Pastor Andy Stanley: “You were raised to believe that if you do A, B, and C, you can expect God and trust God to do D, E and F. And so, you have done A, B, and C consistently and God hasn’t done D, E or F. And all of a sudden, there is a life circumstance that doesn’t line up with your thinking about God and your faith is shattered.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: Today on our Best of 2016 edition of “Focus on the Family,” we’ll continue a message from Pastor Andy Stanley about how you can have a faith that withstands any storm. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: Hey, John, we started a fascinating two-part look at faith last time and if you any of you missed part one, I’d highly recommend that you request the entire five-part DVD series featuring Andy Stanley, from Focus here. We’re only able to share the highlights on the radio program, but the series is wonderful. I remember Jean and I saw it at church and we loved it.
John: And you can get the entire DVD set when you call us here at 1-800-A-FAMILY: 800-232-6459.
Jim: Last time, Andy talked about how fragile our faith can be, especially if it’s based on our circumstances. It’s completely natural, but today we’ll hear what the true foundation of our faith should be and I want to get right back into the message, John, so let’s go.
John: All right, here’s Andy Stanley of North Point Ministries and he’s taking a look at Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 14. We’re gonna roll back just a little bit to give you some of the context for today’s “Focus on the Family.”
Andy Stanley: We have in history, a Person who showed up and walked this earth as one of us, who was seen, who was touched, who was loved, who spoke, who performed miracles, who died on the cross in front of all of us, who was raised from the dead and seen by over 500 people, who claimed to have a unique relationship with God and who claims to be the One who represents us to God. That’s who we have. And since we right now currently have that, that’s why we don’t give up believing.”
In other words, the foundation of our faith is a Person. The foundation of our faith is not an experience. The foundation of our faith is not an answer to prayer. The foundation of our faith is a Person, Jesus Christ, the Lord.
And the reason that we believe when things are good and believe when things are bad is not because things are good or things or bad and not because we can make sense out of life and not because we can answer every question. The reason we believe is because 2,000years ago and here’s the thing that sets Christianity apart from your current philosophies and your pop religion and your pop psychology and all the other religions of the world. Two thousand years ago, something happened and the foundation of Christianity is something that happened in history. We believe because of something that happened years ago, not because of our ability to interpret circumstances right now. We have a Savior Who is the great high priest, Jesus Christ, Who passed through heaven and sits at the right hand of our heavenly Father.
In other words, the foundation of your faith is not what you can see and not what you experience. This is why every once in a while, you meet somebody and they had extraordinary faith. And you’re thinkin’, “How can you continue to believe when this happened to you? And how can you continue to believe when it didn’t work out? And how can you continue to believe?” And you’re looking at their circumstances, sayin’, “How can you continue to have that much faith?”
And they would say, “It’s simple, because I don’t have circumstantial faith. The foundation of my faith is a Person. The foundation of my faith is somethin’ that happened in history, not in my lifetime, but many, many years ago. You see, I’m like you. I like all the cool stories of the quick answers to prayer, you know. My son, you know, he ran away from home and I got the church to pray and we put out an e-mail and everybody in the country was prayin’. The President was prayin’, the Congress; everybody was prayin’ for my son. (Laughter) And we just, you know, we stormed the gates of heaven and a few days later, my son came back and he was broken and cryin’ and apologized and things are good and it happened in two weeks (Sound of clapping) Hey, that’s the kind of prayers I like. That’s what I’d like to happen to me, you know.
Or the doctor had told us there’s no hope and we had to have this surgery. And we got there and they did a final X-ray and they couldn’t even find the thing and it was gone. That was seven years ago and she’s been healthy ever since, you know. (Sound of clapping) Yea, God, if that’s me, that’s how I want You to do it, okay? You know. (Laughter)
I believe all that stuff and I think that’s great, but can you see a circumstantial faith? What dwarfs me in my faith and what makes me just have to sit down and take a deep breath and the people that just cause me to just go [in] awe in their presence, are not the people that have those stories. It’s the guy who gets totally taken advantage of at work. His ideas are stolen. They don’t give him what they promised. And they kick him out of the company and he walks away and decides to just forgive them.
And everybody’s sayin’, “Why don’t you sue? Why don’t you sue?” And he says, “Well, I just think I’m just gonna trust God with this.” Well, how can you trust God with this? Looks at what’s not happening, you know. Look what God is not doing. Well, well, my faith in God isn’t based on a job situation. No, my faith in God is based on 2,000 years ago, He sent His Son into this world to die for my sin. Why would I doubt God’s care for me? He sent His Son to die for my sin.” Oh, yeah, well, there’s that. Yeah, right, okay.
But I’m sayin’, but what about your job, you know, that’s what I’m sayin’. Or it’s not the people whose children and the husbands and wives get healed instantly. For me, it’s the people that, you know, I stand with them at their son or daughter or their husband or wife’s funeral. And God didn’t answer the prayer and they lost their battle with a disease. They never recovered from the accident. And they stand at those funerals and they say, “You know what? God is still good. I still trust God as my heavenly Father. Why wouldn’t I?” Well, all the circumstantial faith people go, “Because look what happened in the vicinity of your current reality.”
They go, “Wait a minute. My faith doesn’t rest on my ability to interpret circumstance. My faith doesn’t rest on my time frame. My faith rests on somethin’ that happened 2,000 years ago in history, when God sent His Son into this world to die for my sins and to be raised from the dead. That’s where I find my hope. That’s why I continue to be faithful. That’s why I continue to walk in dependence. And that’s why I continue to walk in obedience, even to those strange things in the Scripture that don’t seem to have any relevance with culture. That is the foundation of my faith.
Now listen. Right now in this moment, your faith is resting against somethin’. You need to know what that is. And here’s my warning to you. If it is circumstantial, it will eventually fail you and you will have to adjust your belief system to match current reality. And sometimes current reality isn’t all that good. But here’s the amazing thing. Here’s how much God loves you. God has not asked you to trust Him based on your ability to figure Him out.
God has said, “No, no, I’ve done something far more significant than that. I’m asking you to trust Me and I’m asking you to trust Me with the details of your life, in your ethics, in your morality, in your relationships, in your family, in your husbands and your wives and your businesses and your money. I’m asking you to trust Me, not because our time frames line up, but because 2,000 years ago, I sent My Son into history to walk as you walk, to face the same trials and temptations that you have faced.”
“I love you and I don’t want you to think I love you because I answered your prayer. It’s way bigger than that. I love you because I sent My Son to die for you. Now I just want you to trust Me and to trust Me and to trust Me and to trust Me. And I want you to lean and prop your faith up against something I did on your behalf in history, because that’s the foundation of faith and that’s the foundation of Christianity.
And if you don’t, eventually the pleasures of life and the pressures of life are gonna erode whatever it is you believe right now. The pleasures of life, because whatever you believe right now will eventually become inconvenient to maintain your current faith system. The pressures of life, because eventually somethin’s gonna happen that doesn’t make sense in the way that you see the world and you’ll lose confidence in whatever or whoever it is that you have your faith in.
But the great news is this. For 2,000 years, men and women who have faced all kinds of things, all kinds of tragedy, all kinds of randomness, have come out on the other end saying, “But blessed be the name of the Lord. I still trust. I still trust. I still believe, because my faith wasn’t fragile. My faith wasn’t circumstantial. My faith was founded on somethin’ that happened in history when God sent His Son into this world to be the Savior of the world.”
Here we go, Hebrews 4:14: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest”–high priest is the person that represents us to God–“since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, since that’s true, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” There’s the foundation of our faith, Jesus. “For”–now here’s the new information in verse 15–“for we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses.”
Now look at that again. “We,” talkin’ about Jesus, “we don’t have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses. There’s a difference between sympathize and empathize. You know what that is? Sympathize is, “I have never been in that situation, but gosh, I feel sorry for you.” Empathize is, been there, done that. I know exactly how that feels.
Now I don’t know how you picture Jesus, but here’s what the author of Scripture says. He says, “Look, you need to understand when you think Jesus, that’s not somebody in heaven goin’, ‘What?’ You’re talking to your Savior Who says, ‘I know. I know. I know. I know not just that it’s happening to you; I know what that’s like. I know how that feels.’”
Listen to the rest of this. “But we have One,” talking about a mediator, somebody to represent us to God, “but we have One Who has been tempted in,” what’s that word?
Andy: “Every way just as we are. That Jesus,” this is what Scripture says, “that Jesus was tempted in every single way as we are.” And let me tell you why this is important. When we get to these promises in just a minute and when you think about prayer going forward or if you’re about to start praying, you need to understand the door that you’re walking through. The Scripture teaches that Jesus has felt what you have felt and has faced what you faced.
Let me give you a couple of examples. I wrote these in my notes. Jesus spent a night dreading the events of the following day. Jesus spent a night dreading the events of the following day. Let me just ask you and I’ll put my hand up, too. Anybody here ever spent a night dreading the events of the following day (Laughter), other than exams. Okay (Laughter), right? For some of you, it was a court case. For some of you, it was a deposition. For some of you, it was a trip to the hospital. For some of you, it was to see someone you hadn’t seen in a long time and you knew that they weren’t delivering good news. Probably every one of us in this room has or will spend the night where we can barely sleep or can’t sleep at all, because of the events of a coming day.
Your Savior spent the night knowing that the next day He would be tried, beaten and crucified. And as a young boy growing up in Palestine, He had seen crucifixion. He knew what that was like and He knew the next day, He was going to participate. He knows what it’s like to try to go to sleep and dread the events of the coming day.
How about this one? He experienced the rejection and betrayal of his closest friends. Some of you know what that’s like. You married her because you were best friends. You married him because you were best friends. And for the first few years, you were best friends. In fact, you thought you were still best friends. And then somebody else sat you down and said, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but you need to know what’s goin’ on.”
And you know what it’s like for somebody to feel like somebody’s taking a hook and grabbed your soul and just ripped your soul out, to where you feel you don’t even know what you feel. You feel like you’re gonna throw up, just because of news that someone you trusted, somebody you loved, somebody you dedicated a part of your life to and they’ve betrayed you. And you don’t even know how to pray.
Jesus watched as His closest friends ran away in front of Him. And He listened as the guy He poured most of His time into, say to a 14-year-old girl or however old she was, “I don’t even know who that is.” He felt that at the most critical hour.
How about this one? He’s experienced the rejection of a family member. Some of you know what that’s like. He saw everything He worked for and lived for crumble around Him. He knows what that feels like. And He experienced crushing, crushing, crushing temptation. See, some of you face temptation that you give in to over and over and over. And you tried and you prayed and you’ve begged God. You’ve done everything and you think, “God, you know, are You listening?” And your heavenly Father says, “I know. I know, because My Son faced the most crushing kind of temptation imaginable. I know. When you come to Me, you don’t even have to explain that part, because Your Savior, Your Mediator, Your High Priest, He knows. He knows.”
John: Assurance from Pastor Andy Stanley on “Focus on the Family” today and this reminder that we have a CD or audio download of this program with extra content and a DVD of the entire series about faith when you get in touch. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or online you’ll find these and other helps at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. Let’s return now to Andy Stanley on today’s “Focus on the Family.”
End of Program Note
Andy: It’s tempting just to stop there and just to sit on that for a while, because that may radically change the way you approach God, that may radically change the way you pray. And He says, “Look. Before you even begin your prayer, He’s been there and done that to the 10th power.”
And listen to how that verse ends. “Yet He did not sin.” The thing that Jesus has that I don’t have and that you don’t have, is He has the clarity that comes without sin, because every time you sin and every time you respond incorrectly to the pressures and pleasures of life, every time, you just mist your light and you mist it and mist it and mist it and the mist becomes a fog. And after a while, we can’t see straight. And then we do really stupid things and He says, “Yeah, but Jesus faced all that stuff and yet without sin.”
So, listen to verse 16. Now this is huge. “Let us then,” then means, in light of everything we’ve just said, “let us then approach God’s throne of grace with” what? Confidence. Say it and what is it? It’s …
Andy: It doesn’t say, “formality.” It doesn’t say, “Let us approach God’s throne, remember He’s a king, throne of grace with extraordinary formality.” In fact, formality is the enemy of intimacy. And formality is the enemy of what He’s getting at here, because the writers of the New Testament say, when you come to God, you come boldly. You come confidently. You come with extreme emotion. Why? Because He knows what you’re carrying. Come boldly to the throne of grace. “Well, let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence.”
And then listen to this next phrase, “So that,” ready? “So that we may receive” pause. “So that we may receive.” Now here it is, ready? “That when you come to God, you’re gonna receive something every single time. When you come to God honestly, when you come to God with all the emotion, with all the passion, with all the hope, with all the desire, with all the hurt, with all the story, however you come, if you’ll come boldly and if you come without all the formality that the religious systems tend to hang on a relationship with God, if you’ll come boldly, every single time you’re gonna receive somethin’ from God. You can trust, you can believe, you can know that this is gonna happen every single time.
So that we may receive and here’s the first thing you’ll receive, “mercy,” mercy, mercy. Mercy is the fact that God’s gonna take your issue seriously, not because it’s a serious issue, but because it’s your issue. Mercy is that I take my children’s request and complaint seriously, not because they’re serious complaints, but because they’re my children’s complaints.
Mercy is that God is gonna leanin’ your direction and say (whispering), “I know. I know. I know.” And not [only] “I know it happened,” “I know because I know how that feels,” mercy. And I’m tellin’ ya, the older you get and the more mature you’ve become as a Christian, the fact that God knows, more and more and more becomes enough and it will become enough for you.
Sometimes mercy is tangible. Sometimes it’s, “God, I just don’t think I can take it any more” and the phone rings and somebody says, “Let’s go to lunch.” And you go, “Oh, wow!” Tangible mercy. Sometimes it’s that mercy that it’s just the peace of God. Nothing changes and your pour out your heart and you come boldly and you say, “God, I’m so lonely.” And “God, I can’t get ahead.” Or “God, it seems everybody gets a break but me.” Or “God,” whatever it is. And you just pour out your heart to God and at the end, nothin’s changed, but you kinda sense that maybe you’ve changed, mercy.
But every time you come to God boldly, He says, “Let me tell what you can count on. You can hold My feet to the fire. You can trust Me. This is a faith thing. I’m promising. I promise; I promise; I promise,” mercy. Mercy is Jesus standin’ outside the tomb of Lazarus and He already knows what He’s gonna do and He already knows He’s gonna raise Lazarus from the dead and He knows he’s gonna be the star of the show and everything’s gonna work out. And Jesus walks up to the tomb of Lazarus and before He does His big deal, His big miracle, before He intervenes the way they want Him to intervene, this is so huge, Jesus pauses outside of the tomb of the Lazarus and the Bible says in John 11, that He wept. And everybody watching Him says, “Look how much He loved Lazarus.”
Why did He pause and weep? I think it’s in a microcosm, a message that reflects and it sort of echoes through the ages that your Savior understands and He’s not too big and busy to feel what you feel. Mercy is (Whispering), “I know. And I’m not angry with you for feelin’ it. And I’m not put off with you for feelin’ it. And you just keep bringin’ it, every single time to Me and My frontline response to you, every time I promise is gonna be mercy.” And sometimes it’s gonna be tangible mercy. Sometimes it’s gonna be mercy that takes the pressure off. And sometimes it’s gonna just be that intangible thing that comes with knowin’ (Sigh), that my heavenly Father knows.
And there’s a second thing you get every single time. “And find grace to help us in our time of need,” grace to help us in our time of need. Grace in this context is the strength and the energy to endure. That’s what it means. It’s the strength or the ability or the energy to endure. God says, “You know what?” And quoting a guy that died a long time ago. He had this great quote. He says, “God hasn’t promised to deliver us from our circumstances, but God has promised to deliver through them.”
And many of you today listenin’ to this message, could stand up and tell your story of how you begged God and you leaned hard on God and nothing changed. But looking back, God just gave you the energy, gave you the strength and gave you the endurance to press through. And some of you would say, “As bad as I hated those circumstances, if I had to do it all over again, I’m not sure I would opt for easier circumstances, because what I experienced and what I learned about that” and here [are] the words you would use, “the grace of God.” The enduring power of God, the strength of God is a lesson you’ll never ever forget.
And God says, “Let me tell you what. Sometimes I’m gonna take the pressure off and sometimes I’m gonna intervene in your circumstances. But I promise every single time to give you the grace, the strength, the power to endure.”
And your husband may not come back, but I’m gonna give you the grace to endure that. And your Prodigal daughter may not call for a year, but I’m gonna give you the grace to endure that. And you may not get the job, the deal that you wanted, but I’m gonna give you the grace to endure that. And she may never give you the time of day, I’m gonna give you the grace to endure that. And you may never be where you want to be financially or with your company, but you know what? If instead of gettin’ frustrated and abandoning Me because I didn’t show up in your circumstance, if instead you will learn to lean hard on Me, I promise every single time, grace and mercy in your time of need, mercy and grace that helps in your time of need. And sometimes I’ll deliver you from. But every time I promise to deliver you through, if you’ll come to Me and not give up on Me, because you couldn’t find Me in the circumstances of life.”
Now I’ll be honest, that is not a very emotionally satisfying answer. This is what we honestly want; this is what we want and I’m with you, okay? This is what we want. We want God to give us a can of intervention, okay? “Heavenly Father, I pray that he would break up with her, so that she would pay attention to me.” This right there (Laughter), I want you to get …; (Laughter) I want you to work right there, okay? And God, at work you know, my boss, you know. They’re thinkin’ of movin’ him to Detroit anyway. I just want You to move him to Detroit. I just want a little bit of intervention (Laughter) there. And then the third floor, the whole third floor, just take out the whole third floor (Laughter) over there, right?” (Laughter) That’s what we really want. We want God [to]…; we just want to be able to … and He’s just gonna let us intervene.
You know what we don’t want? You know what you’ve never prayed? God, I am such a problem. (Laughter) God, the problem’s me. God, please, please deliver my wife from me (Laughter), right? See, I don’t really want justice comin’ my way. I want justice goin’ your way. I want grace and mercy comin’ my way, right? We just want little spot intervention.
But here’s what the Scripture teaches, listen. We live in the age of mercy and grace. This is the age where God doesn’t bring about justice. This is the age where God extends grace and mercy to you, who trust and lean on Him and to those of you who don’t. In fact, some of you’ve been a Christian for about a year and you look at the circumstances that led you to the place of brokenness and led you to the place of faith and you would look back and say, “You know what? God extended grace and mercy to me, even when I was running from Him. Why? Because this is the age of grace and mercy.
And if you come to Him as a believer, you get grace and mercy. And if you come to Him as an unbeliever, you get grace and mercy. This is the age in which God says, “I know. I know about the consequences of sin. I understand your sorrow and I mourn when there’s death, but I’m not removing any of those three. But in this age of sin, sorrow and death, I will extend grace and mercy every single time you come to Me.
And when it’s the age of intervention, it’s not gonna be little, little itty-bitty intervention. It’s gonna be big intervention. It’ll be the end of the world as you know it. And the Bible teaches that there is gonna be a day and age when you get what you want, but it’s bigger than your little life and your little job and who’s sittin’ on the end of the front row and who drives the cool car. It’s gonna be way bigger than that. It’s gonna be a day and age when Jesus says, “It’s gonna be the end of sin, the end of sorrow and the end of death.” It’s gonna be huge intervention.
But in that day and age is the end of God’s extension of grace and mercy. It happens all at one time. And for those of us who became Christians later in life, we’re so grateful that the end didn’t come before we had an opportunity to respond to the grace and the mercy of our heavenly Father. This is the age of grace and mercy.
And every once in a while, God intervenes. And every once in a while, it’s like He breaks His own rules and He allows us to miss and dodge the consequences of our own sin. And every once in a while, there’s a miraculous healing. And every once in a while, God just does the unusual thing and we just say, “Thank You; thank You; thank You, because You didn’t have to do that. You didn’t do that because I had great faith. You did that because You’re a merciful heavenly Father.”
But you know what? I know that I can’t expect that every time. I’ll just celebrate when it happens. And when I don’t get my way, I still trust You, because the foundation of my faith isn’t this. The foundation of my faith is Jesus, history, what You did 2,000 years ago that echoes and has been echoing ever since.
John: Pastor Andy Stanley on our Best of 2016 edition of “Focus on the Family” and it’s one of our most popular programs of the past year.
Jim: Boy, John, if all of us could grab a hold of these truths and live them out to have that kind of strong faith in spite of our circumstances. That’s the kind of faith I want my boys, my wife and myself to have. We all want that for our friends and family members.
And here at Focus on the Family, we’re helping about 575 people commit or recommit their lives to Christ every day. It’s one of the best statistics that I watch. And I’m sure some of those are people that you know and love; it may have been you. As we approach the end of the year, if Focus on the Family has strengthened your faith, would you consider making a donation today? We can’t do it without you. We need partners to accomplish the mission. We have some generous friends who have offered to double your gift at the end of the year here, dollar for dollar so that your donation will have twice the impact. So, please give generously today.
And when you make that donation of any amount, ask for the five-part DVD series from Andy Stanley called Faith, Hope and Luck. You just heard a small portion of it today. There is so much more good stuff that we’re not gonna be able to get to. Watch it with your family, your teens, your neighbors. Bring people together–anyone who needs to hear that their faith cannot be based on their circumstances. I know they’re gonna appreciate it.
John: Just give us a call. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or donate and request that whole series online at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Well, have a great weekend and be sure to be back with us on Monday. You’ll hear why moms and dads way too often make parenting