No other generation has been bombarded by words, both spoken and written, as we are today. Daily newspapers and magazines provide news and comment on current events. Television 24 hour news channels communicate information from around the world. Chat shows and phone-in programmes offer the opportunity for people to express their views. Social networking enables millions of people to publish information about themselves. People send and receive text messages from family and friends. Many struggle to cope with the increasing volume of emails at work and at home. In every sphere of life word processors churn out long and complex documents. The internet provides vast quantities of information.
Yet amongst all these words there are very few that really matter and significantly impact our lives. However, some words can really make a difference. In the Bible God has communicated his truth to all people in every generation. Through reading the Bible, millions of people have discovered truth by which they can live and a Saviour whose amazing love they can experience. The words of the Bible have a wonderful depth and calm authority because they are God’s words.
A minister was visiting an elderly lady who belonged to his congregation. She was recovering from major surgery and was confined to bed. The minister asked her what she had been doing that day. She said, “I have been thinking about those words in Psalm 46, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Today I have been thinking especially about the words, ‘Be still.’” That day they talked about how, in the busyness of life, we don’t find time to be quiet and think about God.
The next time he visited the lady she told him she had been thinking about the words “and know” in the same verse. They talked about the privilege of knowing God personally. On the next visit they spoke about the words, “that I” and reflected on God’s eternal nature and that he is unique. Then on the fourth visit they spoke about the words, “am God” and rejoiced in the God who created all things and who sustains all things. That one short sentence from God’s Word had wonderfully spoken to this lady’s heart and assured her of his love and care for her in a time of weakness. How good it is for us all to find time, in the midst of the noise and rush of life, to be still and to listen to what God says.
The celebration of Father’s Day seems to be more low key than Mother’s Day, yet the vital role of fathers needs to be affirmed. As children are growing up they need good fathers. I am thankful that I experienced my father’s love for me. He maintained discipline in the home and sought to instil moral principles in me. There was a small stick in the home which was used, very occasionally, to correct me when I did something wrong. The main thing was not the punishment itself, but the fact that I accepted my father’s right, as the head of the family, to discipline me.
My main memories of my father, who died nearly 40 years ago, are of his loving care and constant interest in me and my life. When I was playing in the school rugby or cricket teams he would often travel many miles to be there and watch the game. It was good to talk together later about the match and to identify the things I could do better. In this, and other ways, my father played a key role in my growth and development. He also wisely provided for my daily needs making sure that I had enough but not too much.
When my father was diagnosed with cancer it took a little time to realise that the situation was serious. He had two operations, neither of which succeeded in removing all the malignant tumours. Over the weeks that followed he gradually grew weaker as he fought a number of infections. When I visited him in hospital it was a time for me to try to help and encourage him. We were able to talk about ultimate realities and to pray together. It was a precious time.
Before his first major operation my father read the Gideons’ New Testament which was by his bedside. He read God’s answer to Paul’s prayer for healing. God did not promise Paul that he would be healed but told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” These words gave my father a peace and strength when, the next day, he went to the operating theatre. He didn’t know what the outcome would be, but he knew that, whatever happened, God, his heavenly Father, would be with him. Many children today have not experienced the love of an earthly father, but all of us can, in Jesus, find and know the love of a heavenly Father.
For the past few days I have been staying in North Wales. The weather has been glorious with bright sunny days and blue skies. It has been wonderful to see the countryside in all its splendour; Bala Lake, the Mawddach estuary, Cader Idris and the Bwlch-y-Groes pass. The trees are full of new leaves, the bluebells and various flowering shrubs are in full bloom, presenting a mass of colour. When I was leaving the farm of some friends a peacock stood in the road and presented a full display of its glorious plumage.
All these things spoke powerfully to me of the majesty and glory of God. Psalm 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” Before I became a Christian I didn’t recognise God’s handiwork in his creation. One hymn says, “Heaven above is softer blue, earth around is sweeter green; something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen: birds with gladder songs o’erflow, flowers with deeper beauty shine, since I know, as now I know, I am his and he is mine.”
It is wonderful to realise that, in his Son Jesus Christ, the great Creator God has drawn near to us so that we can know him as our heavenly Father. As our Father he cares for us in all the joys and sorrows of life and provides for all our needs. An old hymn says, “This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres. This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees and skies and seas; his hand the wonders wrought.”
Last week I attended the funeral of a good friend who had died very suddenly. When we were at the graveside the sun was shining and you could hear the birds singing. Whilst we were sad we also rejoiced that our friend was now with God in heaven. As I looked at the beauty of God’s creation I began to think of what it must be like to be in heaven. If this world of space and time is so wonderful, heaven must be even more glorious. In the Bible we are told, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”
The abduction and murder of April Jones has had a profound effect on the little town of Machynlleth and on many people around Britain. Her parents, Paul and Coral, have, understandably, been devastated. At the end of the trial Coral made a very dignified and moving statement. It gave an insight into the profound trauma they have been experiencing since April’s abduction on 1 October 2012. She said, “April will be forever in our hearts. We are so moved by the overwhelming support we have had from many people all over the world. We would like to take time now to be with our family and to try to come to terms with the loss of April.”
As the media go away and life in Machynlleth returns to its new normality, the sad consequences for Coral and Paul continue. I remember reading the book, “Goodbye, Dearest Holly” by her father, Kevin Wells. It gave an insight into the depth of pain and grief experienced by parents whose young children are murdered. In her statement at the end of the trial Coral said, “As April’s mother I will live with the guilt of letting her go out to play on the estate that night for the rest of my life.”
Coral could never have anticipated that night that April would be taken and wickedly killed. None of us can fully anticipate the consequences of actions we take in the course of everyday life. All of us do things which we later regret. It is at such times that we need help that is more than human. God is able to meet us at the point of our deepest need. He is able to sympathise with us in our deepest pain, and to help us, because he understands what we are going through. Jesus, his only Son, died a cruel death at the hands of wicked men when he was in the prime of his life.
Many of us are praying for Coral and Paul. They can tenderly commit April into the loving care of God. He is also able to give them strength to face each day and to heal their inner pain. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”