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Faith

There is no common God worshiped in the world today. People in the United States overwhelming believe there is a God, but cannot agree on who God really is or how He should be worshiped. Some say there is but one God in the world and we are all worshiping the same God, in our own way. Surely an all knowing God will understand and accept our prayers no matter how prayed. Others try to use their own human understanding, turning to the most brilliant scholars for the answer. Many turn to science with all its knowledge enhanced by the computer era. Surely now science should be able to prove who God is. Some look to movie, rock, and television stars to lead them to the most popular God of the moment. Then there are the rich and famous, surely God would reveal Himself to these important people. What about the antiheroes who fight big business, or those who are one with nature, surely they must have an “in” on who God is. Finally, there are all the churches where surely God can be found. The only problem is church beliefs are so diversified that it would be impossible to know what to believe. The only way one can ever find the true God, is to let the Holy Spirit come into their hearts, guiding them through Scripture to find faith in Christ. This faith is the most powerful force in the world. If we only had faith in our Lord the size of a tiny mustard seed, we could move mountains and change the tide of the sea. The blessings obtainable through faith are unfathomable and the most stabilizing force in our lives. Faith is composed of many elements including the following:

We must have faith like little children. There is such simplicity in a child’s love, trust, and happiness. A child is so easy to make smile, so easily made to cry, especially when we forget things that are important to the child, but insignificant to us in our busy world. The child’s ability to melt a big strong man to jello with the words “I love you.” The child’s ability to accept discipline, mad as mad can be at you for not getting their way. But soon the repentant child comes crawling into your lap to tell you they are sorry, making sure you still love and care about them, as they love and care about you. Oh, the beauty of a child’s love makes one wish children would never grow up. For out of the mouth of babes the Lord has perfected praise. Jesus said we must have faith like little children, accepting Him as our Lord to enter into Heaven. This child like love, faith, and trust is so simplistic it takes a child to show us how to understand and give it, yet without it no one will ever find Jesus Christ.

Faith shows us what is important in life. There is a story that illustrates this. There were once two caravans traveling across a great desert. Each group was carrying a large amount of supplies that would be very valuable at their destination. They were traveling together for protection as there were many thieves in the area. To make matters worse there was a severe drought in the region forcing many to steal to survive. On the first dark night a band of marauders tried to steal the caravan’s goods. The two caravans were able to ward off the thieves, but in the fight one of the caravans lost half of its water. Ben, the leader of the group that lost the water was considering turning back for it was questionable if there was enough water left to make it to their destination. But Taylor, the leader of the second group said, “There is water up ahead, so do not be concerned. But be it understood I will not give you any of my water or I may not make it. However, I will sell you half of my water here for one half of your supplies and I will take the risk of running out of water.” Ben started to think. If I turn back this whole trip will be wasted. But if I run out of water my caravan will be vulnerable to the thieves and I can lose everything, including the lives of all of my men. If I give up half of my supplies I will break even on this trip but still have the security of my life and I can always make other trips. So to the surprise of Taylor, Ben gave up half of his valuable supplies from a mere pittance of half of Taylor’s water. Taylor took aside his most trusted worker and told him, “Ben is a fool. There should be enough water with half of my supply to make it unless there is extremely hot weather or we are slowed down by thieves. But as added protection I am sending you ahead to the Oasis to buy more water in case we need it. Learn well by my example and you will grow rich with me.”

The caravans continued but there was alot of trouble. The drought made the supplies very valuable and soon the caravans were constantly fighting off bands of thieves, which made traveling slow and dangerous. Taylor began selling the supplies he had traded for water. People were treating him with respect, almost like a king for they all needed the supplies he had. At this rate he would soon have all the wealth and power anyone could ever want. He was a very smart man indeed! That poor dumb Ben had already traded half of his wealth for water. Now Ben would not sell any of his remaining supplies for more money because he had promised to deliver them and would keep his word. Poor Ben would never be rich doing business that way.

The trouble continued for the caravan as they got closer to the oasis, for all the people were drawn there to get water. Taylor had used up almost all of his water because of the extra days the travel was taking. So Taylor, sought out Ben and said, “ Let me buy my water back. I will give you back 1/2 of the money I have received for your goods. This will give you a nice profit as I sold them for over three times what they were worth. Ben quietly replied, “I need all of the water to make my destination. You had better sell some more of your goods here so you can afford to buy enough water to get you out of this drought region. If you wait much longer and there is no rain the price for water will balloon and you will not be able to buy enough.” But Taylor was greedy. Why should he purchase water along the way at three times the cost. Surely the worker he had sent ahead had already purchased enough water at the Oasis so there would be no shortage. Ben soon had to bid farewell to Taylor as he could not go off his route to accompany Taylor to the oasis. Ben hoped that Taylor would have purchased water where they were and not gambled alone on going to the oasis. But he knew that Taylor was greedy and would not be happy unless he made a fortune, whatever the risks.

Taylor headed towards the oasis for more water, hoping against hope that he would run into his worker who would have purchased enough water for them to survive this drought area and make it back home. Suddenly Taylor saw sand blowing in the desert. Was it a mirage or was a small caravan coming this way? Closer and closer the dust came until finally the leader could see it was a caravan carrying water. Closer and closer until he could barely make out the image of the man leading the caravan. Closer yet until he could see it was his trusted worker who was leading the small caravan. Taylor let out a joyous yell which was joined by all in his caravan. They had water coming. Taylor would be able to keep all his money and sell the supplies to make even more money. Then the worker was there and Taylor ran out and hugged him. What a happy day! But then Taylor looked at the number of camels and the amount of water which they carried. It would be enough to keep them, but not enough to get them out of the desert. “Where is all the water I sent you to get?” Taylor demanded. The worker happily replied, “ I learned a lesson from you on how to make money. There should be enough water with only half of the water I purchased. Look at all the money I made by selling the other half of the water you sent me to get. You are rich! Have you ever seen so much gold and jewels?” Taylor had all the wealth he would ever need, but without water he would never be able to enjoy it.

Taylor did not know what to do. Surely there was someone who would join him in his venture and give him water in exchange for money. They could split the value of the supplies with him. He asked all the caravan leaders he met, but they could not help as they did not have any extra water. Here Taylor was with all the riches of the world at his feet, plus all the riches that he would be able to make with his remaining supplies, yet without water he was a poor man. Without water he could not exist or leave this God forsaken, desolate area with any of his riches. He would have to give everything he owned to get what he needed the most, water. For now riches were not measured in gold or silver, but how much life saving water one had. Taylor thoughts turned to Ben. He hated to admit it, but Ben have been right to choose water over riches, to save his caravan instead of losing it for riches. Taylor wondered, did Ben make it to his destination or not?

Ben had not wanted to leave Taylor, but he did not have much choice. It was either leave and get away from all the congestion and people around the oasis, or get swallowed up by it and in the process run out of the most precious thing he possessed, water. The caravan journey had been a real struggle. Fighting those who would steal your possessions as well as fighting the temptation of those who would give you whatever you wanted for your water. Ben was offered gold, silver, power, and beautiful women for his water. But he knew that he barely had enough water to reach his destination. All were lying when they said there was water only a little ways farther. For the only water available was what he carried. If he were lured into selling any for temporary gain, he would not make it out of the desert.

Ben’s caravan finally made it through the desert, through the wind, sandstorms, and burning sun. Their water had run out as they reached the edge of the desert and started to come upon green fields and trees. Suddenly the tired and worn out caravan faced a large group of soldiers coming towards them with there Royal Leader. Ben went out ahead and fell on his knees before the Leader saying, “We have brought supplies here for you. We are tired and need water to survive. Please help us and the supplies are yours for nothing.” But the man in charge replied, “I am King of this whole region. You have done well. You have held your faith against all odds. You will receive that which you have been promised. We have living water for you so that you will never thirst, and a beautiful place for you to stay forever.”

Taylor, trapped at the Oasis, still looked for some way to get water while keeping his riches. Finally he had some hope. A caravan leader passing suggested he approach the Sultan of the Oasis. Taylor approached the Sultan with low expectations, but to his surprise he worked out a deal where the Sultan would provide all the water Taylor would need for only half of the supplies. Taylor slept well in the guest tent that night. He still had not lost his brilliant touch. He had struck such a great bargain with the Sultan that he would be able to save over half of his wealth and that would make him one of the richest and most powerful men around. But the next morning when he awoke something was wrong. He looked down at his ankle and there was a metal ring attached around it and tied to a steel post in the ground. He had been taken captive. The Sultan walked in the tent and Taylor immediately jumped up demanding to be released. The Sultan merely laughed heartily and replied, “ You are joking aren‘t you? You really believe you can have both the water and all the earthly riches. The two don’t mix. Because you don’t have any lifesaving water you will have to be my slave and work on the burning desert forever. All the riches you have accumulated will burn and be worthless in this great heat. Don’t worry about escape for I am sole ruler of my domain and no one comes down here of his free will.” This story illustrates how faith enables us to know what riches to pursue. What good are all the riches of the world which will soon pass away, when we can have the living water of our Lord which reserves for us a everlasting mansion in His glorious Kingdom in Heaven above.

Faith is believing that which human wisdom will never be able to understand. When Jesus chose his disciples he didn’t choose the most learned scholars of the day. The leading Pharisees of that day knew the Mosaic law backwards and forwards. It would have been very practical to use their stature and knowledge to promote Christ’s message. But Jesus was always fighting the Pharisees, who knew the law so well they could manipulate it for their own advantage. The Lord wanted disciples who would learn and lead from the love of God in their hearts, not their humanistic minds. Jesus chose unlikely, uneducated, even unsavory men to be His disciples. This included fishermen, those who worked with their brawn not their brain. Christ merely said follow me and become fishers of men. What yokels these fishermen must have been in human eyes. They were going to do a job they had no clue about, and were not considered qualified for. Yet they did not demand to know what the salary was. They did not check to see what benefits were offered with the job. They took on the dangers of the job, ridicule, prosecutions, beatings and death. They did all this out of faith to the Master’s call. That is why Jesus chose them. To show the world it was not human intelligence that leads one to the saving knowledge of God, but faith. The faith that is planted in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Faith that keeps growing as we learn about Jesus and His love for us. Wisdom and knowledge are a blessing, but the love of Christ gives us the faith to follow our Lord. God gave Solomon more wisdom than any man that ever lived. Yet with all this wisdom Solomon could not remain faithful to the Lord. What if the Master called to us today. Would we open up our hearts to Him, would we let our hearts rule over our humanistic minds and follow our Master?

Faith helps us understand the simple teachings Jesus gave us in His parables. Many of these were illustrated with examples of agricultural and other common practices of the day. The most well known is the Lord as our shepherd and how He cares for us. Sheep need constant supervision to stay out of trouble. Sheep can easily be led astray and will follow any leader into areas where they are easy prey for lions, wolves , and coyotes. Wolves kill a lamb and the flock does not run away. The flock only moves out of the way and begins eating again, almost oblivious to what is going on around them. The wolves kill one lamb after another but the sheep do not run away. They never believe it will be their turn. So it is with man. He is easily led into temptation and sin. Man enjoys earthly pleasures believing he will never be caught up by them, never believing it will be his turn to be devoured by Satan. The only hope man has is that before he is devoured the Good Shepherd will rescue him. Jesus Christ gave His life for our sins so all who believe in Him will not be devoured by Satan, but have eternal life. Sheep know the shepherd’s voice, but they do not always respond as that last clump of grass needs to be eaten first. Then there is another clump on the other side that even looks better. This is such good feed the sheep wait to come to the shepherd until all the grass is eaten up. Sheep are such gluttons. They will eat rich pasture until they bloat and die. We are no different. We consume all the lusts and gratifications of the world and only want more. We feed ourselves with such a rich daily diet of evil pleasure that we become immune to the Holy Spirit calling us to the grace of our Master. The call has been given, the soul searching question is, will we respond?

Faith also helps us through all the trials we will face in our lives. Even if we follow the Lord, all things will not go smoothly for us here on earth. Being a Christian only guarantees us problems in a world driven by human morals. Only faith in Christ will lead us through the many earthly trials we will have, remembering the Lord is in charge, has a plan for all mankind, and will see us through. Consider the simple butterfly. The butterfly starts out as a lonely caterpillar crawling around on its belly to find food. Soon the caterpillar makes a cocoon, transforming into a liquid that eventually will make a body. This body struggles and struggles to break out of the cocoon to become a beautiful butterfly. One day a man saw a cocoon on the side of the tree. The body inside the cocoon was struggling to get out with little success. The man being tender hearted decided to help the poor butterfly trapped inside the cocoon. He took out his knife and split the cocoon so the butterfly could fly out. But to his amazement the winged body just fell to the ground, tried to move its wings a few times and lay there. Without working and struggling to get out of the cocoon the butterfly had not developed enough strength in its wings to fly. So it is with Christians here on earth. The Lord lets us endure trials to strengthen our faith, to make us learn to trust the Lord even when there seems to be no answer to our problems. Each time we struggle through our problems we gain strength knowing Jesus will help us in all our needs. Until we finally have the strength to know that no matter what happens we will live for Christ and He will take care of us. We have come a long way through faith. From an ugly little worm, through a cocoon of problems doing the Lord’s work, to a beautiful butterfly flying all over extolling the glory of God as we do His will on earth. We keep flying with the strength we obtained through perseverance of all the earthly problems we have faced. Nothing can pull us down, nothing Satan can throw at us will keep us from soaring high showing all the beauty of God’s love. We keep flying until the Lord says, “Well done.” Then we start our final journey, one last flight showing all the glory of Christ’s love as we head to our Savior, and He gently holds out His finger for us to land on as He takes us into our Heavenly home.

Faith to accept God’s gracious gift with humility as we have not earned or deserved any of His rich blessings. One cannot have human pride, arrogance, or ego, and follow Jesus Christ. Any who think they can help save this world should realize they can’t even save their own soul. The only way that the word “I” should be used is to proclaim accomplishments in the negative. I am a big sinner , I do not do what the Lord would have me do, I am nothing without Christ. Just like a mirror reflects objects for all to see, so should one’s life reflect all of the love Christ gives them. But up pops human ego, human ability, being better than others to fog up and hide the beautiful light of the many blessings God has given us. People don’t need to hear what I have done, they need to know what Christ has done for me. That Jesus will always be with us through our heartaches and happiness, our triumphs and our failures, and will give us love and peace beyond human comprehension.

There is a story of a young rodeo competitor who had received a junior college scholarship. Will Malay was bound for rodeo stardom, if he could overcome just one obstacle. He kept tripping over his own ego. Sometimes you must listen and take advice from others, realizing no one knows everything. In rodeo you must have patience. There are two or three rounds you score in that are averaged out. It is hard to win all rounds for the luck of the draw determines what animal you get. So one must keep their average up until they get the right draw, the one they can really score on, the one that pushes them over the top. Will had yet to learn any of these lessons for he pushed everything to the limit. His theory of all or nothing meant the top score or nothing. This inconsistency kept the team from winning any rodeos, and Will from winning any individual titles. This attitude drove the rodeo coach wild. In the last rodeo Will only had to ride a bull and post a score for his team to win. But Will, wanting to show off his stuff and win it all, began pushing it to the hilt for more points, and was thrown off. The team went from first place to a tie for sixth place. This was the last straw for the coach and he called Will into his office when they returned. “ Will, I am kicking you off the team after your last fiasco. The state championship is all that is left and I want to recruit some of the high school competitors that will be there. I don’t want them to see your attitude. I want team players.” Will was shocked. The coach was kicking the star off the team. How could they win without him? He blurted out, “You don’t mean that. This is state. All my family will be there as well as coaches recruiting for college. This is my big chance, you have to let me compete.” The coach and Will finally struck a deal. The coach would let Will participate at state, if he would help coach the team, especially Ray. Ray was only a notch below Will in ability, but he tended to freeze up under the pressures of competition. Hopefully if Will could get him to relax a little, Ray could reach his full potential.

Will began working with the team and after the rough edges and hard feelings wore off, things began to go smoothly. Will began to enjoy the friendship, respect, and comraderie of some pretty good people. He was becoming fast friends with Ray. Will would often tease Ray telling him the bucking bull was just like riding a rocking chair with a head on it. Before long Ray was giving Will a hard time right back and they were riding bulls better than they ever had. Will was sure with a little luck Ray could win the all around. All that would be needed was for Will to divert Ray’s attention with their little games to keep him from being nervous.

The rodeo soon came and Ray was doing well with Will there teasing him on. The competition was tough and had come down to the last event to determine the team and all around champions. Ray was in the lead and with just a decent ride would win the all round title and clinch the team championship. The coach stopped by to talk with Will. “Ray is doing real well, you are not doing so bad either. Are you both ready for your final rides?” “This has nothing to do with me, this is Ray’s rodeo,” Will quipped back. “And I’ll do everything in my power including gluing him to the bull to help him win.” Will had drawn one of the toughest bulls just ahead of Ray. Will decided not to do anything fancy just ride the bull through and completely control him. If he fell off it might take away some of the confidence that Ray needed. Besides there was no way he wasn’t going to hurry back and talk with Ray before he rode the last bull. Will’s bull was rank, but he just relaxed and hung in there with him. When the buzzer sounded Will jumped off and ran back to the chute to see Ray. There was a whole lot of applause so his ride couldn’t have been half bad. Will was in such a hurry, concentrating on getting to Ray that he did not catch his score, but it did not matter. All that was needed was a decent ride by Ray. Will jumped up on the outside of the chute where Ray was getting on his bull. “These bulls aren’t that tough,” Will said jokingly. “I had a ranker bull then you have, and it was no harder than rocking in my grandma’s rocking chair. Relax, concentrate, and you have it made.” The gleam in Ray’s eyes told Will he had done his job. Ray latched onto that bull and hung on for dear life. Will watched the ride cheering Ray on. It had not been the greatest bull ride, but it should be enough for Ray and the team to win. Throwing his hat in the air, Will ran over and hugged the coach. “Ray did it! Ray did it!” Will yelled, not letting the coach get a word in edge wise. “This is the best moment I have ever had. Having Ray win the all round and the team win state. This is much better than winning anything myself. Thanks for making me work with these guys and getting my head cleared.”

Then Ray was there and they heard the loudspeaker boom, “The winner of the bull riding and all around cowboy title is Will Malay.” Will turned around to the coach, “They have the wrong guy, Ray is the winner.” But the coach just smiled and replied, “Will, the ride you had on the bull before Ray was the best bull ride I have ever seen at the junior college level. You deserve the title.” Will looked over at Ray and said, “This was supposed to be your rodeo. You did so well, you deserve the title.” But Ray began pushing Will toward the center of the arena and quietly said, “I’ve really enjoyed working with you champ. Now go out and get your trophy.”

Will went out to get his all around cowboy title with a different attitude. He was part of a team. When he had focused on others, it had only brought out the best in himself.

Faith with humility is just like the story. When we focus on Christ and do His will, it only brings out the very best in us. All can see Christ’s love through our lives. We are able to reach the full potential our dear Lord had planned for us. In the church we must learn to work together as a team. For the battle is not to see who can do the most or be the top dog. The battle is for the greatest to become the least, the leaders to become the servants, the slaves of Christ our Master and His church. Self pride and ego must be removed from all who worship, all working in love, in unity. When one focuses on Christ they are not even aware of all His love they are spreading. They will even be more surprised at all the blessings the Lord has waiting for them in heaven above. So let it be dear Lord.

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