Standing in the pulpit for the first time since the sudden and violent death of his beloved wife fifteen days before, Dr. Barbour faced a congregation who shared his grief. Instead of dwelling on his own loss, he noted the suffering of countless others across our nation who had lost loved ones due to the war which had raged in excess of three and one half years. He made mention of only two of the many messages he had received – these being of positive encouragement.
The sermon throughout was a powerful statement of his abiding faith in time of trouble. The text was from the Sermon on the Mount, employing the parable of the house built upon a rock.
In short, the sermon provided a source of inspiration to those who heard it as well as to the many who heard of it.
SERMON: April 29, 1945
“FAITH IN TIME OF TROUBLE.”
“The subject this morning is, Faith In A Time of Trouble, and the text is from the last part of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew, Chapter 7, verses 24 and 25:
‘Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock.
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock.’
That’s what everyone needs in these days–a feeling of stability in a world that is rocking with the storms of war. We need a sense of security in a world that is uncertain, not only from day to day, but from hour to hour. Here is a mother and father whose hopes have been builded in the life of one whom they loved more than they loved their own life, and whose hopes have come to an impasse suddenly with a message from the War Department– “Killed in action.” Here is a young wife, loking and waiting, and watching, hour by hour through the long night, by the bedside of her child who has yet to know the warmth of a father’s arms. Waiting,–wondering–wondering–wondering–what word will resolve the confusion between terror and hope that draws her soul apart, ever since she heard the word, “Missing.” Or here is a boy who will never run again; and here is a boy who will never see again; and here is a boy who will never sing again. They need help for security and strength, to face life with all its storms.
Or here are teen-agers, who have never known a sane world in which they could make their plans, and carry out programs to fulfill their plans. And who, knowing that someone has, and is, and will direct what they shall do with their lives, are saying to themselves, “I still have a little freedom, I will use it.” And so we watch teen-agers run wild.
A world in which there is much trouble seeks for that which is stable, and secure, and strong. Jesus said,
‘Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock.
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock.’
What were the things that Jesus was saying, which if believed and accepted, would make for stability in a world of uncertainty? Well, he said some very specific things, which he illustrated with some telling illustrations.
First, the kind of faith that makes for stability is a faith that is not merely discovered, but is to be displayed.
‘Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its savour, wherewith shall it “ (the earth) “ be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light to all that are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.’
Faith is not secure and strong, merely when it is discovered. It is strong when it is displayed.
One of the letters that came to me this last week from one of my friends in the north, said, “Faith is holding your hand out in the dark, and finding it held.” That is a certain kind of faith– yes. It is reaching out into the dark and finding a responding hand clasping yours. But that is not Christian faith. For the Christian believes in him who said, “I am the light of the world, and he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” He doesn’t reach his hand out in the dark. He walks in the light of life.
Those who have the kind of faith that is to help them only, soon find that kind of faith to fail. For it is like putting a candle under a bushel. Soon it is smothered by its own selfishness. A light burning only for itself, soon dies. A candle must be put on a candlestick to give light to all that are in the house. Then, and then only, does it become satisfying unto itself!
Along all the shores of our country are lighthouses. Everyone in some place of danger– every one. Part of their own strength and security comes because they are sending out a light that failing, might cause ships in the night to be wrecked on their reefs. Only as they send out their light are they themselves safe.
So says Jesus, your faith is not reaching your hand out in the dark, it is living in the light of him who is the light of life. Faith is not something to be discovered, it is something to be displayed. And only as it is displayed does it bring security and strength. That’s the first thing.
The second thing is that kind of faith about which Jesus was talking has to be in those things that are spiritual.
‘Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness.
Therefore I say unto you, “Take no thought for your life,” ( That is, be not unduly concerned ) “what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment?
Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.’
If our faith is to be reckoned only in our successes in the realm of that which is physical, and that which is material; if our faith is to be stable only as those things are stable, only as we can keep that which is physical and conserve that which is material; if our faith is secure only then, our faith will soon be lost. For fortunes are lost in depressions, and lives are lost in wars. We must find a faith that will strengthen us whether we succeed or fail materially, and whether we keep or lose our loved ones. A faith that cannot stand that kind of a test, is not a Christian faith.
Another letter came to me this last week. It said, “The sky has not fallen in. It has opened. And from henceforth you cannot for one moment be earthbound.” That’s the kind of faith that looks not down, but up!
One line of one of our old hymns has been going through my mind for ten days. I had t find out where the hymn was. But the phrase stayed with me, day and night, — “The heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.” And so we found this hymn. You all know it, and I should have known it. Here are the other verses:
‘There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in his justice
Which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
Are more felt than up in heaven;
There is no place where earth’s failings
Have such kindly judgement given.
For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of man’s mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.’
If our faith is fixed only in the security of that which is physical or material, then we can’t sing that song! If our faith is fixed only in the safety of that which is physical or material, then Helen Keller could not be a Christian, and a wounded soldier could not worship God, and a lonely mother could not say her prayers. But says Jesus, the faith that stands strong in the time of trouble does not depend upon these things. It is a faith that is built upon seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; a faith that looks not down, but up!
There is one other thing that Jesus says in his Sermon on the Mount. A faith that can help in time of trouble is not merely belief, but practice.
‘Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord shall enter unto the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven.
For many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me ye that work iniquity.’
The believers who do not do the things of Jesus; who profess, but do not practice, their faith;
‘Enter ye in at the strait gate:” (he said) “for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.’
The kind of faith that gives us security, says Jesus, is not a faith that is simply profession. It must be practiced.
Now I know that we are told to “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” But believing in Christ involves following him. And following him does not mean following him with our interest; it means following him with our lives. We had better be careful, therefore, for if we accept Christ, Christ accepts us. If we honestly accept him, he takes us and does with us what he will; and we are no longer spectators, we are participants! We are no longer observing from the grandstand, we are playing the game. We are no longer readers of headlines, we are in the front lines. Be careful therefore, young people particularly. Remember, if you accept Christ, he accepts you, and you have to walk his way. But if you want stability in a quaking world, if you want courage in time of trouble, if you want a sense of that which is really significant, take him– and let him take you. And when trouble comes, you can take it. For his kind of faith is a faith that is not merely discovered but displayed; a faith that does not look down, but looks up; a faith that is not merely belief, but is practice. That means not only being interested in Christ, but having him take your life. Those who have done so, have found that when the storms came, and the winds blew, and the rains beat upon their house, it did not fall.
Our Father, most of us need help. We come to Thee, knowing that there is help from above. Many of us have found that help. We pray that in every time of trouble, we may have the kind of faith that gives stability, and security, and confidence, and courage, in our living. We pray for the kind of faith that is not only discovered, but is displayed; for the kind of faith that not only looks down, but looks up; for the kind of faith that is not only profession, but is practiced; the kind of faith made known to us in Christ. Help us to accept it, that the lives of our spirits may be built upon the rock of strength and courage, of calmness and confidence, because we have built our faith in God. We ask for Jesus’ sake, Amen.”
THE MORNING PRAYER.
“Almighty God, our Father, we come to Thee with our various needs, knowing that in Thee there is help, and strength, and courage. We thank Thee that we know that Thou are touched with the feeling of our infirmities. We thank Thee for Him, by whose stripes we are healed. We thank Thee for the conviction that has come to us through His life, and His death and His resurrection, that we are the children of God, made in His own image, stamped with eternity. We thank Thee that we are conscious, because of His life and His revelation of Thee, that Thou art love, and that there is goodness at the heart of the universe. In that conviction we come to Thee, O God, with all our needs.
We come first, confessing our unworthiness to be called the children of God. We come confessing that we have abused our heritage, and neglected to use Thy powers. For we have not done as we ought to have done, and we have left undone much that should have been done. We are no more worthy to be called Thy children, for we have too often wasted our substance in riotous, and foolish living. We have done with our time, our energy, our capacity, things that are unworthy of those who have eternity in their souls. We have fixed our goals, and our purposes in those things that can readily be won in the limit of our life upon this earth, and have neglected to seek after those things that must persist forever. So in the consciousness of our failures, we come to Thee for forgiveness. It is against Thee that we have sinned, and therefore it is from Thee that we must find our forgiveness. Help us, each one, to confess in Thy presence, without reserve, the things that are wrong in our lives. And then blot out transgressions, and cleanse us from our iniquities, and create within us clean hearts, that we may know God and fulfill His hopes and desires in us.
But we not only need cleansing for our souls, we need courage to live, and courage to do the things that are ours to do in the will of the Eternal. Grant to us, therefore, day by day, hour by hour, sufficient courage to meet the demands of every moment, and sufficient wisdom to find direction in which to express our capacities, along the line of the hopes and desires of God. Help us this day, and every day, to find calmness of spirit, confidence of soul, and courage of will, that day by day we may grow, in those things that are Christ’s, and grow in usefulness to His kingdom.
Bless those whom we love, for we come with them on our hearts, and seeking for Thy peace for them, and Thy presence with them. Strengthen them in every need of theirs. Give them good guidance for the use of their strength and energy. Give them quick and sure decision in the face of choices–whatever the choices may be. And for those who are in places of danger, we pray for calm spirits, loyal souls, and confident wills, that they may do that which is theirs to do, ready, and willing , and able.
And O God, we pray that the war may soon be over, so that those from whom our midst who have gone to far places may return to us again to take up the tasks that are theirs to do among us, for the good of our church, our community, our country, and our God. Bring quick and sure victory, and give us wise and good guidance for a sensible, a sane, and a spiritual peace.
Again we pray for ourselves, not just that we may be blessed of Thee, but that being blessed of Thee, we may be a blessing to others, and that we may fulfill the will of Christ. Bless our church, and all those who belong to us here, in spirit. Bless those who are scattered far from us, and strengthen in them the ties of fellowship, one with another, in our faith in Thee. And may our church be useful to Christ. And may our church, and the other churches of our community and country, so work together in His cause, that His truth shall be known among men, and His saving health come to be in the portion of all peoples. Therefore we pray Thou wilt strengthen us here, that we may know, and do, the things that are Christ’s.
Be good to all those who are heavy of heart. Bless with Thy presence those who are lonely. Give the feeling of Thy power to those who carry heavy burdens. And strengthen every good thing and every desire among us all, that Christ’s Kingdom may soon come. And all these things we ask for His sake. Amen.”