Richard Allen Farmer told OBU students about a little boy preparing to go to camp. The boy was afraid he would be teased for being a Christian, so his pastor promised to pray for the boy each day he was gone. When he returned from camp, the pastor inquired if he had been bullied for his faith.
"Pastor, it was better than that - they never found out!" the boy said.
During a Jan. 30 weekly chapel service, Farmer urged OBU students to live out the story of their faith rather than follow the sad example of the little boy at camp who hid any indication he was a Christian. Farmer's message, based in Psalm 78, followed OBU's 2012-13 chapel focus on "The Psalms."
A gifted musician and speaker from Dallas, Texas, Farmer began the service by leading the OBU community in a time of music and worship. Between songs, he shared that he once preached the funeral of a man whose obituary took up one-fourth of a regular sheet of paper. He said the man accomplished little more than breathing oxygen during his 73 years of life.
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"It was a terrible way to live," Farmer said. "I'm not saying you need pages and pages written about you, but there wasn't much to say at all. I hope that as you are living out your days, as you are engaging the story of what God is up to in the world, I hope that you are deciding you are going to make a difference in the world."
"There will be many people who will be affected and infected by you because of the way you live," he said.
Psalm 78 begins, "Give ear, O my people, to my law; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done" (verses 1-4, NKJ).
Farmer said the Psalm's author, Asaph, talks about sharing the story of one's faith from generation to generation. Farmer said there comes a time in each Christian's life when he or she "gets it" - when a person sees God at work and recognizes the story of one's faith unfolding. He said a person should not only come to recognize the story, but also should share that story openly with others.
In his own life, Farmer said he looks forward to one day sharing his story of faith with his future grandchildren. But he pointed out that he already is affecting his future grandchildren by the way he is raising their father. Like the psalmist instructs, Farmer clings to the story of his faith and shares it often and well.
"So may you get the story, get it way down deep inside your heart," he said. "Believe it, embrace it, sing it, tell it, write it. Then may you get to the point where you freely give the story and tell the story. I'm so afraid we might mess this up. I'm so afraid we'll stand before God one day and say, 'They never found out!' and it will be to our shame."
Farmer also revealed the man with the short obituary was his own father. But Farmer has chosen not to repeat his father's life. He has chosen to share his faith story, and he dared OBU students to also "out-do" others who are silent about the goodness of God.