By J. G. Morrison, D.D.
THE TIME ELEMENT IN FAITH
Let us take the parable of the “Three Loaves,” in Luke, eleventh chapter, and give it a modern setting so that we can get a little more of the force of it.
A man and his family are living, let us say, on a “claim” near one of the pioneer towns of the far West. He has migrated there from his former home in the East. On the occasion of which we speak, he has neglected to go to the distant store for an additional supply of food, and, though warned by his wife that all supplies are running very low, comes in to supper to find that the last bit of bread, and other provisions in the house, are waiting on the table. He laments the fact that he has let the matter go in his unfortunate manner, but assures his wife that he will go before breakfast to the town and buy more. They were late in retiring on account of the restlessness of one of the children, and it is almost midnight, and they are still up, when there is the Sound of an auto in the yard, and finally a knock at the door. On opening it, the head of the house finds to his astonishment that the late caller is an old acquaintance from the distant East.
“Why, Jones,” he exclaims, “what are you doing here?”
“Can this be John Smith?” answers the man at the door. “I little realized that you were in this region. But I am thankful that we have found your home. The fact of the matter is, we are motoring across the country, and getting into the desert region of your wonderful state, here, we have lost our way. Since dawn we have been following ‘by and forbidden paths. We are just about out of gasoline, are mortally weary from having been lost all day, and have had nothing to eat since breakfast. If you could give the children a little bread and milk, I will never forget your kindness to us.”
“Bring the family right in,” exclaims John Smith in his heartiest fashion. And while the newcomer is assisting the wife and children to alight, Smith turns with a grimace to Mrs. Smith, and says in an excited undertone: “Now, we are surely in a pretty fix. A family of hungry children on our hands, and not a bite in the house. How very unfortunate. Wife, what are we to do? About all that we can do, is to explain the unhappy circumstances to Mr. and Mrs. Jones and tell them that we will hurry to town before breakfast and stock up.”
“But, husband,” answers his wife in an earnest tone, “that will never do. They have had nothing since morning. I simply cannot allow little children to go to bed hungry in my house. You go over to the neighbor’s and borrow three loaves of bread, and I will go to the barn, and see whether I cannot secure a little fresh milk from that cow, and we can at least give them bread and milk before they retire.”
The husband demurred. “Why, wife,” he said, “I cannot ask Browns for bread, especially at this time of the night. It is midnight now. They are all in bed. Besides, he and I are not on the best of terms. I set our dog on one of his animals that had gotten into our patch of corn, and he has not liked me since. I just will not go there!”
“Husband, you go right on!” exclaimed his wife in decisive tones. “It is better to rouse Browns up, no matter how they feel, and get some bread, than to let these people who have traveled all day with nothing to eat, go hungry till morning. Now, you go!” And John Smith went.
At Brown’s he found the house dark and forbidding. He boldly approached the door and rapped loudly. No answer. Still more rapping. Still no answer. Another spell of thundering on the door, and at last a faint, gruff voice from the upstairs chamber called, “Who’s there?”
John Smith made the explanation. He set forth the unfortunate situation at his house; the dearth of provision; the friend from the East; the hungry children. Would he please lend him three loaves!
The answer came back: “Nothing doing! Have just got the baby to sleep, and will under no circumstances get up. Sorry for your friends and their children, but I cannot accommodate you tonight. Please move on.”
Now, the record goes on to say that John Smith did something that not only got that neighbor out of bed, but brought him downstairs, and finally induced him to open the door, and to hand out, not the three loaves only for which Smith had asked, but “as many as he needed.” What was the move that he made? What was the trick that he played? What diplomacy did he introduce? What maneuver execute?
It is all comprehended in that word “importunity!” What does it mean? What moves does it imply? What did Smith do, that could be designated as “importunate”? The answer is, that he just kept right on knocking. Though refused, he resumed his thundering attack on the door. Though turned down cold, he applied his fists with sonorous effect on the panels. He would not quit. He kept right on. He was there for three loaves, and he was bound to have them despite the unhappy temper of Brown. The only effect that refusal had on his asking, was to induce him to redouble his attacks on the door.
“Will you stop that?” shouts Brown. “Yes,” comes back the answer, “when you give me three loaves!” “I will not do that,” replies Brown. “I am in bed. The lights are out. It is midnight. You go away. There’s nothing forthcoming in the bread line tonight, I tell you!”
The only answer is another roaring attack on the door. Brown waits. The knocking continues. Still in hope that Smith’s patience would wear out, he lingers in bed. More and louder attacks on the door. Smith’s knuckles now getting sore, he picks up a billet of wood, and with renewed energy assails the panels. He begins shouting as he beats the wood, “three loaves of bread, three loaves of bread, three loaves of bread!” With each exclamation, he beats a tremendous tattoo on the door.
Mrs. Brown intervenes. “Oh, husband,” she pleads, “do get up and give him the bread. He will break the door down. He must be insane. Certainly he is desperate. Go on, husband, if you do not, then I will!”
Assailed on two sides, Brown yields. “I am coming,” he yells. “Stop your noise, and I will get you some. You are the most insane neighbor that I have ever had.” Grumbling, complaining, maledicting, expostulating, wishing he knew how to refuse, and yet get rid of Smith, he, nevertheless, gets up, gropes his way to the room below, searches out the bread container, stored under the stairs, mad, angry, disgusted, outraged, he carries the whole container to the door, jerks the entrance to his house open, dumps the bread at the feet of the apologizing, thanks-uttering, grateful Smith, refuses to listen to his voluminous expressions of regret and gratefulness, slams the door in Smith’s face, and grumbles his peeved way back to his disturbed bed. But Smith got the bread!
Turn quickly, now to the Scriptures, and study them for a moment. Who told this parable? Jesus, the blessed Son of God! Why did He tell it? To encourage us to ask, and believe, and keep on, and never quit, and not get discouraged, and refuse to be denied, and get desperate, and the longer the answer is delayed, to redouble our attack on the divine door, with the assurance from His own sacred lips that we should receive.
For, instead of asking at the door of a reluctant, and ugly and peevish neighbor, we are asking of a loving heavenly Father, who has told us to come, and urged us to ask, and begged us to believe. If then, these methods would bring an angry, disgusted, outraged neighbor across, with the answer, what will not faithful persistency at the door of loving divine mercy and compassion do?
And immediately following this most amazing and remarkable parable Jesus says, “And I say unto you, ask, and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For [O reader, listen to this revolutionary utterance!] every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketit findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be. opened!” (Luke 11: 9, 10).
There can be no doubt that the Master intended this mighty statement about the certainty of securing from God the things that we ask for in faith, to be coupled together with this parable that He had just related. Then, we must not separate them, but must read the one In the light of the other.
Then, the statement of Jesus should read like this: “And I say unto you, that if you will ask in the same importunate, persistent, never ceasing manner that this man asked for bread, that you will receive. - That if you will seek as this man did, at midnight, with refusal ringing in your ears, but with a desperate faith, that will not cease till the matter asked for is possessed, ye too, will find. That if you will knock at the door of Almighty God, and knock, and knock, AND KNOCK! Never ceasing, never letting up, never quitting, never despairing, it shall be opened unto you! For every one who asks, in this desperate, continuous manner, always receives. That everyone who seeks importunately, ceaselessly, with a faith so perfect that it says, with glistening eyes, ‘It’s coming,’ always finds. That to him that knocketh with the thundering tattoo of agonizing intercession, which refuses to end till the thing desired is possessed, it shall be opened!”
It is almost needless to inquire: Is this the way we ask? Is this the way we seek? Is this the way we knock? Most of us, will, maybe, pull and lift, and agonize with a genuine faith, for a while, and then our ease-loving age reasserts its hold on us, and we lapse back into the lines of least resistance, and the work of the kingdom, that had just begun to move, stops, largely speaking. Who is to blame that millions who are reachable, are not reached? Who is to blame that sons and daughters are plunging headlong into perdition? Who is to blame that the mission fields are only spotted here and there with any effort whatsoever for the salvation of the millions, and even these are moving very slowly? God surely is not to blame. He has caused His mighty cloud of infinite resources to swell manward, with untold revivals, with unmentioned Pentecosts, with superabundant powers, and that cloud, is waiting, waiting, waiting—what for? For some one to pierce it with his faith, and release the abilities of the great God of the skies onto the needs of humanity. Oh, why is It not released? No faith! For He says that if we had faith as a grain of mustard seed, we could remove mountains, pluck up sycamore trees, and “nothing shall be impossible unto you!” (Matt. 17: 20).
God lays His mighty thunderbolts at our feet, and says: “Seize them, and hurl them into the hearts of the King’s enemies. ‘The work of my hands, command ye me!” And we falter, and gasp, and wish, and long, and (almost completely) fail!
We beg the reader to think of this parable, also, in the light of the contention of this book, namely, that faith is a literal, though unseen cord, cable, or medium that connects us with God, and to note how, when we believe, He releases His power upon us for salvation, or releases it upon the propositions that we are laboring at, for their consummation, but in order to do this he needs time and desperate intercession.
If this be true, then there is an amazing significance in the parable we have just been considering. Why, does God want us to hang on? Why does He desire that we shall admit a time element into the matter of the answer to faith? The answer is, that not only is time needed to prepare us for the reception of the thing, or things, for which we pray, but God needs the time in order to accomplish the thing for which we believe!