A Resurrected Faith – an Easter Message
It seems like to have a faith that endures the rigors, disappointments, betrayals and twists of life – faith has to go through a time of death, or a time of doubt and uncertainty. Simple childlike faith has to mature. The childlike faith comes to a seeming impossibility and the person has to choose willingly and decidedly to act in faith without seeing.
The scene in The Last Crusade has Indiana Jones walking that invisible bridge: he takes the proverbial “leap of faith”. Indy had to cross an invisible bridge to get to the Holy Grail.
Well the disciples had not yet arrived at that level of faith on that first Easter. They had to have a faith rescue – a resurrected faith. The resurrection of Jesus created a resurrection of the faith for the disciples. They believed because of what they saw on that first Easter morning and evening.
The disciples did not believe because of Jesus’ predictions that he would be raised to life. The disciples who ran to the tomb did not believe because they saw the empty grave. They did not believe because of what the women had excitedly reported and joyously said, “We have seen him, he is alive!” And they still did not believe even when Jesus came and stood in the midst while they were having a locked door meeting to discuss the strange news reports – they thought he was a ghost. Jesus had to eat some food and then allow them to physically touch him. That really is not faith – it is a basic scientific experiment.
Mark 16:14 records Jesus giving them a rebuke: “Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.” It was not just lack of faith but “stubborn refusal”. Perhaps a prejudice against the messengers – “they were only women” and not credible men who had the right amount of skepticism to see through the deceptions.
Thomas of course stated the level of faith on which all of the disciples stood, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” He said he needed to perform 3 experiments in order to believe. And so, John 20 tells on the next Sunday when they were together along with Thomas, Jesus invited Thomas to gain the evidence he thought was required, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
However, Jesus also told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
In part, it is good for us that we find the disciples did not come to faith easily. Their cynicism helps me to understand that real saving faith that is not naive foolishness believing in fairy tales and myths. Real faith goes through the rigorous process of trial by fire that burns away all false faith and foolish ideas. Real mature faith withstands scrutiny and inspection.
Real mature faith comes through difficulty.
Jesus told Peter, “Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-34
Paul reported, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us” (1 Corinthians 1:8-10).
In our simple faith we do not see the invisible. Elisha had to pray for his fearful servant, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17-20).
The faith that endures to the end is not based on sight but on the words of God. But for humans to choose to believe the words of God over what they see and hear and feel … that is a process – a painful process where we lose our childlike faith and have to choose a mature faith.
At times, what we call faith is herd conformity. Falling in with a social group and accepting the world view and life philosophy of the group because it is the “faith” of our family, that which I have been taught from childhood, or they are friends who accept us, or they are people who we want to impress or with whom we want to find acceptance.
However, real faith comes when all the hand rails of faith and all the supports of faith that are necessary props to help us in learning to walk are stripped away. Peter in his mature faith could later write about the kind of faith that is a living hope that becomes part of a believer’s character.
“so that the proven character of your faith—more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with an inexpressible and glorious joy, now that you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” 1 Peter 1:7-8
Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him”.
And Hebrews 11:1 explains, that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.”
The writer continues with examples of faith – people who chose to believe in what God had declared to be true.
- By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible (v3)
- By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice… Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead. (v17-19)
- And there were others, “who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again” (v32-35)
- But others were martyrs: “There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised (v35-39).
Hebrews 11:39 explains why. “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect”.
Sometimes the lack of physical evidence to our prayer is because others who are yet to come to faith need to watch us to go through the fiery trial. It is like we are on display in the arena as Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 4:9, “For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings”. People are looking at our level of faith and wanting to know if it is what we truly believe when the crushing times come. When we face the hour of life or death will we seek for survival by any means or will we have a faith that perseveres? Will our level of faith need a resurrection or will it resurrect faith in others by giving off such a blazing witness that others are convinced without a doubt that we had something that was real? And with that kind of mature faith, God can use as a mighty witness that helps to resurrect faith in others. Others come to faith because God uses our belief to give assurance that they too can believe. God has plans so that we along with them – we together may be made perfect.
How can we expect non-Christian family, friends, and acquaintances to have a faith in the resurrection and awake to real faith if we ourselves do not have a conquering faith? How can "fire" arise if we ourselves do not "burn"? How shall others be brought into the kingdom of God if we ourselves are not truly filled with resurrected "life"? Things in our world and in our nation must be changed. Repentance is needed. God’s people must come alive with the mature faith that turns the world right-side up. We must let ourselves be clothed anew by life-giving power that is more than a celebration of a tradition. The resurrected Christ must become again the reality of our souls and take possession of all we are and have. May this COVID-19 Easter cause us to seek deeper to a greater and more mature robust faith.
Mature faith has forsaken all false passivity and reaches out into a holy activity because it understands our Christian life as a "race," as a running (I Cor. 9:24), as "combat" in the "arena of faith" (cf. Phil. 3:14; Heb. 12:14). "I therefore so run" (I Cor. 9:26). "Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy" (Acts 20:24; II Tim. 4:7), "that I have not run in vain" (Phil. 2:16). "The prize" is waiting to be won (I Cor. 9: 24). "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14). "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain" (I Cor. 9:24)
Let your faith develop and mature through the rigorous process of discouragement, doubt, and loss. The kind of faith that is mature believes:
- even through the death of a loved one that you prayed for and anointed and believed in their healing
- through joblessness, financial loss, and career reversal
- through sickness that continues even after much prayer
May your faith not be in what you see but in what God has said. Paul could write that he learned to be continent in every situation – even when hungry or in prison – and that he could do all the things that God wanted him to do through God who provides the strength.
The lives of Philip Bliss and Horatio Spafford are two whose faith testimany, written to music, has inspired countless others. The song, "It Is Well With My Soul," a hymn penned by Horatio Spafford and composed by Philip Bliss, is possibly one of the most influential and enduring songs of faith. This hymn was written after traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first two were the death of his four-year-old son and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which ruined him financially. On top of that, the death of his four daughters occurred while crossing the Atlantic Ocean; their ship sank rapidly after a collision with another ship. His wife survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone …". Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write the words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died. The song is a testimony to a mature faith that inspires faith in others. It declares:
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul
It is well (it is well) With my soul (with my soul) It is well, it is well with my soul
Philip Bliss was a song writer and singer who in 1869 formed an association with Dwight L. Moody and become a missionary singer. On 29 December 1876, Bliss and his wife died in a catastrophe which became known as the Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster. The train, while crossing a trestle bridge when it collapsed, fell into the ravine below catching on fire. Ninety-two of the 159 passengers died. Found in his trunk, which somehow survived the crash and fire, was a manuscript bearing the lyrics of the song "I Will Sing of My Redeemer" which has become an inspiration of faith and has helped people sing through the trials and disasters of life.
I will sing of my Redeemer and his wondrous live to me
On the cruel cross he suffered, from the curse to set me free.
Sing, O sing of my Redeemer! With his blood he purchased me;
On the cross he sealed my pardon, paid the debt and made me free.
Still another inspiration to faith is Eliza Edmunds Hewitt who was born in Philadelphia 1851. She became a teacher but developed a spinal malady which cut short her career and made her a shut-in for many years. During her convalescence she felt a need to be useful to her church and began writing poems – one of which became the hymn “My soul has found a resting place” which also testifies to a faith that does not have to be surrounded by comfort success and health.
My faith has found a resting place, Not in device nor creed;
I trust the Ever-living One, His wounds for me shall plead.
Enough for me that Jesus saves, This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul I come to Him, He’ll never cast me out.
I need no other argument, I need no other plea;
It is enough that Jesus died, And that He died for me.
Let your faith resound in your life and through you so that “all who come behind you may find you faithful and that the fires or your devotion might light their way. May the footprints that you leave, lead them to believe and the life you lead, inspire them to obey.
Carol has added some contemporary songs of faith for your worship on this Easter.
See What A Morning https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Qlc0UIRkBk
Crown Him With Many Crowns https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imJ46zeluE8
Redeemer (I Know My Redeemer Lives) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhE-06hjpJY
Forever (He Is Alive) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeJ14W2lXCw