(Summary of the sermon: 13 Dec 2015)
NEVERTHELESS, WORK OUT YOUR FAITH
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Here is a fact – God does not need our help. Yes, He does work through us in this world. But that does not mean that the Sovereign Lord and Creator of this Universe cannot do anything without us.
The truth is that we need Him. So, as we walk closely with Him and allow Him to work through us, our characters begin to get transformed. And as a part of the process, He will bless us exceedingly and abundantly more than what we can imagine.
Instead, if we behave like the Israelites, then our journey will be far from pleasant. Do you know what the Israelites did? God rescued them from slavery in Egypt and set them on the course to the Promised Land. On the way, He provided them with manna to eat, water from the rocks to drink, performed numerous healing miracles and parted mighty water bodies for them to cross. However, after a while, they began to grumble and murmur against God. God was furious at their ingratitude and insolent attitude. He scattered them in the wilderness. That’s why 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 says, ‘Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall’.
So, let’s learn our lessons from the lives of people who have lived before us. Let’s not insist on committing the same mistakes ourselves and waste precious time. Recently, I talked to a young man who told me that he felt that God was calling him to follow Him like He called Moses. But he hastened to add that even though he was excited about God’s calling on his life, he wasn’t particularly looking forward to being in the wilderness like Moses was when he was called. I told him that Moses’ life is an encouragement as well as a warning to us. We can be encouraged by the way God called Moses and used him. But it’s a warning for us to not repeat the same mistakes that Moses did. The Bible is full of real life examples for us to learn from. Let us love and obey God wholeheartedly like the wonderful men of God like David. At the same time, let us be wise to steer clear from the disobedient ways that they walked in.
WORKING OUT OUR FAITH
For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.
Now, the journey of life that we walk with God is definitely not a cakewalk. In fact, this life of faith is often a struggle.
It’s like having a pair of almost identical twins living in us. Let’s call one as ‘Holy’ and the other as ‘Human’. ‘Holy’ is disciplined, inclined to study God’s Word and to follow Him. ‘Human’ is lazy, inclined to sin and tries to draw us far away from God. Paul describes it beautifully in the Word when he states – I end up doing that which I do not like to do. And what I like to do I do not do. What a wretched man am I! I need Christ!
No matter how advanced we are on our Christian journey or how strong we are, all of us face these struggles. The war between ‘Holy’ and ‘Human’ is fierce and tiring. Both want to overpower the other. But God wants us to run to Him because He is the only one who can help us triumph over the ‘Human’.
MIXING FAITH AND WORD
God says in His Word, ‘Do not fear for I am with you, do not be dismayed or discouraged for I will never leave you nor forsake you. I will make your face like flint’. But the same God says in Hebrews 4:1, ‘Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it’.
What does that mean? What is God telling us to fear? He is saying that we should fear that we don’t enter our rest. Let us also fear the thought that we may not reach the destiny that God has for us.
That raises another question. Why should we fear? We should fear like the Israelites that we are not given away to the lusts of this world. All the Israelites who were rescued from Egypt heard and experienced God’s Word. But they didn’t mix it with faith.
You see, God doesn’t want us to just exist. We are not anointed for existence or a simple survival. God desires a destiny for us. We are the apple of His eye. He is able to bless us abundantly but He desires for us to hear His Word and mix it with faith.
Nothing in this word can stop us from achieving God’s plans for our lives. No sickness, bankruptcy or even lack of talent can stop us. What can stop us though is ourselves – if we hear God’s Word and not take it up with faith. Faith is professing and expressing the confession of our lives. Let us believe that God who has called us and promised us His Word is able to fulfill it in our lives.
The word ‘mix’ comes from the Greek word that denotes ‘digestion’. It’s like this. We eat food but it doesn’t get digested instantly. The body produces a digestive juice that mixes with the food and slowly digests the food and nourishes us. God’s Word is like food to us. As we take it in, our faith comes alongside the Word and mixes with it. Slowly, the Word is digested and it bears fruit in our lives.
BECAUSE YOU SAID, I WILL DO IT
Lastly, let me share one more truth in connection with working out our faith. Often, we will face situations and circumstances in our lives that make us nervous about trusting God. Or it could be people’s opinion that scares us. But let us not be hindered by the practicalities of life. Let us respond to God like Peter did.
Do you remember that incident between Peter and Jesus? Luke 5 describes how Peter and his friends had gone fishing the previous night. They returned at dawn having caught nothing. As they were cleaning their nets and preparing to wind up work, Jesus comes by. He settles down in Peter’s boat and taught the crowd that had gathered to hear Him. After a while, Jesus instructed Peter to put out his nets again into the sea. Now, here was Peter – a professional fisherman, who knew his trade well. He knows that fishing is best done during the night. Daytime is definitely not the right time. However, instead of snapping at Jesus for giving him ‘unwise’ instructions, Peter says in Luke 5:5, ‘But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net’.
No matter what how difficult our situation is, let us like Peter say, ‘I tried and I have failed. But at Your Word, I will throw the net. I surrender’.
Let me conclude with a real life incident from my life. I had never wanted to be a Pastor. But one day, during the regular Church service, our Pastor announced that our church was planting a new church in Tambaram and I was going to lead it. Imagine my astonishment! We were new to Chennai and I hardly knew anybody, let alone know the language. I told my Pastor that I was not very keen on it but because he was asking me to, I agreed to obey him. In the initial days, the Church consisted of only my parents and my sister. Soon I got married. God slowly started bringing people to the Church. However, since my wife Anjali and I were both working corporate jobs and also pastoring the Church, we couldn’t give it our full attention. People started trickling away. Finally, we sought the Lord in prayer again. God spoke to us through His Word and encouraged us to restart. Even though the circumstances were against us, we decided to ‘throw the net at God’s Word’. It has been a faith walk since then. But God has been blessing our Church exceedingly abundantly in ways more than we could ever have imagined.
Dear friends, let us not give up. Let us mix faith to God’s Word and follow Him obediently in this journey of life. He will certainly enable us to fulfill His plans for us.
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