WHO ARE YOU PUTTING YOUR FAITH IN? MODBURY What or who do you put your faith in? When we are young we put all our faith and trust in our parents and you will see children jump from great heights into their parent’s arms, or allow them to throw them up in the air, trusting that they will catch them on the way down. The kids who have faith in their parents laugh and really enjoy that, but those who don’t have faith will scream their heads off. Faith and trust are two different things but they are in some ways closely related. We usually only put our faith in something or someone we trust. If they let us down then we remove some of that trust and we may even lose our faith in them. Faith, in the biblical sense, is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Trust, on the other hand, is believing in something we can see. We trust that a chair will hold us up. We trust that our family will be there to support us when we need it. But when trust is eroded then we struggle to have faith in that thing or person. I can remember the time when Trish and I were in a singing group and we did this gig in Ballarat and as part of our presentation we did this skit about trust. It was a Charlie Brown and Linus thing where Charlie Brown held a football and Linus had to come along and kick the ball, only to have Charlie Brown take it away at the last minute and Linus falls flat on the ground. Well, in the skit I was Linus and it was in the days of really tight pants and as I came in to kick the imaginary ball, it was taken away and I fell on the floor. The only problem was that when I did, I split my pants right around the seam. It was very embarrassing and I had to wear a jumper or something to cover the huge split. But it was a lesson about trust and how that trust can be broken which also takes away the faith we may have in someone. I have a saying that a friend in Hobart wrote a song about and it simply says, “When you can’t see God’s hand at work, trust His heart.” Faith and trust are closely related. But in many different areas of life we need to learn who we can trust and who we can place our faith in. If we just go around trusting everyone, then we will get burnt by someone who is not worthy of that trust. The other day I was watching a TV show and there was this little old lady who trusted this nice young man who said he would fix her roof, but all he did was keep taking more and more money off her. He was a real conman and in the end he got killed because he ripped off the wrong person. This lady’s faith was misplaced. But any of us can get caught if we’re not careful. There are plenty of internet scams going around that simply rip us off. There are mobile phone scams and schemes that can be signed up for and it might sound good or interesting, but in the end all they deliver is a guarantee to rip you off. The latest I have heard of is to sign up on your mobile phone to find out what name you should call your children. You text in your name and the name of your partner, and hey presto you have the perfect name for your child. I wonder if you would get the same name for a second child using this same method??? But I think I heard or read in the very fine print at the bottom that it actually costs you $10.00 a week for a contract of three years. There are also plenty of people who have put all their faith in their finances and in their superannuation and now with the economic downturn they are really struggling, not to just make ends meet and pay the bills, but their whole sense of well being is eroded because their faith in their ability to earn money or have a large superannuation to live off is disappearing. There are other people who place their faith in idols of worship like is mentioned in the Old Testament. It might be something only made of wood or metal, and yet some people worship their gods, their idols, and somehow trust that they are helping them in their life. You might remember the story about the Israelites and how God rescued them out of slavery in Egypt and how he miraculously gave them water from a rock and how he gave them food that fell from the sky every morning for forty years, and how they did what Moses told them even though they grumbled quite a bit about their pay and conditions. But when Moses went up into the mountain to get the Ten Commandments and was gone a bit longer than they thought was reasonable, they took matters into their own hands and made Aaron make a golden calf so they could have something to worship. Very quickly they turned from having faith in almighty God and following Moses, into worshipping this man made calf. They were having a great old party when Moses came down from the mountain and saw how they had turned away from God and were bowing down to this golden calf. Righty so Moses got really angry and threw down the stone tablets that the commandments were written on and broke them. But there were many times when the Israelites and many other nations worshipped carved images that couldn’t do a thing for them. How someone can have faith in taro cards or palm reading or Ouija boards or any other practice like that is beyond me. I think it takes a lot more faith to believe in those things than it does to believe in a God who created the heavens and the earth and who sent his son to this earth where he was killed and then God rose him from the dead again. And then, to top it all off, Jesus proved he was alive by showing himself to over 500 people before then ascending into heaven right in front of a group of people. It is much easier for me to believe in this God and in his son, Jesus, than in an inanimate object that has no power. But the danger is that we still put our faith in the wrong things. We still put our faith in money, because that’s what we worship and have as our central focus in life. We still put our faith in things, and the collecting of material possessions, without giving God a thought. We still put our faith in our friends more than God, at least until they let us down and then we wipe them off our Christmas card list. We can still run the danger of putting our faith in a person instead of Jesus Christ. I remember a church in Geelong that had very few kids in the youth group. But then they got this bible college student who came in and he had a really charismatic personality and all of a sudden kids were coming from everywhere. They had one of the largest junior youth groups in the city. It was really pumping. I think all the other church youth groups were quite jealous of the rapid growth and fun they were having. But at the end of that year the student graduated and left town to take a job in another state. But sadly, within just a few weeks that youth group shrunk back to basically what they had at the start. You see, the kids put their faith in the man, and not in Jesus Christ. They followed him and he was not wise enough to help those kids come to a saving and real faith in Jesus Christ. They just had fun each week. And that’s the danger of putting your faith in a person, other than the person of Jesus Christ, the one who will never let us down. The thing about putting our faith in anyone is that they must be able to honour that faith and not abuse it. Jesus Christ will not abuse that faith. But for us to place our faith in someone it means that they must be worthy of that faith. If Jesus was not worthy of our faith and trust, then he would have soon disappeared off the radar and we would not have churches all over the world we would not even have the calendar we now have that is centered around the life of Christ. If Jesus was not worthy of our faith he would have abused that faith and left us out in the cold. But if we are to see and understand Jesus as being worthy we must know who he is. The people in Jesus’ home town of Nazareth didn’t see him as God’s son. They only knew him as Joseph the carpenter’s son. They knew him as the brother of James, Joseph, Simon and Judas and his sisters. They didn’t want to see him as anything or anyone special and so we read in Matthew 13:58, “And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” Who do you see Jesus as? Is he just another man who grew up in Nazareth and is no-one special to you? If that’s all you see him as then you will struggle to place your faith in him. But if you see him as God’s son, the one who came to this earth at what we celebrate as Christmas, this is God incarnate, God with skin on, and if you see him and believe in him as the one who later died so he could take all your sins onto himself so you don’t have to face the eternal consequences of them, then you will find it much easier to place your faith in him. Jesus Christ is the one, the only one, we can truly trust and place our faith in. You look at the stories in the gospels and the results of those who put their faith in him. The woman in Matthew 9 who had been bleeding for 12 years, she had such a faith in Jesus that all she had to do was touch the hem of his cloak and she was healed. The guys who hacked a hole in the roof of a guys house in Capernaum, just so they could lower their paralytic friend down for Jesus to heal him had such faith in Jesus that Mark 2:5 says, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” And he was healed right there and then. Jesus saw the faith of this guy’s friends and chose to heal the man. There were some blind men in Matthew 9:28-29 and it says, “When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith will it be done to you”; and their sight was restored.” But even more miraculous than these wonderful healings of Jesus is to see the changed lives of those today who place their faith in him. When we take on board Jesus Christ and put all our faith in Him, the Holy Spirit comes into us and transforms our lives from the inside. I’m sure many of you have either experienced that change in yourself or you have seen it happen in others. A couple of weeks ago we had Damien share his life story with us and how Jesus Christ had made such a huge difference in his life. He still has his struggles, as he said, but Jesus is still transforming his life. God is still working miracles in him. But we all have to make that choice as to what we do with Jesus. This series of talks have all been about the choices we make. We can all make some really stupid choices, and often get ourselves into hot water over it. But we can all make some really good choices that will enhance our lives and make us better people because of them. The choice is ours. The important thing to understand is that we are responsible for all the choices we make. We all have choices to make every day. But the choice that’s most important of all, is, who are we putting our faith in? If you are yet to do so, can I encourage you to put all your faith and trust in Jesus Christ so that he can impact your life and free you from the eternal consequences of your poor choices and wrong actions? Jesus is not some magic formula, but he is the one who can help us and give us life and direction and purpose for our lives. If anyone wants to ask Jesus into their life, then make sure you talk to someone you trust straight after the service.