Nearness To God—Catherine of Siena
Catherine of Siena one time spent three days in a solitary retreat, praying for a greater fullness and joy of the divine presence of God.
Instead of this, it seemed as though legions of wicked spirits assailed her with blasphemous thoughts and evil suggestions. At length, a great light appeared to descend from above. The devils fled and the Lord Jesus came to converse with her. Catherine asked him, "Lord, where were you when my heart was so tormented?"
"I was in your heart," he replied.
"Oh, Lord," she cried, "You are everlasting truth and I humbly bow before your word, but how can I believe you were in my heart when it was filled with such detestable thoughts?"
"Did these thoughts give you pain or pleasure?" he asked.
"An exceeding pain and sadness," replied Catherine.
"You were in woe and sadness because I was in the midst of your heart. It was my presence which rendered those thoughts insupportable to you. When the period I had determined for the duration of the combat had elapsed, I sent forth the beams of my light and the shadows of hell were dispelled because they cannot resist the light."
Love of God
A young girl once ran away from home to get married. Her father was very angry and said he would never forgive her. She was sorry to have grieved her father and wrote him long letters begging for his forgiveness; however, he took no notice. By and by, the daughter had a little son. When the boy was old enough to run about alone, she said to herself, "I will write no more letters to my father, but I will send my little son. He shall be a living letter. My father will know what I want to say to him when he sees his little grandson. He will know that I still love him and want his forgiveness."
So she took the little boy to his grandfather's house and sent him in alone to speak to her father. She bade him to put his arms around his grandfather's neck and kiss him. When the little fellow did this, the old man's heart melted. He sent at once for the mother and forgave her.
A famous actor was once the guest of honor at a social gathering where he received many requests to recite favorite excerpts from various literary works. An old preacher who happened to be there asked the actor to recite the twenty-third Psalm. The actor agreed on the condition that the preacher would also recite it. The actor's recitation was beautifully intoned with great dramatic emphasis for which he received lengthy applause. The preachers voice was rough and broken from many years of preaching, and his diction was anything but polished. But when he finished there was not a dry eye in the room.
When someone asked the actor what made the difference, he replied "I know the psalm, but he knows the Shepherd."
Grace of God
J. Wilbur Chapman often told of the testimony given by a certain man in one of his meetings: "I got off at the Pennsylvania depot as a tramp, and for a year I begged on the streets for a living. One day I touched a man on the shoulder and said, "Hey, mister, can you give me a dime?" As soon as I saw his face I was shocked to see that it was my own father. I said, "Father, Father, do you know me?"
Throwing his arms around me and with tears in his eyes, he said, "Oh my son, at last I've found you! I've found you. You want a dime? Everything I have is yours." Think of it. I was a tramp.
I stood begging my own father for ten cents, when for eighteen years he had been looking to give me all that he had." What a wonderful illustration of the way God longs to treat us, if we will only let Him.
Goodness of God
We had a terrible fire in the hills south of Los Gatos. Several thousand acres burned, including 42 houses or cabins. I saw the plume of smoke begin to rise on July 7, directly opposite my house in the Almaden Valley. I could tell that it was a big one. By the next night the smoke was much worse and you could see the red of the flames. News reports said it was out of control. Fire Department people were assessing the Montevideo tract of homes across from our church buildings to plan evacuation strategy. Jim Valenta had plans to remove records and books from the church offices if the fire came down the canyon.
Joyce and I had to leave for Anaheim the next morning to fulfill a speaking engagement at a convention, plus a TV interview and radio interview. I was concerned about the fire. We phoned home twice to check on the situation and watched the TV news. The fire fighters were heroic. To look today at all of those blackened hills and see houses still standing and undamaged amid the embers is amazing. It is hard to believe that they could save them in the inferno. Many who fought the flames were volunteers from all walks of life. To them and the expert professional fire fighters, we owe a debt of gratitude.
But there is something else. Many were praying. Not only were those whose houses were endangered praying the prayer of desperation, many who ordinarily pray were praying the prayer of faith. My wife and I prayed each day also.
The weather report called for extreme heat on July 10. No clouds were in sight. The fire situation was at its worst. Suddenly a little weather system appeared. It came out of nowhere, and it moved in over the fire and began to rain. That doesn't happen during the summer in California. It didn't rain much, just enough to give the advantage to the fire fighters.
Many answers to prayer are like that. They could be coincidental. But when we ask and the answer comes in such a form, shouldn't we give credit everywhere it is due?