The First Word Is Faith - Paul’s Advent Contribution.
If you have been to a wedding in the last 20 years or more, you have probably heard the “Love Text” from Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians 13:4-13. Brides seem to prefer it to the older, more traditional (from a far more conservative generation) text from Ephesians 5:22 & following. You know, the one that starts with “Wives, submit yourselves to your husband. . .” and so on. Paul is SOOO misunderstood in what he wrote there, often unfairly branding him a chauvinist. He’s not, but that’s a sermon for another day & series. Equally unappreciated for the whole message of its content is the 1 Corinthian text. Sure, it gives a beautiful, thoughtful & intuitive summary of love, but it is so much more. This text is also very much an Advent text to prepare us & draw into the coming of our Lord, both in Bethlehem as a baby & when He returns as King & Lord of all. It’s the last verse, 13, that stands out for our Advent message this year: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” For the next three Wednesdays lets examine each one separately finishing with the greatest — LOVE. But let’s also remember, that without the FAITH & the HOPE LOVE would not be as great as it is.
Understanding Faith. - Faith is defined by secular sources in a number of ways, but let me focus on two, neither of which encompasses all we need to understand as Christians. First, complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Second, strong belief in God or in the doctrine of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof. I’m very comfortable with the first definition, especially if the someone is GOD & if the something is something like gravity. In the case of God I will provide proof in a moment. As to something like gravity — I know, no, I have absolute trust & confidence that, without seeing, any object that possesses mass in the entire universe will be attracted to any other object possessing mass. Let me demonstrate — drop something to the floor. My difficulty with the 2nd definition rests not in believing or having FAITH in God, but in two other points which helps realize the SECULAR definitional aspect. I do not have the same absolute faith in doctrine, since it is often man made, hopefully based on God’s Word; but, it seems not always, which is why I’m not a big fan of religion but go all out for FAITH. And to say there is no proof of FAITH is the world’s continued attempt to diminish God & our need for Him over worldly substitutes. You want proof? Think on this. For some 2 thousand years, the Church &, yes, the world, has spent it’s efforts at this time of year — ADVENT — getting ready for the coming of Jesus into the world, Christmas. No other event or happening can even come close to rivalling this singular purpose of preparation, much less equal it, in recorded time And this is only a beginning.
Proof of Faith - Scripture abounds with examples of people of Faith putting their complete trust & confidence in God & His holy Word. How about Noah who built an ark in the middle of a barren, parched land with no bodies of water anywhere near, nor the rains to provide them. Yet, he build an ark, not a boat or even a ship, but an ark. Then there’s Abraham & Sarah being the parents from which a nation will form, all nations will be blessed & a Messiah — a Savior — will come to save the world from sin. In their old age they step out into the unknown, totally trusting, having FAITH in God’s promises to them. And let’s not forget the willingness to sacrifice his only son at an age when he isn’t even firing & Sarah is without the seed to make anything happen, just because God says so. As proof goes, that’s called FAITH. Let’s not forget Daniel in a lion’s den, Elijah taking on almost 500 priests of Baal, Nathan telling David the king he’s a murderer & adulterer, or Saul who persecuted & killed Christians becoming Paul who brings Christ to the world. AM I making my point? Shall I go on? There’s one story after another, Old Testament, New Testament, they all share the same FAITH in God, His Word & His promises of salvation in Jesus Christ. The history of the Church only adds to the proof of FAITH. Martin Luther refusing to compromise God’s Word for the sake of convenience. Believers who risked violent seas & an uncharted land to be free to worship God is all about FAITH. And let’s not forget all those who have done the same without notoriety or public acclaim, but did so because of FAITH.
Faith Is a Gift. We’re here this evening because we have FAITH in God’s promises to save us from sin. We believe that Jesus is the source of that salvation. So, we prepare for His coming at Christmas & for when He returns in glory — that’s FAITH. We also need to be clear in understanding that faith is not without its bumps in the journey, which is to be expected. Abraham & Sarah had them otherwise there would be no “call me Ishmael.” A prophet Elijah would not have fled because a queen had a fit. We all have those days, those moments in our faith journeys. Those who say otherwise are the ones who give religion a bad name. It is God’s gift of FAITH, trusting in Him that makes way for our HOPE, which is where we prepare for Advent next week.
Pastor Lee R. Harder