Week of Sept. 9: Faith is submitting to the truth that God is in charge
By VICKY BRANTLEY and JOHN BRANTLEY
Lesson for week of Sept. 9
Scripture: Hebrews 11:1-3,6; Psalm 46
Key Verse: Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see. Hebrews 11:1
Lord, let us approach the reality of faith as a little child with simple assurance. Amen.
On the way home from a family camping trip, a 6-year-old and her dad were the only ones still awake in the car. As she looked at the full moon through the car window, she asked, “Daddy, do you think I can touch the moon if I stand on my tiptoes?” “No, I don’t think so,” he smiled. “Can you reach it?” “No, I don’t think I can either.” She was quiet for a moment, and then she said confidently, “Daddy, maybe if you hold me up on your shoulders?” Confidence in a father who loves and provides for his child yields the assurance of faith.
It is somewhat of a paradox to talk about the reality of faith and the proof of what we cannot see. Faith is a mystery. It is an intangible quality. Sometimes we talk about faith as belief, trust, conviction or reliance. This lesson reminds us that faith is the assurance that God is in control—that God has power over all that we may encounter. Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man's power ends.
That bit of news may be disturbing to some. We confuse what we perceive as our power as separate from what God enables us to do. Bishop William Willimon writes in This We Believe: “We’ve designed this modern world, controlled by us, functioning rather nicely on its own, thank you, everything clicking along in accord with natural laws, served on command by technological wonders of our creation. So who needs a God who relishes actually showing up and doing something?” But the true understanding of faith is submitting to the truth that God, the creator and sustainer of life, is the one in control.
The Roll Call
The author begins a historical litany about heroes of the faith. From Abraham to Moses to David and many others in between, he recounts their faith and their triumphs in difficult challenges. This is what we mean when we say “we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” The story never stops. We are encouraged by all those who go before us to bear witness to the power and presence of God in their lives. When Peachtree Road United Methodist Church built a new sanctuary several years ago, they chose to design the last stained glass window as the Atlanta window appropriately facing Peachtree Road and south. This window depicts Peachtree Road's active role in the Atlanta community, meeting the needs of people both inside and outside the church walls. It is a reminder that present day members follow in the steps of people of faith from the Old and New Testaments. Within your own lifetime, you have known saints of the church who influenced you and others. Be thankful for their witness and resolve to be a mentor to those with whom you live each day.
Believe God Exists
All the heroes the writer hails took the leap of faith into the unknown. The African impala can jump to a height of more than 10 feet and cover a distance of greater than 30 feet. Yet these magnificent creatures can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo with a three-foot wall. The animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall. Faith is the ability to trust what we cannot see, and with faith we are freed from the flimsy enclosures of life that only fear allows to entrap us.
The best news of the Good News in this passage is that because of God’s ever present love and grace in our lives, we don’t have to be afraid. The paralyzing grip of fear is no longer a threat to us. God goes before us. God goes beside us. God goes behind us. We need only trust in God’s love, power and grace. Saint Augustine said, “Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore seek not to understand what you may believe, but believe that you may understand.”
Dr. John Claypool wrote in a Lenten sermon, “Faith is yet another avenue to knowledge; it is not an alternative to knowledge. Therefore, in making up your mind about the great alternate questions, I invite you to a kind of openness that believes that truth is more important than anything else, and that God is the source of all truth. If you will be honest in your asking, seeking and knocking, if you'll open the windows of your soul 360 degrees and know that God has ways of making God's own reality known to us through the capacity of faith, there will come ... God's moment when God will make God's own reality known to you in ways that are profoundly authentic. It will be something from the outside in and not from the inside out.”
You are reading this lesson in September, but we were writing it the day after the tragedy at an Aurora, Colorado, theater, where a gunman killed 12 people and injured 59 others. We often ask at times like this, where was God and why did this happen?
Christ Beckert, a theology student wrote in his blog that day, “Only an all-powerful God doesn’t have a ‘why’ because he’s overcome humanity’s brokenness by a ‘with.’” God is with us! We can count on that.
Take Action: Using the Psalm 46 passage write, in your own words, what might be used as an affirmation of faith statement for worship at your church or your class.
“I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love. I love to tell the story, because I know 'tis true; it satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.” The United Methodist Hymnal # 156