In the first letter to the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul penned 280 words about love. The last of those words were conclusive, “And now abideth faith, hope, love. These three; but the greatest of these is love” (I Corinthians 13:13).
Just how much do you really know about yourself? I know me for I have lived with me for nearly 80 years. I know me better than anyone else on the earth, but how much do I really know about me? In the celebrated movie, “IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE”, staring James Stewart, he had sunk so low that “He wished he had never been born”. Clarence was an angel who had been assigned to his case and he granted that wish. It was then that he discovered his real worth. It was just a movie, a fictional tale, but on reflection, what a great story it told.
Today I received a hand written letter from an unknown friend. I would not have recognized the name on the envelope, but he was a part of my past, one in the crowd. Pardon me for the personal reference as I read it to you.
I’d like to tell you about something you did and didn’t know about.
Somewhere around 1982 you came to southern Oklahoma to the Pettijohn Christian Camp and did a two day men’s retreat. You changed my life and convicted me to figure out my place and roll in His Kingdom here on earth. I was about 23-24 years old. Not raised in the church but had married into a good family. Not educated but driven to work hard.
I’ve figured out my talent was the gift of giving money away. Short story. I’ve given my way to great success. Not only in money but with a great family of five good kids. Last Sunday, I was able to give, at one time, to an orphanage building project in South America. It was more money than most people make in a year. Thank you for showing me my focus in life.
Now to the other story. After the men’s retreat (in which I bought all of your books), I taught one of your books called “THE BASIC BIBLE COURSE” at our local congregation. My younger brother-in-law was in the class. Your course convicted him to enroll in a school of preaching in Lubbock, Texas. After graduating he decided to go to Teluca, Mexico and with his team start a church where there was not one. Teluca has become one of the most successful works that any team from Lubbock has ever done. They now have their own advanced Bible study school and are sending out preachers to ‘preach the word’. My brother-in-law told me a few weeks ago that your course was the reason he did this.
I am very thankful for the video tapes you sent. One of my assistants did the work in tracking you down and locating your address.
I’ve used a lot of “I’s and You’s” but it’s really all about HIM. Thank you for being a part of my life. Sorry that I don’t write and spell any better.”
He signed the letter under the caption, “A small soul winner”.
I risk this column about this letter for one simple reason. None of us know ourselves very well. This is why Paul wrote, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then shall I know even as I am also known” (I Corinthians 13:12). How many lives have you touched in your lifetime? How many hearts have you turned around with a good word? How many steps have you taken in the place of someone else? How many tears have you shed, shoulders have you lifted, prayers have you offered for those you don’t even remember? How many people have thought of writing you a letter like the one I received? Just how much do you know about yourself?
I tend to know my weakness more than my strength. I remember my failures far more than I remember any successes I have known. If it were not for my wife, Ann, what kind of man would I have been? She has been the light of my life.
I have fought a few minor battles but lost many of them and have no remembrance of reaching my goal very often. The pictures that I have painted have only been with the help of others. Paul said it well when he wrote, “I am become a food in glorying . . . for when I am weak then am I strong” (I Corinthians 12:10-11).
What did Paul mean when he wrote, “Now I know in part, but then shall I know even as I am also known”. I have a hard time with this text but let me take a shot at it. Only the Keeper of the vineyard knows me.
This is why the words are recorded, “For by grace are you saved through 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, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). Praise God!