The Role Of Faith And Obedience In Missions

Hebrews 11:8-19 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 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 for them a city.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.


Good morning, Grace Church. Welcome to the final event of missions week 2024. For those of you who are not sure what that means, let me briefly catch you up to speed. At Grace Church we believe that the Bible is God’s Word. In it, God reveals to us everything He requires of us. One of the things He requires of us (which Mat highlighted in his sermon last week), is to bring the good news to all mankind that all mankind might be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ, our resurrected savior and king. Within that, we see that God’s Word tells us that missions is pleasing to God.

For that reason, every year for the past eleven (?) years, the missions team at Grace Church has put together something we call “Missions Week.” The missions team’s aims for Missions Week are clear and constant—to keep God’s commands to call the entire world to follow Jesus in front of us, to encourage all of us to more fully obey them, and to help us better support those who already are. That’s a fair summary, right, missions team?

Again, you’ve found yourself at the tail end of this year’s missions week this morning. Last week, in the Sunday school hour, we kicked Missions Week off with Krista taking a look back with us at her time in France and then forward at the next leg of her missionary journey in Scotland. During the worship service, Mat preached on the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Then, many of us came together on Wednesday evening to hear a bit of the heart of the missions team, to learn more about the part of the world most in need of missionary work, and to pray for our church’s missionaries. This morning, Mat and Miranda shared about their move to Etheopia in Sunday school and I’m about to preach on the role of faith and obedience in missions from Hebrews 11.

Before I get to the sermon, though, I want to do two things. First, I’d like to publicly and enthusiastically thank the missions team for another Word-driven, God-honoring, faith-encouraging, practically-focused missions week. They don’t typically see the Grace Church missions needle move a great deal for all their effort, but I’m exceedingly grateful that they are helping establish a long-term missions culture here. Well done!

And second, I want to quickly reiterate the biblical-basis and practical emphasis of the missions team. We need to begin with sound doctrine regarding missions. We cannot please God in missions (or anything else) apart from knowledge of what the Bible says about missions. This missions team does an awesome job every year of banging that drum. At the same time, we can never end there. We must act on the sound doctrine we’re given. Along with the team, therefore, I urge you to carefully consider at least one way you can move toward greater obedience in missions. That too is a drum the missions team helpfully and continually bang. Let’s pray.


The theme of Missions Week this year and the title of my sermon this morning, once again, is “The Role of Faith and Obedience in Missions.” And my primary text, the primary passage the missions team gave me to help you see the Bible’s teaching on the role of faith and obedience in missions, is Hebrews 11 (particularly vs.8-19).

The big idea of this sermon is that God commands His people to take part in missions and He has promised to be with us to strengthen and reward us as we do. To help you see that, there are three main sections to the sermon. First, I’d like to help you come to an honest assessment of your missions baseline. Second, I’ll define the key terms—missions, faith, and obedience. And third, we’ll consider the role of faith and obedience in the various saints named in Hebrews 11 and their implications for missions.

The main takeaway from all of this is for every one of us—kids too—to find one specific way to grow in our love for and trust in God so that we can find one specific way to grow in our obedience to God’s missions commands.

As I said, I’d like to begin all of that by helping you establish a missions baseline. And I’d like to do that by asking you to be honest with yourself about a handful of missions-related questions.

First, what comes to your mind as you think about missions? Do you think of missionaries, far off places, hardship, glory, or something else entirely? Do you think you understand what we mean by missions? Do you see it clearly in the Bible? Do you recognize it as a charge from God to all of His people? Do you esteem missions/missionaries as a noble calling for your kids (like you would a doctor or scientist or homemaker)?

Second, how do you feel about missions? Does the idea of missions scare you? Do you feel apathy? Do you feel heart-broken that so many have never heard of Jesus’ offer to forgive their sins or to lead them into fullness of life? Do you feel the loss of those we love who have gone off (or will soon go off) to the mission field? If you had no unbiblical fear of taking the gospel to the nations, how would you live differently?

And third, what has your experience been with missions? Have you been on a trip in which calling people to follow Jesus has been the primary aim? If you have, what was it like? Did it meet your expectations? If you haven’t, why not? Do you consistently support any missionaries in prayer, encouragement, training, or finances? Have you ever seriously considered becoming a long-term missionary?

I hope you’ll spend some time carefully and prayerfully considering these questions in your quiet times this week. I hope that having done so, you’ll talk about whatever you discover in your DG this week. And I hope God will turn that assessment into a burden for greater missions obedience. Apart from an honest look at where you are regarding missions, you cannot get to where God would have you go. If you don’t recognize your missiological holes, you can’t plug them. And likewise, if you don’t recognize the practical areas you need to grow in, in your missionary work or support, you won’t be able to act more faithfully.

So, how would you quantify your missions baseline? On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is entirely missions absent and 10 is fully engaging in missions in every God-honoring way, where are you? With that number in mind, and God’s love for and grace toward you firmly established in your heart, lets continue on to the second part of this sermon.


Before we get into the meat of the text, as I mentioned, I’d like to do one more thing. I’d like to define the key terms of Missions Week: faith, obedience, and missions.

What is Missions?

Let’s start with the most obvious term to define: missions. One of the many ways the missions team has served us well is by putting together a missions booklet. The missions booklet lays out our church’s vision for missions, it names the practical ways we will train people to become missionaries and support them when they do, it states our priorities, and it defines our terms. Within the booklet, the team defines missions as “Crossing a significant cultural or language barrier to make disciples because we love God and others.”

The key ideas are (1) crossing a significant cultural barrier, (2) to make disciples, and (3) in love for God and others. In this way, certain key clarifications are made. For instance, under this definition, you cannot be a missionary to your neighbors, service projects (while often good) are not missions, and any motivation other than love falls short of what God intends.

Missions lovingly takes the gospel where it is not, in order that those who would not otherwise have a chance, might hear the good news that they can be reconciled to God in every way through Jesus Christ.

Again, and most simply, we understand missions as doing ministry in a cross-cultural context.

What is Faith?

The second term we need to define is faith. The very beginning of our chapter in Hebrews tells us what faith is, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

That’s a bit different than what most people mean by faith. In the second round of this year’s men’s NCAA basketball tournament Michigan State found themselves down 14 points to North Carolina, 83-69, with one minute to go. In ordinary language, I might have been admonished to “keep the faith” or “have faith” that they’d pull off a miracle. In other words, faith is typically understood as having a desire for something that is always highly unlikely and often entirely irrational. Faith is colloquially used to refer to misguided, unfounded hope.

The kind of faith the missions team has in mind and the kind of faith Hebrews 11:1 speaks of is very different, though. Unlike my fake “faith” in the basketball game, genuine faith, Hebrews 11:1 faith, is not wishful thinking. It is trust in that which is certain. It is not a shot in the dark, but perfectly-grounded, deep conviction.

We are right to ask how it is possible to have certainty and perfectly-grounded conviction in invisible, future things. The answer, as we’ll soon see, is the promises of God. Genuine, biblical faith is always, always, always rooted in a specific promise of God. No promise from God, no legitimate faith. God’s promise, certain outcome.

The question before us, then, is what promises has God made concerning missions which would properly ground our faith? We’ll come back to that in a bit.

What is Obedience?

Finally, and most simply, if we are to consider well the role of faith and obedience in missions, we need to define obedience. What, then, is obedience? More specifically, what do the missions team and God’s Word mean when they talk about obedience?

I’ll give you the new-Dave definition and then follow it up with a few passages to help you see where I got it from. Christian obedience, according to my understanding of God’s word, is grace-fueled, command-specific, joyful-conformity.

It is grace-fueled in that we cannot obey without God’s help. John 15:5 helps us to see this, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

It is command-specific in that it is only genuine obedience when it is in response to a right understanding of a specific command of God. We see this in passages like John 2:3, “We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments.

And it is joyful-conformity in that true and full obedience is always done all the way and with a heart of gladness; happy in the knowledge that whatever the result, you are pleasing the LORD. Of this, in Hebrews 12:2 we read of Jesus’ perfect example, …for the joy that was set before him [Jesus] endured the cross…

As I hope you all know, obedience is never the reason anyone is reconciled to God, but it is always the growing result. It is never the cause of our salvation, but it is inevitably the consequence of it. And the more we grow in our faith, the more we see obedience as a gracious, joyful, conformity, to the perfect will of God.

The question that leaves us with, then, is what commands has God given concerning missions which His people ought to obey?


To answer that and a number of the other questions I left unanswered, let’s turn now to the final section of this sermon and our passage for this morning, Hebrews 11. There we will find the role of faith and obedience in missions.

Hebrews 11

Hebrews 11 is often called the “Hall of Faith,” for in it, many men (and a woman) of God are commended for their specific expressions of faith in God. That is, many are specifically named as having received commands and promises of God and having faithfully obeyed, even at great cost.

Able was commanded to make an acceptable sacrifice and was promised commendation and righteousness (4).

Enoch was commanded to walk with God and was rewarded by not tasting death, pleasing God, and drawing near to God (5-6).

Noah was commanded to build an ark and was promised salvation for his household and that he would be an heir of righteousness (7).

Sarah was commanded to trust God and promised that she would conceive a child in her own womb, even in her old age (11).

Isaac and Jacob were commanded to be faithful to the covenant promise of their father and grandfather and God promised to bless their sons (20-21).

Joesph was commanded to be faithful to God while in the service of a pagan king and he was promised success and deliverance (22).

Moses was commanded by God to lead His people out of Egypt and was promised a reward far greater than anything he’d give up, including salvation for his kinsmen (24-28).

The Israelites were commanded to trust God and flee Egypt and were promised to be freed from slavery (29-30). They were also commanded to walk around Jericho and were promised victory (30).

Rahab was commanded not to reveal God’s plans to her people and was promised rescue from God’s destruction (31).

In a similar way, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, and Samuel were commanded to fear and obey God and were promised kingdoms, justice, salvation, escape from danger, and victory (32-34).

Grace, the great message of Hebrews 11 is that by the gracious power of God, all these men and this woman obeyed God’s commands, and they did so in faith that God would keep His promises. Do you see the role of faith and obedience in the Christian life? It’s modeled over and over in our passage. God gives commands to us and corresponding promises for all who obey. We obey God’s commands in faith that God will keep His promises—which He always does. Missions, as we’ll see in just a bit, is no different.

Before we come to that, though, I want you to see one more thing in Hebrews 11. Perhaps you noticed that I skipped over the biggest section of our passage, which is found right in the middle of the chapter. In vs.8-19, we find Abraham’s story.

The text explicitly tells us that Abraham was commanded by God to “go out to a place…not knowing where he was going…[to] a foreign land…living in tents.” He was commanded by God to leave his homeland and become a perpetual a sojourner, a wanderer.

As we’ve seen, though, God gave Abraham more than just commands to be obeyed. He also gave promises of a reward, far beyond the cost of his obedience. Therefore, Abraham obeyed in faith that God would deliver on His promises of “an inheritance…a city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God…and descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”

Grace, that’s not all. You may remember that once God delivered the first deposit of His promise, a son of Sarah, Isaac, Abraham was commanded to “offer up Isaac,” to sacrifice (to kill) his only son on an alter to God. Again, Abraham obeyed God in faith that God would keep His promises even if that meant raising “him [Isaac] from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”

What’s more, in the middle of the story of Abraham’s faith we’re told that neither he nor his offspring received the full measure of the promises of God during their lifetimes.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

Abraham and his offspring understood God’s promises were ultimately of an eternal nature. They knew they would experience partial fulfillment of God’s promises in this life, but only fully in the next. It was that same mindset that led the faithful saints of the rest of Hebrews 11 to remain faithful even though…

Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

Again, the nature of the faith of Abraham and the Hebrews 11 saints was such that they obeyed, making

14 … it clear that they [were] seeking a [different kind of] homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 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 for them a city.

The point of all of this is that Hebrews 11 takes us on a truly remarkable walk through much of the OT, showing over and over God’s pleasure in His people, who obey His commands, through faith in His promises—promises to bless those who obey in ways that are staggeringly, eternally, infinitely beyond whatever cost their obedience demands.

In all of this, I hope you have seen that obedience requires commands and faith requires promises. What, then, is the role of faith and obedience in missions?


God’s people give ourselves to obey all of God’s commands, because God promises everlasting rewards for all who do. Likewise, we give ourselves to missions because God commands us to do so and promises sweet blessings for all who obey in faith.

The chief missions command, as Mat showed us last week, comes from the mouth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20a).

And the chief missions promise follows right on its heels.

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b).

There are many more commands and many more promises pertaining to missions, but the heart of the matter is simple. God’s people are commanded to engage in missions and we are promised that Jesus will be with us as we do. We are to obey, therefore, in faith that God will keep His promises that Jesus’, with all authority, will be with us and accomplish through us all of His purposes among the nations.

As we do, it’s possible that we too will be tortured, suffer mocking, flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. We too might be stoned and even sawn in half. We might be killed with the sword. We might need to go about in skins of sheep and goats, and be destitute, afflicted, mistreated. We too might be driven to wander about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

But even if that’s the case, by obeying in faith, we too make it clear that we are seeking a homeland that is not of this earth, a better country; that is, a heavenly one. And by obeying in faith, no matter the earthly cost, we too live in the knowledge that God is not ashamed to be called our God and that He has prepared for us a city to dwell in as His beloved sons and daughters forever and ever and ever.

So, Grace Church, the big idea of this sermon is the answer to the question of the role of faith and obedience in missions. It is that God commands His people to take part in missions and He has promised to be with us to strengthen and reward us as we obey in faith. Therefore, the main takeaway from all of this is to find one specific way to grow in your love for and trust in God’s missions promises so that you can find one specific way to grow in your obedience to God’s missions commands.

Consider obeying God’s missionary charge, in faith, in a greater way today by:

  1. Praying for one of our missionaries every day.
  2. Going to or and praying for a different nation each day.
  3. Sending a letter (or text or do a video chat) of encouragement to each of our missionaries once a month (or one missionary once/month).
  4. Reaching out to one of our missionaries once a month to ask what need they have that you could meet.
  5. Becoming your DG’s point person for your missionary. Forming a more robust care team for them.
  6. Prayerfully reading a missionary biography (or ten) this year.
  7. Joining the missions team.
  8. Joining the Adams’ prayer and financial support team so they can go soon and well.
  9. Working with the missions team to find a short-term trip to go on. God used my first short-term trip to simultaneously impress upon me that I probably wasn’t called to be a long-term missionary, but also the inescapable need to find, train, and support those who are.
  10. Praying daily for God to grant you a Holy Spirit burden to take the gospel where it isn’t. Begin exploring long-term missions opportunities.


At the end of the day, as we contemplate grace-fueled, command-specific, joyful-conformity to God’s missions commands in light of God’s great missions promises, it’s good to be honest about the fact that everything we do involves a cost-benefit analysis.

Kids, you know this. When you go home tonight, some of you have schoolwork to finish up before class tomorrow. Maybe you have a paper due or a test to study for. At the same time, you’d really like to take a nap after church and come back for G2g. In deciding how to balance all of that, you’re doing a cost-benefit analysis. If you choose the benefit of taking a nap and going to G2g, you’ll have to pay the cost of staying up really late tonight and probably not doing as well on the assignment. On the other hand, if you skip your nap and G2g, you’ll have more time for your work, you won’t have to stay up so late, and you’ll probably get a better grade, but you’ll do so at the cost of rest, fun, time with your friends, and another chance to grow in your faith. You have to decide which option provides the best cost-to-benefit ratio.

Again, that’s what we all do in every decision we make. In the example I just gave, there probably isn’t a clear and obvious answer. The costs and benefits of both are comparable. On the other hand, that’s not always the case. Sometimes the cost far outweighs the benefit or the benefit far outweighs the cost. If you wanted to lose five pounds and you could do so by simply cutting back from five donuts/day to four, no problem. On the contrary, if you needed to run 20 miles/day and eat only kale and tofu to do so, no chance; the cost is just too high for such a minimal benefit.

In conclusion, I’d like to remind you all, once again, that faithful obedience to any of God’s commands, and His missions commands in particular, will almost certainly cost you significantly. At the very least, it will cost you some amount of comfort, time, or money. At most it will cost you your life, or the life of someone you love. We all know that. And so we inevitably do a cost/benefit analysis. We ask ourselves, if it’s worth it.

“You make known to me the path of life [which includes missions and all its costs]; in your presence [I am with you always] there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).