Both fear and faith beget within us responses of both fear and faith. Faith, particularly faith in God, can bring the healing and wholeness we seek. The Scriptures say over and over throughout its pages and through its many maxims and stories: 'Don't be afraid!' The enjoinder is usually following with something like: 'Because I'm bringing you good news and you're going to have great joy when you receive it!"
Interesting, that the monks of Ireland built high towers. They symbolized their trust in God and the strength (and escape sometimes) from enemies. Ensconsced in the tower, with the ladder pulled up, they could look out, down and around - and shudder, or they could look up and out with trust. Like the the Old Testament character Job, they had it in their hearts: 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.'
Often, these towers were really no defence at all. I mean, a group (Vikings or some other Irish rascals) could surround them and build fires, and literally smoke them out (not to mention the flames). Failing that, it woldn't take much to build an adjacent 'seige-tower; anyone could roust them rather than roast them. And they did.
Our defences may be just as puny. But trusting God is another matter, for when we have faith - lose or win, come or go, though He take us - we wind up in Safe Hands. I mean, you can't really threaten Christians with Heaven!
Here's a Sermon (see below) in written form. As usual there will be a difference between what I prepared and what I actually said (see SoundCloud audio above). You'll find the words in writing and with audio complimentary. I hope you'll find it interesting - and helpful.
Faith – Now That’s Something
Hebrews 10: 36 – 39; 11 1 – 3
You need to persevere so that when you have done God’s will, you’ll receive what He’s promise. For, “In just a little while, He who is coming will come & will not delay.” “But my righteous one will live by faith. I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”
But we don’t belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith & are saved.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. 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.
I want to talk about pressing on in life, despite circumstances, trials and difficulties that may arise. About having a hope that is grand enough to seize our attention, our loyalty, and our pursuit, in all of our days and for all of our days. About the kind of faith – that grasps God’s promises and then actually does something about it, so our lives give evidence of the hope within us.
Every day is new and we are soon entering into our tomorrows, whatever may be our hopes and fears for the days ahead. Churches enter into new seasons, new chapters. Perhaps you’re going into the next year of school, off to university, beginning that new job. It may be that you are soon approaching your senior years. 0r facing major surgery or failing health; it’s got your attention. All of us are heading into the unknown and perhaps a time of change, travel and even danger.
The text talks of perseverance, about not shrinking back from whatever comes, from whatever it is God brings or allows to enter our lives. We are able to do so when we have hope - and faith that accesses that hope. And that can make all the difference.
Four Things about Faith . . .
I. Faith Makes Things
II. Faith Matches and Overcomes Fear
III Faith is Mysterious, Sometimes Seeming Almost Magical
IV. Faith Moves and Matures Us
But first, some definitions. Faith is confidence, assurance, substance, title-deed. The word in the original that the writer uses is unique. It speaks of ‘something that underlies the apparent & the obvious; It is the reality or essence, the substance that is the basis of something.’
It can be a legal term: - ‘The Title Deed. The Holy Spirit energizes an act of faith that a believer exercises. Trusting Jesus, and with the seal of the Spirit, we have the guarantee of God’s promise of salvation of the world – the reconciling of people, places and things. He redeems those of us who believe Him & live accordingly.
My hope is built on nothing lessThan Jesus blood & righteousnessI dare not trust the sweetest frameBut wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.
Faith is the Foundation of our hopes in Christ. Though it’s something unseen, it exists beneath & supports what is visible.I. FAITH MAKES THINGS
Faith always produces something. Faith is the substance of things for, the evidence of things and seen. But what kind of substance or evidence might we expect to see if someone has faith, faith in anything or anyone? Hebrews 11 is full of examples. These are the stories and these are the examples of people who suffered great adversity because of their faith, even unto death. We find here examples of their persevering, their brave resistance & resilience, their traveling in faith & their testifying to their faith because they believed they all did something and there was evidence to show for it. When Faith looks away to something or Someone beyond it will always produce something tangible, near & up close.
So, Faith is creative: it begins something based on what it believes & the real or supposed object of belief.
Fear does the same. Fear too is creative. What we think produces we are and results in what we do. Our actions spring from our thoughts. Our thoughts arise from our beliefs, what we believe about ultimate reality or about the simple choice and present opportunity before us. It begins something based on what it believes and the real or supposed object of that belief.
Fear produces ulcers and cancers, makes upset tummies, creates upset tomorrows. Fear influences decisions in marriages & families. Rightly or wrongly, It creates the politics of fear in whole nations so that they strengthen their defenses, invest their resources and get ready for a war of defense or a war of aggressions based on their ‘intelligence’ about what could or should happen next.
When we fear something or someone as yet not seen it too produces in us substance and reality. The things we fear, the objects or persons that alarms us, produce responses.
In this sense, fear is like faith; it acts the same. It also creates reality. However, fear not in the direction & certainty of Hope but rather in towards a real or false sense of danger. Sometimes we have responses born of fear in something that does not happen, but still we have the response within us. Said Mark Twain: “I’ve known a great many troubles; most of which never happened.
Rick Warren has said -
"What is the devil’s work? It’s messing up your heart. Filling it with worry. Filling it with guilt. Filling it with resentment. Filling it with anger. Filling it with fear. Filling it with confusion. It’s whispering in your ear that you’re worthless and helpless and hopeless and aimless.
Where else do you think that stuff comes from? It’s not from God. Satan uses these things to keep us enslaved. The biggest tool he uses to mess with our lives is fear."
The OT character Job, for all his faith in God, admitted that he’d had fear: "All that I had feared has happened to me." He had everything in life, loving relationships, an immense amount of resources, good health, a pleasant life & a great future. He also had a certain measure of trust in the God he thought he knew well. But underneath was this fear that it could all disappear. And one day it did. Sometime later he confessed faith in a new and deeper way for His faith had been stretched, renewed and strengthened by God’s Presence, despite and even because of the adversity. “I had heard about You; but now I know you.” He claims. Apparently it’s true – ‘Grace and faith faith grow best in winter.’
II. FAITH MATCHES, MANAGES & OVERCOMES OUR FEARS
In a letter of the New Testament, St. John writes (I John 4:18) - There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. The verse just before it says, "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. In this is love perfected with us." When we abide in God, that is believingly abide in His love, love is perfected in us and fear vanishes.
‘Do not fear – don’t be afraid!’ is said 365 times in the Bible. If my math is correct, that’s once for every day of the year. (You’re on your own to remember that encouragement on February 29th of a ‘leap year.’) It’s another way of saying: Trust God. He loves you. Believe it! Believe Him!
We need more faith, not fear! St. James wrote that we are to ‘ask in faith’ – "not doubting." But does faith always have or require such certainty? Is not it true, as someone has put it, that sometimes “faith is forged in the crucible of our doubts? Is faith always certainty or can it be sometimes ‘whistling in the dark?’ I ask this because it’s often hard to believe in a loving God when there seems to be so much evidence to the contrary, daily occurrences that challenge our faith. (Maybe it’s like: ‘Don’t fear!’ is like . . . ‘Don’t doubt!’)
Faith is born in times of adversity, as is faith – even in the midst of war. Fear starts many wars, along wide pride, ego and greed. But faith, misplaced often but perhaps not always, can start wars too. My friend’s father used to have a farm at Rapidan, Virginia, on the Rapidan River. There’s US Civil War history all around the area. In the Fall of 1863, after their defeat at Gettysburg, General Lee and the Army of the Confederacy retreated back to that area to winter along the southern banks of the Rapidan and the sloping banks of a hill generously named Cedar Mountain. From the high hill that slopes back up from the pastures and through the forests General Lee and his leadership team kept their eye on the northern bank, where along the Rapidan for miles the Northern troops were also in winter quarters.
From their own high ‘Stone Mountain, General Grant & his leadership team were returning their gaze thro binoculars, on the southern-entrenched brigades. But here’s the thing. During that winter, a revival spread through the men of the Southern army, camped there. Hundreds came to faith in Christ as holy men prayed and chaplains preached, as men got right with God, and some came to know Him for the first time.
In the early Spring of ’64, when the Rapidan’s waters rose so that it was more than a muddy crick, though it was still likely pretty muddy, the Southern troops’ chaplains baptized those men who’d come to faith that winter, in the midst of that awful time. As they preached, prayed, sang hymns and baptized the converts, soldiers of the Northern side stacked their bayoneted rifles and joined in too, sitting on the Rapidan’s northern banks, their legs swinging over the sides, feet in the flowing current, singing & shouting ‘huzzah!’ as the baptized came up from the water as if corpses revitalized from their graves. It was a work of wonder & grace.
And soon came the call from higher ups and the men on both sides packed up their wagons & supplies, picked up their rifles saddled horses & those without began the long march of retreat or advance. The Southern troops retreated further south, and the Northern troops advanced, fording the Rapidan on hastily-constructed wooden bridges, at Ely’s Ford & Germanna’s Ford, moving back along the wooden corduroy roads, the Northern troops pursuing them until they again had a mighty battle, a Second Battle near a crossroad hamlet called Chancellorsville.
And of course, many on both sides were killed, dying awful deaths in the tangled woods of ‘the Wilderness,’ including many who had sung and shouted together just days before.
Fear and faith were mixed together in that bloody war, and its purposes, flags & symbols continue to create debate and divide America to this day.
III FAITH IS MYSTERIOUS – ALMOST MAGICAL
I am told that in the world of Quantum Physics nothing Is solid and everything Is Energy.
Now, the writer to the Hebrews was not a physicist but, inspired by God’s Spirit, he got there before the scientists, when he said: 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. What we perceive as a physical, material world, is really not physical or material, at all.
Niels Bohr – the Danish scientist who won the 1922 Nobel Prize for his contributions in our understanding of atomic structure and quantum theory said this: “If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet. Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.” Scientists tell us that everything in the Universe is made of energy. Physical atoms are made of vortices of energy that are constantly spinning & vibrating, each one radiating its own unique energy signature. We are, therefore really, beings of energy & vibration, radiating our own unique energy signature.
Through a microscope we see a small, invisible tornado-like vortex, with a number of infinitely small energy vortices called quarks & photons. But as we focus in closer & closer, we see nothing; -- there is a physical void! The atom has no physical structure. We have no physical structure. Physical things really don’t have any physical structure! Atoms are made out of invisible energy, not tangible matter. “The universe is immaterial. It is mental & spiritual” says Richard Conn Henry, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University.
Well that’s interesting, but so what? Well, for one thing it led to the secret Manhattan Project and the science that made atomic bombs that brought Japan to its knees, when bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended World War II. Tragic, senseless, insane –- overkill in every sense of the word; but there it was.
Or it’s led to the building of Ontario’s Pickering and Bruce Power Plants, and to the fact that we’re increasingly moving off coal for electrical power. We have 70 % of our energy coming from nuclear power in Ontario, with only 20 % coming from hydro (water) power. And this seems insane to many, given the question of ‘what to do?’ with nuclear waste.
Another fundamental conclusion of the new physics is that the observer creates the reality, that, as observers, we are personally involved with the creation of our own reality. Physicists are being forced to admit that the universe is a “mental” construction. Pioneering physicist Sir James Jeans wrote: “The universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter, we ought rather hail it as the creator & governor of the realm of matter.” We are made of an energy that radiates from us uniquely with its own signature.
And then there’s that new, highly sensitive computer chip being made that will result in our ability to move our hands & fingers without touching the screen. Just to move our fingers in such a way will mimic what happens now when we touch the screen. The chip is so sensitive it picks up the tiny but powerful & unseen emanations of electric-light force & aura that is all around your body and that will be directed by our fingers as we simply point them to the screen.
Quantum physics helps us see the significance of understandings how we feel. Feelings, thoughts and emotions play a vital role. A peaceful state or a loving attitude is literally contagious. It impacts the external world around us, and influence how others feel as well. Studies have shown that positive emotions are substance. They lead to a very different experience for the person emitting the emotions and for those around them. Maybe this is related to the health & growth benefits they say our plants receive when we simply talk to them.
When an atom changes its state, it absorbs or emits electromagnetic frequencies, which are responsible for changing its state. And different states of emotion, perception and feelings, result in different electromagnetic frequencies? They emanate out and affect the thoughts and feelings of those around us. The world is stranger and more mysterious than we often think. It reminds me of the maxim: ‘If you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right!”
IV. FAITH MOVES AND MATURES US
When faith is practiced, It becomes stronger and it soon becomes obvious. Faith brings 0 becomes visible in and through our lives when we are convinced (or when we simply hope) that something is true. As Frederick Buechner so wonderfully puts it, ‘Faith is the direction that
your feet start walking when you discover that you are loved.’
Perhaps when you were a little kid, your Mom used to make Yorkshire pudding each Sunday noon, along with roast & carrots and now she says she’s going to make it this Sunday - and you believe her. You come home with your husband & kids to once again enjoy that meal. Faith is getting in the car and driving the distance - maybe many miles, noisy miles, putting up with fights in the back seat; and you get there reasonably on time, ready to taste the good things prepared for you.
In Hebrews 11, faith is what all the people in this chapter DID, based on what they believed about God and His promises and what they’d heard He done before for their ancestors. They moved and acted in the directions that gave evidence of such faith - like build an ark, or go on a wandering adventure, a journey; or allow frightful things to be done to them - sometimes awful, killing things, because they believed it was worth it.
Recently we’ve heard about twenty-one Coptic martyrs. There were actually only twenty at first, but … The 21st martyr named Mathew was from Chad. Originally a non-Christian, he saw the immense faith and enormous courage of the others, his colleagues, and when the terrorists asked him if he rejected Jesus, he said, "Their God is my God." He said this, knowing he too would be killed.
We believe something. it’s wonderful, moving and grand, scary. But faith is the action and the inevitably (at some point) obvious evidence, the result or product of the belief. And when you begin to believe like that, and begin to see that, time and again, God responds, God comes through - when you count your blessings and name them one by one, then faith is strengthened. Along with hope it grows stronger and more real. And other people can we that we believe, and what we believe, and – I pray, that we have been with Jesus, the Author and Completer such faith.
Hebrews 12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Faith that does something; it always results in something. An unseen hope becomes visible in this-here situation, this-here world, in real, tangible ways.
Dear ones, faith makes things; it matches and overcomes our fears. It’s mysterious, sometimes almost magical. Faith moves and matures us.
It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,Life's trials will seem so small when we ee Christ;One glimpse of His dear Face all sorrow will erase,So bravely run the race till we see Christ.
Faith, now that’s something! Yes it is: - It’s something you do !