Faith and fear
Genesis 15:1-6, Luke 12:32-40
I want to talk about faith. Faith and fear.
Our readings today are both about faith; about trusting in God in the face of an unknown future. And specifically, they are about faith in the face of fear; you will see that both include the line - one of the most used phrases in the bible - ‘Do not be afraid’.
What are you afraid of today? What is the fear that lurks in your mind or heart? The fear that breeds anxiety; unhappiness; discord. The fear that eats away at you, at your relationships, your work? What’s the fear that undermines your faith?
To you Jesus says, ‘Do not be afraid’.
To you Jesus says, ‘have faith. Do not be afraid.’
Because the bible’s answer to fear is faith.
But faith isn’t something that can be taught in a simple sentence, or a well argued sermon. You can’t persuade someone to have faith. It’s too subtle, precious, powerful and fragile for that.
You step into faith. You receive faith. You accept faith.
And so I want to offer some images of faith, some words, phrases and stories that might let us see faith from different angles, without trying to pin it down too neatly. And my prayer is that one of these will speak to you. One of these images and descriptions will help you take a step of faith; a step closer to Jesus. And as you find yourself making that step my prayer, my confidence is, that you will know again why Jesus says so often, ‘Do not be afraid’. And you will find your fear gone, or diminished, or put in its right place.
So here we go. Faith is…..
Faith is a man called Peter stepping out of a boat onto water that he knows cannot hold him. But stepping out nonetheless.
Faith is a man called Abram and a woman called Sarai believing they might have a child despite their age.
Faith is someone like you or me discovering that God really does answer prayer.
Faith is a view glimpsed through the window, so glorious that it is seared into your memory and becomes your definition of beauty for ever.
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Faith is someone attending Alcoholics Anonymous and choosing to take a limping, broken step towards admitting they are powerless over alcohol and that there is a Power greater than themselves that can restore them to sanity.
Faith is choosing to rely on God again. Each day. Every day.
Faith is knowing you cannot do it under it any circumstances. And accepting that fact.And then praying that, nonetheless, it will happen.
Faith is stepping out into the unknown with nothing to guide you but a hand just beyond your grasp.
Faith is a whispered prayer, ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief’.
Faith is claiming a future that is yet to be revealed.
Faith is a servant waiting for his master to come home, and getting the place ready for his return.
Faith is being rooted in good earth, knowing the wind and rain and storms of life cannot bring you down.
Faith is trusting that how things seem to be is not how they are. It is trusting that the things we do not know outnumber those we do. It is believing that there is one who holds it all in love.
Faith is believing that it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Faith is knowing that you could give your possessions, job title, bank balance and clothes away in a flash if God called you. Faith is knowing you could never do that, but you would like to. Faith is knowing you could never do that, wouldn’t like to, but can see why it would be good.
Faith is knowing that the stuff we can touch and taste and see can never be enough. That these things will never satisfy. Faith is investing your treasure in heaven and knowing that is where your heart belongs.
Faith is a relationship; it is best encountered not understood; it is caught not learnt; it is a gift to be received not a possession to be owned.
Faith cannot be defined or prescribed; it is water running through fingers, it’s open hands, it’s a next step taken on an unknown road; faith is sensed and experienced, not learnt from a textbook.
Faith is a man weeping in a garden, ‘Please Father, if it is possible, take this cup from me. But not my will but yours be done.’ Faith is that same man, the next day, on a cross.
Faith is facing an impossible choice and falling to your knees.
Faith is crying out to an empty sky - ‘why God, why?’
Faith is a long obedience in the same direction.
Faith is a ‘yes’ in the midst of a world of ‘no’. It is this [open hands] not that [clenched fist]. It’s humble not proud. It is bold not scared. It is courageous and hopeful, it is given and received.
Faith is as small as a mustard seed. Faith can move a mountain.
Faith is active not passive. It is best understood as a verb not a noun. It is a process not a possession.
Faith is an invitation.
It is a map, not a destination.
It is preparing a room for a welcome guest; clean sheets, flowers on the bedside table, a good meal well prepared. The anticipation of their arrival. Faith is excitement and expectation.
Faith is living in the midst of uncertainty, complexity and difficulty and knowing the day will come when it is ok. Faith is living in the midst of uncertainty, complexity and difficulty and knowing the day will come when it is ok, and knowing that as a result, it is ok right now.
Faith is you, now, in this moment, knowing that you are loved, known, forgiven, set free, called, empowered, blessed….
Faith is you and Jesus together.
Faith is trusting that you need not be afraid. That you are not afraid.
May God renew your faith today. May he call you on to a next step in faith. And as you take that step, whether its bold or hesitant, whether it’s a great leap or a tiny tiptoe, may you find your fears are gone.
Do not be afraid. Have faith