Raymond A. Cuthbert Luke 8: 26-39 23 June 2019
What God wants from us more than anything else is that we would have faith in Jesus Christ. The essence of the Christianity is that we would have faith in Jesus Christ.
The following song is a song I learned long ago:
I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.
I believe that in the darkest night, a candle glows.
I believe for everyone who goes astray, someone will come and show the way,
I believe above the storm, the smallest prayer will still be heard.
I believe that someone in the darkest night, hears every word.
Every time I hear a new born baby cry, or touch a leaf, or see the sky,
Then I know why, I believe.
The song is “I Believe.” Writing credits go to four people: Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl, Ervin M. Drake and Al Stillman. A number of artists recorded the song, including, as I’m pretty sure some people in this congregation may know, Elvis Presley.
The most well-known version is probably the one by Frankie Laine, which charted at #2 in 1953. The Lettermen did another version of the song in the late 1960s.
When I was growing up, I really liked that song. Inside of all of our hearts, that is the way we want to feel. We want to believe that in the darkest night, our prayers will be heard.
Listen to this true story of a man by the name of Bill Sheridan. In a newspaper some years ago, there were three pictures of Bill Sheridan each with a caption under it. The first picture was Bill and his new seven month old twins standing on the third floor balcony of the apartment along with his wife. Flames of shooting fire and sparkling smoke were behind them. The caption beneath the picture was “throw the child.” The flames were crackling behind them; the parents were almost paralyzed with fear, and someone was shouting to them from below, “Throw the child. Throw the children.” The next picture in the sequence showed Bill Sheridan throwing his seven month old child into the air, and the caption beneath the picture said, “We will catch them.” The third picture was of the family, mother, father, two infant children, huddled together in safety, with the burning apartment in the background, crying with joy and fear.
There in that moment on the balcony, the parents could not go back to their apartment that was engulfed in flames nor did they like the option in front of them, the railing of a balcony with forty feet below them. That is the way often is: there is no other choice but to make a leap of faith. Likewise, that is the way it often is as you come to the end of your days here on this earth. There is no other choice than to make the leap of faith that God will catch you. Life forces you to take that leap of faith.
Have you ever heard of people like the woman whose car was up on a jack that came out and the car fell on her husband. There was no one else around, and suddenly, there seemed to be new strength inside of this woman and she lifted the car by herself. The faith inside of her, and the adrenaline within her was more powerful than she had ever imagined. There is incredible strength when you believe. That is true of all human beings.
Social scientists have frequently created an familiar experiment with two groups: one group that takes the potent painkiller, morphine and the second group which is told by the doctors that they are receiving morphine but are actually only receiving sugar water.
Both groups experience relief from pain: those on morphine and those on sugar water, thinking the sugar water was morphine. Those on sugar water had been told by their doctors that they would experience physical relief, and they did. Research scientists again proved a fact: the power of belief. The power of believing happens in all human beings.
The stories are endless: belief is a potent power available to us human beings. Those who believe have much more power inside of themselves than those who don’t.
What I am suggesting to you is that the Holy Spirit transforms the power of human believing into the power of believing in Jesus Christ. There are similar parallels. That is, the Holy Spirit takes the power of human love and transforms that human love into a godly love. The same is true of hope. God takes human hope that is found in every person and transforms that hope into something bigger such as hope for eternal life. Likewise, God takes the natural faith or believing that is found in all human beings and transforms that human believing into belief in Jesus Christ.
It is with these images that we hear the Word of the Lord. The Scriptures are filled with Bible verses about belief in Jesus Christ.
The Scriptures invite us and want us to have belief or faith in Jesus Christ. The fundamental quality that God wants us to have is belief in Jesus Christ. We hear of God’s desire all through the Bible. We hear those words especially in the gospel of John and the central verse of the Bible, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
Believing in Christ leads to life. Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
The centurion at the foot of the cross said: “I believe.”
Sometimes though, we need help with our belief, and we are not alone. Like the father who wanted Jesus to drive out a demon in Mark 9:24 we want to say to God: “I believe; help my unbelief.” The cure that God wants to cure in all of us is our unbelief. The response that God wants from us is always the same: belief in Jesus Christ, faith in Jesus Christ, trust in Jesus Christ.
God does not want us first and foremost to believe in positive thinking. God does not want us first and foremost to believe that all will go well.
God does not want us first and foremost to believe in the power of believing or have faith in the power of faith. No, God wants more than that. We are invited to believe in Jesus Christ, to put our faith in Jesus Christ. That is the core of the Christian faith. God wants to transform the power of human belief in all of us into a faith that each of us personally has in Jesus Christ. God wants us to trust the promises that Christ has made to us.
The churches in Galatia, which were the churches in ancient Turkey during the time of the Apostle Paul. There were religious people there in those days who didn’t believe in the gospel that God raised Jesus from the dead.
They didn’t believe that all our sins were fully forgiven with the death of Christ on the cross, and that we are to live a life of love.
No, some folks in Paul’s day didn’t understand all that. Maybe they are like some of us. They also didn’t understand.
What God wants from us is not obedience to a set of rules, but faith in Jesus Christ.
What does God want from us?
In Galatians, chapter 3 that we read from this morning, Paul compared the laws of the Hebrew Scriptures to a disciplinarian. It seemed that God was forever saying, “No, no, no. Don’t do this. Don’t do that.”
When Christ came, we had a clearer perception of what God wants. The essence of the Christian faith and the Jewish faith wasn’t to obey thousands or rules and regulations but to have faith in God. By having faith in Jesus Christ, we become children of God and we put on the clothing of Christ, such as peace, kindness and gentleness.
What does faith in Jesus Christ mean for us? What does it mean to trust the promises of God in Christ? To have faith in Jesus Christ is first to trust that Christ is with you no matter what, that Christ is with you to strengthen you.
Jesus’ name given at birth was Immanuel which means, “God is with us.” For that reason A New Creed of the United Church of Canada says, “We are not alone. We live in God’s world.”
Galatians 3: 28-29 says, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
“And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” I have always taken the first of these two verses as a kind of theme verse for our congregation.
Faith means to trust God deeply in the hard times. In World War II, Cologne, France, had experience three days of saturation bombing by the Allies and people were huddled down in their bomb shelters for protection. On the walls of one of those bomb shelters were scribbled words that became etched into human memory: “I will believe in the sun when it is not shining. I believe in love when there is no feeling. I believe in God when he is absent.” That statement is meant to be part of your life and mine.
Do you believe and jump into the hands of the everlasting God? Or do you stand on the balconies of life, afraid of the fire in back of you but also afraid to jump into the future with God.
Faith is trusting that God will catch us when we fall.
– Raymond A. Cuthbert