Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. The heroes of faith in Hebrews chapter 11 include ordinary people like you and I. They believed God despite not seeing immediate responses to their prayers. We too can exhibit their kind of faith, believing God no matter what.
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, many may find it hard to take a leap of faith when circumstances seem too difficult to handle. Will today's message help us?
Dave, I have to emphasize that I believe strongly that the answer is yes. And the reason is this. In this message, we're going to be pointing out that sometimes faith does not change our circumstances. But nonetheless, this faith is very precious to God. So to all those who are disappointed with God because he hasn't come through for them, this is a message that they need to hear. And by the way, we are making this very brief series available to all who write or connect with us. Here's what you can do.
Go to rtwoffer.com, or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the series of messages, Faith That Survives the Fire. I believe it will be a great blessing and encouragement and help you to know that even without a miracle, your faith is special to God. 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. Remember, there's the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Students refer to them as Myshach, Yorshach, and Abungalow. 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. 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. And you believe what God has done. You believe what God has done in Jesus Christ for you. I urge you to accept him as your savior, as your redeemer, to rescue us from the consequences, the eternal consequences of our sin.
So this is now limited to those who believe. If you're a believer, faith will always lead to ultimate victory. Let me give you a good example in this 11th chapter, and that is, of course, the story of Abraham. We won't read it here because you can read it on your own, but Abraham died in faith. Now, the text says here in verse 39, by the way, And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. What the author is saying is that in the Old Testament, they died in faith, believing that their salvation would at some point be completed.
You see, they had only the blood of bulls and of goats, and we have the blood of Jesus Christ. They had a high priest who died. We now have a high priest who ever liveth to make intercession for us. They were ones who needed a priesthood to get to God.
For us, the veil has been rent in two, and now we go directly into the Holy of Holies through Jesus Christ our Lord. And they didn't have those privileges, but they looked forward to the time when people like us would have those privileges, and they were saved on the basis of what Jesus Christ would eventually come to do. And so that's how the Old Testament saints were saved, but they looked forward. And what he's saying is they couldn't be complete either until Jesus came along. God spoke to them through prophets, but in these last days, God has spoken to us through the Lord Jesus Christ and has spoken with clarity, and he has not stuttered.
Now, the point is simply this, though. Abraham's a good example of somebody who dies in faith. God said to him one day, Abraham, do you see the boundaries of the land?
They go from here to there and there. All this land I've given you. Yet Sarah, his wife, dies. What does Abraham have to do?
Of all things, he has to purchase a burial plot for her and pay for it in the very land that God gave him. That's why some of us are convinced that there are still prophecies that God made to Abraham that haven't been fulfilled, and they will be fulfilled someday. But he dies in faith.
Not having seen everything that was promised. You know, we have faith healers today who tell us that Jesus died for us, body, soul, and spirit. And as a result, we can be healed at any time.
Now, they're right in this regard. Of course Jesus died for us, body, soul, and spirit. But we don't get the benefits of what Jesus did for us in this life. We get the benefits in the life to come. That's when we inherit finally all things. That's why faith healers themselves eventually get sick, and then wonder of wonders, they die.
Now, the fact is, cancer can destroy your body. But the Apostle Paul says that we have a new body eternal in the heavens. Your new body has already been ordered, and it looks so much better than the one that you brought to this sanctuary today. It really does. It's going to look the same, but wow, the way we're going to look. We have a new body. You know, some of us may experience extreme poverty.
I just saw a picture the other day on top of a magazine, a cover of a magazine. Nearly a billion people live in poverty and squalor. Now, we should do all that we can to help them.
I understand that. This is not a pie-in-the-sky message. But on the other hand, for those who believe in Jesus Christ, they must have confidence that there is a mansion that Jesus is preparing for them on the other side, because we know that we die in faith without having received all the promises. That's the way believers die. Those of you who have experienced perhaps the rejection of your family, Paul speaks about the family that is in heaven and on earth, and someday you're going to be part of a multitude that no man can number.
What a day that is going to be when we inherit all things. Some of you have experienced injustice. Injustice oftentimes rules in this world, but in the world to come, we find that justice triumphs, because God is God, and He brings into focus all of the issues of life, because eternity is coming.
The bottom line is this. We believe in another world, and that's why we go on believing no matter what. No matter what we trust, Almighty God. Is it ever wrong to doubt? You students, you know, you may say to yourself, I have doubts. It's not all bad, as long as your doubts are honest doubts.
Here's a model for you. John the Baptist is put in prison. Now, he's the one who in the flesh was a cousin to Jesus, baptized Jesus, and there he is in prison, and he reads the Old Testament and says, you know, when Messiah comes, the prison doors are going to be opened. Well, there's no prison doors open for him.
As a matter of fact, he ends up actually getting his head cut off, as you know. But he begins to doubt, he begins to doubt whether Jesus is the Messiah. So he sends a delegation to Jesus, and I'm sure that he was very kind and very tactful, but he does say this.
Are you the one that should come, or should we be looking for somebody else? Because we thought Messiah was going to do better than this. We thought Messiah was going to bring about political deliverance. We thought that when Messiah comes, somebody like me, who's doing righteous, I wouldn't be sitting in prison. So these people, they go and they talk to Jesus.
Now, put this in your mind and keep it. Jesus says, hey, you know, among those who are born of women, John the Baptist is the greatest. Jesus said that while John was having doubts.
All doubt isn't wrong if it's honest doubt. But then Jesus said, go tell him that many of the miracles of the Old Testament are already being fulfilled. I am opening the eyes of the blind, the dead are being raised, the deaf are hearing the gospel, and so forth. And then Jesus added this word. He said, blessed are those who are not offended because of me.
Now, I'm not a Bible translator, but let me give you a Lucerian paraphrase. Jesus is saying, blessed are those who are not upset with the way I run my business. Blessed are those who don't say, God, you never answered this prayer so I'm never going to bother you again with another request. Blessed are those who don't become bitter at God because of the ambiguity of the way in which he runs the world. Blessed are those who see the miracles, but blessed are those who go on believing and trusting even when God doesn't do all the things they think he should because faith isn't merely receiving from God the things that we ask for, but the ability to accept whatever God gives us and to believe that God is good and loving despite the circumstances of life. You live like that and you'll also be a heroine of faith.
Your name will be in the 11th chapter of Hebrews. You say, well, why should we pray if we're not sure God is going to answer? It's because God changes us. God changes us and gives grace even as we sang. He giveth more grace when the burdens are greater. Didn't we sing just moments ago, and I'll try to quote it, when through fiery trial thy pathway shall lie, my grace all sufficient shall be thy supply. I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, upheld by my gracious, omnipotent hand. I may have missed a line or two, but you got the implication there that God is with us no matter what. Keep believing.
Don't become angry with him. He's testing you, and in the end, you'll be a heroine and a hero of faith. And I can imagine in eternity there are those who saw all the miracles and those who didn't, but both equally rewarded.
Maybe those who didn't see the miracles rewarded a little more because they had no reason to believe except that God, in his word, assured them, and they also great, great heroes of faith. Would you join me as we pray? Our Father, we ask in Jesus' name that you'll invigorate us. We pray for those who perhaps are willing or almost on the brink of losing their faith. I pray for those who have given up praying.
They prayed for years and years and years, and the miracle hasn't happened. Oh, Father, help us to know that your intention, your intention, Lord, is that our dross may be consumed and the gold of our faith refined because you walk with us through the fire. You are there when there's a sick bed and there's no healing. You are there when there is poverty, when there is injustice.
You are there. Show us your glory and your presence, and Lord Jesus, help us to trust you. And for those who've never trusted Christ, may this be their opportunity to say, today, I believe on Jesus as mine. We honor you. In his name, amen.
This is Pastor Lutzer. My friend, my wife and I have prayed so often for people, some of whom experience healing, many of whom have died. I'm thinking of young people, for example, who have died of COVID or cancer or heart disease.
The list goes on and on. Blessed are those who continue to believe even when they don't see a miracle. That's why I believe that this series of messages will be of special benefit to those who may feel as if they're about to give up their faith. We don't have to see the miracles that we desire to know that God cares about us, God oversees us, and God is the one who helps us all the way to the end. For a gift of any amount, this series can be yours. It's entitled Faith That Survives the Fire. If you know someone who is disappointed in their Christian life, disappointed, perhaps angry with God, I believe that this series of messages would be of great benefit.
Here's what you can do for gift of any amount. You can get these messages in permanent form. You go to rtwoffer.com, that's rtwoffer.com, or if you prefer, you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. I'm going to be giving you that contact info again. Hopefully you have an opportunity to grab a pen or a pencil so that you can write this information down, but I want to thank you in advance for helping us, because together we're making a difference.
Running to win is now in 20 different countries in four different languages. So as you communicate with us, we thank you in advance for your generosity. Here's what you can do. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. The series of messages is Faith That Survives the Fire.
Right now, you can go to the phone and you can call us at 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. For most of us, there's a gap between what we believe and what we practice. This troubles Teresa, who wrote to ask this.
In 1 John, chapter 3, we read, Teresa, thank you so much for connecting with us. And if there's anything that can be said about the Bible is that it does have some confusing statements, doesn't it? I say confusing not because they are unclear necessarily, but sometimes it's difficult to reconcile them with other passages, and yet we know that all of it comes from God. The verses that you mentioned in 1 John are often interpreted this way. If we continue to sin, that means that we have never been redeemed.
You still, however, have this problem. It goes on to say that if we abide in him, we sin not. And obviously, you and I do sin. Now, this necessitates a larger discussion, but I want you to read those same verses with this in mind. I think that John is referring to the new nature that we have within us. Because, he says, whoever is born of God doesn't sin. What he means is that if you look at us through a narrow lens as just those who have been born of God, of course, that new nature does not sin.
Because his seed remains in him, he says elsewhere. And so I look at it as more or less John is talking about our new natures. And, of course, if we abide in Christ for John, because Christ is sinless, his point is that therefore we do not sin.
So John sees things in black and white. Either you are righteous or you are unrighteous. Now, maybe what I'm saying is confusing to you, except to say that I think it relates more to the natures within us.
But I need to add a comment. I don't think it is possible for us to live sinlessly, always simply living out the new nature. You know, my sister, everything that we do is tainted. We help someone, we do a good deed, and hidden in our hearts may be a motive for self-aggrandizement. We want people to know what we've done.
So the good news is this. I believe that God takes our works, even those that may be tainted, because of motive, etc. He makes them acceptable to himself through Jesus Christ our Lord. So in that sense, we are seen by God as continuing to live out the new nature, even though, you and I have to admit, we still continue to sin. Luther put it this way, we are simultaneously saint and sinner. Saints before God, living in the perfection of Jesus, still struggling with sin. Well, I hope that this has helped you.
Perhaps it will stimulate you to even do more study on these verses and others, so that we might properly grasp the teaching of God's Word. Thank you, Teresa, and thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, you can. Just 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. Some have redefined marriage as any so-called loving relationship, no matter what gender the partners are. People want to gratify their desires in every way but God's way. The result, millions of people's lives are tangled, their souls in turmoil. Next time on Running to Win, Pastor Lutzer faces these issues head on in a series he's calling Restoring the Soul, Healing in an Age of Brokenness. Make plans to join us. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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