What does it really mean to be successful? Hebrews11gives us this insight:
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. – 11:6
Without faith, it’s impossible to please God. You can’t succeed in life—not by God’s definition—if your definition of success does not include growing in faith! And as I read Hebrews 11, it was all the stories of men and women of faith—God’s successful. Hebrews 11 has since become one of my favorite chapters of the Bible, and we’re going to focus on Hebrews 11 in this Great Adventure series. Here’s why–because you don’t want to climb the ladder of success, however you define that, only to find your ladder was leaning against the wrong building. God has you here with a purpose—a mission to accomplish. You don’t have to prove anything to anybody, but you do need to succeed in God’s eyes.
For those of you just exploring God, this is important. God is not primarily looking to see how relatively good or bad you are. His first desire is that you have faith in Him. Faith is all it takes to please God. It’s actually not hard.
But Why is Faith so important? It’s because God wants relationship—and all relationships require faith. Faith is just trust. Faith, Belief, Trust are synonyms. Without trust, you can’t have an intimate relationship. So Faith is where relationship starts with God. And growing in trust is how that relationship becomes friendship. The father of the Jewish and Arab nations:
“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. – James 2:23
Faith can do the same for you—you can be made right with God by faith, and you can become a friend of God by doing life daily with God by faith.
So what is faith? I want to give you a definition of practical faith from studying Hebrews 11. Faith is having confidence in God, to act on His word, despite the circumstances.
Hebrews 11:1 says – Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
See contrary to popular opinion, we all live by faith. We all have confidence in something we are hoping for out in the future. Even atheists have faith—we all hope. So what is Your faith in now?
Right now, my faith is in the hopes that if _____, then _____. Fill in the blanks. What are you hoping for, banking on? When our ultimate faith and hope is in possessions, plans, or people, they will all perish. With one raging fire and a lifetime of possessions turn to rubble. Business reversals, loss of employment, unfaithfulness, health crises, and people can be gone in an instant. God knows all this. He has given all of these as gifts to cherish, but ultimately only God can give us a hope that lasts.
This is what the truly successful people of Hebrews 11 understood.
8 It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. 9 And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents… Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. – Hebrews 11:8-10
Faith that makes us truly succeed in life starts with…
Confidence in God—not confidence in circumstances. Not faith that it will go my way, but faith that God is good—He will reward you as you seek him. Do you trust in that? Do you have confidence in God’s character? Abraham and Sarah were learning confidence in God’s character. 4000 years ago, Abraham and Sarah were living a comfortable life when God asked them to leave their comfort zone, and go to a land he would show them–now the land of Israel. If God asks you to get out of your comfort zone—outside of what you can control or predict—what’s your response?
The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country…and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and…All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” – Genesis 12:1-3
What an incredible mission—to bless all nations. And God promised them a land, a family, and a whole nation that would bless all nations—Success! Sounds great, where do I sign up? Only one problem! They had not been able to have kids…for 70 years, and now God tells them trust me and you’ll have a child—Abraham’s like “How? There are no little blue pills for another 4000 years “Uh, gonna need a little help here, Lord.” How about some supernatural power? Hebrews 11:12 says,
And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead.
Impossible! Yet Abraham and Sarah stepped out in faith, not with confidence in circumstances, or their ability, but confidence in God’s Character. If God promised, we can trust Him—even when things don’t go as expected. And they didn’t go as expected. If I were Ab, I’d be thinking, “If…then..” If we go to this promised land, then next year or so we have a baby, live happily ever after.” God tests where they put their confidence—for 10 years they don’t get pregnant! Their faith wavers because the circumstances aren’t lining up—God’s timing isn’t fitting my timeline. Ever felt that way? Man I have. And it’s SO easy to give up and take matters into your own hands. Ab and Sarah fail the test, they “Help God out” by using their Maid, Hagar, as a surrogate—caused all kinds of problems for generations, and their detour cost more time. But 10 years later, they do have a child. They see that God’s character and God’s promises can be trusted, even when God’s timeline tests us. That’s how faith grows, the more you trust, the more you see God working, and faith grows to trust Him more.
You will see if you will step out of what’s comfortable and trust Him. It doesn’t start big—it starts small and grows. So when did you last step out in faith? Out of your comfort zone, trusting in God’s character, asking Him to lead and guide you? Tell God right now, “give me baby steps I can take, and I’ll trust you and do it.” That’s how you live your Next Great Adventure. It starts with Confidence in God…
To Act on His Word… faith is not a feeling, faith is action. Faith is a commitment of the will to Act on what God says is true. And that takes courage in a world that doesn’t value what God says, but often the opposite. Jesus told us that God has revealed his character and his promises, through the Jewish Prophets of the Old Testament, and ultimately through Jesus himself. Do you Act on His Word? In Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus said,
“I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Faith grows as we read and study His word, his character, his promises, and then the more we ACT in trust, on what His Word says, the more we look back and see him working in our lives—and over time you realize “I’m friends with God.” He knows you, he loves you, he’s with you and gets you and He will guide you as your willing to Act. Do your read and study the scriptures with that posture? “God I want to trust you more. How can I act on what you’re saying?” When was the last time you acted in faith, or trust, based on what you read in the Bible? That’s how faith grows.
Sometimes he then uses what the Bible tells us about his character and promises to prompt us with thoughts. 1 Corinthians 10 tells us the stories in the Bible teach us principles that apply to us today. Like The whole account of God asking Abraham to offer Isaac, his son, is actually a prophetic drama that showed how much Abraham trusted God’s Promise. Hebrews 11 tells us
17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him…God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” 19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again.” – Hebrews 11:17-19.
Abraham knew God so well, he knew God promised a nation through Isaac, so he knew God was not going to take Isaac from him.
God was foretelling what Jesus would do 2000 years later. This is how God would bless all nations. God told Abraham in Genesis 22—go to the mountain in Moriah I will show you. Abraham takes 2 servants and travels 3 days—to Mt. Moriah. Mt. Moriah is where Jerusalem would be built 1000 years later. He tells the servants “The boy and I will go worship on the mountain, and we will come back.” He has Isaac carry the wood, and when Isaac askeds “Dad, where’s the Lamb?” Abraham says “God will provide the Lamb my son.” God stopped Abraham, and God did provide a lamb. Abraham called that Mountain “The Lord will provide.” 2000 years later, Jesus, the son of God took the wood on his shoulders on which he would be crucified, and went up the very same Mountain, and there God did provide the price of Justice to forgive and to bless all people of all nations with restored relationship to God. It was a dramatic prophetic foretelling of how God would bless the nations through Jesus—2000 years in advance.
Sometimes today, God tests our faith, asking us to let go or lay down something we love—maybe because it’s becoming a false god that will harm us, or maybe to see if we love God more. What are you holding tightly to for your life and future? If God asks you to lay it down, will you Act on His Word and trust him?
Faith is Confidence in God, to Act on His word, Despite the circumstances.
Sometimes walking by faith in and evil world gets tough. Faith takes courage Hebrews 11 continues:
32 It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson…By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised… But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at…others were killed with the sword. – Hebrews 11:32-37
Faith is Confidence in God, to Act on His word, Despite the circumstances
What’s your next step of faith in this Great Adventure?