Sunday afternoon’s service – the final worship service of General Assembly 2017 – began with a special presentation led by the worship team and Leslie Hart focusing on children. A video reminded the assembly to pray for children at risk. General Superintendent David W. Graves opened with prayer and later introduced the offering and the speaker for the evening, Eugénio R. Duarte.
Duarte’s sermon emphasized faith in terms of portraits. He began by reminding the assembly that faith is not a buzzword. Instead, faith is “a manner of life, a standard of life,” that allows us in the words of Paul to “stand firm together” (Phil. 1:27). Faith, Duarte reminded, comes from “hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Using examples of biblical characters such as Abraham (Genesis 15), Duarte stated that faith is more than head knowledge. It is a “specific way of life” exemplified in Abraham’s willingness to “let go and become fragile” in order to become fully dependent upon God.
Drawing from his own journey into faith and then into Christian ministry, Duarte framed faith first of all in terms of endurance: “Today, the same faith, maturing and developing, keeps me resolved never to give up on the promises of God.”
The second portrait of faith is framed in regard to choices: God calls and allows us the opportunity to choose His way. Contrasting Ahaz and Hezekiah in the Old Testament, Duarte highlighted examples of two men given opportunities from God who made decidedly different choices: one for evil, the other for good. Likewise, in response to the call of God, we may choose dependence upon God or self-centeredness.
Finally, the message framed faith in the context of action. Duarte spoke of the work of a 79-year-old Brazilian woman named Sister Nelcia, who was the first female pastor in her country. She has planted 11 churches in three different states. He brought her on stage to ask “What does faith mean to you?” She replied, “Faith means to totally trust Jesus Christ, and know that He can do whatever He says He can do. That is how I was able to help plant 11 churches, because of what God did through faith.” He then asked her son, who is now a district superintendent in Brazil, the same question. He replied that his mother taught him to both love and obey God. This is faith.
Finally, faith is framed in the portrait of change. Citing Charles Colson, Duarte concluded that “faith can be frightening and upsetting…but it is never boring.” When we honor God by faith, we will experience change, but we have no need to be afraid.
--Courtesy of Holiness Today