Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

   by Jeannette Haley

  What is a winner? According to Webster a winner is “one that is successful especially through praiseworthy ability and hard work, a victor.” The world generally defines success in terms of monetary gain whether one worked hard to earn it or not.  The apostate church holds much the same view as the world. The bigger the church, the more “successful” it is. Pastors and evangelists who rake in millions of dollars a year (regardless of what underhanded means they use to get it) are also highly thought of as “winners”.
    What we should be concerned with, however, is God’s definition of a winner. Obviously, if God’s evaluation of a person is “loser” then that soul is damned for eternity. If you think that this is too “simplistic” or that there are “shades of gray” to be considered, then you haven’t read and meditated on the Word of God lately.
   Hebrews 11 lists many of God’s top winners. Faith was clearly their common denominator. In verse 4 we read that Abel, one of the sons of Adam and Eve, “offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.”
   The faith that Abel possessed rested upon God’s promise to Eve (Genesis 3:15) that He would send a Savior. Abel understood that innocent blood was shed when his parents sinned to provide for an adequate “covering,” and he had to likewise understand that innocent blood would be shed by the promised Savior to atone for mankind’s sin. His offering was a sacrifice that was acceptable to God whereas Cain’s offering involved no true sacrifice.
   Centuries later King David declared, “…neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing” 2 Samuel 24:24. Abel and King David were humble men of integrity and character who recognized the fact that just any old offering to God was not acceptable because there was no sacrifice involved.
   An acceptable sacrifice to God always involves the elements of faith, love, obedience, and self-denial. It also involves knowing God’s will concerning where and how that sacrificial giving should take place. Today most Christians have been so thoroughly indoctrinated into the unbiblical belief that their giving should always go to the church (system) that they never stop to personally ask God where He would have them give. Tragically, many true servants of God and struggling ministries, missionaries, needy saints and the poor are overlooked because of the “I-am-not-responsible-because-I-give-to-my-church” mentality.
   Jesus commended the widow in Mark 12:41-44 because she gave “all that she had, even all her living”. Jesus did not commend the rich for donating large amounts of money because there was no true personal sacrifice involved.
   It takes great faith and love for a person to trust God with his or her all. We love to sing songs such as “I Surrender All” but do we really mean it? Can you name one church in existence today that follows the New Testament pattern as laid down in Scripture? In other words, are offerings taken for needy saints (see 1 Corinthians 16:1) or for building bigger buildings and buying state-of-the art sound systems? Do you know of any body of believers anywhere who have “sold all their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need” Acts 2:45? (See also Acts 4:34.)
   Perhaps you find yourself caught up in the “give to get” prosperity gospel. If you are, you need to repent, come out, and be separate. Otherwise, God will judge you as full of pride, totally ignorant, perverted, corrupt, and destitute of the truth, (See 1 Timothy 6:4-5.) This blasphemous false gospel teaches that “gain is godliness”. In fact, the wolves that spew forth these antichrist teachings sneer at those who give to the poor and blatantly demand that Christians give to the rich, (meaning themselves). What is even more tragic is that thousands of people believe this perverted lie and rush to the platform with fistfuls of money. The wrath of God on the Day of Judgment is reserved for these who love to have their ears tickled as well as for the false prophets they support.
   The believer who would pursue godliness will pray for discernment to recognize the pitfalls of any “man-centered” religion with its “faith in faith” theology. He or she will “flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life,” 1 Timothy 6:11.
   Another hero in God’s Hall of Faith is Enoch. According to Hebrews 11:5, Enoch was “translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” What a powerful testimony! We need to ask ourselves, “Am I pleasing God?”
   Most Christians assume that they are pleasing God, and they can rattle off any number of reasons why. Such conclusions usually involve church attendance, church-related activities, tithing, being politically conservative, and being family oriented.
   God, however, has a different definition of what pleases him. Hebrews 11:6 states: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” It is recorded twice in Genesis that “Enoch walked with God,” Genesis 5:22a and 24. With all of his heart Enoch believed and diligently sought God. That is the key to pleasing God.
   Many today sincerely believe that they do believe in God. But an examination of the fruit of their lives, their attitudes and the spirit that motivates them exposes the ugly truth that they are living in deception. Often such deceived people are merely in love with their own perception of Jesus and not the real Jesus after all. Reality and all that it involves is too frightening for them to face; therefore, they weave a religious web about themselves and live in a defensive, self-righteous cocoon of denial.
     God cannot be sought after and found within the confines of our own limitations. In other words, God is not found in our concepts, imaginations, feelings or conclusions. He is greater, He is higher. God must be sought on the basis of who He is—not of who we are.  God is Spirit and Truth. No human can truly seek God through the confinement of his or her own perception of Him. To do so results in the warped conclusion that God is more human than divine. This results in re-defining who God is, or making up our own little God that we can manipulate and control. And, when
this god of ours fails us in any way, we can justify our anger, failures and sin at his expense.
   Righteous Noah is next in the heroes of the faith lineup. We read in verse 7, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” Here we see faith in action. True faith will always result in action! Noah’s faith was truly “saving faith” for through the obedience of this great man not only was his family saved but animal life as well. Think about it. Without Noah’s faith and obedience you and I, along with the rest of mankind, would not exist!
   It’s a natural tendency for us to overlook the horrible degeneration that culminated in the indescribable calamity and devastation of the great Flood. But, wisdom dictates that we ponder these events in order to soberly prepare our souls for “the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat” 2 Peter 3:12. Knowing this, then should we not, along with Noah, be “moved with fear” to seek the face of God in all earnestness?
   Next is Abraham who, by faith obeyed God and went out, not knowing whither he went,” Hebrews 11:8b. What great faith this is! Can you imagine leaving your country, home and family to obey God but not knowing where you were going? Imagine the painful ridicule of others you would have to endure, not to mention the tempter’s mocking lies and insinuations against the faithfulness of God.
   Abraham sojourned by faith in the land of promise, but his vision was ever heavenward, looking for “a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God,” verse 10. God may have given great promises of a visible earthly inheritance to Abraham, but his heart was not content to rest in this material world. With the eyes of faith Abraham longed for the reality of that holy city, the New Jerusalem as described in Revelation 21:10-27. 
   The faith of Abraham was tried and tested, as all true faith is. When God called upon him to offer up the son of promise on the altar of sacrifice, Abraham did not hesitate. His faith in God’s promise to make a great nation from Isaac was so fixed he believed “that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead,” verse 19a.
   Sara is also mentioned in this faith chapter. It was through faith that Sara “received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised,” verse 11.
   Other winners who are listed in this chapter are Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthae, David, Samuel, the prophets, and others “of whom the world was not worthy,” verse 38a. It behooves every believer who is determined to be a winner to study and meditate on the biblical winners who are forever memorialized in the Word of God that “shall not pass away,” Matthew 24:35b. The wise Christian will also take note of the lives of losers who are given for our example, being careful to discern the cause and effect of their follies.
   The question is, when the books are opened on that Day, will your name be listed with the winners?