I had no idea that August 6 is National Mustard Day. As it turns out, August 6 is also National Fresh Breath Day, National Root Beer Float Day, and National Wiggle Your Toes Day. But none of them are being celebrated with mustard donuts.
French’s, the mustard company, has unveiled what yahoo!finance describes as “a reimagined classic glazed donut with a sweet and savory yellow mustard coating that’s topped with a mustard cake crumble.”
I’m sorry, but none of that is remotely appealing to me.
But this is: when a couple in Virginia retired, they sold their house and most of their belongings and are now living on cruise ships. They explained that they have a small condominium in Florida “so when we get too old to cruise we have somewhere to live.” In the meantime, they are spending as much time as possible sailing around the world.
As a longtime fan of cruises (Alaska is my favorite), this seems like a terrific idea.
This, however, does not: a company has created the world’s only hot-air balloon restaurant. I’m sure the food is terrific and the views are amazing, but I am not a fan of heights. When I get on an airplane, I try for an aisle seat where I can read the entire time while pretending we’re still on the ground.
“I don’t believe in hell”
Here’s what these stories have in common: they illustrate the entrepreneurial spirit that drives so much innovation and progress in human society. I would never have thought of combining mustard and donuts, living full time on a cruise ship, or eating in a hot-air balloon. I would not have thought of nearly every invention that has improved our lives. But I’m grateful for those who did.
Here’s where my gratitude ends, however: the successful results of human ingenuity tempt us to depend more fully on human ingenuity than we should.
John Milton observed, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” That is true in a sense, but the mind cannot change the actual eternal realities of heaven or hell. Unfortunately, secular people are easily deceived into thinking it can.
I still remember sharing the gospel with a man who responded, “I don’t believe in hell.” In his mind, that settled the issue. Apply his logic to any other reality: “I don’t believe in Australia,” so there’s no Australia? I don’t believe in cancer, so I can’t get cancer? Unless something changes, he will persist in rejecting the existence of hell until he experiences it for himself.
“I believe; help my unbelief!”
This confusion between belief and reality cuts both ways: it not only tempts secular people into denying spiritual realities, but it also tempts spiritual people into thinking their faith by itself can change secular realities.
Jesus did say, “If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). But the mountain moves, not because of the amount of our faith, but because of its Object.
This was actually our Lord’s point. That’s why he promised that if our faith were no larger than the tiniest seed common to his culture, God would still respond with his omnipotent grace. The results of our faith depend not on us but on the One we trust.
This is wonderful news for those days when it is hard to trust God. We can say to our Lord, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24), and he will answer our prayer. We can be honest with our doubts and fears, and he will welcome our honesty and respond in love (cf. Isaiah 1:18).
“The main thing about Christianity”
There’s one more dimension to our conversation: the more we admit our spiritual poverty, the more we position ourselves to experience God’s abundance.
Jesus’ first beatitude is foundational to the rest and to the Sermon on the Mount that followed: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). I like the way Eugene Peterson paraphrased the text: “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and his rule” (The Message).
In a similar vein, Oswald Chambers noted: “The comradeship of God is made up out of men who know their poverty. He can do nothing with the man who thinks that he is of use to God.” He added: “The main thing about Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain and the atmosphere produced by that relationship. That is all God asks us to look after, and it is the one thing that is being continually assailed.”
So admit where your faith is weak today and ask God for the faith to have faith. Trust the greatest Entrepreneur in the universe to act in ways only he can imagine. And know that the more you depend on him, the more you will experience him.
St. Augustine advised us, “Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.”
Why do you need to believe in God today?