The runners on the relay team poured out all their energy running their leg of the race. The next runner got in the
proper lane and waited with eager anticipation for his teammate to hand him the baton. The runner in the lead
stretched out his hand to give the baton to the next man but something went wrong. He dropped it, and by the
time it was retrieved the team was so far behind that they lost the race. If you have watched or participated in
track and field long enough, I am sure you have witnessed the preceding incident.
Losing a relay race by dropping the baton is heartbreaking. But when we drop the baton of spiritual truth in handing it to the next generation, it becomes tragic. Time and time again when leaders passed from the scene in the Bible they gave careful instructions and firm warnings to their successors. Moses commissioned Joshua to be very courageous and to meditate in the book of the law day and night. Joshua challenged Israel with those memorable words: “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). David spoke specifically to Solomon to seek the Lord. The great Apostle Paul in his farewell letter told his son in the faith Timothy: “And
the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). As Paul handed the baton to Timothy he was to be careful to hand it off to other faithful men.
Whose fault is it when the baton gets dropped? Perhaps it is the one responsible for handing it to the next person. Those of us who have been enmeshed in the truth of the Word of God have a vital responsibility to make sure that we do everything we can so that the next generation has the truth that we have been carrying. We dare not drop the baton. I believe that the next runner in the race is also responsible to take up the baton and run the race of the Christian faith steadily. The baton of God’s truth is too important to drop.
During an early morning walk my ears caught a faint rustling sound off in the distance. I looked around at the
trees and it seemed that not a leaf was moving. Then I noticed that about a half block ahead of me there was one tree that was producing all the rustling sound. While the leaves of the neighboring trees barely moved, the leaves of the cottonwood tree seemed to be applauding with joy in the slight breeze. My friend the cottonwood tree felt the breeze and was giving a standing ovation to the heavens.
I wonder how sensitive we are to the slightest blessings that come our way from the Lord. Do we respond in praise when the Lord sends answers to our prayers? Are we thankful for the health we have and the provision of food, clothing and shelter? Do we respond with a grateful heart and vocal praise whenever we are blessed with even a slight breeze from heaven?
In the gospel of Luke chapter 17 Jesus met ten men who were consumed with the disease of leprosy. They appealed to Jesus for mercy. In healing them He instructed the lepers to go show themselves to the priests. As they went, their leprosy was miraculously healed. What a joyful occasion for those ten men. After they showed themselves to the priest so they could return to society, one of them just had to come back to Jesus, fall at His feet, and give Him thanks. Jesus asked the newly healed leper: “Where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”
The blessings of our Almighty God daily blow into our life. His refreshing breezes restore our souls and delight our hearts. I wonder if we notice. I wonder if we return like the grateful leper to give God our wholehearted thanks. Let’s determine to be like the cottonwood tree, who gives God a standing ovation of praise for even the slightest breeze of His blessings.
A craftsman who specialized in carving walking sticks was explaining how he found just the right wood for his special projects. He happened to live in the mountains of North Carolina and whenever he was searching for just the right piece of wood for his artistry he would travel to the top of a mountain where the wind and elements took a toll on the small trees. It was there he would discover a piece of wood that was twisted and gnarled by the elements. The craftsman would then cut the branch and carve it into a beautiful and valuable walking stick. He said, the gnarled wood makes the best walking sticks.
When God looks for servants that will be effective and valuable tools in His hands He often chooses gnarled wood. Peter spoke about the genuineness of our faith that being much more precious than gold, would be tested by fire (1 Peter 1:7). Paul was constantly being arrested, beaten, and threatened. He did without the necessities of life often and suffered constantly. Yet the trials Paul suffered only turned him into one of the greatest
servants of God the world has known. He said in Phil. 1:12 writing from prison: “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel”. Think of all the Bible people who were persecuted, tested and even ignored but were mightily used by God. The heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11 were all examples of gnarled wood.
Are you experiencing the winds of testing or the fires of suffering in your life? Are you wondering why God has allowed you to go through things that leave you at a loss for a reason? Perhaps God is creating in you a piece
of gnarled wood. The stresses and strains of life are used by God in creating a toughness of soul and the beauty
of Christlikeness in us. Rejoice that God the Master Craftsman loves to use gnarled wood like you and me.
It was a pleasant day for a boat ride. We were enjoying the day on Canyon Lake just west of Phoenix with my
daughter and her family. The ½ hour ride to our picnic spot was very enjoyable as we got to see Desert Big Horn
Sheep and curious rock formations on the canyon walls. After lunch we began our trip back to the boat ramp but soon discovered that the engine was overheating. The boat was not going to make it back on its own power.
We were stuck. Helpless and dead in the water we began waving at passing boats. One boat was too busy fishing to take the time to give us a tow. Another boat said maybe later after they were done with their day on the lake. A third boater just waved back and continued on his way. Finally, an older couple stopped by our crippled boat and threw us a line and towed us to shore. When we offered to pay, they simply related that they have been in the same position before and needed a tow.
David was being hunted and hounded by Saul. He hid himself in the woods and in the mountains. During a particularly low time in his life the Bible tells us that Jonathan, Saul’s son went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God (1 Sam. 23:16). David needed encouragement. He needed to know that God had not abandoned him and would come to his aid. Jonathan stepped up and became the one to throw David a rope and give him a tow.
Have you ever become stuck in your spiritual life? Maybe you were going along pretty well and then something happened and you found yourself helpless and dead in the water. It is during these times that we need to seek out the encouraging help of godly friends. They can strengthen our grip on God. They can breathe hope into our sagging spirit and they can get us moving towards shore again. And remember, those of us with a good engine need to be sure to stop and help anyone in need of a tow.
Pastor Stultz has been writing this weekly devotional for many years. In 2009, he published a compilation of devotionals in book form, also called Moments of Meditation