Faith In Things Not Yet Seen
By faith, Noah built the ark, gathered the animals, watched the waters rise, and received the rainbow promise. How do we have faith in things not yet seen?
It was Sunday, October 20, 1968 and the final day of programming at the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City.
Dick Fosbury was a 21 year old high jumper from Oregon State University. He was hardly a favorite to win the event. But in his third and final jump Fosbury clinched the gold medal and in the eyes of many, the event was changed forever.
You see, Dick didn’t jump the same way that the others did. The classic way of doing the high jump was to straddle the bar, facing down and lifting the legs individually over the bar.
It was a complex motion and Fosbury had difficulty with it, so he began to experiment with other ways of doing the high jump. Some described his attempts as looking like he was having some sort of an airborne seizure as he went over the bar.
Eventually he came to a technique that seemed to work for him – going over the bar backwards. It looked awkward – one Oregon newspaper ran a photo with the caption, “Fosbury Flops Over the Bar” – the caption stuck, and the technique became known as the Fosbury Flop.
The defending gold medalist at the Olympics called Fosbury’s method an “aberration,” at first, but even he changed his mind. Today, among the 36 Olympic medalist high jumpers, 34 have used the Fosbury Flop. It is the most dominant technique in the sport today.
This week we began a series on Wednesdays in Lent from the book of Hebrews, called “By Faith.”
As we heard the familiar story of Noah, we know that all that Noah did was by faith. By faith, Noah built the ark. By faith, Noah gathered the animals. By faith, Noah watched the waters rise and eventually received the rainbow promise.
How do we have faith like Noah – in things not yet seen?
Dick Fosbury had never achieved a jump this high before. The most elite high jumpers in the world, his teammates, their coaches, the reporters are watching him. Most have never seen someone do the high jump like he did.
The crowd is on its feet as Fosbury makes his approach to the bar. He takes a deep breath and begins his run-up, building up speed and momentum. With a mighty leap, he launches himself into the air – backwards.
The crowd doesn’t know what to think. Is it even legal to make the jump in the way he did?
Fosbury had faith in that jump. Coaches and friends had tried to talk him out of it. It had never been done in Olympic competition before. But even though it hadn’t been seen, Dick Fosbury believed it was possible.
It wasn’t blind faith. It wasn’t that all of a sudden one day Fosbury decided to change his jump in the middle of a competition.
No…Fosbury trained, he practiced over and over again. And then, on that October Sunday in 1968, he ignored all the voices that said it couldn’t be done, it shouldn’t be done…and he jumped.
Noah built the biggest boat the world had ever seen when it wasn’t even raining. Did he and Dick Fosbury have something more than the rest of us? More courage? More trust in the possible?
I don’t think so. I think they both had simply practiced. We’re told in the book of Genesis that Noah was a righteous man (only one of 3 people in the Old Testament God calls righteous – Daniel and Job are the other two). Noah had practiced listening to God. Noah had practiced trusting God.
Lent is a time when we’re invited to practice. Practice giving, practice prayer, practice worship, practice spiritual reading.
Faith doesn’t come blindly. It comes through practice.
May our practice give us faith in the things that are not yet seen.