I was assigned the privilege of doing the devotion at the start of our Board of Elders meeting Tuesday evening. I thought perhaps I would use a post that I had already written for my blog, so I spent some time on Sunday afternoon perusing past posts. I found two possible candidates, but neither seemed completely right for the occasion.
Then during my focused prayer time on Monday morning I asked God for wisdom and guidance on what to do for the devotion, and He brought to mind an article I had just read in a newsletter called Eternal Perspectives. But it was kind of a long article, really too long to read in its entirety for our devotion.
Then yesterday morning I received a quote by Martin Luther in my Quotemeal email and suddenly the whole devotion came together in my mind. I decided that I would “kill two birds with one stone,” as they say, and write the devotion as my Wednesday post.
Christ is the master; the Scriptures are only the servant. – Martin Luther
Faith is essential to the Christian life, for ”without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 (NIV). But this quote from Luther reminds us that we must be careful what we put our faith in, or rather who we put our faith in. We must be careful to not elevate the written Word of God, the Bible, above the author and perfecter of that wonderful book. The Word of God is wonderful precisely because it is the servant of the Living God, pointing us to Jesus Christ, the master.
As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:
Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (NIV).
While the Scriptures help to guide us and teach us of the love of Jesus Christ, if tomorrow we no longer had access to God’s Word in print or on the Internet, Jesus Christ would remain. I want to share two stories of how God answered prayer and made the reality of Christ evident even without ready access to the Bible.
The first is the story from Eternal Perspectives, which you can read in its entirety here on page 12 of this newsletter. The story is titled “The Hot Water Bottle: A True Story.” This story illustrates the incredible faith of a small child and the ability of our God to answer her prayer even before it is offered. There is no mention of the reading of the Scriptures in this story, but nonetheless Jesus is there in the midst of a crisis. A baby, whose mother died in childbirth, is in dire need of a hot water bottle, but there are none to be found in a small African village. As a missionary gathers other children to pray for the baby, one girl prays, “Please, God, send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, the baby’ll be dead, so please send it this afternoon.” She also asks God to send a doll for the baby’s two-year-old sister. This little African girl is confident that God will answer her prayer.
The missionary is doubtful, however, thinking of all the reasons why God couldn’t possibly answer this prayer. Then that very afternoon a package is delivered to her hut, a package that was packed five months before. Guess what’s in the box beneath all the other wonderful supplies sent by a church in the United States? A hot water bottle and a doll.
The second story is that of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand who wrote Tortured for Christ, about his imprisonment in Romania for preaching the Gospel. While in prison, Wurmbrand and his fellow imprisoned Christians did not have access to the Scriptures. In fact, he wrote that at times they were so weak from being beaten and starved that they could scarce remember a single verse that they had once known. But what they never forgot was Jesus Christ. He remained with them, upholding their faith even in the darkest of circumstances. Though the servant, the Word of God, was not with them, the Master never left their sides. Wurmbrand wrote:
A minister who was horribly beaten was thrown into my cell. He was half dead, with blood streaming from his face and body. We washed him. Some prisoners cursed the Communists. Groaning, he said, “Please, don’t curse them! Keep silent! I wish to pray for them.” Tortured for Christ, pg. 57.
It was in prison that we found the hope of salvation for the Communists. It was there that we developed a sense of responsibility for them. It was in being tortured by them that we learned to love them. Tortured for Christ, pg. 58.
Wurmbrand and his fellow Christians suffered terrible atrocities at the hands of the Communists. Wurmbrand himself was imprisoned for 14 years. It is unfathomable that a human being could endure such hardship only to turn around and show love to those who caused it. It can only be attributed to the love of Christ dwelling in his heart.
Without the immediate benefit of the Scriptures, the servant of God, Jesus was nonetheless present and alive in both of these stories. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (NIV). He is the Master and He is in control of all things in a way we can only glimpse from stories like these.