AMP. v. 8 "Urged on by faith, Abraham when he was called, obeyed and went forth to a place which he was destined to receive as an inheritance; and he went, although he did not know or trouble his mind about where he was to go.
v. 9 "Prompted by faith he dwelt as a temporary resident in the land which was designated in the promise of God, though he was as a stranger in a strange country, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs with him of the same promise.
v. 10 "For he was waiting expectantly and confidently, looking forward to the city which has fixed and firm foundations, whose Architect and Builder is God."
There are only two ways to live. One way...by far the most common, is to live by sight...to base everything on what you can see. This is the empirical way. The other way...far less common, is to live by faith, to base your life primarily and ultimately on what you cannot see. The Christian way...the Bible way...God's way for us...is the faith way.
We have never seen God, or Jesus Christ, or heaven or hell, or the Holy Spirit. We have never seen any of the people who wrote the Bible. None of us have ever held an original manuscript of God's Word in our hands. Yet we live in the conviction of these things by faith. We bank our earthly life and our eternal destiny on things which we have never seen.
That is the way the people of God have always lived!
The life of faith has some specific ingredients which are seen in the life of Abraham. Abraham was the father of the Jewish people, and is therefore presented to the Jewish readers of this letter as the most strategic example of faith.
They also needed to realize that Abraham was more than the father of their race; he also was the father of the faithful, the father of everyone who lives by faith in God, the father of all those who believe.
For a Jew to accept the truth that salvation is by faith, he would have to be shown that this truth applied to Abraham. They had to understand that Abraham pleased God because of his faith, and it was this faith in God that produced the good works and obedience in his life.
According to Scripture, everyone who trusts in God; Jew or Gentile, is spiritually a child of Abraham. Galations 3:6-7 & 29 proclaim this truth: v. 6-7 "Consider Abraham: He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham."
v. 29 "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
Romans. 4:11 identifies Abraham as "the father of all them that believe."
Let's look at some of the ingredients of Biblical faith as revealed in the life of our spiritual father. There are some qualities of faith that need to be passed on in our generation if we are to live as Abraham's children.
I. THE PILGRIMAGE OF FAITH
READ: Verse 8
AMP. "...he did not know or trouble his mind about where he was going."
It was not Abraham's plan to leave Ur. He had grown up in this idolatrous city. He lived as a sinful heathen. He worshiped the family gods. And then the living God revealed himself to Abraham and called him to be a person of real and godly faith.
One moment Abraham was a pagan moon worshiper, no different from his fellow citizens of Ur and no different from his father's household. The next moment he is a believing man with his back turned on his old way of life and his face looking to what God had promised.
It was a step of faith into a new life that God had planned for Abraham. This is also a picture of God's work in our lives.
Think about your pilgrimage of faith. Remember how one moment you were a child of the Devil...you were an idol worshiper...you lived like the pagan world around you?
Then you heard the Word of God. Through it God spoke to your heart and promised you a new life. By faith you said "yes". And you turned your back on the old and welcomed the new.
Abraham was the first generation in his family to turn away from idolatry and believe in the one and only living God. He was a first generation believer and his faith produced many generations of believers.
In our family, on my father's side...I am the second generation of those who have chosen to live by faith in Jesus. My children are the third generation. Their children, our grandchildren will be the fourth generation if they choose to live by faith in Jesus. Do you see how God works in families to establish faith? Do you understand why the enemy works to destroy families?
Maybe you are a first generation believer. You were the first generation in your family to believe in Jesus. When you made that choice, you opened up a door of blessing for your family. This was a new beginning, a new path to walk for you and your children and your children's children.
Abraham left behind a story of faith and an inheritance of faith that is still speaking to us today and still blessing our lives today. Talk about your influence living on and impacting future generations!
I hope you see this personally. We are each living a life and we will leave behind a life story -- you only get one. What will you see when you look in the rear view mirror? Do you want to see a different scene? If so, then you need to start now to change...to call upon the name of the Lord...to begin to live by faith.
What story will your children and grandchildren have learned about life from the memories of your life? How will you and I be remembered? You see, there are powerful blessings that we pass on when we choose to live by faith!
How does this pilgrimage of faith begin? It begins by taking the first step. None of us understood fully what it meant to follow the Lord and obey Him when we took that first step of faith. We just knew that we needed God and His salvation in our lives. We decided to trust His plan instead of our plan.
Abraham's Example: "...he did not know or trouble his mind about where he was going." AMP
Why? Because he had confidence in the One he was following. He did not have all the information about the future...but he walked by faith with the One who held the future in His hand.
Often this living by faith is like driving in the fog. You can't see the end of the street, but you start out driving anyway believing that what you cannot see...you will see once you get there. When I drive the 100 feet I can see, then I see 100 more feet that I could not see before. Thus I keep going until I have reached my destination; driving by faith.
When any person comes to Christ, God requires of them a pilgrimage from their old pattern of living into a new kind of life. The Lord leads us onward and He leads us away from all that is not pleasing to Him. He cannot lead us into new ways of living until He leads us out of the old.
The response of faith is: "Lord, I don't know what You are going to do with me...but I am yours, and I am letting go of the old things. Lord, I don't know what You are going to give me in their place...but my heart is open to receive all that you have for me."
That is living by faith! That is the attitude of the faith pilgrim.
Letting go of Ur and looking forward to the promised blessing is a faith challenge. If you are going to name the name of Christ...if you are going to be more than a cultural Christian who just wears the label but doesn't live the Name...then you must let go of Ur and open your heart to receive the promise.
Letting go of the familiar, the safe, the easy, the "go with the flow" approach to life....and embracing the new...the adventure...the unknown...the promise...the new desires, values, and interests...all this is part of the faith pilgrimage.
Pilgrimage has the idea of being on the move. Not settling down and settling in....but moving on and moving forward in Christ.
Faith is a force that makes us want to move on to receive all that God has for us. The force that makes us want to hold on to the old life is called worldliness. It is an attitude of withholding ourselves from God and desiring those things that are sinful, selfish, and worthless.
True children of Abraham are faith pilgrims. The attitude is: "God, I am moving on in my walk with you. I want for me what you want for me."
What does God want? For each of us He wants the pilgrimage of faith.
The second ingredient:
II. THE PATIENCE OF FAITH
READ: Verses 9-10
Faith that is on the move...that keeps us growing seems to be a contradiction to faith that is patient.
However, life's pilgrimage...life's journey of faith moves at different speeds.
It's somewhat like driving the Interstate and everyone is going 70mph. And then you come to a work zone and you must slow down to 40mph. It seems like you have stopped moving. You feel like you are not getting anywhere. And you get impatient and are tempted to ignore the posted speed...except for this sign that says "Fines doubled in work areas". Sometimes the pilgrimage of faith slows down and we must wait for God's timing and direction for the journey.
Living as a temporary resident in the land required the patience of faith for Abraham. The promise was not totally fulfilled.
This patience of faith is seen in the fact that Abraham did not live as an owner or possessor, but in tents of temporary nature. He did not use any of the human means available to try to carve out an inheritance for himself or his children.
He believed that God would make good on what God promised in God's time and God's way. This is what it means to live by the patience of faith.
God had already told Abraham he would die before the promised land of Canaan would be given to his offspring. In Genesis 15 he had told Abraham that his descendants would leave the promised land and would return again in the fourth generation to receive the fulfillment of the promise.
In other words, Abraham would not receive instant gratification. But in his soul he could be satisfied knowing that God would make good on all His promises. So Abraham waited patiently for the truly valuable things.
This can be a hard time to go through. This waiting for the promise. This in-between-time....this time between our obedience and the reward of obedience...this time between the promise and the fulfillment of the promise...this time between leaving the old and arriving at the new.
We are tempted to say to God: "Promises!. Promises!"
I want to speak three thoughts to you about the need in our lives for this patience of faith:
1. As in Abraham's story, many times it is our children and children's children who receive a greater measure of the fulfillment of God's promise than we do.
The lie of the world is: "You can have it all now". I want to say that "you can't have it all", but you can pass on something of far greater value to your children if you remain faithful.
People talk about having an estate to pass on to their children. I want to have a heritage of faith to pass on to my children. When we listen to our culture, we get the cart before the horse.
My parents struggled, sacrificed, and lived on less in order to be faithful to God. They focused on the eternal and missed out on some of the temporary. But they passed on a heritage of faith. Jonathan Edwards was a major voice that God used during this country's 18th century revival, The Great Awakening. He was a gifted pastor, writer, and theologian. He was also a man of faith who passed on a heritage of faith to future generations. He and his wife Sarah raised eleven children.
The blessings he passed on are still being realized today. By 1990 more than 300 of his descendants had become pastors, missionaries, or theologians. There were also 110 attorneys, 66 medical doctors, 80 who held public office including 30judges, 3 U.S. Senators, and 1 Vice President of the United States.
Do you see how God used the Edward's influence to bless future generations? We also are molding the generations that come after us by our decisions and actions today.
Do I believe that the blessings of faithfulness to God are passed on from one generation to another? Yes I do! READ: Exodus 20:4- 6.
Are the blessings and rewards of prayers prayed, tithes paid, offerings given, service rendered, witness proclaimed, worship lifted, church attended, obedience chosen, faith lived, and God honored passed on to future generations?
Yes, a thousand times is the Bible's answer!
So the patience of faith is for me and my children and my children's children. We need this patience of faith of we are going to pass on great blessing to the next generation.
2. Secondly, the patience of faith is one of God's teaching tools in our lives. In times of waiting, I must deal with me and my heart. I must learn to overcome the desire to do it my way. I must learn to humble my heart and receive God's wisdom. I must learn to let go and let God. I must come in my weakness and cry out for His strength.
This is God's teaching time in our lives. May we have teachable hearts!
3. Thirdly, the patience of faith waits for the day of the ultimate and final fulfillment of all that God has promised to those who live by faith.
By faith, Abraham looked into the future toward a city whose Architect and Builder was God. A city with a foundation, a city with permanence; in contrast to a movable and unstable tent. The scriptures we read tell us that Abraham considered himself a "temporary resident". Maybe that would be a fitting way to head up our business cards and letterheads: "Temporary Residence".
By faith, Abraham looked beyond earthly realities to heavenly realities. He understood that God was calling him to a heavenly country and to the coming age when the material promises would all have their ultimate fulfillment in heaven's spiritual realities. By faith we look beyond this moment in time to eternity. Living by faith is living your Christian life with eternity's values in view.
It is so easy to lose sight of this truth. To think that our Master has delayed His coming so let's get all we can and try to have it all now.
If we knew with certainty that Christ would return in a month or that we had only one month to live..., we would give full attention to the eternal. But to live by faith...to walk in obedience month after month... year after year, while we await the fulfillment of the promises; that takes the patience of faith.
You have probably heard it said that some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. Let me give you the Bible's view. The truth is: "IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO BE OF ANY REAL EARTHLY GOOD UNLESS WE ARE HEAVENLY MINDED!"
Only the heavenly minded will have the patience to continue faithful in walking with God when obedience is hard, when rewards seem few, when sacrifice seems unappreciated, and the task seems unending.
A great cure for impatience, discouragement, and self-pity is to come and stand in the presence of the Lord and to look forward by faith to that day when life's trials will be over and we shall be forever in His presence. What a motivation to do earthly good!
The hymnwriter captures this declaring, "It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ. One glimpse of His dear face all sorrows will erase. So bravely run the race, till we see Christ."
It is when we focus on the earthly that we live and die with every little thing that goes wrong or seems to last too long or is not successful or appreciated. It is when we look continually at the things of this world -- its trials, troubles, and struggles; or its money, fame, and pleasures...that we cannot help but be overcome by the impatient desires of the flesh.
Living by faith means looking for another city. Of this city the scriptures say much. But, of all its descriptions...the most encouraging is the promise of Ezekial 48:35; "The Lord Is there."
And my soul longs to dwell forever in His presence. That's where the pilgrimage ends. That's where the patience of faith is rewarded.
That's where living by faith sees the fulfillment of all that God has promised.
Other sermons by Pastor John.