Summary: This sermon is to inspire us to "live by faith" despite what happens in our life and the world around us.
Max Lucado tells a story in his recent book "Come Thirsty" that is so humerous, but has me a little worried about Max. In it, he has a conversation with a fly... (read it)...
So then why is it, that we try to fly the thing ourselves?; fix it without relying upon the power of God?; Or worse yet, we get so distracted we doubt, in the very moments that we need faith most?
I once heard a story told about Methodist Bishop Russell. He had a son, John, who from a very early age was diagnosed with a disease that would one day place him in a wheelchair. Bishop Russell thought it best if John sat with a member of the congregation who was in a wheelchair where he could begin to learn and adapt. Because of the inadequate arrangement of the Sanctuary the only handicapped seating was way in the back. Before the service, this woman would sit complaining to John. She complained that she didn’t like where she had to sit. She complained about not being able to see. She complained about resteraunts, and anything that she felt was not designed to suit her needs. One day, just before the service was to begin, she turned to John and asked "Do you really know what a handicapped person is?". "Yes", said John eagerly, "It’s anyone with a stinking attitude".
Maybe John is right. You can be in a wheelchair and still have a positive mental attitude. You can be in the middle of a difficult situation and still have faith. When something happens, like illness, or tragedy, the actual event is only a fraction of the situation. Maybe 10%, if that. The other 90% then, has to do with your reaction. With how you handle it. With your attitude; with your response. The question may really be, will you respond "with faith" or "without faith".
"Faith! Walking by faith, takes decision and action. You must decide whether you will respond in faith, and belief, or if your response will be one of dis-belief and doubt. While I was in Cotulla, a leading member of the congregation passed away after a battle with cancer. Her daughter-in-law sang a song at her funeral entitled "She had no fear". Why? Because of the woman’s reaction to the news that she had cancer was to have faith. To live her life, even unto death, living by faith.
Paul speaks of this kind of faith in Romans and in other passages of Scripture. Paul is very clear that we are to be obediant to our belief in Jesus Christ. We often talk about what God does, and that it is His grace that is working in our lives. God is able to do so much more through faith. It is God who heals, but he will use our little measure of faith to bring that healing into our lives. When we are obediant to believe, then God will take that belief and grow it from a small mustard seed into the ability to throw that mountain into the sea.
(1) Faith! It is a relatively simple word that we Christians seem to throw around now and again. Perhaps we each have been "given a measure of faith" but sometimes we seem to have "great faith" (Mat 8:10) or at other times "no faith" (Mark 4:40). We might at times pray for God to "increase our faith" (Luke 17:5). Though Jesus paid the price, we become "justified by faith" (Rom 3:28), and no less are we "sanctified by faith in Me (Jesus)" (Acts 26:18). The "righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith" (Rom 1:17). "Faith comes from hearing" (Rom 10:17). We "walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor 5:7), and we are to "abide in faith" (1 Cor 13:13). We know that we are to take up the "shield of faith" (Eph 6:16). But just what is faith?
The Hebrew author tells us that "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1). My "sight" has not ever seen Jesus (except at work in His people); and though I have not seen Him with my own eyes, He is the thing that I Hope in, and for. "Faith then gives a reality to things that remain unseen, treating them as if they were already objects of sight rather than hope." (Ryrie Study Bible)
A friend of mine often asks "Why are people so ready to raise their hands to go to a place they have never seen?", meaning Heaven. I always interrupt his train of thought and say "Because I believe it is there, and I have Hope!" I have hope in the Heaven that has been promised me, though I have not seen it with my own eyes. When the Hebrew writer speaks of the great fathers and mothers of faith: Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, rahab he writes: "These all died in faith, not having received the promises but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (Hebrews 11:13). They trusted in what they could not see, and though knowing it was even a far off promise, they were assured that they were but aliens on this earth, destined to be brought home. Faith is really an assurance of something hoped for, that "blessed assurance" that Jesus is mine. So why not faith?