Great Faith when we can't see the way
As we seek to be faithful to God in life and mission, there are certain places in scripture I return to as ‘regular feeding ground’. These are key scriptures that provide spiritual nourishment and clarity of thought in the midst of the fog that can impede our clarity. One of these key places is Hebrews 11, the hall of faith, where we encounter men and women who believed God’s promises in the face of impossible odds.
When we think of biblical faith, Abraham looms as a giant, and his faith is described in Hebrews 11:8-12. The first thing we see is Abraham’s faith to obey. Verse 8 says this:
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
Following Jesus is an adventure of faith that leads to unexpected places and situations where we need to trust God for impossible things. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. To receive the inheritance, you have to go. Going precedes receiving. Obeying God doesn’t mean everything is going to go well; obeying God means everything is going to end well.
Second, we see Abraham’s faith to endure. In Hebrews 11:9, we read that
By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.
I’ve always admired people who enjoy ‘roughing it’ out in nature; I don’t. I like my creature comforts, but this was not a luxury Abraham had. He was willing to endure the discomfort of living in tents. Why? The scripture explains:
For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
Enduring the stuff of life – and the hardship and difficulty of following Jesus on his mission , requires eternal vision. Abraham saw more than the promised land, he saw the promised City, the new heaven and the new earth.
Success in life and mission means living now with eternal perspective. We have to let the Lord bump us out of fixation on the temporal so that we can see the eternal. We have to be willing to sacrifice in the short to achieve God’s long term aim.
And this brings us to the third point, Abraham and Sarah had faith to receive. The scripture describes their predicament, and their hope:
By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.
Faith to receive what seems impossible comes from considering that God is faithful to do what He has promised.
And this brings us back to our mission. What has God promised in Numbers 14:21?
The whole earth will be filled with the glory of God.
How does this happen? The glory of God is seen in the gospel. The glory of God breaks into the human realm through the gospel; when the gospel is obscured, the glory of God is hidden. This is how Paul described it in 2 Corinthians 4:4:
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
We live in an age of spiritual blindness; we live at a time when unbelievers cannot see the ‘light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ’. So what do we do? How do we answer this spiritual darkness? Very simply, we obey the command of Jesus to go into all the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19) with full confidence in the gospel (Romans 1:16).
To this end, I just returned from Ukraine where I was teaching at the residential week of our 18-month school of ministry. We had around 35 students from 11 different European nations. These are aspiring missionaries, church planters, pastors, elders, campus ministers, and key local church leaders from 11 different European nations. These are people giving their lives for the gospel in the spiritually-dark continent of Europe.
Along with equipping them with solid biblical theology, leadership capacity, and practical ministry skills, we worked hard to impart great faith to these students. Why? Because it takes great faith to advance the gospel of Jesus in a place like Europe.
Like Abraham, the Lord has called us to obey, to endure, and to receive. The Lord invites us to obey in him going out to a place we do not know; he challenges us to endure hardship for the sake of his gospel; and he invites us to receive the supernatural power necessary to win in the mission he has given us.
This is what inspires me about our CBU family. The Lord invites us to have great faith expressed through our financial giving to partner together for gospel advance. The Lord has a promised land of reaching the lost, equipping leaders, and planting churches – a promised land of Europe filled again with the glory of God.
Through the faith of obedience, the faith of sacrifice, and the faith of receiving – we’re going to get the job done. Thank you for standing with us in this mission. Your partnership with us is a powerful source of encouragement and strength as we labour daily in a gospel resistant place.