‘The Days are Long but the Years are Short’
For the promise is for you and your children. (Acts 2:39)
My wife was recently walking in a West Hartford park and met a young mother with her two children. As Wini struck up a conversation with the mom it was clear that she was exhausted from the demands of motherhood. Wini then used one of our favourite lines I first heard from my friend Jack Jagoditsch – ‘the days are long but the years are short.’ I well remember those days, when our young boys had so much energy that it was nearly impossible to put them down for a nap. I remember several times praying, beseeching the Lord to keep them asleep for a little longer, where we could have a break! Indeed, the days seemed so long at times, but the years are oh so short! Our children are now thirty-three, thirty-one, and twenty-seven. All are married to wonderful, godly women, who have blessed us, thus far, with four beautiful grandchildren with another, Lord willing, on the way in December .
I want to encourage you, especially those of you who are young parents, who sometimes are overwhelmed with exhaustion and stress. Yours is a glorious calling. I know you know that but in the midst of the long days you may sometimes forget the importance of your noble calling. Peter, in his sermon at Pentecost, is laying forth the marvellous promise to those Jews who were pierced to the heart, who asked, ‘What shall we do?’ Peter told them to repent and to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, and they consequently would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Peter did not stop there, however. He said this promise of forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit was for their children and for those far off, from the many nations of the world, to all whom the Lord would call to himself (Acts 2:39).
I have known Bill Iverson, a Presbyterian minister and evangelist, for over thirty years; and God’s faithfulness to his family has long been an inspiration to me. His grandparents, Halvor and Ervine Iverson, over one hundred years ago, stood at the baptismal font in a small church in Arndel, Norway and dedicated their son, Daniel to Christ, asking God to continue his covenantal faithfulness through him. Daniel came to know Christ at a young age, and moved to Miami, Florida in 1926 as a powerful Presbyterian minister and evangelist. Perhaps he is best known today as the author of the chorus, ‘Spirit of the Living God, Fall Afresh on Me.’ Daniel was used of God to plant twenty-one Presbyterian Churches, to send one hundred and fifty ministers and missionaries into the world, and to see thousands of conversions in and around Miami over the next several decades.
My friend Bill has served in the inner city of Newark, New Jersey for many years. During the ‘long hot summer’ of 1967 in Newark, Bill was asked by the police chief to see what he could do to defuse the volatile situation. As a white man he walked the streets in a clerical collar so that people would know he was there to help. I was recently in Newark preaching and saw countless African American and Hispanic ministers bear testimony to how God used Bill Iverson to lead them to Christ and to disciple them. Bill and his first wife Ann (she died in 1995 from cancer) sent their son, Dan, and his wife Carol, off many years ago as missionaries to Japan. God has done a remarkable work through them and all nine of their children love Christ and are serving him in some capacity. One of their sons, Danny, and his wife served for several years in inner city Newark and now are studying at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando.
Bill’s brother, Dan Jr., was a Marine Corps pilot in World War II, a hero of the Battle of Midway, killed later in the war on a training mission. He loved Christ, and a missionary plane was named after him and was used for many years in Congo. In fact, during an uprising in the early 1960s, the plane rescued a young girl, Liz Carper, and her missionary parents. Her grandfather was the well known preacher and evangelist, R. A. Torrey. Liz later met and married Dan Jr.’s nephew, Bill. Bill is a Ruling Elder who regularly teaches theology in Sri Lanka. He spent a great deal of time there bringing clean water to that country devastated by the terrible Tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Then there is Bill’s sister, Lalla, who died recently at the age of ninety. She professed faith in Christ at the age of three, desired to become a medical doctor at the age of seven, telling her father that she wanted to be like Jesus and serve the suffering poor. Lalla sensed God’s call to be a missionary at nine years old. She graduated from Johns Hopkins and while there established a chapter of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. At twenty-seven she taught pathology in China and narrowly escaped with her life when the Communists came in 1948. She commandeered a U.S. Air Force cargo plane to transfer her pathology lab, cadavers included, to Foochow, China. She later fled to Formosa, and then made her way back to the U. S. where she headed up the pathology department at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. In 1952 she reorganized the pathology department at the University of the Philippines. She later lived and served the poor in India, becoming good friends with Prime Minister Nehru, giving him counsel on rural village medical care. She designed a hospital that could be constructed by unskilled labour anywhere in the world and which was displayed at the British Museum and the Louvre in Paris.
I could go on and on. There is so much more. Why am I telling you all this about the Iverson family? The last thing I want to do, and certainly Bill feels this way, is to bring attention to a mere man. The Iverson family will be the first to say that this is all of grace. And while that is certainly true, it is also true that Halvor and Ervine prayed, believed God, instructed, and laboured for the salvation of their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Can we, should we do any less?
On the one hand, the present spiritual declension in our country is terribly troubling to me, and grieves me at times to the point of despair. But on the other hand, if godly parents would take seriously their high calling to instruct their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, if they would pray with and for them, if they would rear them with godly principles, with heaven in full view, if they would teach their children to live for the unseen, eternal verities, not merely to make money or to be popular, then perhaps God will visit us again with a multitude of godly families, giving us a generation or two of young people who live unashamedly for Christ, who use the gifts and talents God has given them to affect a kingdom expansion that will once again bring the glory of God to our country. Are you up for the challenge? Take it one day at a time. You have your children at home for such a short time. Devote yourself to their nurture in godliness. One of these days, they will rise up and call you blessed.
Al Baker’s sermons are now available on www.sermonaudio.com.
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