Mike Gerhardt, 12-06-20, Belief in things unseen. A new holiday sing in on YouTube called Baby its COVID outside. Hebrews 11:1-3. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith, we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Phillips Now faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see.
Parables are earthly stories with heavenly meanings. Mark 4:2 He taught them many things by parables 4:34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything. Jesus told stories. I used to tell my sons bedtime stories that I made up and had the heroes named after my sons. I always slipped in a lesson like obey your parents and don’t talk back to your mother. Jesus used stories to teach to the multitudes. He didn’t occasionally, sporadically, or seldom-used stories. Jesus always used stories. Stories of a wandering son, a lost coin, a woman who married seven brothers. Stories of small seeds and big trees, of tardy workers and cautious investors. Even the prophets and apostles used parables: Ezekiel’s boiling pot and Isaiah’s wine-filled skins. Paul’s furnished house allegory to James’ looking glass illustration. ONCE UPON A TIME attracts drifting minds. Stories communicate truth. Stories gently awaken people. Stories don’t attack us, confront us, or criticize us. A story is a safe way to discuss serious truth.
Of all the Christmas movies, the Polar Express is number one with me. If you haven’t seen it, watch it tonight. Over the next few weeks, I will be addressing the truth that is hinted at in that movie. It arrived in theaters in 2004 based on the 1985 book, with great use of live-action, motion capture, animation. It is in the 2006 Guinness World Records for the first all-digital capture film. One level below the snowy surface of colorful trains and magical cities lies these questions: Can I believe what I have never seen? Stories can be used to answer the hard questions. Can I risk my faith in something I cannot empirically prove to another? What about life after death? Questions of doubt, fear, or shame. The Polar Express story invites us to ask these important questions. This Christmas season, I hope we can wrestle with the question of faith and learn to share our story of faith with confidence. PLAY MOVIE 1. In the boy’s dream, the conductor invites him to board the train. The boy is cautious, we can imagine his thoughts: How do I know this is real? What if this is a hoax? If I get on, where will I end up? I am thinking some of us have asked these questions concerning Jesus as our Savior. Is there really life after death? What if I get on but then fall off in failure? Is there really a place for me on the train bound for glory?
The scripture addresses questions of doubt, fear, and shame. 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
The Bible tells us that faith is a gift from God. It is a combination of our willingness and the Holy Spirit. There is no work involved, saving faith is a gift to be received. But we must take it and open it for ourselves as we believe.
Hebrews defines faith as being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. The ancients were sure that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing. They believed in the unseen. Is it even possible to be sure and certain of what we do not see?
In the movie, the boy had just enough faith to get on the train but not enough faith to believe the promise. PLAY MOVIE 2. In talking with the hobo, he stated: they say this train is going to the north pole. They say we’re going to see Santa?” the hobo pressed the boy and he responded with doubt: Well, I want to believe but…”
God will not turn away a doubter who comes to him for faith. Jesus met a man with a boy who was epileptic Mark 9:14-32. The man asked Jesus: If you can do anything, take pity, and help us? Jesus asked: If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes. The man responded: I do believe, help my unbelief! Jesus had disciples that were like this boy. Thomas refused to believe Jesus rose from the dead even though the other disciples and the women encountered the resurrected Jesus. Why was Thomas hesitant? Maybe he didn’t want to be bamboozled, led down the garden path, duped or conned (as the hobo exclaimed), or be disappointed and have hope dashed to pieces.
People still don’t want to be disappointed with God. Jesus is patient. Remind your listeners when you tell your conversion story, that God is patient. Thomas wanted proof. John 20:26-29 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Ask your friends or ask yourself the big question which is this: what would it take for you to believe? AND if God gave that to you, would you believe?
Promises to go to church, be good to others, and to stop drinking are made in fox hole prayers every day. We sometimes promise God anything in a crisis if he would just get us out of that trouble. Romans 10:17 Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
John 4 tells of a woman at the well, the townspeople of Samaria, and a nobleman whose child was near death, who all took Jesus at His word and believed. How about you? What did it take for you to believe? What will it take for you to genuinely believe?