Demeter shows Chapel how faith can save you

Jon Demeter (right) demonstrates what it means to truly trust God -- by having a family friend fall backward off a ladder and trust that someone was there to catch her.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. – Hebrews 11:8

Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Garrett Ohrenberg
GCU News Bureau

With example after example, Jon Demeter demonstrated Monday what faith in God looks like.  

Demeter talks to his "volunteer" after she comes onstage ...

It is like a roller-coaster, the Executive Pastor of Redemption Peoria told the Chapel audience in Grand Canyon University Arena.

It is filled with sacrifices and tests.

It is, as Abraham learned centuries ago, guided by only one kind of GPS – a God Positioning System.

Demeter first mapped it out by having a GCU senior, the daughter of his longtime Bible mentor, come onstage and do whatever he asked her to do.

“Do you trust me?” he kept asking as he had her pull her mask over her eyes to serve as a blindfold.

She wholeheartedly affirmed her trust until he had her climb three steps of a ladder. The “Yes!” turned to a far more concerned “Mm hmm,” and then he asked something even more concerning – he asked her to fall backward.

... helps her climb the ladder ...

He had someone ready to catch her, of course, just as God is right behind us, no matter what.

“You don’t know where you’re going … you feel blindfolded in life,” Demeter said, “and it doesn’t make any sense to fall back and God says, ‘I want you to fall back.’”

Trust is hard to come by in the world these days. Many of us, he noted, have been betrayed by someone we thought we could trust – a parent, a friend.

“So what we’ve done is we’ve put up this imaginary shield of not trusting people,” he said.

He showed a video of a dad having his son do exactly what Demeter earlier demonstrated – the faith required to fall backward from a ladder. But in the video, the dad walks away without catching the boy, saying, “Rule number one: Never trust anybody.”

... and then watches as she begins her fall.

“Here’s the problem,” Demeter said. “People will let you down. But when you begin to project that mentality into your relationship with God and you always want to trust Him as far as you can hold things together, that’s not faith.”

As Hebrews 11:6 says:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

Abraham is the perfect example of faith, Demeter said, because of what he did in Genesis, chapters 12 to 22. Same deal there – God told him to leave his comfortable life and go to a foreign land. Abraham was tested in many ways during that long journey, and it went well as long as he trusted God by faith – but he didn’t always.

In other words, it was like a roller-coaster.

“And I don’t know about you,” Demeter said, “but that is massively comforting to me because my faith journey in trusting God … when He says to do something and I’m like, ‘God, that doesn’t make any sense. Why would I do that?’, He says, ‘Trust me.’”

What can we learn from Abraham’s story? Demeter pointed out two lessons:

First, we have to learn what it means to sacrifice, and that requires letting go and leaving things behind.

Faith means sacrifice and being tested, Demeter said.

“Each time we relinquish something to God,” he said, “we actually travel lighter. It’s actually a good thing to sacrifice things to God. It’s self-sovereignty – ‘I’m in control, I’m in charge’ – in exchange for God’s sovereignty, that He’s in control.

“… The way of faith is always the way of sacrifice. They’re tethered together. You can’t pull them apart.”

Demeter referenced what Paul wrote in Romans 12:1-2:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will.

Demeter shared his frustrations when he was in college, a time, or so he thought, for meeting his future wife. He would trust God for a short time, until he saw friends in relationships and wondered why God hadn’t blessed him in a similar way.

God has His own clock.

"God does not tempt us," Demeter said. "He tests us."

“The problem with a living sacrifice is it crawls off the altar,” Demeter said, “and this was me with my career, with relationships, of going, ‘God, I trust You, I believe in You.’ And then a couple weeks would go by and I’m like, ‘This doesn’t seem to be happening, God, so I better take control because You didn’t get the memo’ – time and time and time again until God said, ‘Stop!’”

And that sacrifice needs to be something you care about.

“You’re giving something dear,” he added. “You’re putting something on the altar you don’t care about, it’s not really a sacrifice, is it?”

Second, faith means being tested – something that doesn’t come naturally in today’s culture.

“God does not tempt us,” Demeter said. “He tests us.”

James 1:13-15 spells this out:

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

“Faith is not the way to God on our terms; it’s the way to God on God’s terms,” Demeter said.

It is not a question of how much faith we have, Demeter emphasized. It is a matter of keeping our focus on Jesus.

He disputes the idea that it is a question of how much faith you have. Instead, it is the object of your faith that matters.

When Jesus invited Peter to join Him in walking on water, Peter was actually able to do that until he took his eyes off the Lord and started looking at his circumstances – the waves, the fact that normal human beings don’t walk on water.

“Don’t look at the circumstances,” Demeter said. “Look at Jesus.”

He cited another example: The true hero in a trapeze act is the person who catches the performers if they fall. They can do those flips because they trust in the person below.

“We’ll say we trust God but only so far, as long as I can hold it together, God. And God, the God of the Bible, is saying, ‘Trust me. Trust me! I will catch you. Trust me. I’ve got you. I’ll provide for you. I love you. Trust me – I will do it.”

And if you don’t feel as if you know God or are hearing from Him, Demeter advised surrounding yourself with people who love Jesus.

“Be around God, be around His Word, because that’s the way you can fall back,” he said.

And climb the ladder to true faith.

● Chapel replay.

Next Monday: No Chapel (Presidents Day holiday)

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


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GCU Today: Griffin centers Chapel talk on shifting margins

GCU Today: Chapel: Don't pass up lessons from life's offenses

GCU Today: Moore sets a high bar for Musical Worship Chapel


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