“The Courage of Our Faith” February 3, 2019
“The Courage of Our Faith, (Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You)”
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
I’m remembering a large church in my old hometown that I had no desire to ever attend, yet I would go out of my way to drive by this place. You see, they had a large reader board out by the highway and I swear they must have hired a staff whose only job was to find newer and more ridiculous one-liners to place on this board for everyone to see. And as much as they made me cringe or sometimes even moan out loud, I couldn’t resist. It’s like a train wreck: you want to look away but–you-just-can’t. They covered all the oldies but goodies: “God accepts knee mail” is a standard. Some were actually quite clever. “Forgive your enemies; it messes with their heads,” comes to mind. I could go on and on, but let’s just say that we as Christians are quite fond of our one liners. They become part of our everyday, but let’s face it, they are not always as helpful as we might think. The first time someone told me that “God will not give you more than you can handle,” it wasn’t quite as comforting as they had intended. If anything, it made my bad situation even worse. Everything is falling apart and now you’re telling me that it is God who is throwing all this misery at me…but don’t worry, he knows your breaking point. He won’t cross that line. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s not helpful.
When Jeremiah was called to be a prophet, there wasn’t much chance he could wriggle out of it. This was a true call from God in every sense of the word. (Jer 1:4) The word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Young Jeremiah was probably about 14 or 15 at the time so it’s no surprise that he answered, Alas, my Lord, I do not know how to speak; I am too young. (vs 7) But the Lord said to me, “Do not say I am too young. You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I will rescue you,” says the Lord. And at that point, Jeremiah began a long and unusual career as a spokesman for God almighty; he was appointed (vs 10) over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant. But you know, he was just wild and crazy enough that he pulled it off. Ralph Milton says, “I’ve always liked Jeremiah because he’s wild and crazy and not all that good at what he does. But he does it with such passion and flair you can’t help but believe that God is inside this man goading him on.”
I’ve always liked Jeremiah, too. “He’s not all that good at what he does, but he does it with such flair you can’t help but believe that God is inside goading him on.” God will not give you more than you can handle; I wonder if Jeremiah saw it that way. I wonder instead that this teenage boy might have realized the incredible gift God was giving to him, and he was jazzed about it.
The good news is not that God won’t give us more than we can handle, it’s that he won’t give us more than he can handle. That’s what I think of as the courage of our faith.
We’ll be spending the next few weeks talking about the gifts of our faith. The faith gift that comes to mind today is courage; and I’m talking about the dashing, daring, forward-into-the-fray kind of courage shown by a young kid before God. I’m talking about the fearless devotion of Paul and the Apostles and countless other saints that have walked the earth. What words were planted on their lips, what kind of fire did God put in their gut that we still talk about today? Well, I found the answer almost by accident in the most unlikely place of all, 1 Corinthians 13. Yea, we know it well. How many thousands of weddings have folks had to listen as some sad eyed preacher droned on and on about how love is patient, love I kind, it does envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. But for the first time in a long time, I read this wonderful letter from Paul to his church in Corinth and realized that, as corny as it sounds, God sent us Jesus Christ mostly to show us what love is all about. This is our calling: to learn to love as Jesus loves – unconditionally, without hesitation, and without fear. I would encourage you to have a 2nd or 3rd look at Paul’s timeless words about love and just try to imagine the kind of love Jesus has for us. It’s hard to fathom, but that is our calling. This is the gift that our faith is built on. We pray that the day comes when we are the ones dong the calling – don’t call us, we’ll call you. but we won’t be doing it out of duty or to secure salvation, but because even though the world is full of scoundrels, we’ve found, just like Jesus, that we love them anyhow. This is a special kind of love and with it, I believe, we can handle just about anything.
Amen & Shalom