Conquering Faith

Friends, here’s one more golden oldie as I take a few days off for recharge and recovery. Blessings!

1 John 5:1-6

You have already won. That is today’s main thought, so I’ll say it again. You have already won.

We love to win. And everybody loves a winner. Psychologists tell us that we are wired for winning. Winning stimulates the production of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. These are the brain chemicals that make us do the happy dance after a victory. Some psychologists suggest that winning is essential for human happiness.

But what is “winning”? Mostly it’s just comparison. I don’t have to be the best in order to win. I just have to be better than YOU. A running shoe commercial from several years ago captures this. It has subtitles, so don’t be put off by the non-English dialogue. And even without the subtitles the results will be obvious.

Photo by Abdullah Ghatasheh on Pexels.com

Do I think I’m faster than a lion? Of course not! But I might be faster than YOU. This is winning as comparison. Life is a zero-sum game. If I win, you lose. The slow are meat, and the lion will eat.

You have already won. That’s the main point today. That main point comes from the second reading, First John 5:1-6. So what does it mean?

We need to get at the content of winning. Everybody loves a winner. And everybody loves winning. But how we win makes all the difference. After all, even Adolf Hitler knew that everybody loves a winner. He led the German people in ecstatic chants of “Sieg Heil!” That translates as “Hail, Victory!” It’s not enough to be in love with winning. How we win matters a great deal.

And this is the victory,” we read in First John, chapter five, “that conquers the world, our faith.You have already won! Let’s think about how that works.

We are far enough along in the Easter season, that we may have forgotten what all the fuss is about. God has come to us in Jesus. Jesus has absorbed every bit of the power of sin, death and the Devil. That power died with him on the cross. On the third day, God raised him bodily so that Jesus will never die again. This resurrection is God’s victory over sin, death and the Devil. And this resurrection is the beginning of God’s New Creation.

On Easter Sunday, God’s New Creation began. And we get to live in that New Creation, if we’re willing. “And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.” Faith is not prediction. Prediction draws a line from the past to the future. So predictions of disaster are always right in the end. The lion eats. As that great twentieth century philosopher, Hank Williams, sang, we’ll never get out of this world alive.

Faith is not a prediction. Instead, faith relies on a promise—a promise now fulfilled. Faith draws a line from the future into the present. Remember, Jesus brings God’s future into our present. Because Christ is risen (Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!), you have already won.

You can embrace that future in trust and hope. That is faith. Or you can stick with predictions of business as usual. That is despair.

You see, the Gospel is good news, not just good information. It’s a headline, not a greeting card. The Gospel isn’t like someone who offers a new kind of flashlight so we can see in the dark. It is like someone saying that the sun has come up and it’s time to open the curtains.

So the victory of faith is about seeing the whole world in a new way. We stand so close to our pain and perplexity that often we cannot see the whole picture. I, for one, need constant help and reminder to step back and see the whole picture of God’s victory. Without that perspective, life becomes a gray blur, a pointless path to oblivion. The lion is the only winner.

Choosing between faith and prediction, trust and certainty, is a minute-by-minute task. I can decide at every minute to see things through death lenses or resurrection lenses. But this is also a basic approach to life. What we see is primarily a function of how we see. And how we see is a habit formed by practice. One of the reasons we come to worship each week is for vision re-training.

It’s no accident that the theme for the National Youth Gathering is “Rise Up.” That theme is rooted in Resurrection faith. Resurrection faith means that we are not bound by business as usual. God is on the move. I can be different. The world can be different. And we can be part of the difference.

We Christians declare that Easter changes the universe. And we claim that the change happens in us and through us—if we’ll allow it.

And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.You have already won! Is that how you live?

Brennan Manning tells the story of an Irish priest who was walking through his rural parish. As he walked, he saw an old man kneeling by the side of the road, praying. The priest was impressed, and he said to the man, “You must be very close to God.”

The old man looked up from his prayers. He thought for a moment and then he smiled. “Yes, he’s very fond of me,” the man replied.

Will you leave today with that thought in your heart? Yes, God is very fond of you—of YOU. You are someone Jesus loves. Will you “abide in that love,” as Jesus tells us in John 15? Will you start each day this week by remembering that God is very fond of you—so fond that he’d rather die than spend eternity without you? The lion loses in the end. That is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.

You have already won.

A kindergarten teacher was getting to know his new students. He asked a little boy, “Any brothers?”

“No,” the boy answered. “Any sisters?” the teacher continued.

“No,” he again answered. “Do you have any pets?” the teacher wondered.

“No, not right now,” the boy replied sadly. Then a smile came over the little boy’s face. His eyes widened and he said, “But I do have some friends!”

Yes, so do we! Jesus calls you his friends. And he invites you and me to walk with him, to serve with him, to live with him and to love with him. He calls us to the way of life that changes the world. Jesus chooses you today. Will you live as Jesus’ friend? Remember, you have already won!

Pastor Lowell Hennigs

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