14 October / Baptism Service // 630 // ‘Ordinary heroes’
preach from Hebrews 11:1-10 & 32-38 and 12: 1-3 MSG version (see bottom for full reading)
As always this is the draft, the live version can be heard on the TRINITY website…
Tonight is all about sharing stories/ testimony
about hearing the stories of our baptism candidates & how Jesus is at work in their lives.
About us being part of that story as we stand and worship together
In our passage we heard of those who lived in faith
and we are going to hear some stories of those serving God and living out their faith as we go through.
And of course we also hear the story of Jesus, his testimony as the Son of God who came to save.
So my sermon tonight is basically a load of stories of Jesus being at work…
There’s some heroes of faith in our passage this evening: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Gideon, David, Samuel, the prophets…Some of them less than perfect, but those who loved the Lord, were hugely faithful and used by him…
And there are so many others in the bible like them, not mentioned here, like Deborah, Ruth, Mary, Hannah…
These are ordinary people, who had a great faith in God. Some were used for seemingly amazing acts like:
listening to God amidst ridicule
bearing the Christ child
others faithfully, quietly getting on with their lives in Godly ways.
Enoch for example, allwe know from the bible is that he walked faithfully with God for 300 years. We don’t read that he did anything spectacular, just that he was faithful.
These are All heroes for God.
And you too can part of that list. Perhaps joining it this eve for the first time as you dedicate your life to the Lord in baptism.
You might end up being used in a spectacular way by God,
or you might patiently quietly get on with life faithfully. Either way you are joining with all those who have gone before and all those who are yet to come and join the kingdom.
One more for that list – do you know who Martin Luther is?
For those that don’t know, he was a German Pastor and theologian in 15th/16thC. He was instrumental in the reformation of the church, including translating the bible from Latin into German enabling more people to read it for themselves.
His focus was that salvation came by grace through faith in Jesus and was not about works.
He was a pioneer, a revolutionary in some senses, definitely a hero of the faith.
He was thought to have once said that three conversions are necessary in life:
the conversion of the heart
the conversion of the head (mind)
and the conversion of the purse.
There are many versions of this quote and often the 3 come in a different order but I don’t want us to get distracted by that because it doesn’t matter actually. The sentiment behind it with this sense of conversion being more than just a moment, is helpful I think…
Conversion of the heart – experiencing Jesus, committing to following him and knowing truly in your heart that he is your God.
the conversion of the mind – not just experiencing Jesus for yourself but making that commitment, feeding it and letting it shape you
and the conversion of the purse– he meant financially, in giving, but I think we can take it wider – how our faith in Jesus practicallyplays out in our lives, how is it demonstrated.
So I want to take a look at those 3 this evening…
Conversion of the heart
experiencing Jesus, committing to following him and knowing truly in your heart that he is your God.
Those of you who have just got baptised have in some way experienced Jesus for yourselves. You’ve taken that a public step to committing to living a life for him.
You have taken a huge step of faith today.
And faith is the foundation for our lives.
We read in Vs 1-2:
The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.
Just as our heroes of faith in this passage as we read did things
‘by faith ‘ or ‘by an act of faith’
And we even read that
It’s impossible to please God apart from faith (11.5)
Faith is the first step in our journey with God.
And when we take that step, we step into unchartered territory, we are putting ourselves in the hands of God and asking him to
guide us, show us, use us, transform us
I love hearing stories about Jesus transforming lives, like this one which came through a YWAM worker.
She met a militant fighting for Islamic State, who was introduced to her as having killed a number of Christians and even admitted to having enjoyed doing so, until he met Jesus in a dream.
“He told her that he had begun having dreams of this man in white who came to him and said, ‘You are killing my people.’ And he started to feel really sick and uneasy about what he was doing,”
The militant was given a Bible by a Christian man who was about to be killed, which he took and read.
And then in another dream, Jesus asked him to follow him and so he was now asking to become a follower of Christ and to be discipled,”
isn’t that amazing!?
Simon was adopted at the age of 2 months and although brought up in a Christian family he turned away from it all as a teenager,
As an adoptee he had a lot of issues with belonging, asking “Who am I? Am I a reject? Am I a mistake?”
He became an actor, but was also unhappy, drinking and dabbling with drugs.
Then one night he had a vision of himself as a baby in the arms of Jesus, and in front was his biological father. and Jesus was presenting Simon to him. He says he felt the meaning of the dream was “I created you”. God saying: “You’re planned, I put you here, I’m responsible for you.”
A year later he’d started attending church, but was still thinking, “I’m a mistake, and I’m not good enough.” One day he was praying as driving: “God, please, can I trust this vision?” A car came right in front, the number plate was T-R-U-S-T. he says he literally stopped breathing for a moment and I felt I’d been spoken to clearly.
Meeting Jesus transformed his life – can read about it on Premier’s website…
These are amazing and encouraging stories of Jesus at work and reaching into people’s lives, but it doesn’t stop there with one encounter.
we need to keep walking with our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. And that’s where we come to:
the conversion of the head (or the mind)
it’s not just experiencing Jesus for yourself but making that commitment, feeding it and letting it shape you
So how do we do that? How do you keep your faith fired up and active in your life?
A: We need to feed our minds and that is an ongoing process.
We are continually bombarded with this world’s views, the world around us – through the media, news, through friends, books, TV aren’t we? every day, every hour, minute even.
Did you know studies have shown that the brain can take in images that your eye has only seen for 13 milliseconds. So that’s 13/1000ths of a second
and that it can actually unconsciously process roughly 11 million pieces of information per second (so that is information that is processed that we wouldn’t be aware of consciously)
So just imagine how much the information you are taking in every day!
And then ask yourself how much of it is about Jesus?
How much of it is pointing you to a faith-filled life?
Or filling your mind with the things of God?
We have to take some responsibility for putting good stuff, Godly stuff into our minds too.
Ask yourself – how are you feeding your faith?
Church/ teaching / Christian books
Movies/ social media
Spend time with Christian friends – supporting each other, sharing how God is at work, praying for each other?
I love that in this our passage it reminds us about those who had gone before, who should inspire us and encourage us in our faith and to keep going:
1-3 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on?
And certainly reading about those who have gone before is really encouraging. But I also think what can help us is to surround ourselves with what God is doing now, around us here, at work in normal every day lives.
So, I asked this week for people to tell me what God was doing in their lives, so here’s what some people said…
Charlie shared with me what happened for her and her husband, at Harvest last weekend
They have been struggling financially, and were really stretched to the limit.
But last weekend was Harvest festival celebration at their church and in faith they made a cake, toto have with coffee after the service.
their church was doing a collection for the local food bank and before the service Charlie felt God remind her of the scripture from Acts 2 “they shared everything they had with each other”
She says….we had just four tins in our cupboard – but in faith she took two of them as their donation to the food bank.
She says: ‘it wasn’t much at all, but it was all we had. It would be a stretch for us without those tins but it felt like the right thing to do.
it looked so small compared to the carrier bags others were carrying. But this was it, this was our offering, this was all we had’
During the offering she also gave all she had in her purse, a few silver coins, as a way of committing their finances to God too.
At the end of the service God answered their prayers in extraordinary ways:
two parishoners came up to her after the service thanking them for the cake
a relationship with another church member was healed and
then another church member gave them a whole bag of shopping – which they worked out will last them until they get paid.
Then they heard that some financial input would be with them very shortly.
God blessed us practically and in the short term with food,
emotionally and spiritually with a restored friendship and with the knowledge that my church family cares
and long term financially with potential tenants for our house.
his blessing and provision was above and beyond what I could ask for.
And here’s another one, from our own Rachel and I love this story because it is so much about who Rachel is and so much about who God is in her.
She said she was on a walk with her dog and there was a sheep in the field that had got separated from the flock and was in the wrong place. She really wanted to help.
Now, how many of us would even have noticed a sheep by itself!? This is so Rachel. So she called a farmer friend. And he told her to just put the sheep back! (right, as you do..)
This sheep was bigger than me.
So I prayed about it.
She tied up the dog and asked God to help her with the sheep.
So she said hi to the sheep and he just came over across the field – have you ever walked near sheep? They usually leg it when you get close right?
Then she says, she opened a gate, and asked him nicely to come through (he did), another gate he came through, then across a car park / road, and then the final gate to the field.
I thought it would be padlocked. They always are. So I chatted to God some more. And then there was no lock / padlock etc on the gate, it came straight open, and I asked the massive sheep to come through.
And he just trotted through!!!!
You know what I love most about that story? Is that God has given Rachel such a massive compassionate heart, not just for animals, but people to! And in her responding to that love inside of her by sharing it with God, it was like it opened up the way for him to work through her (and the sheep)
AND isn’t it just the perfect illustration of Jesus as the Shepherd – going after the one lost sheep?
Rachel and Charlie’s stories remind me, remind us, to be faithful in all circumstances – to always seek God, even in the slightly random! In fact I’d say more in the random – my experience is that often when you experience something random it is God at work!
And one more quick story:
My friend Leandra – She felt God telling her to join a cycling club, she says she was not keen at all and really questioning God about it but she stepped out in faith and did it and the 2nd week there, the lady next to her out of the blue said ‘ I want to go to church’ so she came to church and now is going to Alpha with her!
All 3, also heroes of the faith
When we seek to grow in our faith, to be used by God, it doesn’t just have an impact on us but on those around us – on the people who enjoyed Charlie’s cake!, on the sheep! And on the woman who sought to know about church…
And at the end of the day when we grow in our faith in Jesus then we help that same faith grow in others.
It’s all about Jesus! And we don’t just study where he is at work but what he has already done for us.
We read in our passage that when we study Jesus it will encourage us and reminds us who he is.
We don’t share these stories to big up those who shared them but to big up Jesus – to remind ourselves where he is at work, who he is in our lives.
We need to convert our minds – study Jesus! How he did it!
Read your bibles
I love that line:
When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he ploughed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
How can we not be excited about who Jesus is! About what he has done and is doing!
Conversion of the purse
Ok so imagine that adrenaline of who Jesus is, shot into your soul – what impact does that actually have on you and how you live your life?
We read right at the start 11:1
1 1-2 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.
So, how are we being distinguished from those around us? Are we practically putting our faith into action or is it kept in our hearts and minds, stashed away for when we need it?
And what about our finances – like Luther said – conversion of the purse!
Just look at Charlie’s example from earlier – are we trusting God in our finances or hoarding things up for ourselves? Are we giving, supporting those who are worse off than us? In poverty? Or in need?
Are we sharing our finances in trust? And in love?
Sharing what we have with those around us.
In the causes we support.
And what about in our behaviour?
Are you being faithful and righteous in your work or study context, or places outside of your home?
We’re not perfect of course, becoming a Christian doesn’t suddenly mean you turn into all round nice person but it should mean that we want to try and behave in a way that is honouring to Jesus in all that we do.
My friend Leandra told me about taking her son to have his hair cut, and her son invited the barber over for dinner!
She is so faithful and she felt it was the right thing to do so she just went with it!
So the barber came for dinner at their house, and it turns out he had been in UK for 7 years (he is from Iran) and had never been invited to any house here for a meal. He was so pleased to be asked and then he took them all out for dinner to Iranian restaurant.
She said: it’s an unlikely friendship but God asks us to love people not like us.
I love that story – how many of us would have laughed it off or been embarrassed or concerned if one of our kids had done that in the hairdressers? But she was faithful to who she believes God asks her to be…
2 final examples of people who have practically put their faith into action…
Christine Caine, Australian pastor and preacher was so moved by hearing a bout the flight of missing girls in Greece who had been trafficked, she started A21 a charity to fight trafficking.
William Wilberforce who fought to abolish slavery wrote in his diary in 1818, “In the Scriptures, no national crime is condemned so frequently and few so strongly as oppression and cruelty, AND the not using our best endeavours to deliver our fellow-creatures from them.”
Someone else this week told me of how God had called them to adopt a child from Russia, another how she had responded to the needs in her community by starting a charity to reach out and support, it’s been a long hard road but she has been faithful to God’s promptings and 6 years in it is really taking off. Others who have quit jobs to step into something new that God has asked them to step into.
All heroes of the faith
So as we finish up, let me ask of all of us…
Where are you in your faith? In that long line of those who have gone before?
Has your heart been converted to Jesus?
an act of faith as we heard of our bible heroes doesn’t give us all the answers but it puts us on the path of faith to knowing Jesus more…
Is you mind being converted? How are you feeding your faith? Are you growing into being a hero of the faith?
And how about your purse? Or the practical outworking of your faith?
Are you inviting God into your life decisions? Are you being truly led by him in all you do?
where is Jesus leading you? In every aspect of your life?
How are you being a hero of faith in the world around you?
Wherever you are on your journey of faith, I encourage you to seek Jesus afresh today. Seek the truth of what he has done for you. Seek the truth of who he is in your life now. Keep encouraging yourselves on your journey and encouraging those around you:
As we read:
Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.
When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through.
That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
Hebrews 11 & 12 from The Message
11: 1-10 & 32-38 and 12:1-3
11 1-2 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.
3 By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see.
4 By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That’s what God noticed and approved as righteous. After all these centuries, that belief continues to catch our notice.
5-6 By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely. “They looked all over and couldn’t find him because God had taken him.” We know on the basis of reliable testimony that before he was taken “he pleased God.” It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.
7 By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn’t see, and acted on what he was told. The result? His family was saved. His act of faith drew a sharp line between the evil of the unbelieving world and the rightness of the believing world. As a result, Noah became intimate with God.
32-38 I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more—Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . . Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection….
12 1-3 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!