Many years ago, a small-town newspaper reported about the town picnic that was held just days before. The top “social news” printed that day told of the exciting highlights of the picnic, along with the names of the winners of the top two events. These two leading events were listed as follows:
“At the picnic Sunday, Mrs. Murchison won first prize in the ladies’ rolling-pin throwing contest. She threw her rolling-pin 99 yards.” This snippet was followed by another note that told of the other winner: “Mr. Murchison won the 100 yard dash.”
No one really knows for sure if this story is true, but it speaks of the faith Mrs. Murchison had in throwing the rolling-pin that distance. It speaks even more of the great faith Mr. Murchison had in running that distance, and at such a quick speed.
The above funny story was one that I read, but the following is absolutely true, for I witnessed it all take place in the Summer of 1957.
At barely the age of 20, my brother, Don, built and operated the largest miniature golf course I have ever seen. Needless to say, I spent every day of the Summers of 1957 and 1958 at that place.
One Summer day of 1957, Don needed to burn trash at the back of the property before time for the golf course to open for the day. But there was a problem. Don had no matches with him, and neither he nor Dad smoked.
But Don found a way, so he took a newspaper and set it on fire by using the car cigarette lighter from our 1954 Oldsmobile. He ran the LONG distance to the back of the property, but unfortunately, he didn’t make it there before the fire went out. He walked back to where the car was parked in the front parking lot to start the process all over again. He ran, but the fire went out again long before he reached the pile of trash.
After SEVERAL attempts of running to start the fire, Don was completely worn out, so our Dad showed him “just how it was to be done.” Dad twisted another newspaper rather tightly, and then set it on fire using the car cigarette lighter. I had never seen Dad run that fast, but like Don, the fire Dad was carrying soon went out on him, too. Dad ran that distance several times, but each time became slower and slower, as were his walks back to the car.
After watching it all over a period of time, this then 11-year-old finally spoke up. I suggested to Dad and Don that they simply “DRIVE our car to the back of the property.” There, they could light another newspaper from the car cigarette lighter and not have such a LONG distance to run. Dad and Don looked stunned, and each one eventually asked, “Why didn’t WE think of that?!?”
Dad and Don had great faith they could light the trash on fire during one of their MANY runs to the back of the property, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Their faith hoped to “move a mountain” (of trash) through burning, but all they really needed to move was our 1954 Olds.
At different times, Jesus rebuked His disciples for a lack or lapse of faith they had. Faith was, and is, one of His demanding requirements for Christian living. Without faith, we cannot even comprehend or apprehend Him. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Faith may not always be understood. There may be times when it appears in Scripture as it is a simple trust or great confidence. At other times, it may appear as a dynamic force. So, faith, along with love, is the great fundamental of the Christian life.
Before one details the benefits of faith, we must understand the lack of faith. For one thing, the lack of faith produces fear. “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” Jesus asked, after being awakened onboard the ship on the stormy sea. (Mark 4:40). Jesus soon got at the root of the problem –– “unbelief.”
Among many other things, lack of faith will also rob us of power. It’s no wonder the disciples asked, “Why could we not cast him out?” to which Jesus answered, “Because of your unbelief” (Matthew 17:19, 20).
But enough for now regarding the lack of faith, for we want to concentrate on what Jesus said we’re to do: “Have –– faith –– in –– GOD” (Mark 11:22).
With these powerful words of Jesus in mind, in 1944, V. B. (Vep) Ellis wrote a Gospel song by that title. This song, “HAVE FAITH IN GOD,” is found on page 54 in “the old Red-Back book” CHURCH HYMNAL.
In the first verse, Ellis encourages every Christian to “Have faith in God, believe on Jesus, He’ll answer ev’ry earnest prayer; Of all our care, He will relieve us, Come to the Cross, He’ll meet you there.”
Verse #2 calls for us to cast aside doubt, for Ellis wrote, “Have faith in God, and doubting never, The precious Blood still has its pow’r; The bonds of sin, He’ll quickly sever, And send a Pentecostal show’r.”
The songwriter then calls for us to “Have faith in God, and none can hinder, He heals the crippled, deaf and blind; If true benevolence you’ll render, You’ll for each prayer an answer find.”
For most of my life I have heard of faith in God likened to a mustard seed. As you may have guessed, these words talk about a Christian having such things as “faith the size of a mustard seed, for if you have just the tiniest bit of faith,” many say, “God can and will move mountains.”
While the small size of the mustard seed is of importance, there is also another point from God’s Word to consider. A pastor friend of mine pointed it out to me many years ago. He said we must look at the Scriptures carefully and understand what is said of the mustard seed.
“…Jesus said… If ye have faith AS a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:19, 20).
We know a mustard seed is tiny, and that it will spring forth quickly and grow quite tall, even growing to a height of 10-12 feet within a few months. But what is little heard of this seed is HOW it grows, and HOW it reaches so high.
When Jesus said, “If ye have faith AS a grain of mustard seed,” He knew there would be obstacles we would have to overcome in the process of our faith growing in Him. When a mustard seed begins to reach for the top of the ground, and eventually toward the sky, there WILL be obstacles it must overcome.
There will undoubtedly be rocks of various sizes it must encounter, but that obstruction does not keep the mustard seed from its goal. There might even be tiny pieces of wood or other debris in the dirt that would overshadow the growing plant, but the mustard seed plant continues to move upward. Clumps of dirt in its path? It continues to reach above ground level, and then toward the sky.
You talk about persistence! This is exactly the kind of faith each of us need. NEVER give up on God.
Hebrews, chapter 11, is known as “The Faith Chapter,” and rightfully so. This chapter begins with, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (verse 1). Throughout the forty verses in this chapter, we’re told of men and women in the Bible who had great faith.
Many verses tell of these heroes in the faith by beginning with the words, “By faith…,” with just some verses being:
“By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death… for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (verse 5).
“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house…” (verse 7).
“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed…” (verse 8).
“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents… and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment” (verse 23).
“By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (verse 27).
“By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned” (verse 28).
“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days” (verse 30).
In addition to these selected verses that tell of those individuals who lived “by faith,” there are also other verses in this same chapter that tell of those who lived “through faith.” Verses found in this eleventh chapter of Hebrews that speak of those who lived “through faith” include: verses 11, 28, 33, and 39.
Now that several persons in the Bible have been mentioned as having had great faith in God, my question is what could be said of you, if there would ever be anything written about your life? Would you display such great faith as these Heroes in the Faith?
Vep Ellis’ song concludes with the chorus that reads: “Have faith in God, hold to His hand, Your ev’ry care, He’ll understand; When clouds of doubt begin to gather (all around), Have faith in God, He answers prayer.”
You may have had great faith at some point in your life, but like the miniature golf course scene I described earlier, have you tried within yourself to accomplish spiritual things more recently? And in so doing, has your spiritual fire gone out completely? If so, this is just to let you know it’s time to move a whole lot closer to God.