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So Many Stories . . . So Little Time

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
June 29, 2020 8:00 am

So Many Stories . . . So Little Time

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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The Hebrew believers reading this chapter are going to immediately identify with the names here.

Why? Because they include those who were not strong. I mean, at first glance, they're going to go, wow, why did they get in the list? And then if you study it, you go, oh, thank God they got in the list. People who weren't consistent, who weren't brave, who weren't mighty, who weren't strong, but God was. God was mighty, and that at the end of the day is all that matters. Weak faith in a mighty God accomplishes great things for God. Weak faith in a mighty God accomplishes great things for God. If you're like most Christians, that statement brings you great encouragement.

Because from time to time, your faith feels weak. We've been studying through Hebrews 11 lately, the passage that's often referred to as the Hall of Faith. Many of the names we would expect to find there, people like Abraham, Noah, and Moses. But the deeper you get into the chapter, the more you find people who seem to have failed spiritually as much as they succeeded. What can we learn from their lives?

We're going to explore that today. This is Wisdom for the Heart, and Stephen Davey has a lesson for you entitled, So Many Stories, So Little Time. Now the writer begins verse 32 by writing, you'll notice, he says, and what more shall I say?

You could render that, what more do I need to say? In other words, you got the point by now, right? Faith is the mighty act of God through the life of an available believer. He then adds the statement in verse 32, for time will fail me. In other words, I don't have enough time.

All of the illustrations and all of the stories, I just don't have enough time. So encouraging for me to hear another preacher say he's out of time. He writes in verse 32, I don't have time to tell you about Gideon, and Barak, and Samson, and Jephthah, David, and Samuel, and the prophets.

That's no surprise that he doesn't have enough time. What is surprising is the list of names he just rattled off. First of all, he doesn't rattle them off in chronological order, which is wonderful evidence, by the way, of the inspiration of Scripture through the personality of a human author. Someone editing these comments or making them up on their own would have cleaned up the list and put them in order. Barak serves before Gideon. Samson comes after Jephthah. The author just rattles them off as they come to his mind, and the Spirit of God is pleased. But the most startling thing to me as I looked at this list and studied it, is not the fact that the names are out of order. The startling thing about this list is who got on it. That's the surprising part.

I mean, look at it again. You can understand Daniel or David. You can understand Samuel, but Gideon, Barak, Jephthah? What happened to Nehemiah? What happened to Jeremiah? Or Isaiah? Or the godly king Hezekiah? Or Josiah? Or Hannah? Or Ruth? I mean, if you're going to rattle off some names, Jephthah? Barak?

Gideon? But this is God's point. These guys don't have polished resumes and they don't have clean rap sheets. In fact, the first thing we've got to clear up before we get into this list of judges, most of them, and some prophets. Let's clear up the role of a judge, and maybe we'll understand these men a little better. You need to understand they didn't have a courtroom just because they're called a judge. They didn't wear a black robe and they didn't have a pension either. In fact, these judges were more, think a combination of Davy Crockett and Wyatt Earp. Not a dignified Supreme Court justice. No, think Wyatt Earp.

He may be minus the chewing tobacco, but think about that. These guys resembled Western sheriffs who faced down dangerous enemies, led the people into battle, enforced justice. In fact, their function, according to Judges 2 and verse 16, was the God-given responsibility to deliver the people from those who were plundering them. So these men, they're really fighters. They're rough and tumble kind of men.

Many of them would like to shoot first and then ask you some questions later. Now again, what surprises me is of all the judges, he begins with one that wasn't really that tough. In fact, he didn't want to volunteer. Gideon shows up there in your list. Judges chapters 6 through 8.

You want to write that in your margin if you don't have a cross-reference, tells the story and went on time to turn there. But he was so afraid of following God that after God called him into action, he went and hid out in the barrel they used to squeeze grapes into juice or wine. And then he was so certain that God had chosen the wrong guy to be judged, he told God, look, I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll put a fleece out of lamb's wool and if in the morning that fleece is all wet and all the ground around it is dry, then I'll know I got the signals correct and you want me. The next morning, Gideon wrung out a bowl full of water from that fleece and the ground around it was dry. And so what did he do? He said, Lord, tell you what, I could have mixed that up.

Let's reverse the order, shall we? The next morning, would you make the fleece dry and the ground all wet? Now, if I were God, I would have taken that fleece and strangled him and found somebody else. That's exactly what God did, though, in his grace. So Gideon pulls together an army of 32,000 men. And God says, too many, whittle it down to 10,000. And so he whittles it down to the correct troops.

If you know the story, if you're young in the faith, which is why I'm reviewing it, God comes along later and says, still too many. Your army's too big. Take them to the river and let them get a drink of water. And I want you to get rid of all those guys that drop down on all fours and put their snout in the water and just begin to drink. I want you to keep the guys that reach down on one knee and with their hand pull water up and watch for maybe an enemy attack.

Keep those guys. Of the 10,000 soldiers, 9,700 of them dropped down on all fours and started drinking directly from the river. I can see Gideon running up and down the riverbank. Not that way, not that way. Use your hands.

Use your hands. Three hundred men are left, that's all. God says that's great. Three hundred men. Gideon's probably looking for his fleece. The second guy in this list in Hebrews 11 is Barak.

Judges chapters four and five tell a story. He's called by God to lead the troops into battle against a warlord named Sisera. Sisera commanded the chariot army of the Canaanites, which was renowned for its ferocious abilities. Nothing, by the way, would have thrilled this guy more. In fact, God promised him ahead of time that he'd win the battle. Now, how would you like to go into battle knowing you really want to fight?

You love to fight and you're ready to take these guys on and God says you're going to win. In fact, he was really excited because it would exonerate his past. Many scholars believe he was hiding out in a city of refuge for murder. God's going to call him out. It's going to exonerate his past. It's going to make him famous in the land. And then God adds, oh, by the way, because of the wickedness of Sisera, this warlord, I'm going to turn his name into a perpetual embarrassment for all of the enemy nations out there because I'm not going to allow you to kill him.

I'm going to have a woman kill him. And Barak swallowed his pride and agreed to follow God and give him all the glory, and a woman would be heralded as the victor over Sisera instead of himself, and that's exactly what happened. It reminded me, as I studied, of D.O. Moody who once said, it's wonderful what God will do with someone who refuses to keep the credit.

Here's the point. Barak demonstrated a faith that overpowered his personal pride. All right, we got to keep moving.

Number three in the list. Next, in line of Samson, Judges chapters 13 through 16, tell the full story. And every time I study Samson's life and look at him again, as I did, to prepare for this message, I often think of that little children's chorus that could have saved him so much trouble, a little chorus that goes, oh be careful little eyes, what?

What you see. Would have saved him a lot of trouble. And it would have kept him from that fatal haircut, right?

Because his eyes fell on Delilah and she coaxed out of him his secret. Now his hair did not give him power. His hair represented his commitment to his Nazarite vow. His hair did not give him power.

Some of us are counting on that, by the way. With his head in Delilah's lap, he's sound asleep, she cuts off his hair. He realizes too late that his last defiance against God's moral law will be a tragic one. And ironically, the Philistines put out his eyes. But if you know his story, his last act will be his greatest. He called upon God for strength and he pushed over two support columns in a Philistine temple where they had all gathered to make sport of him. That temple came crashing down, killing more Philistines along with himself than at any other time in his life.

Here's the point. Samson's demonstration of faith overcomes past failure. Listen, it's good to remember that your failure is never fatal.

Get back in the race. There may be consequences, some new obstacles, but God will use you as you make your life available to him. Now the writer of Hebrews mentions Jephthah. Next, his story is recorded in Judges 11. Now he happens to be unwanted by his nation. It's a little wonder given the fact that he was an illegitimate child of a prostitute.

She didn't want him either, by the way. He literally grew up in the back alleys of eastern Syria. He's kind of a dirty street urchin. And by the time he gets older, he's leading a notorious gang of undesirables. He's just trying to survive. And God, his call for a courageous judge, a hero, bypasses at this juncture in Israel's history and lays hands on him. You would have never thought this guy would be called. He valiantly accepted the call of God and he led the Israelites to victory against the Ammonites.

Here's the point. Jephthah's faith overturns his personal heritage. By the way, the Hebrew Christians reading this, those Gentile believers who had adopted the faith in this God of Abraham, were probably wondering if God would only use people with a respectable family pedigree.

Well, Jephthah is a visual aid that God will use anybody who is available and willing. Next in line here in the text is David. Every Israelite knew the story of how David risked his life to defend the reputation of God against a giant named Goliath. Maybe the writer was thinking of that moment. That was the outset of his life. It just sort of characterized David and his future. First Samuel 17 tells the story of that rather death defying act of faith.

Here's the point. David's demonstration of faith overwhelmed personal impossibilities. And that was just one of many. Finally, the list ends here with Samuel and the prophets. Their testimonies recorded throughout much of the Old Testament.

We're not even going to begin here, for time fails us. Now, if you surveyed their lives, however, I think you could categorically define their faith as this. A faith that overlooks pressure to conform. You know, prophets were different kind of warriors. They would preach and confront not their enemies, but their families.

They would speak to their own people. It probably takes as much faith, if not more, to stand up for Christ in front of your family and your co-workers and those people who know you than against enemies or strangers. For the most part, the prophets stood against their times and said, Thus saith the Lord. They knew the people to whom they preached and they still stood and delivered the truth. Now, in the next two verses, the writer of Hebrews delivers in these short sentence fragments. Really nothing less than some of the greatest moments of Israel's history.

And I would agree, again, time would fail us. Let me structure it like this and I'll make some brief comments. One author commented that there are nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. You think of the fruit of the Spirit, there are nine of them. Here, there are nine fruits of faith.

Let me give them to you that way. The first fruit mentioned in Hebrews 11 33 is conquering kingdoms. He could have been thinking of Joshua defeating the enemies in the land, or even David later defeating the Philistines. He goes on to say they performed acts of righteousness.

He could have been thinking of Daniel, who maintained a life of integrity for 75 years. The third fruit, he says they obtained promises. Let me pause enough to say here, performing acts of righteousness is faith living biblically.

Obtaining the promises is faith waiting biblically. And I'm not really sure which one's the harder one. Behaving or believing, doing or waiting. Actually, I'm pretty convinced the hardest one happens to be whatever you are experiencing at the moment.

That's the hardest one. Somebody once said that your greatest step of faith is your next one. Whatever it might be. The fourth fruit of faith given here is a reference to shutting the mouths of lions. Now, more than likely, that's a reference to God's miraculous protection of Daniel in the lion's den.

So every time you trust God, every time you do the right thing, every time you respond biblically, every time you avoid the snare of temptation, you effectively shut the mouth of that old lion. The fifth fruit of faith is quenching the power of fire. Now, the quenching of fire is perhaps a reference to Daniel's three friends, right?

Who were thrown into the furnace only to come out unsinged, unscathed, unharmed. But we've also been told, haven't we, that our faith is our shield whereby we quench the fiery arrows of the evil one. Those fiery darts dipped in temptation, impatience, unbelief, pain. The writer of Hebrews adds a sixth fruit. Faith delivered some from the edge of the sword.

First Samuel 18, Jeremiah 39, perhaps stories where God's servants were rescued from certain death by the sword. The seventh fruit of faith is experienced by those who it says from weakness were made strong. Now, one of the benefits of growing old in the faith or older in the faith is that you discover not how strong you are, you discover how what? How weak you are.

Rather than growing more independent, you grow more dependent. You've understood a little bit better what Christ meant when he told his disciples, without me, you can do nothing. That kind of weakness is actually a platform upon which faith is demonstrated. The eighth fruit, verse 34, they became mighty in war, maybe like Abraham or Joshua. The ninth fruit, they put foreign armies to flight, perhaps like Gideon or Joshua, even thought of Jonathan. You just sit through this and you think, OK, what you know of the Old Testament, what might he be thinking of? There are stories beyond the time to tell. And that's the point of the encouragement of this chapter. The Hebrew believers reading this chapter are going to immediately identify with the names here.

Why? Because they include those who were not strong. I mean, at first glance, they're going to go, wow, why did they get in the list? And then if you study it, you go, oh, thank God they got in the list.

Because maybe I can get in there, too. People who weren't consistent, who weren't brave, who weren't perfect, who weren't mighty, who weren't strong. But God was. God was faithful to them. God was powerful to them and through them. God was mighty, and that at the end of the day is all that matters. Weak faith in a mighty God accomplishes great things for God.

One of my favorite heroes of the faith, Hudson Taylor. He wrote extensively to his sister. He decided to prepare for the mission field. You remember, perhaps, I've told you that he tried to live off the smallest amount of money possible, even though he was apprenticed to a medical doctor and made a good income. He found that he could live off porridge in the morning, porridge and black bread in the evening, and every so often a little meat. And then he gave the remaining money for medical supplies, and he would personally assist these poverty-stricken people, because he personally moved into the slums of London to prepare himself to go to China. He had a problem, though. The medical doctor he worked for often forgot to pay Hudson his weekly salary.

So Hudson had to remind him every week, which was frustrating to him. And so he finally decided that maybe this was a test from God. And so he made a pact with the Lord that he would no longer remind the doctor to pay him. And he asked the Lord to remind the doctor to pay him.

He felt that would be a great way to develop his faith. He wrote to his sister to simply trust the Lord to remind the doctor to pay him his salary. Having made that pact with the Lord, the doctor didn't pay him again. He headed home discouraged and confused again with the Lord. He didn't have much money left in his pocket.

When he arrived home, he was met by one of the poverty-stricken men who lived near him in the slum district. And he begged Hudson to come and see his wife, who had only recently delivered a baby, neither the mother nor the newborn were doing very well. When he arrived at their apartment, several children were huddled inside this bare one-room dwelling, and he described it to his sister as wretched.

A woman was lying on a cot in a corner, and a newborn lay in her arms crying. Hudson knew without any examination that the baby was not getting any milk because the woman herself was hungry. The entire family was hungry. Hudson immediately knew that the Lord wanted him to give this family all the money he had in his pocket, but his heart refused. He told the family there was nothing he could do for them. He's writing to his sister, they needed comfort, but I did too. So I shared with them that although their circumstances were very distressing, there was a loving Heavenly Father, but something in me cried, you hypocrite, telling these unconverted people about a loving Heavenly Father and not prepared to trust him yourself.

And he said, I was nearly choked on the words, but he resisted still. Before they left, the man asked if Hudson would pray. They all knelt down in that little apartment, and the battle raged in Taylor's heart as he prayed for this family and their needs. Without any desire, without any joy, they ended the prayer and he got up, and he reached into his pocket, and he gave the man all his money. Only then, he would write to his sister, did the joy of the Lord flood my heart.

Only after. He said, I knew this poor woman's life would be saved. When he returned home, he ate his porridge. Before he got into bed, he got on his knees and thanked the Lord that he had been empowered to give everything he had away, and then reminded the Lord that he was now out of money and food. You ever had those kind of reminder prayers? The next day, nothing to eat. Late in the day, an anonymous package without a return address or name.

The package contained a pair of winter gloves, and inside one of the gloves was four times the amount of money he had given away the night before. I mean, how many of us would love to experience that kind of answer? I mean, that's great. Lord, sign me up. That only comes after running out of money and food. I mean, how many of us would be willing to trust God for our income? Maybe you're there right now.

Maybe you're there right now. How many of us would be willing to wait on the Lord to remind someone to give us what we needed? How many of us would be willing to give away what little we had, even our last dollar, to somebody else in need? See, we love, don't we, the answers of God to acts of faith. We just don't want to go through the agony of living by faith. I'm so glad, though, that Hudson Taylor struggled, as did Samuel and David and Gideon and every single believer who's honest enough to admit it. Hudson Taylor said in later years, I used to ask God to help me, and then I asked him if I might help him. But now I've reached the point where I ask him simply to do his work, his way through me.

I simply cooperate, and he does all the rest. You see, when that takes place, when we cooperate, faith takes place, because our personal weakness does not prohibit our personal acceptance. Our cooperation with a personal assignment given to us by God. What is it you're waiting on for God to fulfill? What is it right now that you're waiting on God to provide an answer for, that only God can do? And you are praying with Peter, Lord, increase my faith, increase my faith.

Not, Lord, increase my strength, my might, my power, my confidence. Just faith in your might, in your power, in your ability. And when we do that, faith will be demonstrated by our weakness, and through our weakness, as we personally accept, with hesitation maybe, with uncertainty, with a sense of surprise that God did something. But we personally accept, nonetheless, a personal assignment from our faithful Lord, where he has us right now. And we behave, and we believe. That's faith. God is always faithful to us.

His desire is that we would serve him faithfully, no matter what that means, and wherever that takes us. This is Wisdom for the Heart, with our teacher, Stephen Davey. We're wrapping up a series on faith, called Heroes.

The title comes from Hebrews 11, the Heroes Hall of Faith. We have one more lesson to go in this series, and we'll bring you that tomorrow. In the meantime, we'd love to hear from you, and learn how God's using the teaching you hear on this program to bless and encourage you. You can write to us at Wisdom International, P.O. Box 37297, Raleigh, North Carolina, 27627. Our next Bible lesson will be at this same time tomorrow, and I hope you'll be with us right here on Wisdom for the Heart. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-21 15:01:33 / 2024-02-21 15:11:28 / 10

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