This sermon was from my recent trip to Charleston, South Carolina, delivered at the Cathedral Church downtown.
Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”(John 11:25-26) I tell the story of my friend Providence, who died in 2012, but is still alive today! Try to get your head around that one – you can read her amazing story here.
Here are a couple of quotes from the talk:
Shortly before Moody graduated to glory, he said: “Someday you will read in the papers that D.L.Moody is dead. Don’t you believe it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now; I shall have gone up higher, that is all! I was born of the flesh in 1837; I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh may die, but that which is born of the Spirit will live forever!”
John Patton (1824–1907) was a Scot from Dumfriesshire. He had travelled to the New Hebrides (a group of Islands in the south-west Pacific) determined to tell the tribal people about faith in Jesus. The islanders were cannibals. Nobody trusted anybody else. His life was in constant danger.
He wanted to translate John’s Gospel into their language, but he discovered that there was no word in their language for ‘faith’, ‘belief’ or ‘trust’ because such concepts were alien to a culture which lauded deceit, dishonesty and trickery.
Eventually, he found the word he was looking for: one day, when his assistant came in, Patton raised both feet off the floor, sat back in his chair and asked:
“What am I doing now?”
In reply, the servant used a word that means ‘to lean your whole weight upon’.
This became the expression that Patton used. Faith is leaning our whole weight upon Jesus and what he has done for us on the cross.
Are you leaning your full weight on the Lord, or hedging your bets?!
Sometimes it’s just plain wrong… and we have to do something about it.
It is wrong that a pastor serves God faithfully his whole life and then ends up with no pension, in total poverty, abandoned by his children, dying penniless and uncared for, sometimes regretting he’s given his life to the Lord’s service in the first place.
And yet such a scenario is relatively common in a country where very few people get a pension. Daniel was a pastor for 36 years before retiring. He reminisces:
“I taught the Word of God in schools, planted many churches and mentored many people… but now I’m 81. I’ve got diabetes and other health issues. I can’t do any physical labour in the fields. I live a lonely life in total poverty.”
That is wrong.
John is 76. He served Jesus for 46 years, planting multiple churches and leading many to the Lord. When the war kicked off in 1993, he lost his wife and six children but kept going. He says:
“Now I’m too old to work and I’m desperate. An old injury means I can’t walk far. My shack leaks when it rains. I go days without food. My surviving children live far away and don’t help.”
Again, it is just plain wrong that he laid down his life and now lives in misery.
Last year, GLO partner UCE bought some land upcountry to build a retirement village for precious brothers like Daniel and John. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to enable dozens of these faithful servants to live out their latter years in peace – well-fed, nurtured and valued?
That sounds right to me!
Whilst another organisation is committing funding to the building work, we want to help the whole project be self-sustaining by buying a lot more of the available surrounding land to develop for farming to feed the community.* Sowing into this means that whatever you give will keep on generating blessing for posterity!
There’s also a dream for it to one day become a place of refuge and discipleship for new Muslim-background believers suffering persecution. I love this! Do you want to be involved?
100m² costs £25 / $30
1000m² costs £250 / $300
10,000m² (1 hectare) costs £2,500 / $3,000
Whatever you can give, it will have a beautiful long-term impact, providing crops year after year after year – the gift that keeps on giving!
I’m back out in Burundi with a team of supporters for a week of introducing them to our various wonderful partners. As I knew would happen, the team members are blown away at the calibre, integrity and commitment of these Kingdom warriors. As Justin noted, the repeated story is that almost all of them had the chance to take the easier option and leave for whichever affluent peaceful country, but they chose to stay and make a costly difference here, in beautiful but broken Burundi.
Ephraim shared how he’d fled to the Congo during the war, but after a few years felt convicted to return to bless his nation. As he was on his way back, he was taken by militia who beat him to (half) death, tried to dump him down a latrine (he didn’t fit through the hole), and then hanged him from a tree. He said to them that they couldn’t kill him because God had told him he would go back to Burundi to preach healing and forgiveness in Jesus. They carried on beating him up. He was bleeding from his nose and ears and left in a crumpled heap. His last words to them were (as with Stephen in Acts when he was stoned): “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing!”
As he carried on sharing, he broke down in tears. It’s very rare to see a Burundian man cry. As the proverb goes: “Amosozi y’umugabo atemba aja mu nda” (‘A Burundian man’s tears fall inside in his stomach’). His passion and compassion for his countrymen, coupled no doubt with the pressures of daily living and looking out for others, led to the dam of emotion breaking within him, and there was a holy release. The team sensitively reached out, laid hands on him and prayed, as our tears merged with his.
There is so much weariness, despair and crushing poverty in this the poorest nation in the world. But there are also many Ephraims and Lyduines (his wife) exhibiting truly remarkable and vibrant resilience coupled with incredible vision, fruitfulness and lasting transformation. As I’ve often said, some of God’s best troops are in Burundi. It’s a privilege to serve them.
I have exciting news! My publishers have kindly agreed for me to share the award-winning devotional Choose Life 365 for free in 2023!
So I invite you to sign up for either a daily or a weekly email from me in 2023, helping you to choose faith over fear, love over legalism and gratitude over grumbling!
There’s no denying that times are really tough for many of us. Personally, we’ve experienced some real sucker punches over the past couple of months in our family, so more than ever, we need to press into God and pursue Him each and every day. I hope this will help you to do just that!
Check out this promo video I recorded recently in Burundi:
I’ve been journeying through it weekly with a bunch of folks for two years now, and I’ve been encouraged by some of the stories of impact people have sent through, so I’m excited to be able to share it with you for 2023!
If you find it helpful, I’d be so grateful if you could forward it to friends and family, or get them to sign up at chooselife.org.uk
If you want to buy the book for yourself, I’d encourage you to support our friends at St Andrew’s Bookshop or your local Christian bookshop, rather than the usual titans of the bookselling world!
Sign up here:
Please note that you may need to confirm your email address. You should receive a confirmation email soon.
Look at Gloria’s glorious smile! Her life has been totally transformed.
She was trafficked to the Middle East and spent ten years in prostitution. Hers was a truly hopeless and miserable life. But when she managed to escape back to Burundi, our Ephraim tracked her down and found her living in total poverty.
He rescued her, trained her to be a tailor, got her a sewing machine, and now she’s able to make a living and provide for her daughter. Listen to her in this short film…
What I love is that with just £25/$30, we can help a vulnerable lady like Gloria start a business. And that’s what we want to do this Christmas. Could you help one such precious life, or two, or ten? Do click through to make a donation here…
We have many such beautiful stories of transformation on the back of very small (to us) monetary interventions. Alida was desperate to avoid the last resort of selling her body, but the temptation was there. She tried to make ends meet by cutting hair. We then gave her a £7 loan to buy ladies’ hair products. That was a game-changer, because now she had more customers and made greater margins, so she was able to provide for herself. From her profits she’s now even bought herself a pig! And what I love is that the whole community now honours her for having resisted taking the prostitution route.
It blows my mind that a £7 loan changed Alida’s destiny…
What’s Alida’s next step? Setting up her own salon!
It’s a bit early, but I wish you all a very happy Christmas, and here’s to making it all the happier for some of the last, the lost and the least on the planet!
This talk was given at my local church, St Andrew’s Community Church, as part of their sermon series on 1 Samuel. Below are a few quotes and notes from it for your perusal:
Samuel Chadwick: ‘It is a wonder what God can do with a broken heart, if He gets all the pieces.’
“Until we give God our heart, we give him nothing at all.” J.C.Ryle
Dmitri was a Russian factory worker imprisoned after the house church he pastored grew to 150 people. He was sent 1,000 miles away to a hardened criminal facility full of 1,500 prisoners. As far as he knew he was the only believer.
Every morning he would get up, face the east, raise his hands, and sing songs of praise to God. As he sang the other prisoners would bang their cups along their cell bars, curse him, and throw their food and human waste at him. All he had to do to be released was sign a piece of paper recanting his faith in Jesus.
For 17 years he refused to sign, but after they convinced him they had killed his wife and had custody of his sons he agreed so sign the paper the next morning. That night his family sensed something was wrong and started praying for Dmitri. Dmitri said the Holy Spirit opened his ears so he could hear his family praying. He knew his wife was still alive, and they were all together! He refused to sign the document.
Several weeks later the guards decided to execute him. As they were dragging him out of his cell to his execution, the prisoners stood up, faced the east, raised their hands, and sang “O God Give Me Strength!” The fear of God came upon those guards, and they were terrified. They asked Dmitri, “who are you?” He looked them right in the eyes and said “I am a son of the living God and His name is Jesus Christ.”
He was released shortly after. Eventually, his son became the chaplain of that prison.
You see, we march to the beat of a different drum. This is not our home. As Peter wrote, we are ‘aliens and strangers’. Worldly kings or regimes have different allegiances. It will be costly.
“You can endure a lot of suffering when your heart is set on a purpose, but if your heart is set on comfort – or if you have a wayward heart – you cannot endure any suffering at all.” David Wilkerson
This was my parting quote and challenge, which got cut off by the recording, unfortunately:
“To belong to God is to belong to His heart. If we respond to the call of Jesus to leave everything and follow Him, then there is a voice within us crying out. ‘Fight for the heart of your King!’ Yet Christianity over the past two thousand years has moved from a tribe of renegades to a religion of conformists. Those who choose to follow Jesus become participants in an insurrection. To claim we believe is simply not enough. The call of Jesus is one that demands action” (Erwin Raphael McManus, The Barbarian Way).
Below are some profoundly challenging stories and quotes to stir your faith and mull over:
There’s a certain type of bamboo in Asia which grows to prodigious heights and at prodigious speeds – sometimes as much as 60 feet in six weeks. However, before that growth spurt, the seed lies in the dark beneath the ground for up to five years. Those farmers who make a profitable living from the bamboo would have given up long ago and changed crops if they didn’t know that plenty was going on beneath the surface despite the fact that there was no visible sign to encourage their perseverance. Every bit of watering and waiting is worthwhile. No prayer is wasted.
Might you be growing weary or discouraged in some earnest prayer request you’ve been lifting up to the Lord for quite some time, perhaps even a very long time? If so, here’s some timely encouragement from the remarkable example of George Muller, a man mighty in faith and prayer:
Muller is best known for the large faith-based orphan ministry he carried out in Bristol, England, in the nineteenth century. He was also a diligent, disciplined man of prayer. He kept an ongoing prayer notebook in which he recorded his requests on one page and the answer to each of those petitions on the facing page. By this means, he persevered in praying till he received answers to thousands of specific requests.
Once while ministering in Dusseldorf, Germany, Muller was approached by a missionary to that city who was distressed because his six sons remained unconverted, though he had been praying for them many years. To the father’s query about what he should do Muller responded, “Continue to pray for your sons, and expect an answer to your prayer, and you will have to praise God.”
Six years later, in August of 1882, Muller again returned to minister in Dusseldorf. This time he was delighted to be greeted by the same missionary who testified that he had resolved to follow Muller’s advice and had given himself more earnestly to prayer for the spiritual well-being of his sons. The happy results were that two months after Muller had left in 1876, five of the man’s sons had come to faith in Christ, and the sixth was now also thinking seriously about making that commitment.
Muller himself interceded for more than half a century for the salvation of a small group of men. He once wrote: “In November 1844, I began to pray for the conversion of five individuals. I prayed every day without a single intermission, whether sick or in health, on the land or on the sea, and whatever the pressure of my engagements might be. Eighteen months elapsed before the first of the five was converted. I thanked God and prayed on for the others. Five years elapsed, and then the second was converted. I thanked God for the second, and prayed on for the other three. Day by day I continued to pray for them, and six years passed before the third was converted. I thanked God for the three, and went on praying for the other two.
“These two remain unconverted. The man to whom God in the riches of His grace has given tens of thousands of answers to prayer in the self-same hour or day in which they were offered has been praying day by day for nearly thirty-six years for the conversion of these individuals, and yet they remain unconverted. But I hope in God, I pray on, and look yet for the answer. They are not converted yet, but they will be.”
Those two men, sons of a friend of Muller’s youth, were still unconverted when he died in 1897, after having prayed daily for their salvation for fifty-two years. His prayers were answered, however, when both those men came to faith in Christ a few years after the great intercessor’s death.
After forty years of faithful service to the Lord as a missionary to Africa, Henry Morrison and his wife were returning to New York. As the ship neared the dock, Henry said to his wife, “Look at that crowd. They haven’t forgotten about us”. However, unknown to Henry, the ship also carried President Teddy Roosevelt, returning from a big game hunting trip in Africa. Roosevelt stepped from the boat, with great fanfare, as people were cheering, flags were waving, bands were playing, and reporters waiting for his comment, Henry and his wife slowly walked away unnoticed. They hailed a cab, which took them to the one-bedroom apartment which had been provided by the mission board.
Over the next few weeks, Henry tried, but failed to put the incident behind him. He was sinking deeper into depression when one evening, he said to his wife, “This is all wrong. This man comes back from a hunting trip, and everybody throws a big party. We give our lives in faithful service to God for all these many years, but no one seems to care.”
His wife cautioned him that he should not feel this way. Henry replied “I know you’re right, but I just can’t help it. It just isn’t right.”
His wife then said, “Henry, you know God doesn’t mind if we honestly question Him. You need to tell this to the Lord and get this settled now. You’ll be useless in His ministry until you do.”
Henry Morrison then went to his bedroom, got down on his knees and, shades of Habakkuk, began pouring out his heart to the Lord. “Lord, you know our situation and what’s troubling me. We gladly served you faithfully for years without complaining. But now God, I just can’t get this incident out of my mind…”
After about ten minutes of fervent prayer, Henry returned to the living room with a peaceful look on his face. His wife said “It looks like you’ve resolved the matter. What happened?”
Henry replied, “The Lord settled it for me. I told Him how bitter I was that the President received this tremendous homecoming, but no one even met us as we returned home. When I finished, it seemed as though the Lord put His hand on my shoulder and simply said, ‘But Henry, you are not home yet!’”
In 1908, a young Liberian called Jasper Toe cried out, “If there is a God in heaven, help me find you.” He heard an unknown voice reply, “Go to Garraway Beach. You will see a box on the water with smoke coming out of it. And from that box on the water will come some people in a smaller box. These people in the small box will tell you how to find me.” He duly walked seven days to the seaside. Meanwhile, John Perkins and his wife were rounding the coast of Liberia on a steamboat. They knew they had been called by God, but they didn’t yet know where God wanted them exactly! Suddenly, they felt the Holy Spirit say to them, “This is where I want you. You need to disembark right now!” The ship’s captain initially refused as it was cannibal country, but such was their insistence he eventually relented, and they rowed ashore in a canoe with all their meagre worldly belongings. Jasper Toe was waiting for them. He took them home, taught them the language, became their first convert, and in time planted hundreds of churches throughout Liberia!
Oh that we all received such extraordinary, obviously supernatural guidance! Yet maybe, just maybe, we do. Both Perkins and Toe could easily have ignored the Holy Spirit’s prompting. Perkins could have played it safe and stayed on the ship. Toe could have ignored the crazy instructions he received. But through their obedience, God in his mercy engineered a beautiful breakthrough for the glory of his name.
God is speaking all the time. Are we still enough, quiet enough, attentive enough to listen? Could that person who springs to mind that we quickly dismiss be God’s prompt for us to get in touch with them? Could that creative idea for a new initiative that we quash be an exciting opportunity for him to use us? Listen up!
This man failed in his first attempt at business. He then tried politics and within only one year failed there also. He went back to business for yet another try, and failed again. Three failures in three years. He asked his fiancée to marry him after four years of courtship, but she said no. Later, another sweetheart died. He struggled for the next two years and suffered a nervous breakdown. After taking two years to recover, he tried once again in the political works and was defeated in his bid to be elected as Speaker of the House. Two years later he sought to be appointed as the Elector and again defeated. Three years after this, he ran for a seat in Congress and was defeated. He waited another five years to run for office again, and was defeated. It was during this time that his four-year-old son died. He spent the next seven years in relative obscurity and then ran again for a political office, this time in the Senate. Again he was defeated. The following year, he was nominated by his party to be the candidate for Vice-President, but was defeated along with his running mate in the general election. After two more years he tried again for the Senate seat, but was defeated. Then, another two years later, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th President of the United States of America – 24 years of sheer patience and endurance!
“God can never make me wine if I object to the fingers He uses to crush me. If God would only crush me with His fingers, and say ‘Now my son, I am going to make you broken bread and poured out wine in a particular way and everyone will know what I am doing.’ But when He uses someone who is not a Christian, or someone I particularly dislike, or some set of circumstances I said I would never submit to, and begins to make these crushers, I object.
I must never choose the scene of my martyrdom, nor must I choose the things God will use in order to make me broken bread and poured out wine. His own Son did not choose. God chose for His Son that He should have a devil in His company for three years. We say: ‘I want angels; I want people better than myself; I want everything to be significantly from God, otherwise I cannot live the life, or do the thing properly; I always want to be gilt-edged.’ Let God do as he likes. If you are ever going to be wine to drink, you must be crushed; grapes cannot be drunk; grapes are only wine when they are crushed. I wonder what kind of coarse finger and thumb God has been using to squeeze you, and you have been like a marble and escaped? You are not ripe yet, and if God had squeezed you, the wine that came out would have been remarkably bitter. Let God go on with His crushing, because it will work out His purpose in the end.” (Oswald Chambers)
“Patience is love for the long haul; it is bearing up under difficult circumstances, without giving up or giving in to bitterness. Patience means working when gratification is delayed. It means taking what life offers—even if it means suffering—without lashing out. And when you’re in a situation that you’re troubled over or when there’s a delay or pressure on you or something’s not happening that you want to happen, there’s always a temptation to come to the end of your patience. You may well have lost your patience before you’re even aware of it.” (Tim Keller)
“Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.” Henri Nouwen, worth re-reading a few times, if you have the patience…
I love these stories! We get bombarded with so much bad news in general, that all the more I see it as part of our job at GLO to tell inspiring tales of overcoming. Meet Divine:
She was an orphan living in Nyanza lac in the South of Burundi. She was married young to a boy who mistreated her, indeed whose family rejected her and maligned her such that she preferred to flee to the streets. She was left with no apparent options other than to sell her body to survive.
That was five years ago.
Just a few months back, she came across the work of our partner Together for Development (TfD). She got trained up in sewing. She discovered that she had value, that God loved her, and wanted a healthy pure relationship with her.
What a transformation!
She is such a dynamo that she now organises a self-help group of 30 ladies. She’s led 15 of them to Jesus, and 12 of them out of prostitution. Each Wednesday she meets with them to share God’s Word and encourage them through life’s trials.
Ephraim, leader of TfD, visited her two weeks ago, and she said to him: “I don’t have any family – no brother, no sister – you became my family, don’t abandon me.” He won’t, and in the meantime gave her a chicken! Here he is filming her and translating some of her testimony.
Below are some funny/moving stories and anecdotes, and some juicy quotes to mull over:
On a flight from Johannesburg, a middle-aged, well-off white South African lady had found herself sitting next to an African man. She called the cabin crew attendant over to complain about her seating. “What seems to be the problem Madam?” asked the attendant.
“Can’t you see?” she said. “You’ve sat me next to a kaffir. I can’t possibly sit next to this disgusting human. Find me another seat!” “Please calm down Madam.” the stewardess replied. “The flight is very full today, but I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll go and check to see if we have any seats available in club or first class.” The woman cocked a snooty look at the outraged black man beside her (not to mention at many of the surrounding passengers also).
A few minutes later the stewardess returned with the good news, which she delivered to the lady, who could not help but look at the people around her with a smug and self-satisfied grin: “Madam, unfortunately, as I suspected, economy is full. I’ve spoken to the cabin services director, and club is also full. However, we do have one seat in first class”.
Before the lady had a chance to answer, the stewardess continued, “It is most extraordinary to make this kind of upgrade, however, and I had to get special permission from the captain. But, given the circumstances, the captain felt that it was outrageous that someone be forced to sit next to such an obnoxious person as yourself.” With which, she turned to the African man sitting next to her, and said: “So if you’d like to get your things, Sir, I have your seat ready for you in first class up at the front…” At which point, apparently the surrounding passengers stood and gave a standing ovation while the African guy walked up to first class in the front of the plane.
I love that story, because it’s someone else’s pride, not mine!
The problem with pride is, as C.S. Lewis writes: “The more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike in in others. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” Someone has said, “The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your full height before some higher nature that will show you how small your greatness is.” William Law (1686-1761) ‘Pride must die in us or Christ cannot live in us.’
George Muller of Bristol (the man who cared for so many orphans in the nineteenth century) one day was urged to share what he considered to be the power behind his ministry. He surprised his questioner by talking about his “secret death”. “There was a day,” he said, “when I died; utterly died.” As he spoke, he bent lower until he almost touched the floor. Then he continued, “I died to George Muller, his opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved of God.
This man was born in a gypsy tent, of humble origins, and yet ended up being invited to the White House by two presidents. Rodney ‘Gypsy’ Smith came into the world in 1860 in Epping Forest, just outside London. Forty five times he crossed the Atlantic to preach the gospel to millions of people on both sides. His passion was almost unparalleled, and there was great fruit in what he did. What was his secret? Humble private prayer. His praying was even more powerful than his preaching.
A delegation once came to him to enquire how they might experience personal and mass revival as he had. They wanted to be used the way Gypsy was. Without hesitating, he said: “Go home. Lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of the floor, and with a piece of chalk draw a circle round yourself. There, on your knees, pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle.”
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Tim Keller wrote: “The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.”
“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.” Søren Kierkegaard
A water-bearer in India had two large pots, both hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years, this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pot-fulls of water to his house.
Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water-bearer one day by the stream:
“I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologise to you. I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts”, the pot said.
The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”
An old legend tells how a man was once lost for days in a dark forest and stumbled across an imposing barn. He sought shelter inside it because of the howling winds. His eyes grew quickly accustomed to the dark, and he was amazed to discover that this barn was where the devil kept his storehouse of seeds. These were the seeds that were sown in the hearts of humans. He lit a match and looked at all the different types of seeds. Most of them, surprisingly, were labelled ‘Seeds of Discouragement’. Just then one of the devil’s helpers arrived to pick up a new load of seeds. The man asked him, “Why so many discouragement seeds?” The helper laughed and replied, “Because they’re so effective and they take root so quickly.” “Do they grow everywhere?” the man asked, to which the helper suddenly grimaced back at him and said in disgust, “No. They never seem to grow in the heart of a grateful person.”
Well-known pianist Ignace Jan Paderewski’s concert in New York had been sold out for six months. On the night of the concert, those who came were dressed in tuxedos and fancy dresses. A mother brought her nine-year-old son because he was beginning to complain about his piano lessons, and she thought hearing a great pianist might motivate him to keep practicing.
You can dress a nine-year-old in a tuxedo, but he’s still nine. Restless and impatient, he continually had to go to the bathroom and, much to the irritation of those sitting by them, kept walking back and forth. Finally, the mother became exasperated, grabbed her son by the shoulders and sat him down hard in his seat. “Now stay there and don’t move!” she said sternly. But a few minutes later, while the mother was distracted by the person on the other side of her, the boy slipped out to the aisle. The mother turned to see her son walking toward the stage, where a huge Steinway piano was standing. Panicky, she yelled at him to come back. Startled the little boy panicked, ran toward the stage, ran up the stairs straight to the piano, sat down, and began to play “Chopsticks.” People in the audience were furious.
“Get that kid off the stage!”
“This is an outrage!”
“What is this boy doing here!”
As the startled ushers began moving toward the young boy, Paderewski heard the commotion and looked out of his dressing room. He saw the boy playing “Chopsticks”. He quickly grabbed his tuxedo jacket, walked to the edge of the backstage area, and then stepped into full view of the audience. There was a collective hush. Everyone wondered what the great pianist would do. The boy, oblivious to what was happening, continued to play. Paderewski came up behind him, went down on his knee, and whispered in the little boy’s ear, “Don’t stop. Keep on playing. You’re doing great.” While the boy continued to play, the great pianist put his arms around the boy and began to play a concerto based on the tune of “Chopsticks.” While the two played, Paderewski kept saying to the boy, “Don’t stop. Keep on playing.”
As you look at your life, as you contemplate embracing the faith of a little child, as you wonder what difference your bumbling, flawed life will make, I hope you have heard God’s whispering voice, “Don’t stop. Keep on playing. You’re doing great.”
One day we shall all be gathered in that great concert hall of God, and we will hear the glorious beauty of the concerto God was playing while you and I plunked out our childlike version of “Chopsticks.”