Summary: A look at faith: What it is and what it isn’t; and where it comes from
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
How’s your faith doing today?
Some of you might think that’s an inappropriate question to be asking of those who are gathered together in a sanctuary on a Sunday morning to worship God.
But the fact is, even those who come every week, sometimes more than that, can have moments of weakness in their faith.
There are times when we are so affected by things of this world; illness, relationships gone wrong, unemployment or underemployment, war, famine, pestilence, death, that we begin to wonder if God really meant it when He said, “Never will I leave you; Never will I forsake you.”
Most of us know those words were written in the book of Hebrews, the 19th book of the canon of the NT, but they actually had their origin in the OT.
In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses was addressing the people of Israel. They were nearing the end of their wandering in the desert and Moses was nearing the end of his life. He knew that there would still be struggles and battles ahead for the people whom he had led to the brink of the Promised Land, and he spoke these words:
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
Joshua was God’s next chosen leader. He was to lead the people of Israel into the land promised to their father Abraham. In the first chapter of the account of Joshua’s leadership of this chosen people, God addressed this son of Nun. He said: No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
In the book of I Kings, Solomon had just dedicated the new Temple he had built to the Lord. He then blessed the people of Israel with these words, remembering God’s promise: May the LORD our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may he never leave us nor forsake us.
In the prophet Isaiah’s inspired words, in the first Servant Song recorded in chapter 42 we hear the pre-incarnate Christ say: I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.
God has made this promise to those who have faith in Him.
But Pastor, you may be thinking, you just said that sometimes our faith is weak. What about then?
To answer that, we turn to the words of St. Paul in his second letter to Timothy. He writes: Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.
So I guess that brings us to the real heart of our question that I posed at the beginning of the message: How’s your faith doing today?
How can we know?
To start with, I guess we really have to have an understanding of what faith is.
How do you describe faith?
I’ve said many times that faith isn’t something that you can go down to the store and look for on the shelves. You can’t go out and purchase a can of faith. Faith isn’t like Jolt. You can’t drink a bunch of it and expect your faith to go soaring.
Faith isn’t a decision. It’s not as though, when you’re having a bad day, a bad week, a bad month, or a bad year in your life, you can sit down and say: “That’s it. I’m just going to have more faith!”
That may work for a little while. Then you start to wonder: “Is my faith strong enough? Things still aren’t working out God.
Come on Man, how much more do I have to pray, go to church; how much more to I have to give of my wallet or of myself before I can truly feel like I’ve given enough?”
So faith isn’t something we decide we’re going to build up on our own.
So what is it?
We see a real good example of faith in today’s Gospel text.
This is the famous story of the two disciples who are returning to their home after the death of Jesus.
Talk about two guys who are down in the dumps.