About three weeks ago I was feeling rather dry spiritually speaking. So I headed to a nearby bargain outlet to see if they had any good devotionals. They did. Two of them. One was "The Gift of Jesus," and the other the one I will quote from today called, "Streams in the Desert - Morning and Evening" by L. B. Cowman. It's an old classic, but it has been edited and updated in modern language by James Reimann, and expanded to two devotional entries per day -- bringing it to 670 devotional readings and just about 900 pages.
L. B. (Lettie Burd) Cowman was a tireless Christian worker. Born on March 3, 1870, she met her future husband, Charles Cowman, when she was 13 years of age, and married him six years later, on June 8, 1889. On February 1, 1901, the Cowmans left the United States to work as missionaries in Japan. The work in Japan grew and by 1903 two Bible Training Institutes had opened in Japan. These schools held classes during the day, and in the evening hosted evangelical services open to the public. Dozens flooded in nightly to hear the Gospel. At this time they (along with two other co-workers) started the OMS (Oriental Missionary Society).
Although they were making huge strides in their goals, Charles was not satisfied. This led to the start of the Great Village Campaign in 1913. His goal was for every person in Japan to hear the Gospel within the next five years. Teams of missionaries went to every town, village, and home throughout Japan, proclaiming the Gospel and distributing Bibles. When Charles’ health took a turn downward in 1917, he and Lettie were forced to return to America, they received news through the O.M.S. Standard in January 1918 that the Great Village Campaign was complete. About 60 million Japanese had heard the Gospel, with teams covering 161,000 square miles of the country. Charles’ health continued to decline, and as he suffered in pain Lettie also suffered, watching her husband slowly fade away. Yet it was during this time her best-selling devotional book, Streams in the Desert, was conceived. In September of 1924 Charles died. Their co-worker took over as president of OMS and died in 1928. It was then that Lettie took over the presidency of the OMS and held that position until 1949.
Just as Charles felt such a strong calling to proclaim the Gospel to every individual in Japan, Lettie felt a similar call to distribute the Gospel to ALL nations. They had already been to Japan, Korea, and China, so they began to make plans to go to India, Africa, South America, Europe -- all the nations of the earth. In Europe, they expanded into countries such as Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, and Czechoslovakia, a crusade which marked one of the last great evangelistic efforts in Europe before Nazi Germany took control. In Africa, Egypt was a country for which Lettie felt a great burden. In December 1941, a crusade began in Mexico, and over the course of five years, the total evangelical church membership there doubled. In 1943, the OMS entered South America, something Lettie never dreamed would happen. The right doors opened, and a Bible Training Institute began that year in Medellín, Colombia. She became ill in 1957 and died on Easter Sunday, April 17, 1960, at the ripe old age of 90. This selection is her devotion for the evening of July 19. Enjoy
Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me? (John 18:11)
"To “drink the cup” was a greater thing than calming the seas or raising the dead. The prophets and apostles could do amazing miracles, but they did not always do the will of God and thereby suffered as a result. To do God's will when you know it will bring suffering is still the highest form of faith and the most glorious Christian achievement.
Having your brightest aspirations as a young person forever crushed; bearing burdens daily that are always difficult and never seeing relief; finding yourself worn down by poverty while simply desiring to do good for others and provide a comfortable living for those you love; being shackled by an incurable physical disability; being completely alone, separated from all those you love, to face the traumas of life alone --
yet in all these, still being able to say through such a difficult school of discipline, “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” -- this is faith at its highest, and spiritual success at its crowning point.
Great faith is exhibited not so much in doing as in suffering (Charles Parkhurst).
In order to have a sympathetic God, we must have a suffering Savior, for true sympathy comes from understanding another person’s hurt by suffering the same affliction. Therefore we cannot help others who suffer without paying a price ourselves because afflictions are the cost we pay for our ability to sympathize. Those who wish to help others must first suffer. If we wish to rescue others, we must be willing to face the cross; experiencing the greatest happiness in life through ministering to others is impossible without drinking the cup Jesus drank and without submitting to the baptism He endured. The most comforting of David’s psalms were squeezed from his life by suffering, and if Paul had not been given “a thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor.12:7 KJV), we would have missed much of the heartbeat of tenderness that resonates through so many of his letters.
If you have surrendered yourself to Christ, your present circumstances that seem to be pressing so hard against you are the perfect tool in the Father’s hand to chisel you into shape for eternity. So trust Him and never push away the instrument He is using, or you will miss the result of His work in your life.
Strange and difficult indeed,
We may find it,
But the blessing that we need
Is behind it.
The school of suffering graduates exceptional scholars."
Hebrews chapter 11 is "Faith's Hall of Fame." Listed in it are people who by faith did all sorts of miracles, persevered against immense temptation in remaining true to God, and won all sorts of life's battles. Yet after going through a long list of overcomers, the tone changes in v. 35a, and instead of speaking of those who, "conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised, shutting the mouths of lions, quenching the fury of the flames, escaping the edge of the sword, and seeing their weakness turned to strength, routing foreign armies," we find others who did not gain deliverance or "victory" as we would often tend to describe it.
These others did not escape by faith but were, "tortured and refused to be released so they might gain a better resurrection." They, "faced jeers and flogging, were chained and put in prison, stoned, sawn in two, and put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, and mistreated..."
Yet interestingly, it is not the first group, but this last group -- the sufferers of abuse, poverty, torture, and death for their faith -- of whom the author writes: "The world was not worthy of them." The others are commended are commended for their faith, but the people in this second group (those who suffered abuse, severe poverty or destitution, and often torture until death) are said to be, "those of whom the world is not worthy." To use the words from Lettie's entry: "Great faith is exhibited not so much in doing as in suffering... The school of suffering graduates exceptional scholars."
In His Service, Pastor Jeff