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Noblesse Oblige – Chapter 6: Noble Faith

noblesse-oblige-ch6

Noblesse Oblige, by Scott Applegate

This book was released by a pastor & author from Westminster, Colorado in 2009.  Scott is the pastor of Novation Church, a non-denominational bible-first church that serves the community each and every day, spreading the Gospel through practical works and teaching. We will publish each chapter weekly, and encourage you to read it and digest it each week in order to search for and live God’s true calling on your life. Through this series you will learn to search for your Noble: Living, Purpose, Vision, Mission, Ability, Faith, Action, Assignments, and Death.

“One day as Jesus was walking along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother, Andrew, fishing with a net, for they were commercial fishermen. Jesus called out to them, “Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and went with him.” Mark 1:16-18 NLT

Chapter #6 Noble Faith

The call to follow Jesus is at times hard to describe. At times the call seems so simple and easy:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

At other times Jesus makes it clear that mere lip service to His call doesn’t fly and that we must truly count the cost of following Him:

“As they were walking along someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you no matter where you go.” But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home of my own, not even a place to lay my head.” He said to another person, “Come, be my disciple.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” Jesus replied, “Let those who are spiritually dead care for their own dead. Your duty is to go and preach the coming of the Kingdom of God.” Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62 NLT)

Have you ever put yourself in the shoes of the disciples when Jesus called them? We tend to read through these verses without stopping and really pondering what happened. Did they realize what they were doing and getting themselves into? It almost appears that they were impulsive in their decision to leave everything and follow after Jesus. What did their families think? What did their employers think? What were they giving up to answer this call?

People decide to answer Jesus’ call to follow for many reasons. Many feel that Christ will be a quick fix to their problems. Many in Jesus’ day followed Him for the perceived benefits rather than from a heart of radical obedience. Do not misunderstand me, there are huge benefits and blessings that come with following Jesus, but the point is Jesus never asks people to follow Him based on benefits.

John Chapter 6 points out that early in Jesus’ ministry He had a great following of people. However, these people were following Jesus based on seeing and benefiting from His miracles. Recognizing this, Jesus follows up a miracle feeding of 5000 people (with five loaves of bread and two fish) with a radical message on what it meant to truly trust and follow Him. Many of his “so-called” followers jumped ship after His message (see John 6:60, 66).

Jesus’ message did not leave room for a comfortable middle ground. We are either for Him or against Him. Jesus’ call is a call to abandon the middle. Fulfilling your noblesse oblige requires major faith and trust. Are you ready to follow Jesus into the unknown?

Hearing the Call

I love the movie Field of Dreams. If you remember, it was a story about an Iowa farmer who plowed under his cornfield to build a baseball diamond. One day as he was tending to his crop Ray Concela, played by Kevin Costner, heard a voice that told him “If you build it they will come.” Ray at first thought he was crazy, but later realized that he was being summoned to a high calling. The baseball field he was to build was a magical place that facilitated relational healing and gave opportunity for old (dead) baseball players to come back and play. The theology behind the movie wasn’t very sound, but the story was powerful.

The outfield fence of this mystical baseball field was the beginning of the rest of the farmer’s cornfield. At the end of the practices, the baseball players from the past would exit the field and sort of disappear into the corn.

They would come and go through the corn. Towards the end of the movie the character Terrance Mann played by James Earl Jones was invited by the player Shoeless Joe Jackson to come with them into the cornfield. He had no idea where it would lead to but decided that the call to follow the players into the unknown was worth it. The interplay with the characters and courage of Mann to follow was touching. It made the audience want to go and experience the unknown with him.

The Call of Elisha

In 1 Kings 19, we have the calling of Elisha to follow the Prophet Elijah into the unknown:

“So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field with a team of oxen. There were eleven teams of oxen ahead of him, and he was plowing with the twelfth team. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and walked away again. Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!” Elijah replied, “Go on back! But consider what I have done to you.” Elisha then returned to his oxen, killed them, and used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the other plowmen, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant.” (1 Kings 19:19-21 NLT)

PIAZZETTA Giovanni Battista | Elijah Taken Up in the Chariot of Fire. | | Italian | Baroque

There are a lot of similarities to the calling of Elisha and the calling of the disciples. Both of these situations called for willingness to follow God on a journey into unknown territory. Both situations called for people to cut ties with what seemed logical, with what they knew, and with what was comfortable in order to move forward with God and His calling on their lives.

The disciples answered Christ’s call by dropping their fishing nets and going with Him. Elisha answered the call by having a barbeque using his plowing equipment for firewood and cooking his oxen. For the disciples, their fishing nets represented their livelihood. It was their career and very likely something that they found their identity in. It was probably a family business, a trade that their fathers passed to them. The same could be said for Elisha and his ceremonial barbeque.

By burning his equipment Elisha was saying that there would be no turning back, or no looking back. There would be no back-up plan to fall back onto. He was cutting ties with what he knew and what would be comfortable in order to follow God’s will. Following Jesus doesn’t always make sense to those around us. What will you have to leave behind in order to move forward with Christ and follow Him into the unknown? What did Elisha tell his Dad? As with any good father I imagine Elisha’s Dad had hopes, plans and dreams for his son. It is very rare that a parent embraces their son or daughter’s desire to not take the comfortable and secure route. Parents do not want to see their kids suffer or struggle. Often well-meaning people are the biggest stumbling blocks to fulfilling our noble obligation. Jesus experienced this with His own disciples (Matthew 16:21-23)

The major enemy of following Jesus into the unknown is fear. Fear is a funny thing, it can either paralyze you or it can motivate you. There are many recorded instances where people were able to perform superhuman feats because of fear. For example, people have picked up cars that were turned over to rescue a loved one trapped inside. However, we all know too well the paralyzing power of fear.

Spiders are amazing little creatures. Their method of killing their prey is to bite and inject venom that renders their prey paralyzed. Then they save them for a later meal. Fear does the same thing to our spiritual lives. It bites us and renders us paralyzed. You will not follow God into the unknown if fear dominates your faith.

Your fear will tell you where you are not walking in faith. In his book If You Want to Walk on Water you’ve got to get out of the Boat” John Ortberg asks: “What is it that produces fear in me-especially when I think of leaving it behind and stepping out in faith,”(Ortberg, 17, 2001)?

Ortberg does a great job of teaching on what it means to step out in faith by using the story of Peter getting out of the boat and walking on water with Jesus (Matthew 14:25-32).  Ortberg equates the boat the disciples were in with:

“Whatever represents safety and security to you apart from God himself…Your boat is whatever keeps you so comfortable that you don’t want to give it up even if it is keeping you from joining Jesus on the waves. Your boat is whatever pulls you away from the high adventure of extreme discipleship…What is your boat? In what area of your life are you shrinking back from fully and courageously trusting God? Fear will tell you what your boat is,” (IBID)

Here are three paralyzing fears that feed on our faith: fear of uncertainty, fear of failure, and fear of people.

Fear of Uncertainty

The definition of risk is: “The possibility of suffering harm, loss or danger.” Most of us want God to give us a sneak preview of the future before we will decide to step out into the unknown. However, God doesn’t work like that. He knows that the process of faith includes acceptance of uncertainty, which in turn nourishes our faith. Fear of uncertainty stops us from taking the first step necessary to follow God into the unknown.

Following God into the unknown always involves risk. Risk is the possibility of suffering loss or harm. We have been taught that whenever God is in something, there is somehow no chance for failure. However, following God into the unknown is not failsafe or risk free. Think of the fact that eleven of the twelve disciples died as martyrs for their faith. Risk is a huge part of our noblesse oblige. Anything worth attempting for the Kingdom of God usually comes with a fight and fights are always risky.

Risk was illustrated to me when my youngest daughter was contemplating removing the training wheels off her bike. I was very honest with her. I told her there was a chance of wrecking her bike, and she would probably get scraped elbows and skinned up knees. However, I also explained to her that if she was willing to take the training wheels off, she would be able to go faster and riding her bike would become a whole new adventure. Maybe God is challenging you to take off the safe and comfortable training wheels you are depending on and experience a whole new adventure.

Fear of Failure:

Failure is not failing; failure is not trying. The only way you can fail at following God is by not following, not attempting your God dreams.

Let’s say you feel that God has called you to start a ministry of some sort. For example, the idea of having a ministry to un-wed mothers burns in your heart. So after years of contemplation you step out in faith. You buy a house, you buy the supplies you need and you begin to take in un-wed mothers. Lives are touched for a while and you do your best to serve un-wed moms. You realize your dream.

After a year of barely surviving financially, you are completely broke and have no more funds to support the ministry. You realize you have to close down the ministry. Is a situation like that considered a failure? Many people would like to over spiritualize circumstances like this and say that you were not supposed to start the ministry that is why it “failed.” However in your heart you knew God called you to do it.

I believe with all I have that God does not see that as failure. I believe He sees it as obedience and obedience moves His heart. Whether or not something thrives or not is not really for us to decide. What God requires of us is obedience, not results. Again failure is not attempting your dream.

Fear of People

What is it about the possibility of failure that contains so much power over our decisions? It is people. One of the biggest obstacles to stepping out in faith is worrying about what others will think. We internalize the shame that comes from being perceived as a failure. The need for acceptance and assurance from others can kill faith quickly.

Scripture declares:

“To fear anyone will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25 TNIV)

A snare is a hunting tool made to trap and catch animals. The fear of others is a trap set by the enemy to rob us of our potential and to destroy our sense of self-worth in God. However, the Psalmist declares: The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1 NIV)

One of the most amazing faith to fear interactions in the Bible is when the prophet Elijah runs for his life from Jezebel. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah had just witnessed the amazing power of God displayed against the prophets of Baal. Then a woman named Jezebel makes one small threat and Elijah runs in complete fear. Why were her threats so powerful to Elijah? It amazes me how we can know, witness, and be courageous in the power of the Lord, but later crumble under a few threats or disapproval from others.

I once nearly quit ministry because a man in our church didn’t think I was doing a good job in our youth ministry. He didn’t like my style or really me for that matter and told me how he felt.

It hurt because deep inside I wanted his approval. I was very discouraged, so I talked it over with a trusted friend who told me that I wasn’t going to last very long in ministry if I cared too much about making everyone happy.

I did some soul searching, took inventory of what I was doing, and came to the conclusion that I was doing the best that I knew how. I accepted the fact that not everyone was always going to be happy with my decisions and performance, and most importantly I was going to fear God instead of people. You cannot truly serve people if you need them and their approval more than you love them.

Unconditional love is based on giving love without needing love in return.

Oswald Chambers once said:

“They who truly fear the Lord fear nothing and no one else.”

Jesus put it this way when He was teaching His disciples about the persecution they were about to endure:

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” (Luke 12:4-5 NIV)

I imagine there is some fear and uneasiness associated with whatever it is that God is calling you to and that is to be expected. My challenge for you is to fight those fears with faith in God’s promises.

Remember, we walk by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). To walk by sight is to trust in our feelings, which are not the best gauge for the strength of our faith. Feelings can lie and are like a roller coaster ride, sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down. To walk by sight is to trust in circumstances or wait for the perfect circumstances before you step out in faith.

Fulfilling your noble obligation is an act of faith that requires courage. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to persevere in spite of your fear.

Noble questions to ponder

Take a moment and write down what or who your boat is. What is it that cause fear in you when you think of leaving it behind?

Where is God calling you to take a risk for His purpose and Kingdom?

What represents training wheels in your life right now?

Comment below and tell us what you think about faith in the face of fear.

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