With our Lord’s prayer, let us Pray, Our Father……
Let us pray responsively the prayer of faith by David, the shepherd boy, from psalm 23. It is included in your bulletin.
One - The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
All - He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
One - Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
All - Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Message: Let Your Faith Carry You (Joe)
Let Your Faith Carry You.
Have you ever asked yourself the question, what is faith? or how can I use my faith? I’m not just talking religion here, although faith in religion is certainly a prerequisite to strong belief. No, I’m talking about that kind of faith that can be part of our everyday lives, useful in a variety of ways. This kind of faith is the faith that is said to be able to move mountains.But before we look at any examples, let’s establish what we mean by faith.
Saint Augustine of Hippo was a Roman African, an early Christian theologian and philosopher from Numidia (North Africa) whose writings had a huge influence on the Christian Church in the 4th and 5th century, and on the development of not only Western Christianity but of Western philosophy in general. Augustine was a prolific writer. His ‘Confessions’ is recognized as the first autobiography of early western literature written, of course, in Latin. Luckily, nowadays, translations are available.
But what about faith? Without trying to go too far off course, here’s what Augustine says about faith:
Faith is to believe what we do not see. And the reward of that faith is (finally) to see what we (decide) to believe.
Science believes only in material facts which have their roots in observation. In other words, if I can observe something by my physical senses, if I can see it, hear it, feel it, taste it, or small it then I can believe in it. Faith recognizes science as valid, but not as the sole root of belief.
Why would you believe in something you do not see, you may ask? Isn’t that a little ridiculous?
Yet this is the dilemma that believers face every day, and too often in our modern world, even so-called believers fail the test. At crucial times we fail to believe.
Here’s a story called ‘Leap of Faith’ which illustrates what I mean.
A man was walking in the mountains just enjoying the scenery when he stepped too close to the edge and started to fall. In desperation he reached out and grabbed a limb of a gnarly old tree hanging onto the side of the cliff.
Full of fear, he assessed his situation. He was about 100 feet down a shear cliff and about 900 feet from the floor of the canyon below. If he should slip again he'd plummet to his death.
Full of fear, he cries out, "Help me!" But there was no answer. Again and again he cried out but to no avail. Finally he yelled, "Is anybody up there?"
A deep voice replied, "Yes, I'm up here."
"Who is it?"
"It's the Lord"
"Can you help me?"
"Yes, I can help."
Looking around the man became full of panic. "What?!?!"
"Let go. I will catch you."
"Uh... Is there anybody else up there?”
(We are afraid of the consequences. We are afraid of pain, We are afraid of death.
Yet in the end, there is only one thing that will provide us with balm, with relief, with confidence. There is only one thing that will give us assurance that we can break on through to the other side, as rock star Jim Morrison sang. That single thing is faith. And that faith, as Augustine said, consists of belief in something you cannot see. How do we know? Because we have faith, pure and simple. Why should we accept it? Because with it, we can see. Blinders are removed. Without it, we will always doubt. We will never fly. We will always hold ourselves back. Faith can carry us beyond science, beyond materialism, beyond the incessant need to keep proving or looking for proof. Faith is the door to self-fulfilling prophecies.
I remember one time quite a few years ago I was coaching a hockey team of 13-year=olds. Before every game, I led them out of the dressing room with the same team chant: “We’re number one, we’re number one, we’re number one.” Only problem was that halfway to Christmas we still hadn’t won a game. One night just before game time, one of the kids said to me, “Coach! How come we keep chanting, ‘we’re number one’ when we haven’t won a game yet?” “Well, Adam,” I said, if you don’t believe you’re number one, how will you ever make it happen?” If you don’t believe you can make it, trust me, you never will. Why? Because you’ve set your bar too low.
Belief does not rely on winning games. It relies on the faith that you can do it. Your faith will carry you to success, but only if you grasp it and make it happen.
Isn’t that what Christ said to Doubting Thomas? “Thomas, you now believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe.”
My personal belief that God exists rests on faith. At one time I wrestled with my doubts in this way. Reason could only take me so far. There is a God, there is not a God. Our existence must rely on some force beyond what we can see. No, our existence relies on nothing but physical forces. Why should I think otherwise? Since I couldn’t make up my mind, I couldn’t fly free of my doubts. And I think most people go through similar struggles. But I still prayed. I still prayed to a God I couldn’t see. I still prayed to a God I couldn’t hear, to a God my other senses wouldn’t reveal to me. And then, one early morning, half awake, I came face to face with my questions and my doubts. And I made a decision. I decided that from that day on, I would believe, and that no matter what, I would never stop believing. And I trusted that God would be with me every step of the way from that day until my death.
Here’s the interesting thing. Like a huge stone rolling off me, I was suddenly flying. I was being carried to a new land, a new existence. My free will that God blessed me with at creation allowed me to make a choice. And once made in favour of belief I gave myself up to the results of that choice. There was no turning back. My faith rescued me, bore me away, from fear of consequences, from fear of pain, from fear of death even. What, after all, is death but an end to a temporary existence and a free pass to a permanent one that is forever better. Of course, that belief requires faith. Nothing else will work.
I am reminded of my step-father, William Hevesy. my favourite mentor. I have many examples of this man’s never diminished faith. But one I like that I will never forget. Some years ago, my stepfather sold his business prior to getting his immigration papers to move to California. Unfortunately, the people who bought his business were unable to pay more than a fraction of what they owed him and declared bankruptcy. My stepfather had to find a job at age 50 to make ends meet temporarily. When I found out what had happened, I went to him and asked, “Apu, what will you do?”
“Joe,” he replied, “I will go back to work and raise the money your mother and I will need.”
“But what if you can’t?”
He looked me straight in the eye and said, “I will do it because I have to. Can’t is not an option.”
And he did. Never had a doubt. Never allowed a doubt, He was No. 1. His faith carried him away.
Life is a never-ending series of challenges. We all face something often on a daily basis. Will we have doubts? Of course. Will we win at everything we try. No, certainly not. Will God be there for us always? Yes, always. How do I know? I let my faith carry me. Let your faith carry you.
THE FAMOUS BENEDICTION BY ROBERT SCHULLER
February 20, 2012
And now may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. And may God give you His peace in your going out and in your coming in, in your lying down and in your rising up, in your labor and in your leisure, in your laughter and in your tears… Until you come to stand before Jesus in that day in which there is no sunset and no dawning. Amen.
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