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The Bible

5) A Faith that Perserveres
2001-08-30

OUTLINE

- I always wanted to be a man of faith. When I was little would practice preaching on my parents. Wanted to be like those guys in Heb 11 . Walk on water. 15 started ministry.
- Paul, wanta fight, thinking it through
- stories of martyrs, columbine, DC talk book
- So appeared before Paul
- Read Heb 10:32 ff, context of chapter 11, I think this is what it was refering to
- But something happened within me, started to grow restless
- Story of Briercrest, wanting to quiet the faith.
- What it all came down to was that Jesus said take up your cross and follow me
- Jesus saying, Follow me, forsaking all, repenting and turning to Him.
- And what shall we do? Read Heb 12:1-3
- a nail, symbol or write things holding you back and throw it into the fire

TEXT

I have always wanted to be a man of faith. Kind of like those men and women in Hebrews chapter 11 which has been acclaimed, ìGodís Hall of Faithî. Now those guys trusted God, like Abraham who left everything and set out for the promised land, or Noah who built an ark on dry land, or Moses who chose to mistreated with the people of God because he knew his reward was ahead of him with God, or those guys passing through the Red Sea, or Rahab who looked after the spies and all those prophets who shut the mouths of lions, were thrown into a fiery furnace and were not burnt up, some of them were beaten and chained and thrown into prison, - the Bible says the world was not worthy of them. {DC Talk Book - Jesus Freaks}
I wanted to be a man of faith. My parents say that when I was 3 or 4 I used to bring them into my room after Church, line up all my stuffed animals and preach to them another sermon just like the pastor did. My brother worked the lights and my parents took turns listening to me. When I was older I was on a prayer hike up this mountain on Vancouver Island. I came to this spot where there was a big puddle with ice and snow floating around on it. I remember the story of Peter, and how by faith, he walked on water. Hmmm, I thought to myself, so gingerly I stepped out and tried my way across. Letís just say my faith was not much stronger than the ice.
So I went to school and looked around and was disappointed. So many kids knew nothing about Godís love, they were so sad and hopeless and going to hell. I was going nuts inside. So I looked for ways to reach my school, here are some ways I tried. I started making friends with all the other kids who were new or the ones who did not fit in or the ones who looked lost and started bringing them out to youth group and telling them about Jesus. I was scared out of my mind to talk about God, mind you, I used to sit in the library reading the Bible hoping someone would see me and ask what I was reading so I could share the Gospel with them but at the same time hiding it whenever someone went by. Or the time I tried to use my creative English assignment to talk about God, I was so scared for that presentation. Still, God wanted to use me even as He wants to use you in your school. And all these kids started coming out to youth group and grow in their faith. I was known all over the school as a Christian. Some thought that was cool, others hated me for it.
Like this one guy ñ Paul. He knew I was a Christian and he hated me for it. He used to sit there in French class and shoot spit balls at me till my sweater was covered in white. Or worse he would shoot sticky gum balls at me and get them stuck in my hair, do you have any idea how hard that is to get out? He had a little gang in town with his own personal arsenal and drug ring. His twin brother was later charged with murder when he shot at man downtown and killed the one beside him when a drug deal went bad. These were not the kind of guys I wanted to be messing with. So one day he corned my friend Nico and I by the library. He was doing this thing, ìYou wanna wrestle? You wanna wrestle?î ìNoî said Nico. He would not give up so I suggested they arm wrestle. Nico knew better than to get started with Paul but I was young and inexperienced so I arm wrestled instead. I beat him too. But after that he would not let go. He just kept holding onto my arm. So I picked the guy and spun him around my head and put him down. My brother came by and broke us up and I made my exit.
That night I was so worked up I went for a walk around the streets to calm down. I was so frustrated I was shaking. I mean this guy would call at all hours of the day and night and harass us and walk around outside the house and threaten us. I had to do something. I had to communicate with him and I had to communicate with him in the only language he knew. I had to knock his socks off. And then there was this voice, you know that voice donít you and to top it all of it was from Scripture, ìBut I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.î (Luke 6:27-29 a)
ìBut God how can I love him, I have tried and it just does not workî
ìLove your enemiesî
ìBut he will not understandî
ìTurn the other cheekî
And so it went on and I wrestled with God trying to get Him to understand I was right and He was wrong in this case but of course you know who won.
So I happened to phone an older friend of mine from the Church, for that is what the Church is for isnít it, to support each other. He told me that he used to have this Paul in his cub scouts class and that while on a canoe trip one day he had led Paul to the Lord. Paul? A christian? Wow. So my friend brought over a letter to give to Paul and a bunch of Gospel pamphlets.
The next morning I awoke, today was the day. Okay God, letís see what you are going to do.
I went to school and during French classI talked to Paul, ìPaul, we have to talkî
ìTalk, ya Iíd love to talk to you. Fist and face. Fist and face.î
ìLater.î
Then there was recess and lunch and finally we came to Math class, the last class of the day. All day Paul had been waiting for this and right in the middle of Math class he turns to me and says, ìNow, letís talkî
ìAfter classî
After class came, my heart was thumping, we went outside, the crowd began to gather. Paul was getting himself ready. I looked at him and the boldness of the Lord came over me and I said, ìPaul, Iím sorry about what I did yesterday, picking you up and all. As a Christian I need to love people no matter what. Here, your old cub scout leader wanted me to give you this.î
I gave it to him and we stood there for a moment and then we both walked away. And since that day Paul has respected me because I stood for what I believed in.
I had the chance to visit him so years later. His brother was standing trial. Paul was all broken up. We sat by the lockers and talked, this time for real. Since then I have lost contact but I pray he has set things right with God and is walking for God - but you never know how others will respond. Our job is simply to be faithful.
And I think that is what Hebrews 11 is all about. Men and women who stood for God no matter what. What is really interesting is those verses just before Hebrews 11 that explain why it is that he talks about all these people (Read Heb 10:32-39 )
I need to hear that word for I have not always walked with God as close as I should. There have been times when I have wanted to throw it away, and that is what this passage is about. Donít throw it away, rather be like those men and women of faith.
There was one time when it was the hardest. It was my first year of Bible college. All summer I had struggled like crazy in my faith. I was serving at a Bible camp as a councellor but all the while I was not sure if God even existed or if I was going to follow Him. I needed to get away and work it out. So I set for Bible school to find answers, really, one answer - would I follow God or throw it all away?
I asked a lot of questions like, ìHow do I know for sure God is real?î And ìHow do I know which God is God?î but there was something deeper brewing inside that was about to come out. So I kept going to Church and chapel and seeking God and trying to come to peace with all these doubts and questions. Unfortantely I tried to do it alone, I was afraid to let anyone know. How much I could have used their prayers and love for Satan was working overtime trying to get me to turn away.
One day I was at this special service where we get together and sing songs to God. I was in the back way up in the balcony so I did not have to get too close to God but God had other plans for me that night. They started singing this song and it was titled in big black letters, ëI stand in awe of youí. The words came up and the leader asked everyone to sit down. Now, I know I was struggling with God but the one thing I could not stand was hypocracy. I mean how can we say, ìI stand in awe of you God, the great and wonderful Godî How can we talk about standing when we are sitting on our backside. I could not contain myself, I stood up and started to preach. I told them all it was a bunch of lies to do that and we should not dishonor God like that. The speaker tried to explain but I would not listen, I was too mad (later I learnt that it was their tradition to sit for the first part and then to all stand when they came to those words and so there really was no problem there).
Still I was mad and I went out for a walk. My friend Terry walked with me trying to convince me that was not the best thing to do. After a few blocks he started to realize I was right but that did not matter anymore to me because I started to realize something more important, that I was in the wrong - not about the song but about my life. I was the hypocrite. I was the one saying I was Christian but doubting if He existed. O come on, admit it Chris. That is not even the question. The real question is something much deeper. You are only putting on this show about doubting God as a smokescreen to hide the even more, less spiritual struggle within you. You know God exists even as a goldfish knows there is water - you have been swimming in it all your life and it is so much a part of you you know nothing different. The real struggle can be summarized in this one sentence of Jesus, ìFollow meî (Lk 9:23 ) or in itís fulness ìIf anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.î
ìYou want all of me, donít you Jesus.î Here you are standing there for the last few months calling me to follow you. Calling me to give up everything and admit that you are the Lord of my life. You want me to give up all these sins. I am caught. The reason I am struggling is I really want to go out there in that world and find out if there is anything I am missing. To find out if you are hiding something from me To find out if this world has anything to offer. Something within me just wants to go nuts and have my life and sin, doesnít it? But you want all of me. You donít just want half my heart or half my allegiance. You want to come first in my life donít you? Above all my friends, and family and hobbies and lusts. You want to be number 1. You want me to follow and stop looking back.î
And so I stood there before God, He had drawn a line in the sand and challenged me to cross it.
So I got down on my knees in Terryís room and I poured out my heart to God. I told Him that I was struggling that all this questions was just a fraud and my real issue is I was not sure if I wanted to follow Him. Then I started confessing my sins, one by one they came and for each one I confessed it was God said, ìforgivenî The tears poured down my eyes and I started wailing, not just crying but wailing before the Lord. I had made up my mind I had decided to follow Jesus and there was no turning back.
And that day I stuck the flag in the ground and gave my life to Christ again. And since that day I started to grow. I would literally walk away and come back an hour later and would be closer to God. It is now almost 7 years later and I am still walking with God. Sure I have stumbled and falled more times than I remember but each time I turn back to God and He picks me up and we walk again - growing even through the failures.
You see, no one says the Christian life is going to be easy. In fact Jesus promises that you will be persecuted. People will hate you if you choose to live for Christ. Some of you will be made fun of, some of you will be spat upon, some of you beaten up and some of you might even have a gun held to your head but Jesus never said it would be easy. Just that we need to perservere. That is why we are given this list of people who kept the faith because we too are called to keep it with them, to join them on the list of Godís heroes. That is why it ends with these word, (Read Heb 12:1-3 )

Optional Ending

Are you ready to throw off everything that hinders? Do you see this fire here? If you are ready to give it all to Jesus then I want you to write down on that piece of paper all the things that are holding you back, all the things that are keeping you from God. And I want you to come forward and cross this line and put them in the fire. Then we are going to stand here and we are going to pray together and encourage each other. Are you ready?

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