William G. Bass was engaged in a meeting with a local church, working in the neighborhoods of a small town in southeastern Florida. He and I had been asked by someone (and my, how you never seem to know just who) to find time to visit a recent convert who had been worshipping with a digressive group in town, but who had expressed an interest to be encouraged.
When we met later that afternoon, we quickly introduced ourselves. But as those things go, he didn’t really catch our names. We sat on the porch and talked and he gave us the short version of his life.
Nearly forty years previous, he had worked as a miner in eastern Kentucky, had married and lived as many did and do, without so much as a thought for God. But he mentioned how that he remembered that each night upon emerging from the mine, as they came down to the bathhouse, that they would be greeted by a preacher who sang songs, read the bible and taught, broadcasting his lessons through loudspeakers mounted on the roof of his car. He said you could hear that man preaching as soon as you exited the mine entrance. He was there often and always at the end of the shifts. It seems during one of his visits that the preacher handed this man a small red covered New Testament as he did with most of the rest. Mr. Martin had kept it through the years. He remembered the preacher, what he said, and what he did. He made an impression.
Charles took that now well-worn Bible out of his pocket and showed it to us, telling us that while he had always kept it with him wherever he went, that he had never bothered to read a word of it. It apparently had, up to that time, only served him as a talisman of sorts. But it failed at that (as it, of course, would) and he then described how his life had gone sour, how he lost his job, become a drunkard and for all the worse, that his wife eventually left him. He told us how he had been driving hard on the road to self-destruction for those intervening years.
When he hit the bottom, he finally took that little red book from his pocket and started to read. He said his reading caused him to change direction and that it in time led him to Christ. He gave up the bottle and began to try to turn his life around.
Eventually he managed the near impossible – to reconcile with his wife putting both his life and his marriage aright in Christ. He had pulled this all together and had been immersed into Christ. Most would fail to tie up so many disparate ends controlled by sin and to once again make them a whole; and so he told us that he felt that he had been particularly blessed to have been given the time.
At this point he asked if we would like to meet his wife, and we nodded. Once again he asked our names. When Bill Bass said his name that second time, the man began to tremble, and in a sweat and overcome with emotion said, “Oh my God —you’re that man. You’re the preacher that gave me this Bible and who preached to those miners so long ago.” Brother Bass simply and humbly said that it was true – he was indeed that man.
The Martins came every remaining night of that meeting. Some time later they placed membership with the little congregation that met in that small house in that small town. They were yet in attendance many years later when I came by to worship along with my family.
Not only can you not see the end from the beginning, but you also cannot see the effect that simple actions have on others. We watch through a very narrow and clouded lens. God is not so affected.
We are told to sow to the Spirit and to teach the word of God and then leave the rest up to the Lord. He has said that he will take care of it. But we find that so hard to get, as we so want to see the result right away. While if we on occasion do see the result, we should consider ourselves more than blessed.
In many circumstances the product may be far away, out past the horizon. Or there may not be a good result to meet up with the expectation. So for some, it is good that we cannot see what may be, and to others it is a blessing the time to account is extended yet.
This all presumes that we have a need to do something that might in time produce a result. In order to have a legacy one must produce offspring. In order to spread the gospel you have to teach it to somebody — to anybody and to every body. You cannot speak to the air and find success. You cannot gather figs from thistles, or sweet mint in a sow’s breath. You won’t find blessings where no work is ever done. And you won’t reap a reward where no service has been either offered or rendered.
I can’t say that I have ever had the success of a W. G. Bass or that I ever will. But then I frittered and wasted several years in fruitless and godless pursuits. But what I can do, that I now work to do, and the success will be accounted to God, and not to me.
All that you and I must do is to offer a little time for teaching and putting forth the truth of Christ. We are not even required to be very effective at it — we are simply asked only to try. Then we can wait to see what happens when the miners come down. If we live to see that they get it, how blessed; and if we do not — we will have at least done our duty.