Proverbs 3: 1-18 Hebrews 11: 1-6
A Recipe For Faith
May the Lord be with you! (And also with you…)
The Proverbs reading that we just shared together is one that is generally intended to give us something of a recipe on how to gain or on how to renew our trust and faith in God. But it’s not an easy recipe to say the least, and may even be a really impossible recipe to have come out perfectly the way that we want it to. The first ingredient; never forget the lessons taught to us by God – and in the Christian’s case we of course have God’s lessons interpreted by Jesus Christ. The second ingredient, put God’s commands in your heart, and then never let loyalty and kindness leave your person or all that you do as a person. OK. Don’t rely on your own understandings of issues and occurrences, but rather try to tap into how God may consider for us that which has taken place, that’s ingredient number three. Remain humble in all that you do and always turn away from evil, ingredient number four. And then we’re essentially told, just do these things and then we’ll get our reward, and that reward is this; we’ll be happy and content, we’ll have a good life and we’ll be particularly blessed because with all of this, we will also have acquired wisdom which is truly the greatest gift that God can bestow upon us. And what is wisdom? Wisdom is being in touch with God’s will, and wisdom is having faith and knowing that your faith is not just something that you say you believe in, but rather that your faith is truly your guide in all that you say and do and believe. And as verse eighteen then so beautifully puts it, “Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly.” That sounds like a pretty good definition of perfect faith to me.
I do believe that we can say that Proverbs three is really just so poetically beautiful, as well as just so simply relevant to our lives. But, like I said, that recipe is a really superbly difficult one to follow, and one that ultimately may actually be pretty unobtainable in this life. Let’s think about this. First ingredient, never forget the lessons of God. And when it’s written ‘never forget the lessons of God’, that’s really putting out there the expectation that we will live out the lessons of God, not just put them into a file cabinet in our heads and allow them to stay there and collect dust and be pulled out occasionally when convenient. And so the first ingredient really is, hold true to the commandments….yikes. How often do we really truly uphold every single commandment that God has given us? Hhhmmmm…right out of the gate and we’re already not fairing so well. The second, never let loyalty or kindness leave your person or leave all that you do….yikes again. Dare I go on? Don’t rely on your own understandings, but seek what God may be trying to point us to or show us. And how often do we really intently do that? And what about always being humble?
I mean, I know that all of us will think to ourselves that we must be at least sometimes crazy and naive to believe-in and think that we can actually follow all of the doctrines that our faith tradition has put out there to us. Is it even at all possible and is it actually necessary to be content in this life? We as humans certainly have our weaknesses and doubts at least occasionally in what Scripture tells us, I know that we all do. Remember doubting Thomas, he was an apostle, he knew Jesus and yet even he wanted to put his finger right into Jesus’ wound. I can’t blame him, I probably would have wanted to too. And Lord knows to simply believe anything that’s out there, well we know that that just isn’t terribly intelligent, we know that we should always check information and question what it is that’s constantly being thrown at us from every direction. Those who follow blindly simply become blind sheep that willingly walk off ledges – proverbial or literal. So then how can these words be real enough to us to ably play into and speak to our faith and relationship to our God? How do we know when something is real, when something is truly of God or from God? How do we even begin to try acquiring faith when it seems that true, ultimate faith, if following the words of Proverbs Three, is not probably something that seems realistically obtainable to anyone in this life, because clearly none of us are so perfect that we meet the capacities set out in that Proverb…
Well, I’d have to say that we could kind of think of true perfect faith as something that we only get glimpses of here on earth. For instance, I see the person deep in prayer, pouring their very souls out to God because they know that God is listening. I see the person studying Scripture intently and loving the experience of the words because they know that the words that they’re seeing are speaking directly to them – just as they have to countless generations before. I see the person not worrying so much about what might come tomorrow or the day after, because they know down deep in their very heart of hearts that no matter what, God will take care of them. Our imperfection, our sin, just seems to not allow us to attain a permanency of deeply true faith, but, I do believe that God does allow us these short glimpses at what that ultimately will be for us once we enter that place of eternal, heavenly life. For sure, the place where perfect faith and perfect everything does surround us and encapsulate our whole existences.
So what do we do until that time, that time that God decides to call us to the place that is prepared for us? What should our imperfect faith look like, or perhaps how do we at least get to the point where we’re actually able to catch those glimpses and moments of perfect faith, which is the joy that we have to look forward to, on a more regular basis?
Well, let’s think about Paul for a minute. Paul as we know was a Pharisee, he was a learned man, a man of study. He’d spent more than half of his life studying the Scriptures, the Mosaic Laws and beyond up until that point that Christ came to him on the road to Damascus and called him into His service. He had sat and had contemplated, for sure he had had deep discussions about not just the Mosaic Law, but about the Psalms and about Proverbs. Keep in mind, these words have not changed since the time of Paul and before even though the understandings clearly have. Paul certainly would have had some serious thought in regard to the question that we’re thinking about today. And I’m sure that he would have contemplated how it possibly could be that humans in our weak and doubtful state could have these glimpses of faith, clearly God knows that we’re not at all perfect as when he first created us.
Listen here for the words of Paul as he wrote them to the Hebrews, that community of people who were generally of Jewish background, but who were also clearly questioning just how it could be that they would be able to experience faith in Christ who did appeal to them, who had opened their eyes and minds to a different view and way of belief in God and his purposes for humanity on earth, but who also was not a part of the norm of their tradition.
LISTEN HERE FOR THE WORD OF THE LORD….
HEBREWS 11: 1-6
“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen, it gives assurance about things we cannot see. …By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen. And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”
What Paul is doing for us here is letting us know that, although faith can certainly be a challenge, for it is believing in something that you can’t see and touch, yet at the same time, it is something which is obtainable, at the least – at its most foundational level. Perhaps not perfect faith as is described in Proverbs Three, that is the heavenly reward we receive for seeking after God in this life. But faith is obtainable, those glimpses of perfect faith are there for us to experience, those moments of joy, and I am sure that we’ve all had those. If we didn’t, we’d probably not be here today.
I know that for me, I truly and deeply desire to experience that gift of perfect faith that gift of wisdom, when called home to be with my God. But until that moment arrives, in my imperfect way, I will relish in all of those glimpses, and believe always that God is listening when I pray, that God’s Scriptures for us are ones that are always speaking to me, and that I know I have nothing to fear because I know that my God will always take care of me. I know that God loves me, because he’s shown me that love over and over again. And I know that that is the way it is for countless others too. Like with everything that’s worth having, it’s going to take some actual effort. Pray, read Scripture, be kind to others and show humility, stay away from evil and be the hands and feet of Christ. And then experience the contentment, perhaps not permanent, perhaps not perfect, but certainly worth striving for and appreciating. And don’t ever down play or down size the gift of contentment when you have it, because it is true that there are so many in our world that do not experience it so often.
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.