Noah: Putting Substance into our Faith!
[An invitation to persevere in faith given on February 5, 2017 by Pastor Jerry Ingalls to the First Baptist Church in New Castle, Indiana, where we exist to see the transformation of stories through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.]
As we continue in our series on our church’s mission and calling to “transform stories through the gospel of Jesus Christ,” we are going to put some substance behind the word faith. If faith has no substance, it will provide your life with no sustenance!
What is faith? I may have defined that word from Hebrews 11:1 for weeks in a row, but that doesn’t mean the word has any substance behind it to back our actions in the real world—we need to be 3D people—real people with real faith in everyday real circumstances!
We talk all the time about “belief” and “faith,” but do those words have power in our everyday lives? Last week, one of our youth, Regan, gave a powerful testimony about faith in her own life and sharing her faith with other people. She said something to us that has haunted me (in the best of ways!) ever since, both as a pastor and Bible teacher. Regan explained how after growing up in church her whole life, “faith had become an empty word.”
Allow me to illustrate with this empty jar: this empty jar is Kimberly and my cruise fund and I hope that if I put enough change into it we will be able to go on a cruise one day. Let’s be honest, this empty jar has as much potential to get us on a cruise, as an empty word can lead us to live a life that pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). The comparison is obviously not perfect, but I think you get the point.
We use the word faith all the time, but the word must have substance to transform anything!
Today, God is going to put some substance in our potentially empty or half-filled jars through the story of Noah, the man of God, through whom God condemned the world for their sin, but preserved a righteous root through faith. Listen to our Scripture lesson for today from Hebrews 11:7, “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
The same word that is used in Hebrews 11:7 regarding Noah’s motivation of “reverent fear” is also used of Jesus’ motivation in Hebrews 5:7-8, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”
Let’s make the connection:
(Debby & Penny to share about how their experience at “The Ark” put substance into their faith.)
Noah’s story is found in Genesis 5:28—10:1. Whether it took Noah 55-75 years (see Answers in Genesis article) or over a century to build the Ark, the reality is that Noah was called by God to build the Ark at a time when God’s command would not have made sense to either Noah, anyone in his family, and definitely not to anyone in his community that jeered him as crazy.
Was Noah crazy to do what he did? What would lead a man to do such a thing?
The accepted answer in contemporary evangelical churches is “faith.” And there is nothing wrong with that answer; the second half of our verse today supports his inclusion: “By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
Yes, we know it was the actions that flowed out of Noah’s faith that allows us to see it (the substantial fruit of faith is often called good works), but his faith in and of itself had to have substance within it to motivate Noah to do what he did: it is called “reverent fear.”
We must understand “reverent fear” if we want to be like Noah; if we want to be like Jesus; if we want to have the same kind of faith that would compel a man to be crazy for his God in a world that does not accept faith as adequate reasoning for doing crazy, counter-cultural things. As Paul teaches us, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Like we have talked about Kairos moments in the Nehemiah series, these are the Noah moments of our transforming stories series:
- When Jesus impacts your politics more than nationalism or economic prosperity. When you pray for your government and its leaders, whether you agree with it/them.
- When you forgive and reconcile with someone who has harmed you or someone you love, like when you don’t divorce the spouse that broke your trust.
- When you tithe and give offerings even when it doesn’t make sense on paper causing you to choose to live simply rather than try to keep up with the Joneses.
How then are we to live by faith and not by sight? What can we learn from Noah?
At the root, anytime anyone of us puts God before our own self-interest or our own health, wealth, or prosperity the world considers you crazy; and unfortunately, so do many in the church. These kinds of leaps of faith (Noah moments) are not quick and easy; they take courage.
Noah teaches us reverent fear! Reverent fear in an unchanging holy & sovereign God allows you to have faith for the same thing over and over. We learn to want God’s good pleasure above our own because we truly know His character—He is good, just, and right in all that He asks. Unless you have perverted God’s character in your heart and mind, you would not dare to refuse Him or do anything He asks of you: no matter how crazy, counter-cultural, or controversial. If faith without works is dead, then faith without reverent fear is empty!
Hold up the empty jar: The first step to having substance in your faith is to know God and what He has already put inside of you! Inside of you is the priceless treasure of knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. God willingly and lovingly has put into your jar of clay this surpassing knowledge, this priceless treasure, this gift of eternal life for which you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit. When this is the substance of your faith, your faith will give you sustenance in your everyday life circumstances!
Remember what the Bible said about even Jesus having to have reverent fear of God: “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:7, 8).
This sounds crazy and wrong, but it is the Bible: if Jesus had to learn to trust God enough to obey God to the point of His own death on the Cross, how much more should we embrace the reality of our circumstances which include suffering, hardship, and death so that our faith may produce good works through us.
Does all this seem impossible? It is only by grace through the ability of the Holy Spirit in us. It seems like insanity to our fallen minds. And it is, except by the grace of God we can embrace the Noah moments of our lives. The pressure is not on you to perform or add substance to your own faith; this substance is the work of God in you—it is 100% God in you! It is Holy Spirit!
Listen to a disciple’s holy ambition: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11).
What is the substance of your faith?
With reverent fear,