Good friends are hard to find. Preachers especially have many acquaintances but few good friends. One that you can tell all of life to, the good and the bad, the victories and the defeats. Charles Hodge is such a friend like that. He was ministering in Fort Worth when it happened.
The verdict was made known. Cancer in the most deadly stage the disease had literally covered his body. There was no answer to it and very little time left. He had been transported to the local hospital to await his final departure. With little time left there was time to think. He had been unusually successful in business. Money was no problem, so that idea was cast away. His wife and family would be well cared for. They were all Christians and had prayed for him daily even before the sad news broke about the cancer. All of his immediate family had a comforting relationship with Christ. Years ago he had converted and was baptized into Christ. Yet through sheer neglect his conversion turned into desertion.
It had been years since the man had set foot inside a church building to worship. Hope was gone and now time was about to run out. What good now was his success in business? What assurance did all the things that he had gained now bring?
After a few days of sitting alone with his thought, he called for the preacher to come and visit. In his own struggling way he told his story of mistakes, bad choices and simple neglect. He had completely lost touch with God.
An hour later he concluded with these words, “Preacher, I don’t have anything left. Time is gone and so is much of my money. I can’t even turn over or get out of bed. My body has wasted away and left only 0a shell of what I used to be. I can’t even say a kind word to a friend in need. Then he cried out, ALL I GOT IS NOTHING!!”
Little did the man know that this is the very kind of life that the Lord can help-and will heal. Many of us are too strong to need his strength – too great to need his power – to satisfied with ourselves to lose ourselves in the life of Jesus. If the Holy Spirit went out of business, many of us would not know the difference. It’s when we’re broken and bowed that he can bend and mend. When we are sad and sorry, that he can lift and enliven.
This man felt that he had nothing left to offer the Lord. That is the very time that the Lord has everything to offer him. The apostle Paul writes, “For by grace are you saved, though faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, as he has for ordained that we should walk in them”(Ephesians 2:8-10).
We are not selected or elected on the basis of our color or caste or custom. We are not saved on the basis of our own merit. What Christ did on the cross was entirely separate and independent of you or me. He paid the price we could not pay for a cost he did not owe. We have nothing to offer yet everything to receive. We have nothing to give but everything to get. It is on the foundation of faith that we accept the terms of his salvation (Act2:2:26-47).
“Lord, all I got is nothing” is the greatest cry the human heart can make. C.C. Luther was on death row. He was condemned to die. In his lonely hours he wrote one of the greatest hymns ever recorded. He could well have said, “All I’ve got is nothing”. The year was 1877:
“Must I go an empty handed, thus my dear redeemer meet?
Not one day of service give him, lay no trophy at his feet.
O the years in sinning wasted, could I but recall them now,
I would give them to my savior, to his will I’d humbly bow.
O ye saints arouse be earnest, up and work while yet is day,
E’re the night of death o’er take thee,
Strive for souls while yet you may”.
Years ago when I was doing research for a book on Juvenile crime and punishment, I was invited to take a private tour of the Florida state prison. It wasn’t the first time that I had gone ‘behind the bars’ for numerous occasions I had taught in various prisons. When we entered the death house a strange feeling came over me. Just two nights prior to my visit, a 52 year old man was executed for a murder he had committed some 18 years before.
The simple cry of those isolated on death row could well be, “ALL I GOT IS NOTHING”. The only joy I had was not in the different clothes we wore but the fact that “I walked with the man who had the keys”. All of us dwell in a prison of our own mind. God help us to walk with the one who has the keys.