28/6/2020 [Thematic Message 107] www.lifechurchmissions.com
Let Us Be Commended for Our Faith <Ro 12:3; Jas 1:2-4; Heb 11:1-5>
Prelude: God does not praise those who keep the law, but He praises those who believe. Those who start off with faith are above the law. God is pleased with them because they believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him <Heb 11:6>. When the church is permitted to meet again physically, what pleases God is not that you can attend church today. Perhaps some people may come today because they are too bored at home, or because the church has opened and they are too embarrassed not to come. Some churches open because they see other churches opening, so they are under pressure. That should not be the case! What God values is that we gather together based on faith. Because of faith, we experience the inconvenience where we are being restricted from singing hymns, communicating, fellowship, etc., during service, but nonetheless, we still come to the Lord’s house. Therefore, the Bible tells us that the person who believes continues to speak, just like Abel, who still speaks even though he is dead. Abel made a blood sacrifice and was martyred for his sacrifice. This was commendable faith in the eyes of God and the saints. Indeed, the one who starts off with faith will leave behind testimonies and continue to speak. Today, the whole world is talking, but think about it, whose words would remain? Whose words can influence generation after generation? It is the one who believes in the word of God and acts on it. What he says and does would continue to influence the people around him and every era. Think about it, are your actions of value? Does what you say still influence your children? When you are old, do people still remember you? Or you are just like what the Bible says, the morning mist and early dew that disappears <Hos 13:3>. When the novel coronavirus came about, we saw many people acting and talking in fear. Everyone believes and does whatever they read. What they have in common is that when the situation changes, they continue to change. What some countries do, other countries follow suit. The whole world is hence embroiled in an emergency situation. Although we saints live in the world, we do not belong in the world. We know the danger of getting the virus, but we also know that God is in control. We take precautionary measures, but we must also value gathering. We know the restrictions imposed by the law, but under such restrictions, we should also take things one step at a time. Why do we want to go through all these inconveniences? Why can't we follow the practice of the public and wait for the pandemic to completely subside before we go back to church? Because our faith in God prevents us from going with the flow. The path of faith is to continue to search for the narrow gate and walk in the narrow path, so that we can keep a clear conscience before our Lord. Some people asked, “Is what the medical reports say about how the novel coronavirus affects the brain, stomach and intestines, heart and kidneys true? If so, why are there so many people in the United States and Europe who are still not afraid but crowd together on the beach? Some people ask why many people have been down or killed by the novel coronavirus in some countries, but some countries do not have such high death rates. In fact, no one has a definite answer. Therefore, in matters in which people of this world are unclear, we must all the more listen to the voice of the Lord and walk on the path of faith. Otherwise, in this end times, we will be easily assimilated into the world. Think about it, are you a person who continues to speak to this era? Or are you one who follows the crowd? The key is whether you live by faith or live by sight. It is indeed not easy, but God has given us His truth and the advocate, the Holy Spirit. We must be faithful to the truth of God and be guided by the Holy Spirit. In this way, we can live a supernatural faith and at every critical time, be commended for our faith.
1. The path of the growth of faith
1）Faith is given by God to those whom He loves
<Ro 12:3>: For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. Here, it talks about “the faith God has distributed to each person”. Just like grace, God also freely gives faith to everyone, so that by faith, they can finish beautiful serving and give glory to the Lord. Thus, no one can boast because of his own faith. Instead, those with greater faith are humbler and more careful. Because they know their faith is given by God, in order to build the church of the Lord. Therefore, it is by God-given faith that we can come to the Lord’s house today and also be willing to come.
2）Faith has the space to grow, yet also the need to be tested
Whether the faith of believers is big or small, it is loved by God. This is just as when a baby is born, he is already the most beautiful in the eyes of his parents. He does not need special talent in order to be perfect. However, as this child grows up, the more he loves and trusts his parents and understands their hearts, then the more he can enjoy everything his parents prepared for him. Here, although the faith of believers can be big or small, the faith of believers will continue to grow and must keep growing. Thus, when we talk about faith, the Bible gives us the space to grow, telling us, “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” <Phil 3:16> However, in another passage, the Bible also says, “The testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” <Jas 1:3-4> Although our faith is different in magnitude, God wishes that our faith can keep growing. Because only faith can enable us to use God’s power and wisdom to overcome challenges in all things, and give glory to the Lord. This is like some people’s faith only makes them want to avoid problems; some people’s level of faith enables them to testify about the Lord even during problems. In order for believers’ faith to grow, God will certainly permit trials of many kinds. Therefore, those who value the growth of their faith will surely value each trial. Their attitude during trials is not only to tide over the difficulty, but it is about how to receive beautiful evidences by believing in God’s word during trials. If their trying circumstances still persist, they will continue to learn the lessons of perseverance, seeking, submission, hope, etc. In the midst of this, their faith will become more complete, not lacking anything.
2. The ancients were commended for their faith
1）The Bible keeps records of people of faith
In <Heb 11>, the Bible does not record people who kept the law. The Bible also does not record those who were talented. The Bible all the more does not keep record of people in the world who were successful in all they did. However, the Bible keeps records of those who lived by faith. These people were pleasing to God because of their heart of trusting the Lord. The object of their faith was God, and they were faithful to God’s word. When novel coronavirus strikes, you ask, “Who is the one whom God is pleased with?” If you keep the law, you are merely a law-abiding person. If you are someone helping the sick at the frontline, then you are merely a responsible person. If you discover a vaccine, at most you are a successful person in the eyes of people of the world. However, whether you can please God or not does not depend on all these, but it is about whether you have faith in God. Have faith in what? Faith in God’s redemption (Abel’s sacrifice represented his faith), faith in God’s word (believe and see the Creator Lord in all things), believe and keep seeking and submitting to the God who rewards you <Heb 11:6>. Then, will those who believe surely see that everything is successful? Will those who believe surely become someone who catches attention and is with great accomplishments in the world? Not necessarily! Because in <Heb 11:33-36>, we were told, “By faith, they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment” ...see that? The Object of their faith was the same, but the outcomes they faced were all different.
2）The differences between the offerings of Abel and Cain
If we only look at the offerings themselves, we cannot really understand why God was pleased with Abel’s offering. Abel was a shepherd, so he offered fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock; Cain worked the soil, so he brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. This sounds reasonable. However, the offerings revealed what they believed in and reflected their attitudes. Abel believed that only the blood and sacrifice of the Lamb of God can resolve his sin, thus his offering was the firstborn of his flock, which is blood offering. This offering showed that he admitted his sin, and trusted in the shedding of the lamb’s blood to justify him. Cain’s offering stemmed from “humanism”, the attitude of his offering is “shoddy”. Based on his own definition of piety, he offered the fruits of the soil to God, but what he offered did not suggest that he viewed his sin seriously, and he did not see the sacrifice of the lamb of God as the path to redemption. Thus, with such casual heart of offering, no matter how much he offered, he would not please God. Likewise, how we worship today reflects our heart of offering. Do we offer our lives as living sacrifices because we die and resurrect with Christ, or are we offering sloppily? Some people attend worship service to find out how to walk with God in the week, some others only anyhow go through a worship service in order to fulfil a Christian duty. If our worship pleases God, we will see God giving us grace in our spirits, such that we can see that God’s love endures forever. Otherwise, we are merely going through worship service ritually.
3. In our current constraints, how can we still be commended for our faith?
1）We full-time co-workers will do all we can with all our heart to complete the work of the Lord’s church well
The full-time co-workers of the church are like Levites, serving the Lord by faith and by harnessing everyone’s strength. Thus, whether it is preaching, presiding, ushering, playing of hymns, live-streaming, recording, audio, Sunday School, daily feeding, etc, the church full-timers must keep thinking about these. Sometimes, perhaps it is only one meeting, but behind it, many prayers and thoughts must be put in. If we offer a “shoddy” sacrifice, our offering is defective. Thus, during circuit breaker, Pastor set up his home, gathered the whole family and conducted live-streamed worship services with everyone at home. When the church got permission from the country to meet with 50 persons, the church co-workers immediately put in their hearts and thoughts into receiving everyone back to the church. Sometimes, we will doubt if brothers and sisters are taking worship service seriously, but serving by faith is to turn our eyes upon the Lord, and upon the greater things which the Lord is entrusting us in future. Thus, we are faithful in little things, and firmly believe that the Lord will entrust us with greater things. If we anyhow serve during this critical moment, that is not serving by faith.
2) Believers must not allow the new normal to make them lazy, but strive for blessed worship and fellowship.
For the time being, through three services, we try to let every brother and sister have a chance to attend worship. When church services resume, everyone must overcome the inertia of laziness and inconveniences. If we bring with us sufficient faith and aim to lead a life centred on the Lord’s Day, we will not be like people of the world and be overly worried about the virus. Church will not be permanently closed, instead, we need to forge ahead in the new normal. If governments are making plans for the economy and employment rate, why can’t churches make plans for meetings and evangelism? When restrictions are lifted, and individuals go back to their schools and workplaces, believers will instantly be in contact with the world’s culture. Thus, believers must be alert and strive to attend worship services. The Sunday is the first day of the week, it is the day we believers set apart to gather. Therefore, we must be vigilant not to let ourselves return to the busy normal and neglect our growth in spirituality. On the Lord’s Day, we should offer our firstborns and blood offering, and not make casual offerings.
3) Even when we face restrictions, we can find a way out when we are guided by the Holy Spirit.
Paul said, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Today, many believers do not look like they are willing to endure hardship to enter the kingdom of God. Sometimes, they give up after encountering a small problem, or they compromise meetings because of a minor inconvenience, and in serving the church and others, they do it in a slipshod manner. If this is case, how can the church of the Lord be strong? For example, we are now limited to a gathering of only 50 persons, what do we do? We open up 3 service timings for everyone to sign up. We are not able to do praise and worship, what do we do? We let a group of brothers and sisters pre-record the hymns we want to sing, so that everyone can benefit from the worship. We who preach need to wear a mask, but for the sake of the gospel, we are willing to do anything. In this difficult time, the church must rely on the Lord to overcome challenges and find a way out. Especially, when the church is being blessed in many areas, all the more we must do with perfection everything the Lord has entrusted us to do. Only then can we be commended for our faith.