Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
January 31, 2021
Life’s challenges call for an “In Spite Of” spirit
There is a great story about a sculptor that has been in circulation for years. E. Stanley Jones used this story in his book, Christ and Human Suffering, that was first published in 1933 and is now available in its eleventh printing. Brother Stanley’s book, and the story, have been especially helpful to me during my journey through grief. (I highly recommend the book for anyone struggling with sorrow.)
In Mexico, somewhere, there is a famous statue that is called “In Spite Of.” The sculptor, Jesus Garcia, lost his right hand while carving the statue. Refusing to give up, Garcia learned to carve with his left hand and finished the statue. Those who knew of his perseverance were so impressed they gave the statue the name, “In Spite Of.”
I love that story. It reminds me that what I need now is an “in spite of” spirit. It prompts me to remember that my mother had that spirit. When an accident robbed her of the use of her right hand, she learned to write with her left hand, and did so without murmuring. Stanley Jones had that spirit. After a stroke at age 88 wounded his ability to speak, he managed to dictate his final book, The Divine Yes, before his death.
The sculptor’s story also jogged my memory about what I penned years ago as my philosophy of life in a nutshell: “Do the best you can, with what you’ve got, where you are, while there is time.” It helps not to pine over what you have lost or to wish you were somewhere else. Since time is limited for each of us, the wise course of action is to make the most of what you have right where you are. Or, as Stanley Jones has said, “when you cannot live ‘on account of,’ you can always live ‘in spite of.’”
There are in the Bible wonderful stories of men and women who served the Lord with an “in spite of” spirit. One stirring example is the Apostle Paul. Obeying a vision from the Lord to take the gospel to Macedonia, Paul and his friend Silas journeyed to Philippi. There Paul and Silas soon found themselves stripped and beaten, severely flogged and thrown into a stinking prison.
One might expect a frustrated Paul to ask God why his reward for obeying Him was to be beaten and imprisoned. But that did not happen. “In spite of” the suffering they endured, the Bible says that “about midnight Paul and Silas (their feet fastened in stocks!) were praying and singing hymns to God.” That, dear friends, is the attitude I need now in order to move forward with my life.
My wife had it. And I want what she had. When we were preparing to make our first trip to Zambia in 2006, at age 74, a good friend said to Dean, “God told me to tell you not to go to Africa.” They laughed about it and Dean replied, “I guess I will do what God tells me to do.” Days later one of our sons said to her, “Mother, have you thought about how much it will cost us to bring your body back home if you die in Africa?” Those comments prompted Dean to do some serious thinking about traveling to Africa and inspired her to compose this poem:
BURY ME IN AFRICA
Bury me in Africa if that is where I die.
My body will be useless no matter where I lie.
I will be finished with this earthly shell.
The best part of me has another place to dwell.
Don’t weep that I have died on foreign soil.
It is not foreign to Christ – He died for all.
Don’t mourn that you cannot stand beside my grave,
But rather rejoice that my heart was strong and brave.
“She had nothing to give,” the critics may say.
“She should have stayed home to pray.”
The words they say may sound so very true
But the word from God is what I must do.
So if you should read that I died in a strange land,
Just give thanks that I followed our Lord’s command:
“Go into the world and make disciples of men
And I will be with you to the very end.”
Reading those words again makes my heart cry, “Yes, Lord, that is what I need – an “in spite of” spirit so I can serve you with honor the rest of my days. Believing that He wants to give me that spirit, I am surrendering my life to Him daily and staying open to receive this precious attitude.
No matter what challenge you may be confronting just now, the way to victory is to face it with an “in spite of” attitude. Where can you get it? You can’t buy it online from Amazon. I know of only one Source – the One who made us with the capacity for perseverance, the One who is able to turn mourning into gladness. Feel free to join me in asking the One who loves to meet all our needs to give us the courage to live in this world with an “in spite of” spirit. I’m convinced He will do it – when we become willing to ask for it. + + +