19.2.17 – Faith – Alan Judge

Bible reading: Hebrews 11: 1 – 16

Jesus once said if you had a tiny amount of faith
Faith so small that no one could see it
Faith the size of a tiny mustard seed

Then you could say to Mount Carmel,
Move from here to there and it would move.

He didn’t say why you would choose to move that amazing mountain,
Anything of the ecological effects of moving mountains
or how far.

He wasn’t really proposing moving rock and earth,
He was describing the relationship between
our perception of our faith,
and actions that flow from faith.

This saying, raises an interesting question about size.

Most of us have this idea that faith is a bit like the size of your muscles.

On one side is the body builder, rippling muscles, huge muscles

On the other side is a healthy, but less active person,
muscles not particularly noticeable.

If that was the way Jesus saw things,
Why would he say

People with faith the size of a mustard seed
can do great things for God.

It is like he is saying the size of our faith doesn’t matter too much.

Don’t get me wrong, I think faith is important
I think faith is one of the things God looks for among his people.

So what is this about the mustard seed?

Perhaps God is saying, I need you!

God is not looking for a superstar, a superhero of faith,
Who will do the impossible and be home for dinner

Instead God wants you,
with your tiny bit of faith
to be available.

The strength, the power, to change the world
comes from God not us,

He just asks people of little faith to trust in God.

This is such an encouraging scripture to people who trust God,
But don’t think they have great faith.

We simply need a great God and a little faith.

Does that sound like you?

********

There is a chapter in the Bible that talks about giants of faith, Hebrews 11

But in each case they learnt the hard way;

The strength, the power, to change the world
comes from God not us.

These are not super heroes of faith,
But people of small mustard seed sized faith, who trusted God
And sometimes didn’t do that particularly well.

It was God who made the difference.

Listen now to the reading:

Hebrews 11

Faith is the assurance of things you have hoped for, the absolute conviction that there are realities you’ve never seen. It was by faith that our forebears were approved. Through faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God; everything we now see was fashioned from that which is invisible.

By faith Abel presented to God a sacrifice more acceptable than his brother Cain’s. By faith Abel learned he was righteous, as God Himself testified by approving his offering. And by faith he still speaks, although his voice was silenced by death.

By faith Enoch was carried up into heaven so that he did not see death; no one could find him because God had taken him. Before he was taken up, it was said of him that he had pleased God. Without faith no one can please God because the one coming to God must believe He exists, and He rewards those who come seeking.

By faith Noah respected God’s warning regarding the flood—the likes of which no one had ever seen—and built an ark that saved his family. In this he condemned the world and inherited the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham heard God’s call to travel to a place he would one day receive as an inheritance; and he obeyed, not knowing where God’s call would take him. By faith he journeyed to the land of the promise as a foreigner; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, his fellow heirs to the promise 10 because Abraham looked ahead to a city with foundations, a city laid out and built by God.

11 By faith Abraham’s wife Sarah became fertile long after menopause because she believed God would be faithful to His promise. 12 So from this man, who was almost at death’s door, God brought forth descendants, as many as the stars in the sky and as impossible to count as the sands of the shore.

13 All these I have mentioned died in faith without receiving the full promises, although they saw the fulfillment as though from a distance. These people accepted and confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on this earth 14 because people who speak like this make it plain that they are still seeking a homeland. 15 If this was only a bit of nostalgia for a time and place they left behind, then certainly they might have turned around and returned. 16 But such saints as these look forward to a far better place, a heavenly country. So God is not ashamed to be called their God because He has prepared a heavenly city for them.

This passage has some really significant things to say about faith
Not about superhero faith

But about our faith, real faith, tiny mustard seed faith.

  1. Faith is the assurance of things you have hoped for

Assurance is an old word, Blessed Assurance Jesus is mine.

It is word about being confident.

But not confident in yourself and your abilities
The object of our ‘assurance’ is a person;   it is Jesus.

It is not the same as being sure.

Being sure that what you believe is right, that’s not assurance.

That is Don Trump, totally sure he is right, even when dead wrong.

Hebrews says

Faith is the assurance of things you have hoped for

Faith is not confidence in ideas about God, but assurance in God

It is that sense of peacefulness
That we are journeying well as we live deeply in God’s grace.

That is an image I have of my father

He was never over confident about the views he had about faith and God

But always this peaceful assurance and spiritual contentment knowing that he was held secure in God’s grace.

In his last days he became muddled in his thinking,
and spoke very little

But he still had a peaceful assurance that he was held secure in God’s grace.

This is a beautiful gift this man a faith has left with me,
Blessed Assurance Jesus is mine.

Faith is the assurance of things you have hoped for

In the second verse of this faith chapter we read

  1. It was by faith that our forebears were approved

Many passages of the Bible express how warmly God responds to faith.

It is one of the things God most desires to see in you – to have faith.

The King James version has   

For by it, by faith, the elders obtained a good report

I like the MESSAGE version

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.

It’s our handle on what we can’t see.

The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors,
set them above the crowd

If you want to please God,
The message is simple
Have faith – trust in God.

Through every season of your life;
Especially the hard, painful challenging seasons.

Let faith distinguish you and set you above the crowd.

*****

I had a fascinating experience one year.

I was on a committee organising a Christian conference for students.

My job was setting up about twenty seminars, each on a different theme.

One person I asked to lead a seminar asked to choose a different subject.

He wanted to lead a seminar on faith and doubt.

The time came for the 250 students to choose their Seminars.

They were told the subjects and rooms for each,

They simply needed to write their name on the sheet of paper on each door.

Once they were fill they were full.

At cuppa time I walked aong the passage, past seminars where 4 to 6 people had signed up. Bible study techniques, social justice issues,

The one on relationship and sex, always popular was already 2/3rds full
No surprises there.

Then I stop and look at another list.

All the lines are full, with three extra’s squeezed in.

The second days session is also full.

Guess which one?

The one called faith and doubt.

That is the day I realised a big mistake young Christians make.

They think doubt is the opposite of faith.

That the character we call doubting Thomas,
Is the worst of the disciples.

This seminar  “Faith and Doubt”
Debunked that myth

And recognised that both faith and doubt co-exist in any genuine journey of faith.

The opposite of faith is not even unbelief; It is a refusal to believe.

We have all met people who just refuse to believe
Because faith in God would change their lives too much.

Talking through true doubts, is a friend of faith,
and is likely to strengthen and deepen your faith.

In the end Thomas who asked honest questions about Jesus resurrection
Became a great Christian leader planting the Christian church in India.

Later in Hebrews 11 we come across this verse

All these I have mentioned died in faith
without receiving the full promises,
although they saw the fulfilment as though from a distance.

These people accepted and confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on this earth

That is a different image of faith

A person of faith is someone who dies before the thing they hope for is fulfilled.

Like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
A person of faith lives as a refugee
on the margins of society
never quite fitting in.

That is not the image of a superhero of faith
It is more like you and me with our tiny mustard seed faith.

I have noticed that Christians live with an eye on a different horizon.

Others seek to fulfil their dreams before they die.

What’s on your bucket list is one expression.

But us Christians – we don’t have to have our hopes and dreams fulfilled before our final breath.

We have a horizon that is beyond our lives;
We sow seeds that will sprout in lives when we are no longer present.

Now that is faith.

It is the sort of faith when you can take your hands of the wheel and say God’s driving not me.

Think about Sarah and Abraham who had faith that they would have many descendants

Verse 12 says

So from this couple, who were almost at death’s door,
God brought forth descendants, as many as the stars in the sky
and as impossible to count as the sands of the shore.

But when they died
How many children did they have?

One son Isaac married to Rebecca
With grandson’s Esau and Jacob.

Abraham did have other children – 7 plus Isaac makes 8.

That was not a multitude, impossible to count – I just did.

The fulfilment of their promise came after their lives ended.

So what is it that the writer of Hebrews is trying to say to us?

I think it is
that faith looks beyond our lives and our influence.

That it dreams of God’s new future
beyond our involvement in it.

Think about the people you know
who are no longer with us,
having passed on to the heavenly kingdom.

And recognise
That in our lives today
Their faith is seen.

Now imagine 50 years on 2067,
Christians saying the same things about you,
That in their lives – your faith is seen.

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