- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2003

The following are excerpts from a sermon Saturday by the Rev. Steven M. Jencks at Atholton Seventh-day Adventist Church in Columbia, Md.:
The story is told of a country church where they prayed for rain. One little girl brought her umbrella, and the people smiled at her child-like faith. But it rained. Did it rain because she brought her umbrella, or did she bring her umbrella because she knew it was going to rain? The way you interpret this story may show how you define faith.
The most common misunderstanding of faith is that it is something you work up from within, that it is trying hard to make yourself believe something will happen. The evidence of genuine faith is trusting in God. It is God's gracious gift, so we obtain faith by a genuine relationship with God.
In Hebrews 11:23, we read about the faith of Moses. Moses is considered the pastor of pastors. He was raised in Pharaoh's household, but the time came when he had to side with the Egyptians or his own people, the Israelites. When he saw a Hebrew being beaten, he killed the Egyptian, and had to flee into the wilderness for the next 40 years.
Here is Moses, a graduate of the University of Egypt. Yet with all his knowledge, he was still unfit to do the work of God. He said, "Lord, look at my grades and performance." God wasn't all that impressed. So the Lord gave him advanced training in the Sinai desert. It was a 40-year course in how to surrender to God's will. It was here that Moses wrote Genesis, the very first book of the Bible and the story of creation. He was surrounded by sheep and he cared for them. After that, God could trust Moses with His own people.
Graduation finally came, and God was the commencement speaker. He spoke not from a platform, but from a burning bush. Moses wore no cap and gown, but took off his shoes. He was standing on holy ground. And after graduation? Job placement.
Moses' job was to go back to Egypt. He was about 80 years old, and in the face of Egypt's soldiers and chariots, he carried only a weather-beaten and crooked stick. Egypt was the mightiest superpower. But without the gimmicks of trick photography, Moses used his staff and his faith to bring the kingdom to its knees.
It looked like a one-way ticket to the grave. But one plus God always means victory. Where did Moses develop that kind of belief? Not on the doorstep of Egypt. He found it in the valley, down where no one wants to be. He did not just read it in a book. He forged his faith by years in the desert, counting sheep and being alone with God.
And so friends, if you are going through a Sinai desert experience, thank God because he is equipping you to lead in an Exodus experience. None of us want to hear that the way of faith is often the way of trial. We want to hear "dessert" sermons. We want peace and safety. But look at Moses. He left the valley trusting God, and stood before Pharaoh, who was a Saddam Hussein, a Hitler, and a Fidel Castro all in one.
The way of faith is the way of patience. We usually prefer to get things done, get them behind us. But God knows there is experience in the process. Why couldn't God train Moses more quickly, for example. When Moses used 10 plagues to persuade Pharaoh, why not use the last one right at the beginning? God is interested in more than just getting the job done. His purpose is that all might come to repentance. Nine times God asked Pharaoh to change his ways. Are we as patient with one another?
We are on the verge of war. We have no idea of what potentially could happen. But in the eyes of faith, there is hope in this generation. This is not the time to sleep as a church. You might say, "Oh God, if I only had a burning bush in my back yard to speak to me." You have something better, the Scripture, the whole counsel of God. It's within your grasp.
Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Edward Taylor at Sixth Presbyterian Church in the District

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