(notes on a sermon for March 24, 2013):
The Church of Jesus Christ begins with Jesus leaving. After the resurrection, Jesus lives with and teaches his disciples over the course of 40 days:
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:4–11 (ESV)
Think of how crushed the disciples must have been. The Lord, the one who loved them and gave himself for them, was gone. They had depended upon him for years. They had lived with himm for years. When John was an old man, he wrote to a church about Jesus. John still remembered that he looked upon Jesus with his eyes, and had touched Jesus with his hands, and his ears had heard the very words of the Lord. Peter remembered that he had seen Jesus and had been with Jesus.
I too have had many friends leave. I know that I will not likely not see or hear or touch them again. It hurts to see a friend leave. Death has stolen people from me. There is too much loss in this world.
But to lose the Lord, to lose one’s dearest friend – that must have been an overwhelming grief. They had lost the Lord to death – but he returned in resurrection. Now, they had seemingly lost the Lord again. He would no longer be with them.
I can imagine standing there, looking into the sky, having no words to express my fear and sorrow and wonder. Even the promise of the angels may have seemed too little. Yes, he will return – but when? How long will I have to wait until I hear his voice again?
There is the birth place of the church – waiting for the Lord. We are like the wife in the Song of Solomon asking,
Have you seen him whom my soul loves?
Or, at least we should be.
But let us consider this truthfully. Too many Christians live as if Jesus is nice and all and heaven sounds good, but Jesus is gone. For many Christians, Jesus is an idea – not a man – certainly not “him whom my soul loves.”
In 2 Corinthians 5:15, Paul describes a Christian like this:
and he – that is Jesus — died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
Now you say, that describes you. Really?. Where he is just now? What he is doing? Do you want to know?
Jonathan Edward wrote a sermon called, “The Kind of Preaching People Want.” People want to know how to make their lives better. When someone comes into to see me for counseling about their marriage, they want to know how to make their life more pleasant – and I do feel sympathy for them. Their marriage has often made their life a matter of grief – sometimes even a matter of fear. Those are real problems.
But when I tell people that their real problem is a matter of living no longer for themselves but for Jesus, they often seem perplexed.
Consider the church at Philippi: A dispute had broken out between two women which threatened to destroy the church. How should Paul respond? He taught them about Jesus.
What did Peter do when Christians were collapsing under the weight persecution? He told them about Jesus – he also told the Christians that it is more important that they know and love Jesus than it is to avoid suffering. He told wives in bad marriages, that Jesus was more important than escaping their sorrow. He told servants that Jesus was more important than being physically mistreated. He told everyone that Jesus was so important that they were to respect the government, so that Jesus would receive glory when he returned. He told Christians that they must respond with faith toward God and love toward their enemies – because Jesus was that important.
When John wrote to churches suffering persecution, he explained that Jesus was more important than even being killed.
I could go through every letter and every command in the New Testament and prove the point.
Let me take just one simple example: Paul wrote to Colossae about how a servant should work. A servant must understand that when he is busy digging a hole that he must live for Jesus and act for Jesus – in fact, Jesus is involved in digging the hole:
23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23–24 (ESV)
Consider that command – in the midst of giving instructions to a servant, Paul mentions the Lord three times. He also brings up the return of Christ and the eternal state. He also draws the servant’s immediate work into direct relationship to Jesus, to show the servant that digging a hole or carrying water is a distinct act of worship to God.
Go back and read through anything in the NT: even the most “practical” passages, commands about family life or work are stuffed with references to Jesus and worship.
Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church
Your real problem is not your “practical” problem. Your real problem is that you don’t know Jesus well enough, that you don’t love Jesus deeply enough.
Let me prove the point: How much can you tell me about your children, your husband, your wife, your parents, your employer, your work?
How much can you tell me about what Jesus is doing right now?
Peter’s first command in his letter is to “set your hope fully upon the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). Which is your greater hope? That your children will obey or that Jesus will return – not what it is supposed to be, but what you really want?
Before Paul begins to give his practical instructions, Paul spends pages exalting Jesus, describing Jesus, praising Jesus. Listen to his command:
2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:2–3 (ESV)
So, do you set your minds this world – and I am talking about your home, your marriage, your children, your work, your car, your rent, politics, sports, movies, music – or upon the things above. What are the “things above”:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Colossians 3:1 (ESV)
Quick, which movie won the academy award this year? Which team has moved ahead in the basketball playoffs? What is Jesus doing right now at the right hand of the Father?
Your god is whatever is your greatest hope, your greatest joy, your greatest love. If you know your children better than you know Jesus, then you should ask yourself some painful questions about idolatry.
Take a different direction: How much of your life is really different from a well behaved Mormon? Mormons love their families. Mormons train their children to be respectful, obey their parents, say prayers, clean their rooms. Mormons go to classes to learn how to be better parents. Mormons go to marriage seminars. There are atheists who have lovely families, well trained children, happy homes. The things we generally expect in one’s home and work is what most people would have generally affirmed in the culture 50 years ago. There was a time when every politician would at least give lip service to Christian morals.
Let me ask you this question: Jesus has ascended – do you miss him like the first disciples missed him? Do you stare and wonder, When will he return?
Let’s make this question more painful and more real: Do you have real communion with the Lord, today? Is Jesus an idea, or is Jesus your dearest friend? Could you pick Jesus out of a crowd? When the Lord returns, will you see your dearest friend face to face or will you be meeting a second cousin once removed?
Hebrews 3:1 commands:
Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,
Do you consider Jesus? Do you know what it means that he is your high priest?
What did Jesus do when he ascended? What is he doing now? Would you rather know about what Jesus is doing right now, or would you like to have advice on how to get along better at work? Are you more interested in the work of Jesus or in how to best save for retirement? If you could have a perfect marriage, obedient children, a clean house and a safe retirement – or communion with the Lord, which would you pick? Which have you spent more time trying to get?
It is no secret what Jesus is doing. The New Testament is filled with this information. Jesus has ascended and today he is sitting at the right hand of Majesty on high. I’ll show you. Turn to Hebrews 1 and I’ll read verses 1-4:
1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. Hebrews 1:1–4 (ESV)
We are going to consider only the clause at the end of verse 3, “He sat down at the right hand of Majesty on high”.
The language means that Jesus is both King and Priest. As King, Jesus rules the universe. Jesus gives gifts as conquering king. Jesus will return to vindicate his people and to judge his enemies. But we cannot speak of that this morning. There are many things about these words which we simply cannot discuss. Perhaps later we’ll look at Jesus again. For this morning, we will do one thing:
I am going to show a glimpse of what it means that Jesus is our priest. First, we need a priest because our relationship with God has been destroyed through sin.
Christians – especially good and careful Christians – know about sin. Sin describes a creature breaking God’s law. “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). But there is another aspect of sin – sin is alienation from, rebellion against God.
Sometimes we think that our trouble is merely a matter of keeping the law. We – human beings — have this bizarre idea that somehow we can simply do the stuff God “wants” and everything will be okay. We treat God like an idea – we treat the law like it was gravity or some-thing which just needs to be dealt with properly.
Human beings were built to live with God. Life and love come from God alone. Without God we will die. Sin is worse than merely breaking a law – sin is losing God.
Cutting a rubber tube is no big deal, unless you are diving and you need the tube to get air.
Sin is like cutting the tube. You break the relationship to God and you will die.
The one requirement of God is that we love him and that we love our neighbor. Yet, true love can only begin in God. Therefore, we cannot love him unless he first loves us:
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:7–11 (ESV)
That is the joy in the Gospel: God loves the world. God sent his Son into the world to carry the curse of sin and to fulfill the law. The Son out of love fulfilled the will of his Father. Jesus lived a perfect live. He died on the cross and carried all the curse of sin and death. Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus ascended into the heaven and sits at the right hand of Majesty on high. There on his throne of grace Jesus makes reconciliation between human beings and God.
The Spirit of God comes into the life of a human being. The human being sees his rebellion against God. He sees his sin as hateful. He sees Christ as beautiful. He then repents – that means he turns from his sin and rebellion and turns to God in Jesus Christ and seeks reconciliation with God.
God credits our sin to the death of Jesus, and credits the life and righteousness of Jesus to us. The love of God comes into our life and we love God and we love our neighbors. It is not perfect at first, but it grows slowly and our lives become transformed into the image of Jesus. We are brought into union with Christ.
Our union with Christ transforms our lives. Gradually, we learn to love God more fully, to receive the love of God and to express the love of God to human beings – we do this in our marriage, with our children and parents, at our place of work. The love and desire for God grows in strength causes us to overcome the world.
That is Gospel change.
Today, Jesus will be reconciled to any man, woman, child who comes to him in repentance and faith. But the day is coming when Jesus will no longer be reconciled. When he returns, or when you die, the time of reconciliation will end. Some day you will stand before him. On that day, Jesus will either be your Savior or your judge.
Now you believers: God has called you to a life of love. That is your command.
But such love is impossible without Jesus. Augustine once noted that the grace of God flows through the wounds of Jesus. Love begins in the Father, it flows through the Son and it is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
You can only have that love if you are in union with Christ. You can only drink in that love if you are in communion with Christ.
Even Christians forget this. Even Christians act like unbelievers. We know we are supposed to obey – and we make valiant efforts to obey the law. We struggle with sin and shame and falter and fall because we think our trouble is with doing and keeping. We pride ourselves that we are not like the world.
What could be more sad than to see someone possessing an unending treasure – and yet live like a beggar; to lie down beside a stream flooding with pure, sweet water and yet die of thirst; to possess the never ending grace purchased by the blood of Christ and yet struggle with sin and the world and death and the flesh alone.
Nothing makes me as sad and as angry as to see you, my brothers and sisters struggle under the weight of the law when Christ has freed you for grace and life.
Do you want to know why you struggle so with sin? Do you want to know why you grow angry with your children? Do you want to know why you are so burdened with depression? Do you want to know why the world is so weary? Do you want to know you grow so discouraged in your life as a Christian?
It is because you are trying to be a Christian without Christ.
You do not need my experience or my opinion. I’m certainly not important. You don’t need what I think is a good idea. You need Jesus. When I teach you the Bible, I have only one responsibility: Take you to Jesus, show you Jesus. If I leave and you know Jesus better and you love Jesus more, then I have succeeded. If I teach you something and it’s not in the Bible, chuck it. I don’t want you to follow me – I you want to follow Jesus.
But Christians are like anyone else. We look on life and think, I would sure like for it to better, what do I do? We make the mistake of thinking Jesus is too far away.
Why do you think Christians chase after every marriage and parenting fad? Because we don’t think the Holy Spirit is able to change our hearts – because we don’t think Jesus will really do anything about our situation – so we have to go it alone.
Christians are too often like a disciple who saw Jesus ascend into heaven and then thinks, Well Jesus is gone. Yes he will come back some day. And yes he will save me – so I won’t go to Hell. But until he returns, I’m pretty much on my own.
You do this, because you do not understand something – you do this because you do not rightly consider Jesus. You see, Jesus – Our Lord – has sat down at the right hand of Majesty on high. Hebrews 1:3
Did you ever think that the reason your life is so painful lies with you? Did you ever think that maybe the reason you feel overwhelmed lies with the fact that you are shouldering a burden which God never intended for you to bear?
In 2 Corinthians Paul explained the reason why God may give us an overwhelming burden – a burden too great to bear:
8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8–9 (ESV)
He has sat down at the right hand of Majesty on high.
This means that Jesus has bodily entered into heaven – Go to Hebrews 9:24. We’ll read it twice – and I want you to engrave these words on your heart:
For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Hebrews 9:24 (ESV)
Did you hear that? When we say that Christ has sat down at the right hand of Majesty on high it means that Jesus – the man Jesus, God incarnate, Jesus is in the very presence of God. Do you know what that means?
There is a human being – God incarnate, Jesus Christ – who is at this very second in the presence of God!
And why is he there? Listen again:
For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Hebrews 9:24 (ESV)
Right now – as I am speaking to you – Jesus is appearing in the presence of God on your behalf!
Since that is true – why do you look to men to give you help? Why do you not look to Jesus first? Because you don’t know him well enough.
Go back to chapter 2, look down at verse 16:
For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Hebrews 2:16 (ESV)
Jesus loves you. He helps you. But keep going – look at 17:
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:17 (ESV)
Three things: First, again make certain you understand this point: Jesus is like you in every respect. He does not have our sin. But he is every bit as much human as you and I.
Second, he did this – God did this – so that we could have a high priest. A priest is someone who stands before God on our behalf. We have such a high priest: Jesus. He is not only a high priest – but he is a merciful and faithful high priest. He is merciful toward us. He knows our weakness. And he is faithful, he never fails in his work.
Third, he has made propitiation for our sins. That means that the sacrifice of Jesus clears away all our sin.
For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:18 (ESV)
You who think, my temptation is too great, my trial is too deep: Hear me. It is. You cannot carry such a weight alone. God never intended that for his children. Your marriage is too hard. I believe you. It is! But God never intended for you be married without him. My children – my work – my parents – my finances – the government – the world! You have a high priest who in mercy and love stands ready with unending supplies of grace to pour into your broken heart.
You are bearing pain you were never called to bear.
Look to the next verse:
Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, Hebrews 3:1 (ESV)
Now that we have come back to those words, do they not sound sweeter? Consider Jesus. Let us consider him more.
Go now to chapter 4, and look at verse 14:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. Hebrews 4:14 (ESV)
Here again, we see that Jesus is our high priest – the one who has passed through the heavens and is now sitting at the right hand of Majesty on high. What then do we do? Hold fast our confession.
Now holding fast to your confession will be a burden to you if you think of this as just one more task. But what if you see the beauty of your Savior? Open the eyes of faith, they will rest upon your high priest – he is more beautiful, more glorious than anything in heaven or earth. In him shines the glory of God, the glory of redemption.
No one has to tell the bride to-be to hold fast to her engagement ring. She can think of little else. The child on his birthday, when he receives a favorite toy does not to be told to hold fast.
If you find that you have trouble holding fast, the trouble lies with your desires. You will more happily and easily hold fast if you find Christ beautiful. If your hold on your confession is weak, perhaps the trouble lies with a heart that is more concerned with this world than with your Savior.
Let me stir you up to love and good deeds. Let me show you here in the sacred text some further beauty of Christ. Look to the next verse:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15 (ESV)
The Father – your Father in heaven – wants you to come to his Son. Therefore, the Father sent the Son into the world as a man so that Jesus could sympathize with your weakness. Christians sometimes hesitate before they go to Jesus. They think I am a sinful man. Well yes, you are sinful. So what?
Jesus sympathizes with your weakness. Do you see that when stay away from him, you are saying that Jesus does not sympathize with your weakness. When you hide from him because you have sinned, you are saying that he is not loving, not kind, not merciful – not full of grace.
Do you know shame? Jesus was born a bastard. He was crucified naked and mocked as he died. He would have known mocking and jeers from the time he first knew the meaning of words. The other children would have mocked the fact that he was not Joseph’s son. He experienced poverty, hunger, thirst. He knew death and sorrow and loss. He knew betrayal. He knew pain:
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Isaiah 53:3 (ESV)
And more than this, Jesus also bore in his body on the cross, the shame and sin of the world.
Do not think that he will not sympathize with you. You do him wrong, you don’t understand him if you think your sin too great, your shame too deep.
He is all of mercy and gentleness. He did not have to become a man to rescue you. The Father did not have to send his Son. The Spirit did not need to come bring you to Christ. God willingly poured out rivers of love and mercy and grace. Do not let stubbornness and pride hold you back.
Consider Christ further:
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)
I told you earlier that Jesus is at this moment in the presence of God. He sits on a throne – a throne of grace.
Think of what that means: His throne is made up of grace, it was built by grace. It was the grace of God which put him upon that throne.
Grace means a gift – something perfect, something prized, something you need and desire – but it is also free. It can be had by any for the asking, but it cannot be purchased with all the gold in the universe.
One more beauty of this priest, turn to Hebrews 7:23:
23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:23–25 (ESV)
This high priest cannot die – he has the power of an indestructible life. His priesthood will continue forever. What does this mean for you?
He is able to save to the uttermost.
He cannot merely save you from hell – although he does that – he will save you even now. He saves to the uttermost. He makes intercession for you, always.
Now I have to answer an objection: You have heard these words and you think to yourself: This all sounds like so much poetry – pretty, but not very realistic. My life really is painful. I really cannot pay my rent today. Today, I don’t know where my son is. Last night, my daughter ran away. My wife didn’t come home last night and I don’t know where she went. My husband hates me. My work is a misery which I don’t think I can bear. My wife is dying from cancer. My father beats me.
I could continue. I know that all of these things are true. I have heard all of these things – and more. I know worse than these things are true.
Let me tell you something else. Not one thing I have said means that you will not have trials. Not one thing I have said means that God will take your trials away.
You may be a perfect wife, and your husband may never love you. You may be a perfect husband, and your wife may never be gracious. You may be a perfect parent, and your child may end up in jail. You may be a perfect employee, and you may end up bankrupt.
It is even worse than that:
Let us assume that you are a perfect human being from the moment of conception. Let us assume that you never for a moment do wrong. You do not even sin in your heart; your intentions never drop below perfect love toward God and man. You may be perfect. That happened once in this world – so we murdered him.
Your savior has already gone down that road:
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (ESV)
He does not promise you that you will never suffer. Suffering and trial are guarantees. I’m not going to deceive you.
God will almost certainly try you on the point you are most tender. He will permit you to be tried on the exact place that you cannot bear. He will do this to tear up your sins and expose your idols –but that is for another time.
Listen again to Peter’s words, “For to this you have been called”. Those words should bring you to a sure sobriety. Suffering is certain.
Now, my friend with the objection will return and say, That is exactly my point. If suffering is certain, then how can I possibly believe that Jesus has sympathy for me? What kind of a priest shows sympathy by permitting me to suffer?
One that loves you.
If the goal of God were to make our lives pleasant here and now, he has done a poor job. But if God’s goal is greater, then perhaps God is wiser. Perhaps the goal of God is not our immediate ease. Perhaps the goal of God is his glory and our joy.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism famously begins:
Q. What is the chief end of man? — What is our purpose in life?
A. To glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
Teach that to your children.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3–7 (ESV)
That’s why God can be good and still let you suffer difficulty in this world.
Our hope is not that we will not suffer in this world. Our hope is that we will live with Christ in glory.
Our hope is not that we will not suffer in this world. Our hope is that God will conform us to the image of Christ.
In Colossians 3:10, Paul writes that we are being conformed to the image of the one who created us. In Romans 8:29, Paul writes that we are being conformed to the image of Jesus.
God has brought you to a trial so that you can know and love him better. God has given you difficult children, a hard job, a painful marriage, financial troubles so that you can go to Christ for help and strength. – There is another element of responding to trials. The body of Christ must exercise real tangible love to those in trial. However, I have no space to teach you about that today.
How to respond to a trial:
You must exercise faith. When you come to Jesus in faith, the Holy Spirit brings the grace of Christ into your life.
Here is how you exercise faith.
The first part of faith consists of knowledge. You cannot exercise faith unless you know. That is the point of a sermon: You come here so that you may learn about Jesus. The knowledge from the sermon becomes material which faith uses. That is why a sermon must be based in Scripture. That is why a sermon must display Christ. A sermon without Jesus is a lecture.
Here is what you must know: Christ is a merciful and faithful high priest who can and will save to the uttermost.
However, you must do more than merely listen to a sermon. You must study, memorize, meditate. You must fill your mind with Scripture. The Holy Spirit uses the Scripture in your heart to develop your faith. Without Bible, you cannot begin. There is nothing more dangerous than a man in a pulpit who either does not open or does not rightly use Scripture.
Your primary job as parents is to … worship Christ in your home. Demonstrate the love and joy and mercy of Christ daily before your children. Tell your children the wondrous love of Jesus. You cannot save them, but you can evangelize them. Tell them the good news morning and evening. Ever lay the mercy of God before them. As Paul writes in Romans 2:4, “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” You show and teach your children of the Lord by loving the Lord before them. When they see your desire to know the Lord, you are teaching them that the Lord is worth knowing.
The second part of faith consists of seeking: You must not merely know about Christ, you must come to Christ. The primary element of seeking Christ is by prayer. God lays trials and temptations before us so that we will come to him for help.
Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! 1 Chronicles 16:11 (ESV)
When the armies of Moab and Ammon threated Judah, King Jehosophat sought the Lord:
3 Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD. 2 Chronicles 20:3–4 (ESV)
When David was tried he called to God for help:
3 But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. 4 I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah 5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. 6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. 7 Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Psalm 3:3–7 (ESV)
Our Lord sought help.
35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:35–36 (ESV)
Faith must move in prayer. Faith without prayer is a ticket without an airplane. The ticket can stand at the terminal and look out the window, but the ticket can never leave the airport until it boards a plane. Faith without prayer stands still and dies.
The third part of faith is obedience: You hold the ticket, the airplane has come, but until you board you will not leave.
Faith gains strength from obedience. God does not give grace until it will be used. Consider Christian martyrs. Do you think they are more brave than you? Not without Christ. Yet, as they followed Christ in obedience, Christ gave them grace for obedience to death.
Christ has grace that can sustain your faith and uphold you in any trial. You may lack faith because you have yet to move, to act.
But none of this will be true of you, if you do not know and love Jesus. Even if you have sworn allegiance to Jesus in baptism, you will not know him well until you know him often. He is a man with whom you can cultivate the most dear and deep friendship. Like all friendships, it takes time to meet this man, to know this man, to hear from this man. And oh when you know God in human flesh, when you see the love of the Father displayed in the wounds of Christ, when the Holy Spirit shows to you his surpassing beauty – then you will know and love him dearly.
Come, consider Jesus – seated at the right hand of Majesty on high.
Oh Lord, as wait expectantly for you, we pray, Come quickly Lord Jesus!