August 9, 2013

Life Is A Test Of Faith (Proper 19c)

Many people are unhappy and seem to live lives driven by fear. Fear is not always a bad thing - it can save us from physical and emotional harm. But like everything in excess, it can paralyze us and rob our lives of joy. The Readings (Isaiah 1.1, 10-20; Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16 and Luke 12.3-40) encourage us to overcome our fears and have joy in our lives by growing stronger in our faith.

1.     Faith is what we put our trust in and hope for
·         Faith is more than what you know in your head – what you believe in your heart about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit
·         Faith includes what we believe about the unseen spiritual dimension
·         Faith is often confused with a religion or a denomination – i.e. Anglican
·         Faith is often confused with knowing a religious doctrines
·         Faith is trust and hope for the future based on head knowledge, experience and heart dependence

2. Faith is what we believe will happen in the future
·         Begins with searching for teaching and study of the Bible – to learn about what God has done already
·         Faith grows stronger as we turn to Jesus,  learn to pray and experience gifts of the Holy Spirit
·         Experiences of personal healing and the Holy Spirit help us understand the invisible supernatural worldview of the Bible
·         Our experience of the supernatural strengthens our faith in Jesus promise of forgiveness, healing and eternal spiritual life
·         Our Faith or trust in what we personally believe is tested and grows stronger as we chose how to respond to events in our lives

3. What we believe will happen on faith is what will happen
·         What we believe will happen in the future  guides our actions and choices in the present
·         Faith leads to repentance, confession, forgiveness and healing
·         Faith can guide us to do acts of love – experience joy of Holy Spirit
·         Faith is rewarded with the gifts of the Holy Spirit – love, joy & peace
·         What we believe will happen drives our spiritual life and develops treasure in Heaven - our eternal spiritual life of joy

4. Life tests our faith in overcoming our fear that God is not really there
How would you design a test of human faith in a loving God? Let us pretend we are setting up a test of human love for God. What would it look like? To be really effective this test would have to be both hard and appear invisible:
·         There needs to be some doubt about the existence of God, Jesus and the whole supernatural dimension of the Bible – myths?
·         There needs to be doubt about whether or not Jesus could die for the sins of the whole world – unreasonable?
·         There needs to be evil – bad things happening to good people
·         Need some really bad things like wars, genocide, cancer, murder, death of a child to test people’s faith in a loving God
·         Need false teachers – to confuse those who don’t care
·         Need invisible evil spirits to deceive and tempt people with lies
·         This test would scare people and test their faith – and it does

5. Point is that our lives are a test of faith in a very dangerous place
·         Like making a diamond in the physical world – take coal, heat, pressure, usually a mess
·         But sometimes the lump of coal becomes a beautiful diamond
·         This is what God sees in the supernatural world in those whose faith has overcome their fear in the test of life
This diamond is our spiritual treasure of faith that gives us joy in this life and lasts forever  

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