Part 4: Miracles of Divine Guidance
Part 4: Miracles of Divine Guidance
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths“. (Proverbs 3: 5-6)
It All Began – 1913
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new“. (II Corinthians 5:17)
It all began in the winter of 1913. I was then a tall, awkward High School senior, having a normal assortment of winsome juvenile qualities and my own list of decidedly unattractive and undesirable traits. The former were harder to recognize and tabulate, but the latter were of increasing concern to me. Among these were a vicious and uncontrollable temper and a growing love of drink.
In February of that year, Evangelist Essek Kenyon came to hold services at the local Baptist Church. Being janitor of the church at that time, I had to attend every service. Thursday night, February 11, 1933 I was in my usual place, fourth seat from the rear, when a Christian businessman touched me on the shoulder and said, “Morley, why don’t you let God have that life of yours? He can really help.” That was all.
In a few moments I arose and made my way down front and knelt with others at the altar. There they prayed with us and for us and there I promised God, “Lord, if you will save me and make my life what it ought to be, I will do what you ask no matter what it is as long as I live”. I arose without having any emotional reaction whatsoever.
It was the following Sunday evening that I hurried through the sanctuary and opened the vestry door. I stepped in, only to find myself surrounded by a dozen or more men who were praying for the service. The man nearest the door reached up and pulled me down by the side of his chair. When the circle of intercession was complete, and the man by my side had prayed, he said to me, “Morley, pray!”
I have known the agony that stalked amid the carnage of battlefields. I have felt the fearful loneliness of strange cities, yet I have never felt such fear as I did that night. In the midst of it I heard a voice within me say, “You promised to do what I ask”. Immediately I opened my lips to try to pray and instantaneously the miracle of grace was wrought. I was completely changed (II Corinthians 5:17).
From that experience I learned two important lessons for life: First, the promises in God’s Word are absolutely trustworthy. And second, our unconditional submission to His will is a must in successful Christian living.
Someone has well said that life consists of the sum total of one’s decisions. “In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct thy ways” (Proverbs 3:6). I would now like to share with you what that promise has meant to me. A few personal illustrations may suffice.
God Knows the Way – 1918
“Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5).
While my theological training at Gordon and Bates gave me a legitimate reason for non-participation in WWI, circumstances and an inward urge led me to volunteer in 1918. After a short period of training at Camp Devens I found myself on board an old cattle boat in Montreal, heading for Europe.
Twenty-one days and an uneventful voyage found us landing in London, where we were herded into boxcars and headed toward Winchester and temporary barracks. With full field packs we limped or marched to South Hampton where a boat awaited us to take us to La Havre, France, where our tour of Central Europe on foot began.
For some reason unknown to me I was made a corporal in charge of Headquarters Squad. Our chief assignment was to serve as liaison between the Commanding Officer and various units. We were somewhere in the Viste River sector. One night the Commanding Officer called me and said, “Corporal Durost, go with the Sergeant and bring back whatever message is given you”.
“Yes Sir”, I said with my snappiest military salute. I left that tent with the Sergeant and for the next hour we traveled silently through woods, along roads, and across countryside until he said, “Here we are. The General’s tent should be near here.” We answered the challenge of a military guard who directed us to the General’s tent. With the proper password we were admitted into the tent and delivered the information we had carried, and in due time the General said crisply, “Corporal, return this message to your Commander.”
“Yes Sir-r-r”, I said. I took the message, and turning, I pushed back the tent flap and stepped into the dark. Where I was, and especially how to get to where I was supposed to be, was to me a complete mystery. One thing was certain; I could not stay there, so with a prayer in my heart I took off blindly in the direction from which I thought we had come. I traversed paths, fields, fences, and woods, and finally a road. Naturally it ran in two directions. I had to choose, so turning right I trudged down the road till I came to the foot of a hill.
Not far up the hill I stopped, for I had heard a rumbling noise behind me. No lights were allowed so I had to guess that heavy artillery was moving up. I stepped off the road and I didn’t have long to wait before the Big Berthas lumbered up, each trailed by a pair of ammunition caissons. Since they were going in the same direction I was headed, I waited until they slowed down on the hill and I slung myself up on a caisson frame and lay down, content to ride as far as we shared a common direction. When I had ridden as far as I thought we had walked that night, I jumped from the caisson and rolled harmlessly to a stop behind a tent near the roadside.
After picking myself up and dusting off the leaves and dirt, I looked about for signs of life. A dim light amidst the all-pervading darkness drew me off the road into a small opening among the trees, and there stood the tent of the Commanding Officer to whom I was supposed to report. (Psalm 37:5). Only our wonderful Lord could do that!
A Job I Did Not Want – 1921
“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
As a sincere young Christian it was the most earnest desire of my heart to be used to reach others for Christ, my incomparable Savior. The Word said that the way to that end is through taking Christ as Lord. That means when He commands, we are to obey whether we like the way or not.
In 1921 after graduating from Bates College, I was offered a job in New Jersey in the field of education, which was my secret first love as a life’s work. The salary was very attractive. Before making a decision I visited my parents in northern Maine. While there I was invited to speak on Sunday at the little Hodgdon Baptist Church. After the service the good people unanimously urged me to accept their call to be their pastor. The salary offered was $800 per year.
Had I consulted my own wishes I would have emphatically said, “NO!” But that still small voice said, “Yes, this is the place”, so I acquiesced. There the desire of my heart was granted, for out of that year’s commitment came a Missionary who has spent over twenty-five years of fruitful service, one theologue who has influenced innumerable lives through the students he has trained, and a preacher of the Word who has led hundreds to know Jesus Christ as Lord.
A Job I Did Want – 1927
My second experience in divine leading came in 1927. The previous year I had received my Master’s degree in Education from Brown University; qualifying me for something more demanding than the Grammar School principalship, which I had now held for five years. Moreover, an increase of three in my family made it imperative that I get a larger salary. After some inquiries I was informed of an opening for a Junior High School principal in Concord, Massachusetts. I secured an appointment for an interview with the Superintendent of Schools. The result of that interview was an unqualified promise that he would nominate me for the position in question. This involved a very desirable increase in salary.
Imagine my disappointment when a few days later I received a letter from the Superintendent saying that due to an unprecedented wrangle among the School Board, there would be no teachers hired for an indefinite period. Regretfully he advised me not to wait.
A few weeks later I was in the office of the head of the Teacher’s Placement Bureau in Boston, being interviewed by Dr. Gardiner. When I mentioned my experience with the Concord situation he said, “You can be very grateful you did not go there, for I have seen more teachers professionally murdered in that system than in any place in Massachusetts”. So quietly I said, “Thank You Lord”. And in a short time I found a job in a larger and better school in Massachusetts.
God’s Provision Accompanies His Leading – 1932
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
In 1932 while I was principal of a Junior High School in Massachusetts, I took my family up to Maine to visit my parents in Mars Hill. While there, an urgent invitation came to me from the Baptist Church in Bridgewater to speak at that church, which was closed for financial reasons. Because I had no reasonable excuse for refusing, I accepted the invitation and held two services, morning and evening.
At the close of the evening service, an impromptu business meeting was held and with unanimous voice they urged me to become their pastor. To free myself from the embarrassment of their importunities, I said, “I will pray about it.”
I surely did not want anything to do with that disreputable situation. But praying was part of my daily routine of living, so when next I bowed to pray, the Holy Spirit was on hand to see that I did not forget. To my dismay the answer came immediately and unmistakably clear, “I want you there”.
I said, “But Lord, if I cannot get along on $3,000 a year, how will I do without any salary, for they do not offer any set salary.” The Lord replied, “Are not my promises in Philippians 4:9 and II Corinthians 9:8 enough?”
I went. Nine years, innumerable miracles of providence and 160 funerals later (in my arguments against accepting I had told the Lord I could not stand the strain of conducting funerals), while I was on my way over to the church one day, He said, “You have finished what I wanted you to do here. You may leave now”. So I went into the church and submitted my resignation to take effect in three months, as our by-laws required.
The three months passed quickly and I found myself delivering my last message as pastor on Sunday evening, October 1, 1941. Still I had receive no word concerning His will regarding my next appointment. The next morning before our breakfast activities were complete, a car drove into the yard. He was a farmer from Houlton, a distance of about twenty-five miles.
“What are you going to do now, Pastor?” were his first words as he entered the house. “I do not know”, was my reply. “I am just waiting for orders from on High”.
“I do not know what the Lord wants”, he said. “But I do know that I have a house in Houlton, and my tithe will cover its rent as long as you need it. I will send a truck to move you there”.
“Thank you Lord”, I said. And in just a few days my needs were being amply met by the faithfulness of God through another job, another pastorate, and renewal of my faith in the unfailing promises of God.
So I have learned through seven pastorates extending over forty-five years that God knows best where we can serve fruitfully in His Kingdom, and that I can fully trust Him to open and shut doors till His will is done.
Divine Guidance Presupposes Human Obedience
During my pastorate at South Gorham, Maine, I learned the reality of the above statement the hard way. I was coming home from Portland one afternoon when the voice of the Holy Spirit said to me very definitely, “Go into the next house”. Almost automatically I slowed down as I approached the driveway. I knew that a widow lady lived there alone. So when I arrived at the entrance I noticed her car was not in the yard, and I jumped to the conclusion she was not at home.
Still the voice urged me to go in, but I drove on, sincerely thinking that she was not at home. The next morning I learned the truth. While I was going by her home, she was laying on the floor bleeding to death. The absence of her car was explained by the fact that her alcoholic brother had come and driven off with it without her permission.