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Archive for the ‘Perseverance’ Category

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My first teaching job was in a small community southwest of Lexington, Kentucky. Although the school included first through sixth grades, there were only five teachers. Second grade was divided, some students included in first, the rest with third. I was assigned the first/second split.

The first morning of school went by quickly as we read stories, played a few learning games, and completed a class chart of favorite summer activities. Soon it was time to march to the cafeteria for lunch.

The children lined up to receive their plates of food, and then were instructed to pick up napkins, utensils, cartons of milk, and straws – all without benefit of trays. Little hands struggled to hold so many items–much less carry them all without accident.

 

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So began my habit of standing at the end of the counter, wrapping utensils and a straw in a napkin, then perching a milk carton on an empty corner of the plate as the students passed by.

One second grader, Ricky, was much too manly to use a straw. Each day he would proclaim, “I don’t need no straw.”

Each day I would patiently correct him: “I don’t need a straw.” Ricky would repeat it again after me.  It almost became a joke between us, as the exchange occurred day after day, month after month.

One noontime in March, while focused on wrapping the next set of flatware, I heard Ricky’s voice proudly proclaim, “I DON’T NEED A STRAW!”

My eyes popped, Ricky’s twinkled, and his broad smile indicated his pleasure in remembering–all by himself–how to correctly form his request.

A quick hug, a few pats on the back, and an “I-am-so-PROUD-of-you!” let him know how I felt.

It never occurred to me to say, “Well, it’s about time, Bud! You DO realize we’ve repeated this little ceremony over one hundred times, don’t you?”

No. This was a moment to celebrate! Our perseverance had paid off. And perhaps this one little grammatical victory would prompt Ricky to conquer the next. I was thrilled.

Do you suppose that’s how God feels when our “practice makes perfect?”

When:

 

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  • Our quiet time with him finally becomes a near-daily habit?
  • We remember to express gratitude and praise to him throughout the day?
  • We’re able to think before we speak more consistently?
  • We forgo some purchase for pleasure in order to supply someone else with necessities?
  • We put aside our agenda to do a favor for someone else?

Yes, I believe God is thrilled with our steps of progress, just as I was with Ricky’s effort. If God withheld his pleasure until we reached perfection, we’d never experience even one good thing (Psalm 84:11). He’d always be in discipline-mode.

But Isaiah tells us: “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion” (30:18).

David reminds us that out of his grace and compassion he guides our steps and takes delight when we follow his way (Psalm 37:23).

Another psalmist proclaimed that the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (147:11).   No mention of delight reserved only for those who are perfect.

Ah, but what about Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:48:   “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect?”

Yes, that is the standard, but God does not disapprove of us because we haven’t achieved that goal.   He knows perfection this side of heaven is impossible. What he does approve of is effort—to press on like Paul to “receive the heavenly prize for which God through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:12-14).

When we stumble, we keep going. When we fall, we get up and try again.

But listen closely.  You’ll hear God celebrating our progress (Zephaniah 3:17).

 

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We praise you, Heavenly Father, for being a gracious, compassionate God,

who is slow to become angry and always abounding in loving-kindness.

Even as we strive to be more like you,

we can rest in the knowledge that you will not condemn us

when we stumble and fall.

Thank you for your readiness to forgive and your everlasting love.  

Thank you for continually drawing us closer to you and your perfection. 

 

(Psalm 103:1-2, Romans 8:1; 1 John 1:9; Jeremiah 31:3).

 

Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.grist.org; http://www.neabscobaptist.org; http://www.untilsheflies.com.)

Reblogged from June 15, 2015.

 

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“If God is for us,

who can be against us?”

–Romans 8:31 NIV

 

As I write…

…two friends are fighting cancer, one of them for the second time.

…Another deals with debilitating illness every day while a fourth deteriorates as the result of Alzheimer’s. 

…A married couple among our acquaintances is separated. He is filing for a divorce that she doesn’t want or deserve.

…Families and friends of those who died in the recent terrorist attacks suffer through the aftermath, as well as those injured, their families and friends. My heart aches for the first responders as well.

 

 

Though I wish it weren’t so, even devout believers in Jesus endure physical pain, emotional hurt, and horrific circumstances. How can God be for us when so many endure anguish?

Here’s what I’ve come to understand:

#1. My interpretation of a particular verse must be measured against the whole of scripture and the experience of countless saints through the ages.

Evidence from the Bible and church history would indicate that “God for us” does not mean he will engineer a problem-free life—even for one of his beloved. Perfection is reserved for heaven.

What God has promised here and now is to:

  • be with us,
  • provide strength,
  • help us through the situation, and
  • uphold us with encouragement and comfort (Isaiah 41:10).

 

 

But when shocking news sends me spinning toward fear, when trouble threatens to destroy my peace and joy, when pain exhausts my strength, those familiar promises seem—dare I say it?—inadequate.

God may have promised:

  • His presence with me, but I want him to show me the way out.
  • His strength, but I don’t feel it Instead, I feel terribly weak.
  • His help through the situation, but I want his help around it.
  • His encouragement and comfort, but I am discouraged and uncomfortable.

Such statements bring immediate clarity to the inadequacy. Look how I am the focus of those statements, how I assert my desires for relief and ease.

The problem is me.

 

 

#2. God’s desire for me during my time on earth is not endless comfort and pleasure.

His goals include:

  • maturity (James 1:4)—fully developed character of faith, discipline, and integrity.
  • Heightened awareness of him so that “in the darkness of adversity, [I am] able to see more clearly the radiance of his face”* (2 Corinthians 4:6).
  • Lessened awareness of the inconsequential things on earth (Colossians 2:1-2).

 

 

And why are these goals important to him? Because the result is an indescribably glorious prize:

 

“Our momentary light affliction is producing for us

an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.”

–2 Corinthians 4:17 HCSB

 

Paul wrote that—a man who suffered much. He was beaten, imprisoned, and even stoned because of his faith in Jesus (2 Corinthians 6:4-5).  

Yet he was able to assert that anything he had suffered was nothing compared to the glorious joys of heaven awaiting him. That’s a critical truth to remember.

 

 

Also helpful to keep in mind:

#3. Evidence abounds that God is for us no matter the circumstances.

Just for fun, I counted up God’s attributes in the index of one of my resources—attributes such as God’s Attentiveness, God’s Blessings, and God’s Care. The list includes twenty-eight different categories.  No doubt there are even more.

How can I doubt the motives of such a loving, generous God?

My own experience provides bountiful evidence.

As some of you will remember, I’ve kept a journal since 1983 of God’s faithfulness to our family. Each year I total up the blessings, and praise God for his help, kindness, and miracles during the previous twelve months. To date there are more than 1,200 entries in all.

 

(Can you see how yellowed and tattered the edges of this first page are?!)

 

At the end of one particularly difficult year my jaw dropped to discover more entries than any year previously. God had indeed been for me—through it all.

The great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor (1832-91905), was right:

 

 

(“All our difficulties are only platforms for the manifestations of his grace, power, and love.”)

 

Every day, every moment, the Almighty God of grace, power, and love is at work for our benefit.

Who could possibly win against such supremacy?

 

* Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, Thomas Nelson, p. 361.

 

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How have you experienced God’s grace, power, and love during a time of difficulty?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

 

(Art & photo credits: http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.picturequotes.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.biblesociety.ca; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.quotefancy.com.)

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Between the putrid odors and stale air below decks, Francis Asbury chose to spend most of his time on the top deck, often taking his journal and pencils with him. The rolling of the ship caused unsteady handwriting, but recording his thoughts passed the time and focused his heart on what lay ahead.

Twenty-six year old Francis had left home in England, September 4,1771, at the invitation of John Wesley, the great Methodist evangelist. The growing colonies in America needed ministers, and Francis accepted the challenge. Nine years of experience in the pulpit had prepared him for the preaching; what else might be required only God knew.

 

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Francis put pencil to page. “Whither am I going? To the New World. What to do? To gain honor? No, if I know my own heart. To get money? No, I am going to live to God and to bring others to do so.”

Upon his arrival in America, Francis soon discovered colonial life was drastically different from that of England. Centuries of development and culture in Britain had created a civilized society. America was rough and raw by comparison, although the towns exhibited more refinement than outlying settlements.

 

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(Asbury disembarked at Philadelphia, home of Independence Hall.)

 

To make his home in one of these towns must have crossed his mind, but Francis was compelled to take his message of hope and peace to the villages and pioneers. He began twenty miles outside of New York in Westchester, and then visited other small hamlets as well. Soon he developed a “preaching circuit.” Other Methodist ministers followed his example. These circuit riders were so willing to travel in all sorts of weather, a saying became popularized: “Nobody out today but the crows and the Methodists.”

In 1775, several of his colleagues decided to return to England, as war between the colonies and Britain seemed imminent. But Francis chose to stay, impassioned as always to continue preaching about Jesus no matter the dangers.

Other perils included sickness, exposed as he was to inclement weather of all sorts. He preached numerous times with an ulcerated throat and high fever. Sometimes Francis was so weak, men would have to lift him onto his horse and tie him in the saddle. In later years, he resorted to a carriage due to rheumatism. Yet he preached on.

 

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(“Francis Asbury Preaching by Lamplight”

by Richard Douglas)

 

Francis also continued to journal about his experiences:

“Near midnight we stopped at A.’s…Our supper was tea…I lay along the floor on a few deerskins with the fleas. That night our poor horses got no corn, and next morning had to swim across the Monongahela.

“The gnats are almost as troublesome here as the mosquitoes in the lowlands of the seaboard. This country will require much work to make it tolerable” (West Virginia, July 10, 1788).

For 45 years Francis traveled throughout the colonies, from Georgia to Maine, and even into Canada. He covered an estimated 300,000 miles, delivered some 16,500 sermons, ordained nearly 700 preachers, and added well over 200,000 members to the Methodist Episcopal Church.

 

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Francis became so well-known, he received mail addressed simply, “Bishop Asbury, United States of America.”

Yet even as a bishop he earned only $80 per year, and that he mostly gave away. He also gave away the coats and shirts from his own back to anyone more destitute than himself.

On March 24, 1816, Francis Asbury preached his last sermon. He was seventy years old.

A week later, he finally succumbed to yet another bout of illness. The well-known bishop died penniless but “rich in souls” (Dan Graves), a tireless participant in the growth of Christian faith across the colonies that included the building of numerous churches and institutions of learning, impacting future generations to this day.

A little more than a century after his death, a statue of Asbury was erected in Washington, D.C. On October 15, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge gave the dedication address at the unveiling.

 

Monument to Francis Asbury in Washington, DC

Monument to Francis Asbury in Washington, DC

 

His commendations included:

“He never had any of the luxuries of this life. Even its absolute necessities he had a scanty share…yet his great spirit pressed on to the end, always toward the mark of his high calling.”

Though Asbury is not listed among the founding fathers, President Coolidge affirmed during his address: “He is entitled to rank as one of the builders of our nation.”

Truly, Francis Asbury could say with the apostle Paul, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation” (1 Corinthians 3:10 NASB). And Asbury’s example was as powerful as his preaching—his self-sacrifice, passion, and purpose recorded in his ship journal in 1771—a purpose from which he never wavered:

 

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“I am going to live to God and bring others to do so.”

 

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Oh, Lord, guide me to fulfill that same purpose! Keep me mindful that nothing else will provide such satisfaction and contentment as a life lived for you.

 

Sources:

  1. http://www.christianity.com, “Francis Asbury” by Dan Graves.
  2. http://www.christianitytoday.com.
  3. Seedbed Sower’s Almanac and Seed Catalog, Seedbed Publishing, 2015-2016.
  4. http://www.wesleycenter.nnu.edu.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.wallpaperbeautiful.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.wikimediacommons; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.place.asburyseminary.edu; http://www.fggam.org; http://www.bibleteachingresources.org.)

 

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(A conversation between God and me)

 

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GOD: In quietness and trust is your strength.* 

Me: Wait a minute, Lord. I don’t understand. Quietness and trust result in strength?  How can such static activities result in power?

GOD: Let’s analyze the key words of that statement I first spoke to Isaiah.

Quietness is the atmosphere within a tranquil, peaceful spirit where agitation and turmoil are not allowed access.

Me: How do I keep out agitation and turmoil, God?

GOD: Keep your spirit filled to the brim with other thoughts: 1) praise and gratitude, 2) scripture truth and promises, 3) memories of how I’ve guided you and provided for you in the past, and, of course, 4) prayer (Philippians 4:4-8, Psalm 119:15-16; Psalm 105:5a).

You can even thank me for the circumstances that are threatening your peace right now, because they are turning you towards me and accomplishing my purpose (1 Thessalonians 5:18). When your spirit is filled with these things, there will be no room for agitation or turmoil.

Me: I know you’re right, Father. But sometimes it’s so hard to stay focused on the positive while negative thoughts shout at me.

GOD: I know, Child.  Be mindful that many people of faith before you have fought the same fight. Remember King Jehoshophat? He and the people of Israel faced war with strong neighboring tribes. And in his prayer for deliverance, Jehoshophat said: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

Me: What did King Jehoshophat mean when he said, “Our eyes are upon you?”

GOD: That’s a word picture for trust. He and the people of Israel were not looking to their own tactics or their own power to overcome. They looked to me—the Omniscient One—for wisdom on how to proceed. They looked for me—the All-Powerful One—to intercede on their behalf.

Trust is total confidence in the integrity, ability and good character of another. I am your most trustworthy Ally, just as I was for King Jehoshophat. No matter what uncertainty you may face, I am with you, working for you and enabling you to cope.

Keep your attention focused on me, not your circumstances, by:

  • Affirming my attributes—attributes like sovereignty, omnipotence, grace, and perfect love,
  • Naming your blessings—including those occasions when I’ve interceded for you and bestowed gifts you didn’t even ask for, and
  • Remembering how I’ve guided you, especially when you weren’t aware until hindsight gave you a clearer view.

Did you notice? The same strategies that quiet your spirit also expand your trust.

Me: Yes, I see how serenity and trust are intertwined. As I quiet my spirit, trust has an opportunity to develop. As trust flourishes, my spirit grows all the more tranquil.   But how do these two qualities of quietness and trust result in strength?

GOD: Strength of spirit includes power to endure stress and resist attack. It is developed by: persevering with calm patience, looking forward with expectant hope, affirming what you know in order to withstand doubt and worry, and declaring trust in spite of circumstances.

My desire is for you to become like the eagle, allowing the winds of storm to lift you higher on the wind of my Spirit (Isaiah 40:31).

 

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Me: I praise you, Oh God, for your ability to take the storms of life and use them to develop my strength. Remind me to choose quiet rest in your loving care and confident trust in your powerful competence. “In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all” (1 Chronicles 29:12).  Hallelujah!

 

*Isaiah 30:15 NIV

 

Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.christianquotes.info.

 

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Imagine eighty-year old Moses, tending sheep on a mountainside, just as he had for the previous 14,600 days (forty years)—give or take a few.   He had absolutely no reason to think this day would be different from the thousands before.

But it was.

 

Moses at the burning bush

 

This was the day he spotted the burning bush and God spoke to him:

“I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt, and I have heard them crying out because of the slave drivers. I know how much they’re suffering. I have come to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from that land to a good land with plenty of room [for everyone]. It is a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:7-8, GWT).

According to Acts 7:6, God’s people had endured slavery for four hundred years. That’s 146,000 days—give or take a few. God saw their misery, heard them crying out, and was concerned about their suffering.

So why would God wait so long? Think of the generations who prayed for deliverance and the answer did not come.

Why?

They never knew. Even now, although Bible scholars have speculated, we have no definitive answer. God chose not to tell them/us.

But the experience of the ancient Israelites, as well as those of countless others through the centuries, prove:  even in the Christian life, questions go unanswered, uncertainty can become a constant companion, and doubts linger in the shadows.

 

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What’s to be done when the answers don’t come?

Actually, there are at least four categories of action to pursue:

1. Reaffirm what we know to be true. 

  • God has good reason to be silent or he wouldn’t do it. Whether he ever reveals the reason(s) is up to his discretion. But one reason is certain: If he answered every request immediately, we’d become very spoiled and never develop our faith. And faith is very important to him (Hebrews 11:6). Our trust in his always-perfect capabilities is to our benefit.

 

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  • Consider that at this very moment you are traveling 67,000 miles per hour. (And you thought you were sitting still!) The whole planet is orbiting the sun at that mind-boggling speed. Just as we forget we’re flying through space, so we sometimes forget that God is moving, always working on our behalf (Romans 8:28)—even when there’s no evidence of the fact. 
  • “His silence is the sign that he is bringing us into an even more wonderful understanding of himself” – Oswald Chambers.*  In the silence we seek him with more diligence.

2. Prayerfully analyze the possibilities why God may be silent: 

  • I have unconfessed sin in my life. 
  • He’s given me direction but I have yet to follow. He’s waiting for me to cooperate. 
  • I’m trying to work things out on my own, creating such a racket of busy-ness I can’t hear his gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12).

 

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  • He’s growing my faith (Isaiah 50:10) and building my character (James 1:2-4) to make me more useful for his purpose. Fulfilling his purpose will satisfy my soul also, on a level unknown to me now (Luke 6:38). 
  • He’s accomplishing a purpose only he knows about at present.

3. Implement these behaviors: 

  • Rely on scriptural fact, not emotions. God is loving, faithful, and present with us. He never overlooks a child, and will see us through whatever he deems best (Psalm 145:8, 13, 18, 20 and Psalm 23:4).
  • Take encouragement from Bible promises, even pray them back to God. But hold onto them with a light grasp because we are subject to God’s plan for fulfillment and his timetable. Good thing, too.  He is the all-wise One in total, proficient control of everything.

 

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  • Take time to be quiet and receptive. Praise God for what’s right in your life. Chances are, current blessings far outweigh pending requests. Our praise can begin with another encouragement from Oswald Chambers*: “If God has given us a silence,…he is bringing us into the great run of his purpose.”

_________________________

 

Even as I wait in the silence for your intervention, Lord God, I praise you for your sovereignty and affirm: you know the best way and the best time to fulfill your plan. I thank you for your strength that empowers me to persevere, and the assurance of ultimate victory in the end as I rely upon you.  

 

Isaiah 55:9, Philippians 4:11-13, Romans 8:35-36

 

Is there a scripture, quote, or thought you find helpful when the answers don’t come?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

*My Utmost for His Highest, Dodd, Mead, & Co., 1966, p. 285.

 

(Photo & art credits:  www.cgtruth.org; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.thekingjamesbible.us; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.pilgrimsrock.com.)

 

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M.’s heart picked up its pace as her eyes took in the return address. Would this letter contain news to celebrate? It was her birthday—her fortieth. What could be more perfect than to receive the announcement she longed to read? M. tore open the envelope.

 

“Thank you for your recent manuscript submission. Regretfully

it does not coincide with our current publishing objectives…”

 

This was not the first rejection letter M. had received. In spite of early triumphs as an author, she had not written a successful book in a decade. This letter, on this day, brought tears to her eyes, and M. considered giving up.

“But I’m a writer,” she wrote in her journal. “That’s who I am, even if I’m never published again.”

M. began work on another book only to have it rejected nearly thirty times. Finally it sold. The book? A Wrinkle in Time, a beloved book of millions. And for it, Madeleine L’Engle was awarded the Newbery Medal for Children’s Literature in 1962 (1).

 

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Surely Mrs. L’Engle would be among those to tell us: Failure is a reality of everyone’s life. Even the most successful people have failed at one time or another.

But when we’re drowning in the despair of failure, we tend to forget its universality.

We also forget:

1. God always makes good use of failure—to develop maturity, wisdom, and humility. 

Think of Peter, who denied Jesus three times as his Messiah was being interrogated by the chief priests and Sanhedrin (Matthew 26). Yet Peter became the rock on which Christ built his church (Matthew 16:18).

 

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2.  Our failures may well be part of God’s bigger purpose.

General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate army during the Civil War, wrote this in 1869:

 

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(“We failed, but in the good providence of God

apparent failure often proves a blessing.”)

 

Even out of the horrific devastation of that war, God did bring blessing. Among them: The Red Cross was founded, a number of hospitals were established, and in the decades that followed, America rose from the ashes stronger than ever.

 

3,  The lack of results does not necessarily indicate failure.

 ‘Ever hear of Edward Kimball? I hadn’t—until recently. Edward once introduced a young shoe salesman to Jesus. That salesman grew in faith by leaps and bounds, and strongly desired that others know the One who changed his life so dramatically. The salsman’s name: Dwight L. Moody—evangelist extraordinaire and founder of Moody Bible Institute.

 

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By comparison to Moody’s stellar accomplishments and resulting fame within the Christian community, Mr. Kimball seems a nobody. But the ripple effect that still reaches around the world today through Moody (2) can be traced back to Kimball.

Most of us will never know the ripple effect emanating from our lives until we reach heaven. It’s probably just as well. What we don’t know can’t go to our heads.

 

4.  True success is not financial security, great respect from throngs of people, or high rank in the public arena.  “True success is growing intimacy with God” (3). 

My eyes are often distracted by the wrong prize.

 

Big Stones in Sand Hills of Samaria, Israel, Retro Effect

(“Our greatest fear should not be of  failure

but of succeeding at something

that doesn’t really matter.”

–D. L. Moody)

 

Failure is actually a blessing. God uses it to:

  • a) foster spiritual growth,
  • b) accomplish his purpose,
  • c) guide us into greater intimacy with him, and
  • d) redirect our focus.

Oh, God, help me to embrace failure and the blessed lessons it brings!

 

Notes:

(1) Information about Madeleine L’Engle from http://www.neh.gov.

(2) Thousands of graduates from Moody Bible Institute have served God as pastors, missionaries, and more over the 130 years since its founding in 1886. Millions more have been impacted by Moody Radio and Moody Publishing.

(3) J. I. Packer, Knowing God, 1973, p. 314.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.savannahnow.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.likesuccess.com; http://www.quotesgram.com.

 

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Staff Sgt. Jacob DeShazer, a member of the famed Doolittle Raiders, was the bombardier of Crew No.16, the last of the 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers to launch from the USS Hornet April 18, 1942, on the famous bombing run over Tokyo. Sergeant DeShazer, 95, died March 15. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Jake DeShazer sat on a narrow bench facing the back wall of his cell, a position he was forced to keep hour after hour, day after day, as his imprisonment dragged on.

The year was 1945. DeShazer had been a prisoner of war in Japan for forty long months, enduring suffocating heat in summer, bitter cold in winter, solitary confinement, near-starvation, cruel treatment, and torture.

As he sat, perhaps Jake thought of his comrades among the eighty flyers of Dolittle’s Raiders, the bombing run over Japan that helped turn the tide of the war in favor of the Allies in 1942.

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But DeShazer’s plane was among those shot down, its crew members captured. How many of the original eighty had survived? Jake had no way of knowing, except for the few in his own cell block.

During those long, solitary hours, perhaps Jake reviewed the encouragements from scripture he had learned and the verses he’d memorized when–for three short weeks–he was allowed to have a Bible. What a change had taken place in his heart.

Prior to his captivity, Jake had no interest in Christianity. But the cruel treatment from his captors month after month nearly drove him crazy. Hatred consumed him. He remembered that Christianity supposedly changed hatred into brotherly love. Was that really possible?

He had begged for that Bible, but it was a long time coming. When the emperor of Japan told prison guards to treat their captives better, DeShazer’s request was finally honored. And as a result of studying the scriptures, he put his faith in Jesus. Bitter hatred for the Japanese transformed into loving pity.

As Jake’s thoughts focused on his captors, he may have prayed again the words from scripture that first melted his heart: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Perhaps DeShazer reaffirmed what God’s Spirit had revealed to him earlier: His captors knew nothing of a Savior.  Without Jesus it was only natural for them to be cruel.

And so, as he lifted up loved ones and fellow soldiers, as he expressed his longing for the war to end, Jake also prayed for his captors to know Christ.

Suddenly he heard the stomping of boots, the hum of multiple voices in the corridor, men crying, and the clanging of prison doors. Then he was able to make out words—in English! “The war is over!” “We’ve come to take you home!”

Within moments his own cell door was swung open by soldiers in American uniform, paratroopers who had landed directly on the prison compound.

The date: August 20, 1945 (seventy-one years ago this Saturday). Unbeknownst to the captives, the emperor of Japan had surrendered on August 10, following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The horror was finally over; DeShazer and thousands of other soldiers returned home to pick up the pieces of their lives.

Jake chose to pursue a degree at Seattle Pacific University, which he accomplished in three years. By December of 1948, he and his wife, Florence, along with their first baby, were headed for the mission field, to—of all places—Japan.

Every time DeShazer met someone in his new home country and told his story, almost always the person would ask, “Why did you come back here?” And he would introduce them to Jesus.

DeShazer-with-kids-1952

(DeShazer with Japanese children, 1952)

It is estimated that some 30,000 people accepted Christ into their lives—just in the first year of Jake’s ministry in Japan. Among them, a number of former prison guards who had held Jake and his comrades captive.

Another surprising convert: Mitsuo Fuchida, the pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor. He “happened” to read a pamphlet Jake had written, “I Was A Prisoner of Japan.” Fuchida began to study the Bible, became a Christian, and served as a missionary himself in Asia. He and Jake eventually met and became friends.

fuchida

(DeShazer and Fuchida)

For nearly thirty years the DeShazers served God in Japan, helping to found sixteen churches throughout the country.

Someone has said:

e29eb6e78638f02633d911339071451d

(“Forgiveness does not change the past,

but it does change the future.”)

DeShazer’s story proves just how mind-boggling and miraculous that future can be.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thank you, Father, for DeShazer’s story, proving it is possible to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). By comparison to DeShazer’s horrific experiences, my hurts and resentments are embarrassingly puny. Yet I still need your Spirit to transform them into compassion and love. As a starting point, may I never lose sight of the totally underserved forgiveness you have lavished upon me.

You can access more of Jacob DeShazer’s story at:

(Art & photo credits:  www.verterantributes.org; http://www.worldevangelism.net; http://www.spu.edu; http://www.jacobdeshazer.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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