You Can’t Fake Faith | President’s Blog

March 7, 2022

Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 17:19-20 (NIV)

With every professional experience I have had, I have learned valuable lessons about myself, about working with others and about leadership. With most of my experiences, I have had the privilege of learning from or being mentored by strong leaders.

One of the people who has been instrumental in my growth and development as a leader, a Christian and a man has been Hal Heiner. Hal was my boss twice. First, during his tenure as Kentucky’s Secretary of Education & Workforce Development, I served as Executive Director of Education Policy and Programs and reported directly to him. Later, while I served as Kentucky’s Commissioner of Education, he was again one of my bosses as a member and later chair of the Kentucky Board of Education. Of the many things I learned from Hal, the most impactful and long-lasting lesson was seeing up close what it looked like to put Christian faith into action as an executive leader in a secular context.

When I left my tenured faculty position at the University of Kentucky to serve in state government under Hal’s leadership, I did so because I knew his Christian faith was foundational to his unwavering commitment to improve educational access and opportunities for the most marginalized children in Kentucky, particularly in the West End of Louisville. What I did not know at the time but got to see up close during our time working together was how his faith, on a daily basis, led to him pushing harder than most people would dare to push and refusing to accept no for an answer. I came to understand that, because Hal knew he was doing the work that God had called him to, he believed, without question, that God would provide the means and the power for that work to be done. As a result, I was privileged to see how raw, uncompromising faith and a willingness to give God all the glory can and does in fact move barriers most people believe to be unmovable. That is a lesson I have taken with me into every leadership role I have held since, including my current role as President of Houghton University.

Pictured: President Wayne D. Lewis, Jr., while serving as commissioner of education for Kentucky, with Hal Heiner, chair of the board of education, at a press conference.

The Gospel of Matthew 17:14-21 documents the story of a man who brought his son who was demon-possessed to Jesus to be healed. The man had previously brought his son to the disciples to be healed, but they were unsuccessful. Jesus rebuked the demon, and the boy was healed. But before healing the boy, Jesus rebuked His disciples. Jesus had in fact given them the “authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness” (Matthew 10:1). The disciples were unable to heal the boy, however, due to their lack of faith. Jesus had given them all the authority they needed to do the work He had tasked them with, but that authority could only be activated by their faith.

How often do we or have we found ourselves in situations where we are placed where God would have us to be with the work He has called us to, with all the tools, resources and authority we need to fulfill our divine callings, yet we are incapable of activating that authority because we lack the requisite faith? And we find, just as the disciples did in Matthew 17, that you can’t fake faith. You can fool everyone around you by doing the right things, saying the right things, keeping the right company, but when the rubber meets the road and it is time to speak to a mountain and say, “Move from here to there,” your speech, your actions and your friends will not move that mountain. Only faith will. Mountains only move by the authority of almighty God, activated through our raw, uncompromising, childlike faith.

Mountains only move by the authority of almighty God, activated through our raw, uncompromising, childlike faith.

I have been blessed enough to see mountains move—to see the unmistakable power of almighty God at work in places and circumstances that those without spiritual eyes would have called hopeless. But in Christ, there is neither helplessness nor hopelessness. So, if you see me out somewhere speaking to a mountain, don’t worry about me. I have not lost my mind. I have found my faith, and I know, without doubt, that God can do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20).

President Wayne D. Lewis Jr.

About the Author

With 20 years of experience in education, higher education leadership is a calling for Wayne D. Lewis, Jr., President of Houghton University. He is recognized as being a champion for students; focusing on improving educational access, opportunities and experiences for students, including those who have historically been underserved.

Read More about President Lewis