"Give Me a Hand"

A Message by Stuart Maxwell Hawkins

I recently received a letter from an old acquaintance whom I had not seen for twenty-five years. We had both been raised by Christian parents, so I was surprised at the following paragraph in his letter.

"I am a terrible skeptic about all things religious." He wrote, It's interesting that you have gone the opposite direction. I feel no need for a belief to prop me up. It's interesting how many people feel they need a crutch."

He had touched a nerve and my first reaction was negative, but I learned long ago that sometimes God uses strange methods to show me something.

As I pondered and prayed and read, I finally came to the realization that he was right. I do need a crutch. I will especially need one on the day of judgement. I know that I have sinned and I won't have a leg to stand on at that time. When I stand before God, as the Bible says we all must do some day, I will reach for my crutch, the cross of Christ, and stumble into Heaven; not on my own merits, or strength, but with the prop I have learned to lean upon, without with I would have fallen.

Strangely enough I later learned that my friend had developed a health problem that required him to actually have to use crutches in order to walk. It gave me gooseflesh when I heard about it.

Yes, I am a spiritual cripple and I am glad that there is an arm to cling to when the going gets tough. I do not feel any less a man because of my dependance upon God. I used to feel proud of my physical strength, but I learned that there were times when my own abilities were not enough.

One day I stood on the banks of the Yellow River in eastern Iowa watching a pair of flailing hands protruding from the water. I didn't know who it was, but knew it must be one of our group of boys who were spending the beautiful summer afternoon on a swimming outing. The other boys had wandered off somewhere for a time, but one of them had stayed in the water. I had lingered a while myself and suddenly realized I was watching someone drown. None of us boys really knew how to swim very well, least of all me, but we enjoyed horsing around in the water and cooling off from the hot weather.

Whoever belonged to the hands had ventured out too far and slipped into the deeper part of the river. I didn't know what to do. If I went into the deep water I would be in trouble myself. Paralyzed momentarily by indecision I finally turned to go for help. Just then the only adult in our group happened to appear and immediately saw the hands thrashing in the river. Without hesitation and fully clothed, the man raced into the water and pulled the boy to safety.

It turned out to be Clark Rominger, a boy a couple of years older than I. The man ministered to him and Clark suffered no ill effects from his close shave with death, although a year later one of our group did drown under similar circumstances at the same location.

I am glad that Clark survived. Several years later I did a fancy dive into the Mississippi River from a stationary platform. As I came down I struck my head on the edge of the platform and fell stunned into the water. Fortunately for me there was someone there to witness the accident and pull me from the river. It was Clark Rominger. I didn't even know he was in the vicinity.

I never stopped asking myself the question, Would I have drowned that day if Clark had drowned a few years earlier? Where an agnostic sees coincidence, a Christian senses God's hand. I could not prove it or even prove I was worth saving, but once again I realize the purpose of faith and trust in God.

Sometimes I wonder why God should bother with me at all.

Compared to the Saints, I haven't done anything. No one will ever eulogize me or write about me, and according to the world I haven't come very far. But many of my bonds are loosened and a few are gone. The world can still see my weaknesses and condemn me, but God sees my victories over self. Both he and I know how close I came many times to destruction, how many times I blew it, how far away I had gone, how wretched I was, how many sink holes I climbed out of with the help of His hand.

Beautiful phrases were never enough. They never pulled me out of the quicksand. I cannot grasp a beautiful saying. I must have a hand to cling to. I must know that when my enemy has me up against the wall that he cannot push the wall over.

When I was a little boy my Dad took me to the movies one night. As we entered the theater I ran down the aisle to sit with the other kids who always clustered in the front rows, while the adults preferred to sit back further in the auditorium.

The movie was "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,' with Rudolph Valentino and hardly a kid's show, but my Dad loved the movies and wouldn't have missed this one for anything.

The film sort of bounced off me until the appearance of the four horsemen, an allegory of death and war and fire and awful things. The characterizations of these skeletal, eerie creatures scared the daylights out of me and I had to get out of there. But how to leave my companions without showing them I was a scairdy cat? I fibbed to them and hurried back to where Dad was seated. "I can see better back here," I lied to him, as I snuggled up to the protective feel of Daddy's proximity. I was safe. I was with Daddy and nothing could hurt me while Daddy was there.

Daddy is long gone now but sometimes I still get frightened. There are a lot of scary things in our world for people of any age, and I still occasionally need a hand to cling to, an arm to lean on.

I often wonder how anyone is going to survive. The forces against faith in God [the A.C.L.U, Islam, secular humanism, atheism, materialism, the popular culture, the movies, the drugs, the entertainment, the immoral sex styles of most people, evolution, legislatures and courts passing laws and rulings against Christian beliefs and the Ten Commandments and prayer, etc.--Ed.] are so virulent and powerful I can hardly believe that everyone won't go down for the count.

It is incredible the forces that are being waged against me, for example, one ordinary man with no renown or influence, as though it were Armeggeddon itself to see that I reject Jesus. Struggling against stumbling blocks, the weapons, the deceit, the trickery, the outright assaults, the false witness, the betrayals, the accusations, the hatred, I wonder why I have any faith left at all. Such a determined enemy leaves me aghast. What is so important about one more person who alone cannot do much. How I have withstood against Satan this far I cannot understand. I have no strength of my own against an enemy that makes me feel so impotent.

I have dedicated myself to Jesus and asked for his help, because I believe it is the only thing that will save me. I can see no other reason why I still survive as a Christian.

Even my logic and reason war against me. Somewhere I read: "Not by power, not by might, but by thy Spirit I shall overcome," and I guess that must be the way it is for me and for everyone else. Otherwise we would all be lost.

Gratitude is important. It was important to people like Ted Vincent after his wife died and he remembered all the support he had received from others during the long traumatic experience of his wife's terminal cancer.

"I'm going to do for others, now," he said. "I want to help wherever I can."

This was one of Christ's requests, that we do for others. Giving a hand to someone else in Jesus' name is the same as doing it for him.

If each of us would treat another as though he were Christ, it would revolutionize the world. "Let me be your servant, let me care for your wants and needs. Let me carry your burdens part way, that you may rest. Let me wash your tired, aching feet, let me massage your tired muscles. Let me share your suffering. Let me serve your table and clean up afterwardsd. Let me bring you a drink of water when you are thirsty." There are times when everyone needs a helping hand. We are all trying to cope in a hostile world. Most of us unconsciously work out complicated methods for doing so. Some are more obvious. If our defense is removed, we collapse. If our only defense is a poor one, we cannot relinquish it unless we replace it with another; hopefully, a better one. The drinker must drink, the addict must have his drugs, the sexist his sex, the rebel his scapegoat.

There is one defense above all the rest: Jesus Christ. He wants us to make him the scapegoat for our errors. That was the whole point of his existence and death. He will be our drink, our pill, our everything. He bore our sins so that we might face life with his strength. Until we find freedom through him we must still have our other defenses.

Jesus always stands ready to give a helping hand. After he preached to a multitude, Jesus passed the basket. Not to take a collection, not for tithes or offerings, but to give to those who had come to hear him. If we are powerless to heal, cast out demons and do miracles today, perhaps there is too m uch taking and not enough giving.

We must start right were we are to give and to love. If you cannot do it at home, you cannot do it anywhere with meaning. You cannot curse your father and love the brethren. You cannot curse your mother and love your neighbor. You cannot curse your husband and love your acquaintances. You cannot curse your wife and love your friends. You cannot curse your children and love humanity. You must start at home to change the world.

When your strength fails, do not be ashamed to admit your weakness. When you feel like you are drowning or smothering, do not be afraid to recognize your vulnerability. When you feel like you are going down for the count, do not be embarrassed to acknowledge the potency of your adversary.

Do the best you can with what weapons you have available, but when your resources fail, do not surrender. Call out for the one who will not allow you to bear more than you can stand, and who will lift you up to victory with his helping hand.

Please return for another fine, encouraging message by Stuart Maxwell Hawkins when it comes on-line soon.

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