With the turn of the calendar from October into November, we begin the month with what should be an introspective and inspiring day for all those who claim faith in Christ.
Many Christians around the world celebrate “All Saints Day” each November 1st – an acknowledgment of the many believers who have preceded us on our faith journey. These are the people who the writer of Hebrews was referring to when he wrote, “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (12:1).
In his first comprehensive dictionary published in 1828, Noah Webster defined a witness as “A person who knows or sees anything.”
What have the saints of the Christian faith seen? A whole lot.
We’re reminded of what John wrote:
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written (John 21:25).
As Christians living in the year 2022, we have the enormous benefit of looking to the believers who have plowed the paths on which we now walk, both literally and figuratively. For many of us, our parents, pastors or other close friends and relatives have been instrumental in our coming to Christ. We all have a spiritual story. Maybe it was a teacher, a radio preacher or even an author. It could be all of the above.
I first joined Focus on the Family twenty-five years ago. At the time, the ministry was being led by its founder, Dr. James Dobson. His faithful adherence to God’s call on his life back in 1977 resulted in the emergence and explosion of a global family outreach. During his tenure at the helm, he selected Godly men and women to assist in the effort, including his successor – Focus’ current president, Jim Daly.
Over the years, Focus on the Family has employed thousands of people. Many of them have been called into other vineyards, and some have joined that “great cloud of witnesses” we read about in the Scriptures. Soon after I began here at Focus, I learned of a group of men who met on their break time to read both from the Bible and Charles Spurgeon’s classic devotional, “Morning and Evening.” They called themselves “The Spurgeonites.”
These men included Jim Davis, Robert Wade, Larry Kingston, Marlen Wells and Mark Hufford. Both Jim and Robert are in Heaven now, and I think about them often, especially this November 1st. Though I wasn’t part of the group, all of the men became my friends.
Jim Davis went back to the beginning days of the ministry. A towering man with a hearty laugh and a wonderful sense of humor, “Big Jim” went to school with Dr. Dobson and literally knelt with him in prayer during his early days as an author. Jim analyzed everything through God’s Word and never seemed overly wrought about life because He was confident the Lord was in full and complete control.
When my wife and I were struggling with infertility, Jim sat with me and prayed. He told me that he and his wife had walked a similar journey. “We prayed and then we mailed 100 letters to 100 doctors telling them we were interested in adopting. We asked them if they ever encountered a woman looking to make an adoption plan, might they let her know about us? We never heard back from 99 of them, but we did hear from one – and that’s how we adopted our son.”
Robert Wade had pastored for nearly 30 years when he came to work at Focus, where he continued to minister to families. I once sat with him during a potluck supper in a small church in rural South Carolina. There was a hurting family sitting to his right, and he consoled and grieved with them through the meal. They had lost a child to suicide, and Robert’s listening ear and tender heart clearly brought a measure of comfort.
Both Jim and Robert slowly and then quickly faded in the last year of their lives. Both required extra oxygen, carting around a tank and canula wherever they went. “When I get to Heaven, I’m not going to need this blasted thing,” Jim once told me. “I’ll be breathing the sweet air of Glory.”
Remembering Jim’s words brings to mind the lyrics of the popular hymn often sung celebrating today’s festival – “For All the Saints.”
“Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine! We feebly struggle, they in glory shine … And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, steal on the ear the distant triumph song, and hearts are brave again and arms are strong.”
Jim and Robert are once again strong and thriving – and so are all those whose faith Christ assured them of eternal life.
Who are the saints in your life who have gone before you and who are now cheering you on?