At the beginning of the Great Depression I was born into a farming family in southern Missouri. By the time the Depression was over they had lost a daughter because of malaria and infantile diarrhea, and their income from the farm because of the economy and three successive years of drought.
But during this time my parents found Christ—or rather, they were found by Christ. Their conversion made a dramatic difference in their lives, and not long afterward I also was converted. In the words of the Living Bible paraphrase of Ephesians 2:5, God “gave us back our lives again.”
God had me, but for many years I wasn’t sure I had God. I wasn’t sure I had eternal life, though I did everything I knew to do. The continual realization of my inadequacies and sins kept me doubting if I was really a Christian. We sang “Amazing Grace,” but I had little concept of the gracious God of love, mercy, and patience.
Later, as a young physician, I was impressed by a visiting missionary who I heard speak about the authority of the Scriptures and the power of God. I cornered him after the service, and he agreed to begin helping me for a few months while he was living in my town.
Week by week he spent time with my wife and me, teaching us about daily quiet times, Bible study, Scripture memory, and effective witnessing. This was the first time in my life I received personal help in how to do these things, and I began growing spiritually. From a few weeks after he started meeting with us until now, I can say I’ve never seriously doubted my salvation and the guarantee that I will spend eternity with Christ.
This is so, I believe, because God began teaching me about his character. He is the I AM God—the One who cannot change because he is perfect, who is always present everywhere, whose power is subject to no one and nothing, and who limits his power only for his own pleasure and the good of his highest creation, mankind. I know I can trust him.
But I’m not an island. God created me to fit in as part of the community of human beings. This community is a corrupt society that is disobedient to God’s will, yet he will work out his will in spite of the forces opposing him. I can be part of his winning plan as a member of a small team of obedient people being used by God to carry out his work.
I need not worry, because the responsibility for the outcome of this conflict is God’s, not mine. My responsibility is to obey him in my own situation, and he lives in me to help me obey. God works in me “to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).
So I’m challenged to obey him and to play my part in this big project that is guaranteed to win, though I’m surrounded in a decadent society by defeat, compromise, and rebellion.
“Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). I am a victor because God is sovereign. And I feel like a victor. I don’t have to compete, pushing others down in order to get ahead. I have lost the desire for one-upmanship.
In fact, because God loves me and is the source of love, I myself am free to love others. He commands me to love, and he equips me to love because he fills me with his own love. He makes me want to help other people.
In a society that seems to be headed pellmell for self-destruction, offering help and hope to people appears futile. But as each small shower raises a pond’s water level, so each of us can raise the level of righteousness in society if we let the Sovereign God’s love flow through us.
In each of us it will mean something different, as we offer the kind of help God equipped us for. In my case it is often helping people medically: repairing an injury or prescribing medication. Often it includes telling a person about the Savior they so desperately need.
I was born with a sinful heart, but a righteous, loving, sovereign God worked out a plan whereby I can be eternally saved. He has my welfare under control, both on earth and in the afterlife. I am a winner, reborn and bound for heaven because of the death of Christ.
And now, the great need is for me to lay down my life in service to others, fully aware of the cost—but knowing also the victory.