How fitting, to compare faith to the largest diamond imaginable
~ what is more valuable than your faith?
“How is your faith?” The answers I heard were everything from dismissing me to go away ~ to amazing trust in God no matter what ~ one young man that believed his eye injury was punishment from God ~ I heard in response the question, “how is your faith” anger, acceptance, joy, disappointment. People were free to answer from the angle of their belief. I never hid my own Christian faith. I never pretended to believe something contrary to the Bible…. What an honor for me to spend time listening to people’s faith stories and hopefully providing a few words of encouragement, a few insights, or simply a listening ear…
A question for each of you today: “How is your faith?”
Maybe you can related to the guy named Jack (no resemblance to any real people I know...). Jack was walking along a steep cliff one day, when he got too close to the edge and fell. On the way down he grabbed a branch, which temporarily stopped his fall. He looked down and to his horror saw that the canyon fell straight down more than a thousand feet. He couldn't hang onto the branch forever, and there was no way for him to climb up the steep wall of the cliff. So Jack began yelling for help, hoping that someone passing by would hear him and lower a rope or something.
HELP! HELP! Is anyone up there? "HELP!" He yelled for a long time, but no one heard him. He was about to give up when he heard a voice. “Jack, Jack. Can you hear me?"
"Yes, yes! I can hear you. I'm down here!"
"I can see you, Jack. Are you all right?"
"Yes, but who are you, and where are you?
"I am the Lord, Jack. I'm everywhere."
"The Lord? You mean, GOD?"
"God, please help me! I promise if, you'll get me down from here, I'll stop sinning. I'll be a really good person. I'll serve You for the rest of my life."
"Easy on the promises, Jack. Let's get you off from there; then we can talk. Now, here's what I want you to do. Listen carefully."
"I'll do anything, Lord. Just tell me what to do."
"Okay. Let go of the branch."///"What?" "I said, let go of the branch. Just trust Me. Let go."
There was a long silence. Finally Jack yelled, "HELP! HELP! IS ANYONE ELSE UP THERE?"
How is your faith in God? Part of faith, like Jack showed us, is trust…. The last 3-4 weeks I’ve been considering this Luke 7 series. Four stories of faith, each one so different:
Story #1: a very confident Roman Centurion. This is the only person where Jesus says, “I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”
#2: a widow loses her son, and without even a request from the widow, Jesus raises the son from the dead. It is all God.
#3: the celebrity of the chapter, the well known public figure of the time, John the Baptist, a high profile man of great faith used by God as the bridge from the old testament to the new testament, John the Baptist questions if Jesus is really who he says he is. A questioning faith.
#4: A sinful woman is touched by the master. Transformational faith.
As I got closer to a series of messages, I start thinking in more detail. These four stories bothered me because they are so different from each other. Each individual story is easy to understand, but they were so different from each other. For days I wonder how to put them together. Early morning about 1 on Wednesday, I found myself wide awake and this thought penetrated my thick skull: the truth is found in all four stories: faith is for the sinner to be saved, faith allows and even invites questions, faith is all God, faith leads to confidence. The four go together.
Faith is like a diamond ~ a precious gem. Look at the diamond under the right light and you can actually see a prism of light, a subtle, but a beautiful spectrum of color. Turn the diamond a quarter turn, similar in appearance as the first angle, no words could describe the difference, yet it is a whole new set of rays, light beams passing through, another quarter turn, same thing, another quarter turn and you have the same phenomena… then you look at the whole and what do you see? The full color spectrum, the light beams in every direction criss crossing, never ending, fullness.
Luke 7 is like a diamond with a dazzling display of perfect light ~ four angles of faith, each different, each story an incredible word of encouragement, but the power comes when you look at the whole: confidence intersecting with the truth that it is all God, his initiative, his doing, another quarter turn of the diamond and we see questions, uncertainty ~ it is part of faith, the desire for affirmation that God and his promises are real, and finally, to see that faith is for sinners.
Four angles of faith make up the whole. We see the diamond of faith in some of the great people of the Bible. Consider David, considered the greatest King of the golden age of Israel: A man of confidence commanding the armies of Israel, a man of sin, committing adultery and then murdering his mistresses husband, a man who questioned God constantly as evidenced in so many of the Psalms he wrote, a man totally dependent on God to get him through the crisis of his life such as the death of his son. Faith is found in all of the situations, emotions, life throws at us.
How is your faith?// The problem as we struggle to answer that question is that we tend to have a scale with the centurion at the top and John the Baptist at the bottom. The closer we are to having complete confidence the more faith we have. If faith is a diamond, we need to understand that there is beauty as we look at a diamond from each angle, but then to step back and see the fullness of the light spectrum is even more dazzling.
Although I could use examples of people in this room that I admire, it is easier to use those who are not here... I think of Lillian Willis, a towering woman of faith in S.F., totally dependent on God as she faced cancer in her husband, a son that died, heartache, yet a joy of the Lord that gave her amazing confidence. I don’t even need to be there to know what she is like as she has now had a stroke and her life is winding down.
I think of Jacob back in the book of Genesis that had stolen the birthright from his brother, Esau, and ran away. Twenty years later he was returning, quite nervous about the reception he might receive. That night Jacob wrestles with an angel, and the angel smacks him in the hip causing his hip to go out of joint. From that day on Jacob walked with a limp, a permanent reminder that Faith is hard. There are four angles of faith in Luke Chapter 7, and some of the angles may test you.
Since she is not here, let me spotlight Kay Bishop. I saw her in the hospital, sitting up, smiling and I thought: show me a person who is weaker than kay: blind, an arm with diminishing strength, helpless. Show me a person who is stronger than Kay Bishop: her trust in God, her joy of life, her appreciation for all who come to see her. Kay had been in the hospital for less than 24 hours when I saw her. A man visiting the other woman in Kay’s room was leaving for the day while I was there. He made a special point to come and tell Kay how much he appreciated her, what a wonderful woman she was. I thought that was a true blessing to watch a blind 95 year old woman making such an impact in such a short time. Kay’s faith is a blessing to others. Kay’s faith, like a diamond, is multi-faceted.
Faith is found in the weakness of our human nature, amazing things happened when a widow who lost her son met the strength of Jesus Christ. Faith is like a diamond, keep turning and you see a different angle, but then look at the whole and there is a fullness, a completeness of the light spectrum that is more brilliant yet.
How is your faith? Don’t put yourself down if you have uncertainty. John the Baptist, the man who announced the coming of Jesus, the man who baptized Jesus, sent his messengers to ask the Lord, “are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else.”
How is your faith? The sin that consumes you, the sin that humbles you, is what God sent his son Jesus Christ to overcome. Then Jesus said to the woman: “Your sins are forgiven…your faith has saved you, go in peace.” The presence of sin does not negate faith, it is the reason for faith.
How is your faith? Perhaps you feel helpless like the widow, a double whammy because now she has lost her son ~ when you at last understand how helpless we really are is God at his most amazing.
How is your faith? Do you have even a smidgeon of confidence in God? The Centurion sent word to Jesus to not come to heal the servant, “[just] say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
Confidence, helplessness, questions, sin ~ it’s all part of the diamond of faith, a brilliant dazzling whole. You grow in your faith by gaining more confidence, becoming more dependent on God, ask all your honest questions, and expose your sin ~ four anges of faith. And because faith is like a diamond, you can start at any point. How is your faith? We’ll take the next month and dig deeper into that question, one angle at a time. Amen.