[Before his retirement in 2008, Bill wrote the following for the World Gospel Church newsletter. I found this missel among sermon notes collected in a small box. I believe the message is worth retelling, and reflect now after 15 years the what, when, and where we did not know then. ~AC]
One of Charles Wesley’s forgotten hymns has a stanza that should be learned by every Christian: Faith, mighty faith, the promise sees, / And looks to that alone; / Laughs at impossibilities, / And cries, It shall be done! The reason why I find Wesley’s verse so important is not only because of the essential role of faith in our Christian life, but as Harry Emerson Fosdick points out in his devotional book, The Meaning of Faith, faith is inevitable in every person’s life: Man cannot live without faith because he exists in a universe the complete explanation of which is forever beyond his grasp, so that whatever he thinks about the total meaning of creation is fundamentally faith. In other words, as Fosdick points out, The question is not whether or not we shall live by faith. The question is rather – By what faith shall we live?
Both for the religious and the non-religious, this brings faith off the sidelines of life and puts it in the middle of the playing field. At the same time, it forces us to realize that faith is not about good feelings or vacuous “believe-ism,” but it is rational and the result of honest and deliberate thought, else it falls into the category of what used to be part of our erstwhile childhood games: “let’s pretend.”
To quote Fosdick again: A man can no more avoid looking ahead when he lives his life than he can when driving his car. In both, his direction is determined by his thought about what lies ahead. But since no one knows for sure what lies ahead, faith comes into practice. Obviously, no rational person plays “let’s pretend” when traveling I-70, unless life is left in the hands of chance.
For Christians, who have every reason to believe that creation is exactly what the word means and is not unplanned happenstance, faith is trust in a Creator who continues to be involved in His creation and in His good will for His creation. In fact, the Creator has revealed Himself and His purpose not only in His creation but also in His revelation of Himself to those whom He also created in His image.
As Christians, the inevitable faith by which we face the unknown circumstances that lie before us is that God is the Creator who has made us for His purposes, and that He who made us loves what He has made and has in His good will put eternity in our hearts. With Charles Wesley we too can sing, Faith…the promise sees, / looks to that alone / disregards what seems impossible / and declare that is shall be done.
As I approach my retirement as pastor of WGC, it is this truth that rings in my heart. The road that stretches before me is unknown to me, but not to Him who has made me, called me, and blessed me beyond my wildest dreams. He knows every curve in the road and every danger; He knows where the potholes are and on which side I need to be driving; and He knows every what and when and where that I cannot see. And knowing His promises, that the best is yet to be, the last for which the first was made (you really didn’t think I could resist quoting Browning, did you?), I can say it shall be done.
But so much of my present thought also lies with this church to which God so graciously led me 19 years ago. As I have seen the Search Committee being formed and sat in with the Elders as they discussed their plans for finding the next Senior Pastor, I am confident that faith, mighty faith, can see the promise and be certain that with God’s leading, the right pastor will lead this congregation. That said, it must also be realized that the prayers of the entire congregation are a vital part of the process, because, without prayer, God’s leading will not be clearly seen.
W.E. Orchard, concludes one of his beautiful prayers with this statement: By faith we follow after Thee, through love we find the way, in hope we bring ourselves to Thee. To which we all can say: Amen. ~Pastor Bill (2008)