PRAYING BEFORE THE UNEXPECTED
A furious wind came up on the Lake of Galilee and the waves broke over the boat and swamped it. Jesus was asleep on a cushion in the stern. The disciples panicked and woke him up pleading, ‘Teacher, don’t you care that we perish'” (Mark 4:37-38)? These were fishermen, familiar with the Lake and the weather; yet, they were unprepared to face the crisis. What was their reason for venturing out on a night like the one they found themselves in? Not a one had any question about safety. Did they take Jesus for granted? Do we take God’s help for granted?
Prayer keeps us in a state of readiness. Years ago a Christian servant was driving his atheistic master in a buggy through the countryside. Quite suddenly, ominous dark clouds covered the sky and turned into a cyclone. Trees were being uprooted, buildings were torn apart and debris began to fly. Terror was upon them and in fear the atheist cried out, “Pray! Call on your God to save us!” Calmly, the servant replied, “I did my praying before the storm broke” (Kn. 274). I can identify with this incident because I faced the inevitable. As a boy at nine, I saw my mother pleading with God to keep us alive and then went and found places where we could hide from nationalistic fanatics that were killing our people. My real test came when I was twelve and was drowning and my life flashed before my eyes and my conscience cried out, “I am lost!” Only I knew what I meant. I was unprepared to face my Maker. I had not prayed that day for the Lord to keep me safe. The man who rescued me may have let me drown three years earlier.
At the age of twelve, Jesus’ mind was a puzzle to the wise (Luke 2:41-52). I was twenty- one and a puzzle to myself. I escaped without a scratch during the invasion of the Germans; the Russians twice, being drafted into the German army at fourteen, then immigrated to Canada and ended up in a fire accident. I was aflame from my knees to my head. I covered my eyes with my hands and cried out in German, “I am lost! I became unconscious and when I awoke, I was in a hospital and for the next eighteen months I was a permanent residence in three different hospitals where I faced twenty surgeries so I could face society in a very humble way. The reason I cried out was because I was unprepared to face any crisis and least of all death.
Shortly after I had retired from being a full time pastor, I was diagnosed with cancer and had an unbelievable 129 PSA. After drugs and radiation and surgery no longer was possible, I was told that I could not be cured. Did I take the news in strides? Of course, I did not. I was more than disappointed and we shed many tears but this time I was no longer unprepared to face this crisis. I had come to believe that I had a contract with God and that He would determine the outcome of my crisis. There was a message in my crisis and it was not for my benefit but for God’s glory. In my life, He began to demonstrate that my purpose in this world had not ended. I am part of Gods plan preordained before the creation of the world so that at this point in history I shall serve Him with praise (Ephesians 1:3-14). That was eighteen years ago and since then I have put 850 messages or sermons on the Internet to praise the Lord and encourage people to turn to Him for help when they face the ultimate crisis, namely death. Before my crisis with cancer and death, I had nothing to share but only guesses. With the crisis stricken Job in the Bible I too can say, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will be with me” (Job 19:25). I like what Jesus promised, “I assure you, I will be with you always, to the very end of time” (Matthew 28:20).
I have lived from day to day with little taught of preparing to face any crisis and like the thief that faced death on a cross with Jesus hoped I could plead my case before I take my last breath. It did not happen that way with me. I had no time when I was drowning or a living torch. But I was fortunate after that to prepare myself for the next crisis. During my 30 radiation days, I was able to take my treatments cheerfully and those that administered the treatments were happy to see me the next day. And when the Oncologist informed my wife and me that I could not be healed, I remained optimistic and was no longer afraid. That was some 18 years ago. Like the five wise virgins, I had filled my life with the oil of hope. Before that, I was very much like the five foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). My life was filled with fear of being left out in the dark. It is a scaring situation when we do not know where we are going to end up. I have been there too. I stopped playing with my soul.
It was not only my soul that required provisions, but my body as well. My soul depends on a body to assist it. A sick or disabled body is unlikely to be much help to the soul. Even as a handicapped person, I had to find ways to please my soul materially so that my body could continue to heal. I appreciated every bit of help, but I did not expect others to feed me the rest of my life and that has been 63 years past. In a way, I did things similar to “The Parable of the Shrew Manager” (Luke 16:1-12). I did not do it by cheating. I was able to borrow money from a friend the honest way and acquired a small place. This led to larger and larger investments that ended up helping our whole family and others during our last financial national crisis. I also paid into Social Security and into a minister’s fund. I was injured at the end of my third day at work and compensation was based on very little work I had done at a time when one earned less than a Dollar per hour. I was not able to stock the wood I had cut to see how much I earned. I was disabled 75% and could not receive a settlement but a small pension, not enough for one person to live on without assistance. I am living proof that a handicapped person does not need to abuse others and become a crisis in addition to their own. It is tragic that so many have elected to be the crisis and even more so when leaders create crisis in order to govern. The “Robin hood sociology” of robbing the rich to feeding the poor or material equalization is a crisis idea. “The poor we will always have with us” (Matthew 26:11). However, when we are honest and kind to the rich, they have proven themselves to be generous with their feeding.
There is an old proverb that should be everyone’s slogan, “Doctor, heal yourself” (Luke 4:23). That is the lesson I learned in my 84 years of moving from crisis to crisis. I had to lay my hands on the plow and stop looking back (Luke 9:62). When I wanted something done, I had to find ways to do it myself. My prayer is, Lord grand me the grace to accept what I have to face and enable me to face it. I do it best when I am alone. A noted physician was succumbing to a fatal disease. He sought help from all the best doctors in Europe until he came to the one who was his last hope. This humble expert gave him this advice, “The only man who can save you is an English physician, Dr. Darwin of Derby.” “Alas!” moaned the patient. “I am Dr. Darwin of Derby” (La. 43).