1 John 5:1-6
A Faith that Overcomes
I was working late one evening in the bank completing a long winded, boring and mind numbing meaningless task that someone in management had introduced to be seen to be seen. I knew it, we all knew it, but regardless it had to be done and while doing so a colleague and friend walked past expressing to me that “you must have done something horribly wrong in a previous life.”
There are people in society who will try to give you explanations for the terrible things that happen. For example; one well known identity rationalized that the tragedy of 9/11 happened because of the sinful activity in New York City. He later apologized and said he really didn’t mean to say that. We hear people do this all the time because they have a need to connect the bad things in life with some misbehaviour or sin. Or, we want to believe that the bad things that happen are God’s punishment.
Similar some people of faith want to believe that their faith is like an insurance policy, that because they “believe” nothing bad will happen to them. Or, when something bad happens they say their faith wasn’t strong enough. They play the “if only” game…. “If I had only believed more, if I had only loved more, if I had only followed all the rules.”
Or, some may say, “What good is it to believe or have faith, when bad things still happen?” I imagine it’s a question some have asked amid times of great trials, and there are no simple explanations.
The letter of I John was written to believers who wanted to be connected to God and strengthen their faith. But, they were being misled by false teachers. There was confusion about what it meant to be people of faith and the faith community was struggling to be a cohesive group of people, and similar the way they were treating others was not overly endowed with neighbourly love. Confused and being led astray what they needed was some concrete teaching of Jesus and not that of those who think they can read God’s mind.
So, the writer of I John tells us (4:1) to “test the spirits.” In other words, make sure that the voices we are listening to are sincere. Those who offer simple explanations for the difficulties of life could be misleading you.
Some want you to believe that all you need to do is follow a list of do’s and don’ts. Others suggest that there is some formula you have to abide by that will make you a believer and television preachers tend to fit into one of these categories.
But the writer of 1 John states that “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”(4:4) Meaning that to have faith means we don’t always understand. God is much bigger than we are. God’s ways are beyond our ability to understand everything that happens and yes in retrospect we often can see God’s hand in situations, but there are also those things that we will never understand this side of heaven, and to have faith, sometimes we will need to just trust in our Lord even when things make no sense what so ever. Like the man who was walking the streets of Sydney searching for employment. He finally found Girard, a well-known businessman who offered to give the man a job. He said, “See that pile of bricks over there? Cary them to the other end of the yard and pile them by the fence.” By nightfall the man had finished the job. He then asked if there would be work the next day. Girard told him to come back tomorrow and he would give him another job. The man returned the next morning and Girard told him to carry the same pile of bricks he had stacked the day before by the fence to their original spot. He never said a word. He did exactly as he was instructed. It became evident to Girard that he could trust the man and therefore he gave him a full time position.
God wants us to realize that there are things we don’t understand, yet God alone is in charge of the big picture. Faith is trusting in God when we don’t know what the outcome will be.
Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, who wrote, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, said that the ways of God cannot always be explained.
The challenge for us is to continue to love God (and others) even when something bad happens to us. That’s faith in action. Faith in Christ grown from seeing what the Son of God, the sinless and perfect one who let himself be led like a lamb to slaughter to cover the sins of those He loved. Those He loved-, the lost and “the found”, the sad and the happy, the high and the low, the hungry and the full, the thirsty and the quenched. The imperfect, and the imperfect. The who of the human race, the whole of us and though we may become confused of events that take place in our lives, He asks us not to be confused of that event that took place on the cross for in His death, and resurrection He asks only that we know and believe that He is the Son of God, the Holy one who has brought us forgiveness and in that belief, then we are forgiven and saved. That is faith, and that is the faith known that allows us to also see past the flaws of others like He has to us.
A lesson I learnt first hand Early one morning I was walking down the street in North Adelaide to withdraw my last $20 from the ATM when near I saw a lady badly shaking and another body lying on the footpath and I immediately thought not today because of being down to my last few dollars. But as I got drew near, she didn’t ask me for money, but quite the opposite, because as I approached and as she was aware of people’s judgements-like mine she leant against the wall so that her arm stopped shaking and after being up close and not looking not from afar: I saw a young lady, well dressed talking to her son dressed in his school uniform, tired and lying on the footpath while they waited for the bus and while I withdrew my money I heard their conversation and it nearly brought tears to my eyes.
To hear the love between this mother and her Son. This mother with a handicap talking to her tired son lying on the pavement in his school cloths. No judgement of each other-Just love for each other regardless of appearances to the world and people like me.
That morning I learnt that from afar sometimes things are not as they seem. But importantly, probably more so is that even if they are, should that change the way we love each other and treat each other.
And so I, like you, live a life trying to love one another regardless if friend or foe. And live a life failing to do so as much we would wish. That’s life and whether in times of trial and tribulation or in times of falling short it is all about trust.
The trust that regardless of the hardships we face, to know that Christ is with us.
The trust that regardless of the hardships of others that we fail to help with or mess up, that Christ is still with them.
And the trust that sees us rise another day to love one another: To achieve in it and to fail in it, yet know that in both, that Jesus Christ loves us so much that He died for us. To know in both be it in love’s success or love’s failure that Christ forgives us. That’s faith and that’s the faith that you have.
You have been forgiven in Christ, and in that forgiveness will His love lead you home. And in that love we can lye on the footpath dressed in our good school cloths like that boy. In that love can we still love and cherish others though we have our personal “handicaps”. In that love we rise after we fall, and in that love shall we forever dwell to when we fall in our last moment and rise for the last time and see our blessed Lord and Saviour with angels singing and multitudes cheering halauhah, and maybe even see a little boy in crisp clean garments with his mum. And see his mum holding him close with arms strong in the strength of love. Amen.