Walking by Faith 2
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Walking by Faith 2
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
We’ve been studying the kind of life that pleases God and we’ve seen that it’s a life of trust — just trusting God as our loving Father instead of looking at him as an alienated offended deity, and just living in trust and living in faith that he would provide the things that are needed in our life. We’ve begun to see that that’s what pleases him — that faith in him is what pleases him. That’s what makes us right with God.
It’s been a great relief to a lot of us who have been brought up in very strong legalistic backgrounds, or have been brought up in church backgrounds where we were convinced that we had to please everybody — the pastor, the parents, the professors, all our peers, all our friends, and we had to live up to the very best standards that we knew — before God would ever dream of dealing with us at all. Of course we had enough trouble getting everybody else to accept us without ever trying to get as far as God. It was a great relief to many of us when we discovered that if we just trusted God as our loving Father, as someone who because of Jesus forgave us everything that we’d done against him because of Jesus, then he would regard that trust or that faith as rightness, and he’d just make us right with himself.
So we’ve been talking about this life of faith, because we’ve seen that it’s not just something that you do on an evening in a certain evangelistic meeting. You don’t just say, “I trust you God to forgive me my sins because of Jesus’ death.” It’s a continual life of trust. And it’s living day-by-day trusting God that keeps you right with him.
We found that many of us have troubles — even after we’ve made our first arrangement with God — many of us have troubles because we don’t continue to walk in trust and faith. That’s why at times we have doubts about our rightness with God.
So that’s really the heart of it. If there’s somebody here this morning who doesn’t know anything really about Christianity from the inside, that’s the heart of Christianity — that you don’t try to beat yourself to death living up to God’s standards, but you trust that because of Jesus’ death for your breaking of the standards, God accepts you as his own child, treats you as if you had never broken a standard before.
Then, of course, he gives you the life of his Holy Spirit and his Holy Spirit begins to enable you to live way beyond the standards, to live a life that is like Jesus’ life. That’s really the heart of Christianity. It would be good if you haven’t met it before, if you’d just think about that.
It’s not standards. It’s trusting that Jesus has made things right with God by his death so that God has nothing against you this morning. God has nothing against you. You may think he has, but God has no reason to reject you this morning because Jesus has died for you. He has been rejected in your place. So God is open, wide open, to receive you as his own child this morning. Of course immediately when you believe that and begin to trust that God is like that to you, then God regards that as righteousness, and treats you as being right with himself. Then you walk in that day-by-day.
What we’ve been talking about is the walk. Maybe you would look at the verse that we’ll study today so that we could all start on the same verse. This verse shows another factor in living in trust of
God as our loving Father. Romans 4:20: “No distrust made him waver.”
That’s Abraham, you remember. Abraham was pretty old — 100 years of age. God said, “You’re going to have a son.” That required a miracle. So this is what God is talking about here. “No distrust made him,” Abraham, “waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.” It’s important to see that walking, living, and trusting God day-by-day is not only having faith in him that the thing has already been done — rather than hope that it’s going to be done. It’s not only a freedom from the power of positive thinking, a really looking at the facts — but it is also being prepared to walk in faith. So you pray a prayer, and then you walk in faith that that prayer is being answered. That for many of us is where we really do not do what the Father wants us to. We exercise an act of faith at some moment, but then on the long haul we’re not too good. We don’t keep walking in faith.
Now maybe it’s good to see in the historical facts about Abraham’s case that he had to do that. Let’s look at Genesis 12:1-4 where the original promise was given to him. It’s Genesis 12:1-4. At that time Abraham was 75 years of age. This was when the original promise was given.
Genesis 12:1: “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’” Here’s the promise: “’And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.’ So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.”
Now that was the original promise. He was 75 years of age.
Now, look at Genesis 17:1-2: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old” — that is, 24 years later — “the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.’” It was when Abraham was almost 100 years of age that he had his son. Do you see that he was required to walk trusting God over a period of 24 years?
God understood Abraham’s mistake, when Sarah suggested that he should go into Hagar their maid and try to have a baby that way. God understands when Abraham thinks that that is the way God is going to fulfill his promise. God understands mistakes during that time, but God does not accept a wavering of faith during that time. So I think what we need to see is that God expects us to walk in absolute faith from the very time the promise is given to the time when he fulfills it — be that 30 years hence or 40 years hence.
George Mueller was the man that God used to build orphanages for thousands of children in England just by prayer alone. Mueller was a massive prayer warrior for God. Yet he prayed for one man for 50 years and that man was converted the same day that Mueller died. He prayed for another man for 30 years and that man was converted two years after Muller died.
Do you see that walking in faith means that you keep on believing without any wavering? God is concerned that we look at him during that time, that we do not look down and begin to collect information from Gallup Polls, or begin to calculate the degree of probability of the miracle — because if Abraham had done that he’d have been lost.
A woman is pretty good, isn’t she, if she has a baby at 50 years of age? That’s very good. When Abraham first received the promise old Sarah was 66. That would have been quite a miracle! But then when you get 24 years later and Sarah is about 90 years of age. Well, that’s a big miracle to have a baby at 90. So Abraham couldn’t afford to go round and take Gallup Polls about when Hebrew mothers were able to have children. Nor could he say, “Well now, it’s possible at 50, maybe at 66, but 90? Impossible.” He couldn’t afford to calculate the degrees of probability of the miracle. God wants us to walk in absolute faith.
That’s what that verse means, if you look back to Romans 4:20. The Greek, “ou diekrithae,” really says, “He did not decide against the promise of God.” But the RSV translates it, “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God.” The King James Version says, “He staggered not at the promise of God.”
Walking in faith means walking in something absolute — because it is faith in an absolute person. God does not make a promise on the condition that the woman is only 66: “66 — I can do it. 90 — impossible.” God does not make the promise on the basis of the human possibilities. He makes the promise absolute and he expects us to walk in unwavering, unstaggering faith.
I don’t know if you’ve seen “Fiddler on the Roof.” Some of you may have, or you may have listened to the songs. Tevye is the leading character, and he at last gets an offer for his eldest daughter. You remember, the old butcher wants to marry his daughter. Then Tevye sings a song.
Then he says, “It’s a good match for her. On the other hand, he’s very, very old. On the other hand, he’s very, very rich. On the other hand, I want my daughter to be happy. On the other hand she’ll maybe be happiest with somebody who can provide for her in the future. On the other hand, maybe there are better suitors. On the other hand, no suitor has come forward until the butcher came.” Now, there are no “on the other hands” with unwavering faith.
When you walk in faith that God is going to do something, you walk in faith that the absolute God is going to perform what he said. You don’t have “on the other hand.” You don’t say, “On the other hand, she’s 66. On the other hand, she’s 90. On the other hand, the conditions are difficult.” When you walk in unwavering faith you walk in absolute faith that God is going to answer.
Now if you waver, or you have “on the other hands” like Tevye, then you may be walking in prudence, you may be walking in hope, you may be walking in subtle human calculations — but you’re not walking in faith. Faith is an absolute assurance that God is going to do the thing.
Now here’s where it applies. Some of us, in regard to our careers, see the promise that God has given in Matthew 25:23. I think this verse is the real guidance for us in regard to our careers. Sooner or later, after we’ve made all our mistakes we eventually come to this principle. Matthew 25:23: “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’”
Most of us eventually come to that point in our lives where we see, “That’s how God’s going to guide us in our careers. He’s going to ask us to be faithful in what he’s given us to do. We’re faithful in our studying today — he’ll take care of tomorrow. We’re faithful in the little miserly job he’s given us today — he will make us master over many things tomorrow.”
And we set our minds to walk in that faith. We walk in that faith until our peers begin to buy big
cars. Then a friend that we had in school comes and tells us of the thousands that he’s making and the great position he has in the firm. Then we come to be 26 or 27 years old, and we begin to wonder, “Well, is God going to come through? Well, I ought to keep being faithful in what I’m doing. I’m sure he’ll come through.”
Then we come to be 30 years old, and we begin to see our peers getting married, and having children, and having lovely homes, and we begin to wonder. Then we come to 35 and still it doesn’t seem anything has happened.
That’s where we need to walk in faith. Why? Because if you set a deadline for God, God will always meet that deadline an hour later. That’s right. If you set 26, God will set 27. If you set 35, he’ll set 36. God’s last minute is always a full 60 seconds after your last moment — at least 60 seconds. So walking in faith means walking without deadlines. It means walking in absolute faith that God is going to come through in his time and in his way. But it means not wavering in the least.
Now that’s the kind of faith that God wants to work in us, because that’s the kind of faith that gets you out on God alone. You’re way out on a limb there with God only, with only his trustworthiness and only his promise to lean on. Now that’s where God wants us.
God knows us well. We’ll go out on a limb, out that far, as long as I can have this leg back here. I’ll get out a wee bit on that limb and say, “Yeah Lord, I’m really on that limb. Look! Half my weight is on it.” That’s as far as we’ll go. God wants to get us way out there where we have no foot on the ground at all, and we’re way out there on a limb walking on the water. So God always will draw us out in that direction.
He will. He will let days pass, and months pass, and years pass until he is absolutely certain that we have an unwavering trust in him only — not in the appearance of the circumstances.
You can see that in Moses’ life if you look at Exodus 3:10. God is gracious. He takes us out on a little limb first and lets us feel what that’s like. God made this promise to Moses: “’Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.’”
Now of course, old Moses protested, saying, “I have a stammer and all kinds of things. I can’t speak. They won’t listen to me.” You remember God met all those excuses. Eventually Moses went out on the limb and spoke to Pharaoh on behalf of God’s people.
You can see the result in Exodus 5:20-21. This was after the Egyptians took the straw away for making bricks from the Hebrews: “They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came forth from Pharaoh; and they said to them, ‘The LORD look upon you and judge, because you have made us offensive in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.’” And Moses took a little move out on a limb: “Alright Lord. I’ll lead your people out of Egypt.”
He makes the first move and the people come and say, “You have made the thing worse than before.” Then the whole tendency is to think, “Well, maybe I shouldn’t trust God any further.”
Then God takes him a little further out in Exodus 14:10-13. At last God gets them out of Egypt: “When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were
marching after them; and they were in great fear. And the people of Israel cried out to the LORD; and they said to Moses, ‘Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt, “Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians”? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’”
Moses finds himself with hordes of men, women, children, and cattle behind him way out on this limb now, and here are all the Egyptians coming after him. Again and again, God gets you out onto a limb. Now Moses finds, “There is no going back. I have this crowd behind me. When it was just my wife and me — well, I could get myself out of it. But this lot behind me and the sea in front of me! Now I’m absolutely dependent on the Father.” And it kept going like that.
In Exodus 15:22 it just intensifies. At last God guides them through the sea and out into the wilderness. The same deal again: “Then Moses led Israel onward from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur; they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’”
It was the same thing again and again. Moses went out on a little limb for the sake of God and his people and God kept pushing him out further, and further, and further — again and again driving him into an absolute dependence on God’s trustworthiness. That’s it. I think some of us fail to walk in faith because we think after we’ve taken one step that’s as much as God requires. It isn’t. God requires you to get out on that limb and keep walking there — keep walking.
It’s a wee bit like John Bunyan. They were after him and determined to kill him. He said, “If God does not intervene I will leap into eternity by blind faith come heaven come hell.” That’s the kind of unwavering faith that God asks us to have. It’s absolute faith in an absolute God. That’s the kind of faith that pleases our Father.
It’s the same deal that comes up everywhere. Our society is ridiculous and has made you feel you’re an old maid if you get to 26 and you’re not married. It’s just ridiculous. It’s not the Father’s will at all. Instead, you commit the marriage area into the Father’s hands and you say, “Father, you will find a person for me if you want me to have a person. If you don’t want me to have a husband or a wife, then I know you’ll give me the gift of celibacy — so that it will be as much an adornment to me as someone else’s partner is to you.”
We walk in that — we can walk into it up to age 20 without too much trouble. Then 21 comes, and some of them get the keys to the houses and then some of them marry. Then you’re a bridesmaid, or you’re a best man. Then you become 23, 25, and 26. Then old Satan gets in and begins to question — and the faith begins to waver.
Do you see that it’s believing God right up to 75? It’s believing God the whole way. It’s walking in faith. It’s not just one little step, but it’s walking in faith. I walk believing in God the whole way. I keep going and that’s the Father’s will. That’s the kind of trust and the kind of faith that not only God answers, but that makes us pleasing to him, because he will come through.
God is not going to destroy his own character just to have the pleasure of letting you down. He won’t. He just will not malign or contradict his own nature just to let you down — the first person he ever let down in the whole of the history of the world. He just won’t do it.
God is faithful — but he is faithful to those who walk in unwavering trust — whose faith does not stagger, whose faith sets itself on the promises of God and gives glory to God that he’s going to do the thing — that he has done it already, and that it’s all settled.
Now loved ones, do you see it — that it’s that kind of faith that’s needed to get us into China and Russia? Do you see that? It’s that kind of faith that’s needed to blast us out of our miserable little self-centered Christianity. Some of us need to begin exercising that faith.
It’s wise to start now where he has given you to start. Don’t look and say, “Oh well, if I had something great like that to believe him for!” Well, believe him for the assignment that’s to be in on Tuesday or Wednesday. Believe him for the money that has to be in the bank by next Friday. Begin to walk in unwavering trust and let God make you right with himself. Then, if you are faithful in little things, he will make you master over greater things.
So I trust this coming week that you’ll do it. It’s something very practical. You get a hold of something on the Father’s behalf, you hold on to it, and you don’t waver. You don’t waver. If you’re 75 and unmarried I’ll keep you company. But do you see, it’s confidence that the Father will provide? It’s confidence that the Father has a better answer than our answer. It’s a willingness to take his answer and to take it in his time and not to set him deadlines.
Then there comes a real relaxation, a real ease, and most of all a real heavy leaning on God and on his trustworthiness. That’s the only safe place after all. He’s only to move his little finger and this whole place falls apart — isn’t that right? The whole earth falls out of its orbit if God just makes a little adjustment in the center of gravity there. The whole thing falls out of orbit. So really, we’re dependent on him anyway. So why not just acknowledge it and give him the joy of being our Father?
Let us pray.