“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Some people confuse the word faith with believe or trust, but faith is the action word that acts on what we trust and believe to be true. I have heard a lot of various definitions for the word faith and all of them are very good. I have several definitions that I use in consideration of the point I am trying to make. My favorite all time is faith is like the anticipation one has to view an undeveloped Polaroid picture. You believe the image is there but you can’t see it yet. So with faith, you keep watching and believing until it is there.

We have a large yard and my father kept a beautiful garden with a section dedicated to roses. Both my mom and dad loved those roses. They were just an amusement for me as I like picking the beetles off the rose petals. When my friends would come over we’d play cowboys and Indians or army. A few times we would put on a play to entertain the parents. We would act out things like “The Big Bad Wolf,” or “Hansel and Gretel.” Other times was left to my own small imagination.

I would wander around the yard looking for things to do like building a fort from some old boxes. If it was winter time my younger brother Steve and I would get some trash can lids and use them as a shield for a snowball fight. Then there was always the time that dad would give me the chore of cutting the grass. We had an old rotary lawn mower and that would be an all-day event. Not that it really took that much time but that I took my time making myself do it. I never got the knack of how Tom Sawyer tricked his friend into whitewashing that fence of Aunt Polly’s.

I always was an adventurer wanting to explore things and places I had never been. Many times I would go to the Capital building and visit the people in their offices. I probably was a nuisance but they were always polite and always just leaving to run an errand.  In the bottom floor, there was a fascinating museum to explore and the most fascination was the railroad they had set up there. I never found the controls of the train but that was okay as it was always running along the rails. Children always stretch the bounders to see how far they can venture and will keep pushing until someone sternly places the border. I was always climbing a tree to the heights I could and there were the time’s someone would have to call the fire department to come and get me back down. I was always good and getting into things and reaching new heights but I guess I was born without any get back genes.

I remember sixty years ago when I lived with my family in Charleston West Virginia and incident that required me to use my faith. I didn’t know what the word faith meant at the time but as I reflect back it certainly was faith that I used. We lived in a large house as there was nine of us in the family. Behind the house was an alley that had a large parking garage for the automobiles of the people who lived in the apartment complex on the other side of it. I do not really know what attracted me to that parking garage that day but I do remember wanting to find out what was on the top of it. I wanted to know if the roof of that parking garage was the same as the roof of our own. It was a long building, I couldn’t now tell you how long but it was longer than our yard. It was high too, higher than the ladder that my dad had in our garage. When I walked around the garage is saw that the roof was slanted so the rain water would run off I supposed. I don’t remember how I got on top of the garage to its roof but I remember very clearly that I could not find a way to get back down.

It is amazing the riches that you find on a rooftop that people had thrown up there. There were a lot of bottles that smelled like rotten fruit. One bottle was Mogen David and another said Boones Farm on it. The labels looked pretty and I had wished there was a box that I could put them in. I found some license plates up there and thought about the car I could put them on. A neighbor a few houses down and a car that everyone called a bug. My dad called it a VW. Once I looked under the hood to see the motor but it didn’t have one, amazing. That was the first car that I wanted but I never had one. Then I also found a phone. I had to have that so I could put it in my room and would not have to go down three flites of stairs to use the phone. Our number was DI 22432.

As I am writing this I am thinking of how I could remember our first phone number but on this day sixty years ago I can’t remember how I got onto the roof. It was a hot day and there was no shade to hide beneath, and there were other functions that soon would need attending to, such as food and drink. I don’t know how long I was up there but someone from the apartment must have seen me and called my dad. I heard my name called out, Tommy, and it was my Father. All my dad said was come over here. I went over and looked over the side and there was my dad standing there saying come down here. To which I replied I don’t know how to and then he went into our garage and came back with our ladder.

Dad leaned the ladder against the wall and it came up way short of the top of the building. As I looked down at my Father, on the large ladder that now looks small, and I wondered how we were going to use that ladder. I was thinking about how exciting it will be where the fire truck showed up. May even channel eight new would come out and report my rescue. They came out when my younger brother grew some cotton in dad’s garden so surely they would come out for a rescue.

My dad climbed up the ladder and when he reached the last rung, that rung that he had told me never to use, he was still about four feet short from the top. I thought sure the fire truck would be called now and I wished they would hurry as I wanted to make the evening news. Plus I really had to shall we say go. This was not the plan that my dad had and he told me to climb over the edge and slide down placing my feet on his shoulders. There was no way I was going to do that. The ladder might slip on the loose gravel, I might miss my dad’s shoulders, and how was he going to keep me standing on his shoulders with his hands and climb down the ladder. So I respectfully told my dad “no!”

My dad would always debate our differences until I would give up and admitted that he was right. I wasn’t going to give in this time. I wasn’t going to blindly slide off the roof hoping that my feet would land on his shoulders and my dad would step down the ladder while holding my feet on his shoulders. I didn’t want to die that way and I certainly didn’t want to kill my Father in the process. After I came up with that noble statement I told the truth that I was too scared to even try it. My dad is a very patient man and continued to tell me that the only way I was getting off that roof was to do as I am told and have faith in him. That was a tall order for an eight-year-old kid. I don’t care how old a father is to a kid who is still blossoming the father always looks old. But there was other pressure, remember I had to “go.” So I got on my stomach and started to inch my way to the sound of his voice.

A little to the left Tommy, no back to the right now, that’s it now slide on this way, and stay to the right. Dad, I can’t do this, I kept saying as the ruff roof was scratching my belly. Come on have faith in my instruction and trust me I’ll get you if you start to fall. Noble and true words to hear from a loving father but I wasn’t too sure of the faith word, but I kept inching on until I was past the point of no return. Then my feet touched his shoulders. Lean against the wall as we move down a step, dad said. One step down my dad said now slid your feet down my chest and sit on my shoulders. My bum hit my dad’s shoulders with a hard bump, I thought we were goners, but my dad held steady as we together stepped down the ladder to the good old ground.

This little adventure happened fifty-eight years ago and like a lot of things my father said and did I am still learning from. As I said before there are a lot of good definitions for the word faith and now I have a better one than the old Polaroid film developing. The definition comes across to be in the adventure I have just told you about. A time when my father came to rescue me from the heights of the parking garage I found myself stuck a top of.

My dad told me to listen to his voice and do as he said. What he was asking me to do is move off the edge of the roof unable to see or feel where I was going. Knowing that if he faltered or misguided me I would fall flat as a pancake on the gravel far below. I didn’t want to do it. I was scared and unsure. But my dad kept saying patiently come to me. And so I did because I trusted him and it all worked out for the good. As Paul said, “we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

I trusted my dad as he would never tell me to do anything that was wrong. I believed my dad because he was smarter than anyone I had ever know. My dad gave me conviction with his soft confident voice but what I was lacking was obedience. Trusting my father and believing he was true is not enough to save one’s self, as all that is just knowing what you should do. Knowing that will not save you and you will not accomplish anything with that knowledge. It is faith is the conviction that pulls you into action. Belief does not become true faith until you act upon it in obedience.

If you believe in the Lord then you must act in faith, if His word tells you something then you must act in faith. The short definition is this, “Trust and Obey.”  The writer of Hebrews gave us this verse that says it better than I. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, December 19, 2018

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