November 2010: In a few days I’ll be 92. I would have never dreamed I would live this long. My wife, Ruth, passed away a little over three years ago, and a little bit of me died with her. I miss her more with each passing day. This was Ruth’s favorite time of year. She enjoyed watching the leaves turn and couldn’t wait to build a fire at the first hint of autumn. Always joyful, Ruth brightened up the darkest of days.
Foreboding clouds darken the world this side of Heaven as controversy swirls over the debate “who is a Christian.” USA Today ran an article last month by a professor from the University of Chicago stating, “America’s fastest-growing brand of belief is non-belief.” Confronted with the myriad of religions in the world, it isn’t difficult to see why people are finding it easier to accept them all–or none at all.
But having faith in religion only clouds the truth. It brings greater confusion and deeper doubt, because religion can be anything! The Bible indeed sheds light on this dilemma that stirs in the human soul and carries the truth of redemption by the death of our Savior and His glorious resurrection. This is truth–God coming to man in a personal relationship. This is why He sent His Son to earth to redeem the human soul from sin that leads to despair.
The Bible says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding” (Ephesians 1:7–8, NIV).
Recently Dr. Mark O’Farrell, president of Trinity College in Florida (where I attended Bible school as a young man), sent me the school’s newsletter with a wonderful insight from Scripture. He is graciously allowing me to share this tremendous spiritual application with you as to the state of despair that so many are experiencing today.
The Bible tells of the children of Israel who were enslaved in Egypt. One of their major tasks was to make bricks by an ancient process that required mixing clay and straw. The Egyptian taskmasters stopped providing the necessary straw, ordering the laborers to find their own straw, but with no adjustment in the quota of bricks they were required to produce. What was necessary to accomplish the work was taken away even though the expectation and demands remained the same.
Have you experienced this kind of despair–having to make bricks without straw? The income is no longer there, but the bills keep coming. Resources and workers are cut, but not the workload. Age or health robs strength, but life’s duties remain. A wife or husband is gone, yet family responsibilities continue. What is your straw that has been taken away even though you must somehow still complete the task or fulfill the responsibility?
The Bible says, “The people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. … God heard their groaning. … God saw the people of Israel–and God knew” (Exodus 2:23–25, ESV). God knows your heartaches! He hears you when you cry to Him. He knows that your straw has been taken away. He knows your hurt, your fear and groaning. He knows! And He is doing something about it. “I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them” (Exodus 3:7).
The Deliverer is on the way! How God acts on your behalf may not be exactly the way you envision, and His timing may not be what you prefer, but He knows your situation and He remembers His promises to you.
Going through hardship tends to plow up the surface of our lives to uncover the depths that provide greater strength of purpose. Deeply plowed earth yields bountiful harvests. When difficulties come we must learn to entrust each day into God’s hands and express our thanks to the Lord for never leaving us alone. I have talked with many over the years who have fallen on hard times but found light in the darkness while expressing thankfulness to God.
As we approach the Thanksgiving season I am reminded of the many commands in God’s Word to be thankful in all things. “Begin the thanksgiving in prayer” (Nehemiah 11:17, KJV); “Come into his presence with thanksgiving” (Psalm 95:2, ESV); and then the Scripture urges us to “Continue in prayer … with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2, KJV).
There is no better time than now to thank all those who have stood with us in prayer and support in the work God is doing through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. I am grateful for each one who joins with us in reaching out to where the Gospel seed is being sown. There remain nations to be cultivated and souls to be redeemed. There are harvest lands of great promise.
I long to tell more people about God’s truth and the salvation it brings when people repent and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ who loves us and longs to hear our lips praise Him for the mighty works He has done. Perhaps the Lord will strengthen me in the coming year to once again stand with Bible in hand to declare with thanksgiving that salvation is found in the Lord Jesus Christ, rich in mercy and love. The Bible says, “For [God's] mercy reaches unto the heavens, and [His] truth unto the clouds” (Psalm 57:10, NKJV).
May God bless you,
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