Sunday, June 9, 2013

With Faith

It’s taken me all week to get this sermon prepared. I knew by Saturday afternoon I was in a bad way as I was cleaning out the dishwasher, cleaning appliances, wiping done parts of the bench that hadn’t been done in weeks - anything to avoid putting word to paper.
I knew that even though I thought I didn’t know what to say that wasn’t really the problem, I did know, but it was because it seemed more of a challenge to me and how could I say that to you?
I had read the readings last Sunday and have pondered them all week and the main thing that I thought God wanted me to share was having faith to do the things He has done.
Could I speak about this when I had my own doubts?
What sort of witness would that make me?
Then it got worse as I would think: Was pride in the way of being exposed or confessing my inadequacies?

I had prayed on a few occasions that God would really give me something great to share – other than what I was ashamed to admit. I even started reading other readings and study’s I have in the hope that there would be some other inspiring thing to say.
And do you know what God said to me through all that?
A couple of readings from the Word for the Day a while back (I was catching up on some of these) and it had this
When Paul tried to share his new faith with his old friends, 'They opposed him' (Acts 18:6). It hurts to be rejected by those you love. God had to encourage Paul, saying, 'Do not be afraid...I am with you, and no one is going to...harm you.' Being rejected by others can actually bring a greater intimacy with God. Your greatest spiritual growth will generally result from your greatest trials. 

Another reading said

God breathed into us two important things: (1) Imagination when God gives you a concept; you must work to make it a reality. God said, 'The world and all that is in it is Mine.' That means that instead of complaining about what you don't have, you look at what you do have, and what you can make of it with God's help. (2) Freedom of choice. God has empowered you with the ability to make the right choices and act on them. But … don't try to go it alone. Jesus said, 'What is born of...[the physical is physical]; and what is born of the Spirit is spirit' (John 3:6). Always depend on the Holy Spirit. He's called 'the Helper' for a reason. God has given you everything required to succeed at whatever He's called you to do. But you must tap into your God-given creativity! 

Still another said

The Bible says, 'Where there is no vision, the people perish' (Proverbs 29:18). Every great accomplishment begins as a vision, and every God-given vision comes with the innate power to fulfil it. There’s a 'God-idea' inside you right now that's just waiting to be released. By not tapping into it, you're settling for less than God wants you to have. Whatever you feel called to do –(preach) - make the leap and do it. If you wait until you can do it perfectly or without criticism, you'll never do it!

So God was really wanting me to bring what He had given me, He knew I could do it and He would be there with me.

Today’s readings from the old and new testament are both similar. In 1 Kings God had told Elijah that there would be “neither dew or rain in the next few years” and sent Elijah to hide where he could drink from a brook and be fed by ravens. Then even the brook dried up…

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”
12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”
13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”
15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

Imagine that. You have only enough for one more meal to feed your family and yourself and someone important comes and wants to be fed too.
Hmmmm self-preservation tends to kick in. But this woman knew what she had to do – perhaps in fear, or maybe to please God  and she was rewarded because the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry,
Have you ever been challenged to that point, giving to others when you have nothing to give, or so you think? The scripture in Luke 21:1-4 comes to mind (The Widow’s Offering)
21 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Continuing on in the reading from Kings. 1 Kings 17:17-24

17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”
19 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”
22 The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!” 24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”

It would appear that perhaps a certain amount of resentment had settled in to the woman, having to cook for this guest day after day and now she needs to care for her sick son but despite that he dies. She would possibly be thinking, “I have done all this for God and this is what happens to me. I even have this man who is supposed to be a Man of God in the same house and God has let my son die”. It maybe anger; it maybe despair but even Elijah feels unable to explain why this has happened and cries out to God. And even in their doubt and lack of faith God heals the boy.

In our New Testament reading from Luke we read how Jesus also heals the son of a widow.

Luke 7:11-17 Jesus Raises a Widow’s Son
11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

When Jesus saw the situation his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
He, being God, just spoke to the young man and he sat up and began to talk.

In both these situations the son of a widow died and God raised them from death and the sons’ were “given back “to their mothers.”
In Bible times sons were to look after their mothers especially if they were a widow. These boys were the only sons and so the widow would be left destitute. It’s hard enough to lose a spouse let alone a child.
In the gospel of John we read even on the cross Jesus told the disciple “here is your mother” which was to say - look after Mary his mother.
In later times in the bible we are urged to look after widows. James1:27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Now comes the challenge.
Last week Karen shared with us the message from Galatians 1 about hearing the message of the true gospel and not being swayed but untruths. She reminded us of our commitment to loving Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and living to show it.

Here we are presented with the restoring of the dead.
Jesus told us in Matthew 28:18-20
18 … “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
And in John 14:12-17 we read
12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

As we profess our love and reliance to God we are called to walk in the way Jesus has told us to.

Do you believe you could raise the dead?
We read if we have faith the size of a mustard seed we can move mountains. Matthew 17:20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

It seems a bit of an ask.
But are we thinking of our own capabilities rather than God’s?
It is not us who work the miracle. It is God lest we try to have the glory all for us.
Even Elijah and Jesus asked for the miracle of life for the sons for the sake of the widows, not to bring any glory to themselves.
We are called in our walk to bring glory to God and to step out and do whatever He asks us to do.
Are you prepared to do that for the glory of God so that all will see and none will be lost.
I will finish with a reading I had on Friday from Our Daily Bread

11 Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him,     we will also live with him;
12 if we endure,    we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,    he will also disown us;
13 if we are faithless,    he remains faithful,    for he cannot disown himself.

Walking on water begins with one step of faith. It also brings you closer to Jesus. You see, Jesus wasn't in the boat, He was out on the water saying to His disciples, 'Come' (Matthew 14:29). Only one of them did: Peter. And though he did it imperfectly, it changed his life. So don't be afraid, tap into your creativity and watch what happens.
 Sermon Fiona Van Lent 9/6/13
 All scripture is taken from New International Version 1984  

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