How many of you here have ever been told by somebody they were proud of you? How did you feel after hearing those words? I'm thinking you probably felt pretty
good, not pride-filled, but you felt like please someone.
I've learned that words have power, they can start or stop wars, they can convey how one feels, and they can build up or tear down relationships. Words are
powerful, and these four words, "I'm proud of you" I've found can change ones life and one's world. These four words are meant to build someone up, they offer encouragement, as they
recognize an achievement.
Immediately after my father died a couple months ago I spent some time reflecting on his life and the things we did together:
- I remembered the fun we had doing certain things together,
- I remembered times I needed to be challenged and disciplined,
- I remembered the lessons I learned, some the hard way.
- And I thought how blessed I was to even have a father.
And as I was thinking about my father and the things I would say in the message I would preach at his funeral, what immediately came to mind, with absolute
clarity, more so than anything else, were those times when he shared four words with me, "I'm proud of you."
I remember him using these words guardedly. And what I mean by this is, these words were used only at special times, and when he really meant it. They were
used with intention and purpose.
For me hearing these four words meant more than any other words he could have ever said to me, because I knew my father meant them and they were from his
Today we've become somewhat numb to words and phrases that I believe were meant to convey similar approval, like "I love" for example. Today it seems we love
everything from carpet to the car in the driveway. Now I know we can discern the difference between I love chocolate and I love my child, but the word and phrase gets so over used
sometimes that its really lost it's power and meaning in our society.
The point is words are powerful, they're meant to convey a message, and we have to be sure of the message being conveyed. I find the phrase "I'm proud of you"
to be powerful and very meaningful. And maybe I'm speaking for myself but I think there are no more important words to hear, than to hear from your parents "I'm proud of you."
Even "I love you" doesn't carry with it perhaps what the phrase was meant to convey. After all it's expected our parents will love us, it's expected that God
will love us. But saying, "I'm proud of you" seems to offer an affirmation that's unexpected and different.
Like the times my human father told me he was proud of me, I have to say the words I long to hear on the day I stand before my heavenly Father aren't "I love
you" but rather, "I'm proud of you." After all God loves all people where as "I'm proud of you" goes beyond love to express something more, like, we pleased God.
- I so much want to know I've lived a life pleasing to God.
- I so much want to know I've made God proud.
- I want to know that I've pleased God, not for my sake, but for the sake of making a difference in peoples lives And I assume we all want to please God.
So if pleasing God is what we'd like to do, what does it take to please God? Well pleasing God requires much more than action and words. As I mentioned last
week it's more than being a good person, and it's more than being a church-going person. Our scripture reading tells us that what pleases God more than anything else is our faith,
and living into our faith is what we as followers of Christ ought to be doing.
It's our faith that God really cares about. God wants to know where we place our trust, our loyalty, and to whom we really commit our lives to. This truth is
echoed in our scripture reading, which concludes with the statement "without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists, and
thus he rewards those who earnestly seek him."
Are we true to our faith or do we live in and out of our faith depending on the situations we're facing or the people we're hanging out with?
And as we all can probably attest to, having faith, and keeping our faith can be a challenge sometimes. The writer of Hebrews reminds us of this challenge by
beginning our scripture reading today with the statement, "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
Put another way, "The fundamental fact of existence is that our trust in God, our faith, is the (very) foundation under everything that makes life worth
living. It's our handle on what we can't see." (The Message)
Its clear that our brothers and sisters in Christ, that came long before us, also struggled with keeping their faith. This is why the writer of Hebrews takes
the time to lift up examples of people who lived by faith, meaning they lived with the certainty of God's promises on their hearts even though they didn't necessarily understand or
experience the fruits of their faith. They did what God called them to do out of faith, not because they understood the complete plan God had for them. Plainly stated, they trusted
God and lived in that trust!
Now wouldn't life be a whole less stressful and wouldn't it be so much easier to follow God's tugging at us if we only knew what it would all lead to? Sure it
would. But there's no faith required if we knew everything already. We'd just do it without thought and without placing our trust in our Creator. And if everything always went well
our faith wouldn't be deep either. Again, "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see," especially when things don't seem to be going well.
- So it's by faith we're called to place our whole trust in God and follow His Son Jesus.
- It's by faith we're called to serve Christ's church.
- It's by faith we're called to help and witness to others.
- It's by faith we know our sins are forgiven.
- It's by faith we know God will deliver us from our troubles.
- It's by faith we hold onto the hope of eternal life even as we near death.
Now have you ever wondered, if because of your faithful living you've made a difference in the Church, the community, the world, or in the life of at least
one person? Have you ever wondered if you're making God proud? Again not to become pride-filled and full of ourselves, but making God proud because we're getting it and we're living
It can be frustrating sometimes knowing your trying your best to follow God's call on your life, even though we may never see the fruits of our efforts.
And I have to confess sometimes I get frustrated because I haven't seen what I think are the fruits of faithful obedience. And I really want to know, not so I
can get a pat on the back, but so I can adjust if I need to. You see, I really want to make God proud, I want to know I'm doing what God wants me to do, and I suspect all of you here
today want to as well.
But the truth is we may never know the outcome of our faithful living in this life, it's by faith we're to follow-through with our commitment to God knowing
he will use what ever we've done for his glory.
The worse thing we can do is throw in the towel and give up on our faith, because when we give up our faith, we give up our hope. And as one of the Utah
miners' family members said, "when we give up our hope, we give up our life."
When I last spoke with my father he told me he was looking forward to going home, he was looking forward to seeing Jesus. He was at peace, and was looking
forward to moving into God's heavenly home. Because of his faith he viewed his death as a healing, a blessing from God, knowing that his life wasn't over; it was just beginning a new
chapter. He believed if he would "cling to the old rugged cross, he would exchange it one day for a crown." My father was sure of what he hoped for and was certain of what he did not
He was serving as a witness to me that day; he had not lost hope or faith, but not a hope that looked for a miraculous cure, but a hope that he would be
healed as he died and was resurrected to new life.
And as far as I'm concerned he can be added to the list of those we find in our scripture reading this morning as an example of a faith-driven person. And I
can name many more people whom I'm sure have pleased God and made God proud by virtue of their faith and by living into the faith they professed to have. I've been blessed to know
some of these folks through this congregation.
Certainly one of the great promises we hope for is salvation. For those who have faith and have placed their faith in Christ as their Lord and Savior, we know
death is not the final answer, this is God's promise to us, a promise that we can't yet see, but certainly hope for.
By faith we've come to understand death is not the end, death is not the final answer; death for a follower of Christ is actually a new beginning. This is the
eternal hope we as Christians have. This is the hope that by faith we hold on to and can be sure of. A hope that anticipates the fulfillment of God's purposes, based on God's
covenant faithfulness, a covenant made with us his children.
You see it's in our faith that we find our ultimate strength for living in this world: it's by faith we can look forward to life beyond this life, to a place
where there's no pain, no sadness, and no death. This is God's promise to us, and God's faithfulness to his promises has no end, because his promises are for eternity.
So when we take our last breath and cross over to the outstretched arms of Jesus and our life is evaluated, it's my hope that we all, because of our faith,
hear the words, "Well done thy good and faithful servant. I'm proud of you." Amen!
This sermon was inspired by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Bible.
Read other messages by Pastor Wade