Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Faith: One Thing We Cannot Live Without

(Read Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16)

A friend recently sent me an email where people were asked the five things they couldn’t live without. It was humorous and interesting to see the various responses people answered to the question. One man took a purely material approach. He said he couldn’t live without his ipod, his computer, his car, his golf clubs and his bank account. One woman took a very literal approach to the question. She said she couldn’t live without oxygen, water, food, shelter and yes, red wine. And yet, another woman took a spiritual approach, saying she couldn’t live without family, friends, love, laughter and compassion.

Of all the ways to answer the question, I leaned towards the spiritual approach. Except instead of family, friends, love, laughter and compassion, my answer was family, friends, love, laughter and faith . Faith is something that none of us can happily live without.

The author of Hebrews says, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In other words, faith is truly believing that you will receive what you hope for. Faith is believing that even if you don’t see what you want at this moment, you will one day. When we say, “I have faith,” we are also saying, “I trust in God to provide for me.” Faith is an inexhaustible confidence in God.

I ask you, how strong is your faith these days? Are you confident in God, how God is working, orchestrating and developing your life?

If yes, wonderful! If no or not really, don’t despair! The life of faith is categorized by three defining stages: confidence, doubt and renewed confidence.

In the beginning of our faith life, it is quite normal to feel blissfully confident in the Lord. We have seen God for the first time, or perhaps we have seen God so vividly that we have recommitted our life to the journey of faith. We feel optimistic and assured. We feel like the Lord has us in the palm of his hand, and we are just basking in the glow of promises to be fulfilled.

However, in time, it is normal for that basking glow to fade like a sinking sunset. We get hit with the realities of life. Just when we think everything is going well, we get the bad news. Just when we think we’ve got what we want, it vanishes before our eyes. Just when we think we’ve made it, the time comes to start over, and we’ve no idea what to do next. This is not a pleasant time in life at all, but it is still part of the faith journey, a very natural part, so if you are in it, do not be dismayed.

Like most people, my brother and sister in law were exuberant when they first married. They were in love and had all the hope and promise of the future lying before them. You could say their faith had yet to be tested in their relationship.

But then, with their love in full bloom, they tried to have a child, and conception did not come easily to them. After a significant period of time trying to conceive on their own, they sought the help of medical professionals, and throughout those months and into years of tests and prescription medicines and procedures, their faith waned. I remember my brother sort of staring off into space, saying in a distant voice, “I’m starting to think it’s never going to happen.” His wife was equally troubled in her own way. Would they ever be able to have a child?

Real doubt, dark and troubling, entered into all of our lives, but their lives in particular.

It was then, just after my brother had mournfully stated, “I’m starting to think it’s never going to happen,” that my mother hugged my brother and said, “Oh yes it will. You are going to have a baby of your own. I just know you will.”

And in that moment, the doubt and darkness lost its foothold in my brother’s mind. You should have seen the way his expression changed, his whole demeanor. He went from looking forlorn and despondent to having a glimmer of hope himself. “Do you really think so?” he said. My mom should her head, yes.

And then and there, my brother’s faith was reborn. His confidence, however small, was restored. And it was because of my mother’s faith for him.

You see, faith is contagious, infectious even, in a good way.

We all go through periods of doubt, confusion and darkness, but the faith of others can help us through, get us back on course. If the faith journey is has three stages –confidence, doubt and renewed confidence, then we all play a part in that renewing of faith. We need each other on this journey, to believe for each other when the light has grown dim.

Faith is what gets us through the tough times. Faith is the virtue by which we endure. Faith is what leads us into our futures. To have a strong faith is truly a blessing that makes life better. Sometimes we have it all by ourselves, and sometimes, we need each other to help us have it. But when it returns in us, it is as authentic and pleasing in the sight of God as when we had it at the first. Maybe even moreso, because now we have truly been tested, and we have returned to God.

Think of your own life story. How has your faith ebbed and flowed over the years? Who has helped to lift you up? This is all a part of the process the way God intends it to be.

When our faith wanes, there is another whose faith can always pull us through. And that is the faith of Jesus Christ. Jesus always has faith in God even if we don’t because he gets the bigger, fuller picture of God’s plan. He sees for us!

In life, often our gratification is delayed for reasons we do not know. Things happen to us, and we can’t understand why. No one has experienced this reality more fully than Jesus. God’s plan for his life flies in the face of reason. Why would the Father ask his own Son, whom he loves absolutely, to sacrifice his life? And how could Jesus being dead be better for the world than him being alive?

As Christians, we know the answer-that Jesus’ sacrifice and his death are what leads to life for all people. But no one who had to go through that sort of life plan could have remained faithful except for Jesus because he was so utterly confident in God.

My prayer for all of us is to have such great faith as never to doubt the lives we are leading and the God who is leading our lives, but when that faith disappears, simply know that Jesus believes for you, and that he is carrying you along.

Today, I invite you to renew your faith in God. Believe that God has your best interests at heart and is designing the world on your behalf. Believe in the assurance of things hoped for and the fulfillment of things not yet seen.

I also invite you to offer hope to one another by having faith for one another. When one of our eyes is filled with tears, we need each other to see God clearly.

My mom was right. My brother and his wife did conceive a child. A beautiful baby girl, whom I was privileged to baptize and am still privileged to babysit. And my brother and sister in law are living witnesses that faith can and will be restored.

The meaning of faith is never giving up on God, believing in God’s power and love for your life and this world, and continuing to hope in the things you have not yet seen. On this average day of days, may our faith in God be renewed. May we be confident and uplifted. I am certain that faith is the one of those things that we cannot live without.

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