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Then We'll Die Walking

A cute story from Christian Reader:

My aunt and uncle had a missionary family visiting. When the missionary children were called in for dinner, their mother said, "Be sure to wash your hands."

The little boy scowled and said, "Germs and Jesus. Germs and Jesus. That's all I hear, and I've never seen either one of them."
The book of Hebrews says "faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (11:1, NIV)
William Barclay writes:
It is not a hope that looks forward with wistful longing; it is a hope that looks forward with utter certainty. It is not the hope that takes refuge in a perhaps, it is the hope that is founded on a conviction.

Faith is the title deed to what we do not yet see.
Faith is not the property of theological talk. Everyone lives by faith.
The only question is what your faith is grounded in.

It would be impossible to get out of bed in the morning without faith.
It is an act of faith that you get in your car and drive across town. Every intersection you drive through is an act of faith. You believe that traffic coming at right angles to you will stop for a red light. Imagine having to stop at every intersection and waiting until there were no cars before you went through it. You could hardly get anywhere that way. I have followed some drivers who I suspect thought that way.
Putting your money into a bank machine is an act of faith.
Eating in some restaurants is an act of faith.
In hundreds, maybe thousands of ways every day, we all live by faith.

The faith the writer of Hebrews is talking about is faith in God where we are totally confident in moving contrary to the mainstream. It is a confidence in a goal that is so compelling that we will strike out to accomplish it.

The great inventors had that kind of faith in their ideas.
Without a deep inner conviction, Edison would have quit and stocked up on lamp oil.
Without a deep faith in what he was doing, Columbus would have gotten a job at home in Portugal.
Without faith in the rightness of what they were doing people who have fought slavery, child labor, or oppressive tyrants would never have put their lives on the line for their convictions.

But aren't you glad they did?

Those people based their faith on a conviction, on scientific principles, or on keen observations.
We are asked to base our faith in a Person we have never seen.
Mind you, according to Harper's magazine, 98% of the matter in the universe is invisible.
But that's based on science and other observations and you aren't going to change your life style because of the amount of invisible matter in the universe.

But God, the father of our Lord Jesus says that to have faith is to point your life in his direction.

In practical terms what that means is believing that God will direct your life if you ask and that following God's plan is better than  just devising your own. It means that we begin this process by trusting in Jesus as the Lord of life.

I think you can only do that when you have a sense of the character of God and his love for you.
But even then its not always easy.
Having faith may help us to move mountains, but it doesn't mean we are immune from the pain of life.

Nancy Guthrie wrote a book called Holding On to Hope. She describes how faith helped her family through a difficult time.

We had Hope for 199 days. We loved her. We enjoyed her richly and shared her with everyone we could. We held her during seizures. Then we let her go.

The day after we buried Hope, my husband said to me, "You know, I think we expected our faith to make this hurt less, but it doesn't." Our faith gave us an incredible amount of strength and encouragement while we had Hope, and we were comforted by the knowledge that she is in heaven. Our faith keeps us from being swallowed by despair.

But I don't think it makes our loss hurt any less.

Early on in my journey, I said to God, "Okay, if I have to go through this, then give me everything. Teach me everything you want to teach me through this. Don't let this incredible pain be wasted in my life!"

God?allows good and bad into our lives and we can trust him with both.'trusting God when the miracle does not come, when the urgent prayer gets no answer, when there is only darkness'this is the kind of faith God values most of all?.

I believe that the purpose of Hope's short life, and my life, was and is to glorify God.

The writer of Hebrews describes the lives of biblical heroes:
By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain, by faith Enoch was taken bodily into heaven, by faith Noah prepared an ark for saving his family, by faith Abraham believed God and left his home to find that land promised by God. By faith Sarah believed God and was able to conceive a child in her old age.

He goes on to say that each of these could have chosen not to believe and to go back to safer ground, but they did not.
They pressed on toward the promise God had placed in their heart.
He also says that they died before they received the full promise, but they died walking toward it.

In 1972 the Uruguayan rugby team crashed in the Andes. Their story was told in the movie Alive!
 

The film portrays the struggle of those who survived the crash to maintain hope and stay alive.

In one scene three of the survivors deciding to leave the crash site and attempting to make it through the mountains to get help. After days of trekking through mountainous terrain, they take a break. While one of them rests just below a mountain peak, Canessa makes his way to the top where Nando (Ethan Hawke) is surveying the scenery.

Canessa looks around at the stunning beauty of numerous mountain ranges, but finds only despair. "Mountains. Nothing but mountains! We've had it. We've completely had it!" Out of breath, he collapses in resignation.

Nando responds, "No, we haven't. Into these mountains somewhere there is a green valley. See the mountains over there? There's no snow on them."

"Those mountains must be 50 miles away. Do you think we can walk 50 miles?" Canessa responds.

"If we have to, we will," says Nando.

Canessa says, "I can't."

"Yes you can."

"I can't. I'm not as strong as you."

Nando walks over to Canessa, kneels beside him, and says: "You know what it is that we've lived this long the way we have? Seventy days. That we climbed these mountains? You know what it is? It's impossible. It's impossible, and we did it. I'm proud to be a man on a day like this. Alive. That I lived to see it. And see it in such a place. Take it in."

He stands up and looks around him. "I love you, man. Look. It's magnificent. It's God. It'll carry us over every stone. I swear. I swear it to you."

Nando turns around to look at Canessa, now standing. They agree to send the third man back to the plane and take his extra food. Nando stands beside Canessa and points. "You see where the sun's going to set. That way's west. Into the west of the green valleys of Chile."

"We're going to die, you know," Canessa insists.

Nando declares, "Maybe. But if we die, we're going to die walking."

That is faith.
Columbus would have died sailing.
The Wright brothers would have died flying.
Refugees are prepared to die trying.

That is true for us here.
This little church plant is going to change the world. Not all the world, and we aren't going to change it all alone, but we are going to change it.
How?
I don't know what the change will look like exactly, and we may not be here to see it, but some day a strong church will sit on this property that changes its world. Peoples lives will be changed because of this church we are planting here.

Maybe some child you teach in Sunday School will grow up to become a great leader.
Maybe some family you touch will become a source of hope and strength for hundreds of others.
You and I together will be a part of God's plan to change the world. And He will do it.

I may not live to see it, but I am willing like the others, to die walking.
I can't think of a better way to spend my life than spending it investing in faith in what God has promised.
It's not too late to begin the walk with all of us who are going that way.
The promise comes from Jesus who was willing to die walking it as well. And the guarantee is that the same power that raised him from the dead will give power to your faith as well.
Amen

Preached 
Dr. Harold McNabb
West Shore Presbyterian Church
Victoria, British Columbia