Genesis 32: 22-30
2 Timothy 3:14- 4:5
St. Luke 18: 1-8
“Don’t Stop Believing”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
When I worked in a cancer ward in Pittsburgh there was one man I visited every day. He was a very faithful person who understood the fear of the Lord, but he had trouble with the Gospel. His fear paralyzed him, and though he would ask me often to pray for him, he himself never prayed. He once told me about how he believed he did not deserve to go to Heaven and how he had done horrible things in his life. He was so weighted down by his own guilt that he wondered why God would ever listen to his prayers. It was better off that he punted the act of prayer to someone nobler than he. His insistence was born out of a desire to be heard by God hindered by his belief that God would not hear him. He looked up to the Lord God with reverent fear and seeing the Son upon the cross his fear of retribution for his sins overshadowed the blessed redemption of Christ. He looked up, and saw no help.
Additionally in college, I had seen so many people get so swept up by the charismatic movement that they lifted up their hands in praise as they worshiped this amazing God with a new fervor of emotional highs. These people who were once agnostic were made Christian through the power of loud music and theatrics which confused their hearts and the brains as ramped up endorphins disguised themselves as the Holy Spirit. Some
eventually went on to be incredibly faithful Christians, but all too often I saw these pleasure seekers crumble under the weight of the world. For some, their faith was proven to be worthless as they were put to the test through trials of fire. As the beating sun pummeled them with reality and the veracity of evil attacked their fragile conviction, the hell fire that Satan threatens Christians with in this world burned what little elation they had and these young Christian pups came out of the blazing furnace as not precious gold but charcoal that disintegrates with a light puff of wind. When they were in desperate need of help, instead of being made strong in complete patience through faith, they caved to the world and swiftly abandon faith.
Both examples, though seemingly different, are more similar than what meets the eye. The first is of a man who knows that he deserves to go to Hell but knows not that the grace of Jesus Christ overcomes all sin. The second is an example of those whose faith fades the moment it is put to the test. What they both lack is the peace of knowing that the Lord is our helper. What they both lack is not faith per se, but high quality faith. The faith of the first does not trust the complete forgiveness of sins which comes from Jesus Christ. The faith of the second does not trust the rock of Christ of which they stand on. Both have a picture of what the Catholic faith looks like, but their pictures are but a fragment of what true trust in the Lord looks like.
When the Lord extents His hand to these two examples asking, “Do you trust me?” both, though they do want to trust, do not grab on to the hand.
There will always be opportunity to test our faith. We shouldn’t will it, nor does God the Father will it, but that does not mean that it doesn’t happen. So long as there is sin and the world is subject to Satan, then our faith will be tested. Sometimes it’s our own demons that haunt us at night and causes our hearts to ache in agony. Sometimes it’s our friends and family, used by the Devil, who cause us to squirm as our own faith in the Lord above is being used against us. Sometimes we tempt ourselves, sometimes it’s the world, and sometimes it’s the Devil himself. Either way, there will be plenty of opportunity to test our faith.
Now, when you are thrust into the furnace and the heat is kicked up to new heights what then will happen? Will the fire to you be purifying or will it be putrid? Will you come out with all impurities burned out or will you come out of the flames burnt? Will you overcome the Devil or will you wither away? The difference between the outcomes start with one question. Did you lift up your eyes to the Lord for help?
Know this, the Lord your God is a present help. He does indeed listen to your prayers. And He desires only the best for you. The Father does not want to see His children in pain; in fact it troubles Him greatly to see us suffer. Though there is a Hell that does not mean He desire us to go to Hell; no, for He has always desired us to live eternally without sin. So if you in faith look up to the Lord for help will he tarry?
When in agony, lift up your eyes for help, and know this, the Lord is there. The Lord who made heaven and earth is indeed your help and nothing can prevent the Lord from protecting and
preserving you if you allow Him to. If you place your faith in He who is so powerful that He is the creator of everything, do you think anything would have the ability to block His aid? And if you look to the Lord for help in a righteous manner do you think the Lord will turn a blind eye?
God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will not turn a blind eye nor will anything get in His way. What does Scripture say? Ask and it shall be given? So too when help is needed, do not give up the faith but turn to the Lord for help.
Yet again, I stress that there will be many opportunities to test out your faith. Therefore, it is of the upmost importance that you continue to have faith. Do not loosen your grip on the Lord, for if you do the Devil will surely snatch you away. Persevere and hold in your heart all of Scripture. Do all that the Lord commanded of you, you who are already saved, and swiftly ask for forgiveness and help when you falter. Use the Word of God and all the training you have received in righteousness to stiffen your spines and grow in wisdom. When evil rears its ugly head, face it without fear for the Lord your God, Jesus Christ, is the Lord of Lords and has already vanquished the gates of Hell.
The Devil is like a shadowy lion who lurks in the darkness always hungry, never satisfied; he is constantly circling you in the outer darkness waiting to pounce. However, the Word of God pains him and causes him to take a step back. When you pray, invoking the name of God, the Devil suffers. He wants you to rely on your own abilities, because against his demonic might, you are powerless. You rely on yourself and the light of God withers away
as the darkness creeps closer to you. As faith in God becomes absent, the ears become itchy, and the teeth of the lion get ever closer. Eventually, he gets you, and the faith you once had vanishes. The Devil has won yet another victim.
However, even the tiniest spark terrifies the Devil. One small flame of hope buffets the lion with fear as the might of the Lord reigns supreme. He who goes to church regularly, who takes communion as often as he or she can, who prays daily, whose faith endures long suffering while being spiritually sober-minded – the Devil will never overcome. Not on account of the works done by these, but because of the patient faith they have which is strengthened by prayer, communion, and worship. He who does not go to church, the devilish lion creeps closer. He who does not take in the Body and Blood of our Savior, the devilish lion creeps closer. He who does not pray, invoking the Name of the Lord which Satan fears above all else, the devilish lion creeps closer. But He whose faith is strengthened in prayer, worship, and communion, the Devil will never overcome.
So do not turn your hearts away from the Lord. Do not allow itchy ears to guide you to politically-correct-but-oh-so-biblically incorrect preachers. Do not be guided by passion. Let myths remain myths. Suffer the consequences of being a religiously conservative Christian, knowing that no amount of suffering will ever separate you from God. Let the Word guide your tongue as you courageously preach the Good News most especially to those who will hate you for doing such. Always be ready to have your faith be put to the test. Be willing to reprove, rebuke, and
exhort those who sin, for their own sake. Do all of this and know that the Lord will be with you during every step.
And if it seems that any one of these steps might sound difficult don’t turn tail and run away. It’s going to be okay. Do not lose heart; maintain your trust in Jesus and pray. Pray for help. Pray for courage. Pray for healing. Pray for discipline. Pray for forgiveness. Pray for the words that your stumbling tongue has trouble uttering. Pray that no amount of political manipulation will cause you to believe in unbiblical lunacy. Pray for patience. Pray for an at ease mind that never seeks worldly pleasure. Pray for stability. Pray.
And if you believe you are not being heard, do you stop praying? No, keep praying. Keep asking for help. You may not get what you want, but that does not mean that the Lord God does not want to help you. Regardless, still pray. For the Lord does hear you and will give justice speedily.
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we know that in our weakness we cannot overcome the Devil, so when he attacks us we pray for your defense. Shine your face upon us when we lift our eyes in agony so that we don’t need to search long for help. Strengthen our trust in you so that we look toward you for help. And remind us that though we can’t overcome the Devil, you have already overcome him. In your most holy name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.