Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I Had Faith; So I Spoke

          The Corinthian church gave Paul some trouble. So, he wrote the first letter to them to help them sort out some difficult issues. Besides writing to them he also visited them to personally help work through their problems.
          He left and he wrote again to tell them he planned to come back but…someone there had issues with Paul and he made the decision to put off coming to them. It may have been because he wasn’t so sure that being there would have helped the situation.
          So, now we come to this letter that we call 2 Corinthians. The church at Corinth truly tried Paul’s patience but it also provided some rich material for churches since that time. His letter is an example of restraint, righteous indignation, some hurt feelings, and also excellent long distance management skills…and good use of delegating tasks.
          In this letter Paul is explaining why he did what he did by not coming to them and also reiterating the Good News that he and his friends preached every day.  That message was that Christ is Lord and we are servants for His sake.
          With all the struggles and problems that Paul and his cohorts encountered we never read anywhere that he gave up on God. In fact the very first thing we heard today was that they had…“the same faithful spirit as what is written in scripture: I had faith, and so I spoke. We also have faith, and so we also speak. 14 We do this because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus, and he will bring us into his presence along with you. 
          In that statement we have the reason Paul did what he did and, I believe, the reason why we do what we do, “I had faith, and so I spoke.
          What I want us to think about this morning is that faith Paul is talking about. His faith was so great that the beatings, ship wrecks, snake bites, imprisonment, court trials and other trials didn’t matter. What did matter was spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. He had faith and so he spoke.
          Where did Paul get that faith and is there a way that we can acquire it for ourselves? What do you think? How can we get the faith Paul had? Is it possible to have as much faith as Paul? Maybe you think that you could never have faith as big or as strong as Paul’s.
          I think we can. It is possible. It won’t come without some effort on our part…and some discipline…and God’s grace. In fact, as I think about it, God’s grace may be the first part of this process.
          Without God’s grace we’re not able to accomplish much. But we can and do have God’s grace because last weeks gospel lesson affirmed the fact that God loves us. He loved us so much that he sent Jesus, His Son, to live with us, to teach us, to demonstrate to us God’s love and compassion…for us.
          Now you may question whether you have received God’s grace but think about this. First, you’re here in this sanctuary, and why are you here? It’s because God called to you, to your soul and so you came. Second, if you’ve been baptized, you’ve received the sign and the seal of God’s love for you. He called you then, maybe through your parents but he wanted you. Now that didn’t mean that you were saved but it did mean that God had designs on you. You still had to decide for yourself whether to accept Him and His Good News into your heart.
          Let’s say you did accept his Message of being God’s Son and the fact that he has prepared a place for you in eternity with Him. Does that mean that it’s all sewed up and we have it made? Not necessarily. Maybe you’ve drifted away. Maybe you’ve quit going to God’s Word for daily devotions. Maybe you’ve begun to doubt. So, no, maybe we aren’t where we should be.
          So, the faith we maybe once had has waivered, become weak. How can we get it back? How can we strengthen our faith?
          Before I give you my answer think about this. You used to be full of energy and vitality. You used to wake up all refreshed and just couldn’t wait to begin the work you knew was waiting for you. But then something changed.
          We got older. We ate foods that maybe weren’t the best choices for us to eat. We neglected to exercise our bodies. And things slowly changed and one day we noticed that our physical and mental abilities weren’t what they were.
          But, we know that if we discipline ourselves to eat healthier foods, get our rest, take time to relax, and…exercise regularly we gradually begin to feel better about ourselves and our work.
          So, wouldn’t the same thing be true for our spiritual well being? Why do you think Paul and Barnabas and Timothy and Luke and all those others were able to do what they did? What did they do that’s different from what we’re doing?
          Could it be they knew that they needed to be close to God every day, all day? If that’s it what specifically did they do?
          They were in the Temple every day. They read or listened to the Word being read. They heard God’s Message for them proclaimed every day. They talked about and remembered Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection and his promise to return. And then…this Message was so important that they went out into all the world and told that Story, the story of God’s love, God’s gift, and God’s promise.
          So, I believe, that what we need to do to get our energy and stamina and drive back we need to exercise. We need to exercise our faith. We need to have our noses in God’s word every day. We need to be talking to God every day. And we need accountability partners, friends, to pray for us, to lift us up to God, to hold us accountable for the work God has called us to.  And we are to do the same for them.
          When we let the world slowly turn us away from God, and it does happen slowly, then before we know it our faith becomes dull and lack luster and weak, just like our bodies do when we don’t take care of them.
          I know that I need to be in God’s word. I know that I need to be in prayerful conversation with God. I know that I need someone to hold me accountable. I know all this but yet I’ve let some things slip and my energy, my faith isn’t what it should be, what God would have it be.
          So, good friends, we have some work to do, you and I. We need to re-commit ourselves to renewing our old disciplines of study and prayer and fellowship with our small groups. Without God and His word I believe we’re doomed…to fail.
          Paul thought this was so important that he risked everything, even his life, to spread the Good News. The importance of this work hasn’t changed. It’s still very important. Do we care enough about our family and friends salvation to take the risk to share the Good News with them? There’s the real question.
          We need faith, God’s grace, and we need compassion for our neighbors. To get all that we need to get back to the basics of study and prayer.
          Friends, that’s God’s word for us today. Maybe, when we get in shape, we can say with Paul, “I have faith, and so I speak.
          God loves you my friends and so do I. Amen.

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