Monday, October 7, 2013

Faith Is My Favorite

Here are some pieces of what I shared with my teens this week. 
There are some famous chapters in the Bible. Genesis 1 tells us of God’s creation. Genesis 3 tells of man’s fall. Exodus 20 offers the 10 commandments. Psalm 23 is likely David’s most famous song, telling everyone that even though he walks in the valley of the shadow of death, he will not fear. Many recognize Matthew 5 as where to find Jesus’ sermon on the mount. 1 Corinthians 13? That’s the love chapter, right?
But, for me, a favorite has to be Hebrews 11. It’s the faith chapter. I like it for several reasons.

First, it clearly defines faith. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Let’s talk about this definition for a moment. Does this mean we believe what we believe and it does not matter what truth is?

The author of Hebrews writes that faith is being sure of what we don’t see. That doesn’t mean it isn’t based on fact. In his first letter to the Corinthian Church, Paul wrote about this idea. He said he was hearing rumors of people talking about some idea that the dead are not raised from the dead. He argued, ‘That can’t be true. If the dead are not raised, then Jesus was not raised from the dead. If Jesus is still dead, then He did not actually defeat sin and death. If Jesus did not defeat sin and death, then everything else I told you about Jesus freeing us from sin and death is not true.’

Paul was arguing that we need to have faith, but it has to be in something that is true. If I stood up here and argued that pink ponies were faster than blue unicorns, you’d look at me as if I were crazy. But if I insisted that I believed this by faith, it doesn’t change the rick-diculousness of my argument. You might ask if I’ve been watching too many My Little Pony cartoons with my daughter. (The answer to that question is yes, because even one of those cartoons is too many.)

But when our faith is based on truth, we can then stand strong, being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Another reason I like this chapter is how he describes the choice they all had.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. ~Hebrews 11:13-16.

No one can force you into faith. Your parents may force you to church or youth group, your youth pastor may guilt you into service and your friends may coerce you to do right. But nobody can make you believe.

The last reason I like, no love, this chapter is how he does not talk about results. In fact, as you are about to hear, he makes it quite evident that having faith does not always bring about great results.

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[e] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. ~Hebrews 11:32-38

Notice how smoothly he transitions from faith stories where victory was had to stories where faith brought death. Results in this world are not part of the guarantee. They are not part of the promise. Earthly results would certainly be one type of reward for faith. But God planned something better.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. ~Hebrews 11:39-40

A boy told his father, "Dad, if three frogs were sitting on a limb that hung over a pool, and one frog decided to jump off into the pool, how many frogs would be left on the limb?" The dad replied, "Two." "No," the son replied. "There's three frogs and one decides to jump, how many are left?" The dad said, "Oh, I get it, if one decides to jump, the others would too. So there are none left." The boy said, "No Dad, the answer is three. The frog only DECIDED to jump." Does that sound like last year's resolution? Great inspiration and great resolutions, but often times we only decide, and months later we are still on the same limb of do-nothing. ~Source unknown

Faith is being sure. When you are certain, you make decisions based on that faith.

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