Tag Archives: Noah

“Get in the Boat!”

I recently read a quote on faith that described living by faith like staying afloat in water. You don’t swim by grasping at the water – that’s futile. You stay afloat by relaxing and just letting your body be carried. In regards to faith, then, we have faith when we relax in reality, whatever it might turn out to be. We destroy faith when we grasp securely to specific notions about God.

I read this quote while contemplating the life and faith of Noah, so the water metaphor latched onto a very concrete event “floating” around in my brain. I imagined Noah preaching this message right before the flood. I imagine him saying, “OK, a big flood is coming, but don’t worry, just relax in the waves and you’ll be okay.” What a useless message!

Of course, he wouldn’t have given the other message either. The message “swim like mad” would have been just as useless, although at least more in tune with our base sense of survival.

Instead, I’m sure Noah would have preached a pretty specific message: Get in the boat!

God promised never again to destroy the world again with a flood, but there is still a judgment coming. We can call people to just “relax, everything will be okay,” or we can council people to a flurry of religious activity (do this, don’t do that), as if by their own actions they could somehow save themselves before the holy judgment of God. Or, we can call people to a simple and profound message: “Get in the boat!” Turn to the One who can save you completely, not through religious effort, but through faith. Yes, there is a singular idea to which we must grasp – the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – but we are grasping at more than just an idea. We are reaching out for a Person. And, more importantly, he is grasping for us.

Advertisements

Noah, and a word to my High School self.

I originally wrote this blog post in November of 2012 on another site. Tomorrow, though, I’ll be preaching (Hebrews 11:7) on this very same passage, so I thought it worthwhile to edit and re-post in this new space.

“By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.” Hebrews 11:7

When I was in High School, the worst part of the day was lunch time. It was the worst part of the day because I didn’t have many friends to sit with in the cafeteria. I did find some people I sort of knew, but I was always the odd one out and rarely participated in their conversations. After they ate, I would either awkwardly hang around or head off alone to my locker.

In fact, all of Middle School and High School was a struggle for me when it came to social events. I always felt a little out of place, a little lonely, and quite a bit different than everyone else around me. My unease came from an obsession to be liked, or at least not disliked, by my peers.

It wasn’t really until my senior year that I finally began to come to grips with my own identity and began to care a little less about how well I fit in, or didn’t.

I would like to say I had trouble having friends because I was courageously standing up for Jesus but I think most of the time it was just because I was socially awkward.

Noah, on the other hand, most certainly faced criticism because of his faith. In Noah’s time, the world was filled with violence and the people were extremely wicked. By contrast Noah was “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.” (Gen 6:9)

God warned Noah that he was going to destroy the world with a flood, something people had never seen before, and instructed him to build a giant boat; an ark. Noah responded in obedience, out of “holy fear.”

Noah displayed faith. As it says in Hebrews 1:1, “faith is being sure of what we do not see.” He was warned of something not yet seen (a future flood), was sure that it would come, and responded appropriately. Noah also had confidence that God would reward those who earnestly seek him (1:6), and in this case that meant escape for himself and his family from the judgment of God.

Noah most certainly faced mocking and criticism. He had already set himself apart as a righteous man, now he was building a giant boat in the middle of his back yard. One of the striking phrases of 11:7 is this: “by his faith he condemned the world.” This is an odd (and probably offensive sounding) phrase. Certainly Noah could not condemn in the sense that God condemns, that is, Noah didn’t cause the flood. Instead, he condemned the world in the sense that by his faith “he showed the wisdom of his own course and the folly of theirs” (Barnes Commentary on Heb 11:7).

Now, no one wants to feel condemned, either by God or by others, so there was most certainly a strong reaction against Noah, not just as a “crazy man” but as an enemy of the status quo. People didn’t just think he was nuts, they hated him.

Nevertheless, Noah put his faith in God and withstood the attack of the enemy. He was willing to go against the current (pun intended) and he was rewarded. Meanwhile, his adversaries were destroyed in the flood.

It takes faith to be willing to go against the current. It takes faith to be willing to be left out, or worse, because you trust God’s Word over man’s.

Based on this passage, here was my word to the students in our After School program, but it’s also a message I wouldn’t mind sending back in time to my High School self:

Going against your peers to follow God is probably more difficult at this point in your life than in any other. I get that. But be strong and courageous. God will get you through.

Be willing to stand up for what you know to be right. Be willing to opt-out from what you know is wrong.

At this stage of life, you are forming an identity and you have a choice. Your identity can either be formed by Jesus in obedience to God – which leads to the rewards that only He can give (salvation, eternal life with God after death, life to the abundance now) or you can be “conformed to the patterns of this world”, following the crowd, ultimately to destruction.

It takes faith to choose the former option. You have to trust that God exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Like Noah, it will take sacrifices along the way. But, choosing to follow God, even when it means rejection by the world, leads to a much greater reward.

On Faith: Delayed Gratification

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. …Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13, 16b TNIV)

I heard about a study where researches offered young children the choice between getting one marshmallow now and waiting for a few minutes to get two marshmallows. Some kids took the single marshmallow while others waited and received two. As the researches followed the lives of the kids, they discovered that those who waited generally did better in life. This is the principle of delayed gratification and it is a very important life skill.

Delayed gratification is also an important spiritual skill.

Those heroes of the faith already listed in Hebrews 11 (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham) all practiced some sort of spiritual delayed gratification. They gave up the temporary pleasures of this world to wait for the eternal rewards that only God could offer.

There are serious limitations in comparing the example of delayed gratification above with the spiritual delayed gratification practiced by our fathers in the faith.

In the example of the marshmallows the kids waited for one thing to get more of that same thing. Those whole live by faith, however, gave up something of one kind (visible, temporary, the result of disobedience) for something of a different kind (invisible, permanent, the result of obedience). For that reason, they were always restless, living as aliens in the land, looking for a land of their own.

The other problem with the comparison is that the likes of Abraham and Noah never fully received the promise of God while they were living. “They only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” They did receive a glimpse. Abraham had the son of the promise and Noah and his family were saved from the flood. But their ultimate reward was not to be found in this life.

The last words of this passage are sweet. “Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God.” Enoch, Abel, Moses, and Abraham lived by faith because they understood just how sweet those words really are. Because they grasped the greatness of the promise – friendship with God – they were able to delay gratification for the present to receive an eternal reward.