A Reminder from Reading One of My Old Worn Bibles: A Short Anecdote of Encouragement Involving a Deployment in Iraq, a Friend, and How God Works

Not unlike a lot of Christian chaplains and believers, I would imagine, I have lots of Bibles. And I always read with a pencil, pen, or marker in hand, even when reading books other than Scripture. So my Bibles are marked up. Some passages are marked for homilies. I may have tiny sermon outlines in the marginalia. I may have people’s names that I know about written by a particular verse or paragraph. I have other passages underlined that I have memorized. On and on it goes. What follows below is a short story of encouragement from reading from one of my old Bibles today. It involves a man God brought into my life during a deployment in Iraq and of how God and my friend still minister.

This morning I was in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians as part of my time in Scripture. But for some reason, I used one of my older Bibles that is falling apart. I used it for years as my main Bible from which to study and from which to craft homilies, etc. It has tons of my notes in it. As I came near to the end of chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians, the pages were all marked up with different colors of ink, and Post-it notes, and marginalia. And when I got to verse 58 of 1 Corinthians 15, a flood of memories washed over me, and I was about to get even more encouragement that I could have hoped for. Follow me.

Context: 1 Corinthians 15 is, of course, one of the New Testament’s greatest apologetics for the bodily resurrection of the crucified Christ. It is nearly 60 verses of empirical evidence of Jesus’ resurrection and of the guarantee of God raising all either unto life in Christ or unto condemnation due to rejecting the gospel. It’s one of those chapters in the Bible where even pagans read it and are moved either unto belief or hardened further into unbelief. How do I know? Because I have seen how people react in services where I have read the whole chapter stratight through and I have watched them. The Spirit acts upon people and one can see spiritual warfare occur right before one’s eyes.

In verse 58 of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul gives the imperative: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58 ESV). My copy was underlined and emphasized and all of a sudden, a deluge of memories washed over me of the stalwart believers and buddies God sent me during that deployment. Then, at that very moment, I received a text message from one of those guys. He writes devotionals that he sends out to folks based upon his time in studying Scripture. True to my friend’s nature, it was a message of encouragment, of truth unvarnished, but with his remarkable gifting for motivating people unto action. I’ve known some bundles of energy in my life, but this friend of mine rivals any of them for sheer will and motivation. He’s as tough as they come and there is no quit in him, as the saying goes.

Encouragement: Why did I receive that text message from my friend at just the moment I was reading 1 Corinthians 15:58? Why, when I was letting all the emotions and memories and past Bible studies and choir rehearsals and devotionals and sermons and times of the Lord’s Supper, etc., why then?

The pagan could look at this and go, “Bah, humbug! It’s sheer accident, man. Get over it.” Okay, that could be. But then, if one is to be logically consistent, could I not turn around and say to the pagan, “Bah, humbug. You are a sheer accident. And your counsel is mere matter in motion. Dispense with you, you self-contradictory blob of protoplasm!”? See, the unbliever feels like he matters, that his words matter, and that I ought to pay attention to him. But if he were logically consistent, he is nothing. So he should just hush up. But it is interesting how they don’t hush up, the vocal bitter pagans. They just keep yammering.

But there I was … still looking at 1 Corinthians 15:58 in my old worn Bible. And I was remembering the ways my friend in Iraq motivated me amidst trials in ministry, and of how God grew the body of believers there, and of how those whom God gripped are still fighting the good faith of the faith. Paul’s words of encouragement are so clear: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58, ESV).

I think I know why I received that text message from my friend at just this moment, and just when I was in this particular copy of Scripture, one of those where I’ve all kinds of notes by 1 Corinthians 15:58, and of why my buddy is still engaged in ministry, and of how iron sharpens iron, and on and on. Yes, I think I know why. And I bet you know why, too.

2 thoughts on “A Reminder from Reading One of My Old Worn Bibles: A Short Anecdote of Encouragement Involving a Deployment in Iraq, a Friend, and How God Works

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