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This morning I am beginning a little series on, “Wonderful Words of Life.” We begin at the beginning with faith. [Click on page 2 below to continue.]
In the Revised Standard Version, the word faith appears 268 times in 248 verses.
Faith is important: Seven times in the gospels, Jesus says that someone’s faith has made it possible for them to receive a healing. And in Mark 11, when the disciples of Jesus see that the fig tree which Jesus had cursed had withered, and pointed it out to him, Jesus said:
“Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.”
Faith has an object: Jesus says, “Have faith in God.” He also asks us to have faith in him. In John 14, Jesus says, “You believe in God. Believe also in me.” St. John prefers the word “belief” to the word “faith,” but for him it’s the same thing.
The object of St. Paul’s faith is Jesus Christ: In those epistles either written by Paul or associated with him, the word faith is coupled with the name of Jesus no less than 24 times.
We know that “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)
Faith in Jesus Christ is the means by which God saves us from sin and death: In Ephesians 2:8, the apostle writes, “By grace you are saved, through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, lest anyone should boast.” Our goal is life is to be justified. If I am justified, it is “just-as-if-I’d” never sinned. The good man seeks to be justified by works of the law. That is putting the cart before the horse. In Galatians 2:16. St. Paul says that “no one is justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.”
Faith and Love are close companions: At least four times in the New Testament “faith in Jesus” is coupled with “love for all the saints.” There is a theme here. Faith inevitably leads to an increase in love. Why? Well, because we are motivated to keep the commandments by Jesus who taught that all the commandments are based on two: Love God, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Also because, as St. Paul says in Romans 5:5, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.”
Faith can be tested: In 1st Peter 1:7 we read that in the present world we may have to:
Suffer various trials, that the genuineness of (our faith), more precious than fine gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
According to 2nd Corinthians 13:5 we don’t have to wait to be tested by the world. We can “examine ourselves to see whether we are holding to our faith.” We can hold to faith because faith is holding on to us. Jesus Christ is in us through the power of the Holy Spirit, unless, of course, “we fail to meet the test!”
Obviously we need faith. Do you have it? Sometimes we do. Yet, there are times when we are like the father of the epileptic boy in Mark 9. He asks Jesus to heal his son. Jesus says to him, “All things are possible to him who believes.” And he responds, “O, Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”
When John Wesley lacked faith, he told Peter Bohler that he was going to leave off preaching. Bohler said, “No, John, do not hide the gift that God has given you. Preach faith until you have it, then because you have it you will preach faith.”
And so, I say to you, live faith until you have it, and then, because you have it, you will live faith. Eventually, like the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, you may even come to see that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The word translated “evidence” is an interesting one. It is the word from which we get our word for asphalt. Sometimes it is like we are walking a road in the dark, but we know it is there, because we can feel the smooth asphalt beneath our feet.
Prayer for the Day: O, Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. Help me to live into my faith by lifting the load of others. I don’t need to be a hero. I do need to be faithful. Show me the way forward. Watch over all those who are at risk, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Draw near to all who call upon your name. Look well into every heart, and read well what is written there. I know you do, because you know what we need even before we can ask. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Worth Green, Th.M., D.Min.