“Yes, I Believe”
Pastor Tom Millner
August 24, 2008
Isaiah 7:9b; Mark 9:21-24; Romans 4:1-5
Henry Ford once said: “If you believe you can or if you believe you can’t, you’re right.”
Our core beliefs drive us! Many of our core beliefs come from our experience. Because we have experienced the sunrise each day, we believe it will rise tomorrow. We believe that the sky is above and the earth is below – that’s our experience. What shall we say then about our Christian beliefs? How are our beliefs and our faith intertwined?
John 3:16 states: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Now this is foundational to our Christian faith. The fundamental truth here is that God, being love, acted in love toward those whom He loved, in a way that benefits the beloved forever, if the beloved sees its way clear to believe that the gift is for real. Believing it or not believing it does not change the fundamental truth of the gift or the Giver. What it changes is the life of the one who believes!
If you recall a couple of years ago we attended the musical Les Miserable. In the play Jean Val Jean was being chased by the determined and non-sympathetic Inspector Javier. Val jean was the recipient of grace through a priest who saved him from the arms of certain imprisonment. Grateful, Val jean, under an assumed name from that day forward, went about multiplying the grace he had freely received. This grace ultimately found its way to the determined Javier. Javier, in an attempt to entrap Val jean, portrayed himself sympathetic to the cause of the revolution. Upon discovery, Javier was sentenced to death by the resistance. Val jean volunteered to be the executioner. In a moving scene, Val jean shot into the air and charged Javier to depart and cease his quest for revenge and his view of justice. Javier departs, but cannot accept that his life has been spared by the one whom he had been so ardently seeking to destroy. Fraught with anguish, Javier throws himself from the bridge into the river, ending his life in the tragic rejection of grace for himself. When faced with the reality of grace, Val jean accepted the goodness thereof and went about multiplying it for others. Javier, unable to accept grace from one above whom he placed himself, bitterly and remorsefully orchestrated his own demise.
What about us. Are we a Val jean or a Javier? Are we living out our faith in gratitude, multiplying for others the grace that has been given us, or are we engaging the internal struggle that says “I cannot accept that I have been saved by one above whom I have placed myself?”
Oh, well I know which one I am – I don’t place myself above Christ! Oh yeah? When was the last time you spent more than 3 minutes in prayer? When was the last time you genuinely listened to another person? When was the last time you looked lustfully at another human? When was the last time you felt less than? When the last time you felt like all was worthless? When was the last time you feared that giving of your tithe would seriously hamper you lifestyle? When was the last time you felt left out or slighted? Any one of these represents an attitude that places self above Christ; above His grace that is sufficient in all things, in all ways. His grace calls us to commune with Him, to be the whole person He has restored us to by grace – who is secure enough to listen to another sister or brother in need – to be fulfilled enough to recognize the face of Christ in the one for whom we might otherwise lust – to be secure enough in His promise to care for us that we can give generously to His work – that I am secure enough in His promise that I don’t have to read someone else’s short coming as a direct reflection of me.
In today’s scripture reading from the Gospel of Mark, we heard the story of a father bringing a demon possessed child to Jesus for healing. The father approaches with the belief that this man, Jesus, might be able to help his son. “Help him, if you can,” the father says to Jesus. “If I can,” Jesus responds! “Everything is possible for him who believes” says Jesus – to whom the father of the possessed child responds; “I do believe – help my unbelief.” From that moment forward, that father and child were forever changed. This man’s faith was tested by being challenged on his belief. Honestly stating his belief and the sincere request to have his belief strengthened, demonstrated an act of faith in the man, Jesus. So often we don’t even ask for what we desire because we think we don’t deserve it; or are worthy of it; or have enough faith to see it fulfill. We often have the faith that God CAN answer our prayers, but for some reason He won’t answer MY prayer. What is holding us back?
Hebrews 11:1 states: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” By faith, Abraham believed God’s promise and birthed a great nation. By faith Abraham obeyed God and offered his son as a sacrifice to the living God – his son, his most prized possession, his heir, his flesh and blood, his hope for generations to come, yet by faith he surrendered all to God’s calling on him – and that was considered to be Abraham’s righteousness. It was not the sacrifice (Isaac), but the very heart of Abraham who acted in faith and believed the God who had promised to provide that was counted as his righteousness.
What is it you hope for this Christmas season? If we believe what scripture says then we need to exercise some faith in the certainty of that for which we hope. And even though we may not see the material evidence of that for which we hope, we have no less faith in its substance! Hope is an expectation and is integrally wound in faith. I hope to see tomorrow (expectation) so I close my eyes for sleep (faith that I will wake to a new tomorrow). On what is your hope based? If you’re experiencing anxiety and or fear that something dire or negative might happen today or tomorrow, your hope is being dashed toward the doom and your anxious actions amount to your faith focus toward the doom as well. Psychologically, spiritually, and physically, we suffer great loss when our faith and hope are bound in the bosom of doubt and worry. As often as we’ve said here that fortune telling is not one of the spiritual gifts, we see the evidence of anxiety and depression often. God calls us to a different reality in the light of His grace. He calls us to a place of hope that is founded and bound tightly in His Word.
Romans 12:1-2 tells us “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Paul wrote this without a concordance to reference Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:34 where He states: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And that statement followed a very significant (understatement) assertion by Jesus in verse 33; “But seeks first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” What shall we place first, then? His kingdom and His righteousness: could that be the key to better mental, physical and spiritual health? When Paul wrote to the church in Philippi he urged them; “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."(Philippians 4:8) Let me share some true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy things to think about and act in faith toward,
- God loves you so much He gave His Son to die for you. Yes, even in your worst moments, Jesus died for you. He didn’t die for you because you’re perfect. He didn’t die to make you better than anyone else. He didn’t die for you to prove that your orientation is OK. He didn’t die for you to give you financial blessings. He didn’t die for you to be justified to your parents or neighbors. He died because He loves you! He loves you as though you were the only one and he loves your neighbor as if she or he were the only one.
- Jesus lived and died for you so that you might have life to the fullest extent. You don’t have to worry about that job, just do the best job you can with that job or with finding the next one, trusting that God is in control.
- Putting God first in your thoughts and actions all day in everything you do, in everything you say is not only your “spiritual act of worship” but also an exercise of love in action that will facilitate an outpouring of love on others.
- The next time you look at another person with lust, or possessive thoughts, or in anger, or in judgment, remember that God loves that person so much that Christ died for that person.
Do we believe that Jesus Christ died once for all? Do we believe that Love gave of itself unto death so that we do not have to experience eternal death and separation from Love? Do we believe that God’s love is sufficient to meet all our needs? Do we believe that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him and are called for His purpose? If we do, then it’s time to come home to Him. Home where He dwells, home where he takes us to a deeper place – within! Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all other things will be added. First His Kingdom – that which is within – his righteousness – living out our faith – all other things – the promise of the joy of our salvation. When we do believe and ask that He help our unbelief, we place our trust in Him who is the author and finisher of our faith!
If you believe – come home!