A Step of Faith

John 20.24-29
Hebrews 11.1
Deuteronomy 8

Indiana Jones’ Step of Faith
In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indiana Jones is involved in a search for the Holy Grail, the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper. As the film reaches its climax, Indy must go through three tests in order to reach the Grail. In the final test Indiana Jones comes a chasm that appeared to be thirty feet across, so deep one cannot see the bottom, and without any visible way to reach the other side. Following the instructions from his father’s diary, Indiana Jones steps into the void, and to his amazement, his foot comes down on solid ground. The bridge across the chasm is the same  rocky texture perfectly matching the wall of the cavern.

Hebrew 11.1 translates faith as being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Have you ever been asked to believe in something you don’t see? Probably more times than you can count, when you really sit and think about it. Of most essence is our belief in God.

John 20.29
“… blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Belief is tested in many ways. It is tested to grow our faith/belief; it is tested in order for God to see what is really in our hearts.

Faith in action
When our faith is tested, many times action is recquired. We are required to do something.

Hebrews 11 gives a list of people who stepped out in action in faith.

Noah was told the earth was going to be flooded. The action: build an ark! Noah had never seen rain, let alone a flood. “Build a ship Noah! You can be sure it’s going to rain and flood; you can be certain of what you have never seen.” “Yes, Lord.”

Abraham was directed by God to go to a place where he did not know where he was going. A place hadn’t seen or heard of. A place that he couldn’t look up and study in the tourist or travel guides. “Go” the Lord commanded. You can be sure it’s all you ever hoped for; you can be certain even though you have not seen it yet. And Abraham obeyed.

Mary never saw her son do a miracle, yet she came to him at the wedding at Cana, telling her of the wedding party’s dilemma, “The wine is gone. Do something.” She was certain Jesus could remedy this embarrassing problem. Mary’s action, was to ask and believe.

At the pool of Bethesda, the disabled (the blind, the lame, the paralyzed) would lay and wait for the water to be stirred and to get to the water to be healed. Jesus asked a man, “Do you want to get well?” “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” The man had to believe and act on his belief. Had he heard of Jesus before? Had he seen Jesus heal others? No, for the scriptures say, The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. (John 5)

Ananias was told by the Lord in a vision to go and see Saul of Tarsus. Ananias knew that Saul persecuted Christians, but Jesus assured Ananias that he had chosen Saul to do a great work for him. Ananias acted; Ananias obeyed and went and prayed for Saul. (Acts 9)

Faith in action. Obedience follows faith. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

The Bible is the story of God’s faithful action toward his faithful people. It is the story of God’s people acting in faithfulness toward their God. The Bible is also about the unfaithfulness of God’s people. Because God has given us free will, God’s people sometimes do not trust God and turn from God’s way to their own way and the Bible reveals God’s disappointment and even his righteous judgment.

Giving as an act of faith
One way we are called to honor God is in our giving. Some time ago we talked about our giving being an act of worship. This year I am reading the Bible through in a year, and as I am reading through the OT, especially Deuteronomy, it is overwhelmingly evident how much giving is a part of worship. The major celebrations are marked by the people bringing their offerings to the Lord. An aspect of that worship, is an acknowledgement that God is Provider – that all that we have comes from his hand.

In Deuteronomy 8, God is with Israel both in times of plenty and times of want. God reminds Israel that it is by Him that they were sustained in the wilderness. For forty years, God provided manna, God made their clothes last. And it is in this chapter that God warns Israel not to forget about him in times of plenty. Israel is soon to enter the Promised Land. They will have more than they can imagine. God says,

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.  11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God… 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down … 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 17 You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me."  18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

Faith is about the future
Our giving is an act of faith. Giving acknowledges what we have comes from God. Giving also reaches into the future, to what we do not yet see, and believes that God will take care of our every need. The examples of faith given earlier: Noah prepared for the future by building a boat. Abraham looked to a future place of residence, as he set out traveling. Mary saw a future of Jesus performing miracles before he ever performed one. The crippled man at the pool, after laying there 38 years, he held onto a future of wholeness. Ananias saw a future of Gentiles following Christ.

Faith is about the future; about the things we do not see. Giving to Christ is about believing in the future. It’s about believing in God to provide for your every need.

1 Kings 17.7-16 – The Widow of Zarephath
Elijah approaches a widow for water and bread. She has just a little flour and oil, which she plans to bake for her and her son as their last meal before they die. Elijah instructs her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread fro me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this what the Lord, the God of Israel, says ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jar of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’”

God will provide for your every need: today and in the future.

Giving to Christ is about believing in the future. I believe that God will provide through you for the work of this church, because I believe in the future of this church. As I said earlier, God tests us, he puts challenges in our midst, to see what is in our hearts. And to strengthen our faith, to build our faith.

I believe God has a series of challenges for Faith UMC, because he has a future for you. You have stepped out in faith in many ways. And God is going to keep challenging you. You have come together as a merged congregation, and I believe God is still at work, making you one.

Your ministry has grown in the past few years. And I believe that it will continue to expand and grow. We have a core of committed lay leaders and some of them at time carry too heavy a load. I believe we have a future of more than a few carrying the load. We have a future of every member a minister. Everyone who is connected to this body will be involved in ministry. (And I already see that sphere growing!)

I believe we have a future of being more involved in our neighborhoods; more visible in our neighborhoods; more in love with our neighbors.

Jabez prays in 1 Chronicles 4 “enlarge my territory.” I believe that God is going to enlarge our territory, our circle of influence, our impact on our neighbors.

I believe that in order for these things to happen that you are all going to have some very important decisions to make.

Faith is about believing in someone bigger than yourself
You can make God small. You can set limits on what he can do. Or you can let God be God. The God who is bigger than what you can understand. The God who is bigger than what you can accomplish in your own strength. The God who you are totally dependent upon for every breath you take. The God who is the Creator of this world – who made everything we see out of what was not seen.

The God who
“is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph 3.20)

Will you dare to believe?
Will you take a step of faith?

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