“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
- Hebrews 11:1
There’s a little known story from years ago about a man who lived in my hometown by the name of Elmo Barron. Elmo was a gambler – a professional gambler – who had a wife and daughter and as with all gamblers he was sometimes up and other times down, driving a nice new car one day and having the utilities cut off in their home the next. One day, so I’ve been told, Elmo was walking past a church when he noticed the pastor sitting on the church steps crying. Stopping to see what was wrong the minister explained to Elmo that his wife had been diagnosed with a life-threatening condition and desperately needed an operation, but he had no money to pay for it. Elmo went over and confidently patted the pastor on the shoulder. “Don’t you worry about a thing, preacher,” he said. “Stay here and I’ll be back later.” . . . Now we can only imagine what occurred in the meantime, except that sure enough sometime later Elmo Barron came strolling back by the church and slipped the preacher a wad of cash, enough to pay for his wife’s surgery.
Elmo Barron lived and died before my time so I never actually knew him. And except for this one story I don’t know much else about his life. But given what little I do know and the place and time in which he lived I’d venture to guess a couple of things. First of all I’d be surprised if he had ever darkened the doors of the pastor’s church, and second I think it is fair to surmise that Elmo and the preacher had little in common – except for two things! They both obviously had big hearts, and they both – although in very different ways, but in tandem – demonstrated what it means to live by faith.
I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet (pun intended!) the preacher opposed gambling, and had probably preached many a sermon against it. And for sure Elmo was no preacher. On that they were about as opposite as could be. Yet in the preacher’s moment of deepest despair as he’s crying out to God in faith, who comes strolling by but a confident gambler assuring him, “Don’t worry about a thing, preacher. I’ll be back later.” Sometimes prayers get answered in unexpected ways, which is why we call it faith, “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”