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Previous Message From Virtual Church

The Beginning and Ending of Faith, Trust, Prudence, Wisdom, and Responsibility

John14:1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going."

In today’s message, we are going to venture out to the very edge of faith. Faith does not have an "edge." Faith does not have a physical boundary like a table or chair. However, in our lives, there is a limit to what we can get God to do, yet God has no limits Himself. Many people believe in God, but because they cannot see Him, they have a weak faith about how God can or will interact in their lives. The dictionary defines faith as a confident belief or a belief that does not rest on logical proof or tangible evidence. For most people, this definition works in their life. Our belief in God can be strong if we do not need some kind of physical or tangible evidence He exists or is real. Our faith can be weak if we expect God to produce something, perhaps anything, in a tangible fashion. One person can be perfectly content to kneel in prayer each day and never have any request answered. Their faith carries them to a point in their life where whatever God decides to do as a result of their prayers is OK. Another person will never be content in their faith journey regardless of prayers answered because they want and need God to manifest Himself in some way.

On a scale of faith, one end is characterized by total and complete trust and obedience. On the other end of the line is composed of doubt, suspicion, and disbelief. Many of us want to be on the end where we have complete trust and obedience. The reality is we are somewhere on the faith scale other than at the end of complete and total trust. When we hit difficult places in our life, we may slide even further away from the trust end of the line. When we ask a question about God, we may be expressing our doubts about Him. Some people have questions about God because they are interested, curious, and fascinated. Other people ask questions about God because they have doubts about when, where, and how He can or will act in their lives.

Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (NIV)

Faith is not a commodity we can buy. Faith is not a tangible item we can hold in our hand. Faith is not contained in a pill or capsule. Faith is gained by throwing our fishing line into the ocean to catch fish knowing fish are in the ocean and can be caught. In this example, we see the two side of the faith coin. So many people tie their faith to some kind of result or end product. Some people will believe the ocean has fish in it only if they catch a fish. Other people do not have to catch a fish to believe. Whichever side of the faith coin, or whichever end of the faith scale you are on, to increase your faith you must throw your line into the water. Each of us must step out in trust and belief in God, regardless of whether our belief is strong or weak. When we begin to step out in faith, or when we start to throw our line into the water, then the matters of faith become more difficult. Matters of faith can become difficult because in our lives we must take a chance with God. We all want concrete assurance and protection in many ways. We all want guarantees nothing bad will happen. We want God to promise us our paths will be smooth and safe. We all want to walk through our lives without pain or difficulty. Most of us, if we told the truth, have expectations that God will provide for us in these matters. We do want God to protect us from pain and strife. We do want God to make our paths smooth. We do want God to always make sure we have a job, income, housing, and food to eat. We do want God to protect our loved ones. We want God to heal the sick. We definitely want God to answer all our prayers like we want them answered. These are very real life wants. When we hold these wants up to God in our prayers, thoughts, and meditations, we are concretely connecting God to these wants. When we want God to produce a result for us, we may be using our faith but this use of faith may be pointed in the wrong direction.

We began this message by saying we were going to go to the edge of faith. To move to the edge of faith, we must begun to move to a place where faith ends and our responsibility begins. There is no physical line to view. There is no special mark anyone can identify as being the place where faith ends and personal responsibility begins. For most people, dealing with this fuzzy, hazy, murky area of real life is the greater test of faith. For example, when you pray for someone and you trust God to answer your prayer, are you obligated to "help" God along in making sure the prayer gets answered? If you have complete trust in God and you believe He will answer your prayer and you believe His will is to answer your prayer in the way you asked for the prayer to be answered, you may feel God can do it all. Some persons will not try to "help" God by acting on their wants. Some people dismiss the idea of "helping" God because they are lazy, afraid, or too busy to bother.

When we deal with these fuzzy areas regarding faith and personal responsibility or accountability a great deal of wisdom is required. We must never put God to the test because putting God to the test is like saying to God, "We don’t really trust you or believe in you, so prove yourself to us." What God wants from us is not a test as to whether He will answer or not answer our prayers. What God wants from us is loving devotion that never wavers regardless of how prayers get answered. Unfortunately, the person to be tested is us, not God. Our faith is tested every day. When we pass each day's test, there are rewards. The problem is that most of us will have to die in order to collect these rewards. Although this idea of dying to collect our rewards is not a joke (because it is the truth), the idea is funny. Many people cannot stand the idea of waiting till they die to collect. Many people want the faith rewards in the here and now, not in the great hereafter.

When we step out in faith we must do so with wisdom and prudence. Stepping out in faith must never be done as an example of how much we believe or how much faith we have. Stepping out in faith must be done with as much wisdom, forethought, and human planning as possible. Wisdom is an attribute God has given us to use and develop, like our muscular system. Some people remain unwise and want to be taken care of by God and by others. The unwise person is one who is usually on welfare, in homeless shelters, or other places where others can be responsible for them.

Being a responsible person means we are prudent. Prudence is an act of being careful in the way we live. As a Christian, we must try to live out our lives in such a way that God will always be glorified. We must live and act in such a way that people will see the love of God in us. We must live and act in such a way that people will look at us and say, "That person is really a Christian."

Too often, Christians and non-Christians ignore wisdom, prudence, forethought, and human planning because they believe God will rescue them if they make mistakes. Too often, Christians and non-Christians plow ahead without looking ahead. They do not use any common sense and do not use all the knowledge and wisdom available to them. Unfortunately, for many people, the idea of using wisdom, prudence, forethought, and common sense collides head-on with faith in God. This head-on collision occurs if we believe faith produces or will produce an earthly result. Jesus said He was preparing a heavenly home for us, not an earthly home.

When we are responsible we are in a position to give an account of our actions without making excuses, whining, or complaining about the outcome. We all make mistakes because we are human. However, when we make a decision in faith, trusting that we make this decision according to the Lord’s will, we must be prepared to stand before God and not make excuses, whine, or complain about a poor outcome. As a Christian, we are responsible to Christ first. This means we try earnestly to live a devout and holy life according to His teachings. It also means we do not step out in faith or use our faith for a demonstration of any kind. We must each remember if God wants to display His power He can do so any time He wants. God is in a much better position to know when a display of His power is needed than we are.

Our Christian faith does not excuse us from anything. Our faith not only should not excuse us from anything our faith should make us more responsible and should make us more accountable than we would be if we had no faith at all. People of little or no faith may be able to stand before God and plead ignorance about God and His Kingdom. However, people of faith cannot make such an excuse. When we become Christians, our level of personal responsibility for how and what we do takes a quantum leap upward. Personal responsibility is a burden we can either carry on our backs or throw away. Asking God to help carry our burden in life and asking Him to give us strength is what God calls us to do. However, throwing the burden down and saying, "God will take care of it" is not a sign of faith or responsibility. Trusting in God for our souls eternal home cannot be equated with trusting God to take care of us in areas of our life because we have discarded our personal responsibility to Him and to others.

Each of us is responsible and accountable TO Christ. We are not responsible or accountable FOR Christ. Instead of saying we are "doing the work of God," perhaps it would be more accurate and humbling to say we are "doing the work God called us or assigned for us to do." We are not responsible to do what God can do because God will do what He decides to do. We are responsible to do what God assigns each of us to do.

To make the point about being accountable to Christ, let us look at an example. Let us suppose God calls us to build a road. Road building, especially in the summer, is a hot, dirty job. Even today with all the mechanical equipment the dirt still billows up in the air. The road builder has to either eat the dirt or wear a mask if the weather is dry. If we are called to build the road but instead decide we are going to travel the road for Christ, we are accountable for not doing what God originally called us to do. We can tell everyone here on Earth we are traveling God’s road and get the glory here and now. However, when we see Jesus face to face we will have to explain. We will need to explain why we did not help build the road. Road building is humble work. We will need to explain why we chose to not do the dirty work. We will need to explain why, perhaps, we wanted more of the more glorious work of traveling rather than building.

Ex. 14:31 And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. (NIV)

Christ wants all of us to do His will because He loves us and because we have accepted Him into our lives. He hopes we trust and believe in Him because He was willing to die for us. What greater act can any person do to show their devotion than to give up their life for another? In the Old Testament, mankind was under another contract, so to speak, with God. In the Old Testament, God had to use some rather strong and unusual methods to get His will accomplished. God had to use strong and unusual methods to get the Egyptians to let the Israelites go free and He had to use dramatic methods to keep the Israelites faith alive after they went free.

Today, we are under a new contract of faith. Our faith today needs to be based upon what Christ DID for us rather than what He CAN DO for us. Faith in God can be either selfless or selfish. Each of us is on a faith journey trying to get to a point in our lives where we are selfless before our Savior. As we make progress on this journey, we must all try to move away from wanting Christ to do for us. Rather, we must move forward and try to live our lives and do our acts of righteousness for Him without any expectation of a reward. This is our quest.

HARD QUESTIONS

You Christians are always talking about salvation. If salvation is so important why doesn’t God do more to take of us here on earth so we could trust Him more and more people could get, as you say it, "saved"?

This question burns right into the heart of this current discussion about faith and responsibility. A responsible person is a person who treasures life. They not only treasure their own life but they treasure the life of all human beings. An irresponsible person may not treasure human life at all. For example, look at people who drink alcohol and drive, or criminals, or terrorists, or people who are just reckless. A responsible person would not do these kinds of things that hurt or endanger others. A responsible person who treasures life would also treasure that life can go on for eternity. A responsible person is willing to do as much as they can here and now. A responsible person does not expect God to step into our lives and start running things to make things easier. Obviously, we do not perceive it would hurt things if God stepped into the world and fixed things, but that act is not part of His will at this time. A responsible person understands this viewpoint and understands God has other plans in store for each of us. God may not intervene when we want Him to act. Therefore, in the best Christian sense, we have a chance at taking care of business ourselves. All the people you know may be a lot more impressed with seeing you carry out the Lord’s will than they might be if things happened invisibly without any explanation. The result of God doing more than He is doing now (according to us) might be a terrible thing. We must trust Him to do as He is doing now.

If I trust God to take care of my child and my child gets sick, and then my child dies, am I responsible?

No matter how this question is answered, only God can help ease the grief and pain of this kind of loss. In answer to the question…if you did everything you knew how to do at the time and everything within your power at the time to help your child then you are not responsible. If, however, you were slothful or lazy and did not take care of the child as you could have done then you must carry some of the responsibility. You must then ask for God’s forgiveness for He can and will forgive you.

Is doing something foolish OK if I do this foolish thing in the name of God?

No. Doing a foolish act in the name of God is still a foolish act. A foolish act is against what God expects of us. God wants us to use the wisdom we have rather than throwing our wisdom into the trash can as some people are inclined to do. If we commit an act we find out later was foolish then we just made a mistake. God overlooks the mistake the first time. However, if we make the mistake the second time or keep on making it then God is not going to bless our lives. Wisdom dictates we cut out our mistakes and not repeat them.

Many people have died unnecessarily by taking a risk because they trusted God to save them. Did these people accomplish anything for God by dying an early death?

Only God knows the answer to this one. We can say we are taking a chance for God when what we are doing is taking a chance in hopes of earthly fame, fortune, or power. God is the only person who can fathom an answer on this question. Only God can look deep into the heart of the person who lost their life. The history of our faith is replete with martyrs who went to their death rather than renounce their faith. In these cases, these martyrs were not taking an unnecessary risk. When people take a risk unnecessarily then wisdom is not being used. If the person takes a risk unnecessarily and knows they are being foolish then nothing is accomplished for God, and perhaps, the work of God is diminished by this kind of foolishness.

 

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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018