Deal with Self
Some people feel a need to cover up a lack of self-confidence by trying to make a big impression. A newly promoted Army colonel moved into his new and impressive office. As he sat behind his new big desk, a private knocked at his door. “Just a minute,” the colonel said, “I’m on the phone.” He picked up the phone and said loudly, “Yes, sir, General, I’ll call the President this afternoon. No, sir, I won’t forget.” Then he hung up the phone and told the private to come in. “What can I help you with?” the colonel asked. “Well, sir,” the private replied, “I’ve come to hook up your phone.”
At twenty, we worry about what people think about us.
At forty, we don’t care what people think about us.
At sixty, we find out that people haven’t been thinking about us at all.
I have often wondered how it is that every man sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others. So much more respect have we to what our neighbors think of us than to what we think of ourselves.—Marcus Aurelius
The famous actor Peter Sellers, who played in the “Pink Panther” movies, once said he lacked a personality. “As far as I’m aware, I’m nothing,” he once said. “I have no personality of my own whatsoever. I have no character to offer the public. I have nothing to project.” In spite of his notable professional image on the screen, Sellers saw himself as a person without an identity of his own.
Self-pity weeps on the devil’s shoulder, turning to Satan for comfort. His invitation is: “Come unto me all you that are grieved, peeved, misused, and disgruntled, and I will spread on the sympathy. You will find me a never-failing source of the meanest attitudes and the most selfish sort of misery. At my altar you may feel free to fail and fall, and there to sigh and fret. There I will feed you soul on fears, and indulge your ego with envy and jealousy, bitterness and spite. There I will excuse you from every cross, duty, and hardship, and permit you to yield unto temptation.”
No matter how much a man tries to reform himself, he can never achieve the newness of life that God wants him to have in Christ. Although a man can make changes in his life, even positive changes, he still remains the same person and often goes from one kind of problem to another.
Sports broadcaster Harry Kalas once introduced a Philadelphia Phillies baseball player, Garry Maddox, with the following words: “He has turned his life around. He used to be depressed and miserable. Now he’s miserable and depressed.”
Without thinking about it, often our reasoning is this: “I-by my stupidity-got into this mess; therefore I-by my stupidity-will get out of it.”
The story is told of a carpenter who was nailing shingles on the roof of a house. He lost his footing and started to slide off. As he was sliding he began praying, “Lord, oh, Lord, help me!” Still he kept sliding. Again the man prayed, “Lord, oh, Lord, help me!” He kept sliding until he got to the edge and a nail sticking up caught hold of his pants. After he came to a stop he said, “Never mind, Lord. The nail’s got hold of me now.”
Self-righteousness is like a bottomless cup: though you pour and pour, you will never be able to fill it. Why? Because pouring yourself into yourself adds nothing to you. Nothing plus nothing always equals nothing.
Instead, accept God’s righteousness rather than trying to accumulate your own. You will find that the righteousness he offers is real. And that is what fills the cup of sanctification.
A little girl’s first-grade class held its “track and field” day. She won quite a few ribbons, among them one blue ribbon for a first place. Later that day, when she came home, the blue ribbon was missing, and her mother asked what had happened to it. “Oh,” she said, “Bruce was crying because he didn’t win a first place ribbon, so I gave it to him.” Her mother hugged her and told her she thought it was very generous to give Bruce the ribbon. “Why not?” she asked. “After all, I know that I won it.”
If only all of us, adults included, had such a clear idea of what things are really important in life, and what things are just decorations!
We all frequently compare ourselves favorably with someone else. We all think of someone we consider to be less mature, less competent, or less able than we are. That person is a great comfort to us because he or she enables us to keep our self-image intact by saying, “Well, at least I’m not like so-and-so.” The only problem with determining our self-worth by comparing ourselves with others is that we are using the wrong measuring stick.
A little boy came up to his mother one day and said to her, “Mother, guess what! I’m eight feet, four inches tall!” His mother, greatly surprised, inquired into the matter and found he was using a six-inch ruler to measure a “foot”. The boy was actually only a few inches over four feet.
This is exactly what we do, we measure ourselves by one another, an imperfect prototype, rather than by the standard of the Word of God.
In his autobiography, cellist Gregor Piatigorsky tells about a time he was soloist at a concert conducted by Arturo Toscanini: “The maestro paced the dressing room in which I practiced, repeating, ‘You are no good; I am no good.’ ‘please, Maestro,’ I begged, ‘I will be a complete wreck.’ Then, as we walked on stage, he said, ‘We are no good, but the others are worse. Come on, caro, let’s go.’”
To Toscanini, it did not matter what he said about himself and the cellist. So long as he could compare himself and the soloist with “the others” and say that the others were less, he felt that they themselves could walk forward with great confidence, feeling full of self-worth. But there is great danger here. For what happens when one looks out and finds the others better? To use comparison with others as a measure for self-worth and confidence is to use a false standard. It puts us at the mercy of the external situation and the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Our sufficiency must be in Christ alone. And our relationship with him should be the sole determinant for our feelings of self-worth and confidence.
Evaluation of Self-worth
Suppose that during the past week a young wife gave birth to her first baby. Now suppose that as she held her new baby in her arms and was enjoying the pleasure of motherhood, someone came up to her and said, “How much do you want for the child?” Of course she would show no interest in the offer and would be offended at even a suggestion that her precious babe was for sale. But the stranger is persistent and offers ten thousand dollars, then a hundred thousand dollars, and finally one million dollars. The offers are in vain because the mother will simply press the baby closer to her and reply, “My baby is worth more to me than all the world!”
Of course, if she didn’t say that, we would question whether she had the proper attitude for motherhood. But why does she say it? Because she looks forward to thousands of dirty diapers, sleepless nights with a sick child, and the costs of raising that child? Because the child will bring her fame and fortune? Of course not. Rather, it is because she has chosen to value this tiny person, to deem the small one to be of worth, and to love that baby of hers. Such worth resides in the very identity of a person, not in their performance. And such worth, coming from the image of God in all of us, must be the basis for our concept of ourselves, too, if our self-portrait is to be durable and worthwhile.
Too many people conduct their lives cafeteria-style: self-service only.
One-half of our problems come from wanting our own way. The other half come from getting it!
A little boy and his younger sister were riding a hobby horse together. The boy said, “if one of us would just get off this hobby horse, there would be more room for me.”
The things that will destroy America are peace at any price, prosperity at any cost, safety first instead of duty first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.—Attributed to Theodore Roosevelt
At age 20 we worry about what others think of us. At 40 we don't care what they think of us. At 60 we discover they haven't been thinking of us at all.
Ann Landers, via Context, quoted in Signs of the Times, March, 1993, p. 6.
In this Age of Self, the language is filled with phrases that glorify personal choice above all other values: self-determination, self-knowledge, self-esteem, self-help even do-it-yourself. In this climate, no doctrine is safe, no dictate accepted without scrutiny....The touchstone of belief today is the individual, not the institution. Priests., like precinct captains, have lost authority. The same voters who talk back to their political leaders on call-in shows and town meetings are talking back to their religious leaders at parish council meetings and Communion breakfasts. While 85 percent of American Catholics look up to the pope as a moral leader, 4 out of 5 say they follow their own conscience, rather than papal authority, on moral questions...The phrase "cafeteria Catholics" describes those who pick and choose among church teachings. But in religion, as in politics, the more appropriate analogy for modern mores is to fast food rather than to cafeterias; as the slogan for one hamburger chain puts it: "Have it your way."...How do leaders lead when followers don't want to be led?
Steven V. Roberts, "Leading the Faithful in an Age of Dissent," U.S. News and World Report, August 23, 1993, p. 6.
Another poll sheds light on this paradox of increased religiosity and decreased morality. According to sociologist Robert Bellah, 81 percent of the American people also say they agree that "an individual should arrive at his or her own religious belief independent of any church or synagogue." Thus the key to the paradox is the fact that those who claim to be Christians are arriving at faith on their own terms -- terms that make no demands on behavior. A woman named Sheila, interviewed for Bellah's Habits of the Heart, embodies this attitude. "I believe in God," she said. "I can't remember the last time I went to church. But my faith has carried me a long way. It's 'Sheila-ism.' Just my own little voice."
Charles Colson, Against the Night, p. 98.
Ralph L. Woods: An ambitious farmer, unhappy about the yield of his crops, heard of a highly recommended new seed corn. He bought some and produced a crop that was so abundant his astonished neighbors asked him to sell them a portion of the new seed. But the farmer, afraid that he would lose a profitable competitive advantage, refused.
The second year the new seed did not produce as good a crop, and when the third-year crop was still worse it dawned upon the farmer that his prize corn was being pollinated by the inferior grade of corn from his neighbors' fields.
C.R. Gibson, Wellsprings of Wisdom.
You may have heard the story of two friends who met for dinner in a restaurant. Each requested filet of sole, and after a few minutes the waiter came back with their order. Two pieces of fish, a large and a small, were on the same platter. One of the men proceeded to serve his friend. Placing the small piece on a plate, he handed it across the table. "Well, you certainly do have nerve!" exclaimed his friend.
"What's troubling you?" asked the other. "Look what you've done," he answered. "You've given me the little piece and kept the big one for yourself." "How would you have done it?" the man asked. His friend replied, "If I were serving, I would have given you the big piece." "Well," replied the man, "I've got it, haven't I?" At this, they both laughed.
Daily Bread, August 11, 1992.
In its January 25, l988 issue, TIME provided an insight on selfishness and its corollary, sharing. Speaking about the introduction of the videocassette recorder, the article said, "The company had made a crucial mistake. While at first Sony kept its Beta technology mostly to itself, JVC, the Japanese inventor of the VHS (format), shared its secret with a raft of other firms. As a result, the market was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the VHS machines being produced."
This drastically undercut Sony's market share. The first year, Sony lost 40 percent of the market, and by 1987 it controlled only 10 percent. So now Sony has jumped on the VHS bandwagon. While it still continues to make Beta-format VCRs [interestingly a higher quality technology] Sony's switch to VHS, according to TIME, will likely send Beta machines to "the consumer-electronics graveyard." Even in a cut-throat business, sharing has its rewards.
Elizabeth Elliot, in her book Let Me Be a Woman, records the story of Gladys Aylward unable to accept the looks God had given her. Ms. Aylward told how when she was a child she had two great sorrows. One, that while all her friends had beautiful golden hair, hers was black. The other, that while her friends were still growing, she had stopped. She was about four feet ten inches tall. But when at last she reached the country to which God had called her to be a missionary, she stood on the wharf in Shanghai and looked around at the people to whom He had called her. "Every single one of them" she said, "had black hair. And every one of them had stopped growing when I did." She was able to look to God and exclaim, "Lord God, You know what You're doing!"
Elizabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman.
From an unknown source comes an article titled, "How To Be Miserable." It says, "Think about yourself. Talk about yourself. Use "I" as often as possible. Mirror yourself continually in the opinion of others. Listen greedily to what people say about you. Expect to be appreciated. Be suspicious. Be jealous and envious. Be sensitive to slights. Never forgive a criticism. Trust nobody but yourself. Insist on consideration and respect. Demand agreement with your own views on everything. Sulk if people are not grateful to you for favors shown them. Never forget a service you have rendered. Shirk your duties if you can. Do as little as possible for others."
Daily Walk, June 29, 1993.
British actor Michael Wilding was once asked if actors had any traits which set them apart from other human beings. "Without a doubt," he replied. "You can pick out actors by the glazed look that comes into their eyes when the conversation wanders away from themselves."
Today in the Word, April 2, 1993.
I gave a little tea party this afternoon, at 3. "Twas very small, 3 guests in all - I, myself, and me. Myself ate all the sandwiches while I drank all the tea. "Twas also I who ate the pie and passed the cake to me.
You may have heard the story of two friends who met for dinner in a restaurant. Each requested filet of sole, and after a few minutes the waiter came back with their order. Two pieces of fish, a large and a small, were on the same platter. One of the men proceeded to serve his friend. Placing the small piece on a plate, he handed it across the table.
"Well, you certainly do have nerve!" exclaimed his friend. "
What's troubling you?" asked the other. "Look what you've done," he answered. "You've given me the little piece and kept the big one for yourself." "How would you have done it?" the man asked. His friend replied, "If I were serving, I would have given you the big piece." "Well," replied the man, "I've got it, haven't I?" At this, they both laughed.
Daily Bread, August 11, 1992.
The trouble with some self-made men is that they worship their creator.
Bits & Pieces, October, 1989, p. 9.
One cold winter's day a crowd of people stood in front of a pet shop window and watched a litter of puppies snuggling up to each other. One woman laughed and said, "What a delightful picture of brotherhood! Look at how those puppies are keeping each other warm!" A man next to her replied, "No, ma'am, they're not keeping each other warm--they're keeping themselves warm."
Today in the Word, February, 1991, p. 20.
When Roy DeLamotte was chaplain at Paine College in Georgia, he preached the shortest sermon in the college's history. However, he had a rather long topic: "What does Christ Answer When We Ask, "Lord, What's in Religion for Me?" The complete content of his sermon was in one word: "Nothing." He later explained that the one-word sermon was meant for people brought up on the 'gimme-gimme' gospel. When asked how long it took him to prepare the message, he said, "Twenty years."
God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves.
D. L. Moody.
Come over here and sit next to me, I'm dying to tell you all about myself.
I have found within myself all I need and all I ever shall need. I am a man of great faith, but my faith is in George Gordon Liddy. I have never failed me.
Watergate conspirator George Gordon Liddy quoted in The Christian Century, 9-28-77, p. 836.
When Mother Teresa was passing through a crowd in Detroit a woman remarked, "Her secret is that she is free to be nothing. Therefore God can use her for anything."
Michael Glazier, Inc. catalog advertising Free to be Nothing.
Julian Huxley was committed to an evolutionary humanism. He believed: "Man's most sacred duty and at the same time his most glorious opportunity, is to promote the maximum fulfillment of the evolutionary process on this earth; and this includes the fullest realization of his own inherent possibilities."
J. Huxley, Religion without Revelation, p. 194.
The smallest package in the world is a person wrapped up in himself.
Bart Starr, former quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, was describing to a group of businessmen how his coach, Vince Lombardi, held absolute power. He stated that, as you entered Vince's office, you noticed a huge mahogany desk with an impressive organization chart behind it on the wall. The chart had a small block at the top in which was printed: "Vince Lombardi, Head Coach and General Manager." A line came down from it to a very large block in which was printed: "Everybody Else!"
The most pleasurable journey you take is through yourself...the only sustaining love involvement is with yourself...When you look back on your life and try to figure out where you've been and where you're going, when you look at your work, your love affairs, your marriages, your children, your pain, your happiness--when you examine all that closely, what you really find out is that the only person you really go to bed with is yourself...The only thing you have is working to the consummation of your own identity. And that's what I've been trying to do all my life.
It is vain, O men, that you seek within yourselves the cure for your miseries. All your insight only leads you to the knowledge that it is not in yourselves that you will discover the true and the good.
Clifton Fadiman, in The Little Brown Book of Anecdotes, tells a story about Vladimir Nabokov, the Russian-born novelist who achieved popular success with his novels Lolita (1955), Pale Fire (1962) and Ada (1969).
One summer in the 1940s, Nabokov and his family stayed with James Laughlin at Alta, Utah, where Nabokov took the opportunity to enlarge his collection of butterflies and moths. Fadiman relates: "Nabokov's fiction has never been praised for its compassion; he was single-minded if nothing else. One evening at dusk he returned from his day's excursion saying that during hot pursuit near Bear Gulch he had heard someone groaning most piteously down by the stream. "'Did you stop' Laughlin asked him. "'No, I had to get the butterfly.'" The next day the corpse of an aged prospector was discovered in what has been renamed, in Nabokov's honor, Dead Man's Gulch." While people around us are dying, how often we chase butterflies!
At a party: "My husband and I have managed to be happy together for 20 years. I guess this is because we're both in love with the same man."
A school teacher lost her life savings
in a business scheme that had been elaborately explained by a swindler. When
her investment disappeared and her dream was shattered, she went to the Better
"Why on earth didn't you come to us first?" the official asked. "Didn't you know about the Better Business Bureau?"
"Oh, yes," said the lady sadly. "I've always known about you. But I didn't come because I was afraid you'd tell me not to do it."
The folly of human nature is that even though we know where the answers lie--God's Word--we don't turn there for fear of what it will say.
Some early studies concerned with prejudice show that we're quite capable of reordering our perceptions of the world around us in order to maintain our conviction that we're right. A group of white, middle-class New York City residents were presented with a picture of people on a subway. Two men were in the foreground. One was white, one was black. One wore a business suit, one was clothed in workman's overalls. One was giving his money to the other who was threatening him with a knife. Now as a matter of fact it was the black man who wore the suit, and it was he who was being robbed by the white laborer. But such a picture didn't square with the prejudices of the viewers. To them, white men were executives, black men were blue collar workers. Blacks were the robbers, whites the victims. And so they reported what their mind told them they saw--that a black laborer was assaulting a white businessman. As human beings who desperately desire our lives to be consistent and untroubled, we'll go to great lengths to reject a message that implies we're wrong.
Em Griffin, The Mindchangers, Tyndale House, 1976, pp. 48-9.
For fifteen years Jim Fixx, author of the 1978 bestseller, The Complete Book of Running, ran eighty miles a week. He appeared to be in tip-top shape. It didn't seem possible that a man his age could be in better condition. Yet at age fifty-two Fixx died of a massive heart attack while running alone on a Vermont road. His wife, Alice, later said she was certain that Fixx had no idea he suffered from a heart problem. Why? Because he refused to get regular checkups. After Jim Fixx's death, doctors speculated that his heart was so strong he may not have had the telltale chest pains or shortness of breath that usually signal arterial heart disease!
Today in the Word, May, 1990, MBI, p. 7.
The C.S.S. Hunley, a confederate submarine, was originally a boiler, which was made into a 60' long, cigar shaped sub. Eight men turned a crank attached to a propeller to produce movement, and the ship's weapon was on explosive charge on a 15-foot pole attached to the bow. The Hunley was actually a deathtrap. More than a dozen men, including H.L. Hunley, the inventor, drowned or suffocated in test dives before the submarine was ready for battle. On February 17, 1964, off the harbor at Charleston, S.C., the Hunley attacked the Union ship Housatonic, crippling the enemy ship but going to the bottom with the victim.
Connie Mack, who managed the Philadelphia Athletics from 1900 to 1950, once said, "I've seen boys on my baseball team go into a slump and never come out of it, and I've seen others snap right out and come back better than ever. I guess more players lick themselves than are ever licked by an opposing team."
Back in the early 1930s, C.D. "Bigboy" Blalock of Louisiana State University--a six-foot-six-inch giant of a boxer--was taking on a stocky fellow from Mississippi State. In the second round, Bigboy let lose a roundhouse. The Mississippi man stepped in, and his head caught Bigboy's arm inside the elbow. With the opponent's head acting as a lever, Bigboy's arm whipped around in almost full circle, connecting with haymaker force on Bigboy's own chin. He staggered, grabbed the rope, walked almost all the way around the ring, and then fell flat for the count--the only prizefighter who ever knocked himself out with a right to his own jaw.
A recent news release told of a Charlotte, North Carolina, woman who set a world record while playing a convenience store video game. After standing in front of the game for fourteen hours and scoring an unprecedented seven and a half million points on the game called "Tapper," the woman was pleased to see a TV crew arriving to record her efforts for posterity. She continued to play while the crew, alerted by her fianc? prepared to shoot. However, she was appalled to see the video screen suddenly go blank. While setting up their lights, the camera team had accidentally unplugged the game, thus bringing her bid for ten million points to an untimely end! The effort to publicize her achievement became the agent of her ultimate failure.
General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was such a brilliant leader that many experts believe he could have led the Confederacy to victory had he not died early in the Civil War. The irony of Jackson's death is that he was shot accidentally by his own men. It seems he had given them orders to fire if they heard anyone coming through the woods. Jackson himself was returning to his own lines one night when he came crashing through the underbrush; on horseback--and his troops obeyed his command! Despite his wound, General Jackson still might have lived had he not caught pneumonia and died about a week later.
Today in the Word, MBI, April, 1990, p. 37.
In 1982, "ABC Evening News" reported on an unusual work of modern art--a chair affixed to a shotgun. It was to be viewed by sitting in the chair and looking directly into the gunbarrel. The gun was loaded and set on a timer to fire at an undetermined moment within the next hundred years. The amazing thing was that people waited in lines to sit and stare into the shell's path! They all knew the gun could go off at point-blank range at any moment, but they were gambling that the fatal blast wouldn't happen during THEIR minute in the chair.
Yes, it was foolhardy, yet many people who wouldn't dream of sitting in that chair live a lifetime gambling that they can get away with sin. Foolishly they ignore the risk until the inevitable self-destruction.
Jeffrey D. King.
It is said that Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, once had captured a prince and his family. When they came before him, the monarch asked the prisoner, "What will you give me if I release you?" "The half of my wealth," was his reply. "And if I release your children?" "Everything I possess." "And if I release your wife?" "Your Majesty, I will give myself." Cyrus was so moved by his devotion that he freed them all. As they returned home, the prince said to his wife, "Wasn't Cyrus a handsome man!" With a look of deep love for her husband, she said to him, "I didn't notice. I could only keep my eyes on you- -the one who was willing to give himself for me."── Unknown.
At lunch one day in a hotel with her son Reggie and his new wife, Gloria, Alice Vanderbilt asked whether Gloria had received her pearls. Reggie replied that he had not yet bought any because the only pearls worthy of his bride were beyond his price. His mother then calmly ordered that a pair of scissors be brought to her. When the scissors arrived, Mrs. Vanderbilt promptly cut off about one-third of her own $70,000 pearl necklace and handed them to her new daughter-in-law. "There you are, Gloria," she said. "All Vanderbilt women have pearls."── Today in the Word, September 18, 1993.
During his reign, King Frederick William III of Prussia found himself in trouble. Wars had been costly, and in trying to build the nation, he was seriously short of finances. He couldn't disappoint his people, and to capitulate to the enemy was unthinkable. After careful reflection, he decided to ask the women of Prussia to bring their jewelry of gold and silver to be melted down for their country. For each ornament received, he determined to exchange a decoration of bronze or iron as a symbol of his gratitude. Each decoration would be inscribed, "I gave gold for iron, 18l3." The response was overwhelming. Even more important, these women prized their gifts from the king more highly than their former jewelry. The reason, of course, is clear. The decorations were proof that they had sacrificed for their king. Indeed, it became unfashionable to wear jewelry, and thus was established the Order of the Iron Cross. Members wore no ornaments except a cross of iron for all to see. When Christians come to their King, they too exchange the flourishes of their former life for a cross.── Lynn Jost.
It is said that on his retreat from Greece after his great military expedition there, King Xerxes boarded a Phoenician ship along with a number of his Persian troops. But a fearful storm came up, and the captain told Xerxes there was no hope unless the ship's load was substantially lightened. The king turned to his fellow Persians on deck and said, "It is on you that my safety depends. Now let some of you show your regard for your king." A number of the men bowed to Xerxes and threw themselves overboard! Lightened of its load, the ship made it safely to harbor. Xerxes immediately ordered that a golden crown be given to the pilot for preserving the king's life -- then ordered the man beheaded for causing the loss of so many Persian lives!── Today in the Word, July 11, 1993.
Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence. Their conviction resulted in untold sufferings for themselves and their families. Of the 56 men, five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary Army. Another had two sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships of the war. Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships sunk by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts and died in poverty.
At the battle of Yorktown, the British General Cornwallis had taken over Thomas Nelson's home for his headquarters. Nelson quietly ordered General George Washington to open fire on the Nelson home. The home was destroyed and Nelson died bankrupt. John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their thirteen children fled for their lives. His fields and mill were destroyed. For over a year, he lived in forest and caves, returning home only to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later, he died from exhaustion.── Kenneth L. Dodge, Resource, Sept./ Oct., 1992, p. 5.
Sitting majestically atop the highest hill in Toledo, Spain, is the Alcazar, a 16th-century fortress. In the civil war of the 1930s, the Alcazar became a battleground when the Loyalists tried to oust the Nationalists, who held the fortress. During one dramatic episode of the war, the Nationalist leader received a phone call while in his office at the Alcazar. It was from his son, who had been captured by the Loyalists. The ultimatum: If the father didn't surrender the Alcazar to them, they would kill his son. The father weighed his options. After a long pause and with a heavy heart, he said to his son, "Then die like a man." ── Daily Walk, April 16, 1992.
I went into church and sat on the velvet pew. I watched as the sun came shining through the stained glass windows. The minister dressed in a velvet robe opened the golden gilded Bible, marked it with a silk bookmark and said, "If any man will be my disciple, said Jesus, let him deny himself, take up his cross, sell what he has, give it to the poor, and follow me."── Soren Kierkagaard, in "And I looked Around and Nobody was Laughing."
Boarding the SS Dorchester on a dreary winter day in 1943 were 903 troops and four chaplains, including Moody alumnus Lt. George Fox. World War II was in full swing, and the ship was headed across the icy North Atlantic where German U-boats lurked. At 12:00 on the morning of February 3, a German torpedo ripped into the ship. "She's going down!" the men cried, scrambling for lifeboats.
A young GI crept up to one of the chaplains. "I've lost my life jacket," he said. "Take this," the chaplain said, handing the soldier his jacket. Before the ship sank, each chaplain gave his life jacket to another man. The heroic chaplains then linked arms and lifted their voices in prayer as the Dorchester went down. Lt. Fox and his fellow pastors were awarded posthumously the Distinguished Service Cross.── Today in the Word, April 1, 1992.
Ministry that costs nothing, accomplishes nothing.── John Henry Jowett.
Sometimes marriage to a great leader comes with a special price for his wife. Such was the case for Mary Moffatt Livingstone, wife of Dr. David Livingstone, perhaps the most celebrated missionary in the Western world. Mary was born in Africa as the daughter of Robert Moffatt, the missionary who inspired Livingstone to go to Africa. The Livingstones were married in Africa in 1845, but the years that followed were difficult for Mary. Finally, she and their six children returned to England so she could recuperate as Livingstone plunged deeper into the African interior. Unfortunately, even in England Mary lived in near poverty. The hardships and long separations took their toll on Mrs. Livingstone, who died when she was just forty-two.── Today in the Word, MBI, January, 1990, p. 12.
Every year in Alaska, a 1000-mile dogsled race, run for prize money and prestige, commemorates an original "race" run to save lives. Back in January of 1926, six-year-old Richard Stanley showed symptoms of diphtheria, signaling the possibility of an outbreak in the small town of Nome. When the boy passed away a day later, Dr. Curtis Welch began immunizing children and adults with an experimental but effective anti-diphtheria serum. But it wasn't long before Dr. Welch's supply ran out, and the nearest serum was in Nenana, Alaska--1000 miles of frozen wilderness away. Amazingly, a group of trappers and prospectors volunteered to cover the distance with their dog teams! Operating in relays from trading post to trapping station and beyond, one sled started out from Nome while another, carrying the serum, started from Nenana. Oblivious to frostbite, fatigue, and exhaustion, the teamsters mushed relentlessly until, after 144 hours in minus 50-degree winds, the serum was delivered to Nome. As a result, only one other life was lost to the potential epidemic. Their sacrifice had given an entire town the gift of life.── Unknown.
Two weeks after the stolen steak deal, I took Helen (eight years old) and Brandon (five years old) to the Cloverleaf Mall in Hattiesburg to do a little shopping. As we drove up, we spotted a Peterbilt eighteen-wheeler parked with a big sign on it that said, "Petting Zoo." The kids jumped up in a rush and asked, "Daddy, Daddy. Can we go? Please. Please. Can we go?"
"Sure," I said, flipping them both a quarter before walking into Sears. They bolted away, and I felt free to take my time looking for a scroll saw. A petting zoo consists of a portable fence erected in the mall with about six inches of sawdust and a hundred little furry baby animals of all kinds. Kids pay their money and stay in the enclosure enraptured with the squirmy little critters while their moms and dads shop.
A few minutes later, I turned around and saw Helen walking along behind me. I was shocked to see she preferred the hardware department to the petting zoo. Recognizing my error, I bent down and asked her what was wrong.
She looked up at me with those giant limpid brown eyes and said sadly, "Well, Daddy, it cost fifty cents. So, I gave Brandon my quarter." Then she said the most beautiful thing I ever heard. She repeated the family motto. The family motto is in "Love is Action!"
She had given Brandon her quarter, and no one loves cuddly furry creatures more than Helen. She had watched Sandy take my steak and say, "Love is Action!" She had watched both of us do and say "Love is Action!" for years around the house and Kings Arrow Ranch. She had heard and seen "Love is Action," and now she had incorporated it into her little lifestyle. It had become part of her.
What do you think I did? Well, not what you might think. As soon as I finished my errands, I took Helen to the petting zoo. We stood by the fence and watched Brandon go crazy petting and feeding the animals. Helen stood with her hands and chin resting on the fence and just watched Brandon. I had fifty cents burning a hole in my pocket; I never offered it to Helen, and she never asked for it.
Because she knew the whole family motto. It's not "Love is Action." It's "Love is SACRIFICIAL Action!" Love always pays a price. Love always costs something. Love is expensive. When you love, benefits accrue to another's account. Love is for you, not for me. Love gives; it doesn't grab. Helen gave her quarter to Brandon and wanted to follow through with her lesson. She knew she had to taste the sacrifice. She wanted to experience that total family motto. Love is sacrificial action.── Dave Simmons, Dad, The Family Coach, Victor Books, 1991, p. 123-124.
Jermaine Washington, 26, did something that amazes many people. He became a kidney donor, giving a vital organ to a woman he describes as "just a friend." Washington met Michelle Stevens, 23, when they began working together at the Washington, D.C., Department of Employment Services. They used to have lunch with one another and chitchat during breaks. "He was somebody I could talk to," says Stevens. "One day, I cried on his shoulder. I had been on the kidney donor waiting list for 11 months, and I had lost all hope."
She told Washington how depressing it was to spend three days a week, three hours a day, on a kidney dialysis machine. She suffered chronic fatigue and blackouts and was plagued by joint pain. He could already see that she had lost her smile. "I saw my friend dying before my eyes," Washington recalls. "What was I supposed to do? Sit back and watch her die?"
Steven's mother, suffering from hypertension, was ineligible to donate a kidney. Her two brothers were reluctant. "I understood," says Stevens. "They said they loved me very much, but they were just too afraid."
The operation at Washington Hospital Center in April 1991 began with a painful procedure in which doctors inserted a catheter into an artery in Washington's groin. They then injected dye through the catheter into his kidney before taking X rays to determine if it was fit for transplant. A week later, an incision nearly 15 inches long was made from his navel to the middle of his back. After surgery he remained hospitalized for five days.
Today, both Stevens and Washington are fully recovered. "I jog at least twice a week," Washington says. Three times a month, they get together for what they call a "gratitude lunch." Despite occasional pressure by friends, a romantic relationship is not what they want. "We are thankful for the beautiful friendship that we have," Stevens says. "We don't want to mess up a good thing."
To this day, people wonder why Washington did it -- and even question his sanity. But when one admirer asked him where he had found the courage to give away a kidney, his answer quelled the skeptics. "I prayed for it," Washington replied. "I asked God for guidance and that's what I got."── Courtland Milloy in Washington Post, quoted in Reader's Digest.
Eric Fellman speaks of meeting a Chinese couple in Hong Kong, while traveling to China. "A friend took me down a narrow alley to a second-floor flat to meet a man recently released from prison in China. I knew I would be pressed to carry Bibles and literature on my trip. But I was hesitant and tried to mask my fear with rationalizations about legalities and other concerns.
A Chinese man in his 60s opened the door. His smile was radiant, but his back was bent almost double. He led us to a sparsely furnished room. A Chinese woman of about the same age came in to serve tea. As she lingered, I couldn't help but notice how they touched and lovingly looked at each other. My staring apparently didn't go unnoticed, for soon they were both giggling. "What is it?" I asked my friend. "Oh nothing," he said with a smile. "They just wanted you to know it was OK--they're newlyweds." I learned they had been engaged in 1949, when he was a student at Nanking Seminary. On the day of their wedding rehearsal, Chinese communists seized the seminary. They took the students to a hard-labor prison. For the next 30 years, the bride-to-be was allowed only one visit per year. Each time, following their brief minutes together, the man would be called to the warden's office. "You may go home with your bride," he said, "if you will renounce Christianity." Year after year, this man replied with just one word; "No." I was stunned. How had he been able to stand the strain for so long, being denied his family, his marriage, and even his health? When I asked, he seemed astonished at my question. He replied, "With all that Jesus has done for me, how could I betray Him?" The next day, I requested that my suitcase be crammed with Bibles and training literature for Chinese Christians. I determined not to lie about the materials, yet lost not one minute of sleep worrying about the consequences. And as God had planned, my suitcases were never inspected.── Eric Fellman, Moody Monthly, January 1986 p. 33.
People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply acknowledging a great debt we owe to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny? It is emphatically no sacrifice. Rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, danger, foregoing the common conveniences of this life--these may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing compared with the glory which shall later be revealed in and through us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk, when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father's throne on high to give Himself for us.── David Livingstone.