Today I’d like to speak to you about “Sticky Faith.” It’s been said, “Observe the postage stamp; its usefulness depends on the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there.” That’s the type of faith that we want. We want a faith that doesn’t fall away when the going gets tough.
Jesus speaks to his disciples in Luke 21, and he warns them that the going will get tough. The Temple will get destroyed, and they will be persecuted for their faith. But he says “Stand firm, and you will win your life.”
I’m going to share 3 principles that I think will help us to pursue “sticky faith.”
Background: The Coming Destruction of the Temple
This passage starts out with something that would have been unimaginable to the first disciples. Jesus says that the Temple would soon be in ruins.
[It’s important to remember when we say “the Temple” we’re not talking about some little gathering place for a few Jewish people to worship. It was not a synagogue. The Temple in Jerusalem was one of the great buildings of the ancient world. It was decked out by Herod the Great in hopes that the people he was ruling for Rome would approve of him.
The Temple was the place that the Old Testament-mandated sacrifices were fulfilled. It was the center of Israel’s worship. It was supposed to be the place where heaven and earth met.]
And so Jesus and his disciples are looking at the beautiful Temple, and Jesus says, “you can’t count on it being here much longer.” In fact, the Temple would be destroyed in 70 A.D., fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy.
This leads me to the first principle of sticky faith:
Principle 1: Get stuck to the right thing
I think of something like honey or maple syrup. It’s fine if it’s stuck to the chicken nugget or the pancake or whatever it’s supposed to be stuck to. But if it gets on your hand, or on the handle of a utensil, you’re not going to be happy.
In the same way, sticky faith needs to be stuck to the right thing. Jesus tells his first disciples, “Don’t stick your faith to this Temple.”
In John’s Gospel, Jesus is asked for a sign to prove his authority to overturn the moneychangers tables in the Temple. His reply: “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
They replied to him, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”
Then comes John’s editorial comment: But the temple he had spoken of was his body.
One of the scandalous claims of Jesus’ ministry was that he himself was to be the new center of Israel’s worship of God. Jesus himself would become the Temple. No longer would people meet God in the Jerusalem Temple. From now on they would meet God in and through the person of Jesus. In place of the Old Testament sacrificial system, Jesus’ own sacrifice on the cross would atone for the sins of the world.
Like Jesus’ first disciples, we need to get stuck to the right thing. All Christians need to be stuck to Jesus.
Sometimes people’s faith ends up getting stuck to buildings like to Temple or to a church.What would happen to your life of faith if this building crumbled? If you’re stuck to Jesus, despite your sadness, your faith would continue on.
What about our denomination? If it crumbled, would your faith crumble? If it would, you are probably stuck to the wrong thing. A denomination is a tool that helps people stick to Jesus and live out his mission. But we need to be stuck to Jesus himself.
What about your pastor or some public Christian figure. If that person’s life fell apart, would your faith endure? (For the record, by the grace of God, my life is most certainly not falling apart). People will fail. Buildings and Institutions will fail. But Jesus Christ will never fail. We must be stuck to him.
Principle 2 (of Sticky Faith): Don’t let yourself get ripped off
I thought of two other sticky things. Post-it notes and super glue.
Some people’s faith is like a post-it note. It’s stuck to whatever they want to stick it to for however long they want it stuck there. They put it here for a little while, then over there for a while. Eventually, they might just crumble it up and trash it.
Jesus warned us about the dangers about being ripped off if we’re not stuck on tight to him. He said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.
There are lots of false Jesuses out there in the smorgasbord of spiritual options available to us. Jesus says, “Accept no substitutes. Don’t get ripped off.” Stick to the real Jesus– the 1st century Jewish man who was crucified and raised from the dead after 3 days. The real Jesus, who the Holy Spirit continues to reveal to us through Scripture, prayer, and through Holy Communion, among other things. Accept no substitutes. Don’t get ripped off.
Post-it faith is easily ripped off. We’re after super-glue faith– a rock-solid permanent bond.
Jesus warns his disciples that they will be arrested, persecuted, and handed over to political authorities because of their association with Jesus. He speaks of a persecution that is unknown to most, if not all of us. But such persecution is well known in other areas of the world, and it was very well known in early church history.
I recently came across a true story of a couple Christians that have that super-glue faith. These are the words of Nicky Gumbel, pioneer of the Alpha course:
“Maryam and Marziyeh were arrested in Iran in 2009. Their crime: being Christians. They were blindfolded, interrogated and became ill during their time in prison. They were taken to court. Mr Haddad, the prosecuting lawyer, asked the two women if they were Christians. ‘We love Jesus,’ they replied. He repeated his question and they responded, ‘Yes, we are Christians.’
Mr Haddad asked whether they regretted becoming Christians, to which they replied, ‘We have no regrets.’ Then he stated emphatically, ‘You should renounce your faith verbally and in written form.’ They stood firm and replied, ‘We will not deny our faith.’
When Mr Haddad told the women to return to prison to think about their options and come back to him when they were ready (to comply), Maryam and Marziyeh responded, ‘We have already done our thinking.’
Principle 3: Trust the bond
After Jesus warns his disciples of coming persecution, he continues to surprise with what follows:
13 This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14 So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15 for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict
Most people would say that being arrested, persecuted, and brought before political authorities for judgement would make for a pretty bad day. Jesus says, “what a great opportunity!” Here we are again talking about Jesus’ seemingly upside down way of seeing the world.
And he doubles down and says, “Don’t prepare your defense in advance.” Now, I admit, this is a little awkward for me, since literally last week was my sermon on preparing to defend your faith. That’s the tension of the Gospel for you. Sure, you can have a reasoned foundation for the hope that you have, but don’t depend on it. Depend on God.
Jesus is saying that when you’re in a high pressure situation where you’re called to give an account, you can trust the bond that you have with him. You can lean on it. That bond is none other than the Holy Spirit himself, who is the bond of love shared between the Father and the Son– the life and loving relationship of God that God extends to disciples of Jesus.
When the going gets tough, you don’t have to doubt whether or not the bond will hold. You are stuck to Jesus and he’s stuck with you. He’ll give you words, by the Holy Spirit.
But how? It’s all about the relationship. Katie and I send each other text updates throughout the day to stay connected. But we also have several chunks of time where we sit down together and talk. It’s the same with our relationship with God. We check in throughout the day, but we also spend 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there in conversation. The relationship grows, and so when the going gets tough, we can trust the bond.
We’re all going to go through times of difficulty in life. We may or may not ever face the level of persecution that Jesus talked about here. But we can still live by the same principles.
First, we get stuck to the right thing. That’s Jesus. Not the building. Not our denomination. Not even our family. We stick ourselves to Jesus.
Second. We don’t let ourselves get ripped off. We avoid the post-it type stickiness that easily moves from one source of hope to another. We stick tight to Jesus. Like the postage stamp, we hold on until we reach the destination.
Third, we depend on the bond. We depend on the Holy Spirit to give us the words, the wisdom, the power, and the strength that we need for whatever challenge we’re facing.
You can stick at it. You can persevere. You can endure. You can stand firm. May you claim and live out this reality, today and always. Amen.