"God's Love is Greater than our Doubts," Ephesians 3:20,21 Sermon

[This sermon was delivered at Mt. Hope Congregational Church September 30, 2018] 

“God’s Love is Greater than our Doubts!”
Ephesians 3:20,21

“So certain are you?” Yodo told Luke Skywalker, when convinced was he that he was a Jedi. Only the very young and the very foolish believe they have unlocked all the mysteries and solved all the riddles of life and faith. If the life of faith is a pilgrimage then we must embrace the mystery of faith. No right-minded pilgrim, no explorer, has ever out on his or her journey already knowing everything about the places they will travel. Imagine if Lewis & Clark had headed west through Montana and Wyoming already having decided there were no geysers in Yellowstone?

An explorer, a pilgrim, is certain of his cause, his mission, not the details of that which he will encounter along the way. “I don’t know if we can pass the continental divide, but I have faith in the value of trying. This certainty of the value of this mission is worth the risk of unknown future encounters…”

Jesus says, “Take up your Cross and follow me.” In other words, “Place your trust in me in spite of the hardships, in the face of doubts, keep marching.”

God’s love is greater than our doubts. We doubt. He acts. Our faith grows. But faith isn’t a commodity. It can’t easily be measured. Our faith doesn’t so much grow in size – as though it were a block or a bar of something – but in depth of willingness to trust. Certainty-seeking faith is damaging.

CIT/CIS: Don’t doubt that God’s love is greater than your doubts. Faith isn’t a commodity. Faith is a willingness to trust the light of Christ even when the dark clouds of doubt linger. Increasing faith has a direct relationship with decreasing doubts BUT it is far more about a decreasing inclination to stand still

In other words, I’m arguing that faith is a verb defined as willingness to continue to follow Christ in the presence or lack of doubt. I’ll be sharing with you a few thoughts from a few passages to defend this position.

Hebrews 10:22: “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (NIV84)

I want to draw your attention to a few key words in the verse. First, consider “us.” Faith is not an individual journey. Few things have shipwrecked the faith of many in our day as much as the rejection of the need for the regular collective gathering of the covenant community.

The ship of faith is a vessel too grand to sail alone apart from sinking it. “Many believers not only neglect to meet regularly with a congregation of believers but suppose it unnecessary. This is a very serious mistake, indeed a heresy which endangers their salvation… biblical religion is socially oriented.”[1] Others commit an equally, perhaps more serious error in constantly shifting from one community of faith to another. Deep faith is always born of deep fellowship in covenant with like-minded believers. 

Bonhoeffer writes, “God as willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.”[2] We need one another to conquer doubts.

We need one another to press on in the face of doubts. Our collective witness as to the power of God’s love and the reality of an empty tomb is the greatest strength and witness of the Christian. We shine the light to warm one another’s souls and to lead to the way to salvation of the world!
Let us draw near. Life Together. Life in communion. Life in Covenant. Let us draw near! But to what? Absolute certainty? Absolute and complete knowledge of or about God? No. Let us draw near together sincerely.

It is a better witness to the world and our fellowship together is richer when we come together as sincere sinners seeking refuge than when we gather as Pharisees, overly convinced of our own wisdom. And what about wisdom?

What about the ultimate assurance of faith passage? “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6 NIV84) Doesn’t that mean that faith is a commodity; that the more you believe the more likely your prayers will be answered? No. Put this in context.

James is talking about wisdom. Pray for wisdom and believe God will give it to you and he will! And this is the purest wisdom with regard to the life of faith; the pilgrims journey through this life together in sincere faith…

James 1:19-27: “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don't obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” (NLT) In other words, faith is a verb and God’s love is bigger than our doubts…

God’s love is greater than our doubts! Don’t search for certainty about Christ, search for Christ! Don’t search for certainty and place your trust in the idol of what we know, but place your trust in Christ and be known by Him! The search for certainty is different that the search for the one who brings certainty into our souls. God will do more than we can imagine. He’s not calling us to perfect knowledge but imperfect action and sincere trust.

You have doubts? Good! Use them as bridges upon which to cross over the chaos of uncertainty into the next level of faith. You have doubts? Great! They are evidence of a thoughtful mind that God has given you to pursue Him, to know Him, and to make Him known in honest authentic ways in the world. God hasn’t called us to mask uncertainty with delusions.

He is calling us to a life of active engagement with Him and the world around us. To Peter Jesus said, “Why did you doubt Me?” (Matthew 14:31 NLT) Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (Matthew 17:20 NLT)

Let’s move some mountains together!

God’s love is greater than our doubts! And an honest – even if sometimes uncertain faith – is far more attractive to today’s generation of doubters, who’ve seen the certainty of failed religion and are longing for a lived faith.

God’s love is greater than our doubts! Look around you. Here we are living faith together and “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT) God’s love is greater than our doubts and the assurance of His love is found in sincere life together. Be encouraged!

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to Him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NLT)

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary, David Stern, (Jewish New Testament Publications, 1989), page 707.
[2] Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (Harper San Francisco, copyright Harper & Row 1954), page 23.