Monday, December 21, 2015

The Bethany Bullet - week of December 21, 2015

Ad-Venting: When Trust Requires Validation
Text: Luke 1:18

We all like to vent, to get our frustrations out.  In fact, the literal term for venting comes from the world of physics.  When heating a substance, like a liquid, in a confined space the liquid is often changed into to a gas. The resulting gas will take up a much larger volume. 

If the confined space is not properly vented, a great amount of pressure can build up and can threaten the integrity of the container.  If the container is not properly vented it can cause a catastrophic failure destroying the container and injuring bystanders. 

The same could happen in our personal lives if we are not able to properly vent the emotions or frustrations that get us hot under the collar.  An explosion of emotion can result in injury to ourselves or to others. 
So, it’s OK to vent.  In fact, it’s probably a good thing to do in your own lives on a regular basis.

I’ve heard many people who are frustrated with God or with Faith, vent their displeasure.  In my line of work it goes with the territory. The words often go like this:
·        “Give me a sign!”
·        “I refuse to believe!”
·        “What proof is there for this?”

We are called to have faith, to trust, to believe in Jesus and His plan for us and our lives.  But what happens when trust requires validation?

Have you been there?  Do you know what I am talking about?  Have you asked for a sign or desired proof before you would trust or believe?

If you have, you are in good company. 

“Give me a sign!”  It’s not just words formed on modern lips.  This lament came from the lips of Gideon from the Old Testament book of Judges.  From Judges Chapter 6:
12 The Messenger of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said, “The Lord is with you, brave man…You will rescue Israel from Midian with the strength you have. I am sending you.”

15 Gideon said to him, “Excuse me, sir! How can I rescue Israel? Look at my whole family. It’s the weakest one in Manasseh. And me? I’m the least important member of my family.”

16 The Lord replied, “I will be with you. You will defeat Midian as if it were only one man.”

17 Gideon said to him, “If you find me acceptable, give me a sign that it is really you speaking to me. (Judges 6:12,14b-17)

The messenger would give Gideon a miraculous sign by burning up his offering but he still would not believe.  Soon Gideon would test the Lord with a wool fleece.  You probably know the story, eventually he was given a sign and, he believed. 

“I refuse to believe!”  While this vent may come from many in our day it was also spoken by one of Jesus’ own disciples. 

It was the evening of the resurrection.  The disciples were together behind locked doors because they were afraid but Thomas was not there.  When the disciples tell him that they have seen the Lord, he refuses to believe.  “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my fingers into them, and put my hands into his side, I refuse to believe.” (John 20:25)

A week later Jesus appears and Thomas is able to see and to touch and he confesses his faith, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)

“What proof is there for this?”  A common vent in our day but we also find these words in our Gospel lesson for this morning from Luke chapter 1.  These are words of a priest of God who “followed all the Lord’s commands and regulations perfectly.” (Luke 1:6)  Zechariah served in God’s presence he was faithful, but the words of the angel were unbelievable.  “Your wife Elizabeth will have a son, and you will name him John.” (Luke 1:13)

Zechariah scoffed, “What proof is there for this?  I am an old man and my wife is beyond her childbearing years.” (Luke 1:18)

Soon enough, he was convinced. 

All three of these people had something in common; they all came face to face with the Lord. 

We all have struggled with God’s plan and his promises.  We all have a desire to see, to know, to sense, to experience in order to be convinced. 

The book of Hebrews tells us that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, this is what the ancients were commended for.  This doesn’t mean that they were presumptuous about God. 
It means they believed God for everything he promised. 

It’s important to note what God does promise and what He doesn’t.  He promises that we can be certain about who He is and we can be certain about our relationship in Him, but how the journey plays out is full of uncertainties.   But the end of the story is not!

The last chapter of human history has been written.  Jesus wins!  And all who have been called to faith in Christ will see firsthand that all along the way they have been more than conquerors in Christ. 

This was the promise given to Gideon, to Thomas and to Zechariah as they came face to face with the Lord. This same promise is given to you.  The babe of Bethlehem that we will celebrate this week has defeated death, evil, suffering, sorrow, loneliness, and despair, not to mention the prince of darkness and all his cohorts. 
·        Need a sign?  It’s right here in bread and wine.
·        Having trouble believing?  Look to the cross
·        Need some proof?  Look around. The proof is in this place and those gathered here with you this morning.

When your trust is running short, when you feel that your faith is running out, when you need validation to continue, when you need to vent, go to the foot of the cross, come into his presence in this place and there you will see him as he comes to you in his word, in wafer and in wine and in the witness of his people.  This is the only validation we need. 

But don’t necessarily look for God to fill in all the blanks. Don’t wait for him to remove all the uncertainty.  Realize that he may actually increase the uncertainty and leverage all the odds against you, just so that you will know that in the end it is not about you but about his power working through ordinary means and through your gifts along with others that bring validation to the uncertainties of life. 

When trust requires validation, leave your doubts at the cross and come face to face with the God who will fulfill all of His promises in Christ.

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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