Tuesday, October 16, 2018

"By Faith (Insert Your Name Here)"

In last Sunday morning’s sermon at Williams Memorial Chapel on the campus of College of the Ozarks, Dr. Justin Carswell challenged the congregation with applying the text of Hebrews 11 in a specific, liberating exercise.  He drew attention to the large number of times the words “by faith” were used in that chapter – 18 times, by the way! – and he encouraged us to be inspired to follow the example thee people of the chapter set for us.  After all, it’s not as if a person needs to be a superstar of character to please God by acts of faith in His promises (that’s the context of the chapter).  You can see that easily when you remember some of the stumbling, fumbling, bumbling plays the figures in this chapter represent.  Remember Abraham’s cowardice, Sarah’s unbelief, the sexual sins of Samson, the murder committed by David, the brashness of Jepthah, the anger of Moses which kept him out of the Promised Land, the idol raised by Gideon after his great victory for God, and so on?  You get the idea.  

The Holy Spirit’s words, coming through the writer of Hebrews, is underscoring the fact that even the imperfect, even the failures, even those who have deliberately rebelled against God can have moments of victorious faith in God’s promises.  And those moments can have world-shaking significance.  And, of crucial encouragement to the believers in Jesus in this age who have the power of the Holy Spirit resident in them, those moments can be hallmarks of a consistently spiritual life.

To this end, Dr. Carswell outlined a simple exercise using Hebrews 11 as both a model and source of inspiration.  “Grab a pen and right now write down somewhere just three words: BY FAITH and then, for that third word, write in YOUR OWN NAME.”  He explained that this could be a way to think seriously about the needs in our lives, the easily besetting sins, the ministry or relationship challenges we face and to then find victory "by faith."  He called us to think and pray carefully and come up with 3 specific actions that “by faith” we would consecrate as avenues of worship and obedience to the Lord.

It was a really neat exercise and it has already been of important value to Claire and me.  It led me to a new study and meditation of Hebrews 11, to a fruitful discussion with Claire of both the chapter and Dr. Carswell’s challenge, and my making it a significant addendum to the quarterly evaluation of my Christmas Resolutions I had conducted early in the week.

And so, with gratitude for Dr. Carswell, I pass along this excellent action step from his sermon last Sunday.  I hope you find it of value too.