In the late 1940’s two American teenage boys were growing up. They had the look of greatness about them, and every one who met them thought, “we’d better keep our eyes on these two kids – they’ll go far”. In College, they rose to become student leaders, respected and admired by peers and faculty alike. In fact, many said that Nate, the elder of the two could very likely become President of the USA in the future.
But that was not to be.
On the morning of 8 January 1956, those two young men, and three companions, climbed into an amphibious Piper airplane in Ecuador, South America. They took off and flew half an hour out over the Amazon jungle, to an Indian village they had spotted just a few days earlier. They had made contact with this village before, and had successfully dropped gifts for the people in a specially designed bucket. They felt that now was the time to attempt to meet the villagers face to face, and were planning to land on the river.
Although landing on a jungle river is incredibly difficult, their pilot was an ace aviator, and they managed to do so without a problem. Feeling nervous and excited at the same time, and after a quick prayer, all five got out of the plane as it came to a halt on the river on a sandbar near the Indian village.
The village was one of the villages of a tribe of Indians known as the Aucas. This was a name given to them by the surrounding Indian tribes – it means “savage”. And that’s exactly what they were. They were untouched by civilisation, and throughout the centuries had gained a reputation for being brutal, and killing all outsiders. These five young missionaries were hopeful that they would be able to make a breakthrough this morning.
As they approached the Indian village, they saw a large group of men coming to meet them. The waited as this group approached them. Then the leader of that group, a man named Guiquita Waewae gave a shouted command, and the villagers raised their spears, and savagely murdered the missionaries with their three-metre chonta wood spears.
When the men did not return to their base, a plane was sent to find them, and their bodies and wrecked plane were seen lying on the sandbar, in pools of blood. They died without ever speaking to the people they came to love. They died in shame, without graves, but heaven’s hosts stood to honour and applaud as these men took their place among Christ’s martyrs that day in January 1956.
A few years later, two of the wives of those missionaries had the privilege of being among the first outsiders to make contact with the Auca Indians. And the wife of the leader of the group of five that was murdered was able to lead Guiquita, the man who had killed her husband, to the Lord.
I don’t know about you, but when I hear a story like that, I am awed and amazed at what people have done through the ages in the name of God. I am humbled at my own puny attempt at living a Christian life. And I wonder whether my life is really worth anything to God. Do you have the same thoughts?
Do you ever wonder if God can really use you? Or maybe you have slaved away for many years in some ministry, and been frustrated at your lack of results. Have you ever completed a task for the Lord, and looked back on it and wondered why there just doesn’t seem to be any result, and fruit for your effort? Do you wonder if God can use you?
Well, I have the answer for you this evening – and the good news is, the answer is simple. Our text is Hebrews 11:6. In fact, I am only going to concentrate on the first part of this verse:
“Without faith it is impossible to please God…”
If you want to please God, you must have faith.
What does that mean?
I’ve been a Baptist all my life, and for the good things about Baptists, we can be a bit legalistic if we’re not careful. Life can become a list of do’s and don’ts, without much passion and heart.
(Comment on worship??)
But this verse is clear – no matter how much you do, or even how much you appear to achieve, if you don’t have faith, God won’t be pleased with you. God wants us to have faith.
But what is faith?
Heb 11:1 gives us the answer to that question. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Let me illustrate:
NATE SAINT’S older brother was a commercial airline pilot, and that had been Nate’s dream, too. When he finished High School, he immediately joined up with the US Army Air Corp, but after intensive training an old scar became inflamed just before a critical medical test, and he was found to be unfit for military service, and was discharged a while later. His dream seemed shattered. He heard of a new mission’s organisation called MAF, Mission Aviation Fellowship, and in 1948 he joined the mission full time, and left for Ecuador a few months later, to help them set up a mission to the Indians in the upper Amazon jungle. He spent many years in the jungles, perfecting the incredibly difficult task of “jungle flying”, and making some technical innovations to his aircraft that are still used internationally today. He was, and still is, considered one of the greatest missionary aviators ever.
Nate was the leader of that group of five missionaries, and their pilot. It was he who led the group out onto the beach near the village, and it was he who was killed by Guiquita. Nate’s wife, Rachel led Guiquita to the Lord a few months later.
Faith means having a vision for what God can achieve through you. Faith means knowing what God wants to achieve through your life.
Now you might think that God did not achieve the purpose that had filled Pete Fleming with passion. Pete had a desire to see the Auca reached for Christ, but died before speaking to them once. Yet, after Nate’s death, every single one of the people in that particular village came to know Jesus as Saviour, and Nate’s wife led her husband’s murderer to the Lord. The reason: as the five men were murdered, Nate held out his hands with the gifts he had bought, and said the only Auca word he knew: “Maempo”, which roughly translated means “Father”, but is a term of respect and endearment. That word haunted Guiquita for many months.
You see, you’re not just a random being in the universe. You haven’t just popped up to live a few years, and then die here. God specially and specifically designed and crafted you to be exactly who you are. He chose your personality, and gave you talents and abilities for a specific reason. He made you perfect for the job He has in mind for you.
Faith is being sure of what it is God wants you to do. And it also means that you are prepared to give up everything else in order to achieve that goal.
I’m pretty sure that many of the young people here tonight are still trying to decide what career to follow. God isn’t calling all of you to go into full-time service or missions. And he doesn’t everyone to become a martyr. But, as you select a career, ask yourself: How could God use this career? What can God do with an accountant? What can God do with an engineer? Or a teacher?
Before you make all your plans to forge ahead and build a career for yourself, let God have your best. Faith means being willing to let God have your best. Let your boss get the leftovers, after God has used you and your skills. Not the other way round.
Faith means that you are willing to give God your best. Faith means having a vision for what God can achieve through you.
And without faith it is impossible to please God.
But faith isn’t just knowing what God wants you to do. Faith is also being ready to give up all your own desires for God. Let me illustrate again:
JIM ELLIOT had always wanted to be a missionary. He was a man who spent many hours in prayer, and felt a real burden for the South American Amazon Indians. After his studies at theological college, he went to Ecuador, where he linked up with Nate Saint in an effort to reach the Auca Indians. Jim is probably the most famous of those five killed that January morning, and that is mainly through his own writings, and the writings of his wife Elisabeth over the years.
In Jim’s journal, a few weeks before his death, he wrote these words:
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose
Faith is being ready to give up all your own desires for God. And it is in giving them up, that you will truly have your desires fulfilled. God is not a spoilsport. He doesn’t want you to give up your dream, and have it replaced by something lousy. God wants you to give up your puny little dream, and look up, and see his dream for your life. His dream for your life is the most exciting, most fulfilling, most exciting thing you will ever do. That’s because God’s dream for your life perfectly matches exactly who you are. God wants your best. He wants the best from you, and He wants to give the best to you.
Faith is being ready to give up all your own desires for God.
And without faith it is impossible to please God.
So how do we do this? How do we know what God wants us to do?
If you have done the Experiencing God course, you may remember Henry Blackaby make this statement (it’s on page 116 if you want to look it up):
“I have come to the place in my life that, if the assignment I sense God is giving me is something that I know I can handle, I know it probably not from God. The kind of assignments God gives in the Bible are always God-sized. They are always beyond what people can do, because he wants to demonstrate his nature, his strength, his provision and his kindness to his people and to a watching world. That is the only way the world will come to know him”.
If we look at a task and assess that it is within our capability of achieving it then we do not need to rely on God. And when God sees that that is all we are trying, He also knows that we can do it on our own. So He leaves us to do it on our own. When others look at what we have done, they will say, “Good job, you did great!!”.
But if we take on a task that is outside of our capability to achieve, then God looks at it and says, “you’ll never do that by yourself”, and comes to help us. When we achieve it, people will look at it and say “Wow. What they achieved was impossible for them. How did they do it? It must be God!!”
God can only take the glory when what is achieved is only achievable by God. If people will look at what is done, and think you did it alone, why should God get involved?
If we want God involved in our lives, and involved in what we do, then we must be risk takers, taking on God-sized jobs and God-sized challenges, not man-sized ones. God can ONLY work through risk takers. God can only work through people who have faith enough to step out and do something that only God can do.
That’s why without faith it is impossible to please God.
Let me ask you this. How much are you attempting in your life right now that only God can do? How many risks are taking for God right now? These are vital questions to answer if we are to be good and faithful servants of Almighty God.
Now I don’t mean that you should make goals for life like: “I see a vision of myself riding a Ferrari to my Clifton mansion”. That’s not what we’re talking about here. You need to have a vision of what GOD wants to achieve through you. What is it that God wants you to do? This is not about selfish desires and dreams. This about giving those dreams up to be replaced by God’s great and awesome plans for your life.
And you can believe me that the giving up the dreams that shackle you, and holding onto God’s dreams will be the most truly fulfilling thing you ever do.
Let me ask you again. How much are you attempting in your life right now that only God can do?
Does that question scare you? Does it make you nervous?
God knows that you’re nervous. God knows that you can’t do it. God knows that risk taking scares you, and unsettles you. But you’ve got to see it from God’s perspective. God knows that you can’t do it!! That’s why He chose you! HE wants to do it Himself through you. If you COULD do it, He wouldn’t have chosen you.
Without faith it is impossible to please God.
Won’t you, tonight, pledge yourself to God? Won’t you commit yourself to living by faith, and not by sight? Won’t you make a promise with me, tonight, that you will attempt to achieve something in your life that only God can achieve. Won’t you take a risk on God tonight?
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