A People of Faith
June 18 2017(Father’s Day) (Graduates Sunday)
Today is Father’s Day, and while I realize that I am not a father, I also realize that God blessed me with a wonderful example of what it means to be a faithful, devoted, Christian man, a faithful, devoted, Christian husband and father. Dad was a great example for me and my sisters of what it means to be a Christian husband, a Christian father, and a Christian leader in the Church and the community. I also know that I see in many of you examples of what it means to be Christian fathers, husbands, and leaders in the Church and the community.
We are also honoring our graduates today. Emma, we congratulate you on your graduation from Lee Christian School. You have worked hard and accomplished many things so far in your life, and we honor you today for all you have accomplished and all we know you will continue to accomplish.
So, as we honor our fathers and our graduate today, I want us to look at the qualities that might be needed for a Christian father, but I want to expand that idea, much as I do on Mother’s Day, and consider what it means to be a man of God, a man who has faith in God and who is a leader in the Church and the community, as we also look at what it means to be a Christian young person as we honor Emma. In fact, I want us to spend some time thinking about what it means to be a person of faith – whether it be a father or mother, young person or older adult
What qualities does it take to be a person of God?
Our passage in Romans 5 and the other passages I will refer to today give us some qualities that we can apply to all Christians so that we all can be people of God.
I want to look at three qualities:
Faith – character – and conviction are three qualities needed to be people of God.
It takes faith to be a person of God.
Paul writes in Romans 5:1:
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ”
To be a person of God, you have to understand that you are justified by faith. In the world you might try to justify yourself through what you do, what you accomplish, how much money you make, how big a house you have, what kind of car you drive, and so on. Ever since the cave man people have felt the need to provide for their families and themselves. Now this “drive to provide” is a good thing and there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to provide for your family. In fact, it is indeed one of our responsibilities, but you can take that too far. You can easily get into the rut and fall into the trap of thinking that what you do, how well you provide for yourself and your family, how much you accomplish or the size of your bank account, house, car, or whatever, is the most important thing in your life. You can get into the rut and fall into the trap of believing that these are the things that truly define who you are. You can begin to believe that these are the things that justify your existence. You can begin to believe that if you have these things you are a success and you are living a life that is truly pleases you, and you can fool yourself into thinking that you are also living a life that is pleasing to God.
God blessed you with these things, so you must be pleasing Him – right?
That’s the way a lot of people think and a lot of men and women spend their lives chasing material things, sometimes justifying it by the fact that they are providing for their families.
Emma – as you enter a new chapter of your life and move from living at home to college life and beyond you are going to find that there will be people who will try to tell you that what you make and what you have is a measure of who you are. Don’t believe them. What you have does not identify who you are and does not justify your existence. It might in the eyes of your friends and peers, but what about in God’s eyes?
Does Paul say in Romans 5:1: “Therefore, since we have been justified through our hard work, we have peace with God through what we have accomplished?” Nope. That’s not what Paul says at all, is it? Instead, Paul writes: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ”
Again, don’t get me wrong. You need to do what you can to provide for your families and for yourself, but don’t get into the rut or fall into the trap of believing that you are defined by or justified in God’s eyes by these things.
There is only one thing that justifies you in God’s eyes, and that is your faith. Your faith in Jesus Christ. Your faith in Christ and what Christ has done for you by dying on the cross for your sins. It’s only your faith in Christ that justifies you before God. So the first step in being a person of God, the first quality needed to be a person of God, the first attribute you need, Emma, and the first attribute our men need and that we all need, is faith. If you have faith in Christ, it doesn’t matter what else you have. Everything else in life is well and good but it won’t justify you. Only your faith will do that.
Looking over this congregation today I see so many people who have a faith in God that will not waver. We need more of you.
So the first quality it takes to be the person God wants you to be , is faith.
A second quality God expects in His people, a second quality it takes to be a person of God, is character. Once you have your faith in Christ worked out and have that faith as the foundation for your life, you need to work on your character.
In the last part of verse 3 and the first part of verse 4 in Romans 5 Paul is describing some of the blessings that faith in Christ brings. He writes:
“… suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope”
Character is one of the byproducts of faith and is one of the qualities needed in a person of faith. This quality of character does not come easily. Emma, you have already experienced that in life you are going to have sufferings. Things will go wrong. Sometimes terribly wrong. God does not promise to save you from suffering. What God does promise you is that He is with you in your suffering and will help you persevere, and if you let it the experience will build your character.
We need people of character. God calls you to be a person of faith, and that means you will be a person of character, a character that is built on your faith and developed through your perseverance in suffering.
Have you ever suffered in your life?
I am sure you have – we all do. It’s part of the human experience, part of what a friend of mine calls “this roller coaster we call life” with all of it’s steep highs and low lows and twists and turns. I would dare say that a person who has never suffered has not lived. But in that suffering, God can help you persevere and can help you build your Christian character.
Looking over this congregation today I see so many people who have a character that is built on faith in God and perseverance in suffering. We truly need more of you.
To be a person of faith you start with faith then you let God work on your character.
A third quality God needs in people of faith, is conviction.
Emma, the world, the Church, your family, your community all need you to be a person of conviction. On the campus at Campbell, and wherever you may be, God needs you to be a person with conviction. You need to be willing to stand up for God’s things in a world where God’s things are too many times overlooked.
One great example of a person who had conviction and was willing to stand up for God’s things is the Biblical story of Daniel. Daniel was a young Hebrew living in Babylon when the Hebrew people were in captivity. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon issued an order that for 30 days no one could pray to any god but him. Daniel, however, had conviction and continued to pray to God. He was threatened with the punishment of being thrown into a den of vicious lions, but he continued to pray to God and not listen to the King’s orders. The King finally made good on his threats and had Daniel thrown into the den of lions, but instead of being eaten alive Daniel was saved by God.
Daniel had conviction and knew what wasthe right thing to do, despite what the King said, and God spared Him. The book of Daniel also tells us the story of Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednigo, the 3 Hebrew young men who, under situations similar to that of Daniel, were thrown into fiery furnace, yet God saved them. They stood by their convictions, even to the point of what seemed to be certain death, and God saved them. The Bible and history is filled with stories of people who have stood by their convictions and been living testimonies of faith in God.
We desperately need people of conviction today. Emma, we desperately need young people of conviction now. We desperately need people of conviction here. We desperately need people who have faith in God and a Godly character and who have a conviction for standing up for God’s things in a world where it is not popular to do so. The world, the Church, your family, your community, all need people of conviction. God needs you to be a person of conviction. You need to be willing to stand up for God’s things in a world where God’s things are too many times overlooked.
On this Father’s Day, on this Graduates day, I have a question for all of our fathers, for you, Emma, and for all of us — are you a person of God?
Are you a person of faith, of character, and conviction? Are you willing to stand up for God’s things in the world, even when it seems no one else is? You need to make a stand for God’s things, especially when it seems that no one else is willing to do so.
Remember the old saying – if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.
Emma, and all of us, I pray that we will all have conviction. Have a conviction for the things of God. Stand up for the things of God and don’t let your others fall to the things that are not of God.
In 1 Corinthians 16:3-4 Paul pretty much sums up what it takes to be a person of faith. Paul writes:
13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.
To be a faith filled person of God an you have to be on your guard. You have to be on your guard because the devil is trying to pull you away from being the person God wants you to be, so you need to be on your guard and remain faithful to God in all situations of your life. You also have to stand firm in your faith, and not let anything tempt you away from doing God’s will. You need to stand for and do God’s will all the time. You also need to be courageous and strong, then let God’s love shine through everything you do.
Looking out at this congregation I see many people of faith. You can tell who the people of God are here at Edgewood are. They are the ones who continually work on their faith. They are the ones who come to Sunday School and Worship on a regular basis, not so they will be seen by others but because they know they need times to learn more about God and be strengthened in their faith. The people of faith here at Edgewood are also the ones who seek out times for fellowship with others because they know that God did not put them in this place to try make it on their own but God has put them here with others who they can learn from and be encouraged by.
On this Father’s Day I give praise for the men of faith here at Edgewood, and as we honor our graduates I give praise to God for Emma and what she has accomplished, but I also challenge all of us to be the people of faith, character, and conviction that God calls us to be and needs us to be. Amen.