THE RIGHT STUFF
On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik 1 satellite starting the Cold War competition with the United States known as the Space Race. In response to the Sputnik launch, the President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, decided to create a new civilian agency called NASA, which would be responsible for the overall direction of the American space program. NASA was established on October 1, 1958 and later that same year it was decided that the human spaceflight project would be called Project Mercury. The objective of Project Mercury was to launch a man into Earth’s orbit, return him safely to the Earth, and evaluate his capabilities in space. The name “astronaut” was coined for those who would be selected to fly into space. At the end of the selection process a group of seven men were selected for Project Mercury. The seven original American astronauts were Navy Lieutenant Scott Carpenter, Air Force Captain Gordon Cooper, Marine Lieutenant Colonel John Glenn, Air Force Captain Gus Grissom, Navy Lieutenant Commander Wally Schirra, Navy Lieutenant Commander Alan Shepard, and Air Force Captain Deke Slayton. They were called the Mercury Seven and created a new profession in the United States, and established the image of the American astronaut for decades to come.
The 1983 movie, The Right Stuff, followed the Navy, Marine, and Air Force test pilots who were involved in aeronautical research at Edwards Air Force Base, California, as well as the Mercury Seven. The movie begins in 1947 with civilian and military test pilots, such as, Chuck Yeager, flight-testing high-speed aircraft. World War II hero Captain Chuck Yeager is given the chance to attempt to break the sound barrier, which he does, but he is denied the fame of his accomplishment as it is immediately classified. The movie recounts Major Yeager and friendly rival Scott Crossfield repeatedly breaking each other's speed records. After a while newly arrived United States Air Force captains Gordon "Gordo" Cooper, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, and Donald "Deke" Slayton come on the scene hoping to prove that they have "the right stuff" but are considered second-tier pilots behind Yeager and Crossfield. After the launch of the Soviet Sputnik satellite and the founding of NASA, politicians and military leaders are demanding America wage and win the emerging Space Race. When approached, Yeager is dismissive of the "spam in a can" program, saying they don't need pilots. Because of that and the fact he didn’t have a college degree he is left out of the selection process. Air Force Pilots Cooper, Grissom and Slayton decide to try out for the program as their other opportunities are limited. The movie portrays the grueling physical and mental tests given to select the initial roster of astronauts dubbed the "Mercury Seven."
In the meantime back in California, Yeager hears that a Soviet pilot holds the altitude record in a jet plane. A new Lockheed NF-104A has arrived for testing, but funding for his program is being cut as NASA's funding is increasing. Yeager decides to take it out to attempt to beat the altitude record, and upon breaking it, the jets flame out and can't be reignited. His aircraft spins out of control and he is nearly killed in a high-speed ejection. Seriously burned, Yeager simply gathers up his parachute upon landing and walks to the ambulance, proving that he still has the "right stuff." Phil Kaufman, writer and director of the movie said what he loved about the screenplay was the quality called “the right stuff” as personified by Chuck Yeager. He said, “I envisioned a movie that could be based around that central character or quality.”
The “right stuff” is defined as having the qualities needed to do or be something, especially something that most people would find difficult. It could literally be anything and everything from being the CEO of a company, a leader of a large organization, a NASCAR driver, a professional football, baseball, basketball player, or even a teacher, an electrician, a construction worker, and so much more. We all have the right stuff to do many different things, and more often than not, those are things that others would not be able to do or would not want to do. So I want you to think about this: what is the right stuff that you have that makes you special? I have mentioned before that my wife, Judy, worked for 33 years in the intellectual disabilities field. She had the right stuff to work with people with intellectual disabilities. I had a number of occasions to spend long periods of time with those folks and I realized that I didn’t not have the right stuff to work in her career. But I did have the right stuff to work with youth and have done so for over 20 years.
You also have the “right stuff”. You have the right stuff to work in the field you already work in, or have the right stuff to play a certain sport, or you may have the right stuff to be a great co-worker, friend or parent, etc. We also all have the “right stuff” when it comes to our spiritual walk or we can have the right stuff if the Holy Spirit lives within us. We have the ‘right stuff” that is needed to strive to be more like Christ, to be holy, righteous and blameless in our generation. In our scripture this morning we are going to continue to look at Noah who had the “right stuff.” In fact, God declared he had the “right stuff” when he declared him as righteous in his generation. He had the right stuff because he exemplified two important character traits. When God approached Noah about destroying the earth that he created Noah had faith in God and what he said and he obeyed what God told him to do. That brings us to our big idea this morning which is God declares those righteous who are faithful and obedient to Him. This is how we will know that God declares us righteous in our generation: If we have the right stuff, if we are living holy lives, we will be faithful and obedient to God and his Word and he will declare us righteous.
Before we look at how Noah exemplified these two traits, let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we come humbly before you and your son Jesus Christ this morning in praise and honor and worship of your glories. We ask that you would fill us with your Holy Spirit as we open your Word. Give us discernment, give us insight and give us the truths of your word that we can hide in our hearts and share with those we come in contact with this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
There are two points to the message this morning, faith and obedience. The first point is faith and it is found in Genesis 7:1-4. This is what God’s Word says, “The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.”
This is where the rubber meets the road for Noah. In last week’s message God gave Noah instructions on building the ark. He gave him very specific dimensions and gave him instructions on the animals that were to be in the ark, the people that were to be in the ark and even the food that was to be taken to sustain him and his family on the ark. Now that the ark has been built, God tells him the time is at hand to take his family and go into the ark because the flood is about to start.
Noah had been found righteous in his generation and the salvation of his family and of future humanity is specifically attributed to his righteous character. The nuance of the Hebrew word for “righteous” is having the proper attitude not necessarily the proper behavior. Noah walked with God, had the right attitude toward God, and had faith in God. He took God at his word when he said he was sending a flood to destroy the earth and wanted Noah to build an ark. Hebrews 11: 7 says, “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” Gibson says, “Real faith is about hearing God’s voice through the din of unbelief and staking one’s life on what one hears.” But we need to remember that the account of the flood is first and foremost about the grace of God before it is about the faith of Noah. The righteousness of Noah is not on his merit but was God’s gift to him in response to his personal faith. It fulfilled the purposes of God to call Noah out of the world so the world might be saved. He was the first person with whom God made a covenant. The flood account is completely God-centered not man-centered.
We see God’s careful and deliberate provision as the time of the flood approaches. In chapter 6, God commands Noah to take two of all living creatures including birds, male and female, to keep them alive with him. Now he commands Noah to take with him seven pairs, male and his female, of every clean animal and two, male and his female, of every unclean animal and seven pairs, male and female, of the birds of the sky. This is the first time in the Bible that the terms “clean” and “unclean” are used. We can assume that Noah would have understood the importance of using “clean” animals for sacrifices even though it is not mentioned. This reminds us of the sacrifices of Cain and Abel in that scripture never reveals how they knew about the concept. This was not a contradiction of God’s command in chapter 6 but an amplification of it. God was providing Noah with the proper number of animals, clean and unclean, that he would need to not only repopulate the earth’s animal kingdom after the flood but also with the proper animals with which to offer sacrifices to God after the flood. The purpose of bringing the animals on the ark was to preserve the life of their “seed.” It is surprising that the narrator of Genesis uses this word because it is usually reserved for human procreation. But it is used here because God is also committed to preserving the animal kingdom as well as the human family. Both creations, human and animal, are precious and important to God and are objects of his compassion.
God then gives Noah further information about when the flood was going to start and how long it would last. God told Noah he would be sending the rain in seven days and the rain would last for forty days and forty nights. Kidner says, “There is urgency, yet no haste, in the seven days; time for the whole task, but none for postponements.” The rain would be a regular downfall not a torrential downpour and its duration is what would make it so potent. The forty days and forty nights assured that God would do a thorough job of cleansing the earth. God is in control of all that is happening. “The number “forty” is common in the Bible. It is a feature of the sacred calendar in ancient Israel. It marked numerous events in the lives of the patriarchs and Moses. Forty was seen as a period of atonement such as when Moses fasted for forty days in contrition for the idolatry of Israel and in the forty years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for their rebellion against going into the Promised Land. The earth would suffer forty days and forty nights of rain in atonement for the evil done in Noah’s generation. God takes total responsibility for the flood and the destruction of every living creature he has made. By taking this responsibility God links the flood back to creation. The judgment of God is motivated by this evil generation that has been born out of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden which now threatens the possibility of blessing.
Imagine the faith that it took for Noah to not only build an Ark of the dimensions that God gave him but to also believe in the fact that rain was going to fall from the sky. We believe that rain falling from the sky had never happened before and this would be a new phenomenon which Noah had never experienced. Also he was going to be shut up in the ark for what will be a little over a year. Last year we had a little taste of being quarantined but imagine being quarantined in your house for a year. Noah had to have faith that at some point God would stop the rain and he would be able to get out of the ark and continue to live his life. And we can only imagine what Noah felt about every living creature being wiped from the face of the earth. What would Noah and his family find when they came out of the ark? He had to have a strong faith in God to protect, provide and sustain him and his family not only in the ark but outside on the earth once the floodwaters subsided. How does our faith get strengthened? Our faith is strengthened through trials and by seeing our prayers answered. Noah was going to have his faith strengthened during this time by God as he would be faithful to Noah by fulfilling the covenant he had made with him. Noah is the first concrete example of faith in the Bible and should be the example for us all. He is the kind of person we should be as we strive to live daily holy lives in the midst of an evil and perverse world today. That brings us to our first next step which is to follow Noah’s example of living a life of faith in God in the midst of my generation.
Our second point this morning is obedience and that is found in verses 5-10. This is what God’s Word says, “And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him. Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah. And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth.”
After God gave him all the instructions to build the ark, to fill it with clean and unclean animals and his family and the food they were to eat while in the ark, in the NASB it says, Noah “acted in accordance with everything that the Lord had commanded him.” I like how simple it was: God commanded it and Noah did it. There was no questioning of how or why or making excuses. Noah showed he had the “right stuff” by having faith in the Lord’s plan and obeying everything that God commanded him to do. The statement of Noah’s obedience was not placed here in the story at random. It was placed here in the developing story line immediately before the beginning of the flood showing it will only take place once Noah faithfully completes the tasks given to him by God. Noah showed that he was living a righteous and holy life by doing everything that the Lord commanded him to do. (BIG IDEA)
It is not good enough to just have faith in God. We also must obey his commands completely if we want to be declared righteous in our generation. James 2:14-18 says, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” Noah showed his faith by his deeds and we must do the same which brings us to our second next step which is to live out my faith in complete obedience to God and his Word.
Next we see that Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. If you remember he was five hundred years old when he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth. So it has been a hundred years since their birth. This is one of only two events in primeval history that are actually dated with the other being Creation. Verses 7-9 are the proof of Noah’s obedience mentioned in verse 5 and the fulfillment of verses 2-3. God commanded Noah to take his family and the clean and unclean animals into the ark and he does it. I have to assume that back in verses 2-3, Noah had no idea how he was going to get all the animals to come to the ark. By the power and authority of Almighty God the animals come to Noah and enter the ark. Noah didn’t have to worry because God had it all under his control. And just as God said after seven days the floodwaters came on the earth. Everything God said would happen has happened and the rain falls precisely on the day that God had forewarned a week earlier. The entire account of the flood, the fullness of its description, gives it weight and solemnity and proves it was a literal, historical event. Noah was faithful and obedient to God and we see God’s truthfulness and sovereignty as it plays out exactly as he said it would. God declared Noah righteous because of his faithfulness to God and by being obedient to everything God had commanded him to do. (Big Idea)
My conclusion comes from Briscoe’s commentary. There are few better people in the Bible that we should model our lives after than Noah. He is a supreme example of faith, obedience and holiness. Think about the ways he exemplified these traits. One, how he responded to revelation from God. Out of the blue he is told about a cataclysmic flood and he believed God. He was told to build an ark the length of one and a half football fields and fill it with a sampling of all the animals and he did it. Two, he had a relationship of trust in God. He trusted God when he told him the earth would be destroyed, when God told him to build an ark and that he would be shut up in the ark for more than a year. It is interesting that Noah never speaks in the flood narrative. He just continues to trust God no matter if he understood or not. Three, he had a readiness to obey. The job that God gave Noah was immense and he wasn’t overwhelmed by the responsibility put on him. Four, his faith brought blessing to not only him but to his family. He even blessed his “generation” because they were exposed to the truth even though they chose to ignore it. We also benefit from his faith and it should lead us to examine our own faith. Like Abel, “he being dead still speaks.” Five, he had a resource of power. The source of this power was grace and faith from God. No man could be expected to find in himself the resources to live as he lived. God gave him the power to go against the flow of his generation. In a picture of a school of fish all heading one way and a solitary fish swimming the opposite way, Noah was that solitary fish. “Any dead fish can float downstream – it takes a live one to swim against it.” Noah through his faith had the resources of strength to be a live fish. Six, his life was a rebuke to unfaithfulness. Noah probably rubbed people the wrong way because of his holiness and faith. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 tells us, “It is impossible to please God without displeasing those who are opposed to him.” Jesus showed that the same seed scattered on different ground will produce entirely different results. Not because the seed alters the soil but because the seed reveals what kind of soil it has landed on. Our testimony can be convicting. We don’t get to decide how others will respond to us though we can decide how we will respond to the godliness and holiness of others. Finally, he is a reminder to the faithful. In Mathew 24:38 it says that in Noah’s day the people were getting on with their lives and ignoring Noah and his building and preaching. Then just as quickly it was over and God’s judgment fell on them. Jesus warns his disciples that the coming of the Son of God will be the same way. We need to be ready for the Lord to return at any time. Noah’s faithfulness and obedience are powerful reminders to us to look for the glorious appearing of Jesus. Noah still has something to say to us today when we are tempted to settle into our comfortable lives just like the unbelieving that we live among.
I challenge us all to be people of God who have the “right stuff” - who don’t live the comfortable lives of the world but who strive to live a life of holiness exemplified by faith in God and obedience to him and his Word.
As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final hymn this morning, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, give us the same power you gave Noah who was found to righteous in his generation. Let us be found righteous in our generation as well, as we have faith in you, as we completely obey you and your Word and as we pursue holiness everyday of our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.