Today I had a revelation. I was working all day long on a backhoe. This is a special backhoe. I think you can call it a “missionary” backhoe. I have had it now for about 4 or 5 years. My backhoe was born in 1973, two years after me! I have another one from 1967 but I gave it away. It worked much better. I have never dug one hole with this backhoe. I have only moved it backward or forwards a few times and shipped it several times across the country to different repair people to no avail. It is an absolute lemon. But, it’s the only one I got. I have faith that one day it will work, or I will get a new backhoe. The Bible defines faith for us. It says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). I have a lot of faith for what I can do with this backhoe. The reason that I wanted a backhoe is that I often work moving a lot of dirt. Just two days ago I moved several tons of dirt (with another piece of equipment) to fix up a road that has big mud puddles in it. I piled up dirt in the holes so that the water will run off the side of the road instead of making puddles.
I know I am a strange missionary. While I do evangelize, plant new churches and care for orphans and widows I also build stuff. I have built roads, even a bridge, I have now built about 13 buildings and usually I build these things in empty fields. Often rice-fields. When I put out my plans to build, many friends around me think I am nuts because of the location of the buildings. But I think God gave me eyes of faith, because when I see an empty field I can see what it will look like. When I visit a nice garden, do you know what crosses my mind? I have a thought in my mind that says, “I can build that.” When I see a unique building I immediately think, “I can build that.” When I see a beautiful church with a unique roof design I think, “I can build that.” When I see a playground for $20,000 I think, “I can build that, and for half the price and double the strength.” I think I have a lot of faith.
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).
Jesus tells us clearly that we cannot see faith, and yet, if it is as small as a mustard seed (let me tell you, that is really small compared to a mountain or even a backhoe), that “nothing will be impossible for you!” Wow!! That is awesome.
You see, I live right now in a Cambodian city called “Poipet”. Most of the homes are just shacks. I nickname it “the mud hole”. Every day it is a pretty miserable place to live, but if it rains it tops all scales on discomfort. Yet, it is one of the fastest growing cities in Cambodia. It also has a reputation of being a place that criminals go to hide from the law. It has a Casino zone that is between two national borders and so is basically lawless. It is rife with human trafficking, drug trafficking and other bad things. This city has at least ten times more brothels than churches! One of the Lonely Planet tourist books said about Poipet, “If you have spent more than 5 minutes in Poipet, you have wasted your time!” However, this is a place that I know God has a special plan for.
Let me tell you how I see Poipet. I see one of Cambodia’s most prosperous cities. I see a future city which is one of the top three cities in the nation. I see a city which will have nice paved roads, clean water and the best schools in the nation. I see a place where Christians are revered, not ignored. I see a place which will attract people because of righteousness and justice, not evil. I see a place where neighbors care about each other and help each other out. I have faith that God has a great plan for Poipet.
Now, let me tell you something about what I have learned about faith. It’s usually not instant! Who doesn’t want to see a mountain instantly disappear? We always want an instant solution, but faith is more like my backhoe. I believe God wanted me to have a backhoe so I could help people, so I keep tinkering with it. It has been thrown away more times than I know, but God has a plan to move mountains with that backhoe. He has a plan to transform the city of Poipet with that old backhoe. To me, faith is much about persistence.
Look at Abraham, the father of faith. God told him he would give him a nation. He wandered for most of his life until he finally got it, then his cousin Lot took the better part. God promised him a son, and it was decades before he held a baby in his arms. Consider Moses, he had faith that God would rescue the Hebrews from Egypt and give them the Promise Land. Forty years later they made it to the Promise Land. He never wavered in his faith. He didn’t sit around until it happened, he worked at it.
Jesus told us “every knee would bow, every tongue confess that he was Lord” (Romans 14:11). Poof!! Did it happen? Well, I don’t know about you, but there are a lot of people who hate us Christians in the world right now; About 5 billion of them! Jesus said he would return again for us and bring salvation to all who waited on him and establish his kingdom (Hebrews 9:27-28). Poof! Well, I don’t know about you, but there are few places that I have been too which remotely seem anything like the Kingdom of Heaven here on terra firma. You know what? We have to have faith. The promises of God will come true for us, just as they did for Abraham and Moses, but we have to keep working. Keep building. Keep seeking Jesus and keep trying to change the world to be what Jesus desires. Faith is persistence.
I can move mountains. Do you know how? One scoop load of dirt at a time. I know that Jesus wants to change Poipet to a great city. I know that Cambodia will be transformed. There are huge mountains in front of us, but one scoop at a time, the mountains will disappear. Three years ago there were no paved roads, now we have about 10 miles of paved roads, there was no drainage system, yet now there is. There was no public water supply, but now there is. Poipet is changing! Not in an instant, but through persistent faith.
My guess is that you have some big promises of God in your life. You had dreams which are almost dead. Maybe you thought that those mountains would just disappear, but you need to be persistent. Keep trusting in the promises of God. Keep working. Keep digging. Keep doing what Jesus told you to, and after a while you will look up and see that the mountains are gone.