Sunday, September 28, 2014

Just a Little Faith

It might take more than a little bit.

It is Friday night. Just a couple of clicks before midnight.
I'm just now starting to form some thoughts to the blog page for this sermon.
Maybe it's because I'm still stewing on what exactly to write about this subject.
I have allowed this subject to simmer on the back burner of my mind all week.
In the same light as that first question I asked my now wife of 12 years waaaaay back when we first met in 1999, "SO, what do you think about Jesus?" She stopped eating her turkey and cheese sandwich as we sat over looking the pond at Muskingum College and responded, "That's a pretty deep subject." Yes, it is. Faith is also a pretty deep subject. Sometimes it requires a lot of stewing and simmering to get it where it needs to be.

The 11th chapter of Hebrews jumps head long into the subject of faith.
It covers nearly everyone you could think of in biblical OT history that was touched by the subject of faith. All the big players are there. Noah. Abraham. Moses. And, many smaller players in the biblical account. The pool is big and the subject is deep and vast. However, the spring board is verse 1 and it gives us reason to stop and think before simply jumping in.

Hebrews 11:1

New International Version (NIV)

Faith in Action

11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

What do you hope for? In our graph, that represents our lives, how many squares could be filled with things we hope for? Thinking about that allows me to open the door to this important note. Sometimes this sanctification thing isn't about just covering one square or one thing or one subject at a time. Sometimes there are many things tied together or held together by one area. And, if that one are goes kaput it could affect many different areas. Faith is just such an area. We need faith and we need it everywhere.

I have shared this subject of sanctification with many folks over the years since that summer school of 1999 when Dr Stephen Green opened the door to this wily subject. I was part of a cluster group that met in Lithopolis with a mixture of male and female clergy. One of those female clergy was quick to point out to me that this graph is very male in nature. It looks like an eggo waffle, doesn't it? She was at a conference where the speaker was covering the subject in much the same fashion as I was explaining sanctification. The speaker shared that the eggo-likeness explained how men tend to handle things. One square at a time. One subject or area at a time. Women are different. Women might have a dozen things on their mind all at once. He took a wad of cooked spaghetti and put it on his waffle. His point was to show how intertwined it all was. Many of the subjects and issues in our lives can be like this - intertwined. Maybe women need to slow down and handle things one square at a time. Maybe men need to kick it in gear and handle more than one thing at a time. It's a very stereotypical suggestion, I know. Men and women are complex creatures. That's why faith is needed all the more. Lets take a look at some of the men and women suggested by the writer of Hebrews to be people we should consider as people of "faith".

If Merriam-Webster calls faith a "strong belief in something for which there is no proof", then who on this list is living that way? Many men are mentioned. Some of them we could undoubtedly place in the category of "righteous & holy". Abel seemed to live without any reason to blame him. He did what was right and offered what he needed to give to the Lord. This guy named Enoch just lived on faith and actually walked up into heaven. How much faith does that take? After the first two are mentioned a list begins that leaves you wondering. Some of their stories we know more about. We know a bit about their personal integrity. We know their short comings. We know where they have failed in the course of their story and lives. Yet, there is an unshakeable notion about what they clung to and believed in. 

He might have gotten drunk at one point, but Noah hung on to the vision of building an ark and saving his family and all the animals. Abraham might have put the family promise in jeopardy, not once, but twice. Yet, he did what God asked of him and hung on to the belief that God would make his descendants "as many as the stars in the sky". His grandchildren Jacob & Esau, come along and argue and fight over the promise of who will carry it on. Maybe they don't truly understand what God wants to do here. Maybe it's that earthly desire to be "daddy's little boy" and be first in line for his blessings. Later, they seem to understand what God wants for their lives. Even their mother, Sarah, laughs at the idea that God would bless her with a son. Isaac would come just as God promised. 

Moses is an odd story. Born a Hebrew. Given away and raised as an Egyptian. Kills a man to protect his own. His own don't particularly act like they want him, so he flees. After 40 years, comes back and is the rescuer of his own people. Burning bush moments don't happen everyday. What a moment seared into the heart and a mind of a person. He hangs on to that faith all the way to the edge of the promise land. God took a man who thought he had nothing and used him for something. 

There's only two women mentioned in this passage. We touched on Sarah. To be a women in advanced years and told she was going to have a child. Can you imagine? Sure, it's everything she ever wanted, but who could blame her for laughing? The mere thought would sound ridiculous. Who knows their body better than a woman? She knows she is well along in years. She knows the time for that kind of blessing is well past her. Yet, God is able to do this miracle. The spiritual outranks the physical. God is able to do abundantly more than we could ever ask or think.

How about Rahab? It's funny that a foreigner would get mentioned. But, then again, she gave all she had for those Israelites. In turn, she becomes one of them. She believes that the promise they are seeking is better than what she had in Jericho. She becomes a sojourner with them. They are seeking a promised land. They are looking for the promise that God has set before them. Rahab leaves all that she knows and has lived behind her and take on their belief. There is better ahead, down the road. Does she have family? Children? We don't know. Maybe she has nothing in her current predicament. People who feel as if they have nothing can lay it aside and move along. The promise of the blessing is better than hanging on with nothing to hold. 

Then I stumbled on to v39 in this chapter...
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,

 What? None of them received what had been promised?
I'm a bit taken back. What do you mean they didn't get what they were promised? Going back over the stories I wondered about their outcomes. Abel was killed. He had been promised a great blessing, but Cain kind of messed that up. Enoch might be the only one who got the real blessing, walking right up into heaven. Noah got the human race a brand new fresh start, but the problem of sin still permeated the human nature. Abraham was promised his descendants would be as many as the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore. But, he never got to actually see it. Moses was chosen to lead his people to the promised land, but never got to actually go in there himself.

I have to stop and think for a moment. What was actually promised to them?
Read vv 39 & 40 together.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Have you ever been promised something and didn't get it?
If we revert in to our childlike selves and think back I'm sure things will come to mind.
A trip to the park. An overnight at grandma's house. A dollar someone owed us.
Did mom or dad ever say they were going to do something and then didn't follow through?
Was our heart ever broken at the promise not fulfilled? Many things come our way. Many things in life don't work out the way they should. Maybe we sit and have a pity party for ourselves. Or, maybe we realize there is something better to wait upon than the blessing we were promised.

God has planned something better for us. Do you want to know what's ahead?
Is there something you can put your faith in to and wait upon? That's what we do as human beings. We are full of faith. We put our faith in things everyday. We believe our car will start. If it doesn't, we believe there will someone who can fix it. If that doesn't work out, we believe we will find another. If that doesn't work out, someone, somewhere, will help us make it to work. If we end up loosing our job because we cannot make it, because out car broke down, there will be another job, closer to home, maybe. We believe in the best working out for us. We believe that God loves us and is working for our best in the everyday of our lives. We not see every promise fulfilled. Nevertheless, we press on. And, we believe for what we cannot see.

Maybe it takes more than just a little bit of faith.
How ever much it takes, may God bless us with enough to hang on.

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