shape and make history.
This one thing is what God commends. Every time it pops up in a person’s life, a person’s heart, in you, in me, in Scripture, He commends it. He values it.
This one thing, a hundred percent of the time, whenever the Spirit of God smells it in your heart and your life, it brings Him holy pleasure. Every time He finds it. This one thing is always rewarded by God. And this one thing is the basis upon which God evaluates your life at any given moment, in any given situation, and any circumstance, all the time. This one thing, He’s always asking. And He’s evaluating you and me.
And finally, this one thing is what God is seeking to develop and grow in your life more than any other thing.
Are you just about ready for me to say, “Ingram, would you stop with the introduction and tell me what the one thing is!” Right? This one thing is faith. It’s faith. What it takes for an ordinary person to do extraordinary things is one, simple thing: Faith. Believing God. I don’t mean intellectual ascent, I don’t mean agreeing with the Bible. I mean believing who God is and what He has said to the point that you act on it.
You act on it when you feel like it, you act on it when you don’t feel like it, you act on it when circumstances seem to lead and support it, you act on it when circumstances seem like it’s the dumbest thing in the world. Faith is believing God. It is the single most thing, He commends it, He rewards it, He takes pleasure in it.
Look at Scriptures. You are justified, how? By faith. You are to walk in the same manner in which you have received Him, which was by faith. We don’t walk by sight, but we walk by faith. Jesus said to a group of people, “This is the work of God, that you believe.”
Now, here’s what I’d like to do. I want to read one text and I want to give you an overview and the context of it. And then I want to give you seven ways to grow your faith. Seven object lessons so that I hope a year or two or three or four or five from now, even if you don’t remember any outlines, you’ll remember, “Let’s see, there was a Bible and a baseball glove and a 3x5 card,” and I’ll give you the rest later.
Open your Bibles, if you will, Hebrews chapter 10. This is a group of people who had done amazing things in their relationship with God and now they were up against some persecution and suffering and difficulty and they were shrinking back but they weren’t going back into the world. They were going back into being religious. They were moving away from grace, they were moving away from living by faith.
And so in chapter 10, toward the end, picking up the context at verse 32, the author says, “Remember those earlier days after you received the light? You remember, when you came to Christ? When you stood your ground and the great contest in the face of suffering? Sometimes you were publically exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were mistreated. You sympathized with those who were in prison and you,” are you ready for this? Here’s faith. “You joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had a better and lasting possession.”
He’s reminding them, “Where you were and the strong stands and how vibrant it is to be.” “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere or endure so that when you have done the will of God, you can receive what was promised. For, ‘In just a little while,’ speaking of Christ, ‘He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith.’”
By the way, this is not a New Testament concept. He is quoting Habakkuk. “My righteous one,” the people whose lives and hearts are aligned rightly with God are always aligned with it rightly on the basis of faith.
Now, look at the next verse very carefully. “And if he shrinks back, if she shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him or her.” What’s it mean to shrink back? To stop walking by faith; to withdraw; to just become religious; to just being moral, good Christian; to do just enough so that you don’t get too much abuse out there but there’s no risk, there’s not faith, there’s no following.
Then notice what he says, “But we are not those who shrink back and are destroyed, but those who believe and who are saved.” And then the familiar passage, but I wanted you to get the context. I wanted you, that’s the runway, and then the plane takes off and says, “Now, if it’s so important, if you do not please God if you’re not living by faith, and He takes no pleasure if you shrink back,” well then the author says, “Well, let me explain to you what faith really is.”
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” Example number one: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible.”
By faith, we believe God spoke and reality came into existence. He’s the source, He’s the Creator. Example number two, “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain. By faith he was,” getting the idea? “Commended as a righteous man. And by faith he still speaks, even though he’s dead.”
Illustration number three: “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 because he was taken, before he was,” you getting the idea here? “Commended as one who pleased God.” Why? Why were they all commended? They lived by faith.
And without faith it’s impossible. Not hard, not difficult, it’s impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to God must believe two things. First, that He exists and second, that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Example four: “By faith Noah, when warned about the things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
Final example for our time: “By faith Abraham, when called by God to a place he would later receive his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”
By faith, by faith, by faith: Isaac, Joseph, David, the whole chapter goes through men and women who lived by faith and flip to chapter 12. After this great litany of people, “Therefore,” what? “therefore,” here’s the application, “since we are surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses,” in other words, people who have lived by faith, “let us throw off everything that hinders.”
Anything that keeps you from living a life of faith, get rid of it. That’s what he says. And by the way, some things that hinder you and hinder me, they’re not even bad. They’re not even immoral. They’re often good. But they’re not the best.
I don’t know about you but you know those guys and gals who run the marathons? I’ve not seen a lot of them with backpacks. Have you? They have those super light shoes, those tiny, little, embarrassing shorts. They have stripped down because what they understand is they’re on a race. And anything that keeps them from going where they need to go, how they need to get there, they get rid of.
And God is saying that to us. And then He gets even more personal: “Throw off everything that makes us hindered and the sin that easily entangles us.” See, faith and sin, they don’t operate together. You gotta deal with the addiction, you gotta deal with the lust, you gotta deal with the time issue, you gotta deal with the money issue, you gotta deal with a lack of forgiveness issue.
Get rid of that which entangles and deal with the sin, get right with God and then notice what he says, “And let us run with perseverance or endurance.” Have you noticed how that keeps cropping up? It’s hard. It’s hard to live by faith. You’re a spiritual salmon swimming upstream. It’s always upstream. It’s difficult. It’s in the midst of opposition. Your flesh doesn’t want you to go there. The world tells you you’re a fool and the enemy is luring and tempting and trying to get you off course.
“But let us run the race with endurance, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of the faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.”
And why? For the joy set before Him He suffered now, delayed gratification, in order that He could have relationship with you, that you could, by faith, have relationship with Him and in relationship with Him, a process called “sanctification” would occur where He would so transform you from the inside out that a regular, ordinary person like you or me could be used by God to be a vehicle of grace to do literal miracles in the lives of others.
Now here’s what I want to say: That’s the will of God. You can come to church, you can read your Bible, you can give some money, you can be a nice person and you can be not living by faith. You can be in God’s family. You can be on your way to heaven.
I’ve had days, I’ve had weeks, I will confess, I’m sure I’ve had months in my life, as a pastor, that I wasn’t living by faith. I was trying to manage, I was reading the Bible, “Help me, God. Take care of this, take care of that.”
And out of my own energy, out of my own strength, trying to live the Christian life, but not necessarily living by faith. Not acting on and believing what God is has said based on who He is.
It is impossible to please God and your life can have no impact, nor can you bring joy to the Father unless you’re living by faith. The only time Jesus rebuked His disciples is when they failed to exercise faith.
Now, have we made the point that faith is important?
Question: How do you get faith? You ever think about that? How do you get it? My parting thank you is to give you seven ways, alright, to grow your faith.
So, if you got a little pen you can pull it out, you can draw pictures, take notes. The number one way to get faith, you start here, is the Bible.
It is absolutely impossible to live a life of faith unless your mind and your heart are, literally, soaked in Scripture.
You need to become a man, you need to become a woman of the Word of God. You need to read it, you need to think about it, you need to memorize key passages, you need to let it soak in, you need to get it on tape, you need to put it on CDs, you need to listen to it as you drive.
Like a Crock Pot, you need to take your brain and soak it in the truth and be so filled with God’s Word and understanding of the truth that when you watch CNN, ESPN, and read the paper, you will read it through a biblical grid.
Faith is birthed out of the truth of Scripture.
If you want to bring pleasure to the heart of God and if you want to please Him and if you want to be a man or a woman of faith, it is impossible until you become a person of the Book.
Tell me what’s important in your life. And then you rearrange your life to get in that Book fifteen to twenty to thirty to forty minutes a day and you do that for six months and it’ll transform who you are.
That’s how you get faith, that’s how it’s birthed. If you do not do that, everything else doesn’t work. And we are living in America with a biblically illiterate Church. And what you want to do is listen to people like me or other people to do your spirituality for you and catch a five-minute snippet off the radio and try and live off that.
I got news for you. When you have cancer, what I say on the radio is not going to help much. I want to encourage you, teachers are important, there is no substitute for God’s Word in your mind, in your heart, to be a man or a woman of faith.
Second, are you ready? Object lesson number two, if you’re a woman, put down a purse. If you’re a man, write “wallet,” or make a picture.
Did you notice the very first evidence of faith in Hebrews 11 is what? God spoke and all that came into existence, He created, right? He’s the source, he’s the Creator. What is the second illustration?
It’s Abel. The very first human illustration of faith is Abel gave a greater sacrifice. Go to Genesis, read the story. Cain gave something, sometime, someone that when he gave it he could give it here, give it there, it grew here.
And what we know about Abel is he gave his first and he gave his best and what he gave, when he gave it, was gone.
I don’t know where you’re at in your life. Until you learn to give God the first and best portion of your finances, you will never walk by faith. Never.
I mean, is He your resource or not? Do you believe God is real? He commands you, minimum, give a tenth or so. The average Christian doesn’t give, doesn’t give regularly, doesn’t give off the top, and doesn’t give their best. And they’re not experiencing supernatural power.
The way you learn to experience God is you give your first and your best off the top. Because you’re not in a third world country, you’re not saying, “Lord, give me a bowl of rice today,” and God does and you go, “Wow, You’re real.” If God took a nap for forty days, the average, American Christian wouldn’t know it because you’re not desperate.
But I’ll tell you what, you start giving off the top, it will create a situation in your finances, in your life, where you’ll be going, “Whoa, how are we going to take care of this?”
Now, do you want faith or not? This isn’t, these aren’t put here randomly. The very first illustration of faith is there is One who created all that there is, the invisible, from invisible to visible and He is the Author and source of all there is.
The second illustration is that someone believed Him to the point that he took the very best that he had and he gave his first and he said, “I worship You and I depend on You; and so I give You my first and my best.”
And then you will see God work in your life. You know what? Otherwise, it’s intellectual, isn’t it? “Oh, I believe in God.” Oh, really? “I believe in God, yeah.” You believe in God when you take a step and He better come through for you.