CHURCH IN COMMUNITY
St George’s, Georgeham; St Mary’s, Croyde; Croyde Baptists;
St George’s House; Christian Surfers UK
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Welcome to the first of 6 reflections that make up our LENT COURSE for 2021... Over the next few weeks we will be considering the question of FAITH...
... What is it!?
... How can we depend on it!??
... How do we Live it!???
... What Models of Faith do we find in Scripture!??
... and perhaps most importantly - within our present circumstances, how do we make sure we have a FAITH that helps us to stand up to suffering and uncertainty, especially modelled by Jesus himself!!
Everybody has some type of faith, people have faith in so many different things, when we get into our car we have faith that it will start and get us to our destination... We have faith that doctors knows what he or she is doing!Every body has this mindset of faith of some kind or another. No one can live a single day without exercising some sort of faith in something. And in reality, our faith is only as good as the object in which we place our faith.
When we were talking about our LENT COURSE as a team somebody mentioned the great French acrobat and tightrope walker ...Charles Blondin. He used to walk a tightrope across places like the NIAGARA FALLS, 160 feet above the swirling cauldron below, sometimes cooking himself a meal whilst balanced on a wire half way between America and Canada... On July 15 1859, Blondin walked backwards, yes backwards, across the tightrope and then returned pushing a wheelbarrow.
The story goes that after pushing a wheelbarrow across back and forth, whilst blindfolded, the crowds watched in amazement, as you would. But now Blondin asked for some audience participation. He asked the audience, "Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?" Of course the crowd shouted that yes, they believed! So he asked for a volunteer to get into the wheelbarrow to take a ride across the Falls with him!
Blondin then asked the question - "So who will get in the wheelbarrow?' Of course...no one did!?
The story of Charles Blondin paints a real life picture of what faith actually is. The crowd had watched his daring feats. They had empirical evidence that he could do the job. They said they believed, but their actions proved they truly didn't. You see, I sometimes think that we only have the deepest faith in things we think, at best, we can control; have power over! Or, at worst, things we can create for ourselves! It's one thing for us to say we have faith in God. But it's another thing totally to put our faith and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ, completely.
I had a quick look at a dictionary definition of this word ‘faith’.
The first definitions was ‘a strong and unshakeable belief in something, especially without proof or evidence’.
Secondly, a specific system of religious beliefs, i.e, the Jewish Faith.
Thirdly, Christianity, A trust in God and His actions and promises.
There were other definitions looking at ‘faith’ from a less ‘religious’ perspective. So, faith in things, or people, or ideologues that are around us.
And maybe that is part of the problem for us. Faith can be such a broad concept, in such differing circumstances, that our ‘faith’ in God, Father, Son and Spirit, is watered down, or modified by these other definitions. And anyway, there is a bit of a dilemma for us, for example within this current pandemic, do we have faith in God, or have faith in the people of science who have worked so hard to bring us a usable and working vaccine!! How do we reconcile those two seeming extremes of faith at work!
I personally have no problem in recommending the vaccine to everyone, as I believe the development of these various vaccines is an answer to my/our prayers. God, the creator of all there is, is quite capable of inspiring a scientific/medical solution in and through the men and women working in laboratories around the world. So I don’t personally see a dilemma that needs to be reconciled here, my faith sees God at work in his world here!? But what about you, are you as comfortable with that?
Sadly, it’s all too easy to be just fine weather Christians, happy to claim faith when life is easy and settled and well, but when life is far from easy and settled, our faith falters. So many times I have heard lovely members of churches, saying things like, ‘I can’t believe in a God anymore who would allow my Mum to get ill, I prayed for her to be better, but God ignored me!’, or things like, ‘I can’t believe in a God who would allow my marriage to fail, my business to go under, for me to be made redundant.’ etc etc etc. People find they walk away from any expression of faith when the going gets tough!
The question I ask you is, are you truly willing to trust our God in all his facets, not just to keep us safe whilst pushing us across a tightrope in a wheelbarrow, but to see us through the really serious challenges of life, and, more importantly, into eternal Salvation itself!
Of all the people you might expect to be faith-filled in the truest sense, it would be the Israelite, those first people of God. But all too easily they ‘invent’ what seems an easier focus for faith....! Think back to the Exodus. They are whinging to Moses about being dragged off into the wilderness, when they thought back to having food on the table, even when they were enslaved.
In those wilderness years, God gives them food (Manna and Quail from heaven) and water, and, more importantly was present with them in the pillar of cloud, talking directly to Moses again and again and again. Giving them directions and encouragements. The power of God was with them in battles against the Amalekites.
He gave Moses various directives for Godly living, including the 10 commandments. God gives them all sorts of practical directives to enable these people to safely live in peace with Him and with each other with a sense of justice! Well worth reading through the first half of Exodus to see these instructions unfolding again. But one thing God is adamant about, and this is where God is a jealous God when it come to where His people focus their faith, He instructs Moses to tell the Israelites, (Exodus 20: v 22 onwards)
22 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites this: “You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: 23 do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.
24 ‘“Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honoured, I will come to you and bless you.
You would have though their experience of God’s presence, and provision, and that promise of blessing, would have built their faith, but when Moses is doing business with God on Mount Sinai, what happens?
Look at Exodus Chapter 32.... ‘The people saw that Moses took a long time to come down from the mountain. So they gathered around Aaron. They said to him, “Come. Make us a god that will lead us. This fellow Moses brought us up out of Egypt. But we don’t know what has happened to him.”
2 Aaron answered them, “Take the gold earrings off your wives, your sons and your daughters. Bring the earrings to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings. They brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they gave him and made it into a metal statue of a god. It looked like a calf. Aaron shaped it with a tool. Then the people said, “Israel, here is your god who brought you up out of Egypt.”
5 When Aaron saw what they were doing, he built an altar in front of the calf. He said, “Tomorrow will be a feast day to honour the Lord.” 6 So the next day the people got up early. They sacrificed burnt offerings and brought friendship offerings. They sat down to eat and drink. Then they got up to dance wildly in front of their god.
How quickly their faith is distracted by their own thinking, their own interpretation of a god. And there are people today that think that as long as they are sincere about what they believe, then that faith will be good enough. But people can be sincerely wrong! Paul says in 2 Tim 1:12... ‘I know who I have believed in’. Faith is not the object of some self-concocted idea, but, as Paul knew, faith, true faith, is in Jesus Christ. If your beliefs are not founded on the right person it don’t matter what else you believe.
Hebrews chapter 11 tells us what real faith is. And some of the definitions in the history of Christian theology have followed the biblical formulation here so listen carefully...
And I’m reading from vrs 1: ..Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
Faith is the positive response to God’s will and Word. People possess faith when they takes God at His Word. We don’t need to see something to believe it. Just think about gravity or the atmosphere!? We can’t see it, but we know it’s there!
In a Christian sense, Faith is the acceptance of something simply because God has said it. True faith is simple obedience to, and believing God’s Word, in spite of circumstances or consequences.