mp3 audio version (7.6 mb)
Note: This sermon was broadcast on January 3, 1955, as part of the "Faith and Life" radio devotional series sponsored by the General Conference Mennonite Church. Transcribed by James C. Juhnke from the original reel-to-reel tape at the Mennonite Library and Archives.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
The Christian faces life with faith. This is true whether it is a new year, a new situation, or a new day. Each generation has a way of describing its own faith in its own particular way.
Comfortable Faith. Our pioneer forefathers, as they pushed back the frontier across America, talked of a “comfortable faith.” They lived their days battling the hostilities of man and nature. The difficulties and dangers of frontier life made their existence insecure and precarious. Their faith was their great comfort. To them God was no philosophical proposition, but the strong being in whose protection they found sanctuary. He was the guide who led them across the trackless wilderness by day, and in whose everlasting arms they found rest at night. The Bible was read with confidence and assurance. In their homes and in their meeting houses they sang in faith. “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” That was exactly what they wanted to do--to hide in security beneath the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. Their faith was a faith of comfort.
However the time soon came when the great empire-builders were gathered unto their Father’s house and mansions, and the sons of the pioneers began the erection of our industrial culture. The hostilities of the frontier had been conquered. But now a new problem confronted the faith of men. The scientific spirit swept across the world. The new knowledge seemed to challenge the validity of the comfortable faith of the fathers. Many began to wonder if the new knowledge and the old faith could live together. Some thought that it was impossible. Those who tried to work out this problem began to talk of an “intelligent faith,” rather than a “comfortable faith.” Gradually a rational faith was established in our scientific world.
Intelligent Faith. The person who fears that something may come out of the laboratory that will shatter confidence in God needs an intelligent faith. Science may be helpful in relation to the “how” of things. But the supreme question relates to the “why.” Why are we here? Where did we come from? Whither are we going? The answers to these questions are not found in test tubes or laboratories. They are found in an intelligent faith that we are children of God who ought to live as brothers in a friendly universe.
The old faith and the new knowledge not only live together in the same world, but in the same person, who has learned from experience that undergirding all life are the everlasting arms of our heavenly father. This is an intelligent faith.
Adventurous Faith. Then, before the Second World War, there appeared that lively generation often called “flaming youth,” who startled and confused some older folks. They were not interested primarily in comfort and security, and at times it seemed not even in anything too intelligent, either. They smiled at the motto, “Safety First,” and announced that they wanted to live dangerously. They demanded an adventurous faith. One of that generation, before he laid down his life in sacrifice for freedom, wrote, “Religion is betting you life that there is a God.” One of the great teachers of that time, caught their imagination when he said, “Faith is reason grown courageous.” And one of the philosophers challenged them by asserting, “Religion begins as an experiment, and ends as an experience.” They were captivated with the thought that the faith of, and in, Jesus Christ was an “adventurous faith.”
Unshakeable Faith. However, the imperative need of our present day is not so much a comfortable faith, nor an intelligent faith, nor even an adventurous faith. Yes, the comforts of religion we always need--today in our bewildering world situation, fully as much as did the pioneers of old. And the undergirding of an intelligent faith that defends us rather than we it, we need in order to give reason for the faith that is in us. Furthermore, we also need a virile faith, that calls for adventurous living, as well as heroic dying. But in the swift and kaleidoscopic changes of our time, we need especially a stable and unshakeable faith. Some conclusions are not open to debate. When diphtheria comes into our homes we do not call a physician who is open minded about antitoxin. Nor do we want a teacher for our children who is open minded about the multiplication tables. The three Hebrew boys, confronting the threats of Nebuchadnezzar in the days of old, had this unshakeable faith. When they were charged with insubordination for now bowing before the idol, they looked straight into his royal eye and said, “Our God is able to deliver us, but if not, be it known unto thee, oh king, we will not worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
“But if not.” That is the place and the time for a stubborn faith. When in life we see the godless prosper, and those who love do the suffering, it takes an unshakeable faith in the goodness of God to stand the strain. Or when we love, and laugh, and lift together, and then an unseen hand removes our friend, he is gone and only memory remains. Where has he gone? Why was he taken? In that situation only an unshakeable faith in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will hold us steady and see us through.
This is the unshakeable faith which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. And so, as we face the new day, the new week, may we face it with the comfortable, intelligent, adventurous, and unshakeable Christian faith. And may the Lord bless us and keep us; the Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious unto us. The Lord lift up his countenance upon us and give us peace, now and evermore. Amen.