9th Sunday after Pentecost
August 11, 2019
“Faith That’s God Strong”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our Good Shepherd Jesus. The basis for the sermon this morning is today’s First Lesson from Genesis 15.
My dear friends,
Many have commented on my weight loss this year and yes, it is something I am actively working on. But I found that, to really keep going, I had to take my exercise to the next level, so I joined a gym. For the first time in my life, I belong to a Fitness Club – Crunch Fitness. In addition to the treadmills and elliptical machines, I also use the weights. I lift weights to make and keep my upper body strong. I’m not exactly there yet, but I do want to be stronger. But I’m going to have to work at that to make it happen. Me; only I can do that.
Naturally, when we think about a strong faith, we assume a person with a strong faith has a spiritual strength within themselves. We think that must have been the case for Abraham. Our OT lesson and Epistle lesson texts identify the “strong” faith of Abraham, as do lots of other passages in the Bible. So, we hold Abraham up as an example of strong faith because there was some special spiritual strength he had…I get that, but it doesn’t work that way. Strong faith doesn’t really mean there’s anything about the person that’s strong physically or spiritually. Strong faith is ONLY about God. Abraham’s God-given faith is strong because it displays the belief that nothing is impossible with God.
You remember the story. Abraham lacked a son whom he and Sarah dearly wanted. The Lord had promised just that. In fact, he promised a great nation from Abraham’s descendants, but that had been years ago. By now Abraham had begun to accept that what he was looking for would no longer happen. Then comes those great words of promise from our text: “your very own son shall be your heir.” Abraham had a need; to have a son with Sarah. God promised to meet that need. Nothing is impossible with God.
What needs did you bring to church today? Are you looking for a change, some progress, some hope. Maybe you want answers. Life is full of questions, you know. Abraham in Genesis 15 is a LONG ways from El Paso, Texas. It’s long ways from Dayton, Ohio. In all matters of need we call upon and cling to God, knowing He will provide even if the situation may seem futile. As Luther points out in the explanation of the 1st Commandment, to believe in God (faith) means to entrust yourself in Him completely, even if that means your need is met in another way. Completely. Easier said than done.
Sadly, that is not the case for the majority of people. They have not set their hearts completely on God but they have given up…on our nation, on their hopes and dreams, on themselves. A situation seems hopeless, people feel helpless, and faith becomes the first causality of despair.
Last week the rich man in the parable of Luke 12 was called a “fool” because he forgot that everything in life we receive comes from God’s hands. In our times of distress and misfortune and hopelessness, we are encouraged to turn to the Lord for help and call on him. But rather than do that – turn to One who is strong – we fall into the same trap. We foolishly rely on our sinfully weak selves and we lose hope for a better tomorrow, especially when the bullets start to fly and innocent people start to die.
Abraham is a hero of faith because he accepted an improbable proposition of having a son—something human reason would call impossible. People in their 90s having children. A child? Yeah…right! That seemed too impossible for Abraham to imagine ever happening. But it happened…didn’t it? Friends, your Christian faith, too, should be open to improbable suggestions.
There is no statute of limitations on miracles. Even in extreme cases where medical reports describe futility and little hope, when your life situation feels like it’s on life support, when the relationship is on its last leg, or you feel your health or financial situation offers what you think can only be a bleak future, even if you’re flooded with hopelessness and despair, there may still be confidence in divine intervention. God can make things possible. There is hope and there is trust. And that trust is strong because it is God who provides.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the text is at the end. Abraham received righteousness and with that salvation. In other words, God not only moved things in Abraham’s life with the promise of a biological son and a nation from that, he also brought to Abraham redemption; Abraham got more than the life of a son, he was given eternal life. It is exactly the case with us. It is only through faith that we receive God’s righteousness. Real faith – God strong faith – worships Christ on the cross and risen again alone; it’s not something you do or earn or accomplish. Strong faith is not like a gym membership; it’s not just coming to church and giving a check now and then, it’s knowing and trusting that God will provide more than you can even begin to fathom. Like Abraham, you may have to wait for it, but God does provide.
Strong faith is utter dependence on God for all things including eternal salvation and life and then responding with a lifestyle in this world so that other people will know you have a strong faith not to show off by flexing your “faith muscles,” but to show the lost that there’s a better way. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Strong faith is not something strong about the person themselves; it’s the sure and certain hope of what you cannot see right now.
Let me ask you something: What is the strength of your faith today? Are you feeling weak? Maybe it’s because you’re trying to do too much of the lifting. At the gym, you do the physical lifting, but let God do the heavy spiritual lifting. If there’s strong when it comes to faith, it’s always God Strong. Pray for a God strong faith especially when the bullets start to fly and never EVER lose hope – not for yourself, your family, or your country – for nothing…NOTHING…is impossible with God.