Study Guide: Growing Our Faith

Sunday February 27, 2011 | Seth McCoy

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Sometimes in life, Faith is an intellectual issue. However, sometimes faith comes after following Jesus. In this sermon, Seth talks to us about examples of people following Jesus and then having faith. He also talks about what it looks like for our faith to grow.

Extended Summary:

A lot of people tend to think that faith is purely an intellectual exercise. Can we trust that the bible is accurate? Can science prove God’s existence? Or, looking at the world around us, is there a God? While some parts of faith are intellectual, sometimes faith comes from following Jesus first.

In Mark 2, we see the story of Levi the tax collector. Jesus tells Levi to come and follow him. We assume that Levi knew very little about Jesus and his ways, yet, it seems that faith came for Levi after he started following Jesus.

Faith can be defined as trust to the point of obedience. Often, it is easy to have faith when it comes to believing and knowing something about God. It is difficult to live a life according to those beliefs. Faith is about how much trust we have in Jesus and how much we can live out of that trust. Faith is relational.

We see in Luke 24 a pair of Jesus’ followers. They are walking home after Jesus is crucified, and they are dismayed because they had hoped that he was the messiah. In this example, we see people who didn’t understand who Jesus was. They understood what they thought he was, but they didn’t understand who the messiah truly was. They walk with Jesus and he explains the scriptures and even breaks bread with them, but they didn’t realize he who was until that point. They had followed after Jesus without knowing who he was, and their gained faith after following.

What these followers realized is that Jesus began the world anew. In walking away from Jerusalem, they didn’t believe this. It took Jesus explaining it to them for them to realize what Jesus’ death really meant. After learning what Jesus did and breaking bread with him, they turned and went back to Jerusalem in order to base their lives off of the faith they now had.

For these followers, faith was a process. They didn’t have control over many aspects of Jesus’ ministry. They wanted a conquering messiah and they got a crucified Jesus instead. They didn’t understand this from the beginning, but they only understood it because they had followed Jesus. If they had not followed Jesus, they would never have gained this faith that they then lived their lives by.

Faith becomes trust in the driver of this world. Do we trust that God is guiding this world to his end? Or do we believe and trust in what we see in this world? Fear keeps us from faith. Whenever it comes to living our lives in full faith and trust with Jesus, we fear that we might fail or we fear the outcome of following a crucified messiah. We’re not guaranteed an easy life, no matter what some preachers tell us.

The final story of someone following and then having faith is Peter in Matthew 14. We see Jesus walking on water towards a boat that is being thrown by the waves and storm on the sea. Jesus tells Peter to come towards him, and Peter starts out well but ultimately dwells on the storm and begins to sink in the waves. Peter first follows after Jesus and then understands what faith means. We are very similar to Peter. We can start out on fire in our relationship with Jesus. Yet, as time goes by, we begin to falter in our faith or in our devotion to following Jesus. Jesus responds to all of us as he responded to Peter, “Be not afraid.” Don’t be afraid as the storm rages around you, as Jesus is leading us. He’s the driver that we can trust to not let us down.

For some of us, following leads to faith much more than biblical understanding and theological debates. Sometimes, we follow and then the understanding of why comes later. In all things, Jesus is calling us to not be afraid of the things of this world, even death. He told us that because we will encounter all of these things if we follow after him. Our faith will come from following and trusting in Jesus.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What questions and comments did you have about the sermon and supporting texts?
  2. Do you agree with Seth’s comments on faith sometimes coming after following Jesus?
  3. What are some of your fears when thinking of fully following Jesus in this life?
  4. Listen again to the story of the courtroom from the beginning of the sermon. How do you think your trial would play out? In what ways would you like to change your life in order to be found “guilty?”
  5. Who can you ask to join you in fully committing to following Jesus? Who in your life can you join in community and try to find “being on fire” again?