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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the books:
David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2009)
David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2009)
Stan Toler resides in Oklahoma City, OK and is an international speaker and seminar leader. For several years he served as Vice-President and taught seminars for Dr. John Maxwell's INJOY Group, a leadership development institute. Toler has written over 70 books, including his best sellers, The Five Star Leader, Richest Person in the World, The Secret Blend, his popular Minute Motivator Series; and his latest book, ReThink Your Life. His books have sold over 2 million copies worldwide.
Visit the author's website.
The Buzzards are Circling, but God is Not Finished with Me Yet:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2009)
God Has Never Failed Me, but He’s Sure Scared Me to Death a Few Times:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTERs:
When Your World Crumbles, You Don’t Have to Be One of the Crumbs
(You Can Survive Your Situation)
David Hopkins felt as though the eyes of a thousand demons penetrated his soul as he walked across the campus of Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Georgia. Thousands of beady-eyed buzzards arrogantly shifted along the bare tree limbs as if they were waiting for him to drop dead and furnish their lunch. My friend Dr. Hopkins, the college president, said his skin crawled as he thought about the six years of torture that had come from the predators who arrived each October and lingered until April, infesting the college property.
With the crunch of his every footstep on the leaf-strewn ground, he relived the staff’s repeated efforts to scare away the birds. Devoted employees tried banging pots and pans—and even firing warning shots into the air. Nothing worked. And killing the ebony beasts was against the law. According to local officials, the tormentors were endangered. Destroying them would result in a hefty fine. The cold autumn wind tearing at the trees seemed to mock Dr. Hopkins, and he was certain one swooping buzzard grinned with glee!
Indeed, the buzzards seemed a metaphor for the spiritual warfare of the last six years. As the winged menaces invaded the school, year in and year out, David’s wife almost died of cancer. He suffered from the sometimes-fatal Crohn’s disease. The college, in the throes of necessary but difficult change, struggled for financial survival. Dr. Hopkins wondered if and when the buzzards would smell the death of the college and swoop. He shook his fist toward the feathered foes and declared, “You won’t win!”
Yet just when it looked like he was finished, twenty-five prayer warriors arrived on the campus to pray for the college—and for the rapid departure of the carnivorous creatures. The next day, Dr. Hopkins received a call from a donor who said, “I’ll give one hundred sixty thousand dollars toward the construction of a new science building.” Another donor called and said, “We’ll give five hundred thousand dollars toward the new science building!” What’s more, his wife was declared cancer free!
President Hopkins told me that he was so happy about the news that he nearly floated home. That’s when he made a startling discovery. As he looked around, he noticed the trees were void of those dark adversaries. No buzzards! Gone! Gone! Gone! For no apparent reason, they had vanished! At that moment, he recalled Abraham’s sojourn from Ur to the Promised Land. Abraham had paused to worship and to offer a sacrifice to God as a sign of His covenant. (It should be noted: The buzzards came down to steal Abraham’s sacrifice before he could seal it. Abraham had to shoo the winged predators away!)
Someday, you’re going to spot buzzards circling in your spiritual No-Fly Zone. There is going to come a time when you’re hit with a crisis, one that you didn’t see coming. And it may cause your whole world to crumble like an old cookie under a big sledgehammer. But take heart; you don’t have to be a crumb in the midst of the crumbling.
WORLD CRUMBLING IS NOT AN OLYMPIC SPORT
The Old Testament character Job reminds us: “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). It’s a fact of life. We didn’t inherit curly hair, brown eyes, and a propensity to arthritis from Adam. We inherited trouble. Adam’s disobedience to God started a chain reaction of suffering and sorrow that won’t be broken until the eastern sky splits and the Savior returns. The Bible says, “In Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22).
So our family tree is more like a prickly cactus than a pristine maple. But how does it play out in the landscape of life? What is it that makes our world come tumbling down like a planetary Humpty
Dumpty? There are several factors that can play a part in the world crumbling times.
We are spiritually and emotionally vulnerable when we face changes in the routine of our lives. Vocational, housing, relationship, physical, or financial changes—all may reduce our stability to zero (to put a new slant on the fog report!). In the Old Testament, Abraham faced unsettling uncertainty when God called him to leave his homeland and take his family to a new country.
He responded obediently, but I’m sure there was a king-sized knot in his stomach when he packed his luggage: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Heb. 11:8). The phrase did not know where he was going is key to what he must have felt. Everything familiar would soon be set aside, and he would leap like a skydiver into the unknown.
The focus on Abraham comes from the patriarchal emphasis in Bible times. But think about how his family must have felt. They would have to leave familiar department stores and playgrounds, forfeit soccer team membership, subscribe to a new cable television service.
This wasn’t going to be a picnic for Abraham’s family.
Change never is a picnic, but it happens. Sudden layoffs. Diving stocks. Rising gas prices. A doctor with a somber face, holding an alarming medical report in his hands. And when change does happen, our world often crumbles.
Happiness is inward and not outward; and so it does
Not depend on what we have, but on what we are.
—Henry Van Dyke
Look again at Abraham’s life story: “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:9–10).
Abraham was looking forward to the city.
So, where’s the city? All he saw was desert. No skyscrapers here, just dusty tent dwellings at the end of a long travel days spent looking at the backside of a camel.
This was supposed to be the Promised Land. But for Abraham, it must have looked like it was mostly land and little promise. For the moment, milk and honey looked more like curds and whey.
Delayed promises are world-crumbling situations. We gather together the hopes and pledges of the Bible like a pile of prescriptions from an immediate-care clinic. We haul out our inheritance claims. We thumb through the Rolodex of advice from near and far. “Just a little while.” “Sunday’s coming.” “Somewhere over the rainbow …”
But we’re used to instant coffee and microwave popcorn. Delayed promises? We’ve been promised a celestial city, but we can’t see it for the storm clouds. The realization sets in and causes our hearts to
break. We’re stuck in the now, like Abraham and his family, trying to eke out an existence in an unfurnished Promised-Land apartment.
Abraham also had to look for a promise beyond the horizon of personal setbacks: “By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore” (Heb. 11:11–12).
Wouldn’t it be awful to face life when you’ve already been declared “as good as dead”? Maybe you have!
The buzzards of age and infirmity had been in a holding pattern over Abraham’s life. God had made the promise: Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars. But Abraham couldn’t see the stars because of the smudges on his trifocals. His family would become as numerous as the sands, but the sands of his own hourglass had settled quicker than an elephant in a lawn chair.
We’ve all been there. Personal difficulties crowd out our hopes of a tomorrow. We can’t do that because of this. “If only I could…” “I just wish I didn’t have to …” “If it weren’t for…” We dialogue with life, wishing we could erase the effects of time. Personal difficulties swarm around us:
Grudges that poison us
Jealousy that gnaws at us
Loneliness that isolates us
Inadequacies that paralyze us
Finances that bind us
Sorrows that plague us.
Abraham’s life would have been so much different if it weren’t for that day. He had been sailing along—working out the issues of a new home, bringing his family to a consensus, driving fresh-cut stakes into the promises of the new land. Then, the Scriptures say, “God tested Abraham” (Gen. 22:1).
A sudden trial arrived like a five-hundred-pound gorilla. God was applying a litmus test to Abraham. He wanted His protégé to see that faith works when we face that day. God told Abraham to take his son to a remote place and prepare an altar of sacrifice—and then sacrifice his son, his only son, back to God. Leaving his servants behind, Abraham took the materials for the altar, along with his only son, and began the longest journey of his life. The trip from Ur was a piece of cake compared to these few steps.
Even as they walked together, the questions began to fly: “Father, where’s the sacrifice?” Abraham’s heart was pounding. He was committed to obeying God’s command: to make his own son that sacrifice. Abraham replied, “God will provide.” But deep in his heart the doubts must have swirled like an oak leaf in a whirlpool.
That day—that sudden testing time in the life of the patriarch that would be unlike any other day. “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son” (Heb. 11:17). Abraham passed the test. He trusted God beyond what common sense or his own will would have led him to do. Then God instructed Abraham not to lay a hand on his son and provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice.
Perhaps you’ve had a day like that. Life is pretty uneventful, then suddenly everything changes. A sound f metal crushing metal. A telephone call. A knock on the door. An ambulance siren. We who are children of promise suddenly face a horrendous situation. Something is expected of us. Not one of us is exempt.
I’M HAVING A “WHOLE LIFE” CRISIS
Our reactions to world-crumbling events vary. Sometimes we feel helpless. For the most part, we’re used to being in control of things. But when life is suddenly out of our control, a sense of vulnerability sets in. Until now, we’ve been able to fix most everything else, but we can’t fix this. It’s just out of reach, like that burned-out light bulb in the twenty-foot ceiling chandelier. We can see it, and we know that changing it would make a difference. But without some assistance, we’re powerless. Sometimes we feel abandoned. Alone in the hospital room, waiting for loved ones. Alone at the table that once was also occupied by a spouse or parent. Alone in a courtroom hallway, waiting for the lawyer. Alone. Abandoned. “Why me, Lord?” we inquire. But often, heaven is silent—not because there isn’t any concern up there, but because we make such loud groaning noises down here that we cannot hear the still, small voice of assurance.
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through Experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, Vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved. —Helen Keller
Sometimes we feel worthless. World-crumbling events have a way of sucking the self-esteem out of our lives. Our pride and dignity are temporarily gone. Our once-secure finances are tenuous. Our once strong
bodies are frail. Our once-happy homes are in shambles. Our once-respectful children have rebelled. We feel about as significant as an eyelash on a mosquito.
Sometimes we feel ashamed. Sometimes we have made a personal contribution to the world-crumbling situation. We’ve been players, not just bystanders. Sometimes we make wrong choices. We cross the line. The pain in our foot comes from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. We stand in our self-made ruins and weep over what should have been, or what might have been, if only we had kept the law of God or if only we had let our conscience give the final answer.
One day, Jesus came across a man who was a poster child for world-crumbling events:
Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (John 5:1–9)
For thirty-eight years of his life, this man had been carried, pulled, or pushed to the pool beside the sheep gate on the northern side of the Jerusalem temple. There the unnamed man, with so many unnamed others, waited to be healed.
The invalids believed that an angel of the Lord occasionally stirred the waters in the pool and the first person to step into the water would be healed.
This poor man had never made it. Though he had helpers to transport him and put him close to the edge of the pool, he had never been first in. This day was no exception. It was “miracle time,” and he was tardy.
Time after time, he was toenail close to a miracle. But still, he went to the pool!
Think of the cruelty. A heavenly messenger makes a house call every now and then but brings only enough healing power to cure just one person: the first one in.
Jesus saw and approached this man. He learned about the man’s plight, and the Lord healed him. And the fact is, when our world crumbles, Jesus never fails to see it, and He is never far away.
God believes in me,
Therefore my situation is never hopeless.
God walks with me,
Therefore I am never alone.
God is on my side,
Therefore I can never lose.
Pinto Beans and Fried Bologna—
Now That’s a Feast of Faith
We do not know what to do. (2 Chron. 20:12)
Growing up in the hills of West Virginia impacted my life tremendously. My dad was a coal miner, and we lived in a coal-mining community—Baileysville, an unincorporated town. Of course, most towns in West Virginia are still unincorporated. And the population of Baileysville was down to sixty as of 1994, so I guess it will never be incorporated! In fact, it’s so small that Main Street is a cul-de-sac. But it is my hometown!
Californians love to brag about being able to go to the mountains to snow ski and the ocean to sunbathe in the same day. Well, in Baileysville, we had our own definition of the good life. If you lived on the side of the mountain, you could cross the river anytime, any day, on an old-fashioned swinging bridge!
My Saturdays were spent at the Wyoming Company Store. While Mom and Dad made purchases with coal-mining dollars, I took charge of watching my brothers, Terry and Mark. That wasn’t difficult if you knew what to do. We eagerly peered at the black-and-white television sets in the furniture department. Programs such as Fury, Sky King, and My Friend Flicka seemed so real to us!
Our small white frame house was located on the side of Baileysville Mountain. We had a well nearby that provided ample water and a pot-bellied coal stove to keep us warm (as long as you remembered to put the coal in it!).
I have heard that someone can be described as a “redneck” if his bathroom requires a flashlight and shoes. Well, our house had three rooms and a path to the little house out back. But it was our home, and I loved it—no matter how pink it made my neck.
One of the saddest days of my childhood was a Saturday morning when we returned home from a visit to the company store to see our tiny home engulfed in flames. We lost everything. I cried for days.
Years later, Pastor Richard Grindstaff told us that as the house burned to the ground, Dad put his arm around him and said, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed by the name of the Lord!”
Put the Road Kill on the Table, and Call the Kids for Supper!
By the time I was eleven years old, we had moved to Columbus, Ohio, in search of a better life. My dad, only thirty-one years old, had already broken his back three times in the coal mines and was suffering from the dreaded miners’ disease, “black lung.” But we were happy and almost always had pinto beans, cornbread, and fried bologna for supper. (That’s right, only later did we call it dinner!)
Christmas Day 1961 will always be one of the most wonderful, life-changing days in my memory bank. It had been a long, hard winter with lots of snow and cold weather. Times were tough! Dad had been laid off from construction work, our food supply had swindled to nothing, and we had closed off most of the house in order to cut down our high utility bills.
This epiphany really began Christmas Eve when Mom noted that we had no food for Christmas Day and no hope of getting any. That was difficult for me to understand. We were used to mom calling out, “Pinto beans, cornbread, and fried bologna. Come and get it!” But now we didn’t even have that. There was no food in the house!
Mom suggested that it was time for us to accept a handout from the government commodities department, so—reluctantly—Dad loaded Terry, Mark, and me into our old Plymouth, and we headed downtown. When we got there, we stood in line with hundreds of others for what seemed like hours, waiting for government handouts of cheese, dried milk, flour, and dried eggs. Ugh! The wind was cold, and the snow was blowing as we stood there shivering. Finally, Dad could stand it no longer.
“We’re going home, boys. God will provide!” he said. We cried, yet we completely trusted Dad’s faith in God.
That night, we popped popcorn and opened gifts that we had ordered with Top Value trading stamps which Mom had wisely saved for that purpose. Perhaps some of you are too young to remember Top Value stamps. Back then, almost all grocery stores gave out trading stamps for purchases made. You could save the stamps and fill up Top Value Books for redemption. In my day, Top Value provided a catalog that listed the number of books needed for a gift item. So Mom saved stamps all year long, counted the bounty by November 1, and let us Toler boys pick out our Christmas presents.
Terry got a transistor radio. (He hadn’t realized that we had no money to purchase a battery!) I had ordered a miniature Brownie Kodak camera. (That wasn’t smart, since we couldn’t afford film, either!) And baby brother Mark got a small teddy bear. While none of the gifts was a surprise to us, Mom had carefully and lovingly wrapped each one to be opened Christmas Eve. We were grateful to have anything!
Everyone slept well under Grandma Brewster’s handmade quilts that night. While we were fearful of the prospect of the next day without food, we were just happy to be together as a family. (Little did we know that Dad would be in heaven by the following Christmas.)
On Christmas morning, we were all asleep in Mom and Dad’s bedroom when suddenly, we were startled by a loud knock and a hearty “Merry Christmas!” greeting from people who attended the Fifth Avenue Church. There stood Clair Parsons, Dalmus Bullock, and others with gifts, clothes, and a thirty-day supply of food. (Yes, dried pinto beans, cornmeal, and a huge roll of bologna were included!) Since that day, I have always believed that God will provide, and that God is never late when we need a miracle!
We must bring the presence of God into our families. And how do we do that? By praying.
One of my favorite Bible stories is in 2 Chronicles 20:12. King Jehoshaphat of Israel found himself in what appeared to be a hopeless situation. He cried out to God, “Our God … we have no power.… We do not know what to do.” King Jehoshaphat had just discovered three new enemies. Unfortunately, all three were lined up against the tiny nation of Israel, and King Jehoshaphat realized that he was powerless without God’s help. That’s the way we felt in the Toler home. The good news for all of us is the same as it was for King Jehoshaphat. God can and will make up the difference.
Seek the Lord
Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord. (2 Chron. 20:3–4)
Jehoshaphat asked God a significant question: “Are you not the God who is in heaven?” (2 Chron. 20:6). In other words, he was saying, “God, if You can take care of this universe and bring order to it, then You can provide for me.”
He asked God another question: “Did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land?” (2 Chron. 20:7). He was reminding himself of God’s faithfulness in the past. I am beginning to realize that my faith today anchors to the faith that my dad passed on to me with his wisdom: “God will provide.” And provide He did for the Tolers!
After Dad’s death, God sent a wonderful Kentucky stepfather, Jack Hollingsworth, into our lives. He saw to it that each son of William Aaron Toler had plenty of pinto beans, fried bologna (by the way, he is an expert at cooking it!), cornbread, and a college education. All three boys later became Nazarene ministers.
Confess Your Need
We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. (2 Chron. 20:12)
If you want God’s help, you must confess your need! The world in which we live is a world of independence. We are taught to look out for “No. 1,” to do our own thing, to think for ourselves, and to trust in our own abilities. King Jehoshaphat reminded the children of Israel that “Me-ism” doesn’t work here! He confessed that they were inadequate against the three enemies they faced: “Power and might are in your hand” (2 Chron. 20:6).
When I need God’s provision, I look up and confess, “God, I am incapable, but You have all the resources for my miracle!”
Focus on God, Not Your Problem
We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you. (2 Chron. 20:12)
King Jehoshaphat gave his people a formula for deliverance: “Get your eyes off the problem! Your focus must be on God!”
Living in Oklahoma during tough times as an adult has also strengthened my faith in God. In the mid-1980s, I watched many banks fail; in fact, the FDIC closed so many banks in my hometown of Oklahoma City that I wore a T-shirt that said, “I bank with RDIC!” Agriculture diminished, and oil rigs stopped pumping. But even in the most difficult situations, a simple faith in God and a calm reassurance in the face of insurmountable obstacles resulted in victory.
I will always remember sitting at a table in the Oklahoma City Marriott hotel restaurant on Northwest Expressway and listening to my friend Melvin Hatley, founder of USA Waste Management Company, talk about the collapse of the oil industry and the failure of the old First National Bank downtown. Tears flowed freely, and yet his faith took hold as he discussed God’s history of faithfulness. His calm assurance, founded and grounded in a dynamic faith, made all the difference! Today, Melvin is a testimony of the phrase “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do!”
Trust and action always work hand in hand. For example, you know the story of Wilbur and Orville Wright. On December 17, 1903, they made history. They defied the law of gravity and flew through the air. Many forget that the concept of flying did not originate with the Wright brothers. In fact, several years before the brothers flew their motorized plane at Kitty Hawk, scientists had discovered that flying was possible. While others remained skeptical, the Wright brothers believed the formulas and designed their own plane. When they achieved “first flight,” they demonstrated the importance of trusting the facts and taking action in order to experience results.
The same is true for Christians. We can know a lot about God and the Bible, but until we relax in faith and believe in the promises of God, we will be disappointed.
I love the story that my former professor Dr. Amos Henry used to tell about D. L. Moody. Apparently, Moody was on a ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean one night when it caught on fire, and all on board formed a bucket brigade to pass ocean water to the scene of the fire. One man in the line turned and said, “Mr. Moody, don’t you think we should retire from the line and go down and pray?”
“You can go pray if you want to,” Moody replied, “but I’m going to pray while I pass the buckets.” What great insight! God wants to see if you mean business, so pray while you work.
Just think, if Jesus had thought prayer was the only thing He needed to do and had remained on His knees in the Garden of Gethsemane instead of getting up and following God’s plan for His life, there never would have been a Calvary.
Relax in Faith
One of the great things about faith is that it helps you persevere. There’s a story about two men who were climbing a particularly difficult mountain when one of them suddenly fell down a crevasse five hundred feet deep.
“Are you all right, Bert?” called the man at the top of the crevasse.
“I’m still alive, thank goodness, Fred,” came the reply.
“Here, grab this rope,” said Fred, throwing a rope down to Bert.
“I can’t grab it,” shouted Bert. “My arms are broken.”
“Well, fit it around your legs.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that either,” said Bert. “My legs are broken.”
“Put the rope in your mouth,” shouted Fred.
So Bert put the rope in his mouth and Fred began to haul him to safety: four hundred ninety feet … four hundred feet … three hundred feet … two hundred feet … one hundred feet … fifty feet … and then Fred called out, “Hey, Bert, how are you doing?”
Bert replied, “I’m fine … Uh oh!”
Don’t let go of the rope, my friend! As Dr. Steve Brown says, “Tie a knot and hang on!”
You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you. (2 Chron. 20:17)
It’s interesting that this particular verse is the middle verse of the entire Old Testament. It is like a pregnant pause for the believer. This concept, “stand firm,” is like going into the batter’s box during a World Series baseball game with a great pitcher on the mound, digging in, and saying, “I don’t care how fast you throw that ball, I’m anchored here, and you can’t move me!” King Jehoshaphat said, “Stand your ground and remain calm—God is going to help us.”
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Harmon Schmelzenbach, a missionary to Africa, often holds audiences spellbound with his story about a huge python that uncoiled itself from the rafters and then wrapped itself around his body while he was kneeling to pray.
The python is known for its ability to kill its victim by squeezing it to death. Schmelzenbach states that Isaiah 30:15 instantly flooded his mind: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” With the huge snake wrapped around his body, he testified that he felt the calm assurance that God was in control. Harmon remained perfectly still and prayed like never before!
If he had moved a muscle, no doubt the giant python would have constricted and killed him. But Schmelzenbach reports that the snake slowly uncoiled itself and went back to the rafters. I don’t know if Schmelzenbach now prays with one eye open or not, but one thing’s for certain: No one can convince him that there isn’t power in the promises of God.
We can depend on God. Did you know that we have more than seven thousand promises in Scripture to stand on? Not only that, but you can stand on the character of God! God has never lost a battle. Why not resign as general manager of the universe, eat a bowl of beans and cornbread, and relax in faith?
Give God Thanks Before Your Miracle
King Jehoshaphat began to appoint those who could sing. “As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated” (2 Chron. 20:22). Do you get the picture? Three armies of bloodthirsty warriors with overwhelming strength and weaponry lined up against tiny Israel, and the king called the choir to sing! Talk about faith. That day they claimed victory!
God is faithful now in the twentieth century, just as He was in the days of ancient Israel. During the Second World War, the Allies experienced a very difficult time. The British had just suffered a terrible defeat at Dunkirk, losing almost all of their military supplies during the evacuation of their soldiers. France had been conquered, and the United Sates had not yet entered the war. The island nation of England stood alone against the Axis powers.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill knew he had to bolster the courage and the determination of his people. He needed to make a speech—an inspiring speech—that would rally the citizens. On Sunday evening, June 2, 1940, Churchill was in his Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street. His secretary, Mary Shearburn, was poised at the typewriter. Dictating, Churchill paced from the fireplace to the velvet-draped windows and back again. Slowly his speech emerged onto the typed page. Often he would rip the sheet from the machine only to begin anew. It was late, and the room was cold in the night air. The prime minister’s voice had now grown hoarse and faint. His head bowed, and he sobbed, for he did not know what to say. Silence. A minute passed, maybe two. It seemed like an eternity. Abruptly his head rose and his voice trumpeted; he spoke as a man with authority. The thought descended upon him, as from an angel above: “We shall never surrender!”
Perhaps those words did come from an angel. Who knows? All we know is that God is faithful. Regardless of how scary or how seemingly hopeless our mission may be, He does not forsake us. All we have to do is trust—placing our fears and our failures in His hands. He will not let us down.
Back in 1850, during the California Gold Rush, a young man from Bavaria came to San Francisco, bringing with him some rolls of canvas. He was twenty years old at the time, and he planned to sell the canvas to the gold miners to use for tents. Then the profits from his sales would finance his own digging for gold. However, as he headed toward the Sierra Nevada Mountains, he met one of the gold miners. When he told the miner his plans, the miner said, “It won’t work. It’s a waste of your time. Nobody will buy your canvas for tents. That’s not what we need.”
The young man prayed within. Then he got his answer.
The gold miner went on: “You should have brought pants. That’s what we need—durable pants! Pants don’t wear worth a hoot up there in the diggings. Can’t get a pair strong enough.” Right then, the young man from Bavaria decided to turn the rolls of canvas into pants—blue pants—that would survive the rigors of the gold-mining camps. He had a harness maker reinforce the pockets with copper studs, and the pants sold like hotcakes!
By the way, the name of the young man from Bavaria was Levi Strauss. And he called the new pants “Levi’s”! So far, about 900 million pairs of Levi’s have been sold throughout the world, and they are one of the few items of apparel whose style has remained basically unchanged for more than 130 years.
It is amazing that a style of pants could endure for over a century. How much more incredible is the unwavering faithfulness of God. I’ll never forget the simple hope in His faithfulness that I learned at home. My own father modeled that faith in God before us, trudging home in the snow from the coal mines, face darkened with coal dust, lunch bucket jangling, whistling the old tune “His Eye Is On the Sparrow.”
Why should I feel discouraged?
Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely
And long for heaven and home?
When Jesus is my portion?
My constant friend is He.
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me!
—Civilla D. Martin
Yes, the God who sits on a throne in heaven is interested in you! If He tends to the lilies of the fields and attends the funeral of a baby sparrow (and He does), He surely will provide for you!