• Rossendale Circuit

Fingertip Faith - Sunday Service 25.07.21

with Revd. David Burrow


Video Service

Watch on youtube here.


Hymns & Songs:


MP 200 'Great is thy faithfulness'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTKIqmdfHSk


MP 645 'The God of Abraham praise'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWjPTXtCAHE


MP 168 'Give me the faith which can remove'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Am_ZMcRLLcs&t=32s


'I Came to Believe In A Power Much Higher Than I' (Johnny Cash)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VFJtfjnJbs


'The River' by Garth Brooks

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ta2pElME5N8


MP 133 'Father I place into your hands'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6T8759Wdg3U


MP 602 'Sing we the King who is coming to reign'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2VboZhk6rE from Ghana – no lyrics


MP 148 'For all the saints'

https://youtu.be/VHVv79W_EpA



There will be no video service next week.




Transcript



Call to worship: Psalm 135:1-3


MP 200 'Great is thy faithfulness'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTKIqmdfHSk


MP 645 'The God of Abraham praise'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWjPTXtCAHE


Prayer: Father, we praise you for your love and faithfulness. As your goodness and power break into our lives we bow down in wonder and adoration.

We look to the heavens and see the stars and are speechless before You, the Lord of glory.

We pause and you flood our thoughts with your presence, and our hearts and minds with your grace.

Lord, we confess that there are times when you seem far away and we experience a sense of being lost and alone.

We confess that, at times, we have walked away from you and have shut ourselves out of your presence.

We know that it is only through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that the doorway to new life and renewal is thrown wide open when we come confessing our need, and our readiness to receive the forgiveness and cleansing that comes only through your grace.

Lord, we are ready to receive your forgiveness. Cleanse us and make us new, in Jesus name. Amen


Lord’s Prayer


Read: Genesis 12:1-9 & 15:1-6


Abram looked towards heaven, at countless stars and trusted God to fulfil His promise of a son, and even though humanly it seemed impossible, Abram had faith to believe.

By the time we get from the call of Abram in chapter 12 of Genesis to chapter 15 we find that Abram is well aware of how God has worked in his life.

God had blessed him and Sarai through the Egyptians – even though Abram had been less than honest in his dealings with them.

God had given Abram and his nephew Lot such large flocks of sheep and other animals that they had to go their separate ways to find enough food. Abram, we are told was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. Later, after he had rescued Lot from captivity Abram was blessed by the King of Salem – Melchizedek who was also priest of God Most High.

Abram had experienced all of this but still he had no son. And so he cried out to God in prayer and God answered him. “Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them. So shall your descendants be.”

And Abram believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Abram’s faith put him in a right relationship with God.


Now, on to the New Testament reading.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Halls of Fame. You can probably name lots of the stars who are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or the Boxing Hall of Fame.

You might have more of a challenge with the Classic FM Hall of Fame and then of course there is the Bible’s ‘Hall of Fame’. A list of famous characters, including Abraham, from the Old Testament which you can find in Hebrews chapter 11 in the New Testament.

These are people who held on to their faith in the face of sometimes seemingly impossible odds.

The letter to the Hebrews was written to Christians who, because of their faith, had been isolated, abused and persecuted; they’d had their property stolen and had suffered terribly and yet they believed and were saved; even so, it must have sometimes seemed as if they were hanging on to their faith by their fingertips. (10:32-39)


The writer of Hebrews tries to help his readers understand what is going on in verse 1 of chapter 11 where he tells them and us that, ‘Faith is believing that there is more to life than meets the eye.

Faith is putting your trust in something that is greater and more permanent than all we see around us. Faith is a way of living that recognises the present can not only give us an inkling of what is to come but it can also obscure what is to come’.

Read: Hebrews 11:1-3 & 8-13

Abraham is an example of living by faith.

To do so is both courageous and risky. He travelled and trusted in the light of a promise that seemed to be taking forever to come to fruition. Sometimes he wondered if it would ever happen.

Would there be children? God had promised there would be, and Abraham had looked towards heaven and counted the stars.

For Christians today this is a real encouragement to hold loosely to the present and to draw strength from Abraham’s ‘travelling trust.’

We live with the promises of Jesus; some of which are yet to be fulfilled.

Some will only be realised in heaven, but our faith in God and our relationship with Jesus keeps us journeying on, and as we travel, through all that life throws at us, we discover a deeper awareness of God and of our own humanity.


MP 168 'Give me the faith which can remove'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Am_ZMcRLLcs&t=32s


'I Came to Believe In A Power Much Higher Than I' (Johnny Cash)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VFJtfjnJbs


Photo by Matteo Raw via Unsplash


Fingertip faith


A rider on horseback was galloping across the plains when his horse suddenly screeched to a halt. He flew in a gentle arc over the horse’s head and over the edge of the canyon, which the horse had spotted. As he fell to what seemed like certain death, he managed to grab hold of a tree branch growing out from the side of the cliff.

Hanging on for dear life he shouted, “Help! Is anyone there?”

A voice from heaven called back. “This is God, trust me, let go and I will see you safe!”.

The rider thought for a moment and then shouted, “Is anyone else there?”


Years ago, I read: ‘Happy are those who have an unquestioning faith, who can testify, “I have never doubted the presence of a loving God who will provide for all my needs”.

And I thought, my journey of faith is not like that. Is yours?


As a preacher it’s too easy to proclaim the great truths of Christianity without recognising that there are some in our congregations who are only just hanging on to their faith by their fingertips.

Suffering across the world from wars, fires, floods, famine and the pandemic, as well as personal illness and accidents, leads to countless personal tragedies.

All of these can overwhelm our faith, eating away at our hope and eroding our trust in God who loves us. What do we say to people going through such experiences?


Can we simply say, look towards heaven and count the stars?


Well, ‘No’ and ‘Yes’. ‘

No’ because it initially sounds very patronising, but ‘Yes’ because to look to heaven and count the stars is, with Abraham, to trust our God who keeps his promises.

Telling Christians who are persecuted for their faith to look towards heaven and count the stars may indeed seem a little trite, but it is what they are doing. Mehdi Dibaj, an Iranian Christian, told the Iranian Revolutionary Court, “I am not only satisfied to be in prison for the honour of His Holy Name, but am ready to give my life for the sake of Jesus my Lord . . . Life for me is an opportunity to serve Him, and death is a better opportunity to be with Christ.” She was martyred for her faith.


Compare her words with those of the writer of Psalm 42:3, 9. ‘My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, "Where is your God?" I say to God, my rock, "Why have you forgotten me?”

In these few words we hear the writer, even when wondering if God has forgotten him, still hanging on to faith by his fingertips, struggling with doubts, but still hanging on.

The writers of the Psalms are always honest about their faith.


How can we help those who are hanging on by their fingertips?

Do we tell them, “Look towards heaven and count the stars”? Well again, no and yes!

But first we must accept that to cling to your faith by your fingertips takes courage.

When everything else in life says, “Where is your God?” or ‘God doesn’t care, look at you, you’re lost and abandoned’, we hold on as if God does care, as if God can be trusted.

We hang on in there, by our fingertips, straining for the light at the end of the tunnel – we might not be able to see it, but we know, by faith, that it will come.


Clinging on to faith by your fingertips bears a strong resemblance to the kind of faith described by the writer to the Hebrews, when he says, ‘we are confident of what we hope for, convinced of what we do not see’ (11:1),


When we are holding on to our faith by our fingertips, we can take comfort from Jesus as he hung on the cross and quoted Psalm 22: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

And the psalm continues, ‘Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest’.


For Jesus, it seemed to everyone else that there was no point in “Looking towards heaven and counting the stars”, he was defeated. God had forsaken him, and yet the psalm 22 ends in confident hope: ‘From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me. I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation, I will praise you: You who fear the LORD, praise him!

All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.’ 21b-24


Jesus was looking towards heaven and counting the stars after all.

It turns out that he was holding on to the promises of God despite the cross. We know this because his final words resonate with trust and confident hope: ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’ (Luke 23:46).


Hebrews 11 goes on to describe the enduring faithfulness of those who journeyed into the unknown, who suffered torture and even death, who never knew the promises of Jesus as we do, and yet they trusted God, in his grace to be with them.

Fingertip faith is to hold on, it is to look towards heaven and count the stars, it is to be determined to trust God that when we reach the top of the mountain and the sun breaks through, we will discover, just as Jesus did, that we are not, and never were alone.


'The River' by Garth Brooks

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ta2pElME5N8


MP 133 'Father I place into your hands'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6T8759Wdg3U


Prayers of Intercession

Pray for people around the world suffering from fires and floods.

Continue to pray for the victims of the pandemic remembering especially those who have been bereaved.

Pray for your own loved ones. We will us the blessing to pray for ourselves.


MP 602 'Sing we the King who is coming to reign'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2VboZhk6rE from Ghana – no lyrics


MP 148 'For all the saints'

https://youtu.be/VHVv79W_EpA


Blessing


A going-out prayer Based on Genesis 15:5


When your journey brings happiness and fulfilment, remember God’s providence.

Look towards heaven and count the stars.

When you are lost, and hopeless, remember God’s promise. Look towards heaven and count the stars.

When you are bogged down in the trivia of everyday life, remember God’s call.

Look towards heaven and count the stars.

When you draw near to your journey’s end, remember whose you are

Look towards heaven and count the stars. Amen.



O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, Hear me.


From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred to others...

From the desire of being consulted...

From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, O Jesus.


From the fear of being forgotten...

From the fear of being ridiculed...

From the fear of being wronged…

From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, O Jesus.


That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I…

That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.


That others may be chosen and I set aside...

That others may be praised and I go unnoticed…

That others may be preferred to me in everything…

That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.