Robert E. Surgenor
As noticed last month, we are abiding in a city that is most appealing to the flesh. The homes of the people are in need of nothing. The meeting place of the church is in need of nothing. The people themselves are in need of nothing. Self-sufficiency reigns supreme. Why pray?
The Lord has presented Himself as the Amen. He now continues to unfold to this self-sufficient church that in contrast to their behavior, He is "the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God" (Rev. 3:14). To be a true witness, firstly, one must see with his own eyes. Secondly, he must be absolutely honest to repeat with accuracy. Thirdly, he must have the ability to tell what he has to say. Hundreds of years prior to this letter, God declared concerning His Son, "Behold, I have given Him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people" (Isa. 55:4). Christ Himself makes this stewardship known to Pilate, saying, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth" (Jn. 18:37). In the midst of falsehood and unfaithfulness, our blessed Lord was marked by loyalty to His God. He perfectly represented the Father. As for the church of the Laodiceans, they were given to compromise. They sadly lacked fidelity and consistency. How unlike the Lord who "before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession" (1 Tim. 6:13). Let me ask you, since "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps" (1 Pet. 2:21), are you a faithful and true witness? Or, are you like the Laodicean church, given to compromise, never definite, but willing to accommodate yourself to any opinion? This church was a spiritual chameleon.
The Lord proceeds to unveil another attribute - "The beginning of the creation of God." Cults project this statement as if Christ was the first of all created beings. However, nothing could be further from the truth. What the Lord is saying is, that He is the Authority and Cause of Creation. He is the first cause of everything. He is the Beginner, Author, moving principle and source of Gods vast creation! The false teachings of gnosticism were impregnating the assemblies in the Lycus valley. How relevant were His words on this occasion. Thirty years prior to our visit this assembly had the Colossian letter read in their gathering (Col. 4:16). In that letter were contained these words concerning the Lord: "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation" (Col. 1:15 R.V.). The expression "firstborn" indicates priority and highest dignity. Moses through divine inspiration commences the Holy Scriptures with these words, "In the beginning God (Father, Son, and Spirit) created the heaven and the earth" (1:1), thus attributing creation to the Trinity. However, when we move into the New Testament, John, by the Spirit, in commencing his gospel, expresses the creative activity of our Lord with these weighty words: "All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made" (1:3). The Laodiceans boasted of their wealth, but what was their wealth in comparison to His? Nothing! He was the beginning of all things and this assembly needed a new beginning! He is exhorting them to trust in the source of all created things, rather than in those things.
One considers Abram when the king of Sodom said to him, "Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lifted my hand to the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich" (Gen. 14:21-23). Noble Abram recognized the fact that His God was the Most High God and as such He possessed heaven and earth. Do you recognize this my friend? Are you fearful of the future, thus laying up for yourself treasures on earth? Have you ever realized that Abrams God is our God? As the Most High He amply provides power, protection, and provision to meet every single need that may come our way. Consider men who have given up their secular employment, sold their belongings and have gone to foreign shores to carry the gospel to those who sit in darkness. What faith! Has their God ever forsaken them or been unable to meet their needs? How could He, for He is the possessor of heaven and earth! David exclaimed, "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread" (Ps. 37:25). But you may cry, "I have trials." To this we reply with Gods promise, "There hath no temptation (trial) taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted (tried) above that ye are able; but will with the temptation (trial) also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13). What an all-sufficient God we have Ñ Jehovah-Jireh!
The man that made the deepest impression on my life was a little man, great in faith. His name was David L. Roy, a Scotsman and full-time servant of the Lord. His two-room apartment was in a poor section of Cleveland. His total wardrobe consisted of underclothing, socks, one pair of shoes, five black ties, six white shirts, two suits, one overcoat, one summer and one winter hat. He was plagued with diabetes, one lung, a crushed shoulder, and angina. I never saw him dressed without his suit and tie. Many hours were spent in his little apartment as he unfolded the Word of God to my soul. On one occasion, while preaching in Indiana, PA, he received word that his wife was dying. He told me that he didnt even have enough money to purchase a postage stamp. He told the Lord, "Thou hast given me a wife and I should be by her side in the time of her death, do provide the means for my return to her." Packing his little grip he asked the Christian in whose home he was lodging to take him to the bus station, which he did. Mr. Roy got into line to purchase his ticket, but he was penniless. The brother took a seat on the side of the station. Finally, brother Roy came to the ticket agents window. His heart was beating heavily and silently he lifted his heart to God and said, "Lord, what do I do now? Thou hast promised to meet all of my need." The agent spoke, "Yes sir?" to which Gods servant replied, "A one-way ticket to Cleveland please!" While the agent was making out the ticket, the brother sitting on the side rushed over and abruptly said, "Brother Roy, keep your wallet in your pocket, Im buying your ticket!" David Roy thanked God silently and turned to the brother and thanked him. He never did convey to that brother that he had no money. What an act of faith! Every Saturday this man of faith would fill the gas tank of his car, shop for that coming weeks groceries, lay aside the Lords portion and then mail out all the money that he possessed to widows. In other words, he commenced each week looking entirely to God to meet his need.
It was difficult for him to climb the stairs to his second story apartment. However, one day the apartment underneath, on the first floor, became vacated. I suggested to him that it would be easier on him to take it, thus eliminating the stair climbing. I shall never forget his words. "Robert, that apartment rent is $5 more. That would be less for the widows." He didnt move. He had $300 set aside in the bank to pay for his funeral. This man thought so little of himself that he forbade anyone to tape his messages or take his photograph. Upon naming our youngest son "David Roy," I requested a picture of Mr. Roy, so that we could show our son his namesake in later years. With a smile, the dear old man replied, "Robert, show him Romans chapter three, my picture is there." Finally the day came when he entered a hospital and written on his hospital form were these words, "This man is penniless." The bills mounted to thousands of dollars. It was a long stay and finally the Lord took him home. His field of labor was small.
An assembly in Pennsylvania was planted as a result of his labors and he spent much time with the Steubenvile and Toronto assemblies. The funeral was unique. I asked brother William Ferguson (former editor of this magazine) to conduct it. Mr. Roy had left instructions on what text to preach and also stated nothing was to be said of him, but that the Triune God be exalted. No flowers were allowed. Death seemed so real on that stark occasion. He wanted it that way. The saints of the Steubenvile and Toronto assemblies were present and they all broke down in tears at the service. It was an unforgettable experience. We all claim to be pilgrims and strangers, but here was a man that was truly such, a man that proved His God in a remarkable way. Out of "nowhere" money came to us, to help with the large hospital bill, until finally we were returning money sent, as the Lord had fully paid it all. One assembly wrote wanting to know the entire expense. They wanted the honor of paying the total bill. I wrote back that they were too late and that their money wasnt needed. One old brother said to me. "God buried two men, Moses and David L. Roy." Let us ever be aware of this:
He knows, He loves, He cares.
Nothing this thought can dim.
He always takes the best of care.
To those who trust in Him.
May we, the Lords people ever appreciate the all-sufficiency of our God. However, His role of a Father to us is conditional. Consider His promise - "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6:17-18).
There is much to consider regarding the Laodicean Church. May the Lord preserve us from being like them. They have need of nothing! Their affluence abounds and we shall notice our Lords appraisal of it all next month. In the meantime, let us all learn to trust God more.