Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | December 16, 2014

December 16, 2014 “The Substance of Things Hoped For”

“If you can do anything, do it. Have a heart and help us!” Jesus said, “If? There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the father cried, “Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!” (Mark 9: 22-24)

Good Morning Fellow Sojourners!

Last night (before I dozed off, gave up, and went to bed), I began watching another of those Christmas films fast becoming a holiday classic…”The Polar Express.” The story is about a group of children who are of an age when they begin doubting the existence of Santa Claus and are offered a trip on an amazing train known as the Polar Express…a trip to the North Pole to meet Santa for themselves, all the while being asked the question, “Do You believe?” In reality, it is a film about faith. Scripture defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). More than blind trust in things unseen, it is confidence that those unseen things have substance…that is…they are real. The evidence of those unseen things are to be found all around us. It is trust fortified by evidence. For the God-believer, there are a myriad of “evidences” to which one may point…answered prayer…the created world…transformed lives to name a few.

In the movie, the evidence could be categorized as “seeing is believing.” They are left at the end with the question “Was this all just some fantastic dream or did it really happen?” The proof for the young boy who is the primary character in the film is the tinkling of a bell given to him at the North Pole by Santa as the first gift of Christmas. Only believers could hear it ring.

In Mark’s gospel, the focal character is a man with a son who has seizures that have plagued him from childhood.  He brings him to Jesus and says If you can do anything, do it.”  Jesus speaks to the man’s uncertainty by saying, “IF? There are no ‘ifs” among believers! Anything can happen!” The man then responds, “Then I believe! Help me with my doubts.”  Faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” …be it a bell or a “be well”.  Augustine writes,

“Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.”  

The boy in the story came to a point of belief when he decided to board the train. His faith was rewarded with a trip to the North Pole. The man in the scripture account came to that point of faith when he declared “Then I believe! His doubt was assuaged and his reward received with the healing of his son. Let me ask you this…can you still hear the bell? Do you believe? Let’s pray!

Merciful God; Like the boy in the story…like the man with his ill son, we live on the edge of doubt and belief. Increase our faith in You, O Lord, for You are trustworthy and unfailing in all your ways. This we pray in Jesus’ Blessed Name. Amen!

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