Many members of the people of Israel heard the teachings of Jesus, but they did not all act accordingly. In them came true the prophecy of the prophet, according to which “their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted” (Mat 13:15). The word that they heard did not reach their heart. Hearing the word did not profit them, as they did not believe it (Heb 4:2).
The plea, ”Speak Lord, thy servant hears,” is important for all service guests–both children of God and those who are searching for the kingdom of God and the merciful God. God is able to open the ears – the ears of the heart – to hear (Psa 40:7).
Faith is the work of God
God awakens an unbelieving person to hear His word in many different ways. Experiences of loss or success in life, one’s own or a dear one’s illness, the death of a dear one, or the example and way of life of a dear one may cause a person to stop and examine one’s own life from the perspective of eternity. Nevertheless, God especially causes man to pause by and through His word. When Martin Luther’s conscience awakened, he was sorrowful over his own sins. ”My sins, my sins, my great sins,” he lamented. The most important question became: where can I find the merciful God; how can I become a child of God?
Luther taught: ”I believe that I cannot of my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me by His gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith, even as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church in the true faith.” (Catechism, explanation of the 3rd article of the Creed)
The Holy Spirit has a congregation on this earth. As Luther says, it is the ”mother who gives birth and carries each and every Christian by the word of God” (Large Catechism).
Jesus left the power to forgive sins to His own disciples. Absolution is the true voice of the gospel. It comforts and calms the conscience. ”Faith comes by hearing,” as Paul says. Jesus said to His own: ”He who hears you, hears me.”
The living and life-giving gospel is present in the congregation of God through the Holy Spirit. God gives birth to his children by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is important to find believing people, who as members of God’s kingdom administer the office of the Holy Spirit: they free people from the bonds of sin through the gospel.
Luther teaches in his book of homilies: ”Thus faith does not come or stay except by hearing and through outward preaching of the gospel: thereby it is able to begin and grow or become stronger.”
By grace alone, through the merit of Christ
Faith is a gift of God. Each and every person is born into this world as an owner of this gift. To a person that has lost his or her childhood faith God gives faith as a gift through the gospel that He proclaims by the Holy Spirit in His kingdom. Only by faith is a person acceptable to God.
The object of faith is Jesus Christ. What has Christ done? What has He earned? This question is answered by the truth of the gospel: He redeemed man from sin, the power of the Devil, and eternal death. When we own Christ by faith, we have righteousness and life.
The gift of faith is worth preserving and nurturing. This requires all of God’s tools of grace. Christ strengthens our faith and increases our hope through the sacrament of communion – through the bread and wine. It is good to speak to the heavenly Father in prayer about things on our mind and thank Him for His gifts and help. The members of God’s family are encouraged in their endeavor when they meet believers at services and discuss about the way and the journey with friends. The congregation of God also has the precious gift of confession: a pardoned child of God has the right and the possibility to speak to a confessor-father or -mother about things that burden the mind and to hear the sweet message of forgiveness of sins.
The word of God – both read and heard – is essential in caring for one’s life of faith. Apostle Paul instructs us to read the Scriptures, reminding us that ”All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim 3:16–17) Paul encourages Timothy: ”But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation though faith which is in Jesus Christ.” (2 Tim 3:14–15)
We are instructed to hear the word of God by the third commandment, for example, which Luther has explained: ”We should so fear and love God as not to despise preaching and His Word, but deem it holy, and willingly hear and learn it.” Studying and hearing the word is the best worship and the best way to spend the Sabbath.
Faith is a matter of the heart and a personal matter. That is why watching in one’s personal faith and hearing the word of God and the gospel are important. We have reason to pray that God would preserve in our heart a desire to hear and learn the word of God. It is dangerous if we get tired of the word of God. The apostle warns against this, using the example of certain members of the congregation of the Hebrews: ”Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Heb 10:25)
Obedience of faith
God has given each of His children a teacher, the Holy Spirit. It guides the child of God in his or her endeavor. As the Spirit of God it takes us along the narrow way to our destination. It teaches us to put sin away and guides us to the fountains of grace. In the congregation of God it joins the children of God together into one family with bonds of love. The Spirit of God teaches its members to support one another with the word of God on the journey. This teacher expects its children to have the mind of a child and an obedient heart. We ask to be protected in the flock of the Good Shepherd so that we will reach the objective of our faith – our soul’s salvation.
God blesses obedient children. May we all have the request that young Samuel had: ”Speak [Lord]; for thy servant heareth.” (1 Sam 3:10)
Text: Aimo Hautamäki
Source: Tulevaisuuteen ja toivoon, Vuosikirja 2000
Julkaistu englanninkielisessä kieliliitteessä 24.11.2015.
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