Beyond Belief

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Faith is not some lofty religious concept only suitable for theological giraffes or pastors’ Sunday sermons. Faith boils down to right where you live. When you drive your car, you are exercising faith. If the brakes don’t work, it could cost you your life.
Man Praying at the foot of the Cross

Faith is belief, but it goes further. It must be backed up by action—your action. It’s a decision you make to trust something or someone, and you follow by actions that prove your sincerity. Good questions to ask yourself about your faith are these: Am I placing my faith in the right place? Is the object or source of my faith reliable? 

Those questions become critical when you consider realities beyond this physical world and your time on earth. Do you believe you will have an afterlife, or will you simply cease to exist? If you believe you will exist beyond this life, are there choices you must make here and now? How does faith come into the picture?  

God’s Word defines faith this way.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for” (Hebrews 11:1-2 ,NIV).

The Lord doesn’t want us to be in the dark about faith. His Word provides numerous examples of the kind of faith the Lord commends. In the Book of Joshua, Chapter 6, the Lord assured Joshua, leader over the Israelites, that victory over the fortified city of Jericho, would happen. He instructed Joshua to march his army around the city once each day for six days. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times. After the seventh lap, trumpet blasts would sound, and the walls of the city would come crashing down. Joshua believed God and obeyed. Miraculously, the walls did tumble down, leading the Israelite army to a resounding victory.

God reaches out to anyone who demonstrates sincere faith. God commended a prostitute named Rahab for her faith. Prior to the victory over Jericho, Joshua sent two scouts to spy on Jericho and bring back military intelligence which would allow his army to penetrate the walled city. Risking her life, Rahab sheltered the spies because she feared God more than the king of Jericho. The Lord honored Rahab’s faith and spared Rahab and her entire family when the city fell.    

How important is faith? Again, God doesn’t leave us wondering. His Word says this:

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  (Hebrews 11:6).

Do you have a desire to please God? Do you value His leading and intervention in your life? Are you placing your faith in Him, and if you are does your faith genuinely impact the way you live your life?

Major John Roseborough wanted to please God. His complete trust in the Lord was abundantly evident in all aspects of his life. I know because John was my friend. I know because I watched John demonstrate his faith all the way to his last breath. 

John was a Tactical Officer at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, when I was serving as the Staff Chaplain. On August 28, 1999, I went to observe a 10K race. It was a hot day, and the course was very hilly. As the faster runners began crossing the finish line, I kept a careful eye out for anyone showing signs of a possible heat injury. When John came across the finish line, I immediately noticed the look of agony on his face and that he was grabbing his abdomen in obvious pain. Medics immediately took him to a medical tent for examination. They started an IV drip, assuming that dehydration was the villain.

Within an hour, John was taken by ambulance to Keller Army Medical Center on the Academy grounds. He remained in the hospital for four days undergoing many tests. Early results seemed to indicate a kidney failure. A colonoscopy performed on October 14 revealed a large growth in John’s colon. On October 19, doctors informed John that the growth was a fast-growing cancer. John began the fight of his life. His wife, Sontil, was his incredible battle-buddy. With childlike faith, their little son Brandon prayed for his daddy’s healing.

Over the next fifteen months I remained in steady contact with John and Sontil as they grappled with chemo, radiation, and constant testing. John continued to train cadets month after month and even did PT. His faith remained strong. He and Sontil knew God could heal him. Even if God didn’t, the couple trusted that their Heavenly Father knew best.

As the months rolled on, the cancer progressed. At the fifteen-month mark, January 2001, doctors advised the Roseboroughs that John would die within months, or even weeks. 

John decided to write an open letter—TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN. Three parts of that letter verified what I knew about John’s faith. First, he wrote about his reaction to the news of the cancer: “From the point where I received the phone call from Dr. Gagliano to my 10-minute walk home from work, my wife (Sontil) and I prayed, cried, and made the best decision of our lives by deciding to put this entire ordeal and faith into God’s hands.”

Second, John desired to encourage others who were struggling with a similar situation. His dream was to appear on the Ophrah Winfrey Show as a means of reaching as many people as possible with this encouragement.

Finally, despite the gloomy medical report, John wrote this: “After fifteen months of battling this disease, we are still standing strong in our faith and walk with God.” John didn’t claim he was going to be healed; rather, he resolutely stated that he and Sontil were continuing to stand strong in their faith and walk with God. The outcome was in the Lord’s hands.

By mid February of 2001, it was obvious from my visits with the family at their quarters that the end was near. John was so weak that he could barely get out bed. On Thursday, March 8, I informed Lieutenant General Dan Christman, Superintendent of the Military Academy, about John's condition and advised him that if he wanted to see John alive, it needed to be soon. We made an appointment for later that same day.

As we walked across the street and headed up the stairs to John's apartment, I warned General Christman that I did not know what to expect. There was a chance John would not be conscious, and even if he was, that he might not be able to speak.

We knocked on the door, expecting Sontil to answer. Instead, it was Major John Roseborough standing at the position of attention. He greeted us warmly and rendered a crisp salute to the superintendent. We had a great visit, amazed by the strength, courage, and faith of the young major. 

Two days later, March 10, 2001, I was visiting with John in his bedroom. He appeared to be at death's door. The only other person in the room was John's brother. His brother was not a person of faith and needed some assurance about what was happening to his brother. As I spoke to his brother, John suddenly sat up in his bed, looked his brother in the eye and gave a thumbs up. Without words, he was telling his brother that everything was OK. God would take good care of him. A huge sigh of relief came over brother’s face. 

I left John's brother, Sontil, and their son to be alone with John. I planned to return a few hours later. Less than two hours after I left, John went to be with the Lord for all of eternity.

Major John Roseborough and Sontil had battled faithfully to the very end. Their faith in God inspired many across the West Point community. John and Sontil exhibited the kind of faith that God commends. 

Faith is not complicated. Like John and Sontil, you have access to the same awesome God. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. You can trust Him to care for you in this life and the next.

Have faith in God!

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