The history of the Mission under which I grew up includes a little story about Roland Bingham, one of the founders of the Mission, arriving at the train station with no money in hand, but with faith that God would supply his need. And God did just that. (You can watch a 1968 reenactment of his life here.) So when I heard that story as a child, I began to berate myself that I did not seem to have enough faith. I wasn’t sure I could ever pack my bags and blindly go off somewhere and expect God to meet my needs.
How does one define the word faith? First a little grammar lesson. By definition, a NOUN is a person (man, Mr. Jones), place (home, Iowa), thing (desk, lamp) or idea (love, courage). Concrete nouns like man or desk are easy to visualize or to draw on a piece of paper. Ideas not so much. We do have symbols for some ideas, like a Valentine heart for love or a dove for peace, but how do you draw faith?
Faith became a rather nebulous concept to me. I didn’t know how to visualize it . . . until I read this lovely story in the Bible about Caleb, one of only two spies who believed that the Israelite army could defeat the giants in the land of Canaan.
We pick up the story when the 40 years of wandering in the desert are over, and the leader Joshua is over 100 years old when Caleb approaches him with this request:
Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said (Joshua 14:10-14 NIV, emphasis added).
My conclusion is that faith is not blindly believing something without evidence or deciding to do something based on what I want to see happen. Faith is believing and acting on what God has already said.
So back to the story of the missionary at the train station. God had clearly told Mr. Bingham to go to Africa, and so he packed his trunk and headed to the train station to begin his journey. It wasn’t until he took this step of faith that he was handed cash for the ticket. (If you want to read more of the story, click here.)
What does faith look like to you? Can you draw a picture of it on a piece of paper?