By Cathy Zhang
15 Jul. 2012 Sunday
|Worship song: Holy Holy Holy||video||audio||lyric|
|Worship song: I Sing Praises to Your Name||video||audio||lyric|
|Worship song: Wo Yuan Wei Ni Qu 我愿为你去||video||audio||lyric|
|Worship song: Still||video||audio||lyric|
Presider Sophia’s sharing:
A few days ago, I decided to take out a pen and a piece of paper to put down a list of sentences about who God really is to me. So the very first sentence came into my mind was that “God is my best friend”. And the moment I put down those words, a sweet, sweet feeling came to my heart and warmed my heart. I just want to tell you that our Lord Jesus indeed is our Saviour. But He is not someone who just came to save us once and then let us all alone, He is a Saviour who not only saves us, but continually pursues a love relationship with us. I want you to know that our Lord wants to be our best friend. You know Chinese culture values “guanxi” (relationship), either networking relationship or loving relationship whatever you call it. I can tell you this, the best “guanxi”, the best networking resource you can get is our Lord Jesus.
Let’s bow our head in prayer:
“Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending your only begotten son Jesus to die for us and pay for our debts, and because of that, we are no longer your enemies, but your friends. Lord, we thank you for pursuing continually a love relationship with us and you really want to be close to us. So Lord, I pray that you would draw us close to you, and let us everyday be closer to you. Lord, please transform us. And Lord, we also pray for today’s service. May your Holy Spirit lead today’s worship, and may you just clean our hearts and minds so we can worship you wholeheartedly. And Lord, we also lift up today’s preacher Cathy into your mighty hands. Lord, please speak through her, and let your word touch our hearts. Lord, just help us, just replace our hearts with your heart, and our eyes with your eyes. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.”
The worship leader’s prayer:
Dear Lord, Father, you give us all the things, all the blessings. Dear Lord, Father, we face the problems, frustration, and face a lot of troubles, you know that. Maybe we do not know your mind, or what we do, but we should bow down our hearts to your own way. Dear Lord Jesus, we thank you for giving us the strength, the power, let us be the deliverers of your gospel, let more people know you, to know your name, to know your holy name. Thank you, Father.
Worship song: Wo Yuan Wei Ni Qu 我愿为你去
Yong sheng ling yu huo wei wo shi xi
Rang wo chong man tian shang de neng li
Rang sheng huo shao jin xie qin he si yu
Yin wei wo yuan wei ni qu
|Verse 2||成为我的异象 荣耀救主
Cheng wei wo de yi xiang, rong yao jiu zhu
Rang wan guo de rong hua jin dou shi se
ci wo yong gan de xin yi wu wei ju
Yin wei wo yuan wei ni qu
Ding hen shou yin wo qian xing
Wo zhi yuan he ni xin yi
Kan wan shi wei sun shi, shou ku wei xiao shi
Kao ni de en dian zhan li
Shen sheng de ai, rong hua wo
shen sheng de huo, ao lian wo
Shen sheng de shi ming, zhan you wo
Shen sheng de ling, yin ling wo
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 13:13
13 Now there abide faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
Good morning, please join me in a very short prayer.
“Lord, send your spirit to us, please. We are weak and we need your help. And we need your spirit to fill our hearts so that we can walk in peace. May the words from my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, and be the bridges to these souls that you want to touch. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.”
My scripture is 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen, verse thirteen. So I will read it again. It is very simple. After Saint Paul said all that of love, he finished that,
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love, the greatest of these is love.”
But I am focusing on faith today.
Introduction to the passage:
Christianity in China is quite unique if I compare it with the development in other countries. It is because in China, there are many scholars in the universities and institutes, they are doing research related to Christianity, they are teaching courses related to Christianity, but they are not believers yet, or they may not be willing to be called a believer or seeker. They are defending Christianity in front of others when necessary, and they are sometimes trying to explain the situation to others on behalf of Christianity. And some of them even say that “please do not say Christianity is a foreign religion, it is a Chinese religion now”. They are not believers, and they do not want… maybe they prefer to stay outside the gates, or on the border.
One of my friends is like this. She teaches in a university, and her research topic is Woman in the Old Testament. One day she asked me,
“What quality do you think is the most important in Christianity?”
She knows I am a believer. You know, I thought a lot, then I said,
“Faith, hope and love.”
She paused for a while and said,
“Why? I think it’s humility.”
My goodness, humility! Of course, humility is important. And I think, humility is truly a very important quality for Christians, and I can tell why she thinks humility is important. It is because she has been around some Christians, and she does not feel the “humility” that she has read in the Bible, or she has heard in the sermons. Yes, a lot of times we talked about humility, but we do not behave that way. Humility is important and it is so hard, even for me. I know it is very hard for me to be humble all the time. I have to keep reminding myself to be humble, and it is so easy to show my arrogance, and I did not realize that. However, no matter how important humility is, humility is a kind of, how to say, an outer look, one of the appearances of our faith.
Faith, hope, love. Although Paul said, among the three, the biggest, the greatest one is love, actually he still implies that faith, presupposes or is the first quality. I still have to say, yes, tenderness, humility, love, compassion or other qualities are very important, but without faith, we cannot carry them out. Like what I said, humility is important, but I cannot be humble all the time and I have to rely on my faith to remind me to be humble, And if I do not have the faith at the beginning or as the foundation, it is very hard or even harder for me to be reminded, even, of humility. So today I just try to say something about faith.
When we try to give a definition of something, especially a term like this, it is very difficult. And “faith” in Chinese, “faith” has synonyms like belief or trust. See, in Chinese, the translation is very interesting; “faith”, we translate into Chinese as what? 信仰。”信”，the first character, means “trust”; “仰”，means “look up”. And “believe”, we translate it as信念。”信”，also means “trust”； 念，means “ideas”. So the Chinese tells (them apart) very clearly. We seldom use 信仰。（You know 信仰 and 信念。）We know that信仰 has some kind of different connotation about something that you look up to, that has a kind of loyalty, or leads you to something that may be hard to describe; that you do not need to prove, or you do not need a kind of ground for believing. But 信念，referring to a set of ideas or convictions, or doctrines, is still being used to describe the faith.
A lot of times, it’s difficult, so we say, first say, something about what faith is not. What faith is not?
What is faith not?
First, I think faith does not only refer to a set of ideas, that I want to say, you know, doctrines. It does not mean that you are forced to agree with certain doctrines (to know) that you have the faith. Some churches set a very high gate for entrance. You have to accept certain doctrines, then you can get in or be accepted. And some denominations think if you do not say you agree with these five basic criteria or doctrines or tenants, you cannot call yourself a Christian. I have to say, it is all a kind of human effort to narrow down God’s kingdom, or God’s grace. It does not mean that you have to understand what it means to say, “God is one substance with three persons or in three persons”. We sing holy holy God almighty, and we say we believe in trinity that God is one substance in three persons, and many do not understand what that means. And for some of them, they cannot say that they will accept or agree because they do not understand. Then you exclude them out of God’s kingdom? We cannot.
So faith does not that mean that your have to agree with certain ideas. And, second, faith also does not mean certainty or certitude. If you think that faith means something that you can grasp and hold very firmly, that is not faith at all. See, a lot of people, they try to go against, they do not agree with religion, they do not think any people have faith are reasonable, because they think it is not scientific. So if you still try to think that faith is something that you can be assured, always be assured, always something that is firm and certain, and can be explained scientifically, that’s not faith.
And third, faith is not a kind of believing attitude or any believing attitude. So sometimes I think I want to be pious, and try to show my piety, and then, this kind of believing attitude means that I have the faith, and I am showing to others that I have faith. It is not true.
A friend who is not a believer complains to me that her roommate is a believer and she shows her piety all the time by holding the Bible all the time in hands, reading the Bible all the time and also praying a long prayer before the meal so everybody has to wait. She does not realize that she is showing the arrogance. Always remember that when we show faith, we may show arrogance. We think we are better than those who do not have faith and we want to show off. And we are showing our arrogance. If you do have faith and are humble, you will think of others’ need first, instead of yours only.
What is faith?
So what is faith? Faith is a relationship first of all. Sophie talked about Jesus, God, being our best friend. For this relationship, a lot of times you are wondering how can I have it? How could I tell it? This relationship is, first of all, set on the base that God is a faithful God. So this relationship is initiated by God and is based on the fact that God has faith in you. God has trust in you and He trusts that you can be transformed, you can be better, you can have a different life, and you can help others. God has faith in you. This is the foundation for this relationship. And because of this relationship, you are responding to God’s love and the relationship. You are responding to that call, that love and that compassion. It is not something that you are in trade with God.
‘I am doing this for you, so you should benefit me and bless me. I follow all the doctrines and I accept all the things even I do not understand. I do good works everyday and I control my desire. Then you should bless me.’
It is not this kind of relationship. Even in the love relationship of our human beings, the lovers like to talk about how much they have put into the relationship.
‘How much I have done for you and you are not repaying back the same amount of love to me. I love you more than you love me.’
But do not you realize that this is sort of your pain in this relationship? When you have pain that is so deep in your heart as you love someone, it is because you are measuring it from your perspective. You do not realize that if you do call it LOVE, you pay, contribute and devote without any expectation or any condition, because it is for the benefit of others, not your own.
So the relationship with God is like this. Faith is this kind of relationship of trust; and faith is trust (from God) but not certainty (about us). When you trust somebody wholly, actually you should leave freedom for them. That is a real trust or a complete trust. God leaves a great freedom for you, giving you the freedom to choose, hesitate, doubt, suspect, question and even anger. That is God’s love and God’s trust in you. God is waiting because He has trust in you. It is fine that you still cannot get there, you still have so many questions in your mind, and you still want to be angry and disappointed; that is God’s trust. And the feelings are the same for you. If you truly love somebody, are you able to give them freedom even though they may not be paying back the same amount of love to you? It is hard, I have to say. Even for me as a mother, I love my son dearly and fully; but a lot of times, my love is compelled, which means my love for him is compelling and I am forcing him to follow my will, my order or to do things that I want him to do. And I think I am doing it in the name of Love. Actually, that is not trust at all. So faith is trust (from God) but not certainty (about us). You have the full trust, but still, you have the space to grow, to change, to question and to doubt.
Second, faith is real and dynamic. It is not fixed or in certain type. Faith in different people may show differently. Different persons may have different ways of having faith in their hearts. So this is not something that you can produce or work on. So it is not fair that you compare people’s faith, thinking he is stronger and the other is weaker. A lot of times, you use faith to explain suffering, thinking that he is suffering because he has small or little faith that God is punishing his unbelief. That is not right.
Faith is real and dynamic that it will work in your heart. The things that can be changed unconsciously are that you cannot try to behave in certain ways. Like I always try to remind myself that I have to be pious and I pick up the appearance to be pious by praying all the time and saying ‘thanks be to the Lord’ all the time or getting up early in the morning, all these outer appearances. NO! In that way, you are controlled or fixed and are not free. That is not what God has expected. When you have faith, the faith will make you different.
What will faith do to you?
So what difference will faith bring to you?
First, faith can help you relieve the pressure and burden so that you are not so self-concerned, thinking that you have the responsibility for something. Truly we are responsible for something. And we should work with our efforts; we should work with our hearts. However, it is still God who is making the final change and transformation of us. You have worked on somebody, trying to bring the gospel to them, and trying to bring them to faith. But they are still not (believing) yet. And that is always the last point. Do not blame yourself. You have to say, “Yes, it is time to test my patience, and my faith in God. And I have to pray that God will make him change, his heart change.”
In Chinese, we like to say, “谋事在人，成事在天 (Man proposes, and God disposes)”。The Chinese usually say that, for human beings, we work very hard to get that 70% done, but there are still 30% that we have to lift it up to heaven, to God. We are not God. So when you think that you could fix everything, you could get everything done, you are thinking yourself as God. That is dangerous. So when you think of that, that faith helps relief the burden, and that responsibility; so you are not that anxious anymore.
And the second, faith will help us understand that each one of us has our own calling, so our faith will be different. Your friend might come to faith differently. You cannot share your experience, and you cannot share theirs. So each of us has our own calling and responsibility, and you just have to respect that. And for us, we are responsible steward; and a lot of times, there is a chance to teach you how to be a servant or a steward.
Recently, I have been working under a great pressure. As a group leader, I have several very talented people working with me. And one of them kept on giving me problems, rejecting my wish anyway. And I have to say I was very angry, because it was not my way. I am a person who finds it very hard to say “no” to requests. And that brings me a lot of troubles. I do not encourage you to do that. I guess this is what I have to say “no”. But we always think that when you are young, and you are still pursuing your career, it is better for you to say “yes” to your leader. Then you figure out how to do it. Maybe you do not know how, but you could consult people. And it is not wise to say “no”. That is my way. And I think the others would do the same. And I think, if you follow my way, it is good for you, for your future, your career, and your prosperity.
No! Superficially, I said, “OK, you can do it, whatever you want. I respect you.” But one day later, he said to me, “Cathy, you know the one who does not want to follow your order, who does not want to do it in your way.” I was shocked. I said, “Really?” He said, “Yes, it is on your face.” It moved my heart. Superficially, I said “I respect your order”, but I was angry, irritated, anxious, and that was on my face. And that was actually in my attitude, my behavior; it was a kind of atmosphere that surrounded me. We are sharing the office, and he could feel that. I am very grateful that he told me. So I cracked up and laughed. And I said “sorry”, so I changed. And I had to pray to help myself to change that in my heart, I could really give them the time and space to think, and I have to change my way sometimes.
I was talking to another friend why everybody could be angry except me. I cannot be angry. Why everybody could complain except me? It is because we are watched, especially when people know that you call yourself a Christian openly. And (especially) if you do not behave as they have expected; it is hard. So that one helps us understand that we have different callings.
The third one is that faith will help you or empower you to pursue truth, and especially, faith will help you understand yourselves more. When I say to understand yourselves more, I mean the weaknesses, the imperfection. Each one of us is imperfect, we have to admit that though we hate to look at the ugly parts of ourselves, I hate it too.And I feel so bitter and angry a lot of times when I see my ugliness. And there are many times like this I have to say.
But faith will help you with that. And so you can accept your own imperfection. And actually, to know who you are, you become wise. It is also in Chinese, 自知(know yourself)。 To know yourself is harder than to know others, it is harder. And on the Greek temples, they say, “To know yourself”. It is not on my level to know myself. The earlier you know yourself and accept who you are, the more comfortable and happier you will be.
I also like the verses in 1 John, chapter 3, verses 18-20,
“18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”
So when a lot of times you condemn yourself, think of these verses. We belong to the truth. The faith will make you understand that we belong to the truth and God knows our weaknesses, and God accepts us as a whole being, including our weaknesses, God knows everything. So it is fine. When you know yourself, you know your advantages, you know your weaknesses, face them and accept them. With God’s help, you could work on them.
The fourth point about faith bringing change is that you can keep on reasoning. It does not mean that when you believe, or when you have faith in God, in Jesus Christ, you lose your reasoning power, the power of your reasoning; you need to have this kind of so-called blind faith. No, you still have the power of reasoning, and you still pursue what the ancient fathers told us that our faith is always seeking understanding. It does not mean that when you have faith, you worship God alone, you just mind your own business, to be a pious Christian, a follower only.
No, you are in this world, you are bearing witness for God in different ways, in your life, in your studies, in your work, in your mouth, in your actions and also in your trying to explain your faith to others. You are using the power of reasoning. And it is fine when the others question you, and you allow them to use reason to question, to doubt and to suspect.
And also interpretation diversity is embraced by God. You respect (each other) because we come from different cultures. The interpretation of the Bible should be different in a Chinese context because we grow in this Confucius, Buddhist and Taoist atmosphere and with that kind of elements in us, if we integrate the context into the interpretation of the Bible. It is a contribution to the diversity of the Bible instead of something bad. It is a blessing that the diversity can be embraced by us now.
Coming back to my points about faith, faith is difficult; faith is a blessing; faith is hard to describe; and faith is what we have and what we want to have. So faith is not certainty; faith is a relationship, a kind of a complete trust from God in you, and also your response to God. That faith will give you power in your heart, embracing you, freeing you, to give you energy to be braveand to think actively.
May God bless His words. Amen.
Revised by Emily, Esther and Franz, and edited by Liu Laoshi with grace from God in all the work that we do for Him, and in Him.