It was a sacred moment as I talked with my mother about the challenging news she had received regarding her health. With all the faith I could muster, I sought to assure her of God’s presence in the reality of painful questions she was facing. We talked about the love of God that is eternal as she told me about her living faith in Jesus that gave her strength to face whatever the future may hold.
I cannot recall how long our conversation lasted, but it seemed as though we were residing in eternity. The presence of God’s Spirit was so real that I understood what Paul meant when he wrote in Romans 8:11, “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”
In the journey that followed our conversation, I observed how my mother’s living faith confronted the reality of her physical illness and her mortal body. She was the type of person whom Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick identified as living life at its best as she realized that faith is a gift that is given, not deserved, received, not earned, a witness about God rather than a complaint about God. Romans 8:11 defined the living faith that defined her life.
In a recent blog, Philip Yancey, who has written 30 books, many of them focusing on questions about faith, wrote about the importance of living faith in the journey of questioning moments he is facing in his life. He states that although his life is “full of question marks,” he is “not unduly anxious. … “I trust a good and loving God who often chooses to reveal those qualities through his followers on earth. I have written many words on suffering, and now am being called to put them into practice. May I be a faithful steward of this latest chapter.”
Yancey writes about Michael Gerson, a New York Times columnist, and White House speech-writer whose life concluded after battling different diseases. It was a difficult journey. A colleague told Yancey, “At the peak of his career, he used his influence to care for the most vulnerable, spearheading the campaign to address AIDS in Africa. When he was at his lowest point physically, he never complained but focused on gratitude for the life he had lived.”
Craig Barnes defines the gratitude that defines the living faith of Romans 8:11 in this way:
“Gratitude may be the best measure of our spirituality. Why is this? Because gratitude demonstrates that we have been paying attention to the gifts we have received. Especially the gift of grace we have received in Jesus Christ.”
I suggest to you that the living faith of Romans 8:11 may be defined in this way:
- Belief in God that strengthens your faith as you face the challenges of this life.
- Belief in God that strengthens your faith as live in the promise of the life that is to come.
- The journey of life in God’s grace.
The apostle Paul, who wrote the epistle to the Romans, did not always live in the journey of God’s grace.
In his epistle to the Philippians, Paul describes his life before living faith in Jesus defined his life.
“If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more; circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee, as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:4b-6)
What changed between the legalism that defined Paul’s life prior to faith in Christ and the gratitude that defined Paul’s life in Romans 8:11? I think what changed was Paul’s focus from self-justification to gratitude for the Spirit of God dwelling in his life. It was the gift of grace he could not earn. It was the gift of God he could only accept and profess with gratitude through the living presence of God’s Spirit that dwelled in him.
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Anthony Ray Hinton spent 28 years in solitary confinement for two murders he did not commit. His time in jail was spent on death row in a five-by-seven-foot cell. He was allowed out of his cell only one hour a day. Despite the injustice in which he found himself, his faith in Jesus was rejuvenated. A unanimous United States Supreme Court ruling ordered his release and he was able to walk free.
In an interview, Hinton shared how living faith has defined his living in the reality of all the challenges he has faced:
The world didn’t give you your joy, and the world can’t take it away. You can let people come into your life and destroy it, but I refuse to let anyone take my joy. I wake up in the morning and I don’t need anyone to make me laugh. I’m going to laugh on my own, because I have been blessed to see another day, and when you’re blessed to see another day that should automatically give you joy.
How is living faith defining your living?
by Pastor Marc Brown
July 30, 2023
Accompanying Scriptures: Romans 8:9-17
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for July 30, 2023
Scripture Lesson Romans 8:9-17
The Good News “Living Faith”
Music “Oh Give Thanks” by Wendell Kimbrough
Closing Music “Sing Praise to God” arr. Lani Smith