What does your faith do for you?

given on Sunday, November 13, 2011:

What Does Faith Do for You?

With all the push to get things done this week, I kept thinking about the planned topic for today’s sermon: What does faith do for you? I had written that down in July. I debated whether I should stick to that or not. Then as I was reviewing the possible hymns, I stumbled into the small reading, “A Refuge amid Distraction.”
Like an ant on a stick both ends of which are burning,
I go to and fro without knowing what to do,
And in great despair.
Like the inescapable shadow that follows me,
The dead weight of sin haunts me.
Graciously look upon me.
Thy love is my refuge. Amen Tradition, India

Such a few words, but it captured me, probably because of that first line—Like an ant on a stick both ends of which are burning. Sticking to the plan, I was looking for the hymns about faith when I discovered this small prayer. It made me stop—not for long, but long enough for thoughts began racing through my mind. Somehow the small prayer seemed connected to my question:
What does my faith do for me?
What does your faith do for you?
The scripture from Romans 3, wraps around the story of Abraham and Sarah, a story we have heard throughout our lives. Their story is a model of how faith works. Abraham never gave up his faith, and faith gave him children despite the advanced years that he and Sarah had reached. Abraham did not ask for a reward. He did not ask what deeds he had to do to earn faith. He simply kept his faith throughout his years filled with trials and tribulations.
What did Abraham’s faith do for him? The obvious answer is that it game him children. But faith provided a life-long structure, a plan, a goal much like the success-oriented gurus of today’s world. The Life Application Bible study notes outlines Abraham’s experience:
Abraham’s life was marked by mistakes, sins, and failures as well as by wisdom and goodness, but he consistently trusted God. His faith was strengthened by the obstacles he faced, and his life was an example of faith in action. . . . But Abraham looked to God, obeyed him, and waited for God to fulfill his word.
Does our faith guide our lives?
Do we truly look to God, obey him, and wait for him?
Or do we take control and think we are in charge?
One answer to today’s question is that faith provides us the strength to endure the daily challenges of living here on earth. That may seem like a pessimistic view, but making a living and managing the basics of food, clothing and shelter is work.
In our discussions this weekend, the instructor asked this question: How do we have faith? My first reaction was it is a self-directed choice, but think about it for a minute. How do we have faith? Certainly it is an intangible concept, but is it an action or is it a concept?
The instructor went to 2 Corinthians 1:18-25 to answer:
. . . God is faithful, . . . For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. . . . Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Faith is a gift from God. Jesus Christ came to demonstrate it, and in his crucifixion, a covenant or promise was made with all who believed in Him. Faith is the life-changing gift that makes earthly life manageable. Faith becomes the fabric of our lives—it shelters us from the evils in this world, it clothes us with the armor to ward off the challenges of each day, it provides the nourishment we need to live.
What does your faith do for you?
Faith saves us, true. Yet faith lets the sunrise be breathtaking—even if it is a red sky. Faith lets us weather the storms, knowing God is taking care of us. Faith tells farmers that the drought will break and crops will grow once again. Faith tells the patient that the cancer is an illness not a punishment. Faith is hope.
Faith turns black and white images into high definition color. It brightens bleak and stormy days. Faith reveals the mystery of birth. Faith adds the seasonings to the meals prepared for us. Faith gives us joy.
Faith provides us backbone and nerve as we tackle challenges. Whether the challenge is in a relationship, on the job, or through a personal handicap, faith in God’s promise gives us courage to keep trying. Faith is trust.
God’s gift of faith, sealed with the life and death of his son Jesus Christ, and sustained by the Holy Spirit is all we need. One additional study notes states it like this:
We too are saved by faith plus nothing. It is not by loving God and doing good that we are saved; neither is it by faith plus love or by faith plus good deeds. We are saved only through faith in Christ, trusting him to forgive all our sins.
Remember, faith is a gift from God. Faith gives us the strength to endure, to love, to give, and to receive. As we meet for worship each week, we thank God for our faith. We share with each other what faith has done for us during the week. We rejoice with each other in the glory of God revealed in our lives. We bring life’s challenges to God so we may leave them with him knowing that his promise will be kept.
Dear Gracious, Loving Father,
Thank you for your gift of faith.
With faith we find the blessings
Hidden among the challenges.
Help us to focus on maintaining faith.
Help us to trust your promise.
Help us to model faith in our lives
So others may see how faith
Transforms lives and the world.
Amen.

Related scripture:
Scripture: Romans 4:1-9, 19-25, 5:1-5 The Message

1-3 So how do we fit what we know of Abraham, our first father in the faith, into this new way of looking at things? If Abraham, by what he did for God, got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it. But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.”
4-5If you’re a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don’t call your wages a gift. But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it’s something only God can do, and you trust him to do it—you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked—well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift.
6-9David confirms this way of looking at it, saying that the one who trusts God to do the putting-everything-right without insisting on having a say in it is one fortunate man:
Fortunate those whose crimes are carted off,
whose sins are wiped clean from the slate.
Fortunate the person against
whom the Lord does not keep score.
Do you think for a minute that this blessing is only pronounced over those of us who keep our religious ways and are circumcised? Or do you think it possible that the blessing could be given to those who never even heard of our ways, who were never brought up in the disciplines of God? We all agree, don’t we, that it was by embracing what God did for him that Abraham was declared fit before God? . . .

19-25Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.” Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, “Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.” But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God. . . .

5:1-2By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.
3-5There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

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