My sermon from this morning service at Cole Harbour Woodside United Church.
Foundation and Faith
Matthew 7:21-29; Romans 1:16-17; 3:22b-28
So, what does it mean to have a strong foundation in faith? We all know that we need a solid foundation when building a home, or more recently in the context of this community, a church! But what does Jesus mean when he tells us that if we act on his teachings that it will be like having a foundation built on a rock?
The key for me is in the very first verse that Trisha read this morning. â€œNot everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.â€ Only those that do the will of God will enter the Kingdom of heaven. It takes more than just saying we know who Jesus is, but it takes our actions as well. Strong words? Absolutely! But as Christians are we not supposed to be doing this anyways? The focal point of Christianity is Jesus the Christ. In Matthew 22 Jesus sums up the 10 commandments into two simple laws. â€œLove the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mindâ€ and secondly, to â€œlove your neighbour as yourself.â€ We are to serve God with our entire body, in all we say, and in all we do. And we are to treat those we come in contact with everyday, with the same love and respect that we ourselves expect to receive. In our daily life we are to be open to God’s calling, through prayer, through reading of scripture, and through the circumstances that we find ourselves in each day. Each of us has our own individual calling from God. Some may take years to find it, some may know very early on, sadly, some may never know. It took me 29 years to start to figure out what God has planned for me, and two years later I stand here on the path towards a life in ministry. I searched a long time before I felt I knew the path I am to follow.
Conversely, I have some dangerous friends! Now don’t take this as a threat! For in reality they wouldn’t hurt a thing. But they are in dangerous circumstances. They are mostly single, all work in high-tech companies, have significant incomes, and a fair bit of idle time on their hands. I was once like them, just Bev and I living comfortably in Ottawa with our dogs. We all were searching for meaning in what we were doing. We threw ourselves into our work, thinking that was where we had meaning. But it wasn’t. Maybe a new car would help? No, that wasn’t it. Oh, it’s got to be that new high-tech toy! Yeah, right! A new job? No, something still is missing. Maybe a move to a new home, or city would help? It helps for a while, it looks different, but something still is missing, there is an emptiness that we feel. We all went through various cycles of those I just mentioned.
I no longer am searching. I stopped searching about 5 years ago. 5 years ago I started to change my life, I began to focus on Christ, and I didn’t feel the need to look anywhere else anymore. I continue to work at being sure that I am on the right path, that I am not slipping off the path that God has laid out before me, but I no longer feel the emptiness that I used to feel. The same emptiness that my friends still feel.
So what about my friends? They are still looking. We don’t see a lot of each other anymore, as we now have spread out from Pictou through to San Diego. We still keep in touch, but don’t get together on a weekly basis like we used to. It’s hard to share what has happened to me with my friends. They don’t appear to understand what these changes in my life have done for me, and also they seem unwilling to go through the personal changes required to come into a life of faith. They prefer to focus on what they can change in their own environment, and to keep as much control as they can over their lives. But change is necessary.
Next weekend, Bev and I are going on a spiritual retreat with some of our friends that we’ve made since moving back to Nova Scotia. We have been asked to do a workshop on giving up control to God. It’s called â€œLet go and Let Godâ€ In preparation for it, I was reviewing a bible study we did a few years ago called Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. In it he talks about giving up the control of our lives to the leading of God. That if we are open to God’s leadership in all aspects of our life, we are able to grow much closer to Him. The key to doing so, is trusting in God’s guidance in all areas of your life.
So change IS necessary. If we have a weak foundation, we need to move to somewhere with a strong foundation. Noah could not have built an ark if he continued with his daily life. Moses could not have freed the Israelites from Egypt if he stayed in the desert herding sheep. Peter, Andrew, James and John couldn’t keep being fisherman and follow Jesus. And certainly Saul (who became Paul) could not continue persecuting Christians as he preached to the Gentiles! Although wouldn’t that have been interesting?
So what of those we know and love that do not share that same strong foundation in Jesus Christ that we share? How do we reach out to them, to share that wholeness that only God can bring?
As I was reading the passage from Romans, it brought back to mind something that Roger said last week. â€œWe cannot compromise our faith!â€ In Romans Paul wrote â€œFor I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith…â€ We should not be ashamed in sharing with those around us what God has done for us. The offer of salvation is available to all. And our actions and our words should be reflections of the faith that we have in the risen Jesus Christ, a faith that we can share with those around us.
In our workshop, we will be challenging people to examine their lives to see where we allow God in, and where we keep Him out. In some areas conscious decisions may be made to try and keep control, other areas we may do it without even realizing. The challenge then becomes, once we see areas where we try to keep control, how do we give it up to bring our whole house onto a foundation of rock?
As you leave the church today, I hope that you will ask yourself some of the questions that we will be asking our friends next weekend. As you go to work, to school, shopping, or are at home, maybe with friends, or at meetings, ask yourself, where is God in this place? Have I made room for God in this part of my life? Is what I am doing reflective of my faith in the eyes of others? When I pray about this, how do I pray? Do I pray to get my own way, or do I pray for God’s will to be done here?
As you reflect on these questions, talk with your family and friends about what you find. Sharing your own faith journey helps you in your own growth, but it also helps others see what God is doing in your life.
Change is not easy, Moses struggled with his own limitations as he lead the Israelites, but God helped Moses through others who had the skills that he did not have. Pray for guidance, pray that God will lead you as you work and play, and be open to change.
If I had not been open to change, I would still be stuck in a desk job, still searching for meaning. I would not feel that I was doing all that I could be doing. There would still be an emptiness in my life. It was through prayer, and being open to the leading of God that I found my meaning, my firm foundation.
It is that firm foundation in Jesus Christ that we need to share. Not just with those in the church, but to let our faith be seen in all aspects of our lives. In all we say, and in all we do.
In the spirit of the weather we’ve had over the last week, I close by reminding you of the benefits of building on the strong foundation as we heard from the Gospel of Matthew: â€œThe rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.â€
May we all share in the house built on the rock, the house that will not fall.