“A Faithful God” by Pastor Steve Sommerer

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost Oct. 13th, 2019

Sermon Text: 2 Timothy 2:1-13

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            Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

            The sermon text is from 2 Timothy 2:1-13… a portion of which reads:  The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful - - for He cannot deny Himself.  So far the text. 

            Old Faithful is the world’s most famous geyser and its most predictable.  It erupts sending thousands of gallons of supra-heated water 145 feet into the air every 45 minutes to 2 hours.  Depending on the duration of the previous eruption, it can usually be scheduled within 10 minutes.  When we saw Old Faithful this summer it was so regular that hundreds of people were seated along a vast boardwalk to watch.   

            Other things are less than faithful.  If you’ve ever scheduled service on a phone or cable line, you know you’re likely to be told a timeframe like some time in the afternoon, they’ll be there.  Some companies have capitalized on our lack of patience by marketing themselves as ultra-reliable with slogans like, “When it absolutely has to be there overnight.”  Nobody ever advertised themselves saying, “You’ll probably get it sometime next week, if you’re lucky.”

            St. Paul wrote in our Epistle for this morning about a trustworthy saying.  That means it’s a truism; we might say it’s axiomatic.  You can take it to the bank.  That saying which is quoted in 2 Timothy 2 is probably part of the early Church’s liturgy or confession or a hymn in common usage.  It’s a trustworthy saying. 

            The trustworthiness of Paul’s saying can’t be timed with a watch like the eruptions of Old Faithful.  Truthfully, in our experience of life, we sometimes wonder if there’s any truth to it at all.  We might worry in the midst of heartache or loss if it can possibly be true that God is faithful.  We wonder if He’s forgotten us. 

            When we experience life’s hardships and our health fails us; when our dear ones suffer tragedy or loved ones die, we easily fall into questions: Is God really faithful?  How can I square the perceptions of pain that are too present and real with the evidence of my eyes?  That’s often the torturous dilemma we live in this side of heaven, and so real is that cleavage between promise and experience, St. Paul says, “We live by faith and not by sight.”

            Years ago, I read about a scientifically conducted study of the power of prayer.  Participants were sought who were undergoing serious medical issues, a portion of whom would not be prayed for, a portion of whom would be prayed for religiously, if you’ll pardon the silly pun, plus, a control group of just plain sick folks.  The results seemed to indicate it didn’t matter much to which group one belonged, the results of their treatment were about the same.  Seems someone would have remembered Jesus’ admonition, “Not to put God to the test.”

            I think we’d agree it was a foolish study, foolish for little old us to try to put God under a microscope and judge His faithfulness.  Our pains and heartaches don’t invalidate the goodness of God, they only offer evidence of our brokenness.  They don’t change the reality of who God is.

            While we’re too small to examine God, God’s Word does provide a means for examining ourselves.  In God’s Word we are told “to share in suffering as good soldiers of Christ.”  This world of suffering isn’t the world God created, but is “crying out in the pains of childbirth waiting for the sons of God to be revealed.”  This world Scripture tells us has been consigned to judgment until God’s verdict against sin has been paid.  Romans 6 says, “The wages of sin is death.”

            And while it may be small comfort, the truth is that God consigned this world to judgment and death, because He willed to redeem it in Christ Jesus.  The reason Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden is because God is merciful, not wanting them to partake of the tree of life and live forever alienated from God, never again to know that perfect fellowship with God that existed before the Fall.

            We can find plenty of evidence in our lives that we aren’t faithful.  Firstly, God calls us to love Him with all our hearts and souls and minds, but the reality is: we are mostly concerned about ourselves and our families and getting our own.  Rarely, are we faithful to God’s call to pray and praise and give thanks.  Our love for God’s Word, usually lasts for about as long as Sunday’s service.  Our families give evidence of brokenness, harsh words between parents and children, unfaithfulness between husband and wife, mean words of contempt and gossip for those we don’t care for.  It’s not God who fails the test of faithfulness; in every case it is we.

            God’s faithfulness cannot be understood by looking at your paycheck or the results of a doctor’s report.  It can’t be divined as we lower our loved ones into the ground.  It can only be understood at the cross.  There at the cross we see that God’s faithfulness led Him to become like us “in every way except without sin.”  Jesus is true God from eternity and also true man born of the Virgin.  God rested in the squalor of a Bethlehem manger… “foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man had no place to lay His head.”  Eternally God, Jesus’ faithfulness and love for His creation caused Him to live a sinless life as your substitute and mine, there at Calvary to offer His life as the perfect act of faithfulness, keeping His promise to crush the devil’s head forever, bringing life and immortality to light.

            Our text says, “God cannot deny Himself”, but there is a sense in which that wasn’t true.  Because Jesus immersed Himself in your unfaithfulness and sordid life of sin, God handed His Son over to judgment and condemnation so that “by His wounds we might be healed.”  God didn’t really deny Himself in Christ at the cross, yet the Father assuredly forsook Christ as the 2nd Adam and the embodiment of our brokenness.  When Jesus the Faithful One was crushed under God’s wrath and forsaken of God, God was both forsaking and being faithful - - faithful to a long awaited promise.  Galatians 4 says, “When the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law to redeem those under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”

            Often we are blessed to look at our lives in the here and now and give thanks that God is good and faithful and loves and cares for us.  And often that truth is hidden under the last convulsions of a dying world where pain is too common, but the truth remains.

            Paul wrote: “If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him.”  Your death with Christ isn’t some lame resolution or promise you make to which you may or may not be faithful.  Your death with Christ was something poured over you in Holy Baptism, a mighty work of God where He placed a promise.  “We were buried with Christ through baptism into death,” Romans 6 says, “[and] if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”

            Looks are so deceiving.  Life in our sinful flesh and in a sinful world only induces worries and questions.  About the Gospel promise God gives you, He uses words like “certainly, trustworthy, assuredly, and faithful.”  God’s promises are certain because God is good and faithful to His Word.  He is purest love… love that stretched out through the ages to push a stone away from Easter’s tomb.  Because God is faithful, assuredly and trustworthily faithful, that empty tomb held only the grave clothes of our Risen Lord and Savior, and there remained the unfaithfulness of our sinful lives that remained buried.

            It’s true that you can be denied by God, if you refuse to let Him be for you the God of love and grace.  If you deny Christ… if you refuse to accept the verdict He cast for you.  But that doesn’t make Him unfaithful.  He still invites you and me back, sinners redeemed by a Savior greater than all our unfaithfulness.  He still calls out with open arms to lift lost sheep to His shoulders and carry them home.

            One-day Old Faithful will cease its eruptions, and every day somewhere Fed Ex fails to get a package delivered overnight.  But God is faithful.  What Christ won for you; you will see with your own eyes that you now confess by faith.  God is no liar.  His intervention in the bloody death and glorious resurrection of Christ will not be wasted.  He cannot deny Himself, so neither can He deny you who have been clothed with Christ in Baptism and fed with His own body and blood at His altar.  Our calling is to rest in those faithful promises and “Be faithful unto death until He gives you the crown of life.”  Amen.

And now may the peace of God which surpasses human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.