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09-06-2015 message by Pastor Rich Doebler

You’ve noticed the banner in the lobby: “We believe…” It’s not a doctrinal statement. It simply states some of our core values—the essence of who we are—things that compel and motivate us to act in a certain way. Over the past few months we’ve been looking at these core values.

  1. God is alive. He is not dead. He is active and working now. Today. He is here and he wants to do something good in you.
  2. People are important. They are a high priority. More important than programs, activities, or lists of things to do.
  3. Life is a journey. We want people to meet with God and experience his grace. But that is only the beginning of a process. We need to “grow in grace” so we can become more and more like Jesus.
  4. (Finally) Better things are coming. Do you believe that? —I mean, really believe that? Do you live like you believe it?

In a bad news world, the Gospel is Good News. The Gospel gives hope; the world offers despair. Just like the stock market, the world can crash without warning. The kingdom of God, however, is always looking up, always looking ahead. It offers hope—a better future and better promises—both in this life and the next.

God wants to do good things in us—and through us. Better things than what we’ve seen up till now. So I want to raise my expectancy for what God wants to do. I want our hope to arise!

Sometimes it can be hard to believe that better things are coming:

  • If you’ve been hammered by one problem after another…
  • If troubles storm into your life like a never ending series of tidal waves…
  • If you’ve experienced tragedy after setback after defeat…
  • If you’re stuck and when you struggle to get out, it’s like you’re in quicksand—sucked in deeper …

At times it can be very difficult to think that better things could be coming. It can be hard to believe.

When we lived in Illinois and my son was in third grade (I think it was), he signed up for soccer. That season his soccer team managed to lose every single game.
A few games were close. But always, at the end of every game, his team had fewer goals than the other team. And with every defeat, you could see the kids grow more and more discouraged. It was like the air was being sucked out them. I knew in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t the end of the world, but the kids didn’t know that.
After the season was over, the coach set up a father-son game. Maybe he thought the fathers could throw the game so the kids could have at least one victory that year. But just 1½ minutes into the game (90 seconds!) one of the dads kicked at the ball and instead kicked one of the boys in the shin. And he broke the kid’s leg! And as the boy lay on the ground, writhing in pain, the game—and the season—suddenly ended.
It was not good. Now we were losing kids, not just games.
So the next year, I asked Micah, “Would you like to go out for soccer again?” What do you think he said? Of course! He’d had it with soccer. He wanted nothing more to do with it.

We go through seasons where life can be like that.

So when life kicks us in the teeth, and we get discouraged and pessimism sets in, how do we find hope again? How do we rebuild our belief? How can we nurture and strengthen our faith? What can raise our expectations that better things are indeed coming?

  1. Soak in the promises. When you’ve had a bad season, it helps to grab hold of the promises in this book and simply soak in them. It’s like a soothing whirlpool therapy after an hard day of work. When your faith “muscles” are tired and aching—maybe even screaming in protest—soak in the promises of this book!

As believers in Jesus Christ—as people who believe this book—we should have great expectations!

1 Peter 1:3 (NLT) … we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation… (NIV: a living hope)

We called to be people of faith—not people of despair. As people of faith, we should grow in our belief and conviction that God has better things—something more in store for us.

Eph 3:20 (NLT) Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Rom 8:28 (NIV) …we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Heb 6:9 (NLT) …We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation.

So let me ask: What are you expecting?

Think about it: What do you expect God to do in you? In your future? In your family? In your ministry?

Or let’s be more specific: What are you asking God to do? Do you dare to believe for more? For something better? Or do you “play it safe” and not ask?

  1. Take a risk. Step out. Exercise your faith. Faith means sticking your neck out. It takes guts and courage to be a believer. The walk of faith is not for wimps! It takes guts…
  • To walk across the Red Sea when any moment the water could come surging back into place.
  • To step into the Jordan River, trusting the river will stop flowing.
  • To face giants—or to use a sling shot against a giant built like an army tank.
  • For one person to stand up against 850 false prophets.
  • To step out of a boat on stormy waves.
  • To be a believer—to defy the highest court in the land because you believe in an even higher court.

If we take a chance and dare to act on what we believe—no matter what we face, no matter how dire the circumstances, no matter how entrenched the discouragement—we have a promise: better things are coming! The risk is worth it!

Over the next few weeks I hope we will increase our level of expectancy for what God can do in us and through us. I hope we would not only declare what we believe, but that we would dare to act on it.

Maybe—just maybe—we could nudge each other out of our comfort zones. Don’t you think it’s easy to get too comfortable?

  1. Let God stretch you. If God is going to do more in us, we have to be willing to be stretched. It’s only when we are stretched that new space is created within us so God can move and expand in those spaces.

Jesus said You can’t put new wine into crusty, old wineskins. If you’re set in your ways, if you’re rigid, if you’re inflexible and unwilling to be stretched, then you won’t be able to handle God’s “new wine.” Old wineskins will burst under the pressure of the new wine, Jesus said. (Mark 2:22)

Are you willing to let God stretch you? Are you willing to give him room to work in you? Are you willing to put yourself in a place where God can do more in you?

I’ve heard preachers say, “Get under the spout where the glory comes out!” Have you heard that? If the faucet is here, you can’t get filled by staying over there. You have to be willing to move, to be stretched.

That’s why we often urge you to take a step out of your comfort zone, to move out of the back of the church and by faith meet with God at the front of the church. The physical change in location can open the door for a spiritual work within you.

So I want to challenge you this month: Step out in faith. Pray. Seek God. Trust him more.

God promises to show up when we’re gathered in his name, but the question is: Are we going to show up? Let’s give ourselves to God. Rededicate ourselves. Recommit ourselves.

How? you ask. Well, some have plugged into Cloquet House of Prayer on Monday nights. Some will pray at the Wood City Worship Monday or Tuesday this week. Others plug into various LifeGroups, eager to partner with what God is doing. Almost every Wednesday morning I meet with area pastors to pray together for our churches and our community. There were 12 praying together last Wednesday.

Another thing you can do to be stretched—be here consistently over the next few weeks. We’re taking a whirlwind trip through what we call the “faith chapter”—Hebrews 11. I believe the lessons we learn from people of faith in the Bible will spark more faith within each of us.

In Hebrews 11 (using several English versions) we see the word “better” five times:

  1. By faith, Abel offered a “better offering” (11:4, NIV);
  2. By faith, the believers longed for a “better country—a heavenly one” (11:16, NIV);
  3. By faith, Moses thought it was “better to suffer for the sake of Christ” (11:26, NLT);
  4. By faith, others placed their hope in a “better life after the resurrection” (11:35, NLT);
  5. and finally, God has planned “something better for us” (11:40, NIV).

So we see that “faith” and “better things” are inextricably linked together.

If better things are going to come, our faith needs to stretch and grow.

How many of you would say that you have all the faith you need? None of us, I think if we’re honest.

We’re like the disciples who said to Jesus: Lord, show us how to increase our faith! Please, give us more faith  (Luke 17:5).

We’re like the father who said to Jesus: Lord, I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief. Help my weak faith become stronger (Mark 9:24).

We’re like the NT believers who were urged to “strengthen” their faith (Col 2:7; 1 Thess 3:2) or “grow in” their faith (2 Cor 10:15) or “add to” their faith (2 Pet 1:5).

So how DO we grow in faith? Strengthen our faith? Get a grip on faith?

Heb 11:1 (KJV) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

(NIV84) Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

…the substance (confidence in the new NIV) = ὑπόστασις (hypostasis) “a standing under” or “a substructure, [the] basis…[or] essence [of something]” (Mounce). It is an underlying state or underlying substance…the fundamental reality that supports all else—like an underpinning. (Wikipedia)

For Christians, faith underlies everything else. Some things we can see—the way you conduct your life, for instance, is visible. But other things lie beneath, unseen.

So faith is like a support structure that holds you up. You see a sky scraper standing 100 stories high—but beneath it lies a foundation, a support structure that is absolutely essential to the building’s long-term success. Remember the “Leaning” Tower of Pisa?

Some things we see, but other things we can’t see. Both, however, are real. Visible things are real, but invisible things are also real!

  1. See things with God’s perspective. Pray! Ask him to let you see with his eyes.

We see the problem; God sees the possibility. We see the waves; God sees the way. We see the trial; God sees the triumph. We see the obstacle; God sees the opportunity. We see giant and we think, He’s too big to fight; God sees the giant and he says, He’s too big to miss.

We need to see things with God’s eyes! With our own eyes, we only see visible things. But it’s with God’s eyes, we will grow in faith so we can see invisible things.

(HCSB) Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.

(NCV) Faith means…knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.

Faith helps us see real things happening in the invisible, spiritual realms. Faith makes it possible for us to be certain of things that cannot yet be seen.

Paul says, We walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). Examples of seeing invisible things:

  • Right now there are wi-fi signals and cell phone signals crisscrossing the room. We can’t see them, but they’re there. They’re real. And it only takes the ringing of a cell phone to remind us that something invisible is real—the evidence comes out though we can’t see the actual signals.
  • Another example: When our daughter-in-law became pregnant, we couldn’t see any evidence of it, at least not at first. She was “pregnant” with promise—but we had no clue. Until they put a sonogram in our Christmas card. The sonogram could see what our eyes could not.
  • Another example. We say, “Look at how windy it is!” But when you look, do you see the wind? No! You see trees swaying in the wind. You see trash tumbling down the street.
    When we  lived on the high plains of the Texas Panhandle, I saw a full-size garbage can rolling down the street. I looked up and there—about 50 feet up—a cowboy hat was flying through the air. I know garbage cans don’t roll by themselves. I know cowboy hats don’t fly. So I knew I was seeing the effects of something else, something that could not be seen—the wind.
    The invisible wind, moves things that are visible.

In order to see with God’s eyes—to see invisible realities in the spiritual realms, in order to stretch your faith, in order to dare take a risk, start with this book!

Scripture expands our vision. It opens our eyes to what God can do—to his promises, to supernatural possibilities.

(Rom 10:17) …faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (NIV)

Scripture gives us foundational tools to see spiritual things. It trains us to “see” invisible things—so we can know better things are coming!

Why don’t you read Hebrews 11 this week? (If you want to go the extra mile, read the whole Book of Hebrews.)

Next week we’ll go deeper into Hebrews 11, where you’ll find example after example of

  • people who learned to look for things that did not yet exist,
  • people who learned to see in a different way from the ordinary way,
  • people whose eyes were trained to see invisible things,
  • people who walked by faith and not by sight: Abraham, faithful ones, Moses, and others.

But for now, I want to invite you to take a step of faith. Exercise your faith. Put yourself in a place where God can work in you, stretching your faith.

If you want better things to come—in you, in your family, for your future, then come, pray. Give yourself to God (again). Seek him. Surrender to him. Commit yourself to follow him.

Getting a Grip on Faith