Today, I’d like to speak to you on the subject of courageous obedience, courageous obedience. And I’m really excited to talk about this. In a moment, we’re going to look at Hebrews Chapter 11. But before we do that, let me just tell you where we’re going. Wouldn’t you agree that a single act… See more
Today, I’d like to speak to you on the subject of courageous obedience, courageous obedience. And I’m really excited to talk about this. In a moment, we’re going to look at Hebrews Chapter 11. But before we do that, let me just tell you where we’re going.
Wouldn’t you agree that a single act of courageous obedience is often the catalyst for victorious living?
Wouldn’t you agree that that it takes courageous obedience to become becomes kind of the springboard for people doing tremendous things? And this is true. We see this in history. We’ve seen this in our church history. We’ve seen this in our nation’s history. We’ve seen this in our own lives.
It’s when somebody has enough courage to obey, to obey God’s prompting, or to obey their own consciences, to step out into a difficult truth, to make the right but unpopular choice. Some of us have seen this in our personal lives. We’ve seen this in the organizations we represent. We’ve seen this in our church or in our family or with our friends. There are these moments where the stage is set, where everything is prepared, but the groundwork is laid.
Maybe it’s something in our culture. Maybe it’s something going on in the world. But everything is set, the tensions are high, and then someone steps out, someone takes a risk. Someone has the courage to do something they know they’re supposed to do.
And when they do it, they really have no idea the impact that it would make and when they made that act of courage, it changed everything, so that whenever the organization or the story of the organization is told or the story of our family is told, that the story of a nation is told, it goes back to that one single act of courageous obedience.
It’s a good time to to share a story about Mike and Ambrosi Tolowa. Isn’t this their story? Who had the courage, who are willing to obey God’s prompting to move to Brazil and to start a church and to Africa and start a church and God would use that sacrifice in that act of courageous obedience to have tremendous impact on a country. Not only did it have impact on their lives, but it had an impact on many, many, many more people.
And so now, whenever the story of the churches in Brazil are told or wherever the stories of the churches in Africa are told, they’re always the story of Mike and Ambrosi’s courage.
If you want to make it not about our church, but in kind of a more, you know, symbolic gesture, you can think about Rosa Parks. What did she decide to do? She decided that she was going to obey her ideals, her conscience, and do what was right.
And you know what she thought this time, I’m not giving up my seat.
And in that moment, she became an international icon for the civil rights movement, an extraordinary act of courage that became the catalyst for the victory in a transcendent movement. It’s like Martin Luther breaking with the Catholic Church in the 16th century and having an act of courage and nailing those 95 complaints to the door, and from there he changed everything in Christian world.
And we can go on and on and on and on and on.
In those times when someone steps out for courageous obedience, they don’t just do something that echoes in that small time. They don’t just nail 95 theses to a door. They don’t just start a church in South America. They don’t just refuse they’re seat. No, no, no, no.
Instead, what happens is they start a fire, they start a movement, they start something that actually echoes into eternity. They had no idea what was on the other side of that single act of courageous obedience. In fact, nobody knows whether that moment, the moment of faithful living, of courageous living, of fearless living, if anything special will be produced.
And the interesting thing is that this is not just the story of a fellowship of churches. This is not just the story of the civil rights movement. This is not just the story of the Protestant Reformation. This is the story we love in scripture.
Isn’t it true that so many stories in the Bible follow this idea that a single act of courageous obedience became the catalyst for victorious living? I said we would go to Hebrews Chapter 11. Ultimately, we’re going to land in verse 32.
But just follow along with me as we walk through this this chapter.
“By faith Abraham, when called to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”
The hall of faith
Isn’t this the idea of Abraham story? Abraham steps out, steps up, obeys and goes to a place he doesn’t even know where he’s going. And with that single act, God uses him to build a kingdom of people, to build the lineage of Jesus, to be the father of many nations.
And he didn’t know that that single act of obedience, that one act of courage, he had no idea the nation, that a people, that a gospel, that honestly redemptive history, hung in the balance of that single choice.
Even thousands of years later, all were started with a single act of courageous obedience. The Hebrew writer walks through really the history of the Bible, talking about the patriarchs and talks about Joseph when his ten wicked brothers sold them into slavery. And you know the end of the story, Joseph, is elevated and blessed by God. God gives him so much, God protects him. And then eventually the brothers come into Egypt and Joseph sees those brothers. And instead of getting retribution, instead of getting revenge, Joseph has the courage to give not knowing.
He had no idea that those brothers would represent the ten tribes of Israel. And one day one of those brothers would be the father of Jesus, our Lord. He had no idea what that single act of courage would produce. He had no idea.
The Hebrew writer continues – he talks about Moses being called to go back to Egypt after he left Egypt and face Pharaoh head on.
In that moment, again, he didn’t know that what God was brewing was this incredible victory that by faith, the people would pass through the Red Sea as on dry land, one of the greatest victories in all of the Bible, again, produced by a willingness to obey and be courageous.
The Hebrew writer continues:
“By faith, the walls of Jericho fell after the armies had marched around them for seven days.”
One of the greatest victories in all of the Bible, again, perpetuated or the catalyst for it was an inexplicable obedience and a kind of grandiose courage.
He talks about Rahab, and I said we could do this all day, but he says:
“By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she had welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.”
Rahab was not terrified. She had courage. She was not fearful of the threats. Instead, she believed, against all odds, the God of Israel. And now her name is forever mentioned as a woman of courage and a woman of honor.
Again, we can go on and on and on, we can talk about, David, 16 or 17 years old, looking at the Philippine army and listening to Goliath, and suddenly he sees a way that the rest of Israel didn’t see it, that Goliath wasn’t taunting the armies of Israel.
No, no, no. He was taunting the armies of the living God. He thinks, I can have the courage to handle that giant because God can handle the giant. God just need the volunteer. And David steps out and becomes a legend in an act of courageous obedience.
We could talk about Samson or Samuel or Gideon or Deborah or Hannah, and we can tell all these different stories. We love these stories. These stories move us. These stories inspire us.
But the problem with all of these stories is that as inspiring as they are as soon as we take our eyes off of them, as soon as we pull back out of the text, we can be tempted to look at our lives, our little itty bitty kind of insignificant lives.
And we can wonder, is this from the same universe?
Are these stories from the same universe?
Like, that’s awesome, you know, that, you know, God can do something amazing, but God never asked me to move anywhere.
God never asked me to march around anything, there are no more Pharaohs, there are no giants. And immediately I’m pushed back out of these stories and I think, you know, like I’m not Samson, and I can’t push down a wall, and if I did, I think it would probably be a crime.
And plus, if you’re like me and I’m just being honest, you’ve heard these stories a million times. I remember before I was in full time ministry, I was at a conference one time and I’m sitting there and the person preaching asked us to turn to 1st Samuel Chapter 17, which is the story of David and Goliath.
And I remember sitting there and I like exhaled and then rolled my eyes like that because I was thinking, I don’t really want to have another discussion about David and Goliath. Not again… I’m just confessing.
But the speaker is like, “slay the giants of your life, you know, conquering the armies of God, God is on your side and hurrah, hurrah.” And I’m just thinking, you know, I work at a real estate office like there are no giants in the real estate office. There are no valleys. There are no armies.
And I just think my story is just so small. Is this even the same universe? That’s where I was, and I’m sure you’ve been there to. If you’ve ever found yourself there, it’s easy to begin to think that perhaps this kind of courageous obedience isn’t important for us.
What’s it worth to be able to have the courage to slay a giant when you live at home with two cats, you know? When you work at a plant nursery or whatever.
I’m just saying there’s a moment in time where you just might wonder, listening to all these transcendent stories, these remarkable stories, these glamorous stories where you sit there and you just wonder, is this the same universe? And then you start thinking, well, what’s it worth to have this type of courage?
What is it worth in the world in which we live?
This brings us to Hebrews Chapter 11, verse 32. Let’s look at the text together. We’re going to unpack it for a few minutes and we’re going to come back. We’ll tie this whole thing up together.
The intensity of the chapters ramping up these stories have just been amazing, these feats of remarkable faith and these feats of tremendous courage. And the Hebrew writer continues, he says:
“And what more shall I say? I don’t have the time to tell you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets who through faith conquered kingdoms, administer justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions; quenched the fury of the flames; who escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign enemies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.”
This is kind of the apex of the spectacular conquering kingdoms, shutting the mouths of lions, quenching the furies of the flame. It doesn’t get much more impressive than that. Does it get any much more glamorous than getting your dad raised to life again? These stories of men and women in the preceding verse, they’re all sort of glorious. They’re all glamorous. They all ended in kind of a positive interaction.
Yet without skipping a beat, the author continues, because this might be the apex of the spectacular, but it’s not the end of the victorious, he continues the next line:
“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated.”
We would all agree that we would probably want to be a part of the first group and not part of this group. We want to be the part of the group that conquered kingdoms, that shut the mouths of lions, that received our dead back to life. We would be hard pressed to say that we would want to be the people that were stoned to death.
See, if we would, we would sign up for the first group, for the glamorous group. But what I see here is that just because it’s less glamorous doesn’t mean it’s any less defining.
“The world was not worthy of them.”
This one phrase has become so meaningful to me, because the more I understand this verse, the more I see the value of courage. This is a compliment, a complimentary statement that is made at the end of this entire chapter that wraps up the whole chapter.
The world was not worthy of them
Though the world thought them to be unworthy, the world deemed them unworthy to live, unworthy to be comfortable, unworthy to be affirmed, unworthy to be approved, even to be left alone; the world felt itself somehow diminished by their presence, by all those stories.
But then God steps in and says, no, their obedience, their courage, their faith made it so that the world wasn’t worthy of them.
I love what the NLT says, “they were too good for this world.”
It’s a beautiful statement. The world counts those who are true disciples of Jesus as not worthy of itself, but God reverses the comparison and goes the world has it totally wrong. They are too good for the world. I love the word that’s translated worthy here, it’s this Greek word that basically means to weigh something.
You can think of it kind of like a scale. And God is saying of these men and women that compared to the world, compared to the rest of human existence, the people of God who were courageous enough to fight against hardship or to stand up against hardship, to fight for the truth, that people are disciples of Jesus who were courageous enough to reach towards righteousness, to do right in the face of trial, to persevere. Those individuals who fought against the ways of the world, they literally tip the scales.
Tipped the scales because of the way they lived
Those individuals are more massive, they pushed down more force than the rest of the world, those who are willing to accept death without apostasy, those who are willing to do what is right, to obey God when it’s really hard. The world isn’t worthy of them, regardless of the results of their life, because some were sad and too, they were killed by the sword. They were destitute, they were persecuted, they were mistreated. But but they still somehow tip the scales.
And this is kind of what we get back to the main point of the lesson, notice their value, their worth wasn’t based upon them achieving any earthly success.
It didn’t matter. This phrase ‘the world was not worthy of them,’ works for Abraham just as much as it works for the man sawed in two. This phrase works for Moses just as much as it works for the man who was stoned.
And here’s what I’m getting at: victory wasn’t based upon outcome. Some in this passage have glorious endings, some in this passage have what we would consider terrible endings, but their value to God was not based upon their earthly success.
Their victory wasn’t based upon earthly success. It was solely based upon their courageous obedience.
Some of these people didn’t even make it through with their heads. And yet they were victors.
Some of them didn’t make it through with their lives, but they were victorious, they didn’t make it through with their reputation intact. For some, nothing went well, and yet they were all victorious.
They won because they were willing to obey. I love that.
See this, text sets up an idea that men and women who face the world with courageous obedience, who endure hardship rather than disown God, they transcend the value of the world itself. And honestly, I say that I don’t even know necessarily what that means.
It just means that God looks at them and just commands them. And so you might ask the question, OK, what is it worth?
What is it worth to step up, what is it worth to step in?
What is it worth to be the change you hope to see? What is it worth to have this type of courage in our mundane, normal, simple lives? What is it worth to have this type of faith or this type of boldness, even if we’re not trying to destroy, you know, a giant and kill a pharaoh or whatever? And I’d simply answer you with one word.
What is it worth? It’s worth everything.
That’s what it’s worth. Every day your worth is being tested.
Every single day when you and I are tempted to go back on the truth of God, that is the moment when your worth is being tested and it doesn’t matter if you’re fighting a giant or you’re just fighting your laziness.
It doesn’t matter if you’re conquering kingdoms or you’re just trying to conquer a sin that’s been in your life forever. It doesn’t matter if you have to forgive 10 evil brothers or you just have to say sorry to a coworker. Each moment, at home, or at work, or at or any other time in your life your obedience is tested, your worth is tested.
When you have the courage to stay in a situation you know you need to stay in, where you keep fighting, and you keep pushing and you keep hoping. When you stay in your marriage and when you stay at a job or when you stay at home, in that moment, you’re being tested.
In that moment when you’re being tested to go to follow God’s prompting, to leave a situation, to move to a new city. Maybe you’re even being tested to give more, to be more generous, in those moments when you have the courage to confess your sin, when you don’t want to confess, to tell the truth about where you’ve really been, to talk about what’s actually happening in your life, to talk about what’s actually happening in your marriage or with your kids or with your co-workers or on your computer, when you have the courage to be bold, to invite someone to church to or to stand up for somebody or to stand against something to tell the truth when it really hurts.
And I don’t know what it is for you, but here is the point, each of those moments is like your Jericho moment.
Maybe you’re not marching around walls. Maybe you’re not splitting seas. Maybe you’re not being sawed in two. Maybe you’re not being stoned. Maybe it’s less glamorous, but it’s just as defining. In a moment when you must choose to be courageous, to be obedient, that is the moment when your worth is tested. You don’t know what hangs in the balance. You have no idea what God will do with your decision to obey courageously.
I know you’re afraid. Some of us are afraid to confess that sin that we know we need to confess. Some of us are afraid to forgive. Some of us are afraid to say we’re sorry. Some of us are afraid to do what is right because we know that God has prompted us to do what is right.
I want to encourage you if there’s anything to fear, here’s what we should all fear. We should all fear looking back and wondering what might have been if we had trusted and obeyed. That’s what we should fear, not trusting or obeying, but what might have been if we had trusted and obeyed. That’s all we should fear.
You’ve got a secret, you’ve got an addiction, you got something hiding, you’ve got something going on in your marriage, you’ve got something going on with your kids, you’ve got some fears that you feel like you can’t alleviate.
I’m telling you that that feeling and not doing anything about it, that’s what you should fear, you should fear looking back and wondering what might have happened in your relationship with your kids. Your relationship with your husband or your wife or with your physical health or with your relationship with God, if you’d only trusted in God’s way. And it really comes down to this simple question.
What story do you want to live?
Do you want to live the story of fearful? “I know God wanted me to stay, but I left anyway. I know God wanted me to move. I know God wanted me to do this, but I decided to do that.” Do you want to live your life as a coward?
And in that way, you know, lose respect for yourself, lose your own self-worth, lose your place, lose your way, or do you want your life to have genuine worth?
If you want your life to have genuine worth there’s only one choice of living. To live with courageous obedience.
Remember, brothers and sisters, a single act of courageous obedience is the catalyst for a victorious living.
Why not live with some grit, why not live with some faith, why not live with some courage? Why not live victoriously?
Just march down into the valley of your fears and face them and say, “come on, you come with with spears and javelins but I come in the name of the God of all hosts, of the Lord of Hosts. God has placed me in this opportunity and I’m not going to be fearful. I’m going to be brave. I’m going to be courageous, and I’m going to do what is right.”
Again, you may not have a physical value, but you’ve got a spiritual one. You may not have a physical giant, but you’ve got a spiritual one. You may not have a physical Pharaoh, but you have a spiritual one. You got something you got to deal with. And each of those moments is just as defining as the heroes we look up to.
I promise you, in your life, in your family’s life, and the life of your church, there will come a time, a moment will come when you feel the urge to step up, to step in, to do what is right, and in that moment it will be your turn to be courageous. For some of you, before this day’s even over, in the face your fears, you could turn off this sermon right now and deal with it if you need to.
Face your fears
You need to say, “look, I would rather fail at the center of God’s will, then look back and wonder what God might have done if I had only obeyed. I’d rather fail at the center of God’s will. Look, I’d rather die in the middle. Then look back and wonder what my life could have been if I had only obeyed.”
So what story are you going to live? I say we live victoriously.
The difference between where you are and victory can be a single act of courageous obedience.