Today we are beginning a series on the topic of faith and over the next three week we will be thinking about faith, how to pass it on and what living a life of faith looks like. And a good place to start is with the definition of faith so that we are all thinking of the same thing when we use the word “faith.” To have faith simply means “to trust.” Usually we think of faith as something that we have with respect to God. But faith is actually an essential part of any relationship. Friends continue to be friends because the two people in the friend relationship have faith in each other, that is, they trust each other. In the business world, transactions worth thousands or even millions of dollars, are sealed with a handshake because the people who are making the deal have faith in each other. There is great trust there. And when a relationship is broken, as when a child and parent are estranged from each other or when a husband and wife divorce, it is because one person in the relationship has lost faith in the other. The trust that was once there in the heart of both people has disappeared from the heart of at least one, and the relationship breaks down as a result.
So to have faith in God means that we trust God and it also implies that we are in relationship with God. But how big is our faith in God? How much do we trust God? Being the broken, misdirected people that we humans beings are, we tend to not trust in God as much as we should. We tend to aim low with our faith.
Three years ago, when Logan nearly drowned, the doctor told us that there were three potential outcomes for Logan: he could die, he could survive with severe brain damage, or he could survive with slight brain damage. And in the hours that followed, Susan and I could not even bring ourselves to ask God to give Logan complete healing with no brain damage. We were aiming low with our faith. We were so broken that it was beyond us to even pray that big of a prayer. Thankfully many of you were not so inhibited, and God did give Logan complete healing with no brain damage. But it wasn’t because of Susan and me. God’s goodness went far beyond our faith.
A Bible passage that kept popping up in conversations throughout that time was Ephesians 3:20, which reads, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” Let’s think about this passage for a moment. It says that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. So whatever you and I think that God is able to do, or whatever you or I may ask God to do, he is able to do infinitely more. So it is no wonder that we tend to aim low with our faith. We cannot even imagine how high to aim. And it has been this way for God’s people down through the ages.
From all the nations in the world, God chose the Israelites to be his own people in this world. But God told the Israelites through the prophet Isaiah, ““It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6) God chose ancient Israel to be his people so that the surrounding nations would see that they were a special people, and through them, be attracted to their special God.
And it was through ancient Israel that God brought forth Jesus. And it was too small a thing for Jesus to only save the people of Israel. God’s purpose in sending Jesus was to save the whole world.
Perhaps you know Jesus, but you know him from a distance. Maybe you know about him, but you don’t really know him personally. Maybe your relationship with Jesus is like the relationship most of us have with Bobby Orr. We know about him, we may even know a lot about Bobby Orr. But we don’t really know him personally. And that makes all the difference in the world.
And sometimes, when we have a distant relationship with Jesus, we think of him as being like a judge who gives us a slap on the wrist when really we deserve to go to jail. He knows that we deserve to be punished, but he lets us off with a warning, this time.
But that is not how Jesus really is. The truth is that Jesus is head-over-heels in love with each and every one of you. And Jesus is pursuing you with his love and he will do whatever it takes to remove all barriers between him and you. Jesus’ passionate desire is to win your heart and give you a life with him that will last forever.
Jesus’ love for you is like the love of Anna for her sister Elsa in the movie Frozen. Even though Elsa caused Arendelle to become a frozen wasteland and then she left to live life on her own, Anna pursued Elsa, often putting herself at great risk in the process. She did so because she truly loved her sister.
The only reason that Jesus went to the cross to suffer and die for all of your sin and mine is because our sin was getting in the way of us having a full blown relationship with him. Jesus is God and God is absolutely holy and perfect in every way. Therefore, he cannot tolerate sin being in his presence. But we are soaked in sin from birth because we inherited a sinful nature from our first parents. So we can never enter into a relationship with God on our own. It is impossible.
But what is impossible for us is possible for God. God is in the impossibility business. So Jesus had paid the cost of forgiveness for all the sin that you ever committed and all the sin that you will ever commit. And so, when you have a relationship with Jesus, your sin is now no longer an issue for God at all.
And we saw Jesus in action earlier this morning when he worked through the water and the Word to wash little Nash clean of all of his sins and welcome him into the family of God. Nash did not do anything to deserve or earn his adoption into God’s family. It is all a gift to him from Jesus. Nash now has a relationship with Jesus and Jesus will never abandon Nash. Nothing, not even death, will ever come between Nash and Jesus’ love for him.
So let’s go back to the questions I asked you earlier to think about, and I will ask them in a different way. “Do you have a relationship with Jesus? Do you have faith in him, that is, do you trust in Jesus? And if you do have faith in Jesus, how big is your faith?”
These are important questions, because it is too small a thing for you to have faith in Jesus just for your own salvation. There are people around you who also need Jesus. Do you have enough faith in Jesus to rest in his love and let him live his life in and through you? Ephesiasn 3:20 tells us that God’s power is at work within us. Do you trust Jesus enough to let his power work in you to help others?
Perhaps you do have a close relationship with Jesus and you are also part of a Christian faith community where you live out your faith by helping other people. It is too small a thing for you to have faith in Jesus just for yourself and your circle of friends, for Jesus came to renew and restore all things. Every human being and all of creation became broken when our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned. The Bible tells us “…that the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed” and “…the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:19, 22)
Jesus has promised us that one day he will return to this world in a visible way to vanquish evil and overturn injustice. He will raise us from the dead and give us new resurrection bodies that will never grow old, never get sick and never die. Jesus will recreate this world in the new heavens and earth and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things will have passed away (cf. Revelation 21:4). And somehow, in ways that we do not fully understand, Jesus will make sure that the good things that he does through us in our life here will show up in the new heavens and earth. Do you trust Jesus enough to let him work in and through you to make a difference in this world that will last forever?
As we have gathered together as a congregation and dreamed a God-sized dream for ourselves, the dream that came to us was for Walnut Grove Lutheran Church to be a multi-generational, multi-ethnic faith community that makes a difference today and forever in the lives of people in Langley and beyond by engaging hearts and minds with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and embracing people with God’s love in the power of the Holy Spirit. We want to be part of Jesus’ work of renewing and restoring all of creation. It is too small a thing for us to be focused on our own personal salvation. It is too small a thing for us to be focused on building up our church. We want to aim high with our faith, knowing that God’s best for us and the world is far beyond all that we can ask or imagine. We want to be a congregation that builds people up and then sends them out to be missionaries in their own communities. We want to be a congregation that engages with the hard issues that people are struggling with in their everyday lives. We want to be a congregation that welcomes all people regardless of their background or situation. We want to be a faith community that continually points people to Jesus. Jesus is head-over-heels in love with us, and we love him too. And it is because of his love that we trust him so much.
In the movie Frozen, Anna commites the act of true love that thaws a frozen heart by selflessly sacrificing herself for her sister Elsa. And in doing so, all of Arendelle is also thawed and restored as well. Because he loves you and the whole world, Jesus committed the ultimate act of true love by selflessly sacrificing his life for you and me and the whole world. With his love he has thawed our frozen hearts and one day he will thaw all of creation and make it even better than it was before.
So, I encourage you to aim high in your faith in Jesus, because is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. Amen.
(Shared at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, Langley BC on September 13, 2015.)