Recently I visited a good friend, who is now more than 90 years old. He and his wife married in 1941, during the World War II, and have been married for more than 70 years. His wife has dementia and had fallen and broken her leg. She was in hospital recovering from an operation to repair the break. My friend and his wife live with their daughter and her husband. He is not able to go out very often.
He showed me his Bible and a verse which was stuck on the inside cover. He said, “We have proved the truth of these words throughout our lives.” The verse comes from the book of Lamentations, which was written by Jeremiah, and says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” These words were written at a time of national crisis for the Jewish nation as they were about to be conquered by the Babylonians and be carried away into exile. Jeremiah himself also faced a very uncertain future.
God’s Word is a wonderful source of strength and encouragement. My friend and his wife have known the Lord providing for them every day of their lives. They have faced many challenges from the early days of their marriage during the War until today. In every situation they have experienced the Lord’s faithfulness and have a quiet peace as they face the future.
Our world is facing many crises. We may also be anxious about our own future. The eternal God is a source of constant help and strength. His steadfast love is expressed in his promises. His mercies never come to an end, but are new every morning. He is always faithful. Who do you believe and put your trust in? Don’t listen to the angry voices of atheistic secularists, but put your trust in God and his unchanging Word, which still speaks with calm, eternal authority.
Spring has come, the days are lengthening and the weather is gloriously sunny. The spring flowers and the blossoms are brightening the landscape. The Lord has brought us through another winter and promises that each day he will meet our needs, whatever they may be. How good it is to trust in his steadfast love every day of our lives and to know that he will provide new mercies every morning.
On 16 March 1912 Antarctic explorer Lawrence “Titus” Oates made a very big decision. He was one of the party led by Captain Scott who wanted to be the first men to reach the South Pole. They had succeeded in reaching the Pole only to discover that a team led by Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, had beaten them by 35 days.
On the return journey Scott’s party faced extremely difficult conditions. One man had already died, and Oates’ feet were severely frostbitten, which meant the whole part was making slow progress. This, and the shortage of food, was endangering all their lives, but the rest of the party refused to leave Oates behind. When he woke on the morning of 16 March Oates knew he had to sacrifice himself in order to give the others a chance of survival. Scott wrote that Oates said to them; “I am just going outside and may be some time.” He walked out of the tent into a blizzard. His body has never been found. Sadly the rest of the party also died just 9 days later, 11 miles from safety.
Captain Scott wrote in his diary, “We knew it was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman.” Titus Oates’ biographer said “Titus Oates was an ordinary man who was made extraordinary by the circumstances he faced at the end of his life”. The words and example of Titus Oates have been an inspiration to many.
One of the two great commandments God has given us is, “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” None of us needs to be taught to love ourselves, it comes naturally, but to love someone else with that same intensity of love is not so easy. Titus Oates’ actions are an example of what it means to obey God’s command. Oates desperately wanted to live, but his weakness was endangering the lives of his companions, so he did for them what he would have wanted them to do for him.
The supreme example of self-sacrifice is seen in the death of Jesus Christ. He said, “Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” The apostle Paul wrote, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
One hundred years ago, on 15 Aril 2005, RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and sank. The ship had been built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast and was thought to be unsinkable. She was the largest ship in the world at that time. She had set sail from Southampton on her maiden voyage just 5 days earlier with 2,200 passengers and crew. When the Titanic sank 1500 people died and 700 survived. I used to visit an elderly lady who was one of the survivors. She was a small child when Titanic sank and was put into one of the lifeboats. She lived to be 100 years old.
Of the 1528 people who fell into the icy water that terrible night only 6 survived. One of the survivors had a remarkable story to tell. One of his fellow passengers was a Scottish Baptist minister, John Harper. He was travelling with his 6 year old daughter to visit Moody Church, Chicago where he had been invited to preach for 3 months. When the ship began to sink John Harper made sure his daughter was in one of the lifeboats. As the freezing waters began to fill the ship Harper shouted, “Let the women and children get into the lifeboats.” He also took off his own life jacket and gave it to another man.
It was not long before John fell into the icy waters. As many were drowning and freezing to death he swam to as many as he could telling them the good news that Jesus Christ gives us eternal life. One young man, who survived, had climbed on to a piece of debris. As John was struggling in the water he shouted to the man, “Are you saved?” The man replied, “No.” John then shouted, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” The man didn’t answer and began to drift away from John on the waves but a few minutes later came near John again. Once again John urged him to receive Jesus as his Saviour before disappearing below the waves for the last time. Clinging to the debris the man prayed to God and received Jesus Christ as his Saviour. Four years later, at a Titanic survivors’ meeting in Canada, he tearfully gave his testimony of how John Harper had led him to commit his life to Jesus. Now he knew that even though he died he would live, just as John did.
Genesis is the first book in the Bible. It describes the majestic creation of the heavens and the earth by the power and wisdom of God. Then it describes the creation of the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve. They were created by God “in his image.” They had bodies and also eternal souls and enjoyed wonderful fellowship with their Creator.
Adam was created “from the dust of the earth” and worked in the beautiful Garden of Eden. His working pattern followed God’s activity in creation. Adam worked for six days and rested on the seventh day. He enjoyed the fruit which grew on the trees of the garden. This pattern of life was the model God intended us all to enjoy with a good work-life balance.
Then God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” So God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of his ribs. From the rib he made Eve and brought her to Adam who said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’ because she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man leaves his father and mother and is united in marriage to his wife and they become one flesh.
Matthew Henry, the Bible commentator, says, “The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.” This is a beautiful description of marriage which has been the foundation of human life and society from the beginning of time. Through the sexual union of a husband and wife children are born and grow up in the security of the family.
Marriage brings a man and a woman into the closest relationship we can ever know. In marriage a man and a woman make solemn promises to each other to live together in an exclusive relationship of lifetime faithfulness and, so, two people become one. This is why problems in marriage are so deeply painful and lifelong love in marriage is so deeply fulfilling.