We have heard some wonderful things at this convention, encouraging, and inspiring things. What I am going to share this afternoon isn't very encouraging and perhaps it is not very inspiring, but maybe someday in this next year, when you face a dark experience, you will be able to remember this meeting and it will help you. I would like to speak a little about faith.
In Luke, Jesus asked would He find faith when He returned. He didn't ask if He would find people serving God. In the previous chapter He said He would, but would He find real faith? There are some wonderful aspects to faith, but here are some aspects that are not so wonderful. Faith in God is really a blind trust that He always knows best and plans the best. If we have faith like that we will, completely accept what comes in our lives. That is not easy sometimes.
Most people, including ourselves, have a very wrong concept of faith. Most people believe if we have faith in God everything will turn out wonderful. That is not faith. That is just a human idea. If we have faith in God, He will allow experiences that are not wonderful. Life has just one purpose - to prepare us for a rich eternity. If we never faced any dark experiences, we wouldn't have any treasure in heaven. We need to understand this - that life is about eternity. We are not born into this world just to have children and to live and to die. We are not born into this world to become rich and famous. We are born only to prepare for eternity. Nothing else. We need to keep that in mind.
When a farmer plants a field, it is because he is thinking of the harvest. Farmers love to plant seed. When that seed is coming up, they like to go look at their field and observe the sprouts. And when the field is growing, they love to look over their field and see a rich green color. If a bug is attacking the field, it doesn't bother them to run out and spend money for spray. They love to watch their crop when the heads begin to fill. Garth came back from his walk this morning telling us about a field like that. A farmer has these different joys in the process, but really it is all about the harvest. No farmer would spend money on spray and chemicals if it weren't for the harvest. No farmer would get excited about the grain nearly ready if it weren't for the harvest. Harry told us this morning about some wonderful things, and we experience some wonderful things. It is wonderful to be part of a hearty fellowship. It is wonderful to be married to someone who loves God also. But if happiness depended on that, what about some who don't have that? Some of us are laboring in fields with much interest, but if happiness depended on that, what about workers laboring in fields with little interest? Whatever our place in life, we are preparing for eternity, nothing else.
A few years ago, in Ecuador, we faced a very different experience. Many of you heard about our two servants who were taken prisoner and you know they suffered terribly. That experience made me stop and wonder what faith was all about. And, I must confess, I didn't really have a true concept about faith. I didn't think what God was allowing was the very best. But because of that experience, I better understand faith. The world experiences heartache, like we do. They have to face broken marriages. They have to deal with rebellious children; the loss of jobs, the loss of loved ones, but they only understand it as punishment from God. It would be wonderful if we could understand God is allowing these experiences so we can have a rich eternity. But we need to learn to do like the farmer - invest the present for the future, because it is all about the harvest.
I have appreciated thinking about some people in the Bible whose faith was outstanding. We all know the story of Job. This makes interesting reading, but if we didn't know the end before we started, it would be sad. Job was a wealthy man with health and a family and he lost it all. Why? Because he was faithful, not because he wasn't. He understood what faith really was. His friends came to him and said it was God punishing him - the Just don't suffer like this. But Job understood that wasn't true. Job didn't understand very much, but he understood that God loved him and what God allowed was always the very best. God could say to Satan there is no one like him in all the earth. Satan has many he can claim, but no one he can be proud of. God could be proud of Job because Job trusted God. Wouldn't it be wonderful if God could say about you, "Have you seen My servant, how he trusts Me?"
Hebrews 11, the faith chapter - We see what most of them received for their faith. Do you know what they received for their faith? Most of the time, it was suffering.
The first one was Abel. What did he get for his faith. Murdered. There were two men, one who loved God and one who didn't. God allowed the one who didn't love Him to kill the one who did love Him. It was all about the harvest.
Abel died, but he went to heaven. It wasn't a bad exchange. In this life, we might suffer unjustly and terribly, but if we are putting treasure in heaven, that is all that matters; because, it is all about the harvest.
Noah - what did he get for this faith? One hundred years of suffering. Here was a man with a family to raise. Farming everything by hand with no machinery. God comes along and says, "You have to build this huge ark." What a burden. Can you imagine the first day - got up, went out in the sun. Worked in the afternoon with his ax trying to make that log into a beam. For a hundred years. Why did he do it? It was all about the suffering for this faith. None of us have to suffer a hundred years. My friends, let us be willing for whatever it is, because it is all about the harvest. Let us learn to thank God for the experiences that help us to think about eternity.
The next one we read about is Abraham. God spoke and said, "Leave your home, land, and come where I will show you." Do you know what he did? He spent the rest of his life living in a tent, and wandering around the country. He was rich and should have had a mansion. Why did he do that? He realized God knows best and life as a wanderer prepares one for eternity. And what he had wasn't so important, because it was all about eternity.
God promised him a son, and he kept walking an walked some more. He was investing his present for his children. Finally his son was born, and they had the joy of that little son running around the tent. It says Sara, by her faith, received this child when she was old. Sara got to be a mother in her old age. That is what she got for her faith. She didn't have that child when she was young and could enjoy him, and had strength to control him. But when she was old and not so able. God doesn't do things the way we think He should. But could we remember, God does things the way He wants, and it's all about the harvest. The little child grows and can help out around the home.
Then God said, "Take him and kill him." What would you parents do? You wouldn't, would you? But Abraham had a vision of the future, and with that blind faith, he set out for the mountain. He remembered the day God promised him a son and kept that promise. He remembered the day God asked him to leave his people and God kept him. Now I'm sure he walked to the mountain
wondering how this would work. But he knew God had made a promise that He would give his descendants that land, and he had a blind faith that God would keep His promise. It was about pleasing God, and nothing else mattered.
After Abraham, we read about Isaac and Jacob. Jacob was mistreated. His father-in-law took advantage of him for many years. He was pleasing God and understood it was all about the harvest, nothing else.
Joseph - what did he get for his faith? He got mistreated by his brothers and sold as a slave. He spent years as a slave in Egypt and years in prison in Egypt. He got that for his faith, not for his disobedience. If he would have been like his brothers, he wouldn't have suffered. He suffered for years and years. He had a blind faith in God, and he knew God was in control. He knew that if he was a slave there and in person it was because God allowed it and, when he became important in the land, he could have used that opportunity to go home. But he didn't because he knew God put him there. He got years of suffering for his faith.
We read of Moses. First of all, about his parents - what did they get for their faith? They lost their child - that little boy so precious to them. They saw a stranger carry him off and go into a corrupt environment. They let him go, because they knew God was in control. They wanted the 'best for their children,' and if that was God's will, they allowed it.
I hope you parents are teaching your children God's will is always best. Sometimes parents see their children suffer. And they think, by letting them go into the world, they are helping them. But parents; protect your children. It is costly but within costly but within the will of God is the safest place.
Moses had the best education and the best of everything. He left it all because of faith. He lived 40 years in the back side of the desert, and 40 years of leading a rebellious people in the wilderness, 80 years of suffering. It was all about the harvest. He would soon leave the joys of the house of Pharaoh anyway.
Could God help us realize that a little suffering will make us richer for eternity?
Rahab - what did she lose for her faith? She lost everything she had for her faith; her city - her home...everything except her family. But she knew she would lose it anyway.
Could God help us to be willing for whatever sacrifice? It is all about the harvest. In a few years, it will all be over. A hundred years from now, none of us will live here. Let us blindly trust God, keep our eyes on high, and accept His will - and, someday, we will have a rich harvest.