Over the last seven weeks I embarked on a teaching journey, or series as we call it, titled "Tough Questions/Real Answers". It is appropriate for the church to call any teaching on a related subject or book of the Bible a 'series.' For me, however, every series I teach is more than just teaching. It is truly a journey. The primary reason for that has more to do with the sermon prep rather than sermon delivery. It is in the study, the reading, the writing, the diagramming, the outlining, the praying, the struggling, the pondering-- where the message gets a hold of me. Once the message gets a hold of me, I can give it to others. It should be that way no matter how difficult the process proves for that particular week. I would feel hypocritical otherwise. What has burned inside comes from what Peter wrote in his epistle. "Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it." (I Peter 3:15)
Preaching through tough questions does several things at once. For the un-believer, the mere fact that we are willing to ask and answer questions which at one time in their own spiritual journey seemed unanswerable, proves to be another rung in the ladder toward belief. At least there's a rationale. For the seeker, who has climbed a few more rungs over a specified length of time, the answer to these questions moves them even closer because reason and Truth have overlapped in practical and sensible ways throughout the duration of the series. For the believer, it sets our faith on more solid footing, giving us a bolstered confidence and conviction that our beliefs, however counter-cultural they may be, are, in fact, true.
The "Tough Questions" series highlighted the more common objections and questions asked by all people. The answers, again, harden the concrete in our faith 'minds.' The resurrection event contains proofs which make it historically verifiable beyond reasonable doubt. That is important. Our whole faith hinges on that. God Himself is completely and perfectly good and wise. He knows best. God not only hears but answers prayer. He is that personally connected with us. When bad things happen, we have a God who knows, cares, and ultimately has a plan. The Bible is a trustworthy historical document which gives us everything we need for life and faith. Christianity stands out among other religions precisely because of a person-- Jesus. He reached out to us in order to bring us to God, even to the point of death. He is alive today and is the way, the truth, the life. He gives us certainty, something the other religions can't. And Jesus' resurrection guarantees us heaven, eternity with God, if we would choose to make Him Lord and Savior, our leader and forgiver of our lives. These truths are foundational for all believers. (check out the 'message archive' part of our website if you would like to listen to the sermons from that series) (also, check out my podcast with Layna Macurak 'Un-Apologetic).
I once heard a story that likened faith to a journey walked by a young man seeking to visit his uncle. After walking many, many miles, the sun began to descend beyond the horizon as the darkness of nighttime rose. The path to his uncle's cabin led through a thick forest. After walking miles into the forest and deeper into the night, he saw a faint glimmer of light, tiny, orange in its glow. A candle! It sat silently in a window beside the front door. He had arrived within a hundred yards of his uncle's dwelling. Suddenly, the path changed. He dare not take another step toward the cabin. His feet stood at the precipice of a cliff. The forest, pitch black, prohibited the nephew from seeing anything else besides, of course, the candle. He stood there. Pondered. Waited. But within a few minutes, his uncle opened the front door.
"Hey there! You are almost here!"
"Yes, Unlce. But there is a cliff. I could fall to my death into the ravine."
"No, no! It is only a 3 foot drop. You can trust me!"
At that moment, the nephew had to make a choice. Jump, or not jump. This could be a jump to his death if his uncle were suddenly overcome by some sort of evil. But what he knew was this: the house was just down hill, the candle visible and his uncle audible. But most important, his uncle was a good man. He always showed his love and concern. His uncle was always available when needed. He could be trusted. So the nephew jumped. And he found it was just as his uncle had said. Within minutes, they embraced.
Coming to faith is like that. It is not merely a blind leap. We have so much more to go on. It is grounded in Scripture, the goodness of God, His revelation to us in nature, correct theology. But ultimately our faith is based on the only true foundation-- Jesus Christ. "Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ." (I Corinthians 3:10-11) When we have that, we have everything we need.