Many of us say we have faith. We confess our faith in the words of the Apostles Creed saying, “I believe in God the Father. I believe in Jesus Christ our Lord. I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit.” We have 12 young adults who will affirm their faith this weekend in the rite of confirmation. They have taken the step of saying the faith their parents took on for them when they were baptized will now be theirs. It is not a graduation. It does not mean they now know everything. It means they want to own their faith. We will continue to walk with them as they continue to grow.
Sometimes our faith is tested, stretched and battered. The evil one does not want us to have faith in the Lord but in him and his evil, destructive ways. Sometimes our faith gets a bit wobbly. This is when we hang on to the Lord for all we are worth. The hard part for us is, we like to be able to see what we have faith in. We like to use our five senses to verify everything. But faith in the Lord does not work that way. We see these words of Jesus in John 20:29. ”Then Jesus told him, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen me and yet have believed.” Only a limited number of people in a very limited part of the world had the opportunity to see Jesus in person. The rest of us walk by faith and not by sight. And there is power in not seeing and yet believing.
As those who claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior, we are called to trust that what we have learned and experienced of Jesus is in fact true and can be believed. Because all things are possible for the one who believes. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:8-9, ” For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” We have been saved by the grace of God though Jesus Christ. He is the source of our salvation. Faith is the channel, not the cause. Only God saves. Salvation NEVER originates in the efforts of people. It always arises out of the loving kindness of God. We cannot do anything to earn our salvation. And here is the best part. Even our belief in God does not originate in us. This too is a gift, so that we do not take pride in our positions as believers.
Paul also reminds us in Romans 10:17, ”So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” We are not born with faith. We must be taught about our Lord and Savior. Part of our faith comes from learning, believing, listening and acting on what we have heard and read. Spending time in the Word of God is vital to our growth. And the deeper you dive into the Word, the deeper your faith will grow.
Hebrews 11:1 tells us, ”Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” This verse isn't so much a definition of faith as it is a description of what faith does. Faith treats things hoped for as reality. Faith proves that what is unseen is real, such as the believers reward at the return of Christ. Hebrews chapter 11 is a mighty chapter. If you have not read it lately, I invite you to do that today. It is always good to be reminded of the faithful that have gone on before us...a great cloud of witnesses.
In John 8:24 we see Jesus say, ”Unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.” I AM is God's designation for Himself. We see that first in Exodus 3:14. Here Jesus uses the same name, one of his ways of telling people He is God without coming right out and saying I AM God. Jesus is teaching in the temple treasury here and the religious authorities are seeking ways to kill Him, but no one does because it is not yet His time. The warning, however, is clear. Jesus came to bring forgiveness of Sins and salvation. But if we choose to not believe who He says He is, we face a very long and awful eternity.
Here are some random thoughts about faith. Faith does not take us out of problems that come our way. Smooth sailing was never part of the promise. Faith will instead, bring us through the problems and challenges. Faith doesn't take pain away either. But it does give us the ability to handle it. Knowing we have a place to turn when we feel lost, drifting or are at the end of ourselves, is priceless. Faith does not take us out of the storm. The storms are where we are pulled and stretched in our faith and our relationship with the Lord grows. Faith instead, calms us in the midst of the storms.
Let me leave you with these words Paul wrote to the Thessalonians. “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11. We are all in this together. We all are in our own faith journey. But we do not travel alone. We go together, in and by the grace of God.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W