In the course of working on this issue, I came across an inspiring story about two great men of God. I’d like to share it with you.
Charles Spurgeon, the famous evangelist, and George Müller, the thief-turned-Christian who founded and directed five orphanages, both lived in 19th-century England.
An American shoe representative was sent to a remote region of Africa. Before long, he wired the home office: “Selling shoes in this part of the world is pointless! Nobody here wears shoes!”
He returned home, and the manufacturer sent another representative. This one wired back order after order. “Everybody in this part of the world needs shoes!” he explained.
One winter some years ago, a group of friends and I were traveling on a mountain road in a passenger van in the southern United States. It was past dusk on a Friday evening, and we were heading to a ski resort a few hours away. We were nearly there when someone pulled up next to us at a stop sign and motioned to the driver to roll the window down.
“Pretty sure your back tire’s losing air,” he said. “I can take a look if you’d like.”
At the time Paul wrote his letter to the church in Philippi, he was languishing in a Roman prison, yet in his introduction, he describes true happiness not as him being released, but as the Christians there having loving, harmonious relations with one another. Then he goes on to describe how they can do that:
For Christians, success cannot be measured simply by money. It’s not about becoming the richest or most famous, but about using the talents God has given us to the best of our ability.1 The person doing the most with what he’s got is the one who is truly successful.
In his very last speech, given in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 3, 1968, the day before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King imagined God asking him what era he would like to live in. He goes on to survey all of human history, starting with Moses leading the Israelites out of slavery, goes through Greece and Rome, the Renaissance and Reformation, the Emancipation Proclamation, and finally the very troubled times he lived in, when his country was full of hatred, injustice, and fear. Here is his reply:
In this weary world of ours, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the recurring bad news of terrorism, war, natural disasters, and suffering. The message of Christmas—peace on earth and goodwill toward men—has never been more relevant. And yet I know I sometimes feel my efforts are like a drop of water in the ocean of what needs to be done to truly make a difference.
In the book of Genesis, chapter 12, when Abraham was 75, God promised him descendants. And again in chapter 13. “Some time later,” in chapter 15, God promised him a son and descendants as numerous as the stars. In chapter 16, when Abraham was 86, he fathered Ishmael, but God told him he was not the promised son. In chapter 17, Abraham was 99 years old, and God again promised him a son and “countless descendants,” and then once more in chapter 18. Finally, in chapter 21, when Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90, Isaac was born. Abraham had continued to believe God’s word as the years and even decades passed, and he reaped the blessing in God’s time.