Union University R.G. Lee Society of Fellows

"Lord, I Believe!"
Mark 9:23-24

by Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey
Pastor, Creola First Baptist Church
Creola, AL

Rev. Franklin L. Kirksey

To the father of the demoniac, Jesus said: “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I  believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24, NKJV)

There is much discussion today about faith and vision. Some say, “God is able to do anything. Therefore, if you have enough faith, He will do anything you want.  All you have to do is name it and claim it.”[1]  In our day, much of the teaching about vision can be summarized in the following way: “. . .anything that the mind of man can conceive and believe, man can achieve.”[2]

Dr. Morris H. Chapman writes, “Look with me at Hebrews 11:6.  ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God.’  So faith is responding to the revelation of God and to the Word of God.  Can you testify, ‘By faith, I will respond to God speaking to me. Today I believe?’  Jesus once challenged the father whose son was tortured by a demonic spirit, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23).  Do you remember what the father cried out?  “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (v. 24).  Faith is our response to the revelation of God through His Holy Word which leads us straight to Jesus, and there is no other hope, there is no other way.”[3]

Dr. R.G. Lee confesses, “I believe-because I accept the fact of God. And I do not believe God is an impotent and puzzled bell-hop running up and down the corridors of the house he designed by his omniscience and created by his omnipotence, having lost the key to some of the mystery rooms of his own house. It is impossible for him to be baffled or bothered or chained by the physical elements.”[4] Dr. Lee confidently affirmed that God created the world and everything in it and has not lost control.

Leonard Ravenhill states in Why Revival Tarries: “One of these days some simple soul will pick up the Book of God, read it, and believe it. Then the rest of us will be embarrassed. We have adopted the convenient theory that the Bible is a Book to be explained, whereas first and foremost it is a Book to be believed (and after that to be obeyed).”[5]

Vance Havner laments, “One problem now is that we have a Bible full of miracles, but today we live in a world of cause and effect with few breakthroughs from heaven. How to believe the one and live in the other perplexes not a few. For the most part, the church insists on the Lord’s providences being draped in the habiliments of decent cause and effect, and attired in the surplice of natural law and order lest God should make bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations. So wrote A. J. Gordon,  and the situation has degenerated more since then. God does not perform His wonders in an unbelieving church that does not expect them.”[6]

Warren Wiersbe shares, “Dr. Bob Cook often told us in Youth for Christ, ‘Ask God to keep your life and ministry on a miracle basis.’”[7] Samuel Chadwick explains, “The church that is man-managed instead of God-governed is doomed to failure.   ministry that is college-trained but not Spirit-filled works no miracles.”[8]  In From Feet To Fathoms, Dr. Lee cites the oft quoted inspirational line from William Carey’s great missionary sermon, “Attempt Great Things for God; expect Great Things from God!”[9]  The distinguished pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, R.T. Kendall, has commented, “God is not against greatness as long as He is the architect of it.”[10]

There is a great difference between faith and presumption. Dr. Morris H. Chapman explains, “ . . . there are times when a person will determine, as a result of his own personal motivation, that he is going to do this or that. That is not faith. Rather, it can be presumption.” Chapman continues, “Faith is not scheming up our own plans and expecting God to bless them. . . . Faith is not founded on personal motivation. . . . Faith is responding to God’s revelation to you and following His call in your life’s journey.”[11]

Dr. R.G. Lee was a man of faith and vision.  In his message titled, “Forty in the Bible,” Dr. Lee quotes A. C. Dixon: “When we depend upon men, we get what men can do—and that is something. When we depend on organization, we get what organization can do—and that is something. When we depend upon education, we get what education can do—and that is something. When we depend upon money, we get what money can do—and that is something.  BUT when we depend upon God, we get what God can do.” To which Dr. Lee adds, “And what our churches need is what God can do. And what our homes need is what God can do. And what our individual lives need is what God can do. And what our nation needs is what God can do.”[12]

In Roads To Radiant Living, Charles L. Allen shares a story from Dr. R. G. Lee’s life.   Allen explains that when Dr. Lee was called as pastor to Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, it was a little known, floundering church with one thousand members and a budget of $15,000. Twenty-two years later it had grown to more than eight thousand members with an annual budget $350,000. At that time they had begun building a million-dollar auditorium that would seat the large crowds desiring to hear Dr. Lee. Allen surmised that this type of growth doesn’t happen by accident. In this instance he concluded that it was the mighty influence of Dr. Lee. He wanted to discover his secret and to get to know him. He made a trip to Memphis to visit with Dr. Lee. He soon found that Dr. Lee was a pretty ordinary man with a background similar to his own. He also learned that Dr. Lee’s techniques were not any different from those used by others. His sermon was good, but no better than others according to Allen. It wasn’t because of his personality, or his presence, or his intelligence. That evening at the close of the service he discovered the secret. As Dr. Lee was giving the invitation to Christian discipleship, it was no ordinary invitation, but was actually his testimony. Charles Allen recounts:  Dr. Lee said, “I want to ask you three questions. First, Is Christ NOTHING to you? Second, Is Christ SOMETHING to you?” As he started the third question there was a distinct difference in his voice. “Third,” he said, “Is Christ EVERYTHING to you?” Allen concluded, “There it was! One day back yonder this simple country lad heard the call, ‘Come after me and I will make you.’  He responded completely to the will of God. And what a commanding personality he made!”[13]

Proverbs 29:18  tells us “Where there is no vision the people perish” (KJV).  Literally this verse should be translated, “Where there is no [prophetic] revelation, the people cast off [moral] restraint. . .”[14]  In his very insightful and instructive book titled, Lead On! Leadership That Endures in a Changing World, John Edmund Haggai explains, “For the Christlike leader, a vision is a revelation of God’s will. A leader grasps the challenge of the vision, commits to the mission, and implements the goals that will accomplish the mission and fulfill the vision.”  Also, Haggai reminds us that “A God-given vision is an awesome responsibility.”[15]

There are three steps to follow when God gives a vision: Believe it in your heart; conceive it in your head, and receive it in your hand.

 

I.          Believe it in your heart

Romans 10:9-10 (NKJV) reveals “if you believe in your heart that God raised Him [Jesus] from the dead you will be saved.  For with the heart man believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”  While this passage specifically refers to God’s salvation it also refers to our response to God’s revelation. According to Romans 10:17  “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Hebrews 4:2 (NKJV) offers the following sad commentary on the children of Israel: “The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.”

Dr. Dallas Willard writes in Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God, “Having mentioned that when God speaks to us His Word comes as a disturbing element into our lives, [G. Campbell Morgan] continues, ‘You have never heard the voice of God, and you say: ‘The day of miracles is past. I am never disturbed. I make my own plans and live where I please and do as I like. What do you mean by a disturbing element?’ . . . Beloved, you are living still among the fleshpots and garlic of Egypt. You are still in slavery. . . .You know no disturbing voice? God never points out for you a pathway altogether different from the one you had planned? Then, my brother, you are living still in the land of slavery, in the land of darkness.”[16]

Dr. R.G. Lee shares that he heard Dr. F.B. Meyer make a great inspirational statement in a college chapel address while speaking on the leadership difficulties of Moses. Dr. Lee writes, “Then he put into my mind a statement which has been a constant source of courage, of strength, of wisdom, of faith, of daring, to me. This is the statement: ‘You never test the resources of God until you attempt the impossible.’”[17]

            To the disheartened disciples Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27, NKJV).  Andrew Murray said, “Faith expects from God what is beyond all expectation.”[18]

Anemic faith says,  “God might do it.”

Assured faith says, “God can do it.”

Authoritative faith says, “God will do it.”

Charles Wesley penned these immortal words:

 “Faith, mighty faith the promise sees,

Laughs at impossibilities,

And cries: It shall be done!”[19] 

Warren W. Wiersbe states, “Faith is not believing in spite of evidence; it is obeying in spite of consequences.”[20]

 

II.        Conceive it in your head

The apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:5 (NKJV) “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”  As believers we have “the mind of Christ” according to 1 Corinthians 2:16. Therefore we have the capacity to mentally conceive the revelation of God or envision the vision.

In the The Secret of Radiant Life, W. E. Sangster explains, “Part of the secret of progress in spiritual life is to harness the imagination in the quest for the mind of Christ.” He continues, “Every great achievement has to be imaged in the mind before it can be turned into reality.”   Sangster adds, “The imagination is one of God’s greatest gifts. . . . The proper use of the imagination is not to conjure up false things and foolishly believe them to be true, but to take true things and make them vivid in the life of today.”[21]

According to Dr. Paul Gericke, in his book The Preaching of Robert G. Lee: Adorning The Doctrine of God, Dr. Lee was known for “picturizing” his sermons. He envisioned his messages before he preached them. This involved a mental exercise. Although the vision came from God there was a time when it had to be conceived in the mind of Dr. Lee. We must envision the vision that comes from God. But there is a sense in which we, like Abraham, must go out not knowing where we are going in obedience to the word of God.[22]

Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe explains, “Imagination is the image-making faculty in your mind, the picture gallery in which you are constantly painting, sculpting, designing, and sometimes erasing.” Wiersbe continues, “Christians who ignore or neglect the cultivating of their imagination can’t enter into the full enjoyment of all that God has for them. A sanctified imagination opens the door to so much that is beautiful and enriching that it’s a pity more believers don’t realize what they are missing and do something about it.” [23]

Anyone familiar with Dr. Lee’s messages can attest to the fact that he communicated those pictures very well in his preaching. After listening to a recording of his well known sermon titled “Payday Someday,” you come away feeling like you have been taken inside the pages of Scripture to actually meet Ahab, Jezebel, and Naboth, and experience their story. His preaching is alive with visual images!

W.E. Sangster declares that imagination and affirmation should be tied together. He explains, “Link affirmation and imagination together, and you are giving your mind to Christ in a way which makes it possible for Christ to give His mind to you. The transformation proceeds apace.” [24]

III.       Receive it in your hand

At this stage, faith becomes sight and hope ends in delight. This is the fulfillment of the dream or the realization of the vision. John Edmund Haggai shares, “Leaders used by God respond to the vision He gives them. God gave Noah the vision of an ark, and he built it. God gave Abraham a vision of a city, and he looked for it. God gave Nehemiah a vision of a wall, and he repaired it. God gave Paul the apostle a vision of evangelizing the whole world, and he covered the earth with the message of Christ.”[25]

G. Campbell Morgan proclaimed: “There is one other thing to say. Faith proves unseen things, not for itself only, but for other men. By your faith you demonstrate the reality of the unseen to the world at large. You bring the unseen things into sight by your faith. By the victory your faith wins you prove faith and prove the unseen things to the man of the world. By your strength in the hour of agony, I come to believe in God more perfectly.”[26]

            It is at this point that we must actually lay hold of God’s will for our life. We must possess our possessions. This is when the revelation (dream or vision) by faith becomes a reality.  When it comes this way there is no doubt that the glory belongs to the Lord. Joe Johnson, the man who edited Dr. R. G. Lee’s last three books, shares the following account of his last personal meeting with the peerless “preacher-pastor-author” in his Memphis home. Johnson confessed that spending time with a man that he felt was “one of the greatest preachers among Southern Baptists” was a humbling experience. At that time Dr. Lee was about ninety years old and his eyesight was failing. Dr. Lee admitted as they sat on the couch with his white poodle that he could only see “a hint of the lights” on the Christmas tree. At once Dr. Lee began shaking and sobbing.  Johnson asked if anything was wrong and if he could do anything. Dr. Lee said, “Oh Brother Joe, I’m old, and I’ve never done anything for Jesus.”  Johnson protested, “But Dr. Lee, you’ve baptized more than 20,000 people here at Bellevue Baptist Church. Your ministry is second to none!” Dr. Lee stated emphatically, “Oh, no, I’ve never done anything for my Jesus.”  Johnson concludes by saying that he didn’t know what to say and just cried with him.[27]

May we be able to say with Dr. Lee: “Though there are, I am sad to say, those who, in denial of the supernatural and the miraculous, close the garden where grief has found through the centuries its only final comfort, where the sinner has found through all generations his only Saviour, and where death has met through all ages the only destroyer, still will I say, even till ‘my poor, lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave,’ ‘Lord, I believe.’”[28]

 

Written by: Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, Pastor
Creola First Baptist Church
Creola, AL


 

1 Adrian Rogers, The Power Of His Presence (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2001), 145.

2 Hugh B. Jacks, President and CEO, BellSouth Services, audio taped speech, Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, Christian Business Men’s Committee, Columbia, South Carolina, 10/17/90.

3 Morris H. Chapman, Faith: Taking God at His Word  (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), 90.

4 R.G. Lee, Lord, I Believe (Nashville: Sunday School Board of the SBC, 1927), 10.

5 Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries (Zachary, LA: Christian Litho, Inc., Printed by Ravenhill Books, 1974), 59.

6 Vance Havner, The Vance Havner Devotional Treasury (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985), 173.

7 Warren W. Wiersbe, Your Next Miracle: Experiencing the Power of Christ in Everyday Life (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2001), 154.

8 Ravenhill, 94.

9 R. G. Lee, From Feet To Fathoms (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1926), 17.

10 Chapman, 90.

11 Ibid., 74, 76.

12 R. G. Lee, Heart To Heart (Nashville; Broadman Press, 1977), 81-82.

13 Charles L. Allen, Roads To Radiant Living (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1951), 133-134.

14 Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments/ William MacDonald; edited with introductions by Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), 865.

15 John Edmund Haggai, Lead On! Leadership That Endures in a Changing World (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1986), 20, 23.

16 Dallas Willard,Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 71.

17Great Pulpit Masters, Volume VI, F.B. Meyer, Introduction by Robert G. Lee, (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, MCML), 7.

18 The Promises of God , daily calendar (Bloomington, MN: Garborg’s Heart ‘N Home, 1988), January 22

19 Ralph P. Martin, Where The Action Is: A Bible Commentary for Laymen/Mark (Glendale, CA: G/L Regal Books, 1978), 83.

20 Warren W. Wiersbe, God Isn’t In A Hurry (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), 24.

21 W.E. Sangster, (Grand Rapids: Francis Asbury Press of Zondervan Publishing House, 1988),171, 172, 192.

22 Paul Gericke, The Preaching of Robert G. Lee: Adorning The Doctrine of God (Orlando: Christ For the World Publishers, 1967), 127-129.

23 Warren W. Wiersbe, Preaching & Teaching with Imagination: The Quest for Biblical Ministry (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), 25, 27.

24 Sangster, 192-193.

25 Haggai,  20.

26 G. Campbell Morgan, The Westminster Pulpit (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1954), 305-306.

27 Joe Johnson, “Comfort for Life’s Sorrows” Discipleship and Family Development For Baptist Adults, LifeWay, December, January, February 2001, Vol. 27, Number 1, page 34.

28 R.G. Lee, Lord, I Believe (Nashville: Sunday School Board of the SBC, 1927), 182.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey has been pastor of Creola First Baptist Church, Creola, Alabama, since 1993. He received his B.A. degree from William Carey College, Hattiesburg, Mississippi; the M.Div. degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana; and the D.Min. degree from Southern Baptist School for Biblical Studies, Jacksonville, Florida.  He and his wife Sharon have been married for ten years.