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LWC Chapel Celebration Sermon: You Can Move Mountains

Dr. Begley's sermon, given at Homecoming celebrating 20 years since the chapel was built and named in his honor, encourages 'faith as a grain of mustard seed' coupled with personal development to build self esteem and strength for leadership toward mountain moving. The text of his speech is shared in full below.

By Dr. John B. Begley, Chancellor, Lindsey Wilson College

YOU CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS -- Matthew 17: 14-21

The purpose of the Begley Chapel is to provide a peaceful place where you can let down the walls of your life, where you can relinquish and surrender control of your life to a God who will not abandon you, will not abuse you, will not judge you unfairly, but will love you, no matter what and forever.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of Colleges and Universities with chapels or worship centers but I submit to you that you will not find one with a more compelling purpose than ours.

I was so pleased when asked to participate in this 20th anniversary of the John B. Begley Chapel celebration. Having the chapel named in honor of me was not something I desired and it certainly wasn't something I deserved, but it means more to me than I could ever explain because of its purpose. It is a symbol of the importance of faith at Lindsey Wilson College.


My text for today is from that selection of scripture that was read a few moments ago. Matthew 17:20.

"For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, and say to the mountain, 'move,' the mountain will move; and nothing will be impossible to you."

This is one of the most fascinating passages of scripture in the New Testament.

Back in 1977, the year I was elected the sixth president, I knew that Lindsey Wilson College had giant mountains that needed to be moved.

We were a college in trouble.

We only had 381 students and 81 of those were high school students taking one course.

We only had 75 resident students.

We may have had the smallest annual operating budget of any college anywhere. It was $600,000 and that compares to over $60,000,000 this fiscal year.

The buildings and grounds were in deplorable condition.

We were a college that many people thought would not survive.

This verse of scripture speaks to the situation that Lindsey found itself in 1977, and I'm inclined to believe that on occasions all of us have mountains we need to move.

One day Jesus and a few of his close friends, after an exciting and memorable time together, were returning to more ordinary routines when they were approached by the father of a sick child. The word was out that Jesus healed people; in fact, his followers were imitating him and the father had first gone to them. He had asked them for help, but they had been unable to deliver the goods. They had tried to heal the boy and failed.

So the father, as soon as he saw Jesus, ran to him and begged for help. Jesus was surprised and a little disappointed at the ineffectiveness of his disciples, but he was unfailingly generous toward anyone who needed help so he told the father "Bring your son to me." Then the scripture said "The boy was cured instantly."

Later, after the boy and his father and most others were gone, the disciples privately had a question for Jesus. "Why couldn't we do it?" They had failed but they didn't know why.

And Jesus said "You should have been able to." What he was saying was that what it took and what they lacked was a spiritual resource equally available to all. "For truly I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'move,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you."

I -- One of the things I hear Jesus saying here is that FAITH IS A BASIC NECESSITY OF LIFE. I am not sure that Jesus was saying that anything is possible if you believe or if you have faith. As far as I am concerned, when Jesus said, "If you say to the mountain, 'move,' the mountain will move." It was simply his way of saying that almost nothing is possible unless you believe.

Unless you have some kind of faith, some kind of expectation, some kind of commitment in advance - almost nothing is possible. Therefore, we will not be successful at moving mountains.

Faith is a basic necessity of life.

II -- A second thing this incident suggests is the importance of faith in ourselves. As much as anything else, that was what the disciples' trouble was.

They had seen Jesus heal people

They knew it could be done.

They simply didn't believe they were good enough to do it.

One of the biggest challenges Coaches have with their athletes is getting an athlete to believe in himself or herself to reach his or her highest potential.

I know that some of you will find it difficult to believe that there was a time in my life when I was a victim of low self-confidence.

In 1967, when I completed my degree program at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, I had more student debt than good judgment called for. I had borrowed from NDSL (National Student Defense Loan) The National United Methodist Scholarship Fund, and had even borrowed high interest money from Capital Loan, because I had no other way to complete my program.

That summer, I learned of a program that would teach me how to develop my self-confidence, manage my time, learn the art of goal-setting, and solve problems. So I went to the bank and borrowed an additional $600 and purchased 20 cassette tapes from SUCCESS MOTIVATION INSTITUTE.

Twenty tapes for $600. I went online last week to see how much $600 in 1967 was worth in 2017 dollars and it was $4,433.87. That is over $200 a piece per each cassette tape.

But it may well have been the best personal development money I ever spent. I listened to the first 20 minute tape twice a day, once in the morning and once at night for one week. And then I would go to tape 2 the second week, until I mastered the complete 20 tape program. Before long, what they were teaching was so much a part of my thinking that it became the way I thought.

But the one tape that had the greatest influence on my life was a tape by Paul J. Meyer. I have quoted him hundreds of times and President Luckey and others here today have heard it at least 50 times:

"WHATEVER YOU VIVIDLY IMAGINE, ARDENTLY DESIRE, SINCERELY BELIEVE AND ENTHUSIASTICALLY WORK TOWARD WILL INEVITABLY COME TO PASS."

I wouldn't be here today had I not made that investment in my personal development.

All of us could benefit from a stronger faith in ourselves. All of us have mountains we need to move. And "If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, and say to the mountain 'move,' the mountain will move."

III -- In the third place, the chief thing toward which this passage of scripture points, is the importance of having FAITH IN GOD. That in itself is a well-worn phrase. But we must not minimize that in any way. So let me say that we must have an "inner companionship with God." If there are mountains in your life that need to be moved, then faith in God is a critical component to getting those mountains moved.

That is what Jesus had supremely that everyone else in the story lacked. None had that continuous close, intimate sense of and companionship with God that Jesus had.

A few years ago there was a movie on the Turner Classic Netwok called "The world of Suzie Wong." Susie was a prostitute with an illegitimate child to support. One night a typhoon struck and set off a mud-slide in which her little boy was killed.

The funeral service was simple. They built a fire and everyone put in something symbolic:

- a little rice paper rickshaw which was a two wheel carriage so that he would have something to ride in in the next world

- some toys to play with

- some rice to eat, etc.

When Suzie's own time came, she decided to put in a letter to her son.

She couldn't write so she dictated a letter to her American Gi lover. Her letter went something like this:
"This letter will introduce you to Jimmy Wong. He very good baby. He not cry very much. He not make too much trouble. Please take care of him."
She was about to put the letter in the fire and someone said, "Suzie, you haven't included a salutation." She thought for a moment and then she said, "Just put it TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN."

Let's face it. One of the reasons some of us have mountains we cannot move is because we have a TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN relationship with God.

So, let me suggest to you that you consider the importance of recognizing that faith is a basic necessity of Life. And let you consider the importance of believing in yourself. And let me suggest that you consider developing a close, personal relationship with God.

And then, your faith, as a grain of mustard seed will give you the power you need to say to the mountains "Move" and the mountains will move.

Back in 1997, when we opened the chapel, someone left a notebook in the chapel and encouraged students to write letters to God. Some of the students would write their letter and leave it in the notebook and others would take their letter and leave it at the altar.

One of the letters went something like this:
"Our God, in the next few moments I want to find you, to know that you are. Because of the hurry and worry of my life, I do not know you very well. Come down to me, O God, and I will reach up to you."
Well, the beautiful thing about it is God is always here. He doesn't have to come down to us. He is already here. All he wants us to do is to reach out to Him.

Grace V. Watkins said it well when she said,
"As near as April Green to a hill
As petals of gold to a daffodil,
As near as the sunlight is to the sod
So near to the human heart is God."


This story was posted on 2017-10-25 20:25:26
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