Heroes of Faith 2 - Seeing The Invisible One message by Lead Pastor Terry Brisbane. For more information, visit cornerstone-sf.org
Today we’re talking about Moses again. This is the last piece of our Heroes of Faith series. I personally have been blessed by a lot of different speakers who have shared. Originally, I was not scheduled to speak this Sunday. Someone else was going to do that. The Lake Merced campus is having a special celebration right now off-campus, at an alternative site. We had a speaker lined up to be here, but she was not able to make it. I am stepping in to finish this up. Initially, I wasn’t as blessed, to be honest, but I am blessed to be able to share because it allowed me to interact with some things in the Scripture that I needed myself. It’s interesting how God can do that at times.
Hebrews 11 is where a lot of the reference is going to be made to this particular part of Moses’ life that we’re going to look at. Many of these people are referred to as examples of faith in this great chapter of Hebrews in the New Testament. The letter itself was written to believers who were under an extraordinary amount of duress. They were suffering persecution. Many of them were having a hard time reconciling how God could love them, and yet how they could suffer so intensely. Part of what was written here was to remind them that this is what prevailing faith looks like. Many of these examples occurred in scenarios that were not good and were very difficult. That’s part of what’s alluded to here.
When we get to Hebrews 11:24, we will read through this fairly rapidly just to understand it. It starts out as a reference to Moses. Verse 24 says, “By faith, Moses, when he was grown up,” which is a curious phrase from the outset, “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” They would’ve understood, being familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures and the story of Moses that “grown-up” in this reference meant, at that moment when Moses was 40 years of age. He was in the strength of his manhood when he made the decision to refuse to be associated with the place of privilege that he had possessed. Instead, he chose to identify himself with the persecuted people of God who were enslaved.
It was a life-altering decision that was made on the basis of a faith he possessed in the eternal living God. In contrast to the temporal things that he could possess and live out his life with that he felt, in his heart, could never truly mean anything. We’re told, “by faith, when he was grown up, he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” I was thinking that 40 is typically a time we associate with a period of strength. It’s an interesting life marker. That’s the age that Moses was when he made this life shift. I, myself, having been there a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far… was reflecting back on it. 40 is an interesting age. For some, it seems so far in the distance. For others, it’s in the rearview mirror. Some are right near it.
To me, it seems to be a true early midlife marker. I was having a conversation with a young man, he was not quite 40. Oftentimes, we’re so immersed in our family, career, or life’s complexities at this time, that age that we really can’t appreciate the churning within us. Many times, the turmoil of the early 50s is often the time when many of us, men and women, will experience midlife challenges, sometimes called a midlife crisis. That marking place we tend to associate with midlife in the 50s is usually a product of something, of a turmoil that really has its start in that 40 year period of life. This, too, I have seen. It’s often the outgrowth of something that was starting to happen but didn’t really realize it in force until a decade later.
It could be a little before 40 years old. It could happen in our late 30s. It could start happening in our mid-50s, a little before. That period is generally a time when we start assessing things. Sometimes, we’re so busy, we can’t do it. When you get to a place where you can, you have all these different feelings merging inside. I think that life change, especially for those of you who are younger, often occurs at decadal hinge moments. It doesn’t surprise me that this is when Moses comes to this conclusion. He was at one of those decadal hinge moments. When we’re turning 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, these are the places we tend to start looking at life a little bit. We assess the path that we’re on, where we’re going, and what has been. It’s an interesting time of assessment. It’s a natural assessing point. It shouldn’t surprise us that Moses has this huge life shift occur at this marking point in his life. He makes the move.
Verse 25 says, “He chose rather to be mistreated,” that is to suffer oppression, “with the people of God who were enslaved than to enjoy the fleeting,” the way the writer of Hebrews described it is just fantastic. “Rather to enjoy the fleeting, the momentary, the passing, the transitory pleasures of sin,” or as the older version that I originally read it in renders it, “than to enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season.” It’s like drinking a milkshake. How good it is, then getting to the bottom and seeing there’s a dead cockroach in the bottom of it. It has that element, “Oh, what did I do?” to it. I love the poetic way his decision is described. You can feel the rhythm in the words in this passage. It’s about giving and gaining. It’s about refusing and being rewarded. I’ll just read it again rapidly. It says, “By faith, Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ,” that is contextually, the disgrace of being associated with the people who held the promise of Messiah. That’s what that phrase is referring to.
It seems a bit odd initially because Jesus wasn’t even born. They’re talking about the reproach of Christ. Really, what he’s connecting to is the fact that he chose to be associated with the stigma of a people who were oppressed and enslaved, but held the promise of Abraham. The promise of Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One. Moses connects himself there on the basis of faith in that promise. He considered it a greater wealth or value, than the treasures of Egypt. You can see that for yourself as you read the passage. “For he was looking to the reward,” that is, he had a long view. He had an eternal perspective, “and by faith, he left Egypt,” look at that, verse 27, “not being afraid of the anger of the king.” It’s true that Moses fled for his life, but we are reminded that he had a higher driver. Something far deeper or profound was igniting him far more than his fear. It was a belief. “For he endured,” here’s the connection to the title. “For he endured as seeing him who is invisible.” Moses had a long view. That’s our big connect.
That’s the passage. I have a yearning in the Spirit to take us somewhere with this. The best I can say is, I want to wrestle with the Scripture and put it into our own lives. Maybe some of it will connect with you. When it comes to following the invisible one that Moses was referring to, there are a couple of things we can understand and learn. One of the first things I want to put out there is when it comes to following, as Moses did, the invisible one who has revealed Himself, it’s going to cost us something. We must never forget this. Never forget that a faith in Jesus, if it doesn’t cost us anything, is not much of a faith at all.
Ours is no cheap Gospel. It’s not the cheap good news. Our salvation cost God everything, His only begotten son, as it has been said many times, salvation is free. We can never do anything to earn it. But it’s not cheap. It cost God everything. What’s more, and is really good for us to remember, even on a day like today, that there are people all over the world who love Jesus. People who are suffering and being persecuted right now. In some cases, imprisoned, violated, or killed, especially, though not exclusively, in Muslim countries. That’s the reality of the way that it is. I think that many of us who have committed ourselves to follow Jesus, and I’m talking right now to those of us who have committed ourselves to follow Jesus. I realize we may be here and not have done that. We may be someone who is considering accepting the Lord into our lives. Or perhaps we’re, as of yet, convinced but we have a sincere interest, wherever we are.
Right now I want to say this to those of us who would say, “I am a follower of Jesus.” I would say that we in the west, compared to other people who love Jesus in difficult places in the world, are pampered beyond measure. I include myself. Comparatively speaking, our faith is relatively weak because we have so much. At times, it is fickle. We have to debate whether we’ll come to the house of the Lord or watch a football game. If we’re inconvenienced with a parking space, we can get offended. The reality is that so much of our faith is untempered by the fire that characterizes many people’s confession action in other places of the world. Let’s be clear, that when it comes to the persecution of our faith, and I don’t talk like this all the time, but I do need to say it every now, our concerns are primarily peer pressure, to be honest. Or the potential loss of comfort, position, or promotion. It’s not nothing, but, comparatively speaking, it’s pretty tame.
Going back to Moses. He had his eye on the invisible one, and it cost him something. That’s what I was trying to get at. He was thinking with an eternal perspective. That’s what we’re being told here. I was reminded of something I read from a book when I was just a young believer in Jesus. I was a teenager when I read this. It was from a writer named Vance Havner who was an old country preacher. I found out later, he was referred to by Billy Graham as his favorite author of all time. Havner wrote in his book, “Moments of Decision,” which for a young man who was trying to grapple with his faith and the implications of following Jesus, had a lot to say to me. I remember one chapter was dedicated precisely to Moses. He talked about how Moses chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, and how he gave it all up. I went back and I found it. I just want to share a little bit of it with you. He says, “Consider the choice this young man…” I love the fact that he’s a young man at 40. “Consider the choice that this young man-made. He was the only free Hebrew of his time.” There was only one descendant there who was free. Moses. Everybody else was enslaved. Think about that.
His prospects were brilliant, though. Wealth, ease, refinement, pleasure, and power are all at his fingertips. Josephus, the historian, says, “Moses was in line for the throne of Egypt, one of the great civilizations of all time, at its height. All this, the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter could have had. Yet, he cast his lot with a nation of slaves. Havner goes on to say and gives an accurate assessment of them. “They were a weak vacillating, multitude of undisciplined servants, easily discouraged, often rebellious. They vexed Moses until he lost his patience, spoke unadvisedly with his lips, and missed getting into the Promised Land, himself. Nine out ten would’ve called him a fool for making such a choice. But,” Havner says, “he was right.” A great assessment.
He was right because he had his accent on what really mattered. He had his accent on the eternal more than on the temporal. If he was only looking at things through the lens of the temporal, there’s no question he made the wrong call. But he believed what God said, and so he acted on that belief. Our great leader taught us to take up our cross and follow Him. Like Moses, accept the cost, weigh it out on the scale of the eternal, and cast our lot with Him. Mark 8 says, “Then calling the crowd to join His disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, follow me.” Whoa. “And if you try to hang on to your life, you’re going to lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, and for the sake of this good news, you will save it.”
I asked this question; What do you benefit if you gain the whole world, but you lose your soul? Is there anything worth more than your soul? The primary issue here has to do with what true success looks like. What we build our life around and what we put first. What we’re willing to release and embrace. You cannot miss the note of surrender in these words of Jesus. He’s basically saying and it’s interesting because He talks about the cross, but hasn’t even gone to the cross. But they knew what He meant because they had seen it in the streets of Jerusalem. They watched people carrying crosses through the streets as the Romans made them carry their own place of death on their shoulders like Jesus would end up doing. When Jesus uses that reference, He’s getting into something that is vividly something they were aware of. It would’ve shocked them at some level, and hit us hard because He was basically saying, “Don’t think that this is only something that is always about getting.” It’s about true life. But it costs something.
There are times when we need to make decisions on the basis of what we say we believe. That’s what I want to get at next. I’d like us to consider the second piece of this. Following the invisible one is going to affect how we think about life and success. It’s going to affect how we think about suffering. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says, “So, we do not lose heart.” That is, we do not allow ourselves to be beaten down by the difficulty of life. “Though our outer person is wasting away.” That is, it won’t last forever, this body of ours, which we will do everything we can to sustain. Paul says, “Our inner being is being renewed day by day. Because this light momentary affliction is preparing for us in the eternal weight of glory.” It’s beyond all comparison. As we look, not at the things which are seen, but the things which are not seen. There it is. “For the things which are seen,” he says, “are temporal.” They’re transient. The things that are unseen are eternal.
This is what Moses grasped. That’s the truth that propelled him into courageous faith. What I’m suggesting is that when we believe and embrace what Jesus said and Moses did in the Scriptures, what Paul is referring to in 2 Corinthians, it’s going to alter everything about our life. As we alluded to earlier, it’s going to affect how we determine what real success looks like. I was talking to someone last evening who was wrestling with some of these things about, “Am I being successful?” Getting a lot of pressure to achieve and to make more money. When we were talking and started sitting with what Jesus talked about as true success and if we believe His words, then it will change our perception of what success looks like. It’s not an anti-achievement message. It’s not an anti-wealth message. It’s just saying, do not base our identity on the accumulation of the things that we temporarily possess or the titles we achieve. If we believe His words, it changes how we think about things because we say, this is not all there is. That is a very different thing. It’s going to affect how we challenge ourselves. It’s going to affect how we think about other types of things as well.
It’s going to impact how we love and live. It’s going to impact how we challenge ourselves and confront things in our own hearts, at times. How we forgive. It’s going to affect things. It’s going to affect how we work through things. It’s going to affect how we think about things like aging, which is what Paul’s talking about in that passage. Some of us are discouraged about that. We may find ourselves at places in our lives where we’re not where we thought we were supposed to be. Or now we’re in a situation where we thought we were going to be and not only are we not here, but our prospects are that we’re not going to get there. The prospect may be we’re going to get down here. When that happens, we need to have a way to understand that so it does not define us. That’s going to be something we wrestle with at times. Sometimes, relationships do not work the way we wanted them to. Sometimes, our health does not hold the way we wanted it to hold. At times, we will endure hard things. How do we do that? How do we get past things and forgive? There’s a lot of stuff going on.
It’s not easy to endure as Moses did, to Him who was invisible, but what does that mean, really? It means that we’re making our choices, not on the basis of life, as it can only be seen with the naked eye. But making our choices based on what Jesus taught us about faith in what cannot be seen, but is as real as the air that we breathe, though we do not see it. I’ve been thinking about something. A pastor that I was listening to, a teacher, was sharing. It was so simple, but it hit me. Maybe it hit me because it’s where I was. I heard his phrase and I can’t tell if it was a phrase that he had coined or was quoting. I didn’t know, but when he said it, it hit me, in a good way. He said, “God wants us to doubt our doubts and believe our beliefs.” God wants us to doubt our doubts and believe our beliefs.
First, doubting our doubts is fantastic. Some of us, when we feel like part of us isn’t going to make it and we feel like, “Is God even there? Does He love me?” doubt our doubts. Doubt the doubt. The other piece, God wants us to believe our beliefs. That was the one for me. That just went, “Bam.” It’s huge because we can say we believe and not act like we believe. We can have faith and not live into that faith. I’m not so much talking about the distinction between faith and action. That’s a legitimate discussion. The book of James really zeros in on it. I’m not talking about the disconnect between, “I say I believe, but then I act like I don’t,” in terms of my interactions with people. What I was wrestling with. I hope the Lord is in this.
What I was talking about is our internal struggles, our life assessment, and our life issues. What we’re going to yield our center to. What’s going to dictate how we deal with this reality. I felt like I was saying, “You need to believe your beliefs. You say you believe. Then believe in that. Let that be what guides you.” We can say, “I say I believe in you, Lord. I say I believe you have life for me and I need to have an eternal perspective. That eternal perspective is to inform my temporal, real existence in this everyday life of mine.” But if I live as one who truly believes that, then what I’m saying is, this is not the end of the journey. This is not all there is. This is part of a longer journey. It’s a good part with ups and downs in it. But it is not all there is. “If I believe what you said, believe my belief, if I believe what you said, then it will affect how I think about things in this life, most of the time, about how the things when they’re not going the way that I wanted them to go or I’m afraid.” And I say, “Lord, remind me of what’s important.”
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let our request be made known under God. Let the peace of God that passes understanding, human manipulation, whatever we want to call it, keep your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus. That is what He’s talking about. What I’m suggesting is, “Lord, help me to believe what I say I believe. I do believe it, but you want the belief that I have to show up tangibly in the way I’m working through things inside of me. Because I say I believe, but the truth is I’m having a hard time acting as if I really do believe. I say this is what success looks like, but when that’s not happening for me the way I want it, why am I so depressed?” I get part of that because this is our real life. What I’m trying to say is, God has given us a tool. That tool is perspective. Perspective, when it’s embraced in faith, allows us to negotiate anything in life, even life’s crushing disappointments. It will allow us to make courageous decisions, even when a part of us never would make them on our own. We hold to what Moses held to. We weigh it out on the scale and say, “Lord, I’m going your way. It may be not doing something. It may be doing something. It may be challenging something, but I’m going your way.”
Last, I’ll say as we land the plane, wheels out. Hudson River, here we go. When all is said and done, following the invisible one will be worth it. But here’s the deal. Between now and then, the dash between the years, between now and then, vibrant faith is courageous faith. Faith is required. Moses could never have envisioned how powerful his decision would become. What a blessing it would be. How it would echo into eternity in history. How we, even now, are living out of his example. He would have seasons of doubt. He would have times where he would have difficulty. His life was anything but problem-free, but in the end, God blessed him. His choice was right.
I was reminded of what Jim Elliot, the great missionary, said. In 1956, he and a team of missionaries were killed by the people they went to bring Jesus to in Ecuador. It was a very hostile, dangerous tribe. Most people didn’t know how to interact with them. They tried to bring the message of Jesus. They ended up dying, the Huaorani. The reason it becomes even more amazing is, years later there would be a breakthrough. There would come an openness to Jesus on the part of some of them. The years that passed down the line brought the descendants, the children of some of these missionaries who were killed, and the Huaorani tribe bonded in a way that was only possible with Jesus. They were bound together by the blood of martyrs. Part of that story is told in the docudrama, The End of the Spear. Jim Elliott wrote the words that many times are quoted, and some of us know them. Elliott said this before he went, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” She is no fool who gives what she cannot keep to gain what she cannot lose. It all depends on our perspective, doesn’t it? That’s what we believe. Who is the fool, and who is the wise one?
I tell you, Jesus said, “build your house on the rock. He or she who hears and does these sayings of mine, I will tell you, they are likened to the wise one who built the house of their life on the rock. When the storms hit and the floods rise, when everything in Hell is breaking out, that house will hold.” Jesus said, “How shall I liken the kingdom of heaven? I tell you, it is like a merchant who is in the business of buying and selling pearls. He came across one pearl, a pearl of great price. He emptied his entire collection to obtain that pearl. He is the pearl. If you have him, you have the best. All other things will pass away.” Lord, help us to believe our beliefs. Let’s pray. Jesus, help us to be a people who live with vibrant faith. The surrendered life is the way to go. Help us to build our lives on the rock that cannot be shaken. The storms outside, the storms inside, will not prevail. You will prevail in us. Give us faith to doubt our doubts and to believe our beliefs. This is what I ask in Jesus’ name for all of us. Amen.