Being unable to preach on Sunday was a great disappointment. I can think of only three Sundays I have missed preaching since I was ordained.
I am not used to the sickbed nor to flowers nor to "get-well cards" nor beef bullion cubes!
What was wrong with me? The doctor didnít know. He did say it could have been a "bug" of some kind, or a "virus," or a "touch" of pneumonia, or it could have been one of many things.
Why all the pills, then, if there was an uncertainty as to the problem?
Well, the good doctor said it was to fight infection and to make me more comfortable until I was well. So, as least I had the consolation that if I didnít get well, I would die comfortably!
I am thankful for medical science and what it can do, and for men who have dedicated their lives to helping those in physical sickness and discomfort.
Above all else, I am thankful to the Lord whom I serve, who knows my every need and can and does supply that need, physically, materially and spiritually, as I trust Him.
I am thankful for a wonderful, faithful church, and for good folk who know how to cry out to God in time of need and trust Him to hear and answer their heart-cry.
I am thankful for my wife and three daughters who also know how to pray, even down to my little eight-year-old who said one day during my illness, "Daddy, I prayed for you three times today that God would make you well, and Iím going to pray five times tomorrow, until He does!"
With an army like that on your side, you canít lose!
One afternoon while recuperating, my eyes began to focus a little better. The world was still here, and all things were continuing as they were before I stepped out of the picture for a few days.
I said to my wife, "I would like to have a steak three-fourths inches thick, with mashed potatoes, gravy, and all the trimmings!"
She only remarked, "I believe youíre better!" and went back to her other duties.
Later from the kitchen came my wifeís voice announcing to the family, "Supperís ready!" (Some of you who eat "breakfast, lunch and dinner" miss a meal somewhere. We eat breakfast, dinner and supper.)
We gathered around the supper table and a meal fit for a kingóa thick steak, potatoes, gravy, and all the trimmings! (At our house it is more often the "ground steak" variety.) I marveled at her quick response to my request.
Later that evening, as I thought on these things and relaxed with a full stomach, God spoke to my heart in a very definite way.
Had not God said, through the Holy Spirit and the pen of Paul, "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Phil. 4:6)?
My mind and heart reached out to this beloved land of ours with all her problemsóthe hatred, the tensions, the strife, the racial bitterness.
Then, again, my mind went out to the modernism and the apostasy on every hand; the liberalism in schools where men are being trained to be "ministers of the Gospel"; the spiritual blindness that has settled down upon the churches of America that can only be the fulfillment of Paulís words in II Corinthians 4:3,4:
Once again I saw, through my mindís eye, the sin, the lust, the immorality, the drunkenness, the debauchery of our day, and my heart cried out brokenly for our land. Surely we must know today the truth that
These United States that we call our beloved "land of the free and home of the brave" have become a diseased land, filled with spiritual, mental, psychological, physical, moral and material SICKNESS!
At this point my mind turned in its direction of thought, and I began to think of the great number of fundamental, Bible-believing, God-fearing preachers in America and the churches still standing true to the Faith.
Neighbor, I believe we can say conservatively that there are still thousands of God-called, true-to-the-Book preachers and churches that have not yet sold out to the Devil! Yet, as an over-all picture, they seem to stand helpless against the flood tides of sin-sickness sweeping over us today.
At this point I got my Bible and got well. Itís a good thing I did, for I didnít get to bed until morning! I began to search my heart and my Bible for an answer.
Is II Chronicles 7:14 still true? or has God changed His mind? The big question today is:
That night I studied some two hundred prayers recorded in the Bible. This does not include the 150 Psalms that are filled with prayer, praise and thanksgiving, nor does it include the wealth of instruction and encouragement in prayer and the numerous promises that God will hear and answer prayer, as so thoroughly covered in the Epistles.
There are some two hundred prayers in the Bible. All of them (as far as I could determine in one brief night of study) cover all the direct requests to God by Godís people for specific things and specific needs, then show the results of their request.
Of these two hundred direct, definite requests to God recorded in His Word, 187 were answered, with the people getting just what they asked for! Just like when I asked for steak and got it, the people of God got what they asked forófor themselves, for their homes, for their nation!
There was but one reason that thirteen times out of two hundred God could not grant their request, and that one reason was SIN!
Moses did not get his prayer answered about leading his people into the Promised Land because of sin!
Joshua did not get his prayer answered about Ai because of sinóthe sin of Achan.
Saul did not have his prayer answered concerning the coming battle with the Philistines because of sin!
Through the Bible we find but one reason why their prayers were unanswered: the reason being that of sin!
How very true, my brother, but prayerlessness is sin!
Another will say, "I believe in the sovereignty of God, and I believe what is to be, will be, so why pray?"
Listen to me! I pray this will jar some of you like your Volkswagen slamming into a ten-ton truck!
I am a Baptist, and I believe in the sovereignty of God, perhaps more than you do; but there are preachers in America who are hiding their failures in the ministry behind the skirts of the sovereignty of God!
A preacher has a church fold up before him. His excuse? "Well, God is sovereign! It was just meant to be this way."
Another preacher has a "revival" meeting. When no one gets saved, he says, "Well, God is sovereign, and He has just a few of the elect to save, so we canít expect much to happen!"
STOP BLAMING GOD FOR YOUR FAILURES!
Have you ever considered the possibility that it might just be in Godís sovereign will to raise up in these last dark days thousands of churches and preachers and tens of thousands of faithful laymen to plead to Heaven that God might once more bless His people, "heal their land," and bring an old-fashioned, Holy Ghost revival from coast to coast, so that we would have one great nation "under God" to stand against the evil world system of this day? Is this unreasonable?
Examples of answered prayer are all about us. Spiritual, physical, financial and material needs are supplied in answer to the prayers of simple, humble, praying people.
I had been in another city for a revival meeting. Upon my return on a Monday, I plunged into the work of studying, visiting and praying with the sick and troubled, and all the things that make up a busy pastorís life.
On Wednesday morning our local bank, where we handle our church accounts, called and said, "Preacher, we have an account down here that we pay out your bond coupons from, and weíve got to have $733 now!"
It was no oneís fault. It was one of those sudden things that slip up on you unexpectedly, and through an oversight or a back payment, had caused this amount to accumulate.
Now, weíve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars during the twelve-year ministry of the Baptist Temple. Our property is valued at better than $350,000 [1963 figures]. With the general running expense and tens of thousands raised for missions and radio work, what did $733 mean to a big church?
It meant a lot! We were broke. We didnít have the money in any account. Our church operates by faith week by week!
I said to the banker, "Iíll be down in the morning."
To myself I said, I know a wealthy farmer friend; Iíll go see him. I went. He wasnít home.
I said, I know a well-to-do businessman; Iíll go see him. I went. He was where most well-to-do businessmen are at that time of yearóFlorida!
Again I thought, Iíll get my men together, and maybe we can borrow it from them and pay them back in a week or so.
As I buzzed my Dodge around the streets of Massillon, talking to myself about the problem, God said to my heart, "Why didnít you ask Me for it?"
I headed my car straight for the church, went into my own office, locked the door and got down on my knees. I opened my Bible to John 15:16:
God, forgive me. Iíve been doing what You told me to do. Iíve just closed a good revival where souls were saved. Since Iíve been home, Iíve led three people to Christ. Iíve got another family lined up to join the church Sunday. I need for Thy glory $733. Iím asking on the promise of John 15:16 that this need be supplied. Forgive me for trying to get it someplace else. Amen.
That evening was prayer meeting night. I spoke on John 15:16. I told them that if we win souls and do what God told us to do, we could ask "whatsoever" we will in the Fatherís name, and He will grant it.
I knew that our people gave their tithes and offerings on Sunday. Wednesday eveningís offering for missions usually runs $50 to $100 at the most, and often less, for our people give systematically and regularly on Sunday. I told them we needed $733 to be deposited in the bank when it opened the next morning.
The ushers received the offering. My treasurer came up to me after service and said, "Pastor, this eveningís offering was just over $600."
I replied, "Thatís wonderful! Our people are so good to give and to help. I sure donít know where this crowd got that much money together tonight!"
After church, my wife and I were talking about the matter. I said, "Honey, Iím not complaining, but I asked the Lord for $733. Weíre still short."
The doorbell rang. A railroader and his wife, members of our church, were standing at the door. I invited them in. He said, "Pastor, this church means everything to us. We love you. You led us to Christ, and our children as well. You baptized all of us. I didnít have anything to give in prayer meeting tonight, so I went home and got this." He handed me a check.
We talked for awhile, kind of a "mutual appreciation society" meeting, then they left. I unfolded the check. It was for $100.
We knelt in prayer and thanked the Lord. I went to bed thinking, "Lord, weíre still $33 short, and You said to ask!"
The next morning my phone rang at about 8:30 a.m. It was Ruth, our church secretary. "Preacher, I thought you might want to know this. One of the men of the church just stopped by the church office and left a check for $50 for that special need we have."
I donít recall what I said, but I know Miss Henderson had to wait for awhile until we got through laughing and praising the Lord!
God is real! He lives! He answers prayer! Hallelujah!
I said, "Ruth, you make out the deposit slip, and Iíll be down and take the money to the bank."
At 9:00 a.m. I walked into that bank like I owned it. I felt like a millionaire! As long as God lives and is on the throne, I am a millionaire! The gold and silver and the cattle on a thousand hills are His, and mine, as an heir of God and a joint-heir with Jesus Christ!
I remember the time God supplied $10,000 in answer to prayer during a building program, but it didnít thrill my heart like this needed $733! He gave us the $733 with $17 to spare. Glory!
Preachers, the greatest thing we can do today is to call our churches to prayer.
Laymen, the greatest thing you can do today is to pray the Bible way, and clear the channels of sin so God can answer and bless and send revival and heal our land.
Brethren, letís get our people to praying! Letís study the Bible afresh on the subject of prayer, then put it to practice.
Letís ask for steak; then expect it.
Letís ask God for revival, for the healing of our land, for the turning back of the flood tides of sin.
Letís pray like Bible people prayed and expect God to answer like the God of the Bible has always answered!
Perhaps God is challenging us to pray. Then, brethren, LET US PRAY!