A Life That Please God
A LIFE THAT PLEASES GOD
Dr. Reggie Ogea
I have decided that with what’s left of my life, I only want to do what pleases God. I cannot bear to think that when I get to heaven, I would hear Jesus say anything but “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Our biblical text this morning is Hebrews 11:1-6. (Christian Standard Bible)
Hebrews 11:1) Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. 2) For by it our ancestors won God’s approval. 3) By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. 4) By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By this he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith. 5) By faith Enoch was taken away, and so he did not experience death. He was not to be found because God took him away. For before he was taken away, he was approved as one who pleased God. 6) Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7) By faith Noah, after he was warned about what was not yet seen and motivated by godly fear, built an ark to deliver his family. By faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. 8) By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and set out for a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, even though he did not know where he was going. 9) By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents as did Isaac and Jacob, coheirs of the same promise. 10) For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
What Pleases God? Search the Scriptures and you will discover that
- God is pleased with our Worship. David admonishes us in 1 Chronicles 16:29 to
“worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness.”
- God is pleased with our Witness. Jesus commands us in Acts 1:8 -- But you will receive
power when the Holy spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses….”
- God is pleased with our Service. The Psalmist challenges us in Psalm 100:2 to “serve
the Lord with gladness.”
- God is pleased with our Maturity. Hebrews 6:1 demands us to “leave the elementary
teaching about Christ and go on to maturity….” In a church context, maturity results in discipleship.
- However, in my Christian journey, my greatest discovery has been Hebrews 11:6, “that
without faith it is impossible to please God.” God is pleased with our FAITH. No matter what exists in our lives – worship, witness, service, or discipleship, if we are not living a life of faith, if faith is not the difference-maker, then God is not pleased with us and it is impossible for us to please God. Adunatos = impossible, meaning without strength, impotent, or powerless. Without faith, our Christian life is impotent, powerless, absent of strength or energy.
The context of Hebrews 11:6 is Hebrews 11:5 -- By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not experience death….for prior to his transformation he was approved, having pleased God.” Genesis 5:24 described Enoch as a man who “walked with God.” We are not told that Enoch pleased his friends. Let me give you a secret. Try as hard as you might, and you will never be able to please your friends. John Maxwell is right – “If you try to please everybody, you end up pleasing nobody.” We are not told that Enoch pleased his family, for that is even harder to do than pleasing your friends. If you are determined to be a dynamic Christian, then know for sure that you will not please some of your family. In fact, some of those closest to you will never understand how you can worship, witness, and serve God with all of your heart. However, we are told that Enoch pleased God, and that is something any of us can do – by faith.
Hebrews 11 contains awesome examples of men and women of the Bible who lived by faith. Our time this morning will permit us to look at the first three of these case studies in Hebrews 11, in order to define authentic faith.
- Authentic Faith = Believing It Before Seeing Hebrews 11:7 – “By faith Noah, after
he was warned about what was not yet seen and motivated by godly fear, built an ark to deliver his family.” Noah believed it before he saw it. Remember the descriptor in verse 1: Faith is the reality of what is hoped for, and the proof of what is not seen. Authentic faith involves both assurance and conviction: assurance of things hoped for and conviction of things not seen. According to Genesis 6, it took Noah 100 years to build an ark that he committed himself to doing when it was not yet seen. He started on a 100-year journey before knowing it would take 100 years. Absolutely amazing!
Was Jesus ever amazed? After all, through Him the world and all its inhabitants were created in the first place. He was, and is, the Son of God – fully human and fully divine. All authority and power are His. Never in the four Gospels was Jesus astounded by anybody’s righteousness. He was purely sinless and holy Himself. Never was He impressed with anyone’s wisdom or education. He was totally omniscient — all- knowing. But Jesus was amazed by one thing: a person’s faith. In Luke 7, a Roman centurion’s slave was sick and about to die. He sent some Jewish elders to find Jesus, requesting that He come and save the life of his slave. So Jesus went with them, but before their arrival, the centurion sent friends to tell Jesus, “Lord, don’t trouble Yourself, since I am not worthy to have You come under my roof. That is why I didn’t even consider myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be cured. Jesus heard this and was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” [Luke 7:9] In Matthew 15, when a Canaanite woman came pleading on behalf of her demon-possessed daughter and wouldn’t take no for an answer, Jesus exclaimed at last, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” [Matthew 15:28] In Mark 9, a large crowd gathered around Jesus, and a man in the crowd shouted out: “Teacher, I brought my son to You. He has a spirit that makes him unable to speak. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I asked Your disciples to drive it out, but they couldn’t.” Jesus replied to them, “You unbelieving generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to Me.” They brought the boy to Jesus — How long has this been happening to him?” The father answered, “From childhood. And many times it has thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” “If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible to the one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” [Mark 9:14-26]
Authentic, genuine faith is believing it before seeing it. Some things have to be believed before they can be seen. The world says, “Seeing is believing” -- God says, “Believing is seeing.” So much of life will not happen unless we see it in advance.
To the ingredient of authentic faith as believing it before seeing it, let’s add a second ingredient:
- Authentic Faith = Obeying it before Understanding
After the example of Noah, the author of Hebrews affirmed Abraham – a classic example of obeying it before he understood it. Hebrews 11:8 -- By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and set out for a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, even though he did not know where he was going. One little detail is left out here about Abraham – he was 75 years old when God interrupted his life! God inspired Abraham, “I want you to leave. Pick up everything and get ready for the greatest adventure of your life.” We can imagine
Abraham’s prayer conversation with God. Abraham – “Where are we going?” God – “You’ve never heard of it.” Abraham – “How long is this journey” God –“I’ll let you know when you need to know.” Abraham –“How will I know when I reach the destination?” God – “You’ll know.”
And Abraham obeyed before he knew where, how, when, or why. That’s authentic faith. Does God have the right to interrupt your life? When he does, how do you respond? Vicki and I met in high school and graduated together with our plans set for college. I would study pre-dentistry and she would study nursing. We would graduate college together and get married. She would work as a nurse and put me through dental school. We would live happily ever after. And then, in the summer before my senior year in college, God interrupted my plans. I got selected along with 29 other Baptist college students to represent LA Baptists as summer missionaries in southern Africa. I reluctantly agreed to go – I really didn’t want to go. Although an active Baptist Christian, I felt no call to vocational ministry. My plans were set. However, I was assigned as the “preacher” on a team to lead youth revivals. Dr. Udell Smith, the LA Baptist Student Union Director, instructed me to prepare five short sermons that could be repeated over and over in different churches. They were to be short sermons because I would preach with an interpreter. My pastor helped me prepare the sermons. Upon our arrival, my team went straight to the largest Baptist church in our assigned city for a one-night youth revival. The place was packed with high school and college students. I preached my first 15-minute sermon from John 3:16. My interpreter was a college student my age. About half way through the sermon, my interpreter began to hesitate, sniffle, and sob. I thought, “This is my worst nightmare. I’m not a preacher and my simple sermons must be so awful that my interpreter cannot even bear to get through it.” But I kept going. What I didn’t know was that he was selected as my interpreter because of his English proficiency. He was not a Christian – his hesitation and sobbing was the Holy Spirit’s conviction. When the invitation was extended, he jump down off the platform and gave his heart to Jesus! Many others came forward to be saved that night. I was overwhelmed my entire time on that missions trip, that God could take a country boy from a little Baptist Church and use such simple sermons to lead several hundred African students to salvation.
Needless to say, when I returned home, my life was upside down. I had to tell Vicki that I sensed a strong calling to a life of vocational ministry and seminary instead of my established plans for dentistry and dental school. I could see the how, where, when, or why for dentistry. I could NOT see the how, where, when, or why for seminary and vocational ministry. But God already had my future orchestrated, and all He wanted from me was my obedience. I stand before you today and shudder to think what my life would have been had I not obeyed without understanding it.
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that God is interested in my obedience and not my opinions. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 has become one of my life verses: “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” Our faithful God has already been to the future and back, and he can see the how, where, when, and why.
- Authentic Faith = Giving it before Affording Hebrews 11:4 -- By faith Abel offered
to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By this he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith. Abel’s faith was approved through his giving. Isn’t it interesting that giving and faith go together? God uses money and possessions to test our faithfulness. Listen to the words of Jesus, Luke 16:10-11 – Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little it also unrighteous in much. So if you have not been faithful with the unrighteous money, who will trust you with what is genuine?”
Ladies and gentlemen, guys and gals – THE DEAD STILL SPEAK! Giving and Faith are directly connected. A direct relationship exists between how I use my money and how much of God’s power I experience in my life. The Bible declares Four unexplainable yet unchangeable truths about giving:
- You will never be able to afford to tithe. Tithing is about obedience, not affordability.
- God is interested in equal sacrifice, not equal gifts. The amount of our gifts never impresses God – He watches closely the sacrifice of giving.
- Where God guides, God provides. Our first prayer for any faith event should be, “Is this God’s will?” not “How much will this cost?”
- It is impossible to outgive Little is much, when God is in it.
Conclusion: Have you thought about your epitaph? I’ve already decided what I want engraved on my tombstone. “Reginald Ray Ogea, 1955 - ______, “He Lived a Life That Pleased God.”