Let us pray: Dear Savior, as a new year commences, restore and revive our commitment to You! Keep us strong in Your Word of truth. Strengthen our faith. Guide us in the pathways of righteousness. And give us new-found confidence that nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from Your love for us. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST WHO RENEWS OUR FAITH!
TEXTS: Eph. 2: 8: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Matthew 15: 27-28: “’Yes, Lord’ she replied, ‘but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’ Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour.”
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
2020 is done. A new year lies before us. With it comes resolutions to better ourselves. We’re all sick of being controlled. Sick of having to wear a face diaper! Sick of being confined. We want freedom. We want liberty. All this made me ponder this past week and ask: “What CAN we control in our lives?” People resolve to lose weight, to get healthy, to achieve financial security, to show more kindness towards friends. Resolutions are endless. We like to think we can control such things and fulfill them so when 2022 rolls around we can pat ourselves on the back and feel a bit superior. But if you really think it through, it’s not true.
Lose weight. We can control that, right? Not really. You may stick to a strict diet, but when some disaster strikes you emotionally, “Ben and Jerry’s where are you?” Get healthy and exercise. You break your leg and that one goes in the ambulance. Financial security. Everything goes along fine unless and until you lose your job. Kindness. Too much stress erupts and overcomes good intentions as you lash out at someone over something rather stupid. We’re human. We’re weak-willed. We don’t control anything—that’s God’s job.
But then I thought more about spiritual stuff. Surely we can resolve to get closer to God and strengthen our faith, right? We can will Him into our hearts and thereby “fix” our deficiencies. Not really. And Paul tells us why in Eph. 2:8: “For it is by grace (God’s undeserved love in Christ) you have been saved, through faith—and this NOT OF YOURSELVES, it is a gift from God, not of works, so that no one can boast.” You see, faith is not something you create or will to happen on your own. No, it is God’s gift to you, borne of grace. You cannot chose God and somehow force Him into accepting you into His family. He does that freely because He loves you in and through and because of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross. Recall Jesus saying in John: “You have not chosen Me, I have chosen you.”
I thought even deeper on the subject of resolutions we actually CAN control and I came up with only one. Here it is: YOU CAN CONTROL YOUR EXPOSURE TO GOD’S WORD WHICH THEREBY MAKES AND STRENGTHENS YOUR FAITH. It’s true. Since the Gospel alone saves us and creates faith, through which we’re linked to God, the more you go to church, have regular home devotions and reading of Scripture, commune regularly, and cogitate on Divine “stuff” via prayer, well, that opens avenues to God to strengthen and preserve your faith. This is the whole impetus behind the 3rd commandment. How do I know this? Because God says so: Isaiah 55: “My Word will not return to me empty, but will prosper and achieve the purpose unto which I have sent it.” His purpose in sending Jesus to die for our sins was to save us. Exposing yourself to that Word is the only way to find out about Jesus, have Him link Himself to our souls via faith, and thus get spiritually stronger and better able to cope with all the awful stuff we’ve been slammed with or will be slammed with.
Never forget, God’s Word, specifically the Gospel, is: ”The power of God unto Salvation to all who believe.” God’s Word isn’t just a bunch of information that we process, it also has inherent power to make, build-up, and enhance saving faith within.
I cannot create a stronger faith within, that’s God’s job. But I can resolve to expose myself to the pathway that leads to Him so as to “eat the crumbs” that fall from my Master’s table! That passage bespeaks of humility, doesn’t it? That’s us, hopefully! Every aspect of your life except this one is out of your control. But you can swallow your pride and with a broken heart ask for His help. “Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief!” And when that occurs, in every instance—including here with the Canaanite woman who asked for Jesus’ help with her daughter, the request is granted and God-given faith is commended. Another example of this would be the Roman centurion who asked Christ to heal his servant. He didn’t demand it, or resolve it, or order it, he humbly asked for help because he knew it was beyond his own control. And what did Christ do? He healed the man and then said of the centurion: “I have not found greater faith in all Israel!”
Snowstorms, sickness, occasional work disasters can and do get in the way of going to church. God knows all this. But not much else should ever impinge and hinder our commitment to expose ourselves to God’s food for the soul. Not late nights, not lethargy, not emotional battles, not doubt, not frustration, nor fear. So, make and then work at keeping the only resolution that you actually can control: putting yourself in a position to have God Almighty build your faith. He’ll never let you down. And your life in 2021 will be greatly blest. How do I know that? Because Scripture also says: “It is God Who works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure.” Amen
THE peace of God which…..
Pastor Thomas H. Fox