Harold Bullock: A year from now when we’re approaching Easter, would you like to have a better life or a worse one? It’s actually a good question. We tend to...I know most people want a better life. I’ve never met anyone looking for a worse one, but we tend to feel like that’s beyond our grasp. We can’t quite get hold of that. Actually, your life up to this point and by the time next year rolls around is the developing story of your choices. I can look back on my life, and I see the story. I see where I am, and I look back on many years and see choices I made and the results. My life has been the developing story of my choices. So is yours; we move through life choosing. What comes into our futures are things that come out of our choices. Your life is the developing story of your choices.
We all go through a lot of things. Some of them are good, and then others are rather difficult. Some are actually overwhelming, and sometimes they’re tragic. We go through a lot of stuff. Sometimes things beyond our control hit our life, and we can’t control it. But what matters is not so much can you control it, but how you are going to respond to it. A number of years ago I read an article by an acknowledged, happiness expert. He specialized in this area and studied a lot of people. He made the statement in the article, “If you could tell me that someone won the state lottery and you could tell me that another person at the same time had had an accident and become a quadriplegic…” He said, “You would be telling me nothing….in either case would you be telling me anything about whether they would be happy in a year from now.” Think about that. You think winning the state lottery...oh, yeah, lots of happiness… but actually not so. It’s not what happens. May good things happen, but it’s not so much what happens, it’s how you respond to what happens.
For many people, our choices, our responses, or what we choose to do are based on our feelings. “Well, I just feel good about this!” Over the years, I’ve watched a number of people say that, and sometimes they feel good about it and it turns out well. Other times they feel good about it, and it’s a disaster! I feel good about this—for a lot of us, that shapes our decisions. FOMO—the fear of missing out. I’ve got this opportunity, and I’m afraid of missing out, especially if you’ve been on Facebook and seen all the great and wonderful things your friends do. Fear of missing out strikes, and sometimes we make decisions by, “Oh, this looks like my last opportunity to ever…” Fear of missing out is actually one of the feelings. There’s the “I feel good about this,” then there’s the “Oh, no!” They’re both feelings.
Sometimes we make decisions by trusting our judgment. It’s not entirely wrong trying to look back. We look at the circumstances, and we analyze, and we decide which path into the future will be better. Good judgment—-that’s good if you have it. Poor judgment—it’s terrible. But if you have good judgment, it’s something commended by Scripture, but there’s something more important than that. It’s not quite adequate. It’s helpful. Sometimes we trust advice; we get advice from people. They’re pretty sharp, and we trust their advice. And, we do something. We also know that if it doesn’t work out we can blame them. How do you make your decisions? A situation occurs; how do you decide how to respond to it? What angle do you approach it from? That angle will shape your story.
We all trust something when we make choices. Every time you get on the freeway, you’re taking a risk. You’re trusting something. So, how you make your decisions? How do you choose? We hit points in life where we also get stuck. We look ahead and what looks like it’s ahead for us…”That’s not what I want!” Or maybe, we look ahead, and we hesitate because it’s sort of scary. Sometimes we’ve got choices, and we just don’t know how to go forward. Paul, the apostle, who was a first century church planter appointed by Christ Jesus personally, talks about how we move forward in life. We’re into a series of messages on “Here’s the Church.” What he says is actually what creates the church. It also opens doors for you that might never have opened for you otherwise. Here’s what he says. He says, “We walk by faith,” and I want to explore that with you. 2 Corinthians 5:7 in the English Standard Version—“...for we walk by faith, not by sight.” Hmm, by faith?
Sometimes people talk about faith and reason as though they’re opposites. “Well, you believe what you believe by faith, but I’ve reasoned all this out. I trust in reason.” Actually, faith and reason are not opposites. Faith can be very, very reasonable. That’s one of the things that blew me away when I began to learn to walk with Christ...all the sane things that went into the Christian faith. It’s not faith and reason that are opposites; it’s faith and sight. Those are the opposites; we walk by faith not by sight. The real opposite to faith is sight. Sight says, “I can see how it will work out, so I will do this.” Faith says, “God has said I should do this. Even though I don’t see how it will work out, I’m going to do it and trust God to come through.” Sight actually is very comforting. If you can see how it’s going to work out, that feels very good. There’s nothing wrong with being able to see how things will work out, but faith itself can be a bit scary. However, it turns out to be crucial if you really want to move forward in life.
Faith itself is trust. The Complete Jewish Bible goes on in that same verse, and it says, “We live by trust, not by what we see.” In our American life, we tend to have two categories in our head. One is true, and the other is real. Belief is believing something is true, but if it’s true, it’s not necessarily real. My favorite illustration of this is that the world is 25,000 miles around approximately at the equator. Is that true? Well, all kinds of measurements say “yes.” Do I believe that? Does that make any difference in my life? No. Now if I were an international airline pilot, it might, but I’m not. It makes no difference. However, I’m 73 years old. Gravity...gravity means a lot to me. Do I believe in gravity? Yes, you drop things, and they fall. Does gravity make a difference in my life? Oh, yes! I watch how I climb things. Why? Because falling could really hurt you. That’s not just true; that’s real.
Many times when we deal with God, we put God in the true but not real category. Oh, do I believe in God? Sure. Do I have faith? Well, I believe in God. Yeah, but actually this faith thing is not just belief. It’s trust. I believe to the extent I trust. The dictionary says to trust is “to believe in the reliability, the truth, the ability, or the strength of something.” If I actually believe in God in the Biblical sense of the word, “belief,” which is trust, I don’t just believe it’s true. I rely on it; I trust it. Then, I believe God’s reliable. You can count on Him. He always comes through. He always keeps His promises. He never “will not.” He won’t bail on you. I believe He’s reliable.
I believe He tells the truth. I believe in His truth. If He says something, it’s true. Truth is how reality is actually. In our time we have these sayings like, “Well, you have your truth, and I have my truth.” What that really means is you have your opinion, and I have my opinion. If I decided to take a stroll through a beautiful forest in India and I don’t realize it but am being stalked by a tiger, my truth is probably not the tiger’s truth. Reality is no matter what I feel I’m in danger. There’s a reality that exists independent of us. God tells us truth. He tells us like it is. He won’t lie. I trust His truth.
I trust His ability. He has the ability to do what He says. He has the skills, and He has the wisdom to use them. He’s got the ability. I don’t wonder if He can. “Oh, God, I would like to trust You, but I wonder if You can…” I don’t wonder about that. The question for me is not “Can God…?” You need to know that the step you’re about to take is actually what is His will. If He said it in the Bible...if He said it, then He will take care of me because He promised to. I trust His ability.
I also trust His power, His strength. He’s strong enough to pull off whatever He intends to do. No one can stop Him. If I believe in God, I don’t just believe in the idea that there is a God. I trust these things about God. Real trust takes action. Belief might just accept the concept, the way we use it in English, but trust takes action. The New Testament concept of belief is trust. It takes action. James was a brother of Jesus, and two of Jesus’ brothers wrote books in the Bible, James and Jude. Also, they were apostles. “In the same way,” James writes, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” This thing’s not alive. So if I believe in God, James says just a little bit later, “You know, the devils believe, too, and they tremble.” It’s not what you believe; it’s what you trust.
John 3:36...the disciple who was the closest to Jesus… John writes this. He does a contrast here: “Whoever trusts in the Son has eternal life…” Eternal life is a present possession. If you yield your life to Jesus Christ, then you receive this. It’s both like unbending and life with a foretaste of eternity. It’s like when someone bakes you a birthday cake. You run your finger through the icing; you taste it, and you know that’s going to be good. You have the foretaste. You don’t have the full cake yet, but you have the taste. It’s life with that taste to it. Life like it will be in eternity, not fully here yet… “Whoever trusts in the Son has eternal life. But whoever disobeys the Son will not see that life but remains subject to God’s wrath.”
Here’s how it works. Trust and obedience are flip sides of the same coin. I’m not saved by my deeds, by my works, but sometimes people say, “Well, I believe in Christ. Yeah, I do, but I just don’t feel good about doing what He says, particularly in this one area of my life. “ It could be marriage; it could be finances. It could be limiting yourself. You have to limit yourself, but “No, I just don’t feel good about it.” Years ago I was atop the Sears Tower in Chicago. Here’s a picture of it. Let’s take the lights down so you can see it better. It’s a great picture. This thing is a quarter of a mile tall, 110 floors. There are taller buildings now, but it’s pretty impressive. It’s not the Willis Tower. The name has been changed. I don’t know how much it costs to get your name up there, but it’s the Willis Tower now. I was up in the observation deck near the top, and it was pretty impressive.
Suppose you and I rode the elevators up that tower, and we got out to the observation deck. We’re looking around, and you can see the city spread out in front of you. Then you look down, and you can just see how far down 110 floors is. It’s pretty impressive...quarter of a mile down! We enjoy ourselves, and then it’s time to go back to the street. So, we head back to the elevators; the elevators are there. The door opens up, and you step in. Then you say to me, “Come on. Get on.” I put my foot on the edge of the elevator, and then I pull back. You say, “Come on. Get on. These people are waiting.” I put my foot on the edge of the elevator, and I pull back. You say, “What’s wrong? Don’t you believe the elevator will take us down?” Actually, yes, I do. My question is how fast we’re going to go. “Oh, sure,” I say. “Well, climb on.” “I’m just not sure.” “Well, climb on!” “I’m just not sure.” I trust the elevator when I step on it. That’s when you know I trust the elevator.
This is the way it is with the Lord. You know you trust Him when you step on. You might believe He’s real...might believe God’s real, might believe Jesus Christ is. It’s when you actually trust Him, when you take the risk and do what He says; that’s when you trust. This is how you come to know God. The Scripture says He died for my and your rebellion. Our rebellion separates us from God. He died for that, paid the price for our rebellion, and when we trust Him, all the rebellion is paid for by Him. A relationship with God begins, and then He comes into our life. What starts is insight and power that we never had before. You’re not going to be walking on water like Jesus did, and you won’t just start flapping your arms and take off. This is not magic. It’s not Harry Potter. It is supernatural. He’s there, and things are there that weren’t there before.
This is how we come to know God. We trust Him to pay our price, and we trust Him enough to where we start walking with Him. This is how the church is created. His people are those who have trusted Him. This is central to my life personally. As I move forward in life, I’m going to have to trust Him over and over and over. I’ve trusted Him once, and new life began. Now, I’m going to trust Him 10,000 or 100,000 times as I move forward. That just keeps on. This is how the church is created. This is how a different life is created for me. This is how my story changes. My life is the developing story of my choices. Understand this; I am not saved by my obedience. I’m not saying that if you obey Christ, He will accept you. I’m saying that He will accept your trust. If this is real, then you start doing what He says because you have trusted Him. If I trust, I do obey.
I ran across a guy years ago who told me, “Well, I believe if a six year old boy marched down to the front of the church...” They used a public invitation. “...and gets saved, then lives like the devil the rest of his life, he’s still going to heaven.” I told him; I said, “Well, I believe that someone who yields their life to Christ really is saved forever. But from what I read in the Bible, if you actually yield your life to Christ, you don’t live like the devil the rest of your life.” Because He moves in...I’m not a very good “obeyer;” I don’t get it perfect, but there is a direction shift. I’m not saved by my obedience, but if I trust, I do obey. Faith without obedience is not living faith. James says it’s dead. Sometimes people ask… I don’t know if you’ve been here or not, but you hit one of those points where you say, “God, what do you want out of me?” This is what He wants all along—trust.
Trust is what God wants. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without trusting, it is impossible to be well pleasing to God…” You can believe all you want; it’s when you trust that God takes pleasure in what you’re doing. “...because whoever approaches him must trust that he does exist…” That’s first. Second, you have to trust that He is “...a rewarder to those who seek him...” If you actually step forward to do what God wants, God will actually bless. It will come through normal human troubles and circumstances. God will bless. This is actually one of our core values in Hope Church. One of our core values is to please God fully. This is at the core of pleasing God. We trust Him. We’re willing to take the risks that He says. Whether it’s in my personal life or my life in church or the life of the whole church, I move forward trusting God. I get stuck, and I’m not sure. What I have to figure out is which direction trust lies, according to Scripture. We move forward by trusting God.
To walk—we walk by faith. To walk is actually a figurative expression. It doesn’t actually mean walking across the stage here. It means a couple of things, actually. To walk means first, to order my life by trust. I reorganize my life by trust. Scripture says in 2 Corinthians 5:7 in the Wuest translation… Kenneth Wuest was a Greek scholar, and he did a translation of the New Testament that sort of brings out the Greek feeling and meaning of the words that are used. He says, “...for through faith we are ordering our manner of life, not by something seen.” We are sort of reorganizing our life and rearranging it to fit with what God wants. I look at my life in different areas—marriage, work, money, job, down time—and I start trying to align things with what God says and trust Him with it.
It could be performance with my business or in my job. I start trying to figure out what Scripture says, and then I order how I handle my job in His way. It could be if you’re single, with dating. I try to find out what kind of person I ought to be considering as a potential mate and what God says boundaries are. Then, I start ordering my life that way. If it’s in marriage, I have a role to play in marriage. I start trying to figure out how God says to play that if you’re a husband or a wife. Maybe it’s finances; God says a lot about finances. Actually, it’s one of the big topics in the New Testament. I start trying to figure out how He sets things up to be. I start trying to align how I handle money that way. It’s the same with parenting or participating in church life. I want to find out what He thinks, and then design my life so that’s taking place. I look at the patterns in the area of my life, like maybe marriage or maybe money, and then, I look at what I’m doing. Then, I try to figure out how to change that to fit with what He says.
One of the reasons we have Dr. Nathan Lewis coming in is to help us out with the parenting issue. I’ve got to find out what God says and find out in a way that I can actually use it. I want to find out, then I can start making some changes that will change the story of my marriage. I identify what my patterns are, and then I modify them to reflect God’s ways. If I’m going to walk by God’s ways, I’ve got to reorder how I conduct life by trust. The second part of it is actually taking the next step, though. I’m always having to make another choice. Not all my choices require great faith. Do I wear a blue shirt, or do I wear a yellow shirt? Not necessarily a choice of great faith. But, there are many, many choices where I’ve got to choose. As I’m taking the next step, I’m creating the story of my life. I want to take those steps by trust because that’s the way to the better life.
As my life is developing, I hit these points where my life could go different directions. I could go left. I could go right. It’s the developing story of my choices. So, what will I choose? Maybe one of those paths is actually in line with what Scripture says is trusting God. It could be that two of them are. If only one is, then I pick that one. If there are two or three of them that might be in line with what He says, I want to pray and discern, but I don’t just make the choice offhand because I’m creating my story. Next year about Easter time will be the story of those choices, so I want to find out what direction lines up with God. I want to choose that one. I’m always facing these choices. I just want to choose in line with what He says and trust Him. I’m going to have to trust Him. I’m actually going to have to take the step onto the elevator and do what He says. Then, trust Him to come through.
My life is a developing story of my choices. If I choose by God’s priorities, then I simply move on with life. If I don’t choose by God’s priorities, I tend to develop these loops. Let me show you. This is a picture. This is a four-leaf clover knot. I saw that and I thought, “Yeah, there are places in my life where my life sort of has looked like that.” I see what God wants, decide something else would be more fun, so I go off on this loop that ultimately leads me back to the same choice. Here I am again—same place that I was. It looks a little scary to trust God there, so I start off on another route, then I loop around. And, I come back to the same place I was. You can get a very big knot out of that, but you don’t move forward. Time moves forward, but you don’t. The story is one of confusion and failure.
As you trust God and move forward to do what He says, you will hit hard things. Sometimes the choices hurt, but as you move forward in time, there will be this story in your life of God coming through. This is how you get to know God. You know about God by reading the Bible. You know God by acting based on what He says and seeing Him come through and doing it again and again and again and again. Your knowledge of God deepens. It’s not just knowledge about God; it’s knowledge of God. You know the Person because He’s shown Himself to be real. My life’s a developing story of my choices. If I will trust Christ enough to do what He says, my developing story takes on new meaning and actually a lot of new direction. We live by trust, not by what we see.
If you’re here this morning and you’ve never trusted Jesus Christ...I mean, you know about Jesus Christ. You’re actually pretty loyal to Jesus Christ, but you’ve never stepped forward to do what He says. I want to invite you to do that. The way you begin a relationship with Him the Bible says is that He died to pay the price for your rebellion. Thank Him for that and tell Him you trust HIm and that He is who He says He is, and that you yield your life to Him for Him to change you into the person He wants you to be. At that point, things shift, and a new life begins. We would love to help you out and learn more about it. We’re going to pray in a moment. You might pray during that time.
Also, if you’re sort of stuck this morning or there’s something looming in front of you that you’re not really sure about… Maybe it’s you don’t want that, or maybe you just really hate the thought of having to do it God’s way… I want to encourage you—trust Him. Trust Him. Step forward, do what He says, and see how He comes through. Easter will come next year. If you and I are alive then, the story of our lives, the developing story, will be the story of our choices. If you’ll make your choices by trusting, it just goes better...not perfect, but so much better. Life moves forward instead of back to the same place again. We walk by trust. That’s what creates the church. That’s how the church moves forward. That’s what leads us into a relationship with Christ. That’s how we move forward.
I want to lead us in prayer. If you’re here and you’ve never yielded your life to Christ, would you do so during the time we pray? If you’re struggling with one of those big things of “Oh, God, I don’t know if I want to or not,” trust Him. Commit to do what He wants. If you are wanting to begin a relationship with Christ, just tell Him I believe You are who You say You are. I yield my life to You. Take control; make me into the person You want me to be.
Father, thank You so much for giving us new life in Christ Jesus. Thank You for loving us. If You loved us based on our performance, there’d be no hope for us. But, You love us because of what Christ did, and You accept us because of what He did. You work with us as Your children. We know You want us to trust our Father. Help us, Father. Give us courage. For those who are praying right now, we ask You, in Jesus’ name, that You would hear their prayer and show up. We ask You to lead us forward and grant that our society would see the reality of Jesus Christ because we have chosen trust. In His name we pray. Amen.