Summer Preaching Series
September 1, 2019
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Last week my sermon was about dying. For a believer in Jesus Christ dying is not so hard. Jesus was pretty clear when He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Then Jesus became pointed to his hearers and asked, “Do you believe this?” (John 11-25-26) Dying, in a sense, is simple. Faith in Jesus brings victory over death. Faith in Jesus guarantees eternal life.
But if dying is easy, life is not. In the spring I asked you what I should address in my sermons this summer and you gave me many suggestions. The question that I got from a couple of people was ‘how do I live out my faith in difficult situations’? If dying is easy, living is not. Every day there is a challenge to living the faith in God faithfully. Every day there are folks who make life harder for us than it should be. Every day we live in a world that rejects the good and promotes stuff that is evil. Every day the devil would have us fall into discouragement, unbelief and a temptation that would lead us away from God. I think for that reason when St. Paul lists the many things that cannot separate us from the love of God he doesn’t just list the dark and evil things, but he says, ‘neither death, nor life…neither the present not the future…will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’. (See Romans 8:38-39)
Last week it was “What about dying?” This week it is “What about living?” The Bible passages I especially receive my direction from are II Corinthians 4:18 and 5:7, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” “We live by faith, not by sight.”
The sermon is called “Blind Faith.” Do you know what that is? Do you know what blind faith is? It is taking someone at their word even when you don’t get to see what they have promised. Someone says to us, when we think what they have said is a little too much, “You’re just going to have to believe me on this one.” Blind faith. “We walk by faith, not by sight.”
You really can’t live if you don’t have faith in God. If you don’t have a confidence in God you inhale and exhale but you really don’t fully live. I bet it has been either 30 or 40 years ago that I heard a phrase that has stuck me as I consider how I am supposed to live in life. The phrase is this, “The man who left with only a word in his pocket.” All the man had was a promise that he had stuck in his pocket and with that he was able to go on confidently in life. The account is found in Luke 7. There was a man who was in charge of 100 soldiers, and he had one who was ill, very ill, about to die. The man sent for Jesus. He had some folks go and ask Jesus to come and make this man well.
Jesus was on his way when this man who had sent for him sent some others to intercept Jesus before He arrived. This was the message he wrote, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That I why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (Luke 7:6b-7) Jesus did speak the word. At that moment, though Jesus was some distance from the man, he was healed. (See Matthew 8:13)
I guess that is blind faith, right? They left with only a word, a promise, in their pocket, but it was enough, because Jesus is the one who spoke the word of grace. What about living? How do I make it in the world that challenges me every day? You do it with faith. You stick a word of promise from God in your pocket and, then, you can live life.
You talk about blind faith – look at Abraham. “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8) He knew God was leading him but he didn’t even know where he was going. He traveled a thousand miles west through the desert, with family by his side, and he didn’t know where he was going and probably didn’t ask for directions. Sounds like a man!! (A man with blind faith.)
Even when we don’t know how things will turn out, we truly live when we trust in His good hand in our life. His hand gives us all that is needed now, while we live. Galatians 2:20 says, “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Mike Zehnder has been doing a brilliant job in writing an introduction to the service on the first page of your bulletin. He concludes his words this morning with the words of Romans 8, words that challenge our faith and form the foundation for our faith, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
So, here’s an oxymoron for you, “People with blind faith have their eyes wide open.” An oxymoron is when two contradictory terms are brought together for emphasis. Like baseball and the Rockies. They don’t go together – at least this year, but they are supposed to.
People with blind faith have their eyes wide open. They know the reality of life’s challenges and faith’s challenges. In the chapter of our text, II Corinthians 4, the eyes wide open see, clearly, what we are up against, “Outwardly we are wasting away” (Verse 16), “hard pressed on every side”, “perplexed”, “persecuted”, “struck down”. We are not fools. We don’t ignore the problems or the loss. We don’t make light of sin and its consequences. Our eyes are wide open, but they don’t only see the problem, the loss, the challenge, they see the presence of God is everything. What about living? We live with a certain faith in God’s love and purpose and presence for us. That is why Paul can say, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” In the great prayer for the Ephesians Paul talks about eyes wide open, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18-19a)
Job had his eyes wide open and what he saw was too much for him. He lost his possessions. He lost his children. He lost his health. When things have gone south people bury their eyes under their hands. They don’t want to see one more thing. When life has brought calamity, people have s physical way about them – the shoulders are hunched and the head looks to the ground. Job, still with may struggles before him, could say, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21)
We read about the struggles of faith of Thomas. The physical resurrection of Jesus was too much for him to believe. He demanded poking his finger into the nail marks and plunging his hand into the side of Jesus before he would profess the Jesus was alive. His eyes were wide open to knowing that death is death and a physical resurrection of anyone from death was just ludicrous. When Jesus comes to him and removes his doubt he talks about how others would live with a blind faith, “Because you (Thomas) have seen me, you have believed, blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) Blind faith sees how ugly sin and trouble, even living with life’s challenges can be, but it sees more than the failure, it clearly sees the love and promise and miracle of God in Jesus.
What about living? Before we die and head to glory we have to live with more than we can handle by self. How will you live? Live in faith. Your eyes will look to see your Savior, your Lord and your God. Habakkuk tells we truly live when we live by faith, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18)
What about living? How about some good old blind faith? It will light your path brilliantly. Amen!!