Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Today, we will talk about faith. Let me start with a story which gives us a point for today’s sermon.
A man named Jack was walking along a steep cliff one day, when he accidentally got too close to the edge and fell. On the way down he grabbed a big branch, which temporarily stopped his fall. He looked down and to his horror saw that the canyon fell straight down for more than a thousand feet.
He couldn’t hang onto the branch forever, and there was no way for him to climb up the steep wall of the cliff. So Jack began yelling for help, hoping that someone passing by would hear him and lower a rope.
HELP! HELP! Is anyone up there? “HELP!”
He yelled for a long time, but no one heard him. He was about to give up when he heard a voice. Jack, Jack. Can you hear me?”
“Yes, yes! I can hear you. I’m down here!”
“I can see you, Jack. Are you all right?”
“Yes, but who are you, and where are you?
“I am the Lord, Jack. I’m everywhere.”
“The Lord? You mean, GOD?” “That’s Me.”
“God, please help me! I promise if, you’ll get me down from here, I’ll stop sinning. I’ll be a really good person. I’ll serve You for the rest of my life.”
“Easy on the promises, Jack. Let’s get you off from there; then we can talk.”
“Now, here’s what I want you to do. Listen carefully.”
“I’ll do anything, Lord. Just tell me what to do.”
“Okay. Let go of the branch.””What?” “I said, let go of the branch. Just trust Me. Let go.”
There was a long silence.
Finally Jack yelled, “HELP! HELP! IS ANYONE ELSE UP THERE?”
What do you think? If you were Jack, would you let go of the branch? For me? I am not sure. I know that this story is very unreasonable. God asking Jack to let go of the branch? Why would God do that? Wouldn’t God offer him much more reasonable options for the sake of his safety?
However, sometimes, we can face God’s asking to let go of a branch that we hold tightly for our safety. Honestly, I do not have wisdom enough to explain God’s action. So I have struggled with this matter and I found this Jack story which seems to be perfect for today’s sermon. In this story, I have picked up one word. Can you imagine what it is? Branch! The branch Jack grabbed to stop his fall from a steep cliff.
Let us apply the branch into our life situations. This branch could be something physical for our safety such as our money, prestige, talents or something like that. In this case, when we let go of those branches, that does not mean we give away all of them to others. Instead, it means that we admit that those branches belong to God and God will take care of them. There are other kinds of branches. Those could be something psychological such as our emotions; love, anger, grudges, and happiness. In these cases, when we let go of those branches, that means we depend on God, letting the power of the Holy Spirit control our minds and hearts.
What kinds of branches do you hold onto in your physical and spiritual lives? Obviously, you, as well as me, have grabbed various branches for the sake of ourselves and our families. However, sometimes God asks us to let go of them and we think it is unreasonable because we need the branches. It seems like God testing our faith. What do you think?
The writer of Hebrews tells us about our ancestors who had a deep faith; Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham. Among them, I will only present the life of Abraham. One day, God came to Abaham and said, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” God asked Abraham to let go of the branches he had grabbed. He had a deep faith in God, obeyed God and set out, not knowing where he was going. Then, as God promised, Abraham became the father of our faith. However, here is an interesting thing. We can find his faith in God shaken on his journey to the promised land. For example, when Abraham was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “You are a beautiful woman. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘Is this beautiful woman the old man’s wife?’ Then they will kill me but will let you live.” Abraham couldn’t believe in God taking care of him and his family. He had a deep faith but it was shaken.
What does it mean to have faith in God? Does it mean for us to have unshaken faith? The truth is that no one can have unshaken faith in God all the time. We could have a strong faith but sometimes the faith would be shaken when we face huge challenges. We become so small before the challenges. Our faith is like a flag flapping in the wind.
Then, again, what does it mean to have faith in God? Let’s look at today’s Bible lesson. Hebrews 11: 1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
I understand this verse in this way. God is our hope. No matter how far we go away from God, God is still with us, surrounding us. No matter how much our faith is shaken, God’s love for us is never shaken. No matter what, we are connected in the never-ending covenant with God. If we have this faith, then we are fit to be called the people of God.
I believe that God does not force us to let go of the branches we have grabbed. I believe that God understands our weaknesses. However, God sometimes asks us to let go of the branches we thought we needed. Then, try it. Try to follow God’s direction. You will definitely witness God’s power and wisdom which is hard for us to understand with our limited knowledge. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Let us pray. Faithful God, thank you for your words this morning. Help us to keep the faith that you are with us and never shaken. Bless us to be faithful before you. And bless us to witness your power and wisdom. Amen.