Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Some wonder what good it is to have faith in God when He never seems to answer their prayers. Many lose what faith they have and give up on God altogether. Today, a look at the heroes of faith who believed God no matter what.
Please stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, why do some people have great faith and others have little? Dave, I think the answer to your question involves some mystery. Sometimes it's difficult to know why there are some people with great faith and others don't have that great faith.
But we can take a page from D.L. Moody, who said that he prayed for faith and then he came across the passage of Scripture, which says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. So he paid great attention to the word of God, and that built faith in his heart. You know, throughout history, sometimes the Church of Jesus Christ looked around and found no reason to believe that God was on its side. I'm talking about how Islam was able to capture the Christian church throughout the Middle East. I've written a book about this. It's titled The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent. What I'm talking about in the book is lessons we can learn from the past and what the Church has endured in other countries. Today is the last day we're making this resource available to you. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. Here's what you do.
Go to rtwoffer.com, or if you prefer, call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the book The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent, an informed response to Islam's war with Christianity. And now let us open God's Word and listen to what he has to say to us. I remember attending a conference where there was a young pastor in a wheelchair dying of terminal cancer. The whole conference prayed for him. I learned that the church of which he was the pastor had had a prayer chain, and they prayed all night. And then they decided that they would bring the prayer request to an even wider community, and hundreds of people prayed for him, sometimes day after day. But then finally the time came when his last words were these, I hope that I could go in a blaze of glory, but this is the best that I can do.
And then 20 minutes later he died. A woman who was part of the prayer chain later on said, I'm never going to bother God with another request again. Why should I?
I don't want to be hurt. If he didn't answer the prayer of all those people for this young pastor, why should I trouble the Almighty? I remember a woman in a Bible class saying, long ago I've given up on God and I've given up on prayer. I prayed for my daughter that she'd grow up and be a missionary. Well, she married an unsaved man. Everything went downhill from there. She said, I'm not going to trouble God.
I don't want to be hurt. Yesterday in the mail at our home came the wonderful publication that we get regularly, The Voice of the Martyrs. I picked it up, randomly opened it, and by the way, they check out all that they write in that magazine, and read the story of a young convert from Islam to Christianity who was shot as a result of his conversion.
His sister also converted, but then because she was so severely beaten, she denied the faith under that kind of pressure. My question today is simply this. Where is God when we really need him, and how do we keep believing when he doesn't seem to do what all rational people would think God should with all of his power?
How do we hang in? Let's take our Bibles and turn now to the 11th chapter of the book of Hebrews, Hebrews chapter 11, and I'm going to begin in verse 32, in verse 32, where it says these words, and what more shall I say? A pastor began reading that passage of scripture and began with that question, and someone in the back said, try Amen. And what more shall I say, for some time would fail to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, evidently a reference to Daniel, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
Women received back their dead by resurrection just that far, probably a reference to the time of Elijah and Elisha, where you have resurrections from the dead. Today what I'd like to do is to give you four facts regarding faith, four important facts regarding faith. Fact number one is simply this, that sometimes faith changes our circumstances.
Sometimes faith changes our circumstances. Look at the list of victories that is referred to here. It includes such things as military victories. It includes, of course, healings and all kinds of miracles that God did.
They crossed the Red Sea by faith. We don't have time to list all the miracles. In fact, he couldn't. That's why he said, what more shall I say?
And then he began to summarize. Sometimes faith changes our circumstances, and we have good evidence that it does. Sometimes when we pray for people, God answers prayer, and there are people in this congregation today who would say that they were healed when the elders prayed for them, and then there are others for whom we prayed that were not healed. But sometimes God intervenes, and faith and prayer changes our circumstances.
Sometimes he miraculously, almost miraculously, grants money to us. When we're in financial need, he proves his faithfulness in multiple ways. Number one, sometimes faith changes our circumstances. But there's a second fact of faith I want you to remember, and that is that sometimes faith does not change our circumstances. Sometimes faith does not change our circumstances.
Students, I throw this out to you. I hope that you memorize scripture. When I was your age, I could quote the entire book of Hebrews by memory. Also Saint John, by the way, the book of John and a few others. It took me 45 minutes to quote the book of Hebrews once I learned it. But don't ask me to do it today, all right?
I can't do it. And I memorized it all in the King James Version, and now we have different translations. But I remember quoting the book of Hebrews and not even thinking about what I was really quoting, and I didn't realize until later that there are two classes of people in the famous 11th chapter of the book of Hebrews. And the break comes there in the middle of verse 35. You know, of course, that the paragraphs in the Bible, the verses and the chapter divisions were put in by people.
They did not come inspired. That's why sometimes you have the breaks at a bad place. If I had been there, I would like to think that I would have begun a new verse in the middle of verse 35, but our text doesn't. It says, some, I memorized it in a translation that said others, now we have a break. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release so that they might gain a better life. Others, others suffered mocking and flogging and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned. They were sawn in two. They were killed with the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, afflicted, mistreated, of whom the world was not worthy, wandering about in the deserts and the mountains and dens and caves and the earth. And I want to say, well, where was God for them?
Thank you very much. There was no deliverance. Where is God for the young man who shot because of his faith and the young people who have to dig their own graves because they convert to Christianity? Where is God then? We love to tell the story of Daniel in the lion's den, and of course it's a true story, and how God came and shut the mouths of lions in that den.
But my wife and I have been to Rome and we've seen the Circus Maximus and we've been to the Colosseum. And we discovered there that Christians were thrown to the lions and they cried up to God, but the lions came and ripped them apart. I might say parenthetically that some of the people who watched said that before they died, they looked into heaven and it was as if they could already see the world to come.
But there is no deliverance for them. Twelfth chapter of the book of Acts, the scripture says very clearly there that Peter and James were in prison to be beheaded by Herod and Herod beheads James. And lo and behold, Peter is sleeping there with the intention that he should be brought out the next day and beheaded as well. And he's between two guards and suddenly he's tapped on the shoulders by an angel. His chains fell off. The prison door opened. I think it was something like when you go into Dominic's, you know, it just opens and suddenly say, but today we accept that. But can you imagine in that day, before the days of technology, and Peter lives.
Well, what's up? You deliver one and you let the other die. The older I get, the more I love God, but also the more mysterious his ways are. No wonder the Bible says they're past finding out. You can probe them and think about them, but there's a certain unpredictability regarding the way in which God treats people and he certainly doesn't treat everybody alike. And the 11th chapter of Hebrews shows that sometimes faith changes our circumstances. Sometimes people of faith discover that their faith does not change their circumstances and they are tortured and they are hunted and they are killed and they die at the hand of the sword and there's no deliverance. But notice this, both groups are heroes of faith. Now, there's a third fact that I want you to remember about faith. And the third fact is this, that faith does not judge God by circumstances. Faith does not judge God by circumstances.
You see, that's how come they made it into the catalog of the heroes of faith, even though they didn't see a miracle. What they said is life is hard, but I'm not going to blame God. I'm not going to conclude he doesn't love me just because things don't turn out my way. Once again, let me ask you, if you were to look at the world with all of its natural disasters with tornadoes and tsunamis and floods and wind storms and tornadoes that indeed wipe out whole towns, even here in the United States, would you conclude that God loved the world?
I don't think you'd make any conclusion like that if you looked at circumstances. The reason that we know that God loves the world is not because this world looks like a loving place. We believe that God loves the world because his word tells us for God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son that whoever believes in him should have everlasting life. That's how come we know God loves the world. You want to know whether or not God loves the world?
You look at the cross of Jesus Christ, and that'll be a reminder of the fact that God loves the world. And these people didn't say, based on what we're going through, God doesn't care about us, God doesn't love us. Despite our injustices that are done against us, they didn't say that God doesn't love us, but rather they trusted God. Their faith endured no matter what. Because faith isn't simply receiving what we want. Faith is even the ability to accept whatever God gives us. And if we accept that, we also will be heroes of faith.
You know, the Apostle Paul spoke about this in the 8th chapter of Romans, and it was Cowper, actually I think to be pronounced Cooper, I think the English folks pronounce his name Cooper, William Cooper, who wrote regarding people, and this would certainly apply to atheists, wouldn't it? They snatch from God's hand the balance and the rod. They re-judge his justice and become the judge of God. Blessed are those who allow judgment to be in God's hands. This is what Paul says realistically, and the Bible is such a realistic book. Paul says, who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation do it?
Will distress do it? Persecution. Now what about persecution? Famine, that means hunger. Seeing your kids starve.
Nakedness means poverty. Danger, the sword, you're dying for the faith. Paul says, as it is written, for your sakes we are being killed all the day long. We are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. That does not count against God's love when we go through such trials.
And then he really wants to make a point even more clearly. And so he says this, no, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. And then he lists things that people might think could separate us from God's love. And this list, every one of these things is something that caused somebody to abandon their faith in God.
Paul says don't do that. For he says, I am sure that neither death nor life, angels can't do it, rulers can't do it, things present can't do it, things to come, powers can't do it, height can't do it, depth can't do it, or anything else in all of God's creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Paul says that we must go on believing whether we see the answers to prayer or not. And if we trust in the goodness of God, knowing that despite his unpredictability, beyond what we can see, God's intention toward us is good, we also will be heroes of faith. You don't have to see the miracle, though we may pray for a miracle and seek it. At the end of the day, blessed are those who go on believing no matter what. There's a fourth fact about faith, and that is simply that faith always leads to ultimate victory, always leads to ultimate victory. But before I give you that fact, I was going to point out one other illustration, and that is in the Old Testament in the book of Daniel, or you remember, there's the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Students refer to them as my shack, your shack, and a bungalow. And someday I'm going to preach on them. I'm preparing a series of messages to lead up to that that I'll explain at a future time. But here they are, and you know what they say?
I love this. They say when they are asked to bow before the image, and if not, they're going to be thrown into the fiery furnace, they say, O King, our God is able to deliver us, but if he doesn't, let it be known unto you, O King, we will not bow down before the image. They said whether we see a miracle, whether we are delivered or not delivered, our faith will not be affected by circumstances. We refuse to judge God's care for us based on what we can see, what heroes of faith. Now that fourth observation, faith always leads to ultimate victory. But before I tell you how it leads to ultimate victory, I need to share with you that not everybody listening to this message will find that what I'm going to say applies to them. These blessings that I'm going to outline apply to those who personally know Jesus Christ as their Savior. And you say, well, don't I know Jesus as my Savior?
Well, I'm going to give you a test. There is a woman in this congregation who sings in the choir who is not technologically connected. At least she wasn't. Her husband loves to tell this story of how she was at work one day and a colleague said to her, do you have email? And she said, if I had it, would I know it? You know, she was a nurse. Maybe she thought email was some kind of a disease. You know, if you have it, you know it.
Well, the answer I think is yes. If you have it, I think you know it. If you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you know that you know because you have personal relationship with him, because you've received the gift of eternal life.
And let me remind you that that gift is not dependent on what you can do. It is dependent on what God has done. We love to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ here on Running to Win. We love to proclaim the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord. He is Savior.
When we believe in him, his righteousness is attributed to us. Oh, such great salvation. You know, I've written a book entitled The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent.
And today is the last day we're making this resource available to you. This book discusses lessons that we can learn from the Middle East regarding Islam. Let me ask you this question. Is it true that when the church is in the devil's hands, as it sometimes appears to be, it is still in God's hands? That's actually one of the chapter titles of this book, The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent. And I show that the answer is indeed yes.
And I prove it from the book of Revelation. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com.
Now, I'm going to give you an opportunity to pick up a pen or pencil so that you can write this down. As I mentioned, this is the last day we're making this resource available to you, The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent, an informed response to Islam's war with Christianity. Go to rtwoffer.com, or if you prefer, call us at 1-888-218-9337. Thanks in advance for helping us. If you listen to Running to Win regularly, you know that our desire is to get the gospel of Jesus Christ to thousands upon thousands.
Thanks for helping us. Go to rtwoffer.com or call right now 1-888-218-9337. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Is there a special formula as to how one should receive Christ?
John lives in Greenville, South Carolina. He listens to Running to Win online, and he asks, there are some ministers that preach against using the sinner's prayer to lead someone to salvation. I notice that you use the prayer often, and I'm curious as to your view on the prayer, and if those that argue against it have a valid argument. Well, let me simply say this, that I used the prayer because Jesus used it in the parable that he told, and apparently it was very effective. If by the sinner's prayer you're talking about the man who said that, God be merciful to me, the sinner, Jesus said he went down to his house justified. So it seems to me that that is a very legitimate and good prayer to pray.
I don't know why anyone would object to that. Some people might get technical and say that in Greek it is, God be propitiated to me, a sinner, and he was praying this before the cross, and today God has been propitiated, to use a big term, but that's a technicality. The fact is that this man was desperate. He realized that he was a sinner. If he was to be saved it was because of God's mercy. Now of course because we are living from the standpoint of the cross, which he did not have the benefit of, we know that part of that message is the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, because Jesus was substituted for us, etc. But the sincere soul, acknowledging sin, crying up to God for mercy, will receive it.
Certainly the prayer in itself needs explanation, but I think it's perfectly fine to use it. Thank you John, and thank you Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer, or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60614. The heroes of faith include ordinary people like you and me. Like them, we too can believe God without immediate answers to prayer, as we'll see next time. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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