Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
- Romans 10:17
I was discussing growth in faith with someone recently. He lamented that his close friend’s faith was not growing in ways that he could notice. He had a great testimony, but there seemed to be no growth since. He said that he wished that his friend could have ‘faith enough to let go.’
My demented brain went in an odd direction at the point when I heard the words ‘faith enough to let go.’
Jerry Clower told a lot of stories about the Ledbetter family. The Ledbetter children were Ardel, Burnel, Raynel, W.L., Lanel, Odel, Udell, Marcel, Claude, Newgene, and Clovis. The parents were Uncle Versie and Aunt Pet.
While the fictional (or composite of several people) Marcel was Jerry’s best friend and the object of many of the stories, there were two notable stories where Newgene Ledbetter was the central character. One was Newgene and the Lion, casting Newgene as being a liar with masterful skill. While no one, except Jesus, is perfect, not even fictional characters, Newgene is cast as being unrepentant. He’s lovable, but an eternal wild child. Yet, in the second story, we see a Newgene that has a chance to grow in Christ.
The following is my rendition of the Jerry Clower story of Newgene and the Cliff:
Newgene was walking through the woods one day, when he got off the trail and blindly pushed through a line of bushes. What Newgene didn’t know was that there was a steep cliff on the other side of the bushes. Newgene fell over the side. He reached out and found a root sticking out the side of the cliff. He grabbed it and hung on. He’d fallen too far to climb back up. Level ground was still a long ways down.
As Newgene hung there, he started yelling, “Help! Help! Is there anybody out there?”
A minute or two later, he was still yelling, “Help! Help! Is there anybody out there?”
After a few more minutes, his arms started to get tired. He yelled even louder, “Help! Help! Is there anybody out there?”
This time he heard a deep voice from above, up on top of the cliff, “Newgene, turn a’loose of the root.”
Newgene looked up. He couldn’t see who was talking to him. He looked down, and he could barely see the ground beneath him. He figured he’d die if he fell from this height. Newgene asked, “What was that you said?”
The voice from above said, “Newgene, have faith. Turn a’loose of the root.”
Newgene thought for a few seconds. He blinked a couple of times and then he said, “Help! Help! Is there anybody ELSE out there!”
I’d always thought that to be a very funny story until my friend lamented ‘faith enough to let go.’
Let us say that we’re always complaining about our job. We’d like to move on to another job, another career, but we take the safe, unhappy, unfulfilling path. After all, we need to feed our family. There is no dishonor in that, but there are alternatives. We don’t take that step in faith, and we don’t make time to cross train into another field. I said ‘make’ time, not ‘find’ time. From firsthand experience, you never ‘find’ time.
You may have the most heart touching conversion story that there ever was, but if you stay there, you’ll be a Christian that never experiences growth. It’s like the unhappy worker that doesn’t put in the effort for the better job.
My mother was a holy terror in the garden. She patrolled for vermin. She could spot a weed at the point of a seedling, with the first two leaves that pop out of the ground. Her hoe was always at the ready, and she viciously attacked the weed before it ever had a chance to see sunlight. She knew when to fertilize. She knew when to water. She worked in the garden every day.
When have you fertilized, watered, and weeded the garden of your heart lately?
You have to take time to read God’s word, as the Romans 10:17 says. You have to take time to pray, earnestly pray. You need devotion time (books, monthly pamphlets, or online devotions that are emailed every day – most are free). Devotions give a different person’s perspective to things. You need to spend more time with other Christians. There is strength in numbers. You are never alone. God is with you, but you’ll learn that others may have similar problems. You can solve them together, only if you get together.
You don’t have the time? Take time anyway. It is one thing that God will return. I still have insomnia, but it is a lot easier to deal with after I started reading a devotion before bedtime. I now read two devotions at bedtime, and my sleep is more restful. I usually fall asleep quicker. God has returned the sleep many times over after I stepped out in faith to read those devotions, during the time that I didn’t think that I had.
“The best evidence of having the Truth is our walking in the Truth.”
- Matthew Henry
Peter Marshall wrote “Let us give according to our incomes, lest God make our incomes match our gifts.” God doesn’t work on a ‘tit for tat’ basis or a quid pro quo. But God rewards steps in faith, for some financial steps, for others investments in service, and for others simple investments in learning about God. A. W. Tozer wrote, “To fear and not be afraid, that is the paradox of faith.”
If you truly love Jesus, you will have an overwhelming desire to learn more about Him. Look at how you reacted to your spouse or girl/boyfriend when you first met them. You asked questions. You dug deeper. Our relationship with God is more important.
If you have done no digging since your conversion, you are wasting time. God chose you to be His own for a purpose. Learn what that purpose is. You will find the journey exciting and the destination fulfilling.
You have to do your homework.
You have to trust God and what He reveals during the homework phase. You have to learn how to listen for God’s voice.
Turn a’loose of the root.