Monday, July 26, 2010

Leaning on your faith

For his first time, Russ gave a sermon at Saipan Community Church on Sunday. He prepared well for it and was relieved when it was over. The 21 minute sermon seemed like a final exam during college and he aced it. Thank you to the Santos', Gabaldon's, Auther's, Montgomery's, Justin, Clarie and the Nepaial's for attending. It really meant a lot to us to have you there!

Below is the sermon...
Paul Garcia wants to kill me! In fact, he’s tried several times! Who is Paul Garcia and why does he want to kill me? Paul’s an old college buddy who is a thrill seeker and whenever I went home to visit, he would schedule skydiving. You know, jumping out of a perfectly good airplane at 12 thousand feet! Talk about taking a leap of faith. So in order to skydive you take an hour of class, then they cram you and several other doomed souls in this plane, waiting for our turn to jump. And once we reached the right altitude, one by one we’d work our way towards the open door at the back of the plane. Of course my heart is pounding in my chest and I can barely move, paralyzed by fear, then I watch my buddy Paul go before me, and poof! He’s gone! Completely out of site, he’s dropped so fast he’s gone in the blink of an eye, I start to panic. “I am not going to do this”, I say to myself. This is too scary. And then the instructor yells “are you ready?”, and a force beyond my control forces my head to nod yes! And out I go! My eyes are all in the back of my head; I have no control of my body; I am a dead fish. But finally I reach maximum speed and I’m free falling at 140mph. It’s great, it feels like I’m floating! After a few short moments of joy, now comes the second scariest thing besides jumping out of a plane! What do you think the most important thing they teach you in that one hour class is? To pull the rip cord! Well of course it opens, and I fall gently to earth. I am so excited to be on the ground! I want to go again! I feel so alive!

Faith, when you lean on it and realize that God is there it is as great as having the parachute open. As scared as I was jumping out of that plane, standing before you scares me more. Faith can drive you to do things that you normally wouldn’t do. If you ever want to experience personal growth real quickly, do something that scares you. It may not be skydiving but it can be something more practical. For instance, when Pastor Greg asked me to speak a few weeks ago, I immediately started to stress! I’m not one to shy away from a microphone. You can ask me to come up and speak in front of a group of people with no time to prepare, and I am okay. But give me a month to think about it, and it absolutely terrifies me!

Since pastor asked me, I have been praying and praying and praying for God to provide me with a message that is meaningful, encouraging and well… along with my personality, entertaining. As soon as I agreed, amazing things started happening. A small voice in my head whispered, “faith you can lean on”: I think geeze God, “Faith”, such a small topic for my first attempt at giving a sermon, but okay God, I will test my faith. Then, like clock work, God moments start popping up all over, there were the books that I am reading with real life examples of individuals in difficult situations, leaning on their faith in God. One such example is an excellent book called “Left to Tell” by Imaculee Ilibagiza (eemaculay eeleebageeza), where this lady survives the Rwandan genocide in 1994, in which over 1 million Tutsi’s were brutally killed by another tribe called the Hutu’s, and the author hid in a bathroom the size of a closet with 8 other women for 3 months while murderers searched for them. Her tale of faith and forgiveness is amazing testimony, and God’s faithfulness to her is truly moving.

Then the word faith starts popping repeatedly in other areas of my life: sports websites, music on secular radio stations, podcasts that I am listening to have strong messages about faith. And I start to believe that this is what I am supposed to talk to you about today.

Today’s bible verse that Jackie read, talks about faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain. That’s just hard to imagine. But shows the power of what a little faith can do. Can you imagine moving Mt. Tapochau down to the northern part of the island on faith alone?

Let’s start with defining the word Faith. There are several definitions, but I chose the one pertaining to religion. Faith by Definition - means having a religious belief or following a form of worship. As used in the Bible, however, “faith” means total trust, complete, unshakable confidence in God and his promises.

So, what is faith you can lean on? To me, it means trusting that God will be there, even if you are not 100% sure. He’s an invisible safety net. When we lean on something, it is usually a supports or aids us in staying upright. So Faith as we just defined, along with leaning on it, allows us to live a more bold life even during difficult times. If you know you can lean on God, and trust that He will be there for you, you will be rewarded by stronger faith.

Let’s take a quick look at Mathew 25: 21, the parable of the loaned money in which the master returns after some time away and finds that his servant has taken care of the master’s fortune. The master was full of praise. And says, “Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together.” Have you heard this verse before?

You know in my family I am the quiet one…I know that’s hard to believe but my sisters and family are just crazy loud. Getting a word in is tough, so in order to streamline things we came up with the “One Finger Rule”…no, not that finger, your pointer finger. At my house growing up, we had this rule that if you’d heard the story before you put up your pointer finger, and if everybody heard it, you had to stop the story. (I wouldn’t be surprised if Kanae is raising her finger as I speak). Well, this rule just killed my mom because she was always telling stories we’d already heard. But that didn’t stop her from telling a story with everyone holding their finger up. She would just pretend she doesn’t see them.

So even though we’ve heard this passage before, let’s revisit it. “Well Done Good and Faithful Servant”. Who here wants to hear God say those words? As we know, one day we will all, every one of us whether we believe or not, be on our knees before God and he will judge us.

Let me ask you. Hypothetically: If today was the day you were called to meet the Lord? Are you ready to meet your maker? Are you sure…absolutely sure that those are the words you would hear from Him? That scares the heck out of me because, I personally don’t know. Have I done enough? Have you? What does the bible say about faith? And what should we be doing to prepare for that day?

We host a bible study at our house on Monday nights (you are all welcome to attend, by the way). We just finished one of my favorite most meaningful ones. It was by Francis Chan called Crazy Love. And it challenged us to truly understand this Being we call God, and if we truly do understand how awesome this God is, what are we going to do about it? Francis challenged us to look deep inside ourselves and ask if we were mere “Lukewarm Christians”. In other words, do we do what’s comfortable for us by attending church on Sundays, maybe going to bible study and maybe praying daily, maybe occasionally reading the bible? Or, do we live God’s words by really following Jesus’ example of faithfulness? Would we invite that homeless person over for dinner and offer a room to sleep for one night, for a month, how about a year? Would we put our feelings of uneasiness aside and trust God when He calls us to leave all our possessions, family and friends behind to become missionaries in a third world country with no electricity or comforts of home?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. I wish I did. I merely put them out there. But I believe that each and every one of us owes it to ourselves to reflect and ask for God’s guidance on what they mean to us. Let’s examine what the bible says about Faith. Who are some of the individuals of the bible that leaned on their faith and were rewarded for it:

Abraham’s faith is tested Genesis 22: when God tells him to sacrifice his only son. Why did God do this? To punish Abraham? No, I believe He did it to develop his faith to trust in the Lord for everything!

Noah – Genesis 6: He built this huge boat in the middle of nowhere far from any, lake, river or ocean. His friends and neighbors laughed at him, it took him 120 years to build. They had never experienced rain in those days. He had faith and he was seriously leaning on it.

Job: This man looses almost everything, his wife, children, fortune, and health, yet he never looses his faith. And God rewards him for his faithfulness. There are many more examples of individuals that leaned on their faith, and God was there for them which leads me to believe that He will be there for you, when you lean on Him.

So today’s message is really a big question. I guess the take away from it is: learning to Lean on your faith requires change. We don’t like change, especially if it means lifestyle change. There are two ways you can look at this. One, if you think you are doing enough today, that when you are called to be with the Lord, that you are sure He will utter those words, “Well done, good & faithful servant.” If that is the case, then I commend you. The second is, if you aren’t sure, you are in good company and you need to ask, what changes can you make today? Are you living for today or for eternity? Jumping out of an airplane was my literal leap of faith and I’m happy I survived. It’s an example of a risk I need to take in my life to allow God to lead me through whatever challenges I may face… like speaking before you today. What can you do to “lean on your faith” and make a difference so when you come face to face with God, you heard those wonderful words, “Well Done Good and Faithful Servant!”


Sheila said...

Guess if we were lukewarm and came every Sunday we would have known he was going to deliver the sermon... alas, it seems we are always out of the know (until too late... as with the sermon, or until too late to change the course of an evening... as with the goodbye for Mark and Jenn -- we had made plans with the girls to have a family movie/pizza night) anyway -- I enjoyed the sermon the way I received it -- wondering now about what I need to do to hear those words! I'm glad you posted it.

Sean said...

Thanks for sharing Russ! Wish we could have heard it live! Good job.

Shannon Quinn said...

Great job Russ! Agree with everyone else, wish I could have seen you do it!