Hebrews 11:8 (NKJV) 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
We are looking at Hebrews 11 which lists a number of people who did outstanding things by faith. This chapter has been called God’s Hall of Fame of faith. What we want to find out is what made the faith these people walked in hall of fame quality. I want to begin looking at the person Romans 4 calls the father of our faith, Abraham.
I often teach on Romans 4 as a basic handbook to how to operate in faith. This chapter goes through a step by step account of how Abraham, a childless man of 100, could receive the promise of God to become the father of nations. Hebrews 11:8-22 we will see a more chronological account of what Abraham did and how he might have felt along the way.
In verse 8 we see the first thing about Abraham’s faith that put him in the Hall of Fame. Abraham obeyed without knowing where he was going nor how God was going to accomplish what he said he would do. This is one of the necessary things that we must be willing to do if we are going to have hall of fame faith.
Let us look at the promise God and the direction God gave to Abraham while he was still known as Abram.
Genesis 12:1-4 (NKJV) 1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 4 So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
The promise to Abram contained 5 basic elements. He would show Abram a land to which God wanted him to Go. He would make him a great nation. To be a great nation he must have descendants, so he was going to have a family. God would bless Abram and make his name great. Abram was not only going to be blessed, he was going to be a blessing. In Abram all families of the earth would be blessed. Those who bless Abram will be blessed and those who curse Abram will be cursed. This is covenant language so Abram would have a covenant with God.
This is a wonderful list of things that Abram was going to receive. If God said these things to you or me, our next questions would probably be, “When can I expect delivery, Lord?” and, “How exactly are you going to do that? And by the way, where exactly is that land?” One of the greatest hindrances to our faith is the need to know. We want to know what, when where, why and how. Until we have those answers it is hard for us to trust that God is going to do what he said.
To make matters even worse, God puts some requirements on Abram. None of this is going to happen until he leaves what he does know and is willing to walk into the unknown. Abraham obeyed God and left Haran, he left his father, he took all that he had and went on a journey to who knows where and who knows how. If we want to have Hall of Fame faith, we are going to have to be willing to do the same.
Not every faith endeavor requires that we know nothing, but most require that we do not know everything. We must be willing to obey God without knowing the details. What Abram did know is that God promised. He promised a land, a blessing and a future that would be important to the whole world.
In my life, everything that has been truly significant required that I obey not knowing. In Abram’s case, the obedience was in the form of leaving things behind and going to a place he knew nothing about. Sometimes the obedience is giving money it does not seem we can afford to give. Sometimes it means reaching out to people we do not know how to help. Sometimes it means starting a project we do not feel qualified to do and do not have the resources to complete. I have experienced all of those.
Let me share one example. When I was 32 years old God began to deal with me about leaving the city where we had built our second church and going to another place. Some people had come to our church from a town 80 miles south of us. I was at the church alone early one Sunday praying for the service. I heard someone come in and went out to greet them. I asked them where they were from. They said, “We are from Greene.” I had no idea where that was. They said it was near the city of Binghamton.
They came to our church in Rome, NY for a few years and we talked about what God might have in mind. One thing led to another and I knew that it was time to move on from where we were. When it came time to go, the only place that was available to us was this small village in the Southern Tier of New York State.
Rome is not a big city, but it is a city. Greene is near a city similar in size to where we lived, but the village was only 1500 people. As the time went on, we were convinced that this little village was where God was sending us. We knew nothing about the area. We had never considered living in that part of the state. My wife’s parents lived west of there and I had said at one time, “I don’t ever want a ministry in the Southern Tier. This area is dead.” Be careful what you say. The place God sent us was right in the Southern Tier of New York state.
We started a prayer meeting at the home of the people who were driving north every week to come to the church in Rome. We were praying that God would raise up leadership for that area. I had no intention of being part of that Leadership. God, however, had other ideas. In 1987 God had us start a church with 11 people, 7 of whom were my family. After a while, we packed up our home and our family and moved to this “strange land” and committed to a small place and a small work.
Space does not permit me to go into details, but our obedience released a series of miracles that led to our church owning 64 acres and 3 buildings. We raised a congregation of around 150 and had a group of people who loved God, walked in faith and built something special for God’s kingdom. Eventually my wife and I were able to turn a dept free property and ministry over to our second son and his wife and it continues to grow today.
What I really want you to know is that our obedience to do something we did not understand and did not look like a promotion led directly to what we are doing today. One day an African minister from Liberia in West Africa showed up at our meeting. We developed relationship with him, and he asked me to go with him to his homeland. That opened a door that has led to nearly 30 years of ministry in Africa. While we were still pastors, we went a few weeks at a time a few times a year. Now we spend months there teaching and strengthening churches and leaders.
I believe this is the destination God always had for my wife and me. We still do not know what it will look like nor where we are eventually going. What I do know is that obedience to go to a place we did not know, not understanding how we could even survive with so few people supporting us, led to our being privileged to bless people in many nations. Do not be afraid to trust God when you do not know all the answers. God is able to take care of you. Your obedience will unlock something the devil cannot stop and something that will be the greatest blessing in your life.