The apostle Paul wrote about eternity. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding eternal weight in glory. While we do not look at the things that are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:16-18).
There was a man in a book called “ETERNITY”, whose name was Arthur Stace. He was Australian born into a life of hopelessness at the turn of the last century. He was a bum who spent his time as a petty thief and an alcoholic during the days between the First World War and the great depression.
In the winter of 1930, Stace became a believer in Christ and his life was never the same. His direction and habits changed because his heart was changed. One day he heard his minister give an impassioned sermon that included the statement, “I wish I could shout ‘eternity’ through all the streets of Sidney!”
Stace focused on that statement, and wondered what he could do to make it happen. He came up with a simple but remarkable plan. He would follow that plan for the next thirty years.
The plan was this. Stace would arise early each morning, pray for one hour, and then leave his home between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. He would go wherever he felt God wanted him to go. For hours he would write one word, eternity, every 100 feet on the sidewalks of Sidney. For more than twenty years his work was a mystery. But this word that appeared everywhere caused countless thousands to pause and ponder its meaning. Multitudes were affected positively. The power of one man and one word was amazing.
Finally in 1956, the puzzle was solved. Stace was revealed as the “Graffiti Preacher.” Hordes of people thanked him for the impact he had had on their lives.
Two years after Stace’s death in 1967, Sidney poet Douglas Stewart published the following words.
“That shy mysterious poet Arthur Stace
Whose work was just one single mighty word.
Walked in the utmost depth of time and space
And there his word was spoken and he heard
ETERNITY, ETERNITY, it banged him like a bell
Dulcet from heaven sounding, somber from hell.”
A one word sermon touched a nation. His message was secure for generations by architect Ridley Smith, who put it in copperplate in the Sidney Square. And when four billion people worldwide watched the televised opening Ceremony of the Sidney Olympics, they saw the word Eternity. And at the beginning of the new millennium, when more than a million gathered in downtown Sidney to welcome in the year 2000, they looked to the Sidney Harbor Bridge for the fireworks letters on the bridge to mark the New Year. But instead of the number 2000, they cheered as the fireworks spelled out “ETERNITY!”
As I read this moving account of a life well lived and centered on the one word eternity, what would happen if a ‘copycat’ were to arise and marked the sidewalks of our city with the words “J.C. Came” or just the one word “God”. This is serious business. When seen repeatedly around the town one would wonder, what could this mean? Who is J.C. and when did he come? What part does GOD have to do with my life? The simple mystery would soon be solved in the hearts of the viewers and the impact would be both simple and powerful. Items needed: a box of large white chalk and the dedication to a simple task that would have a serious impact.
What is we all determined to begin each day of the rest of our life with a focus on eternity. At an early age I remember folks at church would speak about heaven. I didn’t know anything about heaven. I didn’t know anyone over there. Why would I want to go to a place when I didn’t know where it was and who was there?
But today it’s different. Numerous close loved ones have crossed Jordan. I am still waiting for my name to be called. What will it be to step on shore and finding it heaven; of taking hold of a hand and finding it’s God or breathing new air and finding it Celestial. Of feeling invigorated and knowing it is ETERNITY! That day will bring the passing from storm and tempest to an unbroken calm.
The true story of Arthur Stace reminds us of a proper focus. It also speaks of what one person can do. An uneducated pitiful drunk gave his life to the Master and he made him a man of great impact.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared unto all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:11-14). Amen.