The Perfect Result

I sat alone on the sidewalk outside the Port-au-Prince airport. My first trip abroad and I was stranded. I didn’t speak the language. Cell phones didn’t exist. No one answered the telephone number I had.

Four hours earlier when my ride hadn’t appeared, a friendly American had pity and took me to a guest house. It was closed. I asked her to take me back to the airport. “It’s closed and there are no hotels or restaurants out there!” she protested. Against common sense, I insisted. We pulled up to the airport and I got out. I thanked her for the hour-long round trip while trying to avoid the look on her face. She drove away. Gone were the shouting people, clanking vehicles, roaring planes, and overpowering exhaust fumes. I only heard sparrows chirping as they hopped along the sidewalk tilting their heads at me. I might be sleeping outdoors tonight.

About 20 minutes after I arrived at the airport for the second time, a lone vehicle turned toward the terminal and pulled up beside me. “Are you Wayne?” the man asked. Keith was my tardy driver, and we became fast friends.  I was to shadow him for a few days to consider an assignment developing drinking water sources in rural Haiti.

The next day we set out for a remote village. We drove toward the Artibonite River then continued on foot. The sun was intense, and the rainy season humidity was stifling. I huffed to keep up with the fit, former Army officer. We arrived at the launch for our river crossing. Our ride was a hollowed-out log with just enough room for the two of us, the boatman, and a man with a nervous yearling steer. I loosened my boot laces. On the other side, we resumed our trek past gardens mounded with peanuts and potatoes, mud huts with thatched roofs, and dried corn hanging by the shucks above the reach of rodents. Keith procured two green coconuts so we could re-hydrate.

By day’s end, I was sun burnt and exhausted with blistered feet. But exhilarated! The next season of life was now much less mysterious. It was an endurance test, but ultimately one of faith. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jas. 1:2-4).

I returned to the airport at the end of that week astonished at how God in His Providence leads us through trials. By enduring those trials, you learn that God’s grace is sufficient for you, that He is for you and with you. You can consider it all joy because your faith is more complete.  That is the perfect result.

Rebuke the Winds

Fear is part of the human experience. It motivates us to act in ways that in hindsight we wish we hadn’t. It’s even worse if it reveals something important is lacking.

The word “fear” appears almost 400 times in the Bible, describing a range of human situations. In one story, we see a reaction to astraphobia (fear of storms). Late one evening, some men were in a small boat. Jesus was with them, asleep. A great storm arose over the sea and they woke him. “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” they cried. He admonished, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” This was early in his earthly ministry and people were still learning about Him. He did rebuke the winds that night. “What kind of man is this?” they marveled (Matt. 8:24-27).

Fear moves in when faith is lacking. Many human fears, regardless of their fancy phobia words, are grounded in the fear of the unknown. Those men didn’t know how bad the storm would become. They didn’t know their chosen role in revealing God’s plan in that moment. They didn’t know how much Jesus loved them even amidst hardship. They didn’t know God the Son was in the boat with them. He rebuked the winds that night because He meant for them to know Him and learn to trust Him.

The most powerful antidote to fear is knowing the love of God. “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us…There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:16-18). Anything else is an inferior antidote to fear. C. S. Lewis wrote, “It is very desirable that we should all advance to that perfection of love in which we shall fear no longer; but it is very undesirable, until we have reached that stage, that we should allow any inferior agent to cast out our fear.” Those inferior agents may mask fears, but they don’t rebuke them.

Three years later, those men knew much about Jesus’ purpose and love. Under threat of imprisonment and death for telling about Jesus they declared to the authorities, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Faith moved by love made them fearless.

If the God of the universe can reconcile you to Himself by His death on the cross, then His providential love can overcome fear of the unknown, even fear of death. You know your destiny. Jesus went to prepare a place for you, and it’s a place of love that no uncertainties in this life can take away. Knowing Him, you can stand firm in your faith, abide in God’s love, and rebuke the winds of fear.

Man of Prayer

George Muller (1805–1898) cared for over 10,000 orphans during his lifetime. He was a father to the fatherless because he saw his Heavenly Father answer prayer.

The plight of the orphan was a recurring theme for Charles Dickens (think Oliver Twist). He was so impressed with Muller’s work for orphans that he wrote a 5000-word essay in his weekly journal (“Household Words,” 1857) about “Brother Muller and his orphan work.”

Dickens noted the remarkable role of prayer in Muller’s life. One morning, Muller gathered the children for a breakfast without food. Just as they finished giving thanks for God’s provision, the baker arrived with a donation of fresh bread. The milkman’s cart broke down nearby, so he donated the milk. Muller never solicited funds or donations. He simply prayed for the Lord’s provision and waited. Over his lifetime the cost of multiple orphan houses was the equivalent of millions of dollars in today’s currency. Dickens wrote, “When he wants money, he prays for it. His reports make no appeal.”

Jesus said, “What man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matt. 7:9-11). Even though a father can give in to the temptations of the human condition (“being evil”) and do wrong by your children, you still want good things for them. The Heavenly Father loves your children and knows what they need. Jesus invites you to pray, and witness what the Father will do for them.

Do you pray for your children? You are far more motivated to pray when you contemplate the love and providence of God. The One who created your children, the Son who sacrificed His life to reconcile them to God, the Spirit who comforts and guides, He is the One who invites your prayers. The all-powerful God invites you to have a front row seat as His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

Your children live in a culture that encourages godless living and each doing what right in his or her own eyes. Pray they know the truth and the joy that accompanies those who walk with Jesus. Pray that God will orchestrate the circumstances of your children’s lives so that they have an anchor for their souls in such a time as this.

What does George Muller’s life say to fathers? It is the man of prayer who can best love, support, and guide the children in your life.



Fruitful Abiding

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”- Jesus

Ahead of me in line at the post office was a young mother with a toddler. An older woman couldn’t help but chatting with the mom about the cute and active boy. As the conversation meandered, they touched in a lighthearted way on human foibles. Without hesitation the mom said, “Well, I’m so glad I have a forgiving Savior!” My heart leapt and I wished those further away in line could have heard that. Just then the older woman said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you?” Then the mom spoke it again, firmly and clearly for customers, clerks, God, and the angels to hear! Now you have heard it, too.

What does Jesus mean by bearing fruit? Is it not living with transparency about what ultimately matters and sharing that with fellow travelers? What is abiding, if not trusting Him to place you in a line at a post office at a particular moment and prompting you to speak? Moments like those add up to a lifetime of fruitfulness.

Martha Williamson became a Christian in 1981 a few years after beginning her career in Hollywood. She was an associate producer and aspiring writer but her earnest desire was for Jesus to bear fruit in her career. About her abiding lifestyle Chuck Colson writes, “She would do what God put before her and let Him take her where she was meant to go. She believed that He knew the deepest desires of her heart and that He knew what He wanted for her. She would entrust everything to God’s care.”

Her big break came when CBS asked her to be the executive producer of a show with a religious theme. But she turned them down.  It did not reflect what sincere people of faith believed. It was a silly caricature of spirituality. The day before her deadline to accept a job at another network, she woke up and realized God wanted her to stay at CBS. She gave up the sure job and took her pitch to CBS to rethink their religious show. They accepted her proposal.

The result was “Touched by an Angel,” featuring Roma Downey and Della Reese. Every episode promoted the theme that God loves people and cares for those who are hurting. It followed the Biblical theme of angels as messengers. The show lasted nine seasons and continues to broadcast around the world in 60 languages. Williamson remains a fruitful Christian influence in Hollywood.

Whether in a Tinsel Town studio or a downtown post office, the Lord Jesus bears fruit in those who abide in Him. That is how you reflect the image of God imprinted on your soul.