A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on July 3, 2011 by Pastor Dale Raether  The Christian Faith One Word at a Time – Faith Romans 4:18-25Children, to you see this picture of a girl jumping off a horse?  If her mommy saw her doing that, do you think she’d yell at her?  She might.  That horse is as tall as I am.  If the girl doesn’t land right, she could hurt her ankle or even break her leg.  So, yeah, the mom might say, “Don’t you ever jump off a horse again!”  And now I want to show you the rest of the picture.  Her daddy is going to catch her!  Also, with the way they’re wearing the same clothes, it looks like they’re at a some kind of a show, and they’re performing a trick that they’ve practiced lots of times.  So, does it still look like the girl might get hurt?  No!  And do you think her mom will yell at her for jumping off a horse?  No, she’ll probably clap and tell her how proud she is of her.   You adults, does it ever feel like this is what you’re doing with your life – jumping off horses?  This morning we’re continuing our sermon series, “The Christian Faith One Word at a Time.”  Today’s word is faith.  No matter what we might be facing in our life, we can confidently jump into God’s arms.  1. Faith believes that with God all things are possible.  2.  Faith believes with eyes wide open.  3.  Faith believes that God’s Promises are sure. 4.  By faith God blesses us.   We read in our text: Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Romans 4:18)  Abraham and Sarah had been waiting their entire life to have a baby.  Finally when they were past hoping, because Abraham was 75 and Sarah was 65, God promised them that they would have a son.  But then God made them keep waiting, 25 more years in fact; and with each year, how their hope must have seemed more and more impossible.   What impossible things are you hoping for?  In today’s economy maybe it’s keeping a right balance in your family finances with the right amounts for Gospel outreach, your family, paying your taxes, helping the needy, and oh yes, saving for a rainy day.   When we add it all up, we might say, “Impossible.”  However, just as God promised Abraham and Sarah a son, He has promised us to give us each day our daily bread.  And so, we can jump into God’s arms.  We can carefully manage what He entrusts to us, so that we do the one area of our finances without leaving the other areas undone.  Also, we can pray for contentment and for faithfulness in putting God first.  He will hear our prayers.  And then just when it seems really impossible that we’re going to make it, we do – unless we go negative and give up on God.   Now for a time Abraham was guilty of that.  When Abraham was 90 and Sarah was 80, Sarah had the bright idea that Abraham could get her servant girl, Hagar, pregnant, and then she and Abraham would adopt the baby as their own.  God doesn’t need our sins to help His promises!   Anyway, God forgave Abraham, though his life would be a little harder after that; and then He got Abraham’s faith back on track.     We read on in our text: Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.  (Romans 4:19)   Even though faith believes that with God all things are possible, faith keeps its eyes wide open.  Where it says, “he faced the fact” the Greek emphasizes that Abraham carefully thought through his whole situation.  Yet when he weighed the facts – and by this time he was 99 and Sarah was 89, and when he compared the facts with what God says, he believed rather than the facts.    God wants us to do the same.   He wants us to use our heads, but also take Him at His Word.  For example, did God create the world in 6 – 24 hour days, maybe 7 or 8 thousand years ago?  Or, did God guide the evolution of earth over billions of years?  Here’s what God says in His Word: By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.  (Hebrews 11:3)  God made all things out of nothing including all the different kinds of plants and animals by simply saying, “Let there be”, and it was very good!  However, what about “facts” that don’t seem to fit in like glaciers and dinosaurs and fossils, and cave men?  Should we just ignore those things?  No!  It’s good to use our heads.  It’s good to try to discover how everything fits together, as long as by faith we stick to what the Bible says.  Then, just as God’s Word proved true for Abraham and Sarah – they finally had their baby, so in time we will see how all the things that support evolution, actually support creation and the Flood.  Why bother, then, thinking things through?  It’s a wake- up call.  When I read about how God designed our world and then destroyed it with a flood, I’m reminded that God is taking care of us and that we need to watch how I live, because He’s going to destroy this world a second time – not with water but with fire, and then after that He’s going to make all things new.  However until then we have work to do, because there are many who aren’t ready for this.    We read on in our text: Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.  (Romans 4:20-21)  Earlier I had mentioned how Abraham HAD waivered in his faith.  The Bible isn’t contradicting itself here.  Because we all have a sinful nature, we all have a certain amount of doubt and unbelief in us.  However, in Abraham’s case, his faith finally conquered his unbelief or at least kept it in check.  And now here’s what made His faith strong.  The conflict itself between his faith and his unbelief made him stronger, because he kept holding on to God’s promises and that exercised his faith.  But what if we hate exercise?  When God doesn’t give us a choice, when there’s something we have to wrestle through, there’s a horse we have to jump off, let’s remember that God is strong, even when we are not.  For example when God promised Noah to never send another world-wide flood, He said: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.  (Genesis 9:13-15)  God’s never sending another flood had nothing to do with the strength or weakness of Noah’s faith.  It had everything to do with the covenant He had made, and the appearance of a rainbow which held God to His covenant.  And so, every time Noah saw a rainbow, his faith was made stronger that there would never be another world wide flood.  So also with Abraham.  God had covenanted Himself to give Abraham a son, who would be an ancestor of the Savior.  The sign of that covenant was circumcision.  And so whenever God saw that Abraham and his descendents were circumcised, God bound Himself to keep His covenant.  As a result just as the rainbow strengthened Noah’s faith, circumcision strengthened Abraham’s faith that God had to keep His promises.    This is how it is for us in the Lord’s Supper.  Upon His death Jesus covenanted to us that God would remember our sins no more, that the Father would care for us until we’re in heaven, and that God would strength us in faith and living our faith.  And so, we might be going through an impossible time – whether physically, emotionally or spiritually.  But the body and blood of Christ which is truly present with the bread and the wine is the sign of God’s covenant.  For this reason, whenever God sees in us the sign of the covenant, God binds Himself to give us all He promised.  Knowing that makes our faith stronger.     We read the last section of our text.  This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.  He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:22-25) Our faith is not a good deed on our part that earns us God’s blessings.  Faith is more like the pipeline of God’s blessings, but the cause of those blessing is everything Christ did.  Perhaps you remember the word justification from last week’s message.  It means acquitted.  Because the world’s sin-bearer died for every sin and then rose again, we know that God has acquitted the world of every sin.  However, each person receives the blessings of his acquittal only by believing it.     So, suppose we’re going through an extremely difficult time.  Through faith in our acquittal, we know that God is taking care of us.  Or, maybe feelings of guilt won’t leave us alone.  Through faith in our acquittal, we know that we are fully acceptable to God, and that our feelings are just that – feelings.  Just one more example.  Someday we will face that dark valley of the shadow of death.  But through faith in our acquittal, we know that God is going to raise us too on the last day.  When the girl in this picture jumped, she was safe, not because her faith in her father was so strong, but her father’s arms were so strong.  God’s arms are almighty.  So, don’t be afraid that your faith has to be perfect in order for God to catch you (our faith this side of heaven is never perfect).  Yet so that we may fully enjoy the fullness of His blessings, let’s keep believing that with God all things are possible.   Let’s believe with our eyes wide open.  Then through God’s power in Word and Sacrament, let’s believe that His promises are sure.  And finally through our God-given faith, let’s believe God gives every blessing at the right time.  So, are you ready to jump into your week?  Are you ready to do and face everything God wants for you for the sake of you family, for the sake of our nation?  If you’re still a little hesitant, just look at God’s strong arms, see the love in His eyes, and jump!  Amen.   

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