The River of Protection
There’s a lovely verse in Colossians that I love in both the old and new translations given in a Bible that I have, but the verse has a peculiar significance for me in the newer version. Paul writes:
We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy … (Colossians 1:11 NLT)
And the old translation is:
Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness (KJV)
– which is much easier to remember, but somehow the more modern translation brings the meaning home, and it underlined to me the fact of the joy of God. We read: The joy of the Lord is your strength, and how significant the joy is in the New Testament! We call Christ the Man of Sorrows, and that is His title; it comes from Isaiah 53, and He does speak of His grief, more than any man’s, but He speaks again and again of His joy.
It is Paul who is writing to the Colossians, and that gives this verse peculiar significance because he suffered so much, and he emphasizes in all his letters again and again: Rejoice … and again I say, rejoice! … Rejoice always! Often we are contented if we can have the patience and the endurance, and we think we’re doing pretty well if we manage that in all circumstances. But Paul says: ‘and with joy’. And I realized just how significant joy is. Joy is part of the strength, and it’s absolutely necessary for us to live the kind of life God wants us to live, where we have a joy that is untroubled by fightings and fears without and within. That joy is strength, and it is the joy of God. And patience, yes, in tribulations, that we may be strengthened with all his glorious powerso that we will have endurance and patience, but with joy.
Strengthened in the inner man – how we need it! We can have a respectable exterior and everything seems fine, but inside we know the weakness and the utter dependency on God. That’s a good thing: as long as we are dependent on Him, we begin to find the strength.
In a house that we once lived in, when we were about to move we ran into a problem because the previous owners had made alterations without planning permission, and so we had to ask the council for a letter of comfort. They were not pleased with what had been done, and they said that although it all looked very nice the construction was not strong enough, and we were instructed at some expense to get a steel bar put in which ran almost the length of the house. Now that steel bar couldn’t be seen: it was hidden, but they said it had to be there for strengthening. And I thought, that is exactly what we need inside us: a steel bar of the strength of God. It’s hidden, but it’s absolutely vital.
How does it come? It comes with going through trial: just with going through life there comes patience and endurance. But how does the strength come? It’s developed through life, but it’s also linked to that joy. And the joy is linked with peace. Christ speaks of both in the same conversation with His disciples at the end of His life: that my joy may remain in you (John 14:27), and my peace I give to you (John 15:11).
Paul writes to one of the churches:
Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
There is a very beautiful verse in Isaiah, where we read in the old translation:
But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. (Isaiah 33:21 KJV)
The Lord shall be a place of broad rivers and streams, and there will be no galleys with oars: that makes me think of a slave ship. There will be nothing like slavery in our life. But the new translation says:
The Lord will be our Mighty One. He will be like a wide river of protection that no enemy can cross, that no enemy ship can sail upon. (NLT)
That is where our peace lies. The Lord will be our Mighty One; He will be like a wide river of protection, a broad stream ‘wherein shall go no galley with oars’. A galley with oars was usually a fighting vessel, so that it’s a river that no enemy can cross and no enemy ship can sail upon. And I think we can all immediately recognize: that’s exactly what we need. An ocean of God around us, cocooning us, that the enemy cannot cross.
Is this possible? Well, I think that’s where the apostle Paul lived. It’s probably where quite a number of them, like John, lived, where the enemy couldn’t reach them. Suffering, yes, in their life, but something in their spirit that was strengthened with the joy of God and the peace of God. It came from that protection that can be around us. Think of Aaron and Hur strengthening Moses there as he lifted up his hands to pray while the Israelites were fighting the Amalekites. He couldn’t hold his hands up any longer until they came on each side and held them up for him. We feel like that sometimes – and who comes to hold our hands up but God Himself and His Son Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and we are strengthened. And we find around us, like a broad river, our God.
A line in Myers’ poem sums it up:
Then let me feel how infinite around me
Floats the eternal peace that is to be,
Rush from the demons, for my King has found me,
Leap from the universe and plunge in Thee!
(F W H Myers, St Paul)
Eternal peace, the eternal calm that is ours, and it comes on the wings of joy that is to remain with us. Blessed be His Name.
The Breath of God
The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones become living people again?’
‘O Sovereign Lord,’ I replied, ‘you alone know the answer to that.’
Then he said to me, ‘Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, “Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”’
So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.
Then he said to me, ‘Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.”’
So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet – a great army.
Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, “We have become old, dry bones – all hope is gone … ” Therefore, prophesy to them and say, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again … I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land.”’
This part from Ezekiel, though not our actual New Year promise, was closely linked to it, and I spoke on it on the night that the Word was given. It has been really living for me. In my Bible it is headed A Valley of Dry Bones: A Renewed People (NLT), and it spoke to me so much of the church of Jesus Christ and of ourselves. Hopefully we are not the dry bones! I hope we’ve not become absolutely desiccated by being away from church but rather the opposite: that we are not dry. But we can identify so much with this. It speaks to me of the church in the wilderness. What we have been going through (and this true across the world) is in some ways as the church of Jesus Christ in the wilderness, because of the restrictions and at times being forbidden even to meet in God’s house.
If you think of this, God always has a plan for your life and mine, and a plan for His own church – and a plan for our church, which is a lovely thought. But the enemy has a plan, and his plan for the church of Christ is that she becomes like dry bones scattered in a wilderness, desiccated, good for nothing, dead. That’s what he wants, and to have us all scattered apart. And that’s what this pandemic has done: at times we weren’t allowed even to see each other. But there comes a breath of the Holy Spirit into that valley of dry bones that Ezekiel saw, and the bones weren’t dry any more: they formed into people, and the breath came into them, and they became as a mighty army. And that is God’s plan.
In the words of another verse:
Who is this that cometh up out of the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? (Song of Songs 8:5)
No matter how much we have found God during these days (and some will have found His presence more easily than others), we miss being together, and the strength and the sense of forward movement that comes from being in His house. Who is this that comes up out of the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? It is your life and mine. It is His church. Pray God she will come up out of this whole experience leaning upon her Beloved. Whom else should we lean on? Whom else should we look to for guidance but the Lord Jesus Christ Himself? Because He has been there: He has been in the wilderness. He was there at Calvary. He was there in that hour when He was like the goat that took the sin of the people and went out into the wilderness. He was there in the days of His sojourn on earth, the forty days and forty nights in the wilderness, being tempted and tested and tried of the enemy. There the enemy planned to leave Christ as dried bones, finished. But that wasn’t God’s plan.
God’s plan was that Christ the perfect Man, perfect Son of God, within that wilderness, wrestling with the enemy, wrestling in His flesh against the power of the enemy, wrestling against the temptation to give in and just bown down and worship Satan, should instead triumph gloriously. Christ’s triumph in that wilderness won for you and me the power to overcome temptation, the power to resist with faith in the living God and to discover the sense of faith that is the faith of the Son of God. So whom else should we come out of our wilderness leaning upon but on Jesus Christ? He came up from His baptism in the Jordan and He went into the wilderness full of the Spirit, forty days and forty nights without food, and we only read of the temptations that came at the end; we don’t know what happened during these forty days and nights. We know that He was so weakened in His body that angels came and took care of Him at the end. We know the temptation to doubt that Satan tried Him with there at the end. But as we read of Him going up from the banks of Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit, driven of the Spirit into the wilderness, we also read that He came out of the wilderness full of the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes at the beginning of this lockdown when I pictured us coming back to church, I thought: ‘We’ll be war-weary by then, we’ll be tired, a bit wounded, and oh! the joy of the restoration of then coming together again!’ But actually I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think we’ll be like that at all. I don’t think that’s God’s plan. That’s more like Satan’s plan, which is that we never come back together. But he’ll not win on that. What is God’s plan? That we will come out as full of the Spirit as we went in. In fact Christ came out, speaking reverently, stronger than He went in – if we can say that of Christ, because He was always strong. But in His calling and ministry and in His manhood he had been tested and had overcome. And He came out winning for us the laurels of victory, winning for us the power to overcome temptation, winning for us the power to worship God because He would not worship Satan, and He won for us the power to bow down and worship the holy God, and the power to remain full of the Holy Spirit, even as He was. Tremendous is His provision for us.
In praying one night I felt overwhelmed by the sense of His victory, the anointing of His Spirit, the fulfilment of His Word: I will pour out of My Spirit. And as His Spirit is here with us, among us (not dry bones, but any bit of us that has got dried), as the breath of the Holy Spirit is here, call upon Him. You don’t even need another to prophesy over you. Call out to Him yourself, saying: ‘O come, Thou breath of the Holy Spirit, fill me, flood me, overflow me.’ And when that day comes that we are together, when we are together fully and without any restrictions (whether or not we come back before that, but when we come back like that), or in any form, we’re full of the Holy Spirit and of the victory of Jesus Christ – ours today. O may that Holy Spirit flood us, come into our homes where we are, that you may feel Him as He is in our church, where the atmosphere is always rich – even when it’s empty, still rich with His presence.
The Seeking Saviour
Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil – the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead … For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:1-6)
These verses paint a wonderful picture of salvation, the grace of God that has sought us when we were in our sin and caused us to be now united with Himself through Jesus Christ. It is our heavenly calling, and the calling is to live there in heavenly places with Christ Jesus. That we were in our sin when God found us is an evidence of the seeking, searching heart of God.
We talk a lot, and rightly so, about our need to search for Him, and the Bible is full from beginning to end of the encouragement to do that. The Old Testament is full of the pleas of His people and of the psalmists for God to answer, and there is a search for Him; it is vital that we engage in that. But never let us forget to consider the seeking heart of God. We are familiar with verses such as Christ spoke when He said: The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost. We know and love the stories of the prodigal son, the lost coin and the lost sheep, and we are very aware of that seeking of God for us initially to become His own through Jesus Christ, and we’re very aware of the joy of being found. But sometimes we will find it very fruitful if we meditate on that searching heart of God, and begin to ponder on the pain in the heart of God.
The prophet says:
I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me. (Isaiah 65:1)
The pain in that, the pain in God’s heart in Eden when Adam and Eve had lost contact with Him, and He came looking for them – they weren’t looking for Him, and they were hiding when He called them! And all through the ages since, God’s heart has been broken and is searching for us. It is tremendously comforting to think how He has sought until He found us, and finds souls still in their sin and draws them to Himself. It’s tremendously comforting if you’re burdened for another life to realize that God is looking for them, even if there seems no response in them, and that God’s heart is still turned towards His people and His lost ones.
But what I want particularly to draw your attention to is God’s search for you and me, and His hunger for us who are His own, whom He has originally found. But – we know what it’s like to hear somebody calling our name. They maybe haven’t been able to find us in our house or wherever we are, and when we hear them calling we can have various reactions. Sometimes we are engrossed in what we’re doing and don’t want to be disturbed. But other times with an overwhelming joy we hear our name being called. We hadn’t known the person was in the house, and we’re pleased to be found. And I think of our heavenly Father and His constant search for us. He always wants to be found of us. He doesn’t need to look for us, in the sense that He knows exactly where we are. But He calls us and He seeks us, and sometimes we are more responsive than others. Sometimes we don’t hear because we are busy with our own affairs. Sometimes we are too engrossed with our own distresses even to hear Him calling our name. If only we might stop and think of God, His grief and His desire to be united with you and me always. He created us for Himself and for us to enjoy constant communion with Him, never a shade between.
Sometimes the reason that we might not be very quick to hear or to answer is the age-old reason that there can come a veil between: and sometimes that veil is actually sin. Often a person will say: ‘I can’t find God. I’ve looked, and I can’t find Him.’ I often remember my own father’s story as a teenager looking for salvation. He had gone to one of his leaders and was told to go and find it for himself. But then he spoke to another one, a very godly man, who said to him: ‘Is there any sin in your life?’ He’d never thought of that – but he knew there was plenty of sin in his life. He put that sin right, and wonderfully found salvation in Jesus Christ. Talk in the Christian world these days is very full of the knowledge of the grace and the love of God, and that’s all true. There’s not so much said about sin, and I often feel it’s like the elephant in the room: what about sin? Peace, yes; forgiveness, yes – but that’s when sin is repented of and put away. Sometimes there’s just a scance of it in our lives like a scance of dust, stopping a clarity of vision. We were born in it; God rescued us from it. We read in Ephesians that God seated us with Him in heavenly places. Don’t be careless with sin. Keep short accounts with God. Don’t break His heart by being careless. We can’t ignore it, because it immediately forms a barrier, but let us look for clean hands and pure hearts, live within our houses with integrity, set no unclean thing ever before our eyes – just never. I’m aware of what a snare that is to so many people. There should be zero tolerance, and you will know its huge effect in your lives. You will become much more aware of God Himself, and fall in love with God, and share His passion for others. Knowing the passion and the love of God, we find ourselves in true communion.
The line of a poem says something like this:
Over against His dead, God sat weeping.
When we catch a glimpse of that God, we want never to offend Him again, but to come and be at His side and say: ‘O God, keep me close.’ He sets us in His safe place: ‘Then was I in His eyes as one that found peace.’
What seekest Thou, O Master mine,
In yon far country of life’s waste
Searching each haunt of sin and want
Where souls are spent in wanton haste?
Let’s not leave Him alone in that search, but let us be ones that identify with Him and endeavour never to grieve His faithful heart.
The Oil of Gethsemane
The first part of this week’s meditation is related to a thought that my mind has been mulling over since it was first triggered some days ago by a passage in one of Spurgeon’s daily reading books. The same verse occurred in Diana’s Thought for the Week (2 September). Here is the verse, along with the one that follows:
Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to keep the lamps burning continually. The lampstand will stand in the Tabernacle, in front of the inner curtain that shields the Ark of the Covenant. Aaron and his sons must keep the lamps burning in the Lord’s presence all night. This is a permanent law for the people of Israel, and it must be observed from generation to generation. (Exodus 27:20–21)
In the book of Revelation you read that Christ walked among his candlesticks. The candlestick represents the church of Jesus Christ, in other words our lives. We are meant to be burning all the time: that is, alive in God. We’re not to be like the foolish bridesmaids who, when they heard the sound of the bridegroom coming, had then to go and try to buy oil for the lamps, and it was too late. So we can have the oil of the Holy Spirit – the presence of God, the presence of Christ – burning in us all the time. The oil that was used for the candlestick was a special oil in that it was only pure olive oil that was beaten that could be used.
And that immediately makes us think of Gethsemane, because gethsemane is the name for an oil press. There were many olive trees there, the descendants of which, I think, can still be seen. When Christ went into that garden on the night of His agony He knelt amongst the olive trees. (Evidently that is the origin of Christians kneeling to pray rather than standing, because Christ knelt there.) We follow Christ in there as far as we can, just to see what was transacted that night. We know that He was like an olive that was crushed by a heavy millstone to let the oils out. Christ was crushed there to such an agony that He became prostrate. In that garden there was a tremendous transaction between God and His world, because Christ was representing mankind, but He was perfect in the flesh, and He was the perfect Son of God. There the damage that was done in Eden is reversed, and where man had taken his own way and separated himself from God in Eden, now the Lord Jesus Christ, I think in a desperate aloneness of spirit, is prostrate there in Gethsemane, and wins for us a place of obedience, the place where perfect Man yields to the will of perfect God. The oil of the Holy Spirit, the oil of His own being, is available now for you and for me. And what does keep us alive, spiritually alive? It is being in the near presence of Christ. It’s living very close to Him that keeps the vision burning in us. He is the vision. And it’s looking at Him that keeps our spirits burning and not just fading out, and the oil going.
But Gethsemane is not necessarily the most attractive place for us. We probably want often to be at a distance like the disciples, or a bit nearer like the privileged three, but not too close – whereas I think that now our invitation is to come right up to where Christ is, each in our own calling. We can’t suffer as He did, but He calls us back into fellowship with Him, He who said: Come and follow Me (the subject of last week’s meditation and the Sunday School verse as well). There are places to which we are very willing to follow Christ. But when we see Him going near Calvary and Gethsemane – well, Calvary, yes, the place where we’re forgiven; but Gethsemane, where basically we have to yield our will to Him: that’s where there can be a clash of our will and His will, until we withdraw our eyes from ourselves and our own circumstances and we see that lonely figure, God represented in His dear Son, separate from all humanity, with an aloneness that He invites us now to come near to. We come in the aloneness of our spirits, but we find there is One there, that we need never be lonely again.
As we draw near and want to come nearer to that Christ, then our wills do begin to yield to His in the deepest parts of our being. But what we find is the olive oil - the oil of the Spirit, which shows us something of the Godhead, and it brings to our spirits a peculiar sweetness that we find nowhere else. We discover that the place of abiding is there by that One who yielded up His will, the will of the perfect manhood, to the will of God. There is no peace like that peace that comes and abides in our inner spirit and brings us into a place of rest in God, the peace that comes when we follow Him even a little way. We find ourselves within the shades of Gethsemane, and we find His shadow is actually sweet to us. There are hours in life when that is the place to go, until we learn to come not out again from our place of rest in God. He and we are reconciled. We dispute no more with Him, and we fight no more with Him, but we become as yielded lives.
All roads that have been and must be
Pass somewhere through Gethsemane.
There is always an answer in God. He is always a place for us to rest our foot: it’s where He is. He leads us to places of great joy. He leads us to be free as the eagle soaring into the upward air, and he leads us over mountains of separation where our feet are as sure as a hind’s foot. But He leads us betimes to these sacred places apart with Him: Gethsemane and Calvary. And there we find Him – Blessed Saviour.
The Cost of Discipleship
The thought I have for today is the cost of discipleship: that is, the cost of following Christ and of being consecrated to Him. In our recent ladies’ Zoom meeting two of our more mature members were asked to speak of what consecration meant to them. They struck a note of the reality of it: the privilege, but also the cost of it, which is something that we cannot hide; indeed, we do a disservice to younger Christians if we leave out that note that brings a challenge. Our hearts often will rise to a challenge and respond to that clarion call of God: Come and follow Me. Christ Himself said: Take up your cross and follow Me. Take it up every day, and you will be My disciple.* Especially when we are young we will respond to a challenge like that, and as we grow older there is nothing in us will ever want to turn back. I think I can truly say I have never known anyone who has really consecrated their life to God who has regretted it and wanted to do something else with their life. Rather, our prayer would be: I wish I had given Him more, and given it earlier to Him. He is no man’s debtor.
In our own country we discovered how the human spirit will respond to a challenge. Prior to the beginning of the Second World War many people were pacifists, and indeed we all would like peace, but not always peace at any price. When Neville Chamberlain, having struck some kind of deal with Hitler in 1938, came back from Munich and said: ‘Peace for our time,’ he turned to some of those with him and admitted: ‘I shouldn’t have said that’ – because people grasped it, and he knew that it was not actually true. When the war broke out, very quickly Churchill was asked to take over the leadership of our country. He surely was a man under the hand of God for that purpose, and he inspired a nation with his words of courage and his rise to the challenge. He did not say: ‘It will be peace … It will be easy … There will be no hardship, no suffering, no cost.’ He said: ‘We will win, but there will be blood and sweat and toil and tears.’ And did the nation rebel against that? No. All over the land, in every quarter of it, people rose to that challenge and suffered hardship and self-denial in order to win one day the victory.
We have a greater than Churchill who is calling us. We have the Lord God Almighty, who through His Son Jesus Christ has shown us the way and said: Come and follow Me. I particularly hope that if any of you who are younger are reading this, you will feel the answer in your own spirit, quickened by God Himself, and say: ‘Lord, what else could I do with my life but to be a follower of You?’ You will find your spirit answering that challenge, as do we all – except that we have a fallen part in our nature. The book of James warns us:
Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
The New Testament uses very strong language. In our day a lot of biblical language is watered down, and sometimes everything is made to seem that ‘it’s a cosy, comfortable life, and you can mix a bit with the world in order to win people, and you don’t need to be too extreme, and these old Pentecostals were a bit too narrow in their views’. But they were powerfully used of God! And there is a challenge that comes to us where love of the world that is inside us, as part of our nature, has to go to the cross, because friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God.
Now we have to live in this world; we have to mix with people. It’s not that we view people as our enemies. The enemy is the love within our own natures of that that is contrary to the will of God, materialistic, self-pleasing, often just totally wrong and contrary to God’s laws and the laws of holiness. We have to take ourselves on and daily say Yes to God and No to ourself. It’s the illustration of consecration that was given to me when I was about 13 years old, wanting to know how to give my all to Christ, and I’ve never found a better definition of consecration than that.
And shall we regret it? Shall we not find that we become separated unto God? There’s a lovely part in the Old Testament that tells of the story of Elijah and Elisha. Elijah the prophet knew that his days were numbered, and there was to be a successor in Elisha. He called him, and Elisha made sacrifice of his oxen and plough, and came after Elijah. The day drew near when Elijah was going to be caught up into heaven. He tries to make Elisha go away, and Elisha won’t go away. And we read again and again these words: They two went on. Ultimately separated from the other prophets, they travel on together alone until that moment when Elijah is caught up in the chariot of fire, and his mantle falls upon the waiting Elisha.
It is a greater than Elijah into whose companionship we are called. So the corollory of the truth that ‘friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God’ is that if we are no longer friends with the world and our worldly nature, we become friends of God. To walk with Jesus Christ a pathway of friendship – how beautiful! They two went on … and it becomes our soul and God. We find ourself walking in a peculiar dependence on Him and a separation to Him, where we love Him and His commands, and the things that concern His kingdom. Increasingly the things in this world that held such an attraction for us begin to wither away, and we’re able to live in the world (because we’re still in the flesh), and yet not part of it.
We see in other lives that have gone before us such an example. This week some of us were at the funeral of Marion Leeming, 87 years old when she died. She served many years of her life in the Congo as a missionary and continued to have a missionary heart and zeal to the end of her life. Did she suffer? Was there a cost in following Christ? There was. She left her homeland, she left the comforts of it, she suffered a lot of physical hardship in the Congo. Made of stern stuff, she was a soldier of the cross. She suffered danger. The rebellion that led to the independence of the Congo came at the time when they were missionaries there. On subsequent occasions when there was unrest and war, she suffered great danger. She suffered months of separation from her children, whom she dearly loved. She suffered ill health, but she soldiered on to the very end, saying in her last days that she loved Jesus more every day. What a testimony to the worth of a life separated to God!
A number of years ago the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow had a special photographic exhibition of people from all over the world, including the very famous such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and further back, I think, to Churchill. The photographer commented, I think, that Billy Graham was his favourite subject. There was on display a photograph of him as an old man sitting on the verandah of his house with his big dog, a beautiful picture of a man who looked totally happy, totally at peace. Beside it was the photograph of one who had been a bitter, cynical atheist, critical of Billy Graham and others; I think it was a picture of him tearing up a Bible, something like that. But there was also a portrait of him in his old age. My memory is that he was a drunkard and gambler who probably committed suicide at the end. The photographer himself was drawing the contrast between the two. Who chose the better part? Was there a cost? There certainly was for Billy Graham: separation from his family, his homeland, labours, journeyings oft, difficulties with health at times, facing slander, criticism, all sorts of hardship – but radiant to the end with the life of God.
Oh, don’t we feel – don’t I still feel – the draw of the eternal, the privilege of being called by God? We don’t do God a service by giving our lives to Him. It’s a privilege when He calls us, and the time to answer that call is when He is calling and saying: Come and follow Me.
Yielded, Lord, to Thee,
Wholly Thine for evermore,
Yielded, Lord, to Thee.
* Christ’s words in the first paragraph above are slightly paraphrased.
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