Yesterday morning at church we sang my favorite hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Actually, it is not just my favorite hymn; it is probably my favorite song of all time.
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
More than 25 years ago Sharon and I had the opportunity to go to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on a mission trip. It started when I invited a man named Ben Meith, who organized the trip, to speak to our church and encourage some of our folks to go. Ben made a marvelous presentation and afterwards I thanked him and said I hoped some of our people would go with him.
He looked me in the eye and simply said, “Are you going?”
After stammering I said, “I can’t go.” It was obvious to me that a guy using crutches and a wheelchair could not go on a mission trip to Brazil.
Ben simply said, “Have you prayed about it?”
When you have already limited what God can do there is no need to pray, so of course we had not. To shorten a long story, a few months later Sharon and I found ourselves in Brazil. After settling in the hotel we boarded a bus to the favela where would work for the next two weeks. Staring out the bus window about the only things I could see were the rocky roads and steep inclines, huge obstacles for a guy like me who depends on flat smooth surfaces.
Ben must have noticed the concerned look on my face so he came over and asked, “So, what do you think?”
All I knew to say was, “It’s going to be interesting.”
We were assigned to a church that actually owned a small van that allowed them to transport my wheelchair, perhaps the only such church in the city. A large young man in the church took two weeks off work specifically to help me get around. Everywhere we went he carried me. After a few days they began to call him Mike Tyson.
When we rode in a car to someone’s house, he would pick me up from the car, carry me into the house, and place me on a chair. He toted me up and down inclines so steep that I closed my eyes and held on tight. I walked far less during that time in Brazil than I ever did at home. In fact, when we returned home my ribs ached from being carried so much.
Our experience in Brazil was amazing. We preached to a packed house every evening, we fellowshipped with marvelous new friends during the day, and we witnessed God working in a unique fashion the entire time.
On the final evening, all the churches participating in the event gathered together for a big rally. During that time one of the songs that was sung was “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” They sang it in Portuguese, but that made no difference. I joined in as loud as I could.
I have never heard that song since without begin taken back to that massive auditorium in Rio de Janeiro filled with thousands of Brazilians singing of God’s faithfulness. In the midst of their poverty and suffering these were the happiest people I have ever met, and they were giving the credit for their joy to God’s faithfulness.
Numerous times, God has used this song to remind me of His faithfulness, a lesson I need to relearn over and over. When we sang it yesterday morning in church, once again it came at just the right time.
My life has gone through some noteworthy changes in the past few years. Perhaps the most significant is that the effects of polio have brought me to the point where I can no longer drive. I still feel good and can do most everything else I could do before (although sometimes with more effort and creativity) operating a vehicle is not possible. Consequently, I have had to find other ways to make a living. It is impossible to be an effective church consultant when you can’t visit the church.
God has been faithful. He has taken a germ of an idea and is making it into something much more. My brother and I created a publishing company years ago for the purposes of printing one book, but it has turned into a full-service publishing company. I am able to operate everything from a home office.
I haven’t missed any meals, but there have been trials. There will continue to be trials and challenges because that is the stuff of life.
Life changes for all of us as we get older. It might be health, job, family problems, or a myriad of other situations. Problems do not disappear with age; they seem to become more frequent and difficult. Hopefully, experience has taught us how to handle them better.
The one thing I do know is that God is faithful. I needed the reminder yesterday. “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”