— Brother Phil Enlow: Praise God! My brain is really…I need what I’m preaching this morning. I feel especially weak, but that’s good. Didn’t Paul say, I glory in my weakness? Well, praise God! Anybody with me this morning? You feel weak this morning? Praise God, let’s thank God for it and say that doesn’t hinder you at all.
But I’ll tell you, I guess what I was going to say is this. We have in human culture different kinds of people with different kinds of personalities and one thing you see in some is kind of a fantasy life, where they imagine things like they would like them to be and sort of…and then somebody will come along and say, “Come on, be realistic?
How many of you think we need to be realistic? Not in that sense, because I’ll tell you, if we’re realistic we’re gonna miss everything that God has, because what the Devil means by realistic is you are confined by your circumstances. You are confined by the reality, the facts.
And I guess if I had any way of characterizing this today it would be faith versus facts. Because every one of us is confronted with facts…they’re apparently…and they’re real. It’s not that you can look at something and say, that’s not real. It is.
But look at how the writer begins the…chapter 11 of Hebrews and he defines what faith is. What is it that God’s looking for, for you and me? I guess that’s a good question to ask. What is He looking for? Okay? He’s looking for something more than just a hand-me-down religion, isn’t He?
( congregational response ).
You know, we could look at ourselves through the world’s eyes and there’s very little that’s impressive about us. We’re just a bunch of people that probably a lot of people would say, they’re crazy, they’re dreamers, they’re just walking in delusion, what they’re embracing is just feel-good, hope-so, old-fashioned…all the ways that these things get characterized, because you’re not really dealing with the reality, with the facts.
And I’ll tell you, God deals with facts but I’ll tell you, He deals with it with a supernatural power that transcends everything. And, the one thing I do not want to see is people who grow up in this church and simply embrace, outwardly, what we stand for and never have the reality on the inside. That’s a horrible situation. We don’t need anybody with hand-me-down religion. We need people who have a conviction that God has placed in your heart that enables you to see things that others cannot see, and they’re real!
This is not fantasy. But I’ll tell you, you’re gonna have to have the real thing. There’s a God who will speak to any heart that’s willing. And I’ll guarantee there are probably people here that God has spoken to and when He spoke to you, you weren’t willing. That’s a scary thing. But oh, I’ll tell you what, there a God who will open blind eyes and enable you to see things that the world cannot see and considers to be foolishness. Praise God!
And so, the writer defines faith very simply. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (NIV). Now how does that comport with the idea of living by facts? It doesn’t do…no! I mean, what we hope for, is that a present thing? You know, Paul says in Romans 8, if you hope for something, you’re talking about the future, aren’t you? You’re talking about something that isn’t here yet, but you place all of your hope and your confidence in that, rather than the present circumstances. I believe God has shown me where He is going with all of this, and I don’t know the path that will get me there, exactly the details, but I know the God who has spoken to me and my entire confidence rests upon that. That’s one way to look at faith.
The other one is it’s, “…certain of what we do not see.” Because I’ll tell you, there is a God who does invade and give witness to His Word, but ultimately, we’re every one gonna have to occupy a place where we have an inborn conviction that’s in the heart. It doesn’t matter what circumstances we go through, it’s there.
You know, I won’t go into the details but I told you about that time in college when I just kind of gave up. I was mad at God and disgusted and, more discouraged than anything else, I guess. But, after the Lord let me stew around for two or three days, there was something deep down in here that I couldn’t escape.
It wasn’t like people outside were telling me. They didn’t even know what was going on. But, it wasn’t like my external, religious upbringing carried me through that. There was something that God had put in here that I knew was right, and I knew the only course of action that I could possibly take was to surrender and say, God, I’m in your hands. I don’t understand what’s happening, but I’m trusting in You and I’m gonna go forward by faith. If I never have a sign…had something to do with that…signs and experience…and God brought me through.
And how many of you have been through times like that in your life? You know—you know what I’m talking about. God is gonna try faith. He’s gonna allow us to be in situations where every fact is lined up on one side of the ledger and faith and confidence in God in His present love for us and in His future plans for us, that stands absolutely, utterly opposed to this and we have to make a choice.
I’ll tell you, it takes the supernatural power of God at work in the human heart to bring people through to this. This is not a religion. Folks, we are not in the business of marketing this church and trying to compete with other churches. We are in the place where what we want to do is simply lift up Christ.
( congregational amens ).
And allow Him to reveal Himself to hearts and that’s the ones that He’s gonna bring through.
You could come here and profess everything and do all the activities and miss all of this. I pray that that won’t happen. I pray that God will become so real that that will be the deciding factor in every circumstance.
That’s what chapter 11 is about. And I’m not gonna go through all of it but, we have the famous verse that we quote so often in verse 6: “…Without faith….” You want to please God? Without faith it’s impossible! That’s what God is looking for, more than any other one thing, is that quality that He puts in there. It’s when we hear His Word and we open our hearts to it, it does something! It changes something. It gives us a quality. It gives us an ability that we do not possess apart from God at work in the heart.
“…Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (KJV). And you look in the context and that is somebody that God has sent and empowered to speak words from heaven. And I’ll tell you, when the heart is receptive, receives that word into the soil of the heart, it brings forth something that is eternal.
And I’ll tell you, that’s what…I just pray…folks, if you know God here today, shouldn’t we be praying? Shouldn’t we be crying out and saying, oh, God, make this…just be real to young people that are growing up, to others that come in?
Oh, that this would not be just another form of Christianity. We don’t need that! If that’s all we have, let’s go find something that appeals to our flesh and makes us feel good. We need Jesus Christ to come into our midst and be who He is and lead us forward! And that needs to be our cry.
But anyway, “…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.” (NIV). So, you see what the writer is encouraging here. He knows that we’re gonna be going through all kinds of circumstances where every fact that we could point to is against trusting God.
How many know what I’m talking about? Every single thing you could possibly point to, circumstantially, in terms of your own condition, conditions around you, everything is utterly contrary to trusting God. And you’ve got someone sitting on your shoulder saying what a fool you are! You’re missing out. Look what’s going on. You need to take control of your own life and live it. This is foolishness.
But you think about…I mean you could go through all the scriptures and just point out the fact—point out the facts in every case. When Noah walked with God, and the whole generation that he was a part of heard God’s voice, because He had been striving with them, had He not? Said, “…My spirit shall not always strive…” (KJV).
So, God had been really…has been reaching out to them but they’d been saying, no. I want to do my…I’m gonna live my life, this is my life. I believe in what I can touch and taste and the feelings that I have, they’re real and that’s what I’m going with. And so, it came down to a time when judgment was coming.
Now, what facts did Noah have in his favor, outwardly? Absolutely none. I mean, the idea that there was gonna be a flood…some people believe that there wasn’t any rain before this. I don’t know. But regardless, there was…I mean, the idea of there’s gonna be a flood that’ll wipe out all life on earth, all land-dwelling life at least. You’re kidding me, right?
You know, all of our experience tells us, no! And you talk about a God who’s gonna judge us for what we’re doing. Where’s He been all this time? Here we’ve been living our lives, we’ve been doing our own thing and God hasn’t intervened. God hasn’t done anything and no judgment has fallen. You’re just living…I mean you’re wasting your entire life building a boat on dry land. Every fact that you could possibly point to is against what you’re doing and causes us to believe that you’re a fool.
So, you see what’s going on in his life and you see what God had called him to do? Man, the perseverance that enabled him to work for, what was it, 125 years? It was a long time…120 years? Whatever it was, it was a long time that he absolutely had to persevere. And yet, you remember how Peter uses this same example, because this applies to us. How did Peter use this, you remember? Anybody awake yet?
( laughter ).
How did Peter use this when he was talking about the coming of Christ? He says, we have a…there is a generation that is willingly ignorant. They refuse to consider the reality of what God once did when He judged the world and it overflowed with water and everybody perished except those that He saved. That same God, by the same powerful Word is gonna show up and this world and everything you see, all of these facts that men depend upon—all of those facts will be burned up!
I’ll tell you, I want to be part of the generation that says, I see past the world in which I live. God has given me a kind of sight that only He can give and I want to embrace it. I want to live in the reality of that, and I want to walk with people who live in the reality of it because my God’s Word trumps everybody else’s facts!
( congregational amens ).
There has never been a condition in the world, never been a fact, if you want to put it that way, that God’s power did not trump when the time came. You think about Abraham. My God, the faith that that man exhibited. He was told by God to leave his family.
Now, what does the world think about that kind of thing? Well, it’s all about family. Well, he listened to a voice from heaven. He didn’t see this God, but somehow there was real faith that was born in that man’s heart that enabled him to leave his family and ultimately migrate to Palestine, to the Promised Land.
And, how many years was all this going on before the promise came? Wasn’t it like 25 years, 30 years? It was a long time that he was living there, in tents, and his brother-in-law was living in a house back home, and just having a big time and living a normal life based upon facts. And here is Abraham living and believing and not…and just willing to wait for it.
How many of you are willing to wait for things that you are trusting God for? Is that kind of an issue with a lot of us? I’ll tell you, we are so geared to seeing things, to seeing results in our circumstances that we don’t really know,
I think, many times what real faith is about. Think about the years that Abraham had to listen to the voice that would constantly tell him, you are a fool, Abraham! Face facts! If this God wanted you to be the father of many nations, why aren’t you a dad? And of course, as the years passed, we came to the point where he couldn’t even father a child and she couldn’t bear a child, and there they are, still believing in the promise of God.
You want a picture of what faith is about? I’ll tell you, God is gonna work on our faith, isn’t He? Every single one of us has a lot of room to grow in our faith. We’re all about believing God. There are a lot of folks out there, religiously, that they’re gonna believe God, and yet when something doesn’t happen in the time frame they’re looking for, then you got a problem.
How many of you remember the thing that Brother Thomas…the experience that Brother Thomas told about over the years? And I think some of you old-timers would remember. This happened before my time here. But, he prayed for a cancer, I believe, that was on Brother Hughes’ ear, is that correct? All right, I’m getting the okay. And, there was a cancerous growth that was on his ear and Brother Thomas prayed for it. Well, guess what Brother Thomas looked at every time he came into the service?
( laughter ).
There it is. And guess what the voices in his head were trying to tell him? It didn’t work. It’s not gonna work…and on and on and on, and somehow the Lord enabled him, in that, to say, wait a minute, I’m still trusting God, I believe God, and to make a choice, because there are no feelings in here. There’s no circumstance to go by, there are no feelings, but just a simple faith to trust God.
And ultimately, it came down to…but the Devil’s telling him, he’s gonna die, this is gonna take over his life…and you’re at fault here, on and on and on with the voices in his head against the circumstances. Using…trying to use facts to destroy faith. And you remember what happened. One time he came into the service and the thing had gotten a little smaller instead of bigger. And he said, aha!
( laughing ).
And he took comfort from that and said, see Devil! And so, he continued to pray and to believe God and ultimately that thing just fell off and was gone.
But I’ll tell you, we are addicted, more than we dare realize, to seeing something and feeling something in our exercise of faith. And I’ll tell you, the saints of old did not look at…I mean, I’m sure they dealt with the same battles that we fight, but ultimately, the ones that God upholds as examples of believing God, they simply believed God, period!
You and I don’t know God’s plan. You and I do not know God’s timetable. And how presumptuous is it for us to simply say, God, I’m believing You for this and I’m expecting it to happen this way, on this time schedule, and if it doesn’t…see, then we back off and then we’re mad at God or we’re discouraged. God is looking for people who simply say, yes, Lord, I believe You! That’s the bottom line.
And so, here he is, living for all those years…and I’m gonna just flip over to a passage we have used many times that really enlarges on what’s going on here, Romans 4. Like I said, there’s nothing really new here, but I sense in my own spirit a need here. I sense that God is wanting to develop a stronger faith in me.
We’re gonna need the kind of faith that will stand against facts. This world is gonna look like it’s gone to hell in a hand basket and it’s gonna take the real thing. I’ll tell you, we’ve got Somebody who’s gonna be faithful to the end. Think of the songs that were sung this morning…all about God’s faithfulness and persevering faith. That’s what it’s about. See, the Lord was leading in the picking of songs. Praise God!
But here was Abraham…and the point of the passage here is that the thing that caused God to accept Abraham as a righteous man was not what he did, not his works, but the simple fact that he believed God. When God said something, that’s the end of the story.
And his faith was translated into practical action. He didn’t say, God, I believe You and I’m gonna stay here and…stay here with the family, but I believe You. He did what God told him to do and he did it step-by-step and he went to the ultimate, I mean the ultimate expression of faith.
But listen to what it says, and who he was believing in. “He is our father…” (NIV). This is down in the middle of 17. “…In the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”
Doesn’t sound to me like we’ve got a God who’s dependent at all on circumstances. It doesn’t matter what the circumstance is, God is greater than that circumstance. Praise God! And He’s looking for a people who will constantly look to Him and say, God, You do things Your way, You do things on Your schedule.
So anyway, “…calls things that are not as though they were. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, so shall your offspring be. Without weakening in his faith…” This is one scripture that really kind of made me connect this word fact. “…He faced the fact…” Okay? “…He faced the fact that his body was as good as dead….”
There is nothing about the faith to which we are called that is a matter of fantasy. Folks, our imprisonment, when we come to Christ, our imprisonment in sin and death is real. This is not just some imaginary thing that we’re…well, I’m better than somebody else. It doesn’t apply to me.
It applies to you! Every single one of us is living in a world in which we are imprisoned in a world ruled by sin and death. And those circumstances are real. But thank God the Gospel gives us a way to look that situation in the eye and say, but God!
How many remember Ephesians chapter 2 where Paul describes the condition of people who had been living under the power of Satan, doing what he wants, prisoners of sin and death? I forget the exact language, but you remember the scripture.
And then, how does verse 4 begin? But God! So, all those things were wiped away! In a flash they ceased to have any power over these people because God intervened and He has power against sin, against death, against everything that stands between you and me and His ultimate purpose for you and me. Thank God!
So anyway, “…he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.” Man, can you imagine? I mean, put yourself in the position of these people. God’s made this wonderful promise but there ain’t no way it’s gonna happen.
How many of us would look past such a limitation and say, but I believe God? I have waited 25 years but God is still faithful! That’s my bottom line. I am looking to God. God promised this and that’s the end of the story, and I’m trusting in Him. I’ll tell you, that’s what faith is about. That’s the faith that God wants to build in every single one of us, and it only comes from Him, doesn’t it? Praise God!
So, he faced the fact and so forth, we read that. “…Being fully persuaded…” in verse 21, “…that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why it was credited to him as righteousness. The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
I’ll tell you, there is something that needs to…that God wants to build into your thinking and mine. And I’m just gonna say this at this point, because this is kind of where this is going. I wonder how much you and I, more than we dare realize, are prisoners of this “realistic” thinking, where we live in a prison house of earthly ‘facts’ so-called, when God wants to take us beyond those facts and show His power in us? Do you think maybe, just maybe that’s where He’s going with a whole lot of things that’re happening in our lives?
How many of you just love…I know you’d all love to have an easy way and just, praise God, I’d jump on the bandwagon and it’s gonna take me to heaven and everything is gonna be great and grand and we’re gonna sing and shout all the way there. I’ll tell you, we can sing and shout but it’s gonna have to be through tears, sometimes. It’s gonna have to be through pain, sometimes. It’s gonna have to be through difficulties of many kinds!
It’s not “realistic.” God has put us in a world where every fact that the Devil can bring forth is rallied against what He has said and what He has promised, and we’re gonna have to make that choice! And only God’s power at work in a heart can enable us to do that! That’s why we’ve got to open up and say, God, help me!
( congregational response ).
And in those times when you have no answer, in those times when it hurts, when there’s sadness, when there’s sickness, when there’s all these things that rise up against faith and you’re wondering, does God really care? That’s when faith grows!