Stand Firm in the Faith

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“Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).

We are on our final day looking at the seventh characteristic listed as a fruit of the Spirit: faith. It’s a shame for there is so much more the New Testament can teach us about faith. The word faith, pistis, occurs 243 times in the New Testament. It would be a good study to look at each of the instances of the word faith in the New Testament as it would encourage and inform us about who we are because of who our God is.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”

While we will be moving on, I encourage you to do a word study of faith in the New Testament. It would be well worth your time and you will be glad you did it.

Paul closes his first letter to the Corinthians with the following charge: “Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” That’s fantastic advice for July 31, 2020.

  • Keep alert – it is too easy to fall into the routine of these days. Days run together so that we even lose track of what day it is! I want you to fight that. Have a daily schedule of reading God’s word, and praying. I mean, we’ve got the time right? Just like we have regular times of eating, schedule a regular time for reading God’s word and praying. Keep alert. We will get through this and God expects us to be growing and thriving during this time. It is impossible to do so without daily reading and prayer.
  • Stand firm in your faith – the things we read about in the news are truly astonishing. Imagine reading some of the headlines just ten years ago. Things that are unbelievable are happening in our days. And it can be daunting. Thank God we do not stand alone. We stand firm in the faith that God is at work to bring about his kingdom will here on earth as it is heaven. Stand firm!
  • Be courageous, be strong – not in our own strength and abilities. That will get us nowhere. Our strength is in the Lord. Christ is our strength and courage. Lean on the strength of Christ and be courageous!
  • Let all you do be done in love – one thing our world lacks in buckets is love. Not human love. The love that springs from God and comes from God. For it’s God’s love that has the power to change us and change the world. We know this because God’s love has changed us. Let all you do be done in the love of Christ!

What fantastic and encouraging words for July 31, 2020!

Thank you, God!

The Centurion’s Faith

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“When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralysed, in terrible distress.’ And he said to him, ‘I will come and cure him.’ The Centurion answered, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go’, and he goes, and to another, ‘Come’, and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this’, and the the slave does it.’ When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith (Matthew 8:5-10).

Why do you suppose Jesus was so impressed with the centurion’s faith? What made the centurion’s faith so extraordinary that Jesus was amazed and declared, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith”? All his disciples were present with him and there was a large crowd with him. Yet Jesus singles out a gentile centurion for demonstrating an amazing faith.

What made the centurion’s faith so amazing was that he understood who was in charge. As someone who has authority over others who obey him, and as one who obeys the orders of those who have authority over him, the centurion was declaring that Jesus was one in authority and whatever Jesus promises and declares is reality.

That’s faith. It’s trusting in the one who has authority and having the absolute confidence that the one who is worthy of being trusted.

It is absolutely true that our world is a mess. The division in our country is being played out in our congregation.

  • There are those who are sickened by the protests in our country, Seattle, and Portland because of the violence and the disregard for law and authority
  • There are those who are sickened by the protests in our country, Seattle, and Portland due to the inequalities and injustice that continues and not enough is being done to correct how the people of color are being mistreated
  • There are those who are disturbed by the decisions being made by the Governor Inslee regarding the covid-19 pandemic because they believe that the governor and others in authority have overstepped their legal boundaries
  • There are those who are disturbed because there are still those in our state who refuse to believe the serious impact of covid-19 and who continue to disregard the call to curb social gatherings and plea to mask up

God is in control. God is not done working out his will in God’s world to bring about his kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. God is the one in authority.

What’s missing even in Christian contexts is the faith of the centurion.

  • God is the one in authority
  • God is not done working out his will in our country
  • God is still on the throne

It is this faith that makes Christians different than all others in this world. Christians too see the messed-up-ness of the world but Christians know God is in control. God is still at work precisely because the world is messed up. Our hope is not in governors or leaders. Our hope is in Christ and Christ alone!

Jesus is what our world needs. That’s what made the centurion’s faith so extraordinary. I pray that the centurion’s faith is what God and our community sees in the people of the Little Church and Lakewoodgrace. For where Christ is present there is healing. Christ is our hope. Christ is the world’s hope.

God the Giver and the Guarantor of Faith

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“And just then some people were carrying a paralysed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take hear, son; your sins are forgiven'” (Matthew 9:2).

“Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well” (Matthew 9:22).

“The he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you'” (Matthew 9:29).

The first reading is about the four un-named friends who bring a man paralysed to be healed by Jesus. The second reading is about a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhaging for twelve years. The final reading is about two blind men who pleaded with Jesus to heal them. In each of the readings it seems as if the faith of the people involved leads to healing.

One of the confusing things about these passages is that the way we use the word “faith” is quite different than the way the New Testament writers meant by “faith.”

In modern day usage faith has to more to do with our belief and our faith. Faith is something we do.

The New Testament usage is quite different. The Greek word for faith, pistis, has to do with God and what God does. Faith is always from God, and never something that we produce. If faith comes from or is birthed from us, it is not biblical faith. Faith is always God’s work not our’s. Faith is always God’s work because God’s is not only the giver of faith but the guarantor of faith.

If the miracles of Jesus depended on how much faith we have, and if we just have enough faith it must always lead to healing. But that’s not how healing works because that’s not how God works.

There are certainly times when prayers for healing have led to healing. But it doesn’t always work that way. If that were the case very few Christians would ever die of disease or illness, or worse yet, Christian who die of illness are people who just didn’t have enough faith! That’s just bad theology.

Faith is God’s gift. Faith is God’s work. This is good news because in healing and in death, God is still good and God is still sovereign. God is still good and God is still sovereign in both when God heals and even in death because this is not our home, this is not our destiny. We were created for eternity and because faith gives us access to eternal life with Christ death and illness can’t ever take that away from us.

God is the giver and the guarantor of faith because faith is God’s work and God’s gift.

That’s our confidence. That’s our hope. Nothing in the created universe can separate us from the love of God.