?Is it worth it? Does my faith really make a difference?? Our circumstances often tempt us to wonder. In the conclusion of our study of Ruth, we learn that God will ultimately reward our daily acts of faith. Not necessarily in the way and on the timetable we might expect. But we must bear in mind during tough times that His grace is sufficient for all our needs.
A Faith Rewarded
Covered by Grace
Under the Lord's Wing
Faith in Times of Famine
I had a chance this last week to speak to an old friend who reminded me of a story he had told me once before but I had forgotten. I still get a kick out of this. He was telling me that from the ages of 4 to 18 he received a gift every year in December for his birthday from his godfather, and that gift was what every 4-year-old, 5-year-old, 6-year-old…heck, every 18-year-old wants: a gift subscription to National Geographic.
His godfather was so in touch with what kids really desire: National Geographic. He got that every year. He was less than excited, because, see, his brother from his godfather, another godfather, actually received a $100 bill every year for his birthday. You can imagine what it would be like if you have any siblings. "What did you get for your birthday this year?"
"Uh, National Geographic."
"Ha! I got 100 bucks, baby!"
That's exactly how it happened in my house with my brothers. There would be some good barbs going back and forth. Here's the true beauty of it all. My friend (his name is Mike)… Mike's mom insisted that regardless if he likes National Geographic or not, the right thing to do was to write a thank you note. So every year, "Dear [so-and-so], thank you for the National Geographic." I don't know where he went from there. "Thank you. I look forward to receiving it next year," or what he said, but that's probably about as much as he could muster up.
I just laughed at him, that from 4 to 18 he continued to get this subscription to this magazine he never wanted. I'm sure I just offended the two of you in here who actually enjoy the magazine. Nonetheless, when you were 4, you probably did not enjoy it. But he went through the motions, because his mom was trying to instill in him, "Hey, look. This is the right thing to do. When somebody thinks of you, makes a small sacrifice, takes the time to give you a gift, you say, 'Thanks.'"
So every year, from 4 to 18, that's just what he did, even though he continued to get verbally abused by his brother. As I was listening to my friend talk, I thought, "There are some parallels to what I'm going to speak on when we continue the book of Ruth this Sunday." The question I think some of us ask ourselves and the question he must have asked himself is, "Is this worth it? Why am I going through all these motions? There's a part of me that wonders, 'Shall I just quit writing a thank you note?' What good does it do?"
There are some of us who are asking right now, "Is it worth it?" Is it worth it to live by faith? Is it worth continuing to do the right thing when there seems to be little reward for my labor, when there seems to be little response? Is it worth it to keep going, to live by faith? Is it worth it to continue to work through a marriage that just seems to have holes in it, and all you continue to do is find yourself in conflict? Is it worth it?
Is it worth it to continue to pray and pray and pray for a loved one who is sick, yet the prognosis never seems to change; to share the gospel with a friend or a neighbor or relative, yet the heart continues to remain hardened to the truth of God's Word? Is it worth it? Is it worth it to continue to open up God's Book and yet it feels dry, it feels stale, and you walk away and go, "I don't seem to get anything from that"? Is it worth staying in community?
Sometimes in our lives I think there's a time where we come to the point where we go, "Man, I don't know if it's worth it. This is hard." That's why the book of Ruth is so relevant to today. It answers that question. Is it worth it to continue to remain faithful in shepherding your kids' hearts, fighting for your marriage, sharing the gospel, praying, continuing to give to the poor or less fortunate although it never feels like you're even putting a dent in it? Is it worth it? Have you ever asked that question?
Have you ever come to that crossroads and just said, "I don't know if I want to write another thank you note. I just want to be done. I don't even want that magazine." "I don't know if I want to continue to invest in this relationship. Let's just be done. It's too hard. I'd rather quit." We've all been there. Right? Many of us are there this morning. That's why it's appropriate… Turn to the book of Ruth with me if you would. We're going to continue our series. In fact, we're going to conclude it today.
We've looked the past three weeks at chapters 1, 2, and 3. In chapter 1, what we discovered was that trials reveal the true nature of our faith. There's this woman named Ruth. She was a Moabite. Ruth was widowed, and she has to make this incredible decision in chapter 1 whether or not she is going to go with her mother-in-law to a foreign land, the Promised Land, the land where God's people dwelt, and she chooses by faith to follow her mother-in-law named Naomi when her sister-in-law, who also lost her husband, chose not to do so but to remain right there in Moab.
So we have this widow who is poor, who is destitute, in this time of crisis. She places her faith underneath the wing and the shelter of the God of Israel and follows her mother-in-law to this Promised Land to find rest. We saw that trials reveal the true nature of our faith. Then in chapter 2, we saw that the Lord works through the seemingly ordinary moments of our day. He works through the seemingly ordinary moments of our day so that we might either help others or receive the help we may need.
God may have you in a place today so you can be the instrument of his grace to help a Ruth or he may have you here today so you might actually be the recipient of his blessing. Nonetheless, he is intimately acquainted with your ways. He's providentially at work. Things don't just happen because of circumstance or chance or luck, but there's a God who's sovereignly at work in our lives, whether at work or at home or sitting right here.
Then we learned last week that true rest is found in a right relationship with our Redeemer. Ruth goes to a man named Boaz. Funny name, I know, but significant person in God's redemptive plan in history. This man named Boaz is a man who's a close of kin to Naomi and Ruth and this family that is poor and destitute. Ruth goes to this man under the veil of darkness, and she proposes to him. That's a switch.
There are several reasons we talked about, and the significance of that passage last week, and why she did that, and on and on there, but the picture is that this man is a shadow of the rest we can find when we place our trust in Jesus Christ who is our Redeemer. See, the Lord made a provision for widows, for the poor, those who were left behind, women who couldn't own land for themselves. He made a provision.
He said the next of kin can marry that widow, so then she could enjoy property and she could have kids and have descendants who could carry on the name of the deceased and provide for that widow. So Ruth goes to Boaz. We saw last week that true rest…not what this world offers but true rest…can be found in a right relationship with the Redeemer. Just as Ruth entrusted herself to Boaz, so we, too, can entrust ourselves to our Redeemer, and we know that Redeemer to be Jesus Christ.
Today, we ask ourselves the question…Is it worth it? For three weeks now, we've looked at this woman's life, how she continued to labor day after day to live by faith, and there was no to little resolution. Day after day, she goes into the fields to glean the fields and just pick up what's left over from what the workers provide. Day after day, she provides for her mother-in-law with little reward for herself. She has left everything. She has left her home in Moab to go to this foreign land. "What's in it for me?" She has to be asking that.
Nothing seems to change. "Is it worth it?" Today, we're going to see that the Lord will ultimately reward our daily acts of faith. It is worth it. This book I've entitled Harvest of Hope, because it's a book of hope for all of us who ask that question (and we all ask it)…Is it worth it? Chapter 4 can be broken up into two parts. There's Boaz's transaction at the city gate in verses 1-12, and then there's Ruth and Naomi's faith, which is rewarded, in verses 13-22. We're finally going to see some resolution for this poor woman.
So we pick it up in chapter 4, verse 1. You remember last week we left it off with this. Ruth goes to propose to Boaz, and we're sitting there thinking, "Hopefully this is all going to come together. This is going to be the love story we all dreamed about. She finds her man." What we find is that he then looks at her and says, "Actually, there's a problem." He's a man of integrity, and he goes, "I want to marry you, but there's a problem. There's somebody who's actually closer in kin than I am."
You can imagine the disappointment. As a reader, that's the disappointment we're supposed to feel. When we read it, it's like, "Man, can this woman catch a break?" Have you ever felt like that? "I just keep doing the right thing after the right thing after the right thing. I humble myself in front of this man, and then he tells me, 'Oh, sorry. I would love to do it, but there's somebody closer of kin than I am, and he has the right of first refusal.'"
So we feel the disappointment. The suspense is raised. She gathers what he gives to her and goes back to Naomi and provides some food and provision. Naomi says to Ruth, "Ruth, listen. Boaz, your redeemer, is going to make things right. Just wait. Have faith. Trust in your redeemer." That's where we left it last week. Here we pick it up in verse 1, and we see, as we have seen through this whole book, that God is providentially at work.
In verse 1, it says, "Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there, and behold [what a surprise] , the close relative of whom Boaz spoke was passing by, so he said, 'Turn aside, friend, sit down here.'" The author is trying to show to us what we hope we can pick up as we read this book. God is so providentially at work that as Boaz goes to the city gate, the place where people pass in and out throughout the day on their way to and from work…
Boaz goes, "Man, if I just position myself here, maybe I'll see this nearest of kinsmen. I have to follow through on my commitment to Ruth and give this guy the right of first refusal." The text says, behold, by coincidence, the very man he just spoke about happens to be at the city gate. This echoes what we found in chapter 2, verse 3, which says, "So she [Ruth] departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech."
Of all of the fields out there, Ruth just happens to come to this man's field. Of all of the people who are to pass by this gate, who happens to wander by? This man, the nearest of kin. We see God providentially at work even in the small, ordinary details of life. Then look at verse 2. We see Boaz's offer to this man. "He took ten men of the elders of the city and said, 'Sit down here.' So they sat down." Boaz is saying, "Hey, all of the elders, leaders, the people, come over here. I want you to witness this." So they sit down.
"Then he said to the closest relative, 'Naomi, who has come back from the land of Moab, has to sell the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. So I thought to inform you, saying, "Buy it before those who are sitting here, and before the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if not, tell me that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am after you."'"
There are two possibilities of what's going on here. Your translation, when you read that in verse 3, might have said something a little different. There's a reason there. Depending on the translator's interpretation of the text, there are two possibilities. The whole idea of having to sell the piece of land could either be translated, in verse 3, that she is about to sell the land or she has already sold the piece of property. There are two options for understanding this.
The first option is that Naomi actually does own the land, but she's so poor and so destitute she has to sell it in order to survive, and it's the kinsman redeemer's, the closest of kin's responsibility, according to the Mosaic law, according to the Jewish custom, to buy it. Or the second option is that Naomi doesn't own the land. Perhaps she and her husband Elimelech sold it when they went to Moab, and now it is her right when she comes home to retain the land, and again, it's the redeemer's responsibility to buy it so this widow is not left homeless.
So the man hears about a great real estate investment. He goes, "Man! I'm in." That's what we see at the end of verse 4. "I'll redeem it." But Boaz is very cunning. He goes, "Oh, hold on now. There's a condition. There's something I forgot to tell you. You're the guy who has the right of first refusal, but…" Look at verse 5.
"'On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance.' The closest relative said, 'I cannot redeem it for myself, because I would jeopardize my own inheritance. Redeem it for yourself; you may have my right of redemption, for I cannot redeem it.'"
What he says at the beginning is, "Hey, this is a good real estate opportunity for me. I just won the lottery. I get a nice big ol' property. Sure, I'll redeem it." Then Boaz says, "Well, here's the deal, though. To redeem it, according to the law, if you really want this land, you have to marry this widow." And then what does he see? He just sees burden, responsibility.
He goes, "Now that threatens my own interests, because if I now purchase this land, marry her, and we have kids (which is my responsibility, so that the name of the deceased might go on), then all that does is divide my estate such that my children now don't receive all they're entitled to." So he goes, "You know what? I don't want it after all. You buy it." So then we see in verses 7-10 that Boaz chooses to redeem the land. We see some resolution, finally, for this poor widow. Verses 7-10 read this way:
"Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning the redemption and the exchange of land to confirm any matter: a man removed his sandal and gave it to another; and this was the manner of attestation in Israel. So the closest relative said to Boaz, 'Buy it for yourself.' And he removed his sandal."
This is symbolic. It's just as if today we sign a contract. In that time, what they did was they removed a sandal. What he was saying symbolically was, "I am giving you my right to walk on this land. No longer is it my right for this sandal, my sandal, to pass over this ground. It's no longer mine. It's your right. It's your land."
So that's what he did. He took the sandal in front of all of the elders and the people in the city to see. That's how a public transaction was made. It wasn't in private. People could go, "Hey, look. This has been transferred over. Boaz is buying it." Boaz chooses to redeem the land. Now, just as an aside here, you have to ask yourself, "Why does Boaz choose to do this? Why does he make such sacrifice when this man clearly didn't feel like it was worth it?"
One thing I've thought of is that if you spend a little time and ask yourself, "Okay, who is Boaz and what's significant about him…?" His mom's name is Rahab. For those of you who are familiar with your Bible, you know Rahab herself was a woman who was a foreigner. She was outside of God's people, and when God's people were marching into the Promised Land to acquire it, Rahab is the one who sheltered the spies.
So I just sit there and think about how Boaz must have heard about how his own mother placed her faith in the God of Israel, how she at one point was alone, and how she was cared for. Here you see Boaz has a soft spot for these women who were in desperate need, and he chooses to redeem the land. Then you see the elders' and the people's blessing. Let me keep going. Verse 9:
"Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, 'You are witnesses today that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. Moreover, I have acquired Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, to be my wife in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance, so that the name of the deceased will not be cut off from his brothers or from the court of his birth place; you are witnesses today.'
All the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, 'We are witnesses. May the ** Lord ** make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem. Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the ***Lord* will give you by this young woman.'"**
Now we read that and we see a lot of names, but in a nutshell, all of the people in the city are agreeing, "You did buy it, and may you be blessed, and may they be blessed like Rachel and Leah, who are Israel's founding mothers. May they be blessed like Tamar, another widow whom the Lord blessed with a son named Perez."
Then we see Ruth and Naomi's faith is finally rewarded. We see a close-up picture of the immediate reward, and then we're going to see a bigger picture. Hang with me. In verses 13-17 you see the near future, the immediate reward, that Ruth marries and gives birth to a son. Look at this.
"So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife, and he went in to her. And the ** Lord ** enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. Then the women said to Naomi, 'Blessed is the **** Lord ** who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.'**
Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her lap, and became his nurse. The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, 'A son has been born to Naomi!' So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David."
What we have here is a complete reversal of fortune. If you've been tracking along since chapter 1, verse 1, you see that this woman, Naomi, who was once empty, is now full. In fact, that's a theme throughout this book. In chapter 1, verse 21, when she comes back from Moab and all of the women in the town are talking about her, what does she say? She says, "I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?"
"Don't call me Naomi; call me 'Bitter.' I was full, and now I'm empty." You see this complete reversal. Naomi, who was once empty, is now full. Naomi, who was once bitter, is blessed. She who was once without children, without her two sons… Now the women are sitting there going, "Ruth has been to you better than seven sons. The Lord has come through for you." There's resolution.
Ruth was widowed, and now she's married. Ruth was without children, and now she has a son. Ruth and Naomi, who were without a home, without provision, have a redeemer, and they've been given a home. There's resolution. But there's something that's even greater here. There's something that's even bigger at play that they never recognized, that they never saw, and only you and I can see, and that's the bigger picture. That's what we see in the following verses, in 18-22, to conclude the book. What we usually see as a list of names I want to challenge you to see as something much different.
"Now these are the generations of Perez: to Perez was born Hezron, and to Hezron was born Ram, and to Ram, Amminadab, and to Amminadab was born Nahshon, and to Nahshon, Salmon, and to Salmon was born Boaz, and to Boaz, Obed, and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David." And the book ends.
We read that, typically, and we go, "Great. A bunch of names." I have to explain all this. I'm the Equipping pastor, so I get excited about stuff like this. That list of names is significant. Do you know what it tells us? It tells us this little Moabite widow was never outside of God's eyesight. Yes, there was resolution in her day; yes, she was cared for, but there was a much bigger picture.
"All along, Ruth, it was worth it, because you know what? Not only am I going to bring resolution for you and your life… You are going to marry. You are going to have a home. Naomi, you're going to be taken care of. There is going to be provision. You're not going to be homeless. Yes, all of those things, but even better than that, above all of this, there is a bigger picture at work here. You don't have any idea, Ruth, what I'm about to do through you."
That's what I want to challenge each of you guys with. What I'm going to show you is a bigger picture that Ruth never saw. My suggestion to each of you guys who are asking yourself, "Is it worth it?" is God is up to something that is a bigger picture. In order to see that bigger picture, you have to go back to Genesis, chapter 12.
Now hang with me, because you're going to see how Genesis, how Ruth, all ultimately tie to Jesus. In Genesis, chapter 12, we have what's called the Abrahamic covenant. Buckle your seat belts. I'm going to give you a lot of information. In Genesis, chapter 12, God comes to Abraham and says, "Hey, Abraham, I'm going to do an incredible work through you. I'm going to promise you three things." Look at this.
"Now the Lord said to Abram, 'Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you…'" It sounds like Ruth, doesn't it? "I want you to leave." "…and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
God comes to Abraham and says, "I'm going to give you three things." In a nutshell, the Abrahamic covenant is "I'm going to give you land, and through you I'm going to give you many descendants, and then through your descendants will come one who will be a blessing to all of the nations of the earth." I wish I could follow you through this whole line, but as you fast-forward, what you see is that through Abraham will come one named Judah.
If we were to read at the end of Genesis, you would see that the scepter was never to depart from Judah. The right to rule would never depart from Judah. So you go from Abraham. You're going to end up through Isaac, Jacob, then Judah. The line goes on, and we are asking ourselves, when we fast-forward and get to Ruth, "What has happened to the godly line?" God's faithfulness is at stake here. Is God going to remain faithful?
We have a period during this time, the time of the judges, where everyone did what was right in his own eyes, where people just lived in unrighteousness. Where is God's faithfulness? Is there hope? Then we read right here in Ruth 4 that through Ruth will come one named David. Through Ruth and Boaz's marriage will come David, and we know David is the one who's the great king of Israel who is a shadow of the even greater King who is Jesus Christ. And what was promised to David? There's just a fuller explanation of what was promised to Abraham.
Are you hanging with me? I'm trying to show you how God is at work and has a much bigger picture. In 2 Samuel 7 it says, "When your days are complete [David] and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you…" In other words, " [There's going to come one after you, David] who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. […] Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever."
Fast-forward. We're all maybe a little unfamiliar with this, but we've all seen Linus walk on the stage at Christmastime and recite this passage from Luke. What does Linus say when Charlie Brown goes, "Can't anybody tell me what Christmas is all about?" Linus walks out with his blanket and says, "I can tell you what Christmas is all about," and he quotes right here:
"The angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.'" Does that sound familiar? It's what we just read. Then we go to Matthew, chapter 1, and what do we see?
"The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram.
Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah."
We read down, and what do we see? The "father of" and the "descendant of" eventually comes to Jesus. Jesus Christ. In this line was to come the Messiah. When you read Matthew, chapter 1… People who say, "When you read the Bible, you know, the Bible never really claims that Jesus is God…" Matthew 1. The genealogy of Jesus claims that Jesus is the expected Messiah.
What I'm trying to suggest here is something Ruth could never have seen. When she was sitting out there in that field, wondering if it was worth being faithful to Naomi, her mother-in-law, worth continuing to be faithful in trusting the God of Israel… Man, you bet it was worth it. Sure, she saw resolution in her marriage, but God was up to something much bigger. Through her, one was going to come who was going to be the blessing to all of the nations of the earth.
We see that being true in Jesus Christ. If you or I trust in Jesus Christ, we have the forgiveness of sins. We can have a right relationship with the God of Abraham, David, Ruth. This same God who cared for Abraham, the same God who made promises to David, who was faithful to his promises to Rahab, to Ruth, is faithful to us. The Lord will ultimately reward our daily acts of faith. It's a promise. He will ultimately reward our daily acts of faith.
The Bible says, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6) He is a rewarder of those who continually live by faith. Consider Noah. By faith, he built an ark of wood. By faith, Abraham was willing to offer up his son, and he left his home. By faith, Moses fled out of Egypt and led the people.
By faith, Joshua entered into the Promised Land. Rahab sheltered the spies. By faith, David confronted Goliath. Daniel refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar. By faith, Ruth followed Naomi. Throughout Scripture, what we see are tremendous stories and testimonies of people who continued to ask themselves, "Is it worth it?" and their circumstances would have suggested, "Just pitch it; punt," but they continued to hold down, hold on, and by faith they persevered.
Each of them was uncertain of what the future held, and that's something I think we miss. We read about these people of great faith, and we read the end of the story back into the beginning, and we don't understand what they must have wrestled with and how they must have asked, like we ask, "Is it worth it?" But by faith, they continued to persevere, and they were ultimately rewarded by the Lord.
Some saw resolution while they were alive. Ruth saw resolution. She was able to find rest. Naomi found rest in their redeemer, but some, only after they had passed away. Hebrews 11:13-16, this powerful, convicting passage, says this after talking about Abraham and others of the great faith: "All these died in faith, without receiving the promises…" Some of them didn't find resolution. Where did they find it?
"…but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth [people living by faith] . For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them."
Do you know what that means? That means ultimate rest, ultimate reward, is for those who continue to live by faith. There will be resolution. For those of us who are wondering if it's worth hanging on, I am telling you, God ultimately rewards those who are people of faith. He does. Do you know what our city, what our church, what our country needs?
Do you know what your neighbors need, your family needs to see? You live by faith. We don't talk about faith often, but this church, this city, this country desperately needs people who are going to answer the call of Joshua, a great man of faith who drew the line in the sand. Do you remember what Joshua said?
"Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the ** Lord ***, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the* Lord."**
"I'm drawing a line in the sand. I'm going to live by faith. You choose for yourselves whom you're going to serve. For me and my house, we're living by faith, because I know ultimately the Lord is going to reward our faith." This church, our community, needs more people of great faith; more Ruths, more Naomis who despite their circumstances aren't going to punt, who aren't going to check out; more people who are going to follow the example and the model and the conviction and the sacrifice of Paul.
Paul says, "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ." He's all in. "More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…"
Do you know people like that? Do you know people who are all in, who are just like, "Man, I'm telling you, despite my circumstances around me, despite the difficulty, despite the temptation, I am not giving up. I'm in. As for me and my house, I'm serving the Lord. All of these things the world offers I count but rubbish. I am in. I'm trusting Christ. I'm going to live by faith. Come hell or high water, I'm in. Even though I may not see resolution, I'm in."
I'll tell you what this city, what this church doesn't need: more people going through the motions, professing Christ with their mouth yet denying him with their lives. We don't need more of that. We need more pillars of faith, people who are hanging in there and continuing to live by obedience, trusting in the Lord.
After Hebrews 11 starts to speak about all of these great people of faith and how God rewards those who are people of faith, in chapter 12, verse 1, it says this: "Therefore [in light of the fact all of these have lived by faith] , since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us [since we have so many folks like Ruth and Abraham and David and Joshua] , let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance…"
That's what we're doing, gang. Some of you are tired, and I understand. I'm tired. I am tired after this year, but I am committed to running with endurance, and I need you to run with endurance, because do you know what happens? When I get tired, do you know what I do? I look around, and I run with horses. That's what I think. I look around. I look in here. I see the Michaels, I see the Greens, I see others who are running, and they're tired, and I'm tired. I see people of faith, and I go, "You know what? We're not crazy, are we?" and they look at me and go, "Nope. We're not crazy. Keep going, man. Keep running."
"…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
Consider Jesus who prayed to the Father and said, "Lord, take this cup from me. I'm weary. Is it worth it?" and he goes, "But, Lord, not my will but your will be done," and it led him to the cross, and all of us are blessed because of it. We must persevere, and we persevere by faith by remembering at least these three things.
The first is that just as Ruth was unaware of the Lord's higher purpose in her life, unware of the bigger picture of her life, so, too, are we unaware of the Lord's purpose in ours. Romans 8:28-32 talks about how God is at work, and by some mystery he's able to connect all of the dots. I can't explain it, gang. I do not know why my 5-year-old son has cancer. I don't get that, but by faith I realize there's a bigger picture at work here.
There were times, sitting on that floor, lying awake at night… Even today, I look at him and go, "Lord, you know what? It is hard for me, seeing this immediate context, to trust," but I look at Ruth, and I'm reminded, "Lord, you have a bigger picture, and it's not my job to try to connect the dots. It's not my job to try to answer why. It's my job to trust. That's my job." We need a bigger picture and trust that he has one, and we need to remember that his grace is sufficient for our every need.
Second Corinthians 12:7-10, a great passage, where the Lord promises to Paul just that very thing. "My grace is sufficient for you in your time of greatest need." Philippians 4:19: "My God will provide for your every provision. He will meet your need." That's why in that same chapter, what is it that Paul is able to say? "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."
I can find contentment. I can find rest. Why? Because I know there is a God who's sovereignly at work, and his grace is sufficient for our every need, whether it's unemployment or addiction or broken relationships, and yes, even 5-year-olds with cancer. He's sufficient. He's sufficient for our every need, and we either believe it or we don't.
In our disbelief, we have to pray, "Lord, help me," because it is hard. It's hard to be Ruth and to every day go out and glean in that field and think that somehow, in some way, God has a purpose behind all this, but he does. We have to remember that although our daily acts of faith seem to go unrewarded, the Lord will ultimately reward those who persevere.
Galatians 6:9-10 says, "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." Persevere. If you find yourself like Ruth today, gleaning in the field, wondering if your Redeemer is going to come through in the end, this book is for you. It's worth it to persevere. The Lord will ultimately reward your faith.
We have to recognize, though, this is not our home, so we live by faith that one day, when we do get home, he will make all things right, and I believe it. I started this message by telling you about a friend who received this wonderful gift from his godfather. Every year, from the age of 4 to 18, he received a gift subscription to National Geographic magazine, and every year he faithfully wrote that thank you note.
Well, fast-forward from 18 to about 28 years old, years later. He didn't even hear from his godfather anymore. He and his wife were looking to buy a house, and as they were looking on the market, they fell in love with this one house, but they were tens of thousands of dollars short of what it would cost for them to be able to move into this house.
Lo and behold (no kidding; true story), he receives a check in the mail for the difference of what he needed from where he fell short for the cost of the house. He looks at this check, and he just goes, "What in the world? It's my name, my address." It has this law firm who are the ones who wrote the check. He's like, "I have no idea how I got this. Certainly there must be some mistake. It's not my money."
So he calls the law firm, and he goes, "Look. I don't need this." The guy goes, "Listen. Do you know so-and-so?" He goes, "Well, yeah. I haven't talked to him in years, though. That was my godfather." He goes, "Well, just so you know, your godfather met with me just before he passed away, and he said, 'I have tried to be generous to people, and I've given a lot away, and this is what I want you to do.'"
He took this shoe box and put it on the table. He said, "I want you to divide my estate in proportion to the number of thank you notes I received, and however it comes out, you send them my money." He kept every thank you note. And guess whose thank you notes ranked up there? National Geographic. He has never been more thankful for that gift subscription. True story.
So Mike, like all good brothers do, picks up the phone and calls his brother. I have two older brothers, so I love this part of the story. He says, "Hey, you got your hundreds, baby, but I got my thousands." Now look. Before you start twisting my illustration, talking about some prosperity gospel, what I am not saying is this. Do not liken me with those guys on TV who are saying, "Hey, if you be faithful and just send in a certain amount of money, God is going to bless you ten thousand times."
That is not the point of this message. I could build a big soapbox right here and talk about the problem, but I can't. That's another message, another time. The point of this illustration is simply this. This true story reminds you of this: in the end, the Lord rewards those who remain faithful. It doesn't mean you're going to receive a check in the mail, but it does mean you're going to receive something greater than a check in the mail.
It's going to be the Lord telling you, "Well done, my good and faithful servant," if you're willing to hang on. That's my prayer for you: that you'd be a Joshua, that you'd be a Ruth, that you would be an Abraham, that you would be a David and remain faithful, even when the world around you thinks you're crazy to hang on. Let's pray.
Father, we've spent a lot of time in this little book, and it has revealed to us some great truths, one of which is that you will ultimately reward those who remain faithful and that our daily acts of faith do not go unnoticed. Father, I pray we would be able to say along with Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing." Those at Watermark, those in this community of faith.
May that be said of us. May we be people of faith, even when the world looks at us and calls us fools. May we accept the circumstance we're in right now as an opportunity to be used by you to further your kingdom. Lord, we thank you that just as Ruth had a redeemer, so do we, and his name is Jesus. We find comfort in who he is and what he has done for us. In Christ's name, amen.
She was a homeless foreigner, a childless widow and a pauper. By all accounts her story should have faded into obscurity thousands of years ago. Yet this short, rarely studied book of the Old Testament paints an unforgettable picture of the grace, reward, redemption and hope we can find in the Lord. It's a story of perseverance in the face of despair, joy in the midst of mourning, provision in a time of want, and restoration when hope seems futile. <br /> <br />But the story of Ruth recounts not only the tale of one woman's remarkable faith. It also foretells the much greater story of God's plan of salvation through His Son, which we are living out still today. If you find yourself in need of hope or peace, this study of Ruth's journey will encourage you to rest in the provision of Christ and the assurance that His grace is sufficient for all our needs.