SUSTAINING THE FAITH: A REFLECTION DELIVERED BY REV.FR. DANIEL EVBOTOKHAI AT CANAAN LAND, AFUZE ON THE OCCASION OF THE PENTECOST PROGRAM OF THE CATHOLIC CHARISMATIC RENEWAL OF NIGERIA, DIOCESE OF AUCHI. 8/6/2019

SUSTAINING THE FAITH: A REFLECTION DELIVERED BY REV.FR. DANIEL EVBOTOKHAI AT CANAAN LAND, AFUZE ON THE OCCASION OF THE PENTECOST PROGRAM OF THE CATHOLIC CHARISMATIC RENEWAL OF NIGERIA, DIOCESE OF AUCHI. 8/6/2019

dankhai16@yahoo.com

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Perhaps no other component of the Christian life is more important than faith. We cannot purchase it from any market, we cannot sell it in any Church or crusade ground, we cannot download it from the internet, and we cannot borrow it from anyone. Faith is not something we conjure up on our own, nor is it something we are born with, nor is faith a result of diligence in pursuit of the spiritual. Ephesians 2:8 makes it clear that faith is a gift from God, it is not by our own doing.  James 1:17 says every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like a shifting shadows. Faith is a gift and a supernatural gift for that matter. If it were a natural gift some afford it; but as a supernatural gift no one can afford. This gift enables us to believe without doubting whatever God has revealed Penny Catechism (Catechism of Christian Doctrine no.9).

Faith is defined as belief in God, or trust in God without logical proof. Whenever, you seek for proof in order for you to believe you are engage in empiricism. This is the theory that all knowledge is based on experience derived from the senses. Stimulated by the rise of experimental science, it developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, expounded in particular by John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume. A man who has faith does not wait for verification. The bible says in John 20:29 blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

Most times, faith and believe are used almost interchangeably. Wherever we see the words “faith” or “believe” in the New Testament, they are usually a translation from the original Greek root word pistis. The noun form of the word, pistis, is usually translated as “faith” and the verb form, pisteuo, is translated as “believe.” In the New Testament, the words “faith” and “believe” often imply confidence, trust and reliance. Therefore, faith is confidence without evidence.  Faith don’t wait for evidence, faith is irrespective of evidence.  The woman with the issue of blood in Mark 5: 25-34 only heard about Jesus and she was confident to touch Jesus.  In Mark 10:46-52 the story of  a blind beggar named Bartimaeus (literally “Son of Timaeus”), in verse 47 the bible says when heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, be began to shout, “Jesus! Son of David! Take pity on me!” The Bible says in Rom 10:17 “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” They only heard and they  became confident. In Luke 11:28 blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it. Hear me, the only evidence you need to have faith is to hear the word of God.

It so sad today, a lot of Christians hear God’s message but go about searching for signs. Many Christians run around for signs and wonders and pastors have turned them to wanderers. Christians today go to consult malams, Christians indulge in palm readings and divinations, they indulge in stars interpretation and soothsaying, and they indulge in all forms of Egyptian magic, strange formulas and black power. All these are expression of faithlessness. Regrettably, Christians are exploited   because they don’t know their God and I make bold to say that many Catholics are heavily exploited today because they don’t know their God. Catholics don’t know what they have. The bible says in Dan 11:32 “…They that know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” To know God is to know the word of God and that is what brings faith.

FOUR PACKAGES OF FAITH 

  1. Faith is ability to follow irrespective of destination

Abraham is mentioned several times in the Bible for some of the great things he accomplished, Hebrews 11 says that he followed God even though he was not sure where he was going. Abraham is known as a man of faith who faithfully followed the Lord’s leading. Jesus says to Peter and Andrew “follow me” the same way he said to the Levi “follow me” to John and James “Follow me”. To follow him means to imitate him. Christians today, want to follow God only when they are sure of their destination.

In Luke 9:57 As they were walking along the road, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow You wherever You go.” In verse 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”. That is faith, this man was ready to follow Jesus whether he leaves in a mansion or in a shade. If we follow then we shall not wallow; many Christians are wallowing about because they have not decided to follow Jesus; rather they follow pastors. If we follow Jesus we shall get to heaven but when we follow pastors we shall get to their house.

Abraham followed God faithfully whether it makes sense to him logically or not. Again, even though God had promised that Abraham’s descendants would one day be a great nation, He asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac in Genesis 22 and Abraham followed  and in verse 17 God said I will surely bless you. Today we sing “Abraham blessings are mine; but I tell you; you can’t attract those blessings if you do not have his faith.

As many that will operate in the realm of Abraham’s faith His blessings shall be yours! And the bible says in Jer31:14 my people shall be filled with my blessings. You shall be bless in the morning, evening, and all through, and in Deu.28:6 You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. Gen 27:29 puts it clearly; you will be so bless  such that those who will bless you will be blessed and those who will cause you will be caused.

  • Faith is a Response to Revelation

By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. (Hebrews 11:7)

Out of the blue Noah was told about a disastrous flood and he believed God. he was only told and he belived God. There was no weather forecast, in fact, Noah had never seen anything like global flood before,  am sure it was not even in raining season otherwise that would have serve as an element for his believe.People may have mocked him, called him a fool or insane; but Noah turned out to be the only sane man around. It is the essence of sanity to take what God says seriously, whereas it is the insanity of sin (lost of the sense of the sacred) to reject the Word of God.

Noah’s faith is illustrated in the fact that, after being warned by God that a great flood would be coming, he made practical preparations for something he had “not yet seen.” The bible says in 2Cor.5:7 “walk by faith, not by sight”. In Matt.1:20 an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife…” in Matt. 2:12 And being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another road; in this same chapter 13 and 14 the escape to Egypt, the appearance of the angel was also in a dream. All through the birth narrative Joseph was responding to the revelations he was receiving; because he believed. In Luke 1:38 Mary believed all the Angel said to her. Beloved in Christ, faith is what enables you to respond to the inspirations you receive. Many persons who were inspired have expired today, because they neglected their inspirations. If Noah, Joseph, Mary and many others have ignored those messages the story would have been different. If those who wrote the bible neglected the inspiration of God the bible would have been a mere novel or history book.  You may not have to wait until an angel appears in your dream or physically, faith is the believe in what God has revealed. God has reveal himself to us in Jesus Christ, are you still in doubt?

  • Faith is the joyful acceptance of your cross

Today in Christendom, discipleship is easily claimed by many. We all call ourselves disciples of Jesus and we forget the demands placed on discipleship. We like the name but we don’t like the demands. Every disciple must be ready to carry his cross. In Luke 9:23 Jesus says “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himselftake up his cross daily, and follow me. … And whoever does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple.” Hear me, discipleship without the cross is a wrong ship. And you cannot be in a wrong ship and expect to come to a right destination.  

In the Gethsemane experience of Jesus, in Luke 22:44 the bible says Jesus prayed earnestly. And His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground. This was no joke, in the sciences it is called Hematohidrosis. It is a rare clinical phenomenon in which a human being sweats blood. Leonardo Da Vinci described a soldier who sweated blood before battle. Jesus Christ experienced hematohidrosis while praying in the garden of Gethsemane.

The causes of hematohidrosis have been divided into nonreligious and religious. The nonreligious causes are as a component of systemic disease, vicarious menstruation (bleeding from a surface other than the mucous membrane of the uterine cavity that occurs at the time when normal menstruation should take place),

The religious cause is a stigma, which formerly meant a spot, a sign, a wound, characterized around Jesus wounds; even the saints equally experience this for it believed to be supernaturally imposed by God. hear me Jesus was not having any systemic disease his sweat like drops of blood was because he prayed earnestly. He prayed for the cup to pass him by, yet he accepted the answers of that prayer.

Hear me, the problem of this generation of Christians is an ‘unoffered prayer’ and an ‘unacceptable answer’. Both are manifestation of faith poverty. A man who has faith will joyfully accept no for answer and yes for an answer. He prayed for the cup to pass him by; but it did not. You prayed for that child not to die; yet he died, you have prayed for spouse yet no one, you prayed and prayed for your marriage to work, yet no avail, you prayed to have a child of your own, no way; you prayed for promotion and all you knew is demotion. Beloved in Christ, the cross makes you bitter but to make you better later.

Again, he was praying alone and he said to Peter can you not keep an hour with me? The cross can be so heavy on you that you will not find prayer partner. Peter, James and John were like Jesus’ prayer partner; yet at this hour he can’t find one praying with him. You may have business partner and when its business you see them, that is good. You can also have prayer partner and when its prayer time you see them. But it may get to a point when things are turned upside down you will look for them you will not see them, you may even be shy to go your priest because it appears he is tired of your situation. Then you are left alone. Faith is your response to this situation.

The cross has characteristics for mockery. They said to Jesus, you save others but he cannot save himself. Have you seen things work for others but it does not work for you. As an intercessor you prayed for people and they get result, but in your case no result. It is your cross, joyfully accept it. Pastors heal cancer but their wife die of cancer. 

  • Faith is pleases God

Heb. 11:6 says without faith, it is impossible to please God. This means that if you pray and shout, climb mountain and enter valley, fast for 4o days and 40 nights, book all the masses and say novena prayers. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Beloved in Christ, faith is the only pleasant ornament that attracts God. Jesus Christ could not resist the faith of all those who approached him, thus, he would say go you faith has healed you. Hear me, faith is an irresistible perfume. If faith pleases God it follow therefore that faithlessness displeases God.

We go through stress because we don’t apply faith. Where faith is applied stress is reduced. Our tears do not move God; but faith does. The bible say 2Cor.5:7 we walk by faith not by sight and in Rom. 14:23 the Bible says whatever we do apart from faith is a sin. If you have a baby not out faith is a sin. This is will the moral teaching of the Church continues to frown at in vitro fertilization, and sterilization that hold on to the fact that a baby is made or created and not begotten.     

SIX WAYS TO SUSTAIN YOUR FAITH

1 Tim.4:16 exhort us to keep the faith: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them.” Acts 14:22  When Paul visited the recently established churches in Asia Minor, his goal was “strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.”  Again,  Heb 12:1 says Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. The key word beloved in Christ is endurance. Other ways to keep the faith are:

  1. Have an honest doubt: Beloved in Christ, Thomas honest doubt a model of faith for modern Christians. He was right to insist that before he could believe in Jesus’ resurrection he must see the holes the nails made in his hands, put his finger into the holes and his hand into the great wound made by the centurion’s lance. Thomas doubt was a necessary doubt that saves us from gullibility. His doubt was faith seeking understanding. Today, despite the level of awareness it has become so easy to fool Christians than to convince them. A lot of Christians today are gullible, they believe anything, if you tell them to eat grass for breakthrough they will make grass their daily meals, if you tell them to bring mirror, egg, fowl, red candle and sand from their compound to the church all in the name of favour, and miracle they will do it. Christians today are ready to use any oil ranging from visa oil, husband oil, back to sender oil, promotion oil, quick money oil they use many different kind of oils and pastors are selling these oil as if the church is now a refinery. Beloved in Christ, gullibility is the tendency to be easily persuaded that something is real or true. In gullibility a man is so open-minded that his brains fall out. Hear me, a Christian who is gullible is vulnerable and this is why many Christians leave in regrets. Even the bible does not ask you to believe everything; 1John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 Thess. 5:21  But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; and thus,  Matt 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are greedy wolves. (Extract from the Homily of Rev. Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai for Second Sunday of Easter Year C )
  • Remember how you received your faith. We need to be intentional about remembering God’s grace in our lives. At times we are quick to remember circular history but our sacred history and event are not remembered. We need to remember the wonderful gift of God’s salvation upon our lives. The Old Testament saints often demonstrated the importance of remembering. The Israelites were instructed to set up memorials, and many of the Jewish feasts were designed to remember and celebrate God’s deliverance. Deu.4:9 says, “Be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Psalm 103:2 says, “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” When we praise God, we remember His past goodness, and that makes it easier to keep trusting Him at present. The liturgical memorials,  feasts and other celebrations in the Church are means to keep us going. To be inspired by the example of the saints and apostles.
  •   Love truth and commit yourself to the Word of God. If you must not derail from the faith, love truth and study God’s Word. Some people don’t want to be told the truth, they like it when you stress them and deceive them.  In 1Tim. 4:1 the bible says  that in later days some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. That time is here already. Many demons own churches and they have followers. that, in the latter days, those who abandon the faith “follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” In Gal1:6-7 the bible says, to accept “another gospel” is to fall into error. Therefore, be careful, most prayer ground are ‘preyer ground’ and  burial ground.  And the bible says in 1 John 4:1 “test the spirits to see whether they are from God”. Beloved, as in  John 16:13the Spirit of truth will never lead us into untruth.
  • Growth in Christ. Jesus is the author of our faith (the one who initiated the relationship), and He is the perfecter of our faith (the one who will see it through to the end). From beginning to end, Jesus is the source of our faith. We remember what He has done, and we look forward to what He will do. Practically, this involves having an active prayer life,  and digging in to His truth. 
  • Abide in a community of Christians. Matt.18:20 says where two or three are gathered in my name I am there in their midst. And Jesus says abide in me and I in you. Beloved, if you do not abide you will fall aside. No doubt, the Christian life is not lived exclusively between God and the individual; but it is lived in community with other Christians. Heb. 10:25 says, we must not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Read)

Thomas’ absence a lesson for Christians: Thomas made one mistake; he withdrew from the Christian community and so he was not there when Jesus first appeared to them. After the event of Jesus’ death Thomas sought loneliness rather than togetherness and so he missed out. Beloved in Christ, we miss a great deal when we separate ourselves from the Christian body. Certain divine things can happy to us when we are gathered together as a church which can never happen when we are alone no matter how you fast and pray. Often times you hear people who say they are Christian but they don’t go to Church, ‘Church na mind e dey’. It is self deception and the first step towards atheism.  Jesus says in Matt18:20 Where two or three are gathered in my name I am there with them.  In Acts 2:1 the bible says “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.” The Holy Spirit came upon them while they were gathered in one place. In Acts 5:12, today’s first reading At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all together in Solomon’s portico. In Acts 12:12, they gathered in the House of Mary for prayers, in Acts 20:7  on the first day of the week, they gathered to break bread. Beloved in Christ gather with your group, there is power in the body of Christ, alone with you, you can do nothing, anyone can break a single stick of broom, but no one can break its collection. Whenever you isolate yourself from the body of Christ you submit yourself for attack and idle thoughts.(Extract from the Homily of Rev. Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai for Second Sunday of Easter Year C)

  • Daily Masses: Many struggle with this, but you can make it a personal commitment to your God. There are many benefits in participating in daily masses. 1.Keep us in the Presence of the Lord 2. Listening to His Word. 3.  Receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus.  4. Experiencing Community. There are some inspired revelation from the saints in this regard.
  • If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy. ~ Saint Jean Vianney
  • Once, St. Teresa was overwhelmed with God’s Goodness and asked Our Lord “How can I thank you?” Our Lord replied, “ATTEND ONE MASS.”
  • There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us. ~ Saint Jean Vianney
  • It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass. ~ St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Conclusion

Faith is essential to Christianity, and as we await the Holy spirit to fall afresh on us I earnest appreciate this topic you chose as it serves a better preparedness. For without faith you cannot even receive the Holy Spirit. Without demonstrating faith and trust in God, we have no place with Him. We believe in God’s existence by faith. Thank you for giving me this singular honour may God bless you all. Amen

Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria. He was ordained October 20th, 2018. He offers his daily homilies, talks and articles that bother on, faith, theology, morals and many other burning issues in religion and politics. Fr. Daniel writes poems, inspirational quotes and clips.

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