One of the longest-recorded postal delays in history lasted eighty-nine years. In 2008 a homeowner in the UK received an invitation to a party originally mailed in 1919 to a former resident of her address. The note was placed in her mailbox via the Royal Mail, but the reason behind its long delay remains a mystery.
Even the best human efforts at communication sometimes let us down, but Scripture makes clear that God never fails to hear His faithful people. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah demonstrated the striking contrast between Baal, the fertility pagan god worshiped by many in ancient Israel, and Jehovah God. In a showdown to demonstrate who the true God was, after Baal’s prophets had prayed for hours, Elijah taunted them: “Shout louder! . . . Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened” (1 Kings 18:27). Then Elijah prayed for Jehovah to answer so that His people might return to faith; and God’s power was clearly displayed.
While our prayers may not always be answered as immediately as Elijah’s was that day, we can be assured that God hears them (Psalm 34:17). The Bible reminds us that He treasures our prayers so much that He keeps them before Him in “golden bowls,” like precious incense (Revelation 5:8). God will answer every prayer in His own perfect wisdom and way. There are no lost letters in heaven.
Imagine life without mobile phones, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth devices, or microwave ovens. That’s the way it is in the little town of Green Bank, West Virginia, known as “the quietest town in America.” It’s also the location of the Green Bank Observatory, the world’s largest steerable radio telescope. The telescope needs “quiet” to “listen” to naturally occurring radio waves emitted by the movement of pulsars and galaxies in deep space. It has a surface area larger than a football field and stands in the center of the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000-square-mile area established to prevent electronic interference to the telescope’s extreme sensitivity.
This intentional quiet enables scientists to hear “the music of the spheres.” It also reminds me of our need to quiet ourselves enough to listen to the One who created the universe. God communicated to a wayward and distracted people through the prophet Isaiah, “Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you” (Isaiah 55:3). God promises His faithful love to all who will seek Him and turn to Him for forgiveness.
We listen intentionally to God by turning from our distractions long enough to meet Him in Scripture and in prayer. God isn’t distant. He longs for us to make time for Him so He can be the priority of our daily lives and then for eternity.
“Are people still praying for me?”
That was one of the first questions a missionary asked his wife whenever she was allowed to visit him in prison. He had been falsely accused and incarcerated for his faith for two years. His life was frequently in danger because of the conditions and hostility in the prison, and Christians around the world were earnestly praying for him. He wanted to be assured they wouldn’t stop, because he believed God was using their prayers in a powerful way.
Our prayers for others—especially those who are persecuted for their faith—are a vital gift. Paul made this clear when he wrote the believers in Corinth about hardships he faced during his missionary journey. He “was under great pressure,” so much that he “despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8). But then he told them God had delivered him and described the tool He’d used to do it: “We have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers” (vv. 10–11, emphasis added).
God moves through our prayers to accomplish great good in the lives of His people. One of the best ways to love others is to pray for them, because through our prayers we open the door to the help only God can provide. When we pray for others, we love them in His strength. There is none greater or more loving than He.
People love doing “the wave.” At sporting events and concerts around the world, it begins when a few people stand and raise their hands. A moment later, those seated beside them do the same. The goal is to have one sequential flowing movement work its way around an entire stadium. Once it reaches the end, those who started it smile and cheer—and keep the movement going.
The first recorded incident of “the wave” occurred at a professional baseball game between the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees in 1981. I love joining in “the wave” because it’s fun. But it’s also occurred to me that the happiness and togetherness we experience while doing it is reminiscent of the gospel—the good news of salvation in Jesus that unites believers everywhere in praise and hope. This “ultimate wave” started over twenty centuries ago in Jerusalem. Writing to the members of the church in Colossae, Paul described it this way: “the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it.” The natural result of this good news is “faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for [us] in heaven” (Colossians 1:5–6).
As believers in Jesus, we’re part of the greatest wave in history. Keep it going! Once it’s done, we’ll see the smile of the One who started it all.
“We’re going on vacation!” my wife enthusiastically told our three-year-old grandson Austin as we pulled out of the driveway on the first leg of our trip. Little Austin looked at her thoughtfully and responded, “I’m not going on vacation. I’m going on a mission!”
We’re not sure where our grandson picked up the concept of going “on a mission,” but his comment gave me something to ponder as we drove to the airport: “As I leave on this vacation and take a break for a few days, am I keeping in mind that I’m still ‘on a mission’ to live each moment with and for God? Am I remembering to serve Him in everything I do?”
The apostle Paul encouraged the believers living in Rome, the capital city of the Roman Empire, to “never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11). His point was that the Christian faith is meant to be lived intentionally and with enthusiasm. Even the most mundane moments gain new meaning as we look expectantly to God and live for His purposes.
As we settled into our seats on the plane, I prayed, “Lord, I’m yours. Whatever you have for me to do on this trip, please help me not to miss it.”
Every day is a mission of eternal significance with Him!
God loves to use people the world might overlook. William Carey was raised in a tiny village in the 1700s and had little formal education. He had limited success in his chosen trade and lived in poverty. But God gave him a passion for sharing the good news and called him to be a missionary. Carey learned Greek, Hebrew, and Latin and eventually translated the first New Testament into the Bengali language. Today he is regarded as a “father of modern missions,” but in a letter to his nephew he offered this humble assessment of his abilities: “I can plod. I can persevere.”
When God calls us to a task, He also gives us strength to accomplish it regardless of our limitations. In Judges 6:12 the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said, “The
The key to Gideon’s success was in the words, “the
On November 27, 1939, three treasure hunters accompanied by film crews dug through the asphalt outside of the Hollywood Bowl amphitheater in Southern California. They were looking for the Cahuenga Pass treasure, consisting of gold, diamonds, and pearls rumored to have been buried there seventy-five years earlier.
They never found it. After twenty-four days of digging, they struck a boulder and stopped. All they accomplished was a nine-foot-wide, forty-two-foot-deep hole in the ground. They walked away dejected.
To err is human—we all fail sometimes. God’s Word tells us that young Mark walked away from Paul and Barnabas on a missionary trip “and had not continued with them in the work.” Because of this, “Paul did not think it wise to take him” on his next trip (Acts 15:37–38), which resulted in a strong disagreement with Barnabas. But in spite of his initial failings, Mark shows up years later in surprising ways. When Paul was lonely and in prison toward the end of his life, he asked for Mark and called him “helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11). God even inspired Mark to write the gospel that bears his name.
Mark’s life shows us that God won’t leave us to face our errors and failures alone. We have a Friend who’s greater than every mistake. As we follow our Savior, He’ll provide the help and strength we need.
The man seemed beyond redemption. His crimes included eight shootings (killing six) and starting nearly 1,500 fires that terrorized New York City in the 1970s. He left letters at his crime scenes taunting the police, and he was eventually apprehended and given consecutive sentences of twenty-five years to life for each murder.
Yet God reached down to this man. Today he is a believer in Christ who spends time daily in God’s Word, has expressed deep regret to his victims’ families, and continues to pray for them. Although imprisoned for more than four decades, this man who seemed beyond redemption finds hope in God and His Word and claims, “My freedom is found in one word: Jesus.”
Scripture tells of another unlikely conversion. Before he met the risen Lord on the road to Damascus, Saul (who later became the apostle Paul) was “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1). Yet Paul’s heart and life were transformed by Christ (vv. 17–18), and he became one of the most powerful witnesses for Him in history. The man who once plotted Christians’ deaths devoted his life to spreading the hope of the gospel.
Redemption is always a miraculous work of God. Some stories are more dramatic, but the underlying truth remains the same: None of us deserve His forgiveness, yet Jesus is a powerful Savior! He is perfectly able to “save completely those who come to God through him” (Hebrews 7:25).
They call them “Keepers of the Light.”
At the lighthouse on the cape of Hatteras Island just off the North Carolina coast of the United States, there’s a memorial to those who’ve tended the light stations there since 1803. Shortly after the existing structure was moved inland because of shoreline erosion, the names of the keepers were etched on the old foundation stones and arranged into an amphitheater shape facing the new site. That way—as a placard explains—today’s visitors can follow in the historical keepers’ footsteps and “watch over” the lighthouse as well.
Jesus is the ultimate light-giver. He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). That’s a radical thing for anyone to claim. But Jesus said it to affirm His relationship with His heavenly Father, the Creator of light and life who sent Him.
When we look to Jesus for salvation and follow His teaching, we are restored in relationship with God, and He gives us new power and purpose. His transforming life and love—“the light of all mankind” (1:4)—shines in us and through us, and out to a dark and sometimes dangerous world.
As followers of Jesus, we become “keepers of the light.” May others see His light shine from us and discover the life and hope He alone can give!