All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means God is with us.
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Notably the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ begins and ends with the good news that He is “God-with-us”, Emmanuel, always and everywhere. There is not a problem or perplexity, joy or satisfaction, but that Jesus is with us. It is one thing to believe that but quite another to live in its wondrous reality. I had been a Christian and minister for many years without practicing the presence of Christ ever with me. Though I knew He was present to me I often lived without being present to Him.
Then a man helped me to begin to be present to Christ and to experience Him daily as “God-with-us”. The man was Frank Laubach (1884-1970), a missionary to the Philippines. He was educated at Princeton, Union Theological Seminary, and Columbia University. However, after many years of ministry he was troubled by not experiencing Christ’s presence with him.
Being a pragmatic person, he decided to begin the New Year with an experiment: to stop and think about God every hour. Within days Laubach said that he noticed a difference in his life, and the Muslims among whom he ministered also said they noticed a difference. In a letter dated January 26, 1930, Laubach recorded initial results of his New Year’s experiment:
For the past few days I have been experimenting in a more complete surrender than ever before. I am taking by deliberate act of will, enough time from each hour to give God much thought. Yesterday and today I have made a new adventure, which is not easy to express. I am feeling God in each movement, by an act of will—willing that He shall direct these fingers that now strike this typewriter—willing that He shall pour through my steps as I walk— willing that He shall direct my words as I speak, and my very jaws as I eat!
Encouraged by the reality of “God-with-us”, Laubach continued to turn his thoughts to God in every waking hour. Laubach discovered “This concentration upon God is strenuous, but everything else has ceased to be so!” A few days later he writes in a letter dated January 29, 1930:
I feel simply carried along each hour, doing my part in a plan which is far beyond myself. This sense of cooperation with God in the little things is what astonishes me. I seem to have to make sure of only one thing now, and every other thing “takes care of itself,” or I prefer to say what is more true, God takes care of all the rest. My part is to live in this hour in continuous inner conversation with God and in perfect responsiveness to His will. To make this hour gloriously rich. This seems to be all I need to think about. [Emphasis is Laubach’s]
Soon Laubach’s rich inner life fueled his outer life. Working among the Muslims he developed the “Each One Teach One” literacy program that has been used to teach over 60 million people to read. Time magazine hailed Laubach as “Mr. Literacy”; to this day he is called the “Apostle to the Illiterates”. He is the only American missionary honored on a US postage stamp. Norman Vincent Peal called Laubach “one of the greatest men in the world”. His conversations with President Harry Truman were partly responsible for “point four” in Truman’s 1949 inaugural address about “a bold new program” for the underdeveloped world. Laubach also found time to write more than 35 books and serve as advisor to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Peace Corps.
As a young missionary dissatisfied with his lack of the experience of “God-with-us”, Laubach learned to turn his thoughts to God every hour. In this he said he discovered the secret, “I must work…but there is God working along with me.” What a marvelous discovery Laubach made in the new year of 1930! Won’t you consider trying Laubach’s bold experiment for 2016?
Grace and peace,
LENT begins February 10, 2016. Look for the 2016 LENT devotional book coming soon!