For the second point in Radical Faith:
2. Faith Is Obeying Without Understanding.
Hebrews 11:7: “It was by faith that Noah built an ark to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God who warned him about something that had never happened before.”
Have you ever thought about the situation in which Noah found himself? God comes to him and says, “I’m going to destroy the whole world except for you and your family.” Okay, how are you going to save us. “You need to be build an ark.” What’s an ark? “It’s a big boat that will hold a pair of every kind of animal on earth.” That’s a pretty big boat. How is that going to save me? “I’m going to flood the entire earth.” What’s a flood? “That’s what can happen after lots and lots of rain.” Oh. Okay. But what’s rain? And on and on it would go.
Bottom line. Noah is living in modern day Iraq. He builds a boat about the size of the Central York football field, everything inside the fence. And he’s got to work on this for about 100 years in order to get it done. There is no body of water within hundreds of miles that would be able to float this monstrosity. What are the neighbors going to be thinking about Noah? And what about his sons? Noah has three sons. You think your parents could embarrass you. Or you can embarrass your kids. Imagine what those boys had to go through. And Noah had no idea, no understanding of why he was doing this except, this is what God told him to do. He obeyed because of his radical faith.
We see the same concept in verse 8: “It was faith that made Abraham obey when God called him to go out to a country that God had promised to him. He left his own country without knowing where he was going.” Abraham was also living in modern day Iraq, in a town of some size called Ur. He’s 75 years old. His wife is 65, and they have no kids. And God comes to Abraham saying, “I’m going to make you the father of a great nation. You’ll have so many kids that you won’t even be able to count them. You are going to be famous. People are going to like you, and the whole world is going to be blessed because of you.” Sounds good. What’s the catch? “Well you have to leave your home, family, country. Everything you know, you will have to leave behind, and you’ll have to go where I tell you to go.” Okay. Where do you want me to go? “I can’t tell you that. I’ll let you know when you get there.” Would you take a deal like that? Abraham did. He didn’t understand it, but he obeyed. That’s radical faith.
Obedience always involves taking risks. For instance, in the Bible there are 1,050 commands to do this or avoid that. And most them don’t make a whole lot of sense to us. Sometimes we are told to do things that we don’t want to do. Things like tithing and forgiving. And other times we are told to not do things that we want to do, like holding a grudge or getting revenge and calling it justice, or to not do things that the rest of the world is doing. And the only real reason we have for obeying is that God told us. There is a risk in following God’s word.
But then something weird happens. When we follow God’s commands, we get blessings. And when we ignore those commands, we end up getting ourselves in trouble. We hurt ourselves. It might be broken bones or broken hearts, regrets, shame, guilt, resentment, worry. All because we have to understand before we take the risk of acting in faith. But a sign of radical faith is that we obey even when we don’t understand. We need to hold on to the promise in Jeremiah 29:11: “The plans I have for you they’re good plans. Plans for a future, plans for hope.” So every time God tells us to do something, even when it’s inconvenient or irrational from our point of view, we are to obey because blessings come with obedience. It is a benefit of radical faith.
We remember the promise in Jeremiah, but we also need to remember the warning in Proverbs 14:12: “There’s a way that seems right to man but in the end it leads to death.” In life, a lot of things look like the right thing to do, the easier thing, the more convenient thing, the popular thing to do. But God says that we’re not as smart as we think we are. God knows better in all things. The wise person will listen to God all the time, even when we don’t understand. That’s radical faith.