Take the Positive Look

By Jack Williams

A minister called and said a church in another state contacted him about being their pastor.  They worked out a time for him to candidate and meet the church members.  Apparently, the encounter went well.

The minister chuckled, “The church called me as pastor.  Seventy-four people voted, and I got 79 votes!  That’s the first time I ever got 105% of the vote.  I’m going.”

The preacher relocated and joined the vote-happy congregation.  Who could blame him?

Every decision we make comes with its own set of unintended consequences.  Bill Bryson relates one such surprise in his December 1989 Reader’s Digestarticle, “Life’s Little Gamble.”

As the story goes, in 1940 an American businessman named Wilson grew tired of the Great Depression, rising taxes and increasing crime.  He sold his home and moved to an island in the Pacific where he expected to live out his days in tranquility.  Balmy and ringed with beautiful beaches, the island seemed like paradise.

The island’s name?  Iwo Jima.

Sometimes a small, inconsequential act by one person can change the world for thousands of others.  Does the name Leigh Richmond get a twitch from your “important people” radar?  It should.

Leigh Richmond dropped a tract on the pavement in London and prayed that a bad man would pick it up.  His prayer was answered; a bad man did pick it up.

The bad man carried the tract with him to prison and was converted.  He later wrote Pilgrim’s Progresswhich turned millions to Christ.  For generations, the book was second only to the Bible in sales.  The bad man who found Richmond’s tract was John Bunyan.

If you can’t do something big, do something small.  A tract, a timely phone call or a kind word at the right moment may give the world another John Bunyan.  With God, little is much.

Embrace the difficult. A Nashville pastor related a conversation with a bright young layman who served on the church’s budget committee.

Said the pastor, “We had just passed a church budget, and I was pleased.  Then I got this call from an unhappy layman.  He was as disappointed in the church budget as I was pleased.”

The layman told his pastor, “It’s not a bad budget, but it’s a budget that we don’t need God to meet it.  Our people won’t even have to tithe to meet this.  I hope that one day we pass a budget God must meet.”

Expect God to open unseen doors to witness when a closed culture and problematic circumstances conspire to keep them shut.  That’s what happened in the late 1980s in Ivory Coast, West Africa.

Former missionary Robert West was approached by a Muslim who offered him 50 cows for his 14-year-old daughter (Marie).  Since six cows was the going rate for a wife, Robert knew this was a serious moment.  The wrong word could anger and offend the Muslim, even stir bitterness toward the mission station.

He paused and silently asked God for wisdom.  Then he told the Muslim suitor, “She’s already promised.”

“Promised to whom?” the Muslim asked.

Robert carefully answered, “She is promised to whomever God chooses.”

The courteous response averted a potential crisis.  Fifty-cow-Marie later enrolled at Free Will Baptist Bible College and married a preacher.

Come what may, there’s always something you can do in God’s work.  I wish every man stayed healthy and strong until his last day on earth.  But the fact is some must finish their journey with broken limbs, amputated legs, eyes that refuse to see or bodies restricted by paralysis.

Did you ever sing, “To God Be the Glory” or “Praise Him! Praise Him!” or “Tell Me the Story of Jesus” or “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior”?  Those songs were written by a blind woman.  From her dark station in life, Fanny Crosby gave the church beautiful hymns.  She chose to see more in

than many do with two good eyes.

The late Dr. Jonathan Thigpen, president of Evangelical Training Association, found courage to serve while battling ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and completed his doctorate from a wheelchair.  In his final sermon to students at FWBBC a few weeks before his death, Jonathan brought students and faculty to their feet with his signature challenge, “Semper Fi” (always faithful).

Thornton Wilder said, “In love’s service only the wounded can serve.”  Everybody is wounded in some way.  Some wounds are there for the world to see; others hide behind a smile so bright we miss the tears.  So to your duty post, friend.  We’re counting on you.

I believe the Scandinavian adage: “The north wind made the Vikings.”  Some serve on the north side of God’s work.  If that’s your place, go there eagerly, for that’s where the strongest timber grows.