Music and the Spoken Word has been uplifting and inspiring listeners for more than half a century with spiritual music and a touching message every Sunday morning. And for more than 25 of those years, the familiar voice of Lloyd Newell has introduced the program. Here are just six of his messages that encourage us to move forward in life and inspire us to overcome trials.
1. Have an Eternal Perspective
Our common lot is to be born into an imperfect world, filled with disappointment and unanswered questions. It is natural, in these circumstances, to worry about the future. We wonder if things will work out for us—and for our loved ones.
Too often we try to make sense of life based on a very narrow perspective, which is somewhat like trying to understand the plot of a novel after reading only one page. A perspective that is limited to what we can see, feel, touch, and explain right now will leave us unsatisfied and longing for something more, something deeper. A larger, more expansive, even eternal, perspective teaches us that good can come of bad, strength can be born of weakness, and joy can come on the other side of sorrow.
We are all called on to overcome obstacles of various kinds. This is necessary in order to fulfill our life’s purpose. Each challenge we face here can prepare us for something much greater hereafter. This life is a laboratory for eternity: we learn and grow; in time, we become better, wiser, more understanding. Distressing questions are ultimately answered, life’s injustices are eventually resolved, and what seems impossible becomes reality.
So try to accentuate the positive, and hold on to the assurance of good things to come.
We simply cannot cower in fear or let go of hope.
Many centuries ago, an Irish poet penned inspired lines of hope that have since been set to music and sung through many generations. The lyrics of “Be Thou My Vision” speak of confidence in the present and faith in the future, the kind of eternal perspective that will bring us safely home:
Great God of heaven,
My victory won,
May I reach heaven’s joys,
Bright heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart,
Still be my vision,
O Ruler of all.
2. Keep the Lower Lights Burning
A long time ago, noted preacher Dwight Moody told his congregation a story about a boat, helplessly rocking and plunging on a stormy, starless night near the Cleveland harbor.
The mariners on board could see the lighthouse, but they needed to find their way through the narrow passage in the treacherous rocks that surrounded the harbor. Normally a light on the shore, aligned with the lighthouse, marked the passage to safety. But on this night, the lower lights had gone out.
Finally, the desperate captain decided they had no choice but to proceed into the harbor without the guidance of the lower lights. “With a strong hand and brave heart”—but in almost total darkness—“the old pilot turned the wheel.” Tragically, he missed the channel, crashed the boat upon the rocks, and lost the lives of his sailors.
Moody then explained the lesson to be learned from his story: the Master will take care of the great lighthouse, but He depends on us to keep the lower lights burning. Philip Paul
Bliss was directing the singing at the meeting that night and was so inspired by Moody’s story that he wrote what would become one of his most popular hymns, “Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy.” He also composed the music, a hymn tune known as “Lower Lights,” which was first published in 1871.
The storms of life put many around us in peril. They may long to approach the light of “our Father’s mercy” but are unsure how to navigate the obstacles in their way. We all know how they feel, because each of us has been lost at sea from time to time.
Most often, God uses us to rescue them. If we can keep the light of faith burning in our hearts, if we align our light with the Light above, we can guide an exhausted mariner safely home. We can be the lower lights that “send a gleam across the wave. Some poor fainting, struggling seaman [we] may rescue, [we] may save.”
3. One Step is Enough
Life is lived one step at a time. If we’re patient, we can learn a lot from taking one step of faith—and then another and another.
In 1833, John Henry Newman was traveling from Europe back to his home in England.
He was already ill and homesick when he was seized by an attack of malaria. To make matters worse, the easterly breezes stopped blowing, fog closed in, and his ship was stalled at sea. He longed for England—for home—and became frustrated at the delay.
While stuck at sea, his heart turned heavenward. In the past, pride and self-interest had weakened his faith. But not now. He was discouraged and needed divine comfort and assurance. He was enshrouded in fog and needed heaven’s light.1 During those days while becalmed at sea, Newman wrote the words for which he would long be remembered:
Lead, kindly Light, amid th’ encircling gloom;
Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet;
I do not ask to see the distant scene—one step enough for me. (Hymns, no. 97.)
Often one step is enough. We may be paralyzed by pride or fear, not willing to take another step unless we know exactly where it leads. Or we may plot our whole path, complete with milestones along the way. Such goal-setting and determination can enhance life and be important for growth and progress. But as John Henry Newman learned, patience and peaceful resignation are also needed. Being stationary at sea can be as difficult as being tossed by the sea. We can’t always get the ship of life moving by our own resourcefulness and willfulness. Sometimes we just have to wait, to stay awhile in life’s present moments. During those seasons of life, inspiration and beauty can be born; faith in everlasting things can be rekindled. We can take comfort in the words of the Psalmist: “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart” (Psalms 27:14).
4. “For When I Am Weak, Then Am I Strong”
The Bible records that the Apostle Paul had what he called “a thorn in the flesh”—a trial or difficulty that helped to keep him humble and steadfast. He asked the Lord three times to take it from him, but it remained. Yet Paul came to see divine purpose in his infirmities and hardships, declaring with great wisdom, “For when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
At times, for each of us, the path of life seems to be all uphill, filled with obstacles and hazards. But these struggles are not meant to stop us or discourage us. They are meant to change us. If we face our challenges with all of the courage, patience, and faith we have—undoubtedly developing a great deal more in the process—we’ll reach the top of that hill and make an important discovery: In the journey of life, the destination is not as important as what we become along the way.
From that elevated perspective, we may notice that our hardships were the very things we needed to make us better and stronger. Becoming our best self often happens because of—rather than in spite of—unfavorable circumstances. Our greatest trials can become our greatest teachers.
It was this truth that inspired an unknown author to pen these words:
I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for but everything I needed.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am . . . most richly blessed.
5. Light a Candle
The story is told of a young girl who received a beautiful candle as a gift. It was delicate and unique; she treasured it so much that she decided to save it to light on a special occasion.
After a while, she put the cherished candle in a drawer where it would be safe from any harm. Many years later, she discovered the candle, now warped and curled almost into a C shape. It could no longer be lighted. The disappointing discovery became a defining moment for her. She determined she would light candles at every opportunity and not wait to enjoy them.
Today is the day to live. Of course, we must plan for the future and be wise about our resources and responsibilities. But instead of forever putting off today’s joys, we must live fully and seize the possibilities before us. The Bible teaches, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalms 118:24).
Parents whose children are grown and out of the house, counsel younger parents,
“Treasure all the little moments with your children; the years go so quickly. Soon they’ll be gone.” The elderly encourage, “Get out and enjoy a walk, hold a hand, while you can.” Those who have felt the deep pain of lost love advise, “Love with all your heart; tell those dear to you that you love them. Life is so short.” Experience teaches that sometimes tomorrow never comes and today is the day to live, to love, to cherish each other.
Sometimes we put things away where they’ll be safe and protected—and they are forgotten or become damaged over time. Maybe we wait too long. Perhaps we’re so caught up in regrets of the past and worries about the future that we miss the blessing of the here and now. The fear of chipping our best china may keep it locked up and unused for years.
Get the china out; use it. Light a candle; enjoy it. Each day relish a moment of life.
Give and receive love. Don’t wait to savor the small and simple treasures of life.
6. We are a Work in Progress
A masterpiece is a work that demonstrates extraordinary talent, artistic skill, or workmanship—a supreme intellectual or artistic achievement. Historically, a masterpiece represented an artist’s finest piece of work, evidence that he or she, after years of perfecting a craft, had achieved the rank of master. Yet when we see or read or listen to a masterpiece, we rarely think of the time, the effort, even the mistakes that accompanied its creation.
It has been said that each of us is a masterpiece in progress. That may seem trite or clichéd, but it’s a reassuring thought during those disheartening times when we feel like anything but a masterpiece.
Everyone goes through those times, including people who seem perfect—which, of course, no one is. We all have strengths and weaknesses, positive and not-so-positive traits and habits. We all have occasions when we are and are not at our best. Even though our past may be marred by mistakes and disappointments, our future holds the promise of growth and improvement.
Consider this wise counsel: “God wants to help us to eventually turn all of our weaknesses into strengths, but He knows that this is a long-term goal. . . . Many of you are endlessly compassionate and patient with the weaknesses of others. Please remember also to be compassionate and patient with yourself.”
No masterpiece is ever created all at once. So be thankful for the small successes, the simple joys, the good times, and even the hard times. Each one is another brushstroke, another stanza, another note toward the finished product. Each one gives us experience, teaches us, and strengthens us for what lies ahead. Life is a process of change and improvement: becoming a little kinder, a little stronger, a little better. So be patient with the process, and remember that each of us is a work in progress—a masterpiece in the making.