A Tragedy or a Blessing

Years ago in Scotland, the Clark family had a dream. Clark and his wife worked and saved, making plans for themselves and their nine children to travel to the United States. It had taken years, but they had finally saved enough money and had gotten passports and reservations for the whole family on a new liner to the United States.

The entire family was filled with anticipation and excitement about their new life. However, seven days before their scheduled departure, the youngest son was bitten by a dog. The doctor sewed up the boy but hung a yellow sheet on the Clarks’ front door. Because of the possibility of rabies, they were being quarantined for fourteen days.

The family’s dreams were dashed. They would not be able to make the trip to America as they had planned. The father filled with anger and disappointment, stomped to the dock to watch the ship leave – without the Clark family. The father wept and cursed both his son and God for their misfortune.

Five days later, the tragic news spread throughout Scotland – the mighty Titanic had sunk. The “unsinkable” ship had sunk, taking hundreds of lives with it. The Clark family was to have been on that ship, but because the son had been bitten by a dog, they were left behind in Scotland.

When Mr. Clark heard the news, he hugged his son and thanked him for saving the family. He thanked God for saving their lives and turning what he had felt was a tragedy into a blessing.

At times, we lament our misfortune when things happen or don’t happen according to our plans and desires. But we need to remember that life is in constant motion and we must hold off giving our verdict until the real life drama has fully unfolded. For all we know, the bitter experiences in life are God’s way of preserving us and getting us ready for something more glorious than what we have ever imagined. We see them as tragedies but God intends them to be blessings for us. The Scriptures say “We know that all things work together for good to them who love God…for them who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

The Mountain Man

For years, he was called a madman for toiling away on the rocks. But Dashrath Manjhi was not crazy. His quest to break a path through a small mountain to benefit the entire village is now legendary because he carved an entire road with hand tools, working for 22 years.

Manjhi started off his extraordinary task in 1960, after his wife was injured while trekking up the side of one of the rocky footpaths. To get to the nearest hospital, he had to travel around the mountains, some 70 kilometers. She died as they were not able to reach the doctors on time to save her.

Dashrath Manjhi wanted his people to have easier access to doctors, schools, and opportunity. Armed with only a sledge hammer, chisel, and crowbar, he single-handedly began carving a road through the 300-foot mountain that isolated his village from the nearest town.

He sold the family’s three goats to buy the hammer and chisels and worked every day on the project to make it successful. After plowing fields for others in the morning, he would work on his road all evening and throughout the night.

After 22 years, Dashrath Das Manjhi had broken the mountain; he had carved out a road 360 feet long, 30 feet wide. Wazirganj, with its doctors, jobs, and school was no 5 kilometers away. People from 60 villages in Atri could use his road.

The health of his village is owned to the man that carved through a mountain, Dashrath Manjhi.

This is a story of a man who did something so that the tragedy that he experienced in his life would not be felt by any other man. He didn’t have heavy duty machines to do the herculean task but he found a way to do it by using crude and simple tools, with his blood, seat and tears and by earning his way during the day and toiling on it in the night.

He was mocked and ridiculed as a mad man, but his vision, his determinations and grit, his commitment to this goal and his love for people who wouldn’t care, earned him the success that he coveted. In the end, he was recognized for his achievement and hundreds of people from his village and the outlying areas became eternally grateful to him for their easy access to education, health care and the very preservation of their lives.

Manjhi reminds us of Jesus. He was rich and yet He became poor so that through his poverty we may be made rich. And He endured everything, even death on the cross for people who didn’t care. “He came unto His own and His own received Him not.” (John 1:11) But He endured it all because of the joy that was set before Him, the joy of seeing people eternal saved in the kingdom because of His sacrifice. (Hebrews 12:2)

Focusing on the Task at Hand

The time was the 19th of May, 1780. The place was Hartford Connecticut. The day has gone down in New England history as a terriblr foretaste of Judgement Day. For at noon the skies turned from blue to gray and by mid-afternoon had blackened over so densely that, in that religious age, men fell on their knees and begged a final blessing before the end came.

The Connecticut House of Representatives was in session. And as some men fell down and others clamored for an immediate adjournment, the Speaker of the House, Colonel Davenport, came to his feet. He silenced them and said these words: “The Day of Judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish, therefore, that candles may be brought.”

This was the Great Dark Day in Adventist eschatology when the sun was darkened and the moon became as blood, a fulfilment of Bible prophecy and a sign of the coming of the last days. Equally important to this historic event is the part of the story which says that the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the State of Connecticut, when others were calling for adjournment so they ciuld be with their families and loved ones, proposed instead to light up candles and go about their official business, arguing that if indeed the end of the world has come, he wanted to be found doing hus duty.

Hundreds of years later, we find ourselves much, much closer to the end of this earth’s history. Prophecies are fulfilling right before our very eyes. Fish kill, animal herds suddenly dying in many places in the world, flocks of birds falling dead from the sky and other mysterious phenomenon in the world of nature, terrorism and troubles in politics and society, and events in the religious realm are screaming out the fact that the end is near. Even events transpiring within the church prove that history is about to come to a close. And I think this is the devil’s strategy to bring division and conflict in the church of God so that these distractions would cause his people to neglect their God-given task.

But should we get distracted? Should we panic? Should we be frightened and escape to the hills? Let “candles be brought: and let us focus on the task at hand. If indeed the end of the world is about to come upon us, let it find us doing our duty and performing the task the Lord has given us to do. He said, “Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, the son and the holy ghost.” (Matthew 28:19)

Kill the Church or Care for It

Most if not all of us are members of the church. And as members, we are either a support or a burden, an asset or a liability to the church’s onward progress. Whether we are aware of them or not, our actions either propel it forward or drag it back.

The following poem written by an anonymous author lists down the things members do which ruin and ultimately destroy and damage the church.

If You Want to Kill the Church

Never go to your church or meetings held there,
If you do go, be late, it’s no one’s affair.
If the weather is bad, either too hot or snowing,
Just stay home and rest, for there’ll be others going.

But should you attend, be sure and remember
To find fault with the work, each official and member.
Be sure to hold back on your offerings and tithes,
The bills will be paid by the rest of the guys.

And never take office if offered the post,
But eagerly criticize work of the host.
If not on a committee you’re placed, be sore!
If you find that you are, don’t attend any more.

When asked your opinion on this thing or that,
Have nothing to say, just turn ’em down flat.
Then after the meeting, shine out like the sun
By telling the folks how it should have been done.

Don’t do any more than you possibly can,
Leave the work for some other woman or man.
And when you see faithful ones work themselves sick,
Then stand up and holler, “It’s run by a clique!”

The church is Christ’s body and is also the Savior of it (Ephesians 5:23). He loves His body and we need to love it too as we ourselves are part of it (I Corinthians 12:27). May we all show our love by caring and supporting it so “that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

Power in the Word of God

Many years ago in a Moscow theater, matinee idol Alexander Rostovzev was converted while playing the role of Jesus in a sacrilegious play entitled Christ in a Tuxedo. He was supposed to read two verses from the Sermon on the Mount, remove his gown, and cry out, “Give me my tuxedo and top hat!”

But as he read the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted,” he began to tremble. Instead of following the script, he kept reading from Matthew 5, ignoring the coughs, calls, and foot-stamping of his fellow actors.

Finally, recalling a verse he had learned in his childhood in a Russian Orthodox church, he cried, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom!” (Luke 23:42) Before the curtain could be lowered, Rostovzev had trusted and accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.

Rostovzev’s experience shared in the above story proclaims what countless other people have already found out after getting exposed to the written Word of God. And when men and women read or listen to it and don’t close their minds but open their hearts to the convicting and converting power of the Holy Spirit, they will be changed. They will experience a regeneration or a rebirth as was spoken of by Jesus in that interview at night with Nicodemus.

So let us expose ourselves to the living Word of God and let us be open to the work of the Holy Spirit. He will change our hearts and we will become willing and joyful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Khrushchev and the Scriptures

At the village church in Kalonovka, Russia, attendance at Sunday school picked up after the priest started handing out candy to the peasant children. One of the most faithful was a pug-nosed, pugnacious lad who recited his Scriptures with proper piety, pocketed his reward, then ran to the fields to munch on it.

The priest took a liking to the boy and persuaded him to attend church school. For the boy, this was preferable to doing household chores from which his devout parents excused him. And by offering other inducements, the priest managed to teach the boy the four Gospels. In fact, he won a special prize for learning all four by heart and reciting them nonstop in church.

60 years or so later, he still likes to recite Scriptures, but in a context that would horrify the old priest. For the prize pupil, who memorized so much of the Bible, is Nikita Khrushchev, the former Communist czar.

This story shows that the “why” behind the memorization of Scriptures is as important as the “what.” The same Nikita Khrushchev who nimbly mouthed God’s Word when a child, later declared God to be nonexistent — because his cosmonauts had not seen Him when they went into space. Khrushchev memorized the Scriptures for the candy, the rewards, the bribes, rather than for the meaning it had for his life. Artificial motivation will produce artificial results.

Let us not simply go into the memorization of the Word of God but let it become part and parcel of our lives. Let us allow the Scriptures to nourish and feed our souls. Jeremiah would say “Thy words were found…and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” (Jeremiah 15:16). And David sang about how he enjoyed them declaring them to be “sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” (Psalms 19:10).

Jesus also said the Scriptures sustain our spiritual lives as bread nourishes our physical bodies. Matthew records His words, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4).

Loving Ourselves

I was talking with a new acquaintance (not a Seventh-day Adventist) and we were sharing things of common interest to us. He talked a book he was currently reading where the author talks about narcissism or the love of self in its most positive light. The author’s approach was to look at self-love from a scale of 1-10 in which both extremes ought to be avoided.

On one extreme, a narcissistic person of the 8-10 scale may love himself too much so that he makes himself the center of the universe and tries to order everything to his own advantage and pleasure. The other extreme is the person of the 103 scale who deprives himself of every pleasure and benefit and may even physically mortify himself in order to find meaning and significance in life.

We need to go the way of the golden mean, the person of the 4-7 scale who loves himself just right. He doesn’t love himself too much in the sense that he esteems himself more highly than others; nor does he hate himself to a point where he sees himself only as trash. With this in mind, we can better understand the words of Jesus when He gave us the command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39). For there is no way we can really love our neighbor if we have not truly loved ourselves in the first place. And when we read something about hating father or mother, wife or children, brothers and sisters or our own lives (Luke 14:26), the texts simply mean not to “hate” but to “love less”. This is where the median 4-7 scale love of self comes in instead of the 8-10 scale extreme self-love.

We must love ourselves appropriately. EG White says that the value of a soul can only be measured by the price that was paid by Christ on the cross of Calvary. We are so precious Christ paid with His blood to set us free. And when we think of what the apostle Paul said that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and a dwelling place of God, we cannot help but love ourselves truly and even reverence them because of the value heaven has placed on them.

The Ant and the Leaf

A man sat in his balcony enjoying the sunshine and his coffee when a little ant caught his eye. It was carrying a big leaf several times more than its size. He saw that the ant faced many obstacles during its journey.

At one point the tiny creature came across a crack in the floor. It paused for a little while, analyzed…and then laid the huge leaf over the crack, walked over the leaf, picked the leaf on the other side then continued it’s journey.

The man was captivated by the cleverness of the ant. In front of his eyes there was this tiny creature of God, lacking in size yet equipped with a brain to analyze, contemplate, reason, explore, discover and overcome.

But along with all these capabilities, the man also noticed that this tiny creature shared some human shortcomings. An hour later the creature had reached its destination – a tiny hole in the floor which was the entrance to its underground dwelling. It was at this point that the ant’s shortcoming was revealed. How could the ant carry into the tiny hole the large leaf that it had managed to carefully bring to the destination? It simply couldn’t! So the tiny creature, after all the painstaking and hard work and great skills exercised, overcoming all the difficulties along the way, just left behind the large leaf and went home empty-handed.

The ant had not thought about the end before it began its journey and in the end the large leaf was nothing more than a burden to it. The creature had no option, but to leave it behind to reach its destination. The man learned a great lesson that day.

Isn’t that the truth about our lives? We worry about our family, our job, how to earn more money, where we should live, what kind of car to buy, dresses to wear, all sorts of things, only to abandon all these things when we reach our destination – the Grave.

In our life’s journey, we don’t realize that these are simply burdens that we carry with so much care and difficulty, only to find that in the end they are useless and we can’t take them along with us.

Just like in Jesus’ Parable of the Rich Fool, the man said to himself, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, [and] be merry.”

But God said unto him, “[Thou] fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” So [is] he that lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:19-21)


In his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey tells the story of the woodcutter. A very strong woodcutter asked for a job in a timber company and he got it. The pay was really good and so was the work condition. For those reasons, the woodcutter was determined to do his best. His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work.

The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees.

“Congratulations,” the boss said. “Go on that way!”

Very motivated by the boss words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could only bring 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder, but he could only bring 10 trees. Day after day he was bringing less and less trees.

“I must be losing strength,” the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on.

“When was the last time you sharpened your axe?” the boss asked.

“Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees…”

Our lives are just like that. In today’s word everyone is busier than ever, but less happy than ever. We need to take time to sharpen the “axe”. If we don’t we will become dull and lose our effectiveness. Nothing wrong with activity and hard work but we should not get so busy that we neglect the truly important things in life, like our personal life, taking time to get close to our Creator, giving more time for our family, taking time to read etc.

We can sharpen the “axe” of our physical and mental lives by making sure we have god nutrition, proper rest, regular exercise and the right amount of air, water and sunshine.

And for the spiritual life, Paul says in his letter to the Romans that we should be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2) through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.

This act of the Holy Spirit in renewing and sharpening us needs to happen on a regular basis. In fact EG White talks about it when she says we need to “Consecrate yourselves to God every morning” and to make this our very first work every day.

Thus we may be able to sharpen the “axe” so that we would be effective woodcutters for God in the advancement of the kingdom.


Jane McGonigal, Ph.D., Director of Games Research and Development at the Institute for the Future and a New York Times best selling author talks about the close relationship between the mind and the body and how they both influence each other. We know much about how the mind influences the body but not so much how the body influences the mind.

She talks about certain bodily movements that can bring instant relaxation to the mind, boost the mood, strengthen the willpower, promote positivity and even establish closer friendships.

What’s interesting is a suggestion she makes about developing an open mind. She talks about having the hands open, turning the palms to face the ceiling and counting to 15. Before one finishes, he should start to notice a more open mind-set.

Researchers call this phenomenon embodied cognition in which the brain takes mental cues from physical gestures. It’s like when we offer someone a helping hand, ask for help or prepare to receive something, our palms are upturned; and when we reject something or push someone away, our palms are face out. And this study shows that thousands of ears of these human interactions may leave us biologically primed to draw openness from upturned palms.

Further examples of this are the positions we take in prayer. Kneeling down or reverently bowing the head sends a message of humiliation and worship to the brain. Putting the hands up cues the mind for praise and extending the hands out with open palms readies the mind to receive the blessings that are being asked for.

In the case of feeding of the 5,000 with the five loaves and two fishes, Jesus told the disciples to make the multitudes sit down. The people sat down in obedience to the instructions from the Lord. It showed their faith in Jesus’ ability to feed them and fill them up despite the meager provisions. The people sitting down gave a message to their brains that there was food that was going to be served and Jesus rewarded their faith in His power to provide.