Summary: We talk about having faith in one another, in God, in sport teams - but what is auntic faith really? On top of that, is this guy named Jesus even worthy of our faith?
I want to start off tonight by throwing a few scenarios at you guys where I want you to think about how you would feel about God and what you would say to Him, if anything, if you were in that situation. As I read each one, take a moment just to place yourself in the story and write your thoughts down on your sermon outline.
Scenario #1 – At Breakaway last week, you shared with your small group leader that you had a huge test in English class on Wednesday and you asked for prayer that you would do well. The group closed in prayer with, not only your leader, but you and a friend as well praying for the test. On Tuesday night, you spend time studying and ask God for His help once again. Again, on Wednesday, as you sat down in English class, you whispered a prayer again and got to work confident that God would answer your prayer. On Thursday, when you got to English class, you sat down and awaited the return of the tests. When you got your test back your heart dropped as you saw that your score was a 67. Where was God? How do you feel about your prayers?
Scenario #2 – Your parents have been fighting more and more lately and you are beginning to get worried. For the past few weeks before you have gone to bed, you have taken a few moments to pray and ask God to stop the fighting and make them happy again. You miss time with your parents that aren’t tense and stressful. You just want to be a happy family, just like some of your friend’s families are. After about month of praying and things seeming to get better, your parents sit you down and tell you they are getting divorced. Where was God? How do you feel about Him?
Scenario #3 – On September 11, 2001 you sat and watched new reports of two planes that crashed into the World Trade Towers in New York City and one that crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, VA. When all was said and done, there were 2,973 fatalities: 246 on the four planes, 2,602 in New York City in the towers and on the ground, and 125 at the Pentagon. Among the fatalities were 343 New York City Fire Department firefighters, 23 New York City Police Department officers, and 37 Port Authority Police Department officers. An additional 24 people remain listed as missing. Where was God?
These are only three scenarios of situations that can rattle our faith in God and challenge our belief in Him. If we really wanted to, we could come up with a number of other situations and stories that make us ask the questions “Why?” and “Where is God?” These things make us question God’s promises to always take care of us and to answer our prayers. A lot of people, when confronted with these questions decide to turn away from God and give up their belief in Him. Some would say they have given up their faith, but I think I would raise the question of whether or not they had faith to begin with to give up.
A lot of people look at faith in the following way. They take the things that are happening right now and the way they are feeling right now, (such as right after any of the scenarios we just described), and they use that to determine what they believe. (Stanley and Hall in The Seven Checkpoints). That is not faith but merely belief based upon emotion and the moment. Real, authentic faith goes so far deeper than that and is what I want to focus on for tonight.
In Hebrews 11:1, faith is defined as “the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Let’s break this definition into two different parts to help us understand what real faith is. First off, authentic faith is not found or rooted in “the right now” but it is instead focused on the future. It is “the confidence of what we hope for will actually happen” (future tense). True faith doesn’t just latch on to everything going on around them and the emotions that are surging through them at the time of a certain situation but instead confidently hopes, being sure without evidence in the future and that God will come through in the end.
This brings us right into the second half of the definition. Faith gives us “assurance about things we cannot see.” Sometimes, the way that God comes through in the end is not what we would have expected or the way we expected it to happen. When we react according to certain emotions or a particular situation we are ignoring what God might be doing in the future through those things. Faith is sticking it out with God or whatever we may be doing, trusting that there are things “we cannot see” that are developing for ours or others benefit.