----2 Corinthians 1:20
“I believe the promises of God enough to venture an eternity on them.”
----G. Campbell Morgan
Quite a few years ago, a man in New Jersey made an unusual discovery as he looked through an old family Bible. It had been left to him by an elderly aunt in her will. It read: “To my beloved Steven I bequeath my family Bible and all it contains, along with the residue of my estate after my funeral expenses and just and lawful debts are paid.” When everything had been paid, the nephew received a few hundred dollars and the old Bible. The money was quickly used up, and the nephew was left to live on a small pension. For over 30 years, he lived in virtual poverty.
One day as he was cleaning out his attic, he found an old trunk, and in it was the family Bible he had inherited but forgotten. As he leafed through the old book, he was utterly amazed to find bank notes scattered throughout its pages --- thousands of them! In an instant, his poverty was transformed into plenty! What a tragedy, though, that he had lived in poverty for many years when within his reach were riches he could have been enjoying all along!
----- Quoted by Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations
During my college days in Arkansas years ago, it was my privilege to go to school with quite a few children of missionaries. I always envied them for their travels around the world, their exposure to other cultures and people, and their wide variety of memories. My own background as the son of a low-middle-class factory worker seemed dull and exceedingly unimportant by comparison. These children of two or three countries surely had the world as their oyster, I thought. Of course, lost in my imaginations of their lives was the fact that often mission settings do not have adequate educational resources or appropriate exposure to other young people. Many of my acquaintances had attended boarding schools hundreds of miles away from their parents and other family members, and only were with their families during infrequent visitations or during school breaks.
In the early half of the 20th century, another missionary child named Ruth was undergoing similar challenges. When she was 13, her missionary surgeon father in China found it necessary to send her to a boarding school in what is today Pyong-yang, North Korea. Parting with her family and China was excruciating for her --- so much so she prayed she would die before leaving. Her prayer, thankfully, was not answered! She boarded the Nagasaki Maru, traveled down the Whangpoo River into the Yangtze River, and finally into the East China Sea. She arrived at the missionary school and settled into her new life.
A week after arriving, cold waves of homesickness began hitting her over and over. She desperately tried to keep herself busy during the day, but nights were terrible. She would bury her head in her pillow and cry herself to sleep night after night. Her depression led into physical illness, so she was put into the infirmary. She read through the Psalms for comfort, and found that Psalm 27:10 was particularly helpful: “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” However, Ruth’s hurt and fear and doubt would not go away.
One night, she went to her sister, Rosa, who was also a student in the missionary school, and desperately poured out her heart. “I don’t know what to tell you to do,” Rosa said in her matter-of-fact way, “unless you take some Bible verse and put your own name into it. See if THAT helps.” With no other prospects of help appearing, Ruth picked up her Bible and turned to her favorite chapter, Isaiah 53, and began putting her own name into it: “He was wounded and crushed because of Ruth’s sins; by taking Ruth’s punishment, He made Ruth completely well.” Deep inside, Ruth’s heart leaped --- and her healing began.
And so it is with so many of us so many years later as WE try to live Christian lives with challenges, discouragement, and circumstances beyond our control. Immediate conditions often seem to be greater than we can handle. Why does it seem so? Because it’s TRUE! Life is far bigger than we can control by ourselves and far more powerful than we can manipulate with our own skill and strength. How are we to make it through each day, then? By trusting in God’s promises to His covenant children and his faithfulness to His covenant!
The language of Scripture is, of necessity, most often corporate. God’s Word is for all His people in all places over all times. It makes sense, then, that the focus is upon the “we” and “us.” BUT --- don’t forget that the same Jesus Who said that “I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me,” also said, “…[the shepherd of the sheep] calls His own sheep by name…” (John 10) We’re not merely a nameless, faceless indiscernible sheep in the crowd --- He knows us by name!
SO --- this week as life takes its toll on you and your faith, do what Ruth did --- read the promises of Almighty God and put your own name into them. As His covenant child, God loves you, knows you by name, and has made great and powerful promises to you that He WILL fulfill! Make God’s Word your hope and the castle against the onslaught of Satan’s discouragement.
Don’t be like the elderly man in the story above --- God’s Word and His promises are your personal spiritual treasure. Don’t live in inner poverty when riches beyond measure are at your fingertips. Trust your life to Him daily and proceed on your journey of life relying on His promises. You’ll discover that He never fails and that He’s always “on time --- HIS time!”
As to the “rest of the story” on Ruth, she did survive her years in school in Pyong-yang, and she lives a vibrant Christian life today with her husband and her children. She’s a remarkable Presbyterian woman. She’s Ruth Graham --- the faithful wife of Evangelist Billy Graham and the mother of their five children, Franklin, Anne, Gigi, Ned, and Ruth. Each has a significant life in his/her own right. Her faith in God’s promises has left an indelible mark on the extended Graham family.