Summary: Fifth in a series on the Seven Virtues.
By James Galbraith
Bethel First Baptist Church
June 17, 2001
A small congregation in the foothills of the Great Smokies built a new sanctuary on a piece of land willed to them by a church member.
Ten days before the new church was to open, the local building inspector informed the pastor that the parking lot was inadequate for the size of the building.
Until the church doubled the size of the parking lot, they would not be able to use the new sanctuary. Unfortunately, the church with its undersized lot had used every inch of their land except for the mountain against which it had been built.
In order to build more parking spaces, they would have to move the mountain out of the back yard.
Undaunted, the pastor announced the next Sunday morning that he would meet that evening with all members who had "mountain moving faith." They would hold a prayer session asking God to remove the mountain from the back yard and to somehow provide enough money to have it paved and painted before the scheduled opening dedication service the following week.
At the appointed time, 24 of the congregation’s 300 members assembled for prayer. They prayed for nearly three hours. At ten o’clock the pastor said the final "Amen".
"We’ll open next Sunday as scheduled," he assured everyone. "God has never let us down before, and I believe He will be faithful this time too."
The next morning as he was working in his study there came a loud knock at his door. When he called "come in", a rough looking construction foreman appeared, removing his hard hat as he entered.
"Excuse me, Reverend. I’m from Acme Construction Company over in the next county. We’re building a huge shopping mall. We need some fill dirt. Would you be willing to sell us a chunk of that mountain behind the church? We’ll pay you for the dirt we remove and pave all the exposed area free of charge, if we can have it right away. We can’t do anything else until we get the dirt in and allow it to settle properly."
The little church was dedicated the next Sunday as originally planned and there were far more members with "mountain moving faith" on opening Sunday than there had been the previous week!
Would you have shown up for that prayer meeting?
Now, the details of this story are not verifiable, so I’m not going to stand up here and say that this actually happened. I simply do not know one way or the other.
If it did, then great - it is a great example of what can happen when a church takes faith seriously and asks God to do great things.
If it isn’t true, that’s okay, because I know that God can do things like this, and that he does do things like this for hundreds of churches and millions of Christians across the world every day.
My faith is not in the story, but in the God behind it.
In our series of the seven virtues, we have looked at the first four,
wisdom, courage, justice and temperance.
These four have been regarded as ‘natural virtues’, and they enjoy a history longer than the church itself. The Greeks and other societies of antiquity held these virtues in high esteem, before the coming of Christ.
They considered them to be an answer to life in and of themselves - be wise, be just, be courageous, be temperate, and you will live well. In their thinking, these virtues from within, not form outside sources.
When the church came into being, it embraced these virtues, and added three "theological virtues" - faith, hope and love. They are called theological virtues because they come from the very character of God himself , and to truly appreciate them we need to receive them for God himself.
In other words, it was though that while the first four could be generated form within, and so they are considered natural virtues, the last three could only truly be received from God, so they’ve been called theological virtues.
The line between the two groups grows pretty fuzzy in real life, so in this series I have chosen to conclude that all the virtues, in their truest form, come from God, who builds them up within us ands we take him more and more seriously.
We don’t earn our way to God’s salvation by being wise - we become wise as we take his input seriously in our lives. And it is much the same with the other virtues.
They will indeed help us to live well, but they are in no way a replacement for the God we are to live well for! They are not the path to God - Jesus Christ is, and the virtues are one of the products of a life which takes him seriously.