Gift of Faith: Job Ch. 23 v1-12
How many of us over the past week have gone to a square box normally situated in a corner of a room pressed a button and as a result been either entertained or received information . Mind you with all the soaps I hope you see through all the bubbles!
I shall never forget staying up in the early hours of the morning of the twenty first of July 1969 watching the live pictures of the first man to walk on the moon . To think if someone had persisted with, or even thought about such a ridiculous idea just a couple of centuries ago, they would have been burned as a witch of locked up as a lunatic!
Is there anyone here this morning who can explain in technical detail, how either Apollo eleven managed the journey or how live pictures can be transmitted 239,000 miles into a little wooden or now plastic box with out wires of strings attached . I couldn’t even begin to, but I do believe what happened was a fact, in spite that there has been some conspiracy theories.
Very few people in the world today would deny a man the ability to perform such remarkable feats. Especially in this day and age of virtual reality. I get amazed by what computers & robots can do now. Apart from all those games you kids love, we have realistic flight simulators and business software that can blow your mind away.
A television camera used to transmit such live pictures from the moon has about 60,000 photo electric elements which enable it in a limited sense, to see. But the man who operates it has an eye which is far more efficient with full automatic focus and up to a 137 million elements and a lifespan often in excess of 70 years. Yet how many people in the world truly believe in the designer and creator of the human eye or the human brain which enabled these amazing feats to take place?
I have many friends who have said “I wish I had your faith if only you could prove to me without a shadow of doubt that God exists”. I am no more able to prove in black and white that God exists than I can explain in technical detail how Apollo 11 landed on the moon and sent the live pictures back into a wooden box 239,000 miles away . But what I can do is tell people of my experience of God. You may remember me coming here before to share my testimony how my wife Maggie was bought back from the dead after this car accident (OHP) and how this miracle revealed God to me.
I guess if God had chosen to reveal himself, to prove without a shadow of doubt his power and existence to everyone there would be no need of Faith. However if that were so I am sure that not only would we lose the awesome wonder of God but also take him even more for granted . Just as we do when we expect the TV to work without considering the cost and commitment of those behind the scenes who make it possible. For example, the producer, cameraman and other technicians involved in the making and transmitting of a program.
The evidence In the Bible Points to the fact that only one human person Moses. Was allowed to come face to face with God. In the book of Exodus we read that after each encounter with God his face shone so brightly, as it reflected God’s glory, he had to wear a veil over his face.
In our Old Testament reading from Job 23 We read that to a certain extent Job was like some of my friends about god. V3 “”How I wish I knew where to find him and knew to go where he is.” Job wanted answers! Like we often do , how often do we say “Why god?” Yet unlike my friends in the rest of the reading, Job acknowledges that the work of God is all around him. Although there were things that he didnât understand and certainly he suffered more than you and I probably ever will, Job remained faithful to God. Verse eleven to twelve “I will follow faithfully the road he chooses and never wander from either side, I always do what God commands; I follow his will not my own desires.” Wow! If I only I could say the same what a man of faith.
So what is faith ?
The, Consise Oxford dictionary: reliance, trust, a belief Founded on authority . The Bible says in Hebrews 11 “ faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” I shall come back to these definitions later.
There is a common held secular view that Christian life is free from pain and suffering, certainly I have heard atheists say when we do suffer “where is your God now” Whilst we still live in this world which mankind is slowly but surely destroying by going against God’s plan and purpose, we will experienced pain and suffering, even if we personally are not directly responsible.
Many think that when God consoles us our hardship should go away. But if that were always so, people would turn to God only to be relieved of pain and not out of love for him. I am sure there are many parents here this morning who could relate to this. Imagine if your child only wanted that cuddled when it was in pain. What a joy it is when all they want is a cuddle for no other reason than because they love you. (OHP) Can you remember the first time your child looked you in the eye and said “I love you.” Each one of us, regardless of our looks or age are children of God. How He longs for our love, especially an unconditional love like he pours out to us.
I believe the Bible makes a clear distinction between the faith of our salvation and the gift of faith. Let me clarify that. I know that I love Jesus and more importantly he loves me and nothing can separate me from that love. In other words I have ever lasting life through faith. Not through deeds but an act of love and God’s grace. So many people think they can earn their place in heaven by good deeds alone, the Bible is clear that is not so!
Out of all the spiritual gifts available to us I believe the gift of faith is one that is available to us all. But there are few takers
In Hebrews 11 there is a list of people with this deeper level of faith. Abraham, Moses, Enoch, Jacob and yes ladies even Rahab the prostitute to name just a few. Isn’t it wonderful that regardless to our past nobody is beyond God’s love & favour!
Maggie & I have been blessed by God when he led us into fellowship with such a man with the gift of faith. Whilst working on a Scripture Union Beach Mission we meet Joe & Marie from Liberia. He was a student at All Nations Bible College and had to work on the mission as part of his course work. We became great friends. As he finished his studies civil war broke out and he was unable to return to Liberia. Although they had bought their small daughter over from Liberia, they had to leave an older son with his family in Liberia, a peaceful country that had never experienced war. Yet Joe remained faithful as God supplied his needs. I don’t have time this morning to tell you all the facts, I hope one day to bring Joe back from America where he now lives to tell his story. He went to America to see if he could join an American Missionary Society and return to Liberia under their protection. To do so on his own would have been suicidal as the rebels feared anyone who was educated and massacred such people. Although his desire is to return one day and pastor a church, to date he has been unable to do so. A couple of years after the war started I had a phone call from Joe, I knew it was Joe as it was 2am, although educated, he often got international timing wrong! He told me that at last he had received news from Liberia and it was good news. The good news was that only half of his family & friends had been massacred. Good news! Can you imagine how we would have responded. “Bad news, half my family have been killed.” Likewise when his wife Marie was pregnant with twins, one died but he was full of joy that one was alive. Joe always remained positive. Soon afterwards Maggie & I were able to visit him in the USA. He showed us a 45 min video which had been smuggled out of Liberia about the devastation and senseless inhuman carnage which had taken place. We were all reduced to tears. Joe then shared about his pain and sense of guilt in having received two reports about his 11 year old son which he had left behind to be cared for by his family for two years whilst at Bible College. One said he had run off into the jungle and was living off the land, the other that he had been massacred. Sadly only weeks after our return Joe phoned us and told us he had received official confirmation from the Liberian authorities that his son had been killed two years earlier.
Yet in Joe I see another 3 people who I call the 3 J’s. I see the suffering of Job, I see the tears of Jeremiah as he wept for his country but most importantly I see Jesus. Joe constantly praises Jesus. He says that he doesn’t understand why God has allowed these things to happen, but he still trusts God. Joe like Moses, reflects in his face, especially his smile and by attitude the glory of God. When our friendship first started he marveled at the way that some people had faith in England. I asked him to explain. He went on to say that here we have so much, we have hospitals, social services, he had never seen a starving child on the streets of Britain. Yet we still moan don’t we! In Liberia the vast majority have nothing, only God to turn to to provide & heal.
I remember at the time reading an article in the Christian Magazine ‘Tear Times’ published by Tearfund, an articile about the civil war in Liberia. It stated that through all the devastation & carnage of war, vast numbers of people were turning to Christ. The church was growing out of adversity. Yet here in the UK adversity often robs us of our faith!
Take encouragement from Joe’s experiences, God was faithful to him. About nine months after we returned from the USA I received another phone call from him. This time he got the time right! In fact it was on Easter Sunday. Which was very appropriate, as he informed me that the Liberian authorities had made a mistake in identification and his son was alive and efforts were being made to get him out of Liberia! Over that weekend we celebrated two resurrections which have made such an impact on our lives. Maggie & I were privileged to go back to the USA and meet up with Joe & his family including Joe junior who was rescued by Christian people and united with the rest of the family.
My prayer for myself and you is that God gives us such faith, a faith that strengthens in trial and tribulations. Remember those definitions of faith I mentioned earlier; faith a reliance, a trust, belief founded on authority; and being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Let us be totally reliant on and trust the authority of Jesus, abandoning all trust in our own resources in the sure hope that Jesus is Lord in all situations. May we by faith radiate to others the glory of God. As we sung earlier, be still for the glory of the Lord is shining all around, we have sung it, do we believe it?
Maybe you find it easier to believe in the man on the moon than God and the Gospel message. If so remember the words of the first man to set foot on the moon. Neil Armstrong said “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” May I encourage you take that small step of faith and gain a giant leap in your relationship with Jesus and a giant blessing. A blessing that will make you feel over the moon even in times of hardship.
Let us pray: Father God, forgive us when we have been weak in our faith, when we have allowed adversity to rob us. Help us to see you more clearly, love you more dearly and follow you more nearly day by day. Send know your Holy Spirit pour out in abundant measure the gift of faith on us all, in Jesus name. Amen
The Gift of Faith Job 3