First Mennonite Church
March 13, 2016
Why Do We Need to Have Faith?
Texts: Hebrews 11:6; John 17:20-26
Today I am continuing with the topic of faith. But first, just a summary of what we considered in our first session. Faith, according to Hebrews 11, verse 1, is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Faith is living in light of what God has done through Christ Jesus. Faith is living according to the promises of God for the future, of things we do not yet see but eagerly and actively participate in. In this respect love is at the center of faith. For God so loved the world that he gave his only son. This is what God did for us in Christ. Christ laid down his life out of love. But God also promises full restoration of justice, peace and righteousness in his kingdom. And these are things we anticipate and are the principles for our life today. We love; we live and work for peace and righteousness. And the way we live reflects our faith in God. This description of faith affirms what James says about faith as something visible through the way we serve others.
Today I would like for us to reflect on the question: why do we need to have faith? Why do we need to have faith in order to please God? What role does faith in God play in the way we live our daily lives? Putting it more concretely: Are you a collector of a particular kind of item? Are you a loyal brand name customer? A foodie? A celebrity fan? An insatiable seeker for entertainment?
I knew someone who was a collector of glass ware of the color blue. There were cups, vases, ornaments, and everything crystal and blue all over the place in the house.
Let me “confide” to you one of my weaknesses. When I was in my late teen years I was invited by a friend to go to Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. In Merida I bought my first little camera—a Kodak Star 110. This was a little thing this big (between tip of index and thumb). There are still some photos I took with this camera in my Mom’s old album. After that, I bought a flimsy 35mm camera, which I thought was a notch higher than the little Kodak Star. When I came to the US for the first time in ’89, I bought one of those that winds the film automatically. I loaned it to a friend and he lost it but gave me a replacement. Then I bought a Canon with telescopic lens. The last one I got is a digital. When I get something, I have to promise I will not ask for anything else—at least for some time. For me, there is an enticing power when I look at the deep blue-green heavy crystal lens of a camera that makes me want it. Lilian knows cameras are my weakness and so every time we are watching documentaries and the filming crew shows how they taped their film, Lilian would ask, you wish you had that camera, don’t you? I cannot openly say, “Yes” because I promised I will not ask for any more cameras.
The pop singer Bruce Springsteen has a song with the title Everybody’s Got A Hungry Heart.
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody needs a place to rest
Everybody wants to have a home
Don’t make no difference what nobody says
Ain’t nobody like to be alone
The story I told you about me with cameras is a reflection of an ongoing hunger for more and better cameras. “If only I get this one, I will ask for no more,” we say to ourselves. And once we get what we wanted we are fine for a short while. But then the hunger comes back and we want more or a better one. For some, it is a newer car, a “more loving spouse,” a bigger house, a better job, a higher position, the latest tools of her or his trade, and the list can go on and on. Everybody’s got a hungry heart. Everybody needs a place to rest. Nobody likes to be alone. That is because there is something in the human heart that’s longing for a resting place, longing to feel satisfied, secure, and affirmed with unconditional love. Embedded in the human heart is the desire and longing to feel absolutely secure, unconditionally loved and having unsurpassable worth. And quoting from Greg Boyle’s book The Benefit of the Doubt: To the degree we don’t experience this, however, we remain hungry, out of place, and less than fully alive. Our hunger and restlessness keep us going in life. In part we work hard, invest our lives in a job or for a cause hoping that somehow our hunger for security, worth, and love will be satisfied. Many live and die without ever satisfying their soul’s longing because they never got to find the One, who alone is able to satisfy that hunger.
This idea put in religious or spiritual language is best expressed in St. Augustine’s prayer when he said, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.”
In the great tradition of Judeo-Christian religion is the confession that Yahweh created the world and all forms of life, including ours—human life. This is the God Jesus came to reveal with the greatest clarity of all previous forms and ways God had ever revealed himself. Again in the letter to the Hebrews we read: In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word (1:1-3).
The author of Hebrews presents Jesus as the exact representation of Yahweh, the God revealed in the Old Testament. Jesus is the culmination of God’s manifestation to Israel and to the world. This means that if we ever want to know what God looks like we better look at Jesus. It means that the opaque and misty portraits we find of God in the Old Testament are now clearly revealed when we look at Jesus.
In the Judeo-Christian confession of faith we believe Yahweh created us humans according to Genesis 1:26a. God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness . . . .” This statement about how God created humankind is a declaration about God’s nature. “Let us make. . . according to our image and likeness,” God said. Jesus tells us about the nature and image of God. It is here that we take our passage for today.
Jesus earnestly prays to the Father that his disciple “all of them may be one . . . as we are one.” This describes the eternal essence of God’s unity. The Triune God in the being of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is indivisible, unchanging, and harmonious. And Jesus prays that his disciples may participate and reflect to the world the unity and harmony of God’s nature. The purpose of God in creating humankind is to participate in this unity and harmony. The prayer of Jesus is that we his disciples would become one by the indwelling of Jesus in us as God was in Jesus (v.21). That is why there is in our heart and soul a longing to be united and to be at peace with someone beyond ourselves. That is why there is a constant void in the human heart when this indwelling of God is missing. And when this longing is not oriented toward the true and only source of satisfaction, humans tend to satisfy it with cameras, cars, food, with money and all that it can buy. But we only get satisfied for a short period of time and then our longing comes back and we become restless again.
In this prayer Jesus reveals that the life of God is love and the world was created out of love. This life-giving love is the nature and life of the Triune God. Jesus declared “you loved me before the creation of the world” and he prayed “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” We all cherish the love of family and friends. Many of us are the object of a loving spouse and it is a magnificent feeling to feel loved. But even so, deep within us there a need for someone to love us unconditionally, one who will not turn his or her back to us when we fail but on the contrary come towards us to restore the relationship. Deep inside of us is a longing to feel valued and worthy even or especially when our actions or words make us feel we loathe ourselves. We long for someone who would love us even if we had raised rebelliously against him or have failed to acknowledge his love for us. And that my friend, is Jesus. Jesus shares with God the life-giving love for which he was sent to the world by the Father. Jesus gave his life even when we were enemies of God and were dead in our sins. Jesus came to show us the unsurpassable worth God bestowed the day he created us. Jesus came to show us that God never intended that we ever live separated from our Creator God. He, thus, came to reconcile us with the Father, as Paul aptly said: God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them (2Corinthians 5:19a). Jesus came to reflect the glory of God and he came to clothe us with the glory with which God created us in the beginning. “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one,” Jesus prayed. God created us to share in his life, love, and his glory.
Jesus came to reveal to us the essence of God. The Triune God dwells in eternal unity, perfect life-giving love, and excelling radiance of glory. These are God’s characteristics with which God created humankind in his image and likeness. But the fall deformed the original imprint of God’s image and likeness in us. And we became alienated with God. Since then, our hearts became restless and began to suffer a deep longing to be restored. And unless we return to our Creator God, such longing for security, worth, and unconditional love will go unfulfilled. But when God fills the void inside us, we begin to feel alive, as having worth not based on who we are or what we have accumulated but because of who dwells in us—Jesus Christ. When we find our resting place in God, we rest securely and not even death can make us afraid because Jesus is the source of our hope, because he is the life and the resurrection. When we have found the love of God, we can say with the Psalmist, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me” (Psalm 27:10).
In Jesus we find true rest for our souls. In Jesus we are restored in the image and likeness of God. In Jesus we find life that goes beyond this earthly life. In Jesus God came to establish a new covenant with everyone who is willing to hear his voice. It is a covenant in his blood on the cross. In Jesus Christ, as the apostle Peter says, “We participate in the divine nature (2Peter 1:4).
We need faith because faith is life in a covenantal relationship with God and Jesus came to establish the new covenant on the cross. For without a covenantal relationship with Christ, it is impossible to please God. Amen!
 Greg Boyle. Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty (Grand Rapids: Bakers Books, 2013) p.57.
 The Confession of Augustine, trans. S. E. Wirt (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971), p.1