Saturday, May 21, 2016

In Things Hoped For

"And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king's counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them." (Daniel 3:27)

It's a miracle!  This kind of things happens all the time in the Old Testament.  Miracles happened to Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the other prophets.  They conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, shut lions' mouths, and in this case, they quenched the power of fire!  And Paul in his letter to the Hebrews claims that all this came about through faith!

Faith in what? We automatically assume that Paul is talking about faith in the miracles themselves.  It makes sense, doesn't it?  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego went willingly into the fiery furnace, because they had faith that a miracle was going to happen.  Paul says at the beginning of chapter 11 that "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen," and the miracle that took place in the fiery furnace was something hoped for and not seen, right?

Well, look at what the text says after that.  Here are verse two and three of Hebrews 11: "For by [faith] the people of old received their commendation.  By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible."  This hearkens back to John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God."  It also hearkens toward our Nicene Creed, "I believe in on God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible."  Our faith may be in things hoped for, which are unseen, but they are things which we already know are going to happen, things that God has promised.  If we go through the pantheon of faith, we see that it begins with Cain and Abel.  Abel had faith in the promise of the coming messiah (Genesis 3:15), and that was where his faith was focused.  So, we're not talking about faith in unforeseen miracles, but faith in God's Word, his word written, and in Jesus Christ himself.

So, Abel had faith in Jesus to come, and he was commended. Such is the case of the faith in all the saints. Hebrews 11:6 states, "And without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."  Do you have to believe that God exists to believe in his miracles only?  Not really.  People who believe in karma as the ultimate force in the universe don't believe in an actual God, but in an impersonal force that is fueled by our own actions.  What goes in, comes out.  Essentially, if one is putting faith in the temporal blessings and miracles (or judgments), one is putting faith in him- or herself.  To believe in the God who exists is to seek not the "bread and fish" as Jesus so aptly puts it in John 6, but to seek the bread of life, which is Jesus himself.

Look at John 4:19-26:

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

The discussion between Jesus and the woman at the well is very relevant here.  She is pressing the issue of where to worship. In other words, what is important to her is if the worship itself is correct.  Am I doing it right? she is asking.  Jesus tells her that the question is wrong.  The issue is not where we worship but who we worship.  It doesn't matter where you worship.  It doesn't matter what clothes you are wearing.  It doesn't matter whether you pray first and sing second or sing first and pray second.  It doesn't matter if you collect money or distribute money.  It doesn't matter if you have a worship service at 9am or 5pm.  What matters is who you are worshiping.  Our faith is not in earthly things but in heavenly things.  Our faith is not in a God whom we don't know but in a God whom we know.  That God is Jesus Christ, the righteous, and he is the propitiation for all our sins.  That is the God whom we worship and none other.  When we worship the correct God, the one whom Abel worshiped, whom Daniel and his friends worshiped, when we seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all other things are added unto us.  When we seek Christ, we are spared from the fiery furnace.  Ours is not one fueled by the forests of Babylon.  Ours is the eternal fire fueled by God himself.  Seeking Christ spares us those flames, so that not one hair of our heads is singed, not one article of clothing is in flames, and no odor of damnation is found on us.

Seek Jesus, the one, true God.  Put your faith in him, and the miracle, the great miracle of salvation for eternity, will happen.