The Power of Faith


LIFE’S LESSONS

HENRYLITO D. TACIO

Mr. Tacio, who hails from Davao, is a correspondent of the Asian edition of Reader’s Digest. He is the first and only Filipino journalist to have been elevated to the Hall of Fame in science reporting by the Philippine Press Institute. In 1999, the Rotary Club of Manila bestowed him the Journalist of the Year award. He is also East Asia’s contributing editor of the People & the Planet based in London.

For comments, henrytacio@gmail.com


It was raining outside the house and I had nothing to do. So, I decided to file all the old issues of scattered Reader’s Digest in a cabinet. But I couldn’t help getting a few copies and scanned the pages. Now, in the reading mood, I started to glance at some of the articles.

One January 2001 feature caught my attention: “Faith is Powerful Medicine.” Is the author – Phyllis McIntosh – writing about faith healing? No, she was talking about religious faith – that heals.

Dr. Dale Matthews, associate professor of medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, was quoted as saying: “We cannot prove scientifically that God heals, but I believe we can prove that belief in God has a beneficial effect.”

The author said that more than 30 studies have found a connection between spiritual or religious commitment and longer life. Among the most compelling findings:

• A survey of 5,286 Californians found that churchgoers have lower death rates than non-churchgoers – regardless of risk factors such as smoking, drinking, obesity and inactivity.
• Those with a religious commitment had fewer symptoms or had better health outcomes in seven out of eight cancer studies, four out of five blood-pressure studies and four out of five generalhealth studies.
• People with strong religious commitment seem to be less prone to depression, suicide, alcoholism and other addictions, according to one research analysis.

A person does not need to know how or why faith works. But faith does work! Sir Wilfred Grenfell has this to say: “Why is it that the very term ‘religious life’ has come to voice the popular idea that religion is altogether divorced from ordinary life? That conception is the exact opposite of Christ’s teachings. Faith, ‘reason grown courageous,’ as someone has called it, has become assurance to me now, not because the fight is easy and we are never worsted but because it has made life infinitely worthwhile, so that I want to get all I can out of it, every hour.

“God help us not to neglect the use of a thing – like faith – because we do not know how it works! It would be a criminal offense in a doctor not to use the X-ray even if he does not know how barium chloride makes Gamma rays visible. We must know that our opinions are not a matter of very great moment, except in so far as in what they lead us to do. I see no reason whatever to suppose that the Creator lays any stress on them either. Experience answers out problems – experience of faith and common sense. For faith and common sense, taken together, make reasonable service, which ends by giving us the light of life.”

Just what is faith, anyway? “Faith is not trying to believe something regardless of evidence,” says Sherwood Eddy. “Faith is daring to do something regardless of the consequences.” Elton Trueblood points out: “Faith not belief without proof, but trust without reservations.”

Allow me to give you an illustration. In his book, The Edge of Adventure, author Bruce Larson tells a story about a letter found in a baking powder tin which is wired to the handle of a pump. It offered the only hope of drinking water on the seldom-used trail across a desert. The letter in the tin read as follows:

“This pump is all right as of June 1932. I put a new leather sucker washed into it, and it ought to last several years. But this leather washer dries out and the pump has to got to be primed. Under the white rock, I buried a bottle of water. There’s enough water in it to prime the pump. But not if you drink some first. Pour in about one-quarter, and let her soak to wet the leather. Then pour in the rest medium fast and pump like crazy. You’ll get water. The well has never run dry. Have faith.

“When you get watered up, fill the bottle and put it back like you found it for the next feller.”

There was postscript. It said: “Don’t go drinking up the water first. Prime the pump with it first, and you’ll get all you can hold.”

That’s what faith is all about. Believing that there will be water even if you have not seen it yet. The Holy Bible assigns high importance to faith: “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed… nothing shall be impossible unto you.”

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, one of the world’s most-widely read American authors, explains: “The implication is that while you may not have perfect faith, or considerable faith, or even faith as small as a tiny mustard seed, yet, if what you do have is real faith, then life will be predicated, not on an impossibility concept, but rather upon the fact of great possibilities. Faith strongly held can move you of the area of the impossible into a way of life that is full of exciting possibilities.”

A famous heiress keeps her priceless collection of jewels in the vault of a large bank. One of her prize possessions is a very valuable string of pearls. It is a scientific fact that pearls lose their original luster if not worn once in a while in contact with the human body. So, once a week, a bank secretary, guarded by two plainclothesmen, wears these priceless pearls to lunch. This brief contact with the human body keeps them beautiful and in good condition.

Our faith is lot a like a pearl. It must be used in order to be useful. It must be worn out among the masses of mankind where faith and hope are needed.

“We live by faith or we do not live at all,” wrote Harold Walker. “Either we venture – or we vegetate. If we venture, we do so by faith simply because we cannot know the end of anything at its beginning. We risk marriage on faith or we stay single. We prepare for a profession by faith or we give up before we start. By faith, we move mountains of opposition or we are stopped by molehills.”

This brings us to the subject of belief. Someone once asked Jay Kesler, former president of Youth to Christ International, if he believed that God could make a fish big enough to swallow a man. As a college president and above average in intelligence, in a world in which we have learned to split the atom and go to the moon, did Kesler really think that God can make a fish big enough to swallow a man?

Dr. Kesler’s reply is one of simple trust in a great God. “Let me tell you,” he said, “I not only believe that he can make such a fish, but the God who made the sun and the moon and the stars, if he wanted to, could air-condition and carpet the fish!”

Here’s a final word: “Faith draws the poison from every grief, takes the sting from every loss, and quenches the fire of every pain; and only faith can do it.” That’s what J.G. Holland said.

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