At the outbreak of World War II, Clark Poling followed in the footsteps of his father and volunteered to serve as an Army chaplain. In a letter to his family before his departure, Clark wrote, “I know I shall have your prayers. But, please don’t pray simply that God will keep me safe. War is dangerous business. Pray that God will make me adequate.” On February 2, 1943, Clark’s desire would be put to the test. The ship on which he served as chaplain, the USS Dorchester, was torpedoed by a German submarine. Hundreds of soldiers packed the ship’s deck searching for help as the ship was rapidly sinking. Clark, along with three other chaplains, began to organize the terrified soldiers into lifeboats, and handed out life jackets until they ran out. When the supply of life jackets ran out, each of the chaplains gave theirs to other soldiers. Only 27 minutes after the torpedo struck, the USS Dorchester disappeared beneath the chilly waters with 672 men still aboard. The last anyone saw of the four chaplains, they were praying with their arms linked together on the deck. In a selfish world, it seemed like such a waste when they had the opportunity to save their own lives.
In Mark 14, there is the touching story of Mary of Bethany pouring an entire bottle of expensive perfume on Jesus just days before He would face the cross. Several who were watching asked with outrage, “why was this waste of the ointment made?” The idea behind the word “waste” is “something ruined or lost.” We should not be shocked that the world still considers it a waste to pour your life out on Jesus. Our society believes our education, money, and time could be put to better use for something other than Jesus. However, Mary had learned the difference between wasting your life and spending your life. We are told the prodigal son “wasted his substance with riotous living,” but the poor widow “cast in all the living she had.” To her it was not an indulgence of error, but rather an investment in eternity! Missionary martyr Jim Elliot wrote in his diary, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” The true value of a man’s life does not exist in the wealth he has, but where he has it. The decision is ours each day to either invest our life in Jesus or to throw it away on junk. How can you be sure your life is being spent and not wasted?
A spent life is emptied of convenience. When Mary entered the room, suspicious eyes pondered her motives while observing her every movement. Mary could have stalled until darkness would have disguised her actions. Mary could have paused until Jesus was alone. Mary could have waited until she had saved enough money to purchase a cheaper bottle of perfume to use. However, for Mary, there was a sense of urgency. This would be Mary’s last opportunity to do something for Jesus before He died. In a decisive act, Mary emptied the box of its contents and held nothing back for herself. The best she had was poured out at His disposal. Nineteenth century evangelist George Mueller said, “God judges what we give by what we keep.” Our life is either an offering or an offense! One has to wonder if our generation will ever see what the Lord could do with a life totally abandoned to Him. Life is so short and far too many are meandering around until the conditions are right before giving the Lord their all. May our life slogan be as Bill Borden’s, a young missionary who died in Egypt on his way to China: “No reserve! No retreat! No regrets!”
A spent life is empowered with courage. Even if Mary perceived the resentment and ridicule she would face for her actions, she never flinched in the face of rejection. Amy Carmichael served 55 years in India without furlough in a hostile Hindu environment, and the last 20 years she was bedridden from a serious fall. Amy received a letter from a young lady who was considering life as a missionary. She asked Amy, “What is missionary life like?” Amy’s response was simple and short, “Missionary life is simply a chance to die.” Today’s brand of Christianity knows no such thoughts! We are proud of our clever ability to evade persecution, and are satisfied with peace at any price. The consequences have been devastating to our country and our faith. Where are the David’s willing to stand against a giant? Where are the Daniel’s that simply will not bow? After a bloody battle in World War I, which was won at a terrific cost of life, an American General walked over the field of carnage. He observed that the heroic dead fell with their faces toward the enemy! We can never taste victory if we are not willing to face the enemy! A.W. Tozer made an interesting observation, “…the Bible gives no record of a coward ever being cured of his malady.”
A spent life is embraced with a cause. As Mary entered the room, it was not recognition and reward she was looking for. Mary was looking for Jesus! It is obvious she had premeditated plans as to why she was there and what she was to do. Jesus read her heart and shared it with everyone in the room, “she is come beforehand to anoint my body to the burying.” Mary came with the sole purpose of honoring and glorifying the Lord! Does such a motive and purpose define your heart? Let me give you a test to expose if that is so. In I Chronicles 28, one of David’s last goals in life was to build the temple for God. However, before he could break ground on the project, the Lord said, “thou shalt not build an house for my name…Solomon thy son, he shall build my house and my courts…” If the true motive of your heart is that the Lord always be glorified, would you be just as excited if the Lord denied you the opportunity to fulfill your dreams and visions, but allowed your children to be the ones to carry them out? It should never matter who gets the credit as long as the Lord is the one who gets the glory!
Do you ever wonder how much Samson could have accomplished if he had not wasted his ability? Although John the Baptist was not given as many years of life as Samson, he spent them more wisely. Life is a precious seed packed with hidden potential and unimaginable possibilities. However, if they are only admired and never sown, their dreams may forever lie on the ocean floor of eternity having gone down with our ship.
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2009 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.