Summary: A discussion on the contours of faith
Beyond What We Can See
Hebrews 11: 1 - 10; 11: 32 - 12: 3
CALVIN CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCH
He stood at the precipice between life and death, a knife open ready to slit himself and die quickly. The future black as inky night. Everything that he worked so long and hard for had just crumbled around his ears. Literally. When his superiors found out he knew that everything would be taken away. Humiliation. Jail. Maybe even the death sentence. So - best end it now, while he’s still in control. Do it, before they do it to you.
You’ve probably read his story - the Philippian Jailer in Acts 16, overseeing the incarceration of Paul & Silas when an earthquake rocked the prison, miraculously freeing all the inmates. They remain, however.
The jailer drops to his knees before Paul & Silas - "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
And the famous answer......... remember the words?
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved - you and your household."
This one word stands at the very heart of the Bible’s message.
Believe - have faith.
What is it – to have faith?
What are some of the contours of this cornerstone of Christian living?
Join me in a time of reflection on this topic, beginning with a reading from Scripture -
HEBREWS 11: 1 - 10; 11: 32 - 12: 3
Key to the entire passage are the opening words of ch.11:
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
The Greek for our English "being sure" was a word that also carried connotations of:
- something than can be absolutely be relied upon; trusted
Faith - it’s not merely the purview of churched folk. In very elementary ways everybody exercises faith on a regular basis. Perhaps not in a spiritual sense, but they do exercise faith;
faith as confidence, certainty, relying upon and trusting something or someone.
Some of you travel extensively for work. You exercise faith every time you step onto that airplane; exercising confidence, certainty and trust that the support personnel, traffic control and flight crew all have things well in hand to bring you to your destination.
When you sit down in a restaurant to enjoy a meal, you practice at least some measure of confidence, certainty and trust that the cook had clean hands and that the server didn’t sneeze on your salad or slobber in your soup.
When you came into church this evening you showed confidence, certainty and trust that the pews would hold you. I didn’t see a single person checking underneath to make sure the screws were securely fastened or shaking the bench to ensure that glue joints were still tight. You plunked down.
As specifically defined by Hebrews 11:1, it is not an imaginary product of the human soul; it is not a form of desperate wishful thinking which we stir up because of some desires or needs or concerns.
It is based in something firm and real, even though beyond the reach of human senses. It is based in the living, eternal person of God.
Which, up until the last few years has been very difficult for the Modern Western Society to swallow. Modern society had its roots in the Enlightenment, in the age of reason. At the risk of hyper-simplification we can say about Modernity that whatever could be apprehended by the senses was given preeminence; was considered to be connected with "reality." It mattered the most and was pushed to the centre whenever decisions of significance needed to be made. If one could understand it and apprehend it, then it was given high marks.
Cut away from that, put on a separate plate and removed to a side room, as it were, were all things non-sensory.
Can you hear the word "nonsense" in there??
It was the stuff that didn’t really matter; sidebar material.
And that dualism has held centre stage for a long, long time.
Body and soul; mind and heart. The first you rely on. The second is OK, but of a secondary nature.
Drastic simplification, I know.
But basically, that’s how it worked.
Because of this drastic split, this deep dualism, faith ended up to be a cheapened word, and certainly not one that was eagerly associated with everyday living.
Recently that has all begun to change.
As I mentioned last week, society is moving beyond modernity to a post-modern era. The assumption that reason was royal, that science could solve all woes, at in time the basic goodness of humanity would rise to the surface has crumbled to the ground.
The dualism between the spiritual world and the material world, the huge gap which Modernity created, has begun to shrink drastically.