Tag Archives: trust

What is Faith?

Peninsula Community Church

What is Faith? 

September 8, 2016

Hebrews 11:1-2 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it 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.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews has been called the hall of fame of faith. It has gained this title because of the focus it gives to those who have given themselves to God regardless of the issues they may have faced in life. When you visit a hall of fame there are those who are enshrined there because they have contributed to a certain field of study, a field of science, or they were successful in a particular sport or profession. In the case before us today, we find those enshrined here because of their faithfulness and their trust in the one true God.

By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit this chapter has been included in the Biblical text to remind us that we can also make it through until the end even when we face great odds and problems beyond our control. Last week, we noted that we have people watching our lives. We have those in our daily lives that we encounter and who see us every day. We also have a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in death. It is this great cloud of witnesses that the writer of Hebrews is talking about. This is the hall of fame of faith. They are watching us and they are cheering us on in our exploits and our accomplishments for God. They are cheering us on when we fall short and we need special encouragement. How does this occur? It happens because we are challenged by their testimonies and their persistence to follow God whatever the cost.

I propose to you today that the thing that set them apart was their faith in Christ. The faith they possessed sustained and kept them through many different difficulties, adventures, and at time the unknown. You see none of these men were supermen in themselves. Each of them had faults and failures that could have negatively impacted them as a person and as one who was called by God. They were regular human beings who lived regular lives but each one was called with a supernatural calling for a supernatural task. You see they were ordinary men used for the extraordinary by an extraordinary God. The emphasis was on God and not them themselves. Their role was to exhibit faith and obedience to the call of God in their lives. They took the admonishment of Paul in Romans 1:16-17 seriously. “The righteous shall live by faith.”

But the question for us today is to understand why their faith was so important to them. Their faith was critical because it was the sustaining factor in their life. You see to have faith is to have complete trust or confidence in someone or something. As believers, our faith is in the one powerful amazing loving God we serve. You see it is not so much about faith itself as it is the person in or object of our faith. In fact, it is my belief that we can have more faith in faith than we do the one in which our faith is based. We become so concerned about the nuances of faith that we tend to focus on the act of believing itself so much that we forget that our faith is based in and focused on Christ and all that He has done. To understand faith the writer of Hebrews has attempted to clarify the role and purpose of faith in our life.

He begins by focusing us on what faith is. He says, faith is the substance of things hoped for. In other words, our complete trust and confidence in Christ becomes the foundational truth and basis of all that is to come. Faith is both forward looking but it is based in the evidence of what has been done in the past. There is a trust that is built and a security that is fashioned from a truth that the one in whom we place our trust and faith will guide us and keep us. He will not forsake us. Therefore, I can trust Him and have faith for the future.

We must recognize that faith is not about feeling good about ourselves nor is it an ideal that is subjected to our emotions and our erratic ways of thinking. It is based in truth. The fact is Christ died, He rose, and He is sitting at the right hand of the Father. He has promised us that He will be with us and we can take that to the bank. This is the problem with faith too often, however. We can teach faith as if it is some arbitrary concept floating in the heavens. Real faith authentic faith  is based on the reality and the truth that God is alive and that He is in control. Without Him there is no faith for the future. This is the value of trusting Christ.

It is for that reason that Paul made this incredible statement in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Secondly, faith is the evidence of things not seen. How is faith the evidence of things not seen? It is in the relationship of knowing God and His ability to be faithful himself that causes us to trust in what we do not see and what we have been promised. This evidence moves me to do my part and then trust God for the rest. I trust Him, so I honor Him with my time and my faith. Rick Warren has noted the 80/20 rule of faith. If we do the 80% of what is clear he will show us the 20% that is unclear. The problem too often is that we focus on the 20% . We therefore become overly concerned with the 20% and we neglect the 80% we know.

We all have dreams and hopes. We want to see these things fulfilled and come to pass. My dream and vision is that this church will grow and become an influential part of this community. As we look round the room we see many empty seats and people who are missing. What Rick Warren is saying is that I can focus on what I do not see happening to the degree that I am stymied and frozen to do nothing when God is actually doing so much around us. Our faith is not based in what we might see but what we envision as each of us do our part to fulfill the 80% and then let God take care of the 20%.

That is why the writer of Hebrews states that without faith it is impossible to please God. The reality for us today is that we need to understand that our faith only resonates in us when we know God. In knowing God, we know His will and His purposes. Because we trust Him, we can be obedient to Him and thus we can please Him. Do you catch the concept here? To please God we need faith. To have faith we need to know God. Our faith, therefore, is built when we know Him and His ways. So therefore it behoves us to know God.

True faith is more than just a belief in something. It is to know something. Now you might ask how can you say that when we are asked to believe by faith that God created the heavens and the earth. We can do this because we trust God. We know that His word is truth because we have seen it in action. We know that nature itself shows us how all of creation was formed by someone greater than ourselves (Romans 1:19-20). Because the truth of God has been borne out in my life and yours then I can proceed to trust God with the things that I don’t see, feel, touch, or taste. Because of the truth of God is acknowledged, I can then go into the unknown with great faith and hope.

So this begs the question? How is faith built? Faith is built on the word of God (Romans 10:8-11). It is built on our testimonies (Revelations 12:11). It is built on what we have seen God do in us and through us. He has, He is and He will continue to deliver us (1 Corinthians  1:10). It is based on what we know to be true about God. Sometimes we can make faith mystical but it really isn’t at all. It is founded in something and that something is Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.

Even in saving faith or the act of faith that leads us to Christ there is still a foundational principle of truth about God. Paul made this statement in Romans 10:8-11. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. We hear the Word which is truth. The Word by way of the Holy Spirit acts upon our life to receive the truth it presents. The Holy Spirit brings us to the place of understanding and then we acknowledge God and His work in us. That becomes the process of salvation and it is the process of faith. Notice the great salvation passage in Romans. Believe in your hearty and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you shall be saved.

So what is faith? To summarize, faith is trust, assurance and confidence in God and in the work of Jesus Christ. Living faith is not just believing that God exists. It is demonstrated by one’s service and obedience to God. God will increase our faith if we fervently ask Him for it and seek to draw closer to Him in prayer and the reading of His Word.

That is why we gather today around the communion table. The Lord’s Table serves to remind us of what Christ did for us. It reminds us of what Christ is doing in us now. But it is also a promise of what is to come. It is what we pin our faith to. It is the hope of a greater day. That is where we focus our faith and where we place our hope. He did and we can. He is and we can be. He is to come and we will be with Him.

As we prepare our hearts would you listen to this song by Jeremy Camp about our faith. I would ask those who will be serving today to come forward at this time. As you receive the elements would you hold them until everyone has been served and then we will take them together after we pray.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Looking Back and Looking Forward

Peninsula Community Church

Looking Back and Looking Forward

January 3, 2016

It is hard to believe that we have turned the page into a New Year. And yet, it seems that it was just yesterday that we turned a new page on the 2015 chapter of our lives. As we have turned the page into anew year, we must remember that the pages of our life for 2016 are relatively blank. Yes, we may have the same problems and the circumstances but the decisions we now make are all new.

Paul in his writings to the Church at Philippi understood this. He stated Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained (Philippians 3:12-16).

As we read this passage Paul says that he forgets what lies behind and he strains forward what lies ahead. We must realize that Paul is not saying that we should not remember the past but that the past must not dictate our present activity or our future responses to life’s issues. We have all been affected by problems and issues. Some of these are larger than life and others are those dripping faucet issues that are irritants more than anything else.

To use the vernacular of the day “Life Sucks.” Life is not fair. Life is filled with both joy and sadness and at times both occur at the same time. Life is filled with the unknown, unexpected, and the unrealized. The problem with life is that we do not know what the future holds, it is the unknown. We also know that life is filled with the unexpected. There are always great surprises both good and bad. And finally, life is filled with unrealized dreams and hopes. But as we enter a new year we can begin with a clean slate and we have the privilege of writing a brand new chapter in our life.

So with that in mind let us look at couple of things this morning. First of all we look back in order to remember what God has done on our behalf and to remember where we have come from. There are some in the church community that would tell you that we should never look back because that is somehow a lack of faith. Now I understand in part why they would propagate such a teaching, as we can be so focused on the past, that we fail to move into the future thus we fail to accomplish God’s will in the present. By being absorbed with the past, we allow the unknown, the unexpected, and the unrealized dreams of our life to determine our current state and the kind of future we will have.

While Paul states that he does not look back, the Bible is also replete with passages that encourage us to remember. To remember, we must look back at what God has done in us and around us. That is the reason I have asked these folks today to share their testimonies about what God has done in and through them in 2015. It is a way to look back and remember. We remember not so much the pain or the problems as much as we remember the grace of God and the power of God at work in our world.

In 1905 George Santayana wrote the following in his book The Life of Reason. “Those who fail to remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This quote has been contributed to Winston Churchill who used a variation of the quote when he stated that “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” The idea here is that when we forget what God has done and the victories that have been won, we can forget the lessons learned in the process. You see there is no experience in life that does not afford us the opportunity to learn and to be instructed. Every experience in life gives us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves, understand those with whom we interact, and to know more about God. This does not diminish the pain, the hurt, or the anger but it does put things into a better perspective for us.

In this regard, let me share a couple of ideas with you about having a fresh start in 2016. First of all stop making excuses and stop allowing past experiences to affect where you are and what you do.  In Proverbs 28:13 Solomon makes an invaluable contribution to this discussion. He states that Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. To not allow God’s forgiveness to flood our hearts is to shut off God’s mercy and grace. Too often we use our past to limit our success in the present. We can use the problems of the past as an excuse to not allow God’s grace and mercy to heal us. We then become stifled and stunted in our growth. How many people do you know seem to live their life looking backward? They count their losses, their regrets, and their failures. No wonder so many  live in defeat.

In the film “The Mission,” Robert DeNiro plays a mercenary who has taken asylum in the local church after killing his brother in a fit of jealous rage. He leaves the church and heads to a mission post located above the waterfalls in a South American jungle. Because of what he has done, and how bad he feels, he ties himself to a several-hundred pound net of items that represents his sinful life. He feels compelled to drag this sack of sin around with him as a way to do penance for what he has done. Have you ever felt like that? I suspect that some of you are tethered to some transgressions this morning. Others of you are gasping under the guilt of things you did several years ago. What do you do when you realize that you’ve messed up? How do you stabilize your life when you experience more ups and downs than the stock market? Do you grab some rope and hitch it up to your sin pile and start dragging it around? Or, is there something better? We can accept God’s forgiveness and let go of the past.

The second thing we can do is to take an inventory of our lives. Take some time to list the issues you face but also list the successes. I am sure that if you will take some time to do this you will find that there have been more successes than you might imagine. By taking inventory, we can have a picture of the realities of life but we can also have a picture of God’s grace and His mercy.

Thirdly, act in faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. What are you hoping for? What do you need to happen in 2016? What changes need to be made in your life? It all begins with faith. By faith we see mountains moved. By faith we see lives changed. When we walk in faith we do not always see positive movement but we continue to walk in faith. To lose faith is to be condemned to a lifeless journey. To lose faith sets us up to be beaten up by the obstacles, the circumstances, and the people in our lives.

Fourth, we must refocus on what is the reality of our life. When we are confronted with the problems of life we can become distracted and overwhelmed. But, as we begin this new year we must refocus our attention, our dreams, and our hopes on God’s will for our lives. The problem that occurs sometimes is that we have a picture in our mind of what life should be. That is not a bad thing as we need to have a dream. We need to have to things that we hold onto and that we hope for. The problem occurs when the picture in our mind is faulty or is based on a false reality.

Last week I mentioned how I have a dream that some day I will stand on a platform and play the drums or the guitar like a mad man. I would do rifts and drum sets that would cause people to stand and cheer. While this is a dream, I also know the reality of life. I am not musically inclined in that regard. I have taken piano and guitar and I was not successful in either. Sure I can dream about this but my focus must be on what God has called me to do.

The fifth thing we can do is to renew our trust in God. The fact is when life’s issues confront us we can loose hope and our trust in God can be shaken. Out trust in God is impacted because we can believe that God has failed us or He has let us down. We can become angry with God and dissatisfied with the actions that God has taken on our behalf. When that happens we need to refocus our trust on Him.

A number of years ago I was involved in a car accident. On my way home from church late one Friday night I had a pedestrian run out in front of me and they collided with my car. It was a surreal moment. There in my windshield was the face of this young man. My windshield shattered. He slid down the hood of my car onto the ground with no movement. My initial thought is that he was dead. But as I exited the car I began to see movement and then he jumped up to run. That accident effected me more than I imagined as I lost trust in my ability to drive in the sense that any time I saw a pedestrian on the side of the road I tensed up. I felt panic. And I became fearful that they would jump out in front of me. I had to overcome this fear. To do so, I had to trust that I could drive. I had to realize that the accident was a one time event.

You may have faced some uncertainty and difficult issues in your life. Most are probably outside your control or you ability to change and yet they are still real. They still happened. They have shaken your faith so much that you must learn to trust again. How do you do this, you do so by taking one step at a time, one decision at a time, and one problem at a time. We remember that God is still alive. He is still omnipotent. He is still saving. He grace is still amazing and He is still on the throne. We have a new chapter to write. May we do so in a way that we live in freedom and may we be empowered to live not in the past but in the present and with a hope for a new day.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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James – Don’t Be Restless

Peninsula Community Church

June 30, 2013

James – Don’t be Restless

James 5:7-11 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

As we look at this text today, let me ask you a question. What causes you to be anxious? What causes you to toss and turn at night? For some, what causes you to bite your nails? For others, what causes you to eat to try to calm your nerves? For still others, what causes you to drink alcohol in excess or even greater still to turn drugs to calm your emotions?

How many like to wait? I have found that I do everything fast. I eat fast. I shower and get dressed fast. I play sports fast. The problem with doing everything fast is that it does not allow much rest. I am always in high gear. The problem is that I seldom sit and rest as I am always in motion. I am learning to sit and rest.

The point is we all experience times of anxiety. It is a part of who we are. As with other emotions, we have been created with the emotion of anxiety. It is a normal reaction to stressors in our lives. If, however anxiety becomes excessive or we never move beyond looking at the problems of life then we need to look deeper into what is causing the anxiety. It is the symptom, not the problem. We must understand that anxiety is a part of our makeup. It serves the  purpose of warning us when something is not right. It is like the warning system on our car that says there is a problem.  The warning light is not the problem it only points to a problem. So it is with anxiety, it is only a mechanism that points us to a problem.

James gives us a command here. He says to “Be patient, until The Lord comes.” The word he uses here for “patient” actually can be translated “long-tempered.” The words endure and patience mean to remain under. These words speak of “endurance” through difficult times and under great stress. One commentary translated the word this way. Patience means to “stay put and stand fast when you’d feel like running away.” Some scholars believe that long suffering refers to “patience” when dealing with people, while “endurance” refers to patience when dealing with conditions or situations.

The first illustration he uses is one of the farmer. The farmer is patient about the fruit of his labors. The farmer takes the necessary steps to prepare his soil, choose the seed, plant at the right time, fertilize with the correct fertilizer and then he waits. When the farmer has done all he can do, he waits. There is nothing he can do to expedite the growth of the seed other than what he has already done. When we have done all that we know to do, we wait patiently upon The Lord. We do not know the outcome but we are patient. I do not know any farmer that plants and then stands in the field to be sure the seed grows. He has a trust in the seed, in the fertilizer and the outcome that is up to the natural processes of plant growth.

Farming in essence is an act of faith. You plant and you wait. Why does the farmer wait so long? The fruit is precious and it is of great value to the farmer. As believers, God is calling us to faithfulness. We do what we know to do and then leave the rest to God, without any measure of anxiousness. The outcome of our lives is that we mature and the fruit of the spirit is cultivated in our hearts. As with the farmer, we don’t always see results right away but below the surface things are happening. There is a germination that is taking place and then suddenly up sprouts a shoot of life. It is a testimony to the process of waiting.

It is important to note that the farmer is not idle while he is waiting for the harvest. He is preparing his equipment. He is getting the storage bins ready. The result of being anxious and restless is that we fail to do what we need to do to get ready for the harvest in our lives.

We can do all of those things and yet still have to wait.

Look at these passages with me. Isaiah 40:28-31 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. 

Psalm 37:5-6 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.

Psalm 37:4 Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off. 

Psalm 40:1-3 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. 

It is interesting to note that the opposite of patient is anxiety, fear and nervousness. God has never called us to be anxious.  

Philippians 4:5-7 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

What do we do while we wait?

  1. We do what we know to do based on the knowledge that has been revealed to us in the moment.
  2. We obey God’s commands to the best of our ability.
  3. We correct the areas in our lives that need correcting.
  4. We stay in the word which is an anchor for our souls.
  5. We focus on Christ knowing that he will lead us to where we need to be.

What are anxious about today?

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The Perfect Storm

Several years ago I was fishing with a friend of mine that owned a party boat out of Long Island. Captain Carl had called me the night before because he was taking the boat on an ocean trip, a trip he only took once or twice a year. The trip would consist of fishing the wrecks out in the Atlantic Ocean. As we left the docks that day, the weather was absolutely beautiful. It was hot but being on the boat we had a wind that was blowing that kept us cool, plus I was able to ride in the wheel house where there was air conditioning.

After a great day of fishing, (I had caught 20 -30 black fish and sea bass) Carl called for me to come to the wheel house. As I climbed the stairs to meet up with Carl, I could hear excessive chatter on the boat’s two-way radio. What Carl began to explain is that a storm had been brewing over the ocean and was moving up the coast at a far greater speed than anyone had imagined. The result was that we had to stop fishing and begin the race back to the dock.

As we neared the inlet into the sound, the waves were already 5 to 6 feet high which meant that the waves within the narrow inlet were more than 10 feet high. The inlet on a good day was a difficult one to navigate. We now had to shoot the gap with gale force winds and waves that were beginning to crash over the sides of the boat. I have to tell I was a bit frightened actually a lot frightened. All Carl would say to me is “please pray.”

In the midst of the storm, I watched as this seasoned captain navigated through the treacherous inlet. After we made it through, he revealed his secret to me. He had invested in very expensive radar and GPS equipment for just such a time as this. He did not take his eyes off of the equipment as he was navigating through the inlet. As a result, we safely made it through the storm.

As I later reflected on the day, I thought about the storms we face in our lives. Sometimes it seems that they last forever and others seem to come and go. Others blow in unexpectedly and leave just as quickly. As Christians, it is critical that we keep our eyes fixed on the One that can and will help navigate us through the storms of life.

The writer of Proverbs recognized this need when he wrote the passage that most of us can quote from memory. He said “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:5-9 (ESV)

Too many times, I tend to lean upon “my” abilities and on “my” experience to get me through life’s issues but when I do this I often crash against the rocks. However, when I stay focused on God and trust Him to lead me, He directs my steps even when I don’t understand what is going on. My challenge to you today is to stay focused on God and allow Him to direct your steps. You may not know where He is leading or what He is doing in the moment but stay focused and keep leaning and you will be amazed at what God does. He has a plan and He will see it fulfilled because He is God.

Things to consider:

Are you facing storms in your life right now? If so, what are you focusing on to get you through the storm? Is it God and His Word or is there something else?

Why do you think it is so hard to trust God when the storms of life blow in?

Can you share a time when you had a storm blow in and how you dealt with that storm?

What scripture passage do you hold onto when you are faced with a storm?

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