How do we continue to believe? Church members routinely drop out because they lose confidence in the Bible, or they have doubts about the existence of God. Sometimes plain apathy causes them to quit living the Christian life.
Story: Elijah was one of the Bible’s great faith heroes. He stood up to King Ahab for three years; he stood up to the 450 fallen priests of Baal. He faced all of Israel on the top of Carmel as God sent down fire. He magnanimously reconciled with King Ahab and led his former foe 20 miles through the rain to the city gates of Jezreel. THEN . . . he was terrified when threatened by Queen Jezebel. He ran another 100 miles to Beersheba and collapsed in despair. “I have had enough, Lord,” he prays. “Take my life. I am no better than my ancestors.” In the Message: “I scored a victory for you on Mount Carmel and then ran from a woman.
What caused this failure of faith? Letdown. Elijah had been so sure Israel was about to turn a corner and return to its Jehovah roots. In addition, the misery of a cold rain can drive many people to doubt and atheism.
Quote: Beatrice Neall writes: “Faith feeds upon the memories of God’s past leading. The valley of depression is Satan’s rut to trip the child of God.”
Story: John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus’ messiahship with great power. But when imprisoned, doubt and hunger caused him to send a message to his own cousin: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:2)
Quote from C. S. Lewis: “Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off,’ you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith” (Mere Christianity, pp. 123, 124).
What do we specifically do? What is the prescription? “The first step is to recognize the fact that your moods change. The next is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious reading and church-going are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed” (Lewis, p. 124).
Key Thought: As we learn key Bible stories, passages, illustrations, memory gems, helpful quotes from leading Christians, they become a mosaic of truth in our lives.
Story: In the 1850s, America was grappling with the issue of slavery—and whether incoming states joining the Union should be slave or free. Lincoln illustrated: if he encountered poisonous snakes in the bed with his children, he had to deal prudently for fear of harming the children. But if he was building a new house, he would certainly not find a nest of young snakes and PUT them in the bed with his offspring.
Story: In 1940, England was the final domino between Hitler and total domination of Europe. America could sell her munitions, but England was going bankrupt and had used all its credit. Churchill wrote an impassioned letter to Roosevelt—the world itself was hanging in the balance. Would Nazism overcome them all? Roosevelt responded by offering to simply lendwarships and war materiel to his allies, and used the metaphor of a garden hose. “If my neighbor’s house is on fire, I don’t insist he give me the $15 I paid for my hose. I simply loan it to him on the proviso that he give it back when the fire goes out.” The Lend-Lease Program eventually passed Congress and Parliament and sent $700 billion to America’s allies.
It could be argued that “Snakes in the Bed” and “My Garden Hose” were two stories which saved the world! And Christians need to daily arm themselves with stories and Bible principles which are core to our faith. Just as we daily set the table and feed our bodies, we need to regularly put our beliefs on a plate and set them before our eyes.
Submitted by David B. Smith. Better Sermons © 2005-2007. Click here for usage guidelines.