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Monster Faith

Hebrews 11

Open: Clip from Monster Garage

I love that show, Monster Garage. As we just saw, they take these very ordinary cars and do extraordinary things with them. They’ve taken a school bus and made a pontoon boat out of it. They’ve lasdkjf. It is a amazing what these guys do to monster things up.

And that is what today is about as we look at “Monster Faith,” how God wants to monster our lives up…how God loves to use ordinary people like the person sitting next to you to do extraordinary things.

That’s why these toys are up here, to remind us of that. We have monster Hersheys Kisses and a monster Diet Coke. Do you smell the chocolate? That’s why we gave you chocolate when you came in. We didn’t want to be cruel. Go ahead and eat the chocolate if you haven’t yet. We also have a monster Frisbee. And what do you think I’m going to do with the monster Frisbee? Can I resist? You know, I can’t ever seem to get things I throw out all the way to the balcony, but this is my big moment. If you get it, just gently throw it back and you may want to keep your eyes open here on the bottom. [play with Frisbee].

God loves to take a little bit of faith, like this little Hershey’s Kiss, and blow it up into something big [refer to big kiss]. He says that if we even have a mustard seed of faith, that we can move mountains. It doesn’t take much chocolate to make me happy, and it doesn’t take much faith to make God happy. He responds to even mustard seed sized faith. We were going to pass out mustard seeds, but they are so small we couldn’t figure out how to make it work.

We tend to think that people who do great things for God are people of great ability…people very different from us. But that is not true. Being used by God greatly is not about our ability but our availability to God. He is looking for people who are willing to muster up a little faith. He is looking for ordinary people who place their lives in his hand and are willing to be monstered up for his purposes.

Today we are going to be spending our time in Hebrews 11, which is a passage of Scripture dedicated to these great people of God in the past—people like Moses, Deborah, Abraham, David, Joshua, and Noah…people who clearly were studs for God, who did great things.

But they were not in themselves great people with a perfect past and extraordinary ability. Think about it. David was an adulterer, Moses a murderer, Abraham gave his wife away—twice! Noah got drunk. These were not perfect people. And they had limitations. Moses stuttered. Gideon was a wimp at the beginning. Deborah married a weenie. But they all had something in common. They were people of faith. They were people who made themselves available to God. They loved God with a burning passion, and were willing to give up everything for him. These were people who by faith believed the unbelievable, attempted the impossible, and sacrificed beyond what was reasonable. They were people who had monster faith.

What is monster faith? What is it that God is looking for when he chooses people to use? Today we are going to look at what all these people mentioned in Hebrews 11 had in common to see how God can do extraordinary things through ordinary people like me and you.

Monster faith is…

  • Beyond Sensible

Following God is easy when it makes sense and the circumstances of life are working out beautifully. That’s not a big challenge. Those times do not test our faith, and they do not stretch our faith. When we are comfortable, we don’t grow very much. What we can see is easy to believe. Faith is tested when things don’t make much sense, or when we cannot see how things will work out. Hebrews 11:1 describes faith this way:    1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for.  

Faith is when we don’t see but still believe firmly…when we are confident in God’s character and his promises even when life circumstances don’t seem to be matching up. The writer to the Hebrews gives us some illustrations of this kind of faith, and let’s look at a few of them.

-          Noah = Obeys the unreasonable

 7By faith Noah, when warned about 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. Can you imagine being Noah? God tells you to spend your life building an ark, a boat, where there is no lake or ocean or even significant rainfall. He tells you the whole earth is going to flood, and your job now is to build this big boat and with his help get all these animals on there. For decades, he endured ridicule from people who thought for sure this guy was nuts. But Noah does it. He obeys.

-          Abraham =  Believes the unbelievable

   8By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  11By faith Abraham, even though he was past age–and Sarah herself was barren–was enabled to become a father because he[a]considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

God tells Abraham to go to this land he promises him, but doesn’t tell him where it is. Like Noah, people would have considered him nuts. Where are you going? I don’t know. What do you mean? I believe God will show me, but I have to leave without knowing where it is. And he does. God had also promised that a nation would come from him, and yet Abraham was an old guy with no kids. Sarah was no spring chicken herself. Abraham was 100 years old, and Sarah 90. How was that going to work? But they believed the unbelievable.

-          Moses = Sacrificed beyond the rational

   24By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. 25He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

We tend to forget what Moses gave up to lead the people of Israel. He was raised as a prince of Egypt, the most wealthy and powerful nation on the planet. For 40 years, he grew up with absolutely the best of everything he wanted. He had absolute power, limitless wealth, and constant enjoyment. Anyone would consider him crazy for giving up the most enviable position on the planet. Everybody wanted to be him. And yet at 40 years old, God intervenes in his life and he has a choice to make—to stay as a ruler in Egypt or identify with the Hebrew slaves and fulfill his God-given calling, which of course he does go after his God-calling.

At the time, none of them knew how things were going to work out—Abraham, Noah, or Moses—but they chose to follow God anyway. Circumstances would shout out, “Don’t do it!” But faith shouted, “Go for it!” The only assurance they had was God’s character and God’s promises, and that was enough for them.

I wish I was more like that, a person of greater faith. I really like to be in control of things a little more than that. I like to see that circumstances are going to work out just fine, and then I’ll take a step. But God doesn’t work that way. He asks us to take faith steps when circumstances don’t make sense…before he provides and guides and blesses. And that takes faith and trust.

Years ago Christy and I worked with Journey here at Fellowship, our ministry to junior high humans. On one retreat, we were doing this ropes course with some of the kids, and the person leading the ropes course wanted some of us to do a trust fall, where you stand on this table a few feet up in the air and fall back trusting the others to catch you. The facilitator looked at me and invited me to step up, and I looked around. Here are 8 or so junior high kids. I knew too much. One is picking his nose and not paying attention.  A few others are laughing and saying, “Come on Jeff. We’ll catch you. Trust us.” I passed. Never trust a junior high kid. But God should be different. I really should be quicker to trust God and fall off the table into his hands more often that I do. He is worthy of trust.

My granddad was much more like that…he was a person of very simple and profound faith. He just trusted God. As many of you know, my granddad, who is now in heaven, was for fifty years a pastor and Christian leader. In his first years, he was an evangelist, back in the 1930’s. He travel from town to town and they’d set up this tent and preach. People would gather, and lots of people came to know Christ.

In fact, here is a copy of a handbill they would give out to promote his crusades. I really love the line, “one man evangelistic party,” and if you knew my granddad that really fit. He was a one man party. He was full of life and full of faith. And that period of his life was full of adventure, yet demanded incredible faith. I talked with my grandmother last week about that time in their life. I said, “When did you step out in faith and see God provide?” She laughed and said, “Every minute. That’s our whole life story right there.” This was in the 30’s, in the depression, and he had no salary. He was newly married, and a few years into the marriage they had my mom. They just went from town to town to preach, and whatever people gave went to expenses and their provision. Most of the time, they didn’t have anything. She told a story about how they arrived in one city and had 50 cents and their car was empty. The gas cost a dollar, so granddad went in to ask if he could pay the rest later. He ended up sharing Christ with this guy, and the guy became a Christian and didn’t make him pay for the gas. There were hundreds of ways God provided every day, and they lived the adventure of faith living—of looking to God for everything.

I’m sure that’s why he had such great faith. There were times he would make a faith pronouncement or pray really big for someone, and I would question him. “Granddad, that sounds a little crazy. Are you sure you want to say that?” And he wouldn’t even reply. He’d just look at me with this partially confused and partially hurt look that said, “Don’t you get it? Don’t you know who God is? This isn’t bozo we are trusting; this is God.” He had learned to live by faith and not by sight. And therefore he was able to enjoy the adventure of watching God work. I am sure that if I had asked him what his favorite years of ministry were, he’d say those years—when he didn’t have anything and had to trust God for every penny. And in those years, he learned that what those pennies say, “In God we trust,” is a statement you can take to the bank. God can be trusted even when what it means to follow him makes no sense.

  • Accompanied by fear

It is easy to have this misconception when we look at all these great heroes of the past that they were unaffected by fear and doubt…that Moses for example was always the confident Charlton Heston figure holding out his staff and parting the waters. [show picture]. We read the verse in Hebrews 11 about this:    29By faith the people passed through the Red Sea[d] as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. It seems so easy. You look at that picture, and think, “Now, that is faith.” But then you read about Moses’ life, and you read about a guy who struggled with fear and self doubt tremendously. He chickened out when God called him to speak to Pharoah, so that Aaron became his spokesperson. And all of these guys were people who had a mixture of trust and terror, faith and fear.

Joshua is one of the people mentioned in Hebrews 11, and when he took over from Moses five times both God and Moses say the same thing to him, “Be strong and courageous.” Why? If he didn’t need to hear it, they wouldn’t have kept repeating it. He was willing to move forward because he was a person of faith, but that didn’t mean that he also had fear and terror within as he took the step.

Monster faith doesn’t mean that we are fearless…but it does mean that we push through our fear to take the faith step. The biggest barriers to us living by faith are doubt and fear. We consider taking a faith step, and immediately fear and doubt creep in. “This may not work out…I may not get the job…I may not have enough to live on.” We listen to those voices as if they are God. We listen to our doubts.

I really like that song that Katherine sang earlier, The Voice of Truth, because it makes this point so well. Peter had every reason to listen to fear and doubt, but he chose to step out of the boat and on to the water. And you know the other disciples wished that they too had chosen to be water walkers after that. They are the ones who missed out. The song mentions David and Goliath. Everybody was telling him how crazy he was, but he took the faith step and defeated the giant. He refused to listen to fear and doubt.

It’s a crazy thing, but we more often than not listen to all the wrong voices. We really do have a choice about which voices we listen to. You and I often just believe our doubts, as if they are automatically correct. You don't have to doubt in life.  They're a choice.  You can doubt your doubts.  Most people believe their doubts and doubt their beliefs.  Why don't you believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts?  Doesn't that make more sense?  When you say, "God could never use me."  Who told you that?  "My doubts did."  Then doubt your doubts.  Believe what the Bible says that God wants to use you, that even before you were born you were put on this planet for a purpose and He is going to use you for ministry -- to make the world a better place.  Many of you sit here week after week and say "I know God uses people but God could never use me."  And you're dead wrong!

You might think, “If I am generous, then I won’t have enough.” Who said that? God said that he provides seed for the sower. Who is right? You might think, “If I really am authentic in relationships, people aren’t going to accept me.” Yet, the Bible tells us to accept one another and to love one another and only in that kind of community do we grow—so who are you going to believe? You can choose to believe God or your doubts—which really makes the most sense?

Don’t be surprised when you believe God is asking you to do something, to stretch, that you will be afraid…of course you will. It means that you are doing something outside of your own control. You have to trust, and trust is scary. Someone else, such as God, has to be there for you. He has to provide. He has to be faithful. But if you never start trusting, you will never live the adventure.

It’s like when Christy teaches swim lessons, I love to watch out the windows when she is teaching the little ones, the beginners. They love clutching the side of the pool, even though they can see others having fun in the middle…they feel very safe on the side of the pool. They haven’t learned to swim yet, and the thought of letting go doesn’t seem like a great idea. But Christy is in the pool. She is there. And if they want to learn how to swim, they have to trust. They have to let go and scoot toward Christy’s arms as she is there cheering them on. There is so much joy on their face when they finally do it…when they conquer the fear and take the trust step. It is the only way to learn to swim. It is the only way to learn to live by faith.

Does God have you in a place where you feel challenged? Are you clutching the side of the pool? Are you staying where it is safe, where no trust is needed? He is waiting for you. He is cheering you on…which leads me to the next characteristic of monster faith.

  • Takes action

Real faith takes action. Real faith is not about talking, but about taking the step. Eventually, you have to leave the side of the pool to exhibit real faith. Everyone of the people in Hebrews 11 conquered their fear and chose to live not by sight but by faith and they took a step.

It is like that scene in Indiana Jones, where Indy has to walk across this obstacle course kind of thing, and at one point he has to step into what looks like nothing—even though there is supposedly something there (show clip?). At some point, we have to take the step of faith, even when we cannot see how it is going to work out. Faith takes action.

A great example of taking action is Joshua, just after he took over from Moses. Joshua’s job was to lead Israel into the promised land, but that was a tall order…because the promised land was full of people. There were seven nations there all far more powerful than Israel with real armies and real fortified cities. No wonder God had to keep saying, “Be strong and courageous.”

But Joshua stepped out in faith and after the Jordan River, their first big obstacle was Jericho—this huge fortified city that was considered undefeatable. But God told Joshua what to do. He told him to walk around city with all the people once a day for seven days, and on the seventh day to add to that blowing trumpets and shouting. Now think about it. This was a month or so into Joshua’s leadership, and he got the job of envisioning people to go up against a city with trumpets and shouting. What do you think people said to each other? “Man, what a loo loo this guy is. Why did Moses choose him? So, the big plan is walk around the city and make noise? That’s it? This boy’s elevator got stuck.” But they did it, and verse 30 tells us what happened:    30By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.

Faith is not an intellectual exercise. It is an action. It is a step. We don’t exhibit faith until we take the step God wants us to take.

  • Gets rewarded by God’s powerful work

Hebrews 11 tells us that the only way God is pleased is by faith. He just doesn’t even get that interested until we respond by faith—and then he moves. He is waiting to work in our church, but he waits for faith. He is waiting to work in your life, but he waits for faith. His power is limitless, but it goes to those who exhibit faith.

That is true in every example in Hebrews 11. Going back to the Joshua example, there is another story that illustrates this last point really well. It is when God tells Joshua to lead the people through the Jordan River into the promised land. By itself, that is no small task with millions of people to cross…but in this case there is no bridge. And that was a problem. The Jordan River at that point is normally 100 feet wide and 20 feet deep, but this was right in the middle of flood season. That meant that the Jordan was not calm but a raging torrent. Humanly speaking, there was no way to get everyone across with all their stuff. It was impossible.

But God told them that he would stop the flow of the River, but they had to cross. He tells Joshua to put the leaders in front with the Ark of the Covenant, the most precious possession the whole nation had. The leaders were to go into the river first and keep walking—and God would stop the water flow.

Now, that demanded faith. So, these leaders are with the ark and they go close to the water and nothing is happening. I’m sure Joshua was thinking, “Oh, no. This isn’t good.” And certainly those who were stepping into the water thought so. But when they stepped into the water, the water flow stopped. The passage tells us that God stopped the flow about 20 miles north of where they were, which meant that the flow stopped there a couple of hours before. God’s timing was perfect, but nothing happened until they stepped into the water. They had to get their feet wet, and when they did, God moved.

God responds to faith. He looks for it. And when he sees it, he rewards it with his power. That is true in your life and mine. He will move with power, but he looks for faith. Is God calling you to do something—maybe not cross the Jordan—but something. Are you putting it off or stalling? What should you stop praying about and start doing? Some people, Christians, often use prayer as an excuse to procrastinate.  "I'm praying about tithing."  Just do it!  "I'm praying about getting into a small group."  Just do it!  "I'm praying about getting involved in ministry."  Just do it!  How much do you believe God?  You are only hurting yourself by procrastinating.  You are missing out on the adventure of a faith-filled life.  Do it now!  You don't have to start big.  You can start small.  But start!

There are times in life that God has us at a crossroads, and you might be at one of those. As a church body, that is definitely true. We believe God is leading us to take a huge step to relocate the church. We know it is big, but we believe God is leading us there…and once we knew that, then the only right thing to do was to take the faith step.

And it is going to be great for our church…not only the destination of being on that land but also the journey of getting there…because God is going to stretch our faith. To relocate in this one thrust, which is what we are hoping to do because that will provide by far the biggest lift for our church and the most effective ministry, is one big faith step. It means raising 15 million dollars with pledges that span three years, which is a lot of money. 15 million dollars is three times our annual budget. People who have done a lot of capital campaigns tell us that a more typical campaign is 2 times annual budget…that is a successful campaign. Three times means the process has to be a home run. But when we got up to the plate, we sensed God saying, “Go for the homer!” I mean, why not? This is God we are talking about. He can certainly do that.

And that means that each of us have a huge opportunity to take a faith step ourselves…because the church isn’t somebody else…it is you and me. There is no one else that will take this step. It is you and it is me. We are it. My prayer is that every single one of us will be involved…that all of us will ask God what he wants us to do and participate by faith. As I mentioned once before, for Christy and me this is a huge faith-stretching experience looking to God as to what a sacrifial and faith gift would really look like and then actually doing it which means we have to trust God to provide. But that’s the adventure…that’s how God will stretch our fiath.

There are four capital campaigns in the Bible, where they raised money like we are doing now. Three in the Old Testament with the building of the tabernacle and two temple projects and in the New Testament a capital campaign for famine relief in Jerusalem. It is really encouraging because in each case God responded to their faith by not only provding money but also and more importantly by causing spiritual revival. Each time God causes spiritual renewal. That was one of the first things Gene mentioned to me when we launched this effort was to get ready for spiritual renewal…that’s what happened in the first campaign. He said it was the most spiritually significant time in our church’s history and that this one would be as well.

In keeping with that, on April 10, next week, we will be doing something very special as a church. We will have our first meeting on the land. Now, our church services will be right here, same bat place and same bat time…but on Sunday afternoon from ___ to ___ we will have a time of prayer at the land. As we thought about what to do first on the land, the only thing that made sense was to make it a time of prayer as families…kids included. We desperately need God to show up in all of this for this to happen.

And it is going to be really cool. Here’s what we are going to do. We are going to meet at Clark Stadium, and there will be Dart buses that will take us to our property. Once on the land, we will have a short time of corporate prayer, and then each single, couple, and family will be released to walk the property to different prayer stations and pray.

Each family or single or couple will also, in next week’s service, get a stake just like this one. This is really cool. As a family, with a sharpie, on the lower part of the stake that will go in the ground, write out a prayer…your family prayer as we take this step. In a sense, this is you and me saying, “We are going to drive a stake in the ground. We are going to take a faith step. And we are going to trust God to show up.” As you think about our church’s future and your own, what is your prayer as we take this step. Write it out on that stake. We will hand those out in next week’s services, and we will have some at the land too.

It gets even cooler than that, though…because when we get on the land, the outline of the phase one buildings will be spray painted on the property, which means that we will be able to see where the buildings will be. What you will do is as you are walking the property, wherever you would like along that spray painted outline, hammer in your stake in the ground. And when you do, take a little time as a family to pray together. If you have children, this is a moment that they will always remember. And on the top of the stakes are these little flags, so that when everyone drives their stakes in the ground the outline of the buildings on the property will be really obvious. By prayer, we will see it all begin to take shape.

We will leave those up until they begin grading the property, and then we’ll take them away for a while until they are ready to pour foundations, and we’ll hammer them all the way into the ground so that those prayer stakes will always be there at the foundation. Pretty cool, huh?

Please make that afternoon a priority. It is just an hour or so, but will be a very important time for our church family. This is a defining moment for our church. We are at a crossroads, and God is giving us a big challenge.

The good news is that God loves to monster up our lives when we respond with a little bit of faith. He loves to take just even a little bit of faith in the hearts of ordinary people like you and me and monster that up to do big things.

I know God has great plans in store for our church, and I want to be faithful to do my part in this adventure. I want to be faithful to take the faith step that God is calling my family to take and the whole church family to take. Let’s pray right now and ask God to give us monster faith, Hebrews 11 kind of faith.

Pray.

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