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The Basis for Resilient Faith


Passage: Luke 12:32-40

Speaker: Rev. Dr. Stephen Graham

When you’ve reached out into the dark, as far as you can reach, you then step into your own limited reach, and then, you reach again.

That’s not the blind leading the blind. Rather that’s what you call faithing it. When all that you can do is reach into the unknown, you faith it.

Whatever faith, whatever future we have is a gift from God. “Fear not,” Jesus said, “It is God’s good pleasure, it is God’s plan to give you the kingdom.”

It might do us good to find our pockets empty…except for faith. If we were to wonder, if we were to wander, we might discover that faith itself is the key.

The book of Hebrews was written to a church that was afraid it had reached as far into the dark as it could reach. They were thinking about packing it in, about giving up, about not putting all their eggs into the basket of following Jesus. They were on the verge of turning back to being the good and faithful Jews they had been.

And so, the writer, and no one know who that was, that anonymous soul, is sending this letter to tell them to “hang in there, to not quit.” He says, “Yes, life is tough. In fact, a life which really stands for something is even tougher. But don’t quit. Faith is not an escape from the difficulties of life. Faith makes life worth living. Live into faith. Don’t give up. Stay with it. Keep following this Jesus.”

Have you ever received a letter like that?

One of the treasured letters in my correspondence file was written by my dear friend, Keith Hensel. It is a tender letter that he wrote to me only a few weeks after my father had died. In fact, it is dated to have been written and sent, during our beginning days of sharing life with you here at Royal Lane. We were still reeling from the shock of my father’s tragic, senseless death. The pain of it was still blinding. It was dark everywhere we could reach when Keith wrote to me. His tight penmanship is indelibly imprinted in my mind and heart. With strength and resolve he encouraged us, “Hang in there! Don’t give up! Don’t let this change you except for the better.”

He was in essence saying, “Faith it!”

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1).

Many years ago, Smyth and Helwys published the beautiful memoir of Nettie Ma as written by Kenneth Chatlos, both members of Second Baptist Church, in Liberty, Missouri. Dr. Chatlos gives pen to Nettie’s remarkable story entitled, Finding My Way Home. “When I was a young girl,” Nettie begins her story about the trials of growing up in communist China, “my parents warned me to never record my story with black ink on white paper!”

What she could not do then, she had accomplished with Kenneth Chatlos. Together they tell the story of God’s faithfulness in the face of great turmoil. She shares, “The path of my life has been far from straight and smooth. More often than not, the hills have been steep and long, the valleys have been deep and rough. But when I have looked up, God has given me eyes to see.”

She has faithed it. Ken has faithed it. That’s what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. You faith it.

When you are up against it, when you are about to ask if God is a capricious God, when you wander trying to see the way, remember the story of the Hebrews that asks for us to trust. That is what faith bowls down to. Faith trusts the giver and not the gift. Faith makes the distinction. It places trust in the giver and does not place ultimate trust in the gift. The stories in Hebrews tell of our ancestors in faith and their descendants who longed for God’s good gifts. Receiving them, they were willing to let go of them. To trust the giver, completely. To trust nothing else in quite the same way.

God really does want what is best for you. God wants the best of what it means to live life joyfully and thankfully.

Spirituality means to me living the ordinary life extraordinarily well. (William Sloan Coffin.)

As the old church father said, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” To faith it, is to say with your life, “To God be the glory.”

It is often said that the Church is a crutch. Of course, it’s a crutch. What makes you think you don’t limp. (William Sloan Coffin).

Luke recalls Jesus saying, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom…you must be ready.” (Luke 12:32-40). Being ready is the basis for resilient faith. It requires letting go of everything and taking hold of God.

“There’s only here. There’s only now,” cries the musical Rent, a play of anxious despair. The Broadway play raises questions of urban life in New York City for young people who face mounting issues of anxiety with aids, drugs, money, and sexual identity; a rock opera that challenges us to realize that the opposite of faith is not so much doubt as it is anxiety, worry, and stress, the endemic disease of our culture.

Stephen Neill, the great bishop of India, reflected, “Stress is a polite word for worry, and worry is a polite word for fear, and ‘fear not’ appears in the New Testament 99 times more than any other combination of words.”

If making it in this life is up to me, if there is no reality beyond my own reach or skills, if there’s only here, and there’s only now, if there is no power to undergird life, other than what I can bring to it, then we have a lot to be anxious about.

Jesus wants us to know, both you and me, that it is God’s good pleasure for us to rely upon that kingdom as our basis for resilient faith.

When the followers of Christ began to wonder if they should have already arrived at the kingdom’s gate, the writer of that robust letter to the Hebrews encouraged them to keep on keeping on reaching as far as they could reach in faith with assurance and conviction.

It would be good for us to identify with those ancestors who lived and died seeing only part of the promise realized, and yet were blessed along the journey. Our faith would be strengthened by trusting like those Hebrews.

The best question may be this: does our life have enough edge to it for us to reach forward as far as we possibly can, and then to reach forward again.