Back from the Dead - My Faith!
A few years ago one of my kids received some type of word game in their kid’s meal informing them that there is no perfect rhyme for the word ORANGE! The perfect rhyme is what gave Dr. Seuss his PhD! House/mouse – boat/goat – box/fox – Sam I am! Now what I didn’t know is the Orange is one of 19 words with no perfect rhymes. Others include: Opus, Oblige, (I’ll do what you ask but only because I have to), Film, Gulf, Cusp, and Bulb. A few more - Kiln, Plankton, Pint and Angst! Tell me what many people in Alabama are feeling today? Angst! Angst is “feeling of dread, anxiety or anguish!” One Friday the USA Today shouted – “Greatest loss of life from single day of tornadoes in the USA since 1974.”[i] In April 1974 329 people died when a storm swept across 13 Southern and Midwestern states – one of those mid-western states was OHIO - Xenia, Ohio was nearly obliterated from the map. This storm covered 7 states and killed over 340 people. The people of Tuscaloosa, Alabama now know that devastation first hand. What are we supposed to do with our “angst” – our feelings of anguish? According to the Bible it all starts with our perspective! Turn once again to Luke 24! Raise your hand for a Bible if you need one! On Easter we started a new series called “Back from the Dead!” It’s true everyone dies – but not everyone lives! Choose to live a resurrected life! Here’s God’s perspective when it comes to death. Death is not the end. Death is the beginning. You go from a physical body to a spiritual body – at death you leave the temporary and enter the eternal! Let’s start with verse 5! (Read 5-8) And when we remember Jesus’ words – when we read and apply Jesus’ words – our perspective in life changes – it literally comes back from the dead. But not just our perspective. Find verse 9. The others COULD include Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, probably John Mark and Luke himself. But none of them saw Jesus first. Who did? Look at verse 10. These women were devoted followers of Jesus. Devoted enough to get up early. Prepare spices. Spend some of their money to buy the spices – not to mention their time! I’m just asking – what has following Jesus cost you lately? It could cost us some pride. Look at what happens in verse 11? (Read Vs. 11) Look at this 11th verse in the King James - Luke 24:11: And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. And in the Message:
Luke 24:11: but the apostles didn't believe a word of it, thought they were making it all up. Well, isn’t this a dramatic turn around. I thought unbelievers didn’t believe, but now we have believers not believing! How interesting! Does your faith need resurrected today? I have to read verse 11 again! “their words seemed like nonsense.” A state trooper pulls a car and approaches the driver. "Ma'am, is there a reason that you're weaving all over the road?"
The woman replied, "Officer, I almost had an accident. I looked up and there was a tree right in front of me. I swerved to the left and there was another tree in front of me. I swerved to the right and there was another tree in front of me!" The officer said, “Ma'am, that's silly. There were no trees. It was your air freshener hanging from your rear view mirror.” That woman needs help. These ladies don’t! But you have to admit. That’s what faith seems like some times! Words that don’t make much sense! Faith seems to defy logic! Think this through with me for a moment. “Jesus came back from the dead!” – Wow, that’s kind out there!” If that’s true then how about “God made the heavens and the earth!” Not only did he make this world but he made us – you know their names, our first ancestors – Adam and Eve! God made people – “Man, Greg, that sounds crazy! But all of us evolving from lesser life forms, that’s perfectly logical – that doesn’t take any faith at all! If you really want to hear some “nonsense” try this one. This whole world gets real evil – so God tells Noah to build an ark to save the human race. Jonah gets swallowed by a big fish and hangs out inside the fish for three days! Joshua prayed and the Sun Stood Still. Job chooses to trust God despite his suffering even though God is the one who allowed the suffering! Moses leads millions of Hebrews through a parted Red Sea. Elijah sails away on a chariot of fire. Jesus is born naturally, but conceived supernaturally. And everything replayed has now been communicated to us in the book I hold in my hand we call the Word of God! But maybe the reason faith sounds like nonsense is because of the “angst” we feel when death and tragedy strike! In my experience with people – the most widely asked question is why God allows suffering? He allows suffering because he allows choice. God could have decided to become our heavenly dictator. Instead, he became our heavenly father. A dictator tells you what to do. He may even say he loves you, but you have no choice but to obey. But man did not obey. The whole world changed in Genesis 3 when Adam sinned. The earth changed. We now have tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes – violence, death, & destruction. When I see a weed in my yard I say, Curse you weed. Our bodies also changed. We now experience disease, suffering & death.
My faith leads me to believe that God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. But then again – just what is faith. Faith is a word called “pistis.” Pistis means belief, assurance and moral conviction. Hebrews tells us faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Faith involves knowledge, trust and action. Faith is taking God at his word and without faith you cannot please him!
If your faith needs resurrected maybe we should do what Peter did. Find Luke 24:12! Bending over… Peter needed a closer look. Are you willing to take a closer look? Paul said in Romans 10:17: Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. If you want your faith to grow? Listen to the word of God through preaching. Read the Bible for yourself. Are you willing to pick up a book, “The Case for Faith” and do a little digging? Will you read more of this and less of this?
Have you ever played the game “Would you rather?” That game is frustrating, because there are NO good options! Would you rather be 4 feet tall or 8 feet tall? Neither! Would you rather have massive feet or super tiny ears? Would you rather be happy & poor or sad & rich? Neither! Would you rather face a tornado or a hurricane? Neither! But sometimes we do! I read this verse early last Friday morning. Proverbs 29:25: Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. How do you think most of us interpret this verse? God is going to keep me safe. Nothing bad is good to happen to me. But that’s not the message. Proverbs are concise. They are probabilities not promises. (Proverbs 22:6/29:1) Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe – from snares!
The 60th Annual National Day of Prayer will take place this Thursday, May 5! Millions will unite in prayer. The 2011 Day of Prayer theme is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God!” based on Psalm 91:2 which states: “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Joni Eareckson Tada is the 2011 Honorary Chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. How many of you have heard of Joni? A diving accident in 1967 left her, then 17, a quadriplegic in a wheelchair, unable to use her hands. After two years of rehabilitation, Joni emerged with new skills and a fresh determination to help others in similar situations. In June of 2010, Joni was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Having undergone surgery and chemotherapy, she remains committed to invest her energies and efforts in kingdom building initiatives around the world.[ii] How is that possible? Faith?
Here’s another word with no perfect rhyme. “Glimpsed” What’s a glimpse? It’s a passing look or a brief view. That’s this life and one day it will be over. Over for all us and on that day we’ll all sure then – but until then – we must be faithful!
A follower of Jesus is called many things. We are the church. We are his body. The hands and feet of Jesus. We are sheep whose shepherd is both good and great. But maybe the most fitting description is faithful – we are people of faith! Does that describe you? Do you remember the movie “Finding Nemo?” I love the part where Marlin and Dory are hanging from the whale’s tongue – after all Dory can speak whale you know. The whale tells her to let go and so she tells Marlin we have to let go. And he asks, but how do know nothing bad’s gonna happen? And she answers, “I don’t!” We don’t either, but we can trust God if it does!
[i] USA Today, April 29, 2011