He was an old saint when I knew him. He had a small part in the church’s musical production; just one song. But in every rehearsal, the same thing happened… he couldn’t get through that one little song without crying! I wondered about it! Was he feeble… confused… or just overly sentimental? Or had the years taught him something that I had not yet learned?
Time has passed… almost 50 years in all. I can no longer remember his name. But now I am old, too, and now I know why the old saint cried…
He cried at the remembrance of God’s faithfulness to him through all the years. He cried at the evidence of God’s goodness, grace, and love shown by all the glorious answers to prayer over half a century of time!
The song he sang back in the 70’s was an old Bill Gaither tune called “The Longer I Serve Him,” and the chorus goes like this:
“The longer serve Him, the sweeter He grows,
The more that I love Him, more love He bestows;
Each day is like heaven, my heart overflows,
The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows.”
Like so many of you dear readers out there, I believe that our time here is almost over. I wanted to take this opportunity to recount to you just 6 stories of the faithfulness of the Lord in my life over the past half-century to encourage younger saints before I go. I have hesitated to post an article like this because it may give the appearance of pride to some. It is not at all meant that way. This article is intended to glorify God by magnifying His love and grace in one saint’s life, but I believe that He loves all of you as much as He loves me! This means that, if Christ tarries, you also will eventually experience these kinds of answers to your own prayers as you call on His name in your time of need.
Then, you, too, will know why old saints cry…
1971 – The Book My Father Sent!
“Don’t call me. I’ll call you!” Trite, but true, those were my exact words to the Lavendar family as they dropped me off at my dorm on that beautiful evening in May of 1971. I had just “wasted” the entire day with them, arguing about the claims of Christ as they explained them to me from the Bible for the first time.
Out of gratitude for their hospitality and sincerity, I finally agreed to pray with them before I left. I was far from ready to pray to receive Christ as they wanted me to, but I did agree to pray that the God of my ancient people, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, would show me if Jesus really was my long-lost Messiah.
As I left their home, Mr. Lavendar offered me a book to read for further study. I knew it to be a “Christian” book, so I accidentally (on purpose) left it in their dining room as we departed for the trip back to campus. With a quick wave, I turned to run up the steps to my dorm, and I remember thinking to myself, “What was THAT day all about!?” In the lobby, I went to check my mailbox and was happy to find that a package had arrived for me from home. On occasion, my father and grandmother would send me a kosher salami, baked goods, and other goodies. I tore open the box with expectation, then stopped and stood transfixed. I must have gone pale because I recall the desk clerk asking me if I was alright.
There, on top of the box, was the same book I had scorned just an hour before! Suddenly, all of the events of the day came rushing back to the front of my mind.
Could God be answering my prayer this quickly?! I started reading in the elevator on the way up to my floor, and soon that book was changing my heart and my life. I called the Lavendar family the next morning for a ride to the church service they had invited me to.
The title of that book was Run, Baby, Run, written by the converted gang leader, Nicky Cruz. The Lord had healed him of serious addictions to violence, hate, and heroin, and my father had sent it to me just in case I was being tempted by drugs on campus and needed help. He told me later that if he had known it was a Christian book, he never would have sent it! But someone else had other plans because it was really my heavenly Father who sent it to me!
“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jer. 32:17).
1980 – The Parable of the Trees
Struggles in the faith don’t end with one’s salvation… some would say that’s where they start! I had been a believer for over seven years already when I was challenged by a strong attack on the doctrine of the Trinity. Satan’s marionette was a vivacious, well-spoken wife of an orthodox rabbi. She gave a message in a synagogue I attended that night. The doctrine of the Trinity is truly so mysterious that I had not yet fortified myself with enough truth and faith to overcome such an attack as she delivered. I left the place staggering. I knew I had to talk to my heavenly Father quickly and ask Him for His help.
It was dusk when I got to the local park that night. I took a seat under a tree and began to pray. “Lord, I never have really understood how the One true God I was taught to honor in my childhood could have suddenly morphed into three persons! This woman’s words have shaken me! Please help me to understand and believe correctly about this New Testament teaching.” I waited… no scriptures came to my mind. I waited… no still, small voice came to my heart. I waited…
Dusk had turned to twilight, but there was still enough light to make out a strange sight about 100 feet away in the darkness. It was a tree with a slender trunk but a great amount of foliage – too great for a tree so young. I know the importance of not trusting in feelings, but I had learned to recognize a certain feeling of joyful, peaceable anticipation, even urgency, by which the Holy Spirit had guided me in the past. It was a feeling that I should pursue something even before I knew why I was doing it. I had that feeling now! I stood to my feet and walked toward the tree. As I got closer, I could see the reason that it had looked unusually large – there was another tree the very same size hiding directly behind the first. I drew closer still and saw a third tree exactly in line with the first two!
The closer I came to them, the more clearly I could see and understand this phenomenon, but from my earlier vantage point, they had looked exactly like one large tree! Suddenly, I knew why I had been summoned by the Holy Spirit.
I was almost trembling from the strength of the Spirit’s confirmation within me!
Here were three separate living trees, all of the same kind, yet living so closely together that they ever and always would remain in perfect alignment with each other. Each tree had its own root system, but all were intertwined. From afar, they all appeared as one… only upon closer inspection was their secret revealed!
As a young believer, my perspective had been immature and not well-informed by scripture. Yet, as I was led by the Spirit to pursue more understanding about the truth I had been taught, God supplied that understanding and increased my faith in His word and in His willingness to respond to my questions!
Since that time, 40 years ago, I have studied this doctrine without fear and found that there is so much that the rebbetzen (rebbe’s wife) did not know. Now I look forward to showing my Jewish people what I have learned about our 3-in-1 God, but I will never forget the soft, silent, sweetness of God’s kindly reply to a scared, young Christian.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:6).
1992 – The Envelope in a Haystack!
My 95-year-old great-aunt Amelia had just died. Right up to her death-bed, I had tried to tell her about Jesus, but she would not hear of Him. After she passed, I felt terrible. I could not help but wonder if she might have felt differently had she been told of the Lord’s love much earlier in her life by a friend and not by her young and very imperfect grand-nephew. It all bothered me so much that I turned it into a prayer, asking God to show me if anyone had ever tried to speak the gospel message to Amelia in her younger days. I did not even pause to imagine just how the Lord may be able to answer such a prayer.
An awful lot of things can be accumulated in 95 years, especially when every single letter and souvenir is carefully saved! We began the long business of going through my aunt’s belongings. The basement floor was literally covered with over 100 large bags holding papers, articles, and old keepsakes of all sorts. Suddenly, I felt my eyes drawn to one bag over to my right. I did not know why. On the very top of that bag, an old envelope was perched at an angle as if hoping to be seen. As if in a trance, I found myself opening that envelope to read the yellowed pages within. The postmark was May of 1944, and there were several paragraphs written there by one of Aunt Amelia’s few Christian friends. The heart of her message went something like this…
“My Dearest Amelia, I must appeal to you one more time on behalf of my Savior, Jesus, who loved you and gave His life for you!”
“The one who calls you is faithful…” (1 Thess. 5:24).
2000 – The Prayer He Loves to Answer!
One of my favorite things about our God is that He is never bothered by our questions, so long as our attitude is humble and sincere. I quoted James 1:5 above, and it applies again to the following answer to prayer…
I had been a believer in Christ for 27 years already when I finally asked the Lord to help me understand the phrase “Son of God.” It is a phrase that most Gentiles of my generation were well-familiar with, but as a rabbinical Jew, I was never raised with any such strange notion. Once saved, I just accepted it by faith, but I must admit that I had never quite gotten to be comfortable with it.
One day, I had had enough. I admitted to the Lord that it was a weak place in my faith, and I needed Him to address it. My prayer went something like this…
“Lord Jesus, I know you are my Messiah and my Redeemer, but where in the Torah does it ever refer to you as being the ‘Son of God’!? It sounds so goyishke!” (alien to Judaism)
If that prayer sounds slightly belligerent, it is only because it was! Yet even though my tone was not so respectful, God must have seen that my heart was sincere, for He answered me within a week!
I was reading in Mark 2:1-12 about the time Jesus was healing a paralytic man.
I had often read how Jesus referred to Himself as the “Son of Man,” but I had never taken the time to study why. This time, I got curious. I followed the footnotes to 2 other references, both from the Old Testament. Here they are below…
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed“ (Daniel 7:13-14).
“When your days are over and you go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever‘” (1 Chronicles 17:11-14).
I stretched myself out on the floor of my office that day and cried like I only had years earlier when I found the promise of a new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34. God had answered me thoroughly and quickly because I had prayed the prayer He loves to answer most … any prayer asking the Ancient of Days to reveal to us the identity of His beloved Son!
“If any man desires to do His will [God’s pleasure], he will know [have the needed illumination to recognize, and can tell for himself] whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking from Myself and of My own accord and on My own authority” (John 7:17, AMP Bible).
2010 – He Owns the Cattle on 1,000 Hills!
I was praying about retirement in the Spring of 2010. It felt like the Lord was telling me it was time, but I knew I could not afford it. I had withdrawn several years of my service credit earlier in my career, and now they had ballooned into a necessary payment of $70,000 before I met the requirements for a pension!
One night, at the weekly prayer meeting, I told the group all about it. The pastor encouraged me to pray that the Lord would send me the necessary funds if it was His will for me to retire. It took all my faith to ask the Lord for such a large sum, but Pastor Ken added that the Lord had once answered a similar prayer for him, so I prayed that night and waited to see what the Lord might do.
Eleven days later, I received a call from my sister, who was known for her frugality. She was happily telling me about a large sum of money which had just fallen into her lap. I rejoiced with her but then fell silent when she added, “So, just in case you or Becky ever have an emergency, I could make you a loan.” “How much money are we talking about here,” I squeaked. “Well,” she said, “up to $70,000 if you really need it.”
She was as good as her word, and several months later, I retired with God’s blessing. With a portion of my pension now available, I was eventually able to repay my sister in full. A friend of mine once remarked that we “sow in faith and reap in shock,” but the Bible reminds us not to be so surprised because,
“Blessed be the God of Israel, Who only does wondrous things!” (Ps. 72:18).
11.8.18 – A Match Made in Heaven
My wife was born with an inherited disease that deprived her of proper kidney function by 2016. She began dialysis but hated every minute of it. In 2017, her physician and surgeon told me that her body could not tolerate long-term dialysis. We had been praying for a donor for several years. Now I knew that I had to do even more. I sent out a group email to over 100 of my contacts with an urgent appeal for a donor; 6 folks stepped up, but no one was able to qualify.
Several months later, a woman sent me an email telling me that she had just now found my email in the trash of her old email account. She made it clear that she would be honored to be Becky’s donor! Becky had never met this woman, and I had not seen her in 35 years. Here is what she told us…
Jody was her name. 35 years before, as a 6th-grade student, she had been suffering from terrible physical abuse at home and had become an angry and anti-social little girl. Her teacher had noticed all this and began to take her to church in an effort to bring her the help and comfort only God could give. At one of these meetings, she reached out for the love of a heavenly father who would never hurt her. She never let Him go, and He had brought her so much healing over the passing years that now she was active in her church on the worship team and with the youth group, praying for other young girls with a similar past as hers.
She never forgot that teacher and thanked God for him often. I had been that teacher; and now, Jody, the adult, wanted to do something wonderful for me and my wife!
Four more months of testing and waiting were yet to come, but one October day, we got the news… Jody not only passed every test easily – she was a perfect medical match in all six criteria for transplantation! Truly, the Lord had sent me a “match made in heaven“! On November 8th, 2017, Becky received a new kidney from her new friend and little sister in the family of Christ. Her surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic was so delighted with her progress that he sent her home in record time. There is so much more to tell about many other things the Lord did for us at that time, but it can all be summed up by a single verse from Mark:
“People were overwhelmed with amazement. ‘He has done everything well,’ they said” (Mark 7:37).
Dear brothers and sisters, I have a written record of 130 other answers to prayer I have received over the years, and I am sure I have forgotten many more than these. If your heart has been encouraged to read of the faithfulness of our God, and you want to enjoy a few more, just email me, and I would be happy to send several others along to you. In these final days, let us remember that…
“God does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:11).
What He has done for one, He stands ready to do for all! In these last days, let us also remember to pray most of all for the lost and for the workers in the harvest.
Robert Asher Mandel … firstname.lastname@example.org