November 14, 2007

When God Ordains

2007 1532 page22 capHAT DO YOU WANT FOR YOUR birthday?” my husband, Larry, asked one morning as I was having my devotions.
I glanced at my tattered old Bible, held it up, and said, “All I want is a new leather Bible.”
Though it was ragged, I loved this Bible. I had others, but this was my favorite. I had gotten it at a Revelation Seminar, and its blue, mock-leather cover was hanging by shreds. The pages were worn, and some had been repaired with tape. Still, all my favorite verses were marked in red. I’d even marked all the crucial doctrines—the Sabbath, the state of the dead, Christ’s work in the heavenly sanctuary, the Second Coming—with chain references. I could 
find almost any verse with little difficulty.
For Me?
On my birthday Larry handed me an envelope with $60 in it. “I knew you’d rather pick your own Bible,” he said. He was right.
So on Monday I went shopping. I shopped all the Christian bookstores in the area, but I could find nothing I liked. Either the print was too small, the margins too shallow, or the leather too expensive. Finally in discouragement I gave up.
2007 1532 page22That night at home I asked Larry, “Can’t you just glue a new cover on my old Bible?”
“I guess so,” he replied. “But I thought you wanted a new one.”
He took the battered book to his workshop. A few hours later he returned. My Bible sported a new, tan, rawhide cover. It wasn’t pretty, but it was functional.
A Friend in Need
A few nights later we were driving to a revival meeting at our church. Traveling down our country road, my Bible rested in my lap. As we rounded a curve we came upon a wreck. A vehicle had skidded on the ice, gone over the embankment, and hit a tree. Several other cars had stopped, and people were standing by to help. Larry slowed the car but didn’t stop because help was already there.
About 100 yards up the road we came upon a man hitchhiking. At first we both thought it was someone from the crash. Larry has always been adamant about not picking up strangers. “It’s simply too dangerous!” he had warned time and again.
So when he slowed the car, I questioned, “You’re not going to pick him up, are you?”
But that’s not what Larry heard me say. He told me later he distinctly heard, “You are going to pick him up, aren’t you?”
He’d had no intention of giving the fellow a lift, but suddenly Larry pulled over and stopped the car. The man got in and thanked us profusely. Tears streamed down his cheeks, and from the stench that permeated the car it was clear he’d been drinking.
The man wiped his tears on his sleeve. I didn’t know what to say or do, so I quietly prayed. Suddenly the man started speaking.
“I need to get to Alta Vista by tomorrow morning,” he said. “I’m working on a construction job there and I don’t have transportation. I’m hoping to get into Roanoke in time to catch the Greyhound bus. My wife and I just had a terrible fight and she kicked me out. We have a little boy—2 years old—and now I won’t get to be with him. I’ve already lost one family, and I can’t lose another!”

Questions for Reflection

1. When have you done something unforeseen on the spur of the moment? What prompted you to be so spontaneous?

2. When have you been surprised by someone's unexpected act of generosity? What did it mean to you then? What does it mean to you know?

What spiritual principle is in force whenver someone responds to an unexpected need?

How do you fortify yourself to respond appropriately to impromptu opportunities for ministry?

By now his sobs were in earnest.

“I’m so sorry,” I muttered. Not knowing what to do next I blurted, “Do you have a Bible?”
The man shook his head.
“Would you like to have mine?”
“Really? I can have it?” he asked.
Nodding, I handed it to him. What the man did next touched me beyond words. The man reached out with both hands and took the strange-looking book and held it as gently and tenderly as he would a newborn baby. The look of reverence he gave it made me ashamed of how often I take God’s Word for granted.
He carefully opened the pages and started thumbing through them. “Oh, but you’ll want to keep this personal stuff,” he said as he handed me the things I’d tucked between the pages. By now, his tears had stopped and his face was aglow as if God’s Word was the most precious gift one could receive.
As we continued on to Roanoke, the man suddenly spotted a bar. “You can let me out here,” he said.
I knew he was probably heading toward his next drink. But as I turned to wave good-bye I saw that the man still carried his Bible with pride, in full view of others and up against his heart.
Who Knows?
Years have passed since this happened. I never saw the man again. I don’t know if the dilapidated old book ever did him any good, but each time I remember that fellow, I wing a prayer upward on his behalf. Who knows, perhaps the chain references led him to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. If that’s the case, someday I’ll meet him in heaven.
My husband, Larry, had not intended to stop for any hitchhiker that day; neither did I intend to give away my favorite Bible. But when God ordains something, human intentions cannot prevent it from happening.
By the way, I found the perfect Bible for me the very next week.
Sherian Atkins Wills is a freelance writer and member of the Smith Mountain Lake church in Moneta, Virginia.