You are reading this because you want to know what the “Three promises you can count on” are. When I gave the talk about the three promises on October 21st., I told the audience up front what they were and then spoke at length trying, based on my own life experience, to prove that what I told them was true. Please forgive me, but I’m not going to do that for you. You have to read the story to find out what the three promises are.
The story begins in 1949 in a little country church. An eleven-year-old boy is sitting with his friends in the second to the last row of pews on the right side of the sanctuary. He is in the seventh grade in school and he enjoys reading and is a bit of a class cut-up. He likes sports, especially baseball and basketball but is not very good at either. He has asked three different girls to go to the junior high banquet with him. All have turned him down.
He is in the seventh grade at age eleven because he demonstrated capabilities that led his teachers to recommend that he take the third and fourth grades together. His parents would like him to play in the band and have purchased a used trumpet for him but he doesn’t show very much musical talent. He will drop out of band two years later.
He lives with his parents on a 60-acre farm, six miles from town. The farmland is rolling clay hills which yield crops that are marginal at best. The family keeps a flock of chickens and a small group of dairy cattle. They sell milk, eggs, wheat and beans to generate funds to purchase what they can’t grow, can or preserve. While not “poor” they are not “well off”. Their farm equipment is all used and they have never had a “new” car, tractor or truck.
His parents are active in their small country church which holds periodic “revival” services. During the October “fall revival” he listens to their young pastor, realizes that God loves him and decides it is time to make a “decision” for Jesus. He walks down the aisle of the little country church, kneels at the altar and asks Jesus to come into his life. He knows what he is doing but has no idea what God is going to do.
But, God loves him and God has a plan.
Five years later, he is elected to be president of the student body in his high school. He is elected to the National Honor Society. He has a steady girl-friend. He is active in the Methodist Youth Fellowship and sometimes teaches the children’s Sunday School Class.
Unfortunately, there is no money for college and he faces an uncertain future.
But, God loves him and God has a plan.
After graduation, he moves to a larger city and gets a job in a newspaper wrapping papers for 75 cents an hour and starts studying accounting at a small business school.
Despite his parents’ objections, he quits the newspaper and takes a job keeping books for an automobile dealer. The firm is engaging in some shady practices and he could get in trouble, so he resigns. He doesn’t have a job.
But, God loves him and God has a plan.
His accounting Professor offers him a part-time job as Office Manager at a department store in a large city 20 miles away from where he is going to school. He takes the job and graduates from business school and gets to keep the job full-time.
He asks his steady girlfriend of three years to marry him and she accepts. A month later, she gives him his ring back and breaks off their relationship.
He is crushed but God loves him and God has a plan.
He moves to another city and takes a Payroll Supervisor’s job at a manufacturing company. He meets a girl in the sales department who is a Christian and also had an impending marriage broken up. They date for a while, fall in love and get married. A few months later, she is pregnant with their first child but she miscarries and the doctors tell them she may never be able to have children.
They are upset and scared but God loves them and God has a plan.
Nine months later, their first child is born on a night when their landlady tells them they have to move out in 30 days because she has sold the little house they were renting.
But God loves them and God has a plan.
They find a small cottage on an estate where the owners don’t usually rent to young families. The owners make an exception and they rent the cottage.
Three years later, they have two children and a home of their own in the country. He interviews with an emerging company in the telecom field but the interviewers tell him that while he is a nice young man, he doesn’t know enough for the job they need to fill.
He is hurt but God loves him and God has a plan.
A week later, the company executives call him back and ask if he would take a job as assistant to the man who will fill the job he interviewed for. He takes it and moves his young family to another city. Two months later, the man who was to be his boss hasn’t shown up and he is promoted to the top job.
Two years later, the headquarters of the company moves and he must sell his house and buy another. He and his wife lose their entire life savings in what appears to be a dishonest house deal. They have a new baby and he commutes for a year.
They are devastated but God loves them and God has a plan.
A year later, he is moved to another state and his company takes the unprecedented step of loaning him $5,000 interest free for five years so his family can buy a house.
He is doing well but a year later, he is asked to take a job that involves running a large computer center which he knows nothing about. He resists but is given an ultimatum. He reluctantly agrees.
He is angry that he cannot stay in the Accounting Department but God loves him and God has a plan.
Within a year, his former job is broken up into four pieces, none of which he would have wanted to do.
With four children, he and his wife begin to experience marital strains and his wife has health issues. They work at saving their marriage and trust that God has a plan.
Despite his marital strains, the strains of seeing his older children go through their teen-age years and his wife’s health problems, he thrives in the new position and nine years later is the leading candidate for the top job in his part of the company and everyone assures him that he is a “shoe-in” to get it.
The job goes to one of his best friends.
He is disheartened but God loves him and God has a plan.
Within the next six months, he interviews for a top finance job at the company. It goes to a younger man who once worked for him in the summers as a college intern.
He is bitter, but God loves him and God has a plan.
A new position opens up in the company managing telephone companies in three states in a brand-new Division. He applies for the job against the advice of his mentors. No one feels he has a chance to get this job.
He believes that God loves him and God has a plan.
Amazingly, he gets the job and is now the top man in three states with the assignment to “turn them around” to better service and earnings.
Five years later, the operation is running smoothly and his marriage has strengthened. Two of his children are in college and the younger children are doing well in school and in their faith.
God loves him and God has a plan.
Then, something happens that makes him feel that God has forgotten him.
By now, you should know two things and can probably guess a third. The first two promises supported by the Bible and by our story thus far are:
God loves us, you and I – See the book of John, chapter 3, verse 16
God has a plan for our lives, yours and mine – See the book of Jeremiah, chapter 29, verse 11
You may have guessed that I am the young boy who walked down that aisle 69 years ago this month. I hope that the story thus far reinforces the first two promises that you can count on:
God loves you
God has a plan for your life
Now, I am going to tell you about of an event in my life 33 years after I walked down the aisle in that little country church. It brought me the realization of how deep God ’s commitment to each of us is and the third promise, that God will not forget us. It was 36 years ago (you can add the 11 and the 33 and the 36 and see how old I am!)
As I tell you about this, I want to assure you that God makes that same commitment today for you and I and it lasts forever.
I was living in Knoxville, Iowa – active in my church – healthy – 4 children, the first two in college the youngest 11. I had experienced, as you can tell from the story thus far, just about everything (I thought) that life could bring, including business recognition and success, opportunities to witness for the lord and the trappings of a successful life. Our family had also experienced family health problems, family financial problems, family stress problems and family marital problems.
I was 44 years old. I was the President of three operating telephone companies in Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado and was well regarded in the community. (I hope I didn’t strain something patting myself on the back here!)
I also had a history of prostate infections.
We were preparing for a family vacation in Yellowstone National Park when the latest one hit. We visited a Urologist in Des Moines and he suggested a Cystoscope examination. This would be only my second visit to a hospital in 44 years. It would be the first where I was put to sleep! We fully expected to leave for Yellowstone on schedule!
Things don’t always turn out the way we expect.
But, God loves us and God has a plan
When I came out of the anesthesia, the nurse told me that they were going to keep me in the hospital! They had found something!
That something was a baseball-sized tumor that had formed on the remains of the Uracus, behind the bladder. They thought it was benign.
They said that they would take it out after running more tests. I soon learned that there are a lot of things they can do to you in the hospital and most of them aren’t pleasant!
They ran their tests. I was in a hospital room but free to go outside between and after tests and wander around. (Remember, this was in 1982!)
I took a walk down beside the river and the sidewalk dead-ended at the river. As I stood there where the sidewalk came to an end, I reflected that the sidewalk was like my life and that it could end abruptly. I felt as though God was asking me if I was ready for that if it was His plan.
The next day it was back to sleep under the anesthesia. The awakening was a cloud of gloom and doom as the doctor told us that the tumor was malignant. The doctor visited us in the recovery room and outlined a very radical and life-impacting surgery followed by radiation as the best course of action. When I asked if I would live long enough to see my 11-year old son graduate from High School he replied that he couldn’t make me any promises.
They had given me morphine for the pain and I began to react to it with hallucinations and the feeling that I was in a dark cave and losing my mind. My wife, Elaine, had them move a mattress into my room so she could be with me and try to keep me calm.
We were receiving a lot of cards and letters and supporting phone calls. My wife began to pin the cards up on the walls of the room to try to lift my spirits. As she was doing this, she had an impression of the song, “I believe in miracles because I believe in God” and that God was speaking to her and assuring her that I would be healed. She also had the impression that she was not to say anything to me about this.
She immediately began to “take charge” of the situation. She requested that the Doctors change my medication and that eliminated my hallucinations and the dark cave of despair. Secondly, she took an adamant position that we were going to mayo clinic for a second opinion. The doctor’s response was that we would hear the same thing there. But, that didn’t dissuade her and she scheduled an appointment at Mayo. She later wrote an article describing her experiences entitled “Release Brings Healing” which was published by the Evangel Newsletter.
While Elaine was moving ahead with a more positive attitude, I was deep in depression and the feeling that my life was about to enter into an unbearable state leading to my death. With those two different attitudes, we went to Mayo. I thought that God had forgotten me.
The findings at Mayo confirmed the cancer diagnosis. There had been only 25 cases of this type of cancer in mayo’s history and only about 150 in the world since the turn of the century. They recommended less radical surgery to be done the next morning followed by radiation therapy over time.
As we returned to our motel to prepare for the surgery the following day, instead of the many cards and letters, there was only one card in the mail slot. It was from a lady in one of our Iowa Business Offices and included a small pewter pin in the shape of a big hand holding a small child. The verse in the card was from the 49th chapter of the book of Isaiah, verses 15 and 16:
I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
And it seemed as though God was speaking directly to me and giving me a promise that he had not forgotten me.
The next day, I was in surgery for four hours. When Dr. Zinke, the Chief of Mayo’s Urology Surgery Department came to talk with my wife, he told her that they had taken out the lymph nodes, resected the bladder and put all the material under a microscope. The cancer was gone. “You’re looking at a silver lining” he said. When Elaine asked him about radiation, he replied, “There’s nothing there to radiate.”
A week later, I walked out of the hospital with a bottle of pain pills in my pocket and we drove home.
The third promise that God gave to me and that he gives to all of us is that he will not forget us. He has written our names down on the palms of his hands.
So, as I write this, 36 years after I received that promise and 69 years after I walked down the aisle of that little church, I am assured, and I can assure you, that, no matter the situation, there are three promises you can count on:
God loves you!
God has a plan for your life!
God has not forgotten you, he has your name
written down on the palm of his hands!
I’ve had many opportunities to give this testimony in churches across several states. I’ve been able to tell it to two U.S. senators. I have a note on white house stationary thanking me for my witness.
The hardest question I have had to answer over the years comes from family members whose loved one has passed on and they ask me why I am still here when their loved one is not.
Perhaps it is so that I can tell you today that God has a commitment to you and that he will keep it no matter what.
He makes three promises that you can count on:
He loves you.
He has a plan for your life.
He says, “I have not forgotten you, I have written your name on the palms of my hands”
Have you made a commitment to Him? If not, I encourage you to make that commitment today!