Faith...Believe It Or Not

June 28, 2015
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
“A shooting in Charlestown, NC”
What does faith look like?
Matthew 17:20New International Version (NIV)
Mark 11:22-23New International Version (NIV)
Romans 1:12New International Version (NIV)
Romans 1:17New International Version (NIV)
2 Corinthians 5:7New International Version (NIV)
Galatians 2:15-16New International Version (NIV)
2 Timothy 4:7-8New International Version (NIV)
Hebrews 11 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

“Faith…Believe It Or Not…”

Prayer for God’s word to be heard through me or in spite of me…

          “Love is stronger than hate. So if we love the way my mom would, then the hate won’t be anywhere close to where love is.” “We already forgive him for what he’s done, there’s nothing but love from our side of the family.” “I acknowledge I am very angry. But my daughter taught me that we are the family that love built.” “I forgive you, my family forgives you. We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Do that and you will be better off than you are now.”
These and many more words like these were spoken to Dylann Roof after he opened fire and killed 9 people who were at a bible study in Charlestown, SC. How in the world to you forgive someone that takes away a life that had so much promise. These people were mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers…they had lives to live and it was taken away from them in a moment. What is the secret of being able to do something like that…to forgive while you have just begun the grieving process?
Over the past couple of weeks, I have talked about being “Fearless” and posed the question, “what would you do if you were not afraid?” and we decided that we didn’t need to be afraid because God was with us always…and that Our Father in heaven knows really does know best…But in order to believe in what I have talked about…in order to live a life with these assurances…you need to have faith…The kind of faith that this church in Charlestown, SC showed and is continuing to show…the kind of faith that moves mountains of pain and suffering…hatred and racism.
          To John Wesley, faith was one of the most important theological concepts. At first he thought of it as believing the truth of the Christian revelation. But he also realized that faith also involves trust and confidence. As a matter of fact, having trust in God became so important that he eventually considered faith as the evidence of God’s love that could secure our trust and confidence. He began to talk about faith in degrees to indicate how people grew in faith. As you grew in faith and assurance of God’s love it would show more and more until a person is completely filled with love in return. It seems to me that the people of this Charlestown, SC African Methodist Episcopal Church have reached that point in their faith…
          So…what is the meaning of faith? What are some examples in God’s word of faith…the kind of faith that we should have as Christ followers…as Christians? That answer can be found in Hebrews 11. This whole chapter is about faith so we are going to take a look at a few verses…1-3
The Meaning of Faith
11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
It is the assurance of things unseen…we have faith that the air we breathe is there even though we cannot see it. We believe that gravity will hold us in place even though it is not seen. We believe and have faith in the Holy Spirit even though it too is unseen… It is all about trusting in the unseen…
          So what are some examples of this “faith” thing?
Abraham…8-9, 17-18:
“8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.”
“17 By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, 18 of whom he had been told, “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.”

“23 By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.”

Some others…29-30, 32-34
“29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days.”
“32 And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.”
There are many more proofs…many more examples within God’s word to give us hope and strength…they help build our faith.
          Jesus had a few things to say about faith as well…
Matthew 17:20New International Version (NIV)
20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Mark 11:22-23New International Version (NIV)
22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.
Faith had and has everything to do with our relationship with God…as well as with others. Faith is at the ground level of building a life that is pleasing to God.
          The Apostle Paul had a lot to say about what faith is and how it looks:
Romans 1:12New International Version (NIV)
12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.
Romans 1:17New International Version (NIV)
17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
2 Corinthians 5:7New International Version (NIV)
7 For we live by faith, not by sight.
Galatians 2:15-16New International Version (NIV)
15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
2 Timothy 4:7-8New International Version (NIV)
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
          We are to help others on their faith walk. We are to keep the faith no matter what…remember faith is about relationship with God and as we build that relationship, our faith will be stronger than anything we could ever imagine. We are to put our faith in Jesus. We are to live by faith in what is unseen not in the world we see around us.
          As I read those responses earlier from the people of the church in Charlestown and their families there are things that stand out about them…
1.   They came from hearts that themselves have felt the love and forgiveness of Jesus.
2.   They loved their enemies as we are called to do.
3.   They overcame evil with good.
4.   They blessed those who cursed them.
5.   They shared the message of repentance and redemption with this young man.
We too are called to do the same by and from Jesus Christ…being His hands, feet and image in the world.
          Faith…it is the beginning of a journey into the unseen. Faith…it is the foundation of our relationship with God and Christ. Faith…it can be hard at times but we are called to live radical lives for Christ. Faith…is loving through and in our whole being. Faith…it brings people together for a common purpose. Faith looks evil in the eye and says “death O death where is thy sting”. Faith is seen in a church that forgives even as they are processing their own loss. Faith…it really does a body good… our own physical and the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith…it truly is the tie that binds. Faith…you can believe it or not…it is our choice to make. What will you choose this day?



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