Hebrews 11:1-3. 8-16 and Luke 12:32-40
A couple from Minneapolis decided to go to Florida to thaw out during one particularly icy winter. They planned to stay at the very same hotel where they spent their honeymoon twenty years earlier. Because of hectic schedules, it was difficult to coordinate their schedules, so the husband left Minneapolis and flew to Florida on Thursday with his wife scheduled to fly down the next day.
The husband checked into the hotel. There was a computer in his room, so he decided to send an email to his wife. Accidentally, he left out one letter in her email address and without realizing it, sent the email message to the wrong person.
Meanwhile, somewhere in Houston, a widow had just returned home from her husband’s funeral. He was a minister of many years who was called home to glory following a sudden heart attack.
The widow decided to check her email since she was expecting messages of condolence from relatives and friends. After reading the first message, she fainted. The widow’s son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor and was amazed by what he saw on the computer screen.
To: My loving wife
Subject: I’ve arrived
I know you’re surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now and you are allowed to send emails to your loved ones. I’ve just arrived and have been checked in. I see that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then! Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was.
P.S. It sure is hot down here!
There is a legend from the first century about the disciple Thomas who was sent by Christ to India.
Thomas was employed by the local king Gundaphorus to build a new palace, and he was given money to buy materials and hire workmen. Thomas gave the money to the poor, but always assured the king that his palace was rising steadily. The king became suspicious when Thomas kept putting off his requests to see the work in progress and finally sent for Thomas. “Have you built my Palace?” he asked.
“Yes”, Thomas replied.
“Then we shall go and see it now,” said the King.
Thomas answered: “You cannot see it now, but when you depart this life you shall see it. I have built you a palace in heaven by giving your money to the poor and needy of your kingdom.”
The King was furious and had Thomas thrown in prison. All that night he considered how he should put Thomas to death. It seems good to me, the king said, to flay him and burn him with fire. But that night the king’s brother dies and sees the kings palace in heaven which has been built by Thomas’ charitable work. He makes a request to return to earth. His dead body is suddenly revived; he tells his brother of the magnificent palace awaiting him in heaven. Thomas is freed from prison and the king and his brother become Christians.
In Luke 12:33-34, we read, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted. Where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Thomas knew that once the king realized where his true treasure was, he would believe.
Augustine, a man in the 5th century who became Bishop of the church and a saint in history, originally lead a life of sin giving himself over to whatever pleasures presented themselves. His mother had earnestly prayed for him his entire life that he would give his life to the service of Christ, but Augustine persisted in his sins until one day he sat with a friend on a bench weeping over the state of his life. It was at this moment that he heard a boy or girl–he says he does not know which it was–singing a song. The sound was coming from a neighboring house. The child was chanting over and over: “Pick it up, read it; pick it up; read it.” Here is what happened next in Augustine’s own words:
“Immediately I ceased weeping and began most earnestly to think whether it was usual for children in some kind of game to sing such a song, but I could not remember ever having heard the like. So, damming the torrent of my tears, I got to my feet, for I could not but think that this was a divine command to open the Bible and read the first passage I should light upon.”
“I quickly returned to the bench where Alypius was sitting, for there I had put down the apostles book. I snatched it up, opened it, and in silence read the paragraph on which my eyes first fell: “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lust thereof.” I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away.”
Had Christ returned before that fateful day, Augustine would have been caught unprepared. He would have been found asleep. From that moment on, however, Augustine was prepared. He was on the alert! He had awakened from his sins.
I think that our families are gifts from God, treasures. I believe they should be treated as treasures. Joe and I tell our children and grandchildren we love them as often as possible.
Steve is a very important man. He runs a multimillion-dollar company. His annual salary is in the high six figure range. He travels extensively in the corporate jet and the corporate limos to various destinations. Personally, he is married and has two children. He is a member of all the right organizations and country clubs. Steve is considered to be a very influential person in large number of circles. In short, when Steve speaks people listen.
To achieve this status and position Steve works long hours. His workweek averages 60-80 hours. He has very little time with his family. He has lost touch with his children’s likes and dislikes. He does not know their hobbies. He does not attend their activities. In fact, he does not speak to them very much at all.
One day Steve has a few minutes between appointments. As he relaxes in his chair he begins to wonder. He asks himself what is life all about. He lists his accomplishments in his mind. He goes down a checklist of the people he knows and the places he has been. Steve thinks about his net worth. After he goes through all of these thoughts, he finds himself asking one question. Is this all there is to life?
He begins to think about his family. He realizes he has not really been with them for a long time. Oh, he has come home and spoken a few words. He has taken them to the country club while he played golf. He realizes he has lost touch. He really does not know who they are anymore.
That night Steve goes home. He has dinner with his family. After dinner he sits down with his teenage son and has a long talk. They just sit and chat about what is happening in his son’s life. As the time approaches for them to go to bed, Steve turns to his son and says, “I’m sorry I have not taken the time to be with you. I’m going to make some changes so we can be together more often. I love you.”
His son starts to cry. Steve is taken back. His son says, “Dad, I have been so upset. I don’t remember the last time you told me you loved me. Tonight, after we all went to bed, I had decided to commit suicide. Please be here for me and help me. Please keep telling me you love me.”
This story is true. Steve almost lost his son. Luckily, or probably more accurately, providentially, a tragedy was averted by a single event and three words. I love you!
The single event was not the conversation Steve had with his son. The single event was the moment of realization Steve had in his office. There is more to life than building up material treasures. The real treasure is loving your family and the people God puts into your life.
Hebrews 11:1-3, reads, ‘Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.’
Faith is belief in God. However, it’s not simply that God exists, but that God is present with us and is working things out for what is best for us. In other words, faith is trusting God in all things.
That wonderful writer Max Lucado tells about spending a week years ago visiting the interior of Brazil with a long-time missionary pilot. In his work this missionary pilot flew a circuit of remote towns in a four-seater plane. The plane was not in that great a shape. Lucado says that it threatened to come undone at the slightest gust of wind. “Wilbur and Orville had a sturdier aircraft,” Lucado quips.
Lucado confesses that he could not get comfortable in that undersized plane. He kept thinking they were going to crash in some Brazilian jungle and he’d be gobbled up by piranhas or swallowed by an anaconda. He kept shifting around, looking down, and gripping his seat—as if that would help.
Finally, the pilot had enough of his squirming. He looked over at Lucado and shouted over the noise of the airplane. “We won’t face anything that I can’t handle,” the pilot shouted. “You might as well trust me to fly the plane.” *
My friend, that is faith! You’ve probably seen the bumper sticker: “God is my co-pilot.” That’s the kind of faith the writer of Hebrews is describing. God is our co-pilot. “We won’t face anything that I can’t handle,” God says to us. “You might as well trust me to fly the plane.”
In Hebrews 11:8 we read, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”
I have tried to imagine the conversation in the tent between Sarai and Abram that night. “Just wanted you to know that we are moving.” I can just hear her reply, “We are doing what?” “We’re moving,” replies Abram. “Would you mind telling me where we are going?” “I don’t know. We are just going.”
Faith is an attitude toward life which issues in trusting acts of both will and intellect. It goes far beyond belief in active commitment. If belief seeks security, faith accepts risk. Faith is grounded in hope; faith is never final nor certain, but always asking and seeking and living and moving.
Life has taught us to hold on. God invites us to let go. We don’t just want to enjoy the goodness of life. We want to own it, store it up, expand it, manipulate it for our own purposes. With clenched fists we cling to our possessions, opinions, theories, beliefs, attitudes, hurts, grievances, money, fearful that losing our grip will mean defeat. All along our salvation lies in letting go.
Let us pray. Loving Father God, help us to have the faith to trust you with all that is going on in our lives. We know you have control of everything, including us. We may think we have control, yet we cannot control what people say or do to us. Help us to realize that our families are treasurers from you and that our real treasure is eternal life with you. Help us to believe. Amen
Pastor Rosemary DeHut
References: * Max Lucado, Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2017), p. 33.