GOD "He restores my soul"
Man forever looks for a source of nourishment for his soul. In C.S. Lewis' THE PILGRIM'S REGRESS he imagines a make-believe world called Puritania and a wanderer in it named John. The world consists of all the various philosophical world views that have, over the centuries, offered to restore man's soul. Yet as John visits each land he finds before too long that he has not found what he wants, and that a gnawing hunger lies deep within his soul for something true. Finally, he discovers the truth of God.
All along his journey he has been aware of the Island, Lewis's metaphor representing the place where God is. All the other spots in Puritania act like the island, but in the end, don't satisfy, and leave the hero longing for it. Lewis writes, "Then it came into his head that after all, he didn't want songs (about the island) but the island itself. And that was the only thing he wanted in the world."
How true for us as well.-C.S. Lewis, THE PILGRIM'S REGRESS (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986), p 55
GOD "I shall not want"
Perhaps one of the greatest wants of many young women is to marry- par-ticulary if she has met the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with. Elisabeth Howard had met that man at Wheaton College—she wanted to marry Jim Elliot. But Jim wanted to be a missionary, and did not want to enter the missions field as a married man. When his burden grew for the rugged jungles of Ecuador, he became even more adamant about their needed singleness. They loved each other deeply, however, and continued to write. Elisabeth became a South American missionary herself. Marriage was the desire of both their hearts, but God did not seem to be moving them towards it— until five years later, when Jim prepared to enter the jungles and set up a base to reach the Acua Indians. God's blessing became clear, and they married almost immediately. Elisabeth's husband was soon destined to become a martyr, but that did not taint her understanding of God's promise to grant us our "wants."
In her biography of her husband, she recalls fondly a letter from her husband from when the two were in college: "(He) does not say He will give you what
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you want. (He) does say He will give you the want. Delight in Christ brings desire for Christ. He gives the heart its desires . . . My will becomes His, and I can ask what I will, if I delight myself in Him."-Elisabeth Elliot. THE SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY. (New York: Harper and Row, 1958)
GOD "The Lord is my shepherd"
A recent poll illustrates the fact that Americans are becoming more and more interested in a relationship with an eternal "shepherd." A full 61% say religion is "very important" in their lives, and 35% say religion means more to them now than it did five years ago. Over 60% pray regularly.- USATODAY POLL. September 3, 1987.
GOD "He guides me"
Admiral Sir Thomas Williams was a fine sea captain. That's why his behavior one day on the Atlantic was so startling to his crew.
Admiral Williams navigated past the island of Ascension, an unhabited chunk of seascape visited only occasionally to collect turtles. But as Sir Thomas looked at the island, he found himself longing to visit it—with no explanation why. The desire became stronger and stronger, and even distressing, until the Admiral could stand it no longer.
He summoned his lieutenant to "put about ship" and head for the deserted island. His subordinate politely explained that this would put them behind schedule, but the Admiral insisted. As the ship creaked with the strains of turning amid course the crew's eyes focused on the distant island. Then, faintly at first, then more clearly, the crew caught a glimpse of something on the island. Now all the crew were anxious to arrive with their Admiral—this was supposed to be a deserted island. Then someone shouted, It is white—it is a flag--it must be a signal!"
When they finally reached the shore they found that sixteen men, half-starved and shipwrecked for many days, had set out a signal in hopeless desperation that someone would see—and no one would have, if God had not prompted the Admiral to do what no one else thought proper and change course.
God may not always direct us with such intensity, but He is our guide nonetheless. When we yield to his guidance, we may be taken off course, but never to where we weren't supposed to be.—Paul Lee Tan, ENCYCLOPEDIA OF 7700 ILLUSTRATIONS (Rockville.MD: Assurance Publishers, 1984)
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"I fear no evil, for thou art with me" It fortifies my soul to know That though I perish, truth is so; That howsoever I stray and range Whatever I do, Thou dost not change. I steadier step, when I recall That if I slip, Thou dost not fall.— Arthur Clough, 1862
Few can say with the psalmist, "I fear no evil for thou art with me." For anything we place our security in other than God can not always protect—for it might someday NOT be with me.
Many were shocked in the recent Wall Street crash, many who'd been fearing no evil because "the Bull market art with me". William Safire commented in an NEW YORK TIMES editorial shortly after the crash:
"The nation has been scared. People's plans have been changed, and outlook is now different for a generation that never knew it could be standing on an existentialists trap door . . . Do not search for a political figure with the courage to tell the millions who have been burned and frightened that no government can or should save us from the consequences of our personal economic risk-taking."
Only an eternal God can make a promise like the psalmist claims—and only in his arms can we be free from fear.--William Safire, NEW YORK TIMES, October 21, 1987.
People who grasp God's constant presence are people who are fearless. And people who are fearless make great leaders. While we do not know if Winston Churchill believed in the God of Psalm 23, his fearlessness is a model for those of us who do. During the darkest hour of World War II a Cabinet meeting was held in London. France had just surrendered. Prime Minister Churchill presented the situation to his men as blatantly as he could. It was a grim speech. The tiny islands of Britain stood alone against the Nazi menace. The room was silent. Stern faces stared at the Prime Minister-thoughts of surrender and utter despair where the messages written across their faces.
Churchill momentarily lit his cigar, let slip a bit of a smile, and, with a twinkle in his eye, said to his official, "Gentlemen, I find it rather inspiring."— Chuck Swindoll, DROPPING YOUR GUARD, (Waco, TX: Word, 1983)
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GOD "I shall not want"
In modern America, most of us find it hard to believe that we might ever have to go without a meal, or even loose our housing. We feel protected— those kinds of horrors are for the recluses left to murmur to themselves and sleep under bridges-not for us. Perhaps it is because of this false sense of security that we fail to grasp the significance of the psalmist's joyous boast: "I shall not want." We know we won't want anyway, God or no God.
But that may not be the case anymore. The television show SIXTY MINUTES recently did a story on the middle class homeless, people like you and me who suddenly find themselves on the street—all alone. One lady interviewed was Miriam Bond, a sixty-five year old woman raised by wealthy parents who had lived with her mother for many years in a nice Manhattan apartment. But her mother died. And she's not alone. During her interview with Mike Wallace, he wondered where her children were. She pointed to a lone letter from an estranged daughter and, with tears welling in her eyes said, "This won't help keep me warm, Mr. Wallace."
The safety nets our society has strung up have lots of holes in them, and more are falling through each day. None of us are secure for the rest of our lives. Only in the arms of the Great Shepherd can we ever say, "I shall not want."— SIXTY MINUTES, January 10, 1988.
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