Coming this morning with nothing prepared the following Devotion from EMW was in my inbox and it greatly encouraged and challenged me. Therefore I share it with you freely acknowledging its source after the final paragraph. My prayer is that you will be blessed in reading it.
…underneath are the everlasting arms…
In 1858 John Paton and his young wife, Mary, left a comfortable life in Scotland for the islands of the New Hebrides (now called Vanuatu) to reach the tribes people for Christ. Three months after their arrival Mary gave birth to Peter on 12 February 1859. But just nineteen days later, both Mary and Peter died from tropical fever. John dug their graves with his own hands. In his Autobiography Paton expresses what he felt, ‘I was stunned: My reason seemed almost to give way.’ Humanly speaking John was at the end of his human resources. But though he was ‘down’, he was by no means ‘out’. The secret of his strength was found in the Lord, ‘I was never altogether forsaken. The ever-merciful Lord sustained me to lay the precious dust of my loved ones in the same quiet grave. But for Jesus, and the fellowship he vouchsafed me there, I must have gone mad and died beside the lonely grave.’ Strengthened by God, Paton continued on in the work and on a second missionary trip in 1866 saw most of the Islanders turn to Christ. He could testify to the reality of Deuteronomy 33:27, ‘underneath are the everlasting arms’.
To say that ‘underneath are the everlasting arms’ is to say that amid the greatest troubles and difficulties, and under the heaviest burdens, the almighty power of God is engaged for the protection and consolation of all who trust in him.
That is an encouragement for us in two major ways.
First, God’s almighty power towards those who trust him is an encouragement to us as members of God’s Church.
God’s plan and purpose in the world is the glory of his name in the salvation of his people. That means that he will save those that he is calling to himself wherever they are. But though this is true God doesn’t just save people at random. His method is his Church and undergirding and strengthening his Church is the Lord Jesus Christ himself who, Ephesians 2:20 tells us, is ‘the chief cornerstone’.
His mission, therefore, is to build his Church. And he will not rest until the mission is accomplished. As the Lords says in Matthew 16:18, ‘I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.’ What an encouragement this is to us to keep praying, keep reaching out, and keep building one another up because the Lord will continue to build his church and strengthen his people.
Secondly, God’s almighty power towards those who trust him is an encouragement to us as individuals.
Sometimes in the Christian life we can find ourselves oppressed, weighed down, and struggling. But even in the lowest lows and when we are at our extremity, we need not be utterly overwhelmed. Because as Betsie Ten Boom, who died in a Nazi concentration camp, said, ‘There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.’ That’s even true of the pit of our own sinful rebellion. Jonah would rather jump in a raging sea than return to God. But instead of letting him drown the Lord sent a fish to swallow him. And having been humbled in the belly of the fish Jonah was able to say, ‘salvation is of the Lord.’ He learnt by experience that, ‘underneath are the everlasting arms’.
I wonder if you have learnt it too?
Sam Oldridge (Borras Park Evangelical Church Wrexham)