By Billie Marie Zal
(From the April, 1994 Wingspread)
When I was a little girl one of the things that made me furious was when my sister Kathleen and I were having a fight over who was to be “first,” and Mother would come along and smile and say, “Remember, girls, the last shall be first and the first shall be last.”
In my heart I knew that this came from the Bible but it didn’t seem at all fair to me. Perhaps it was because I was the younger, and I always wound up last anyhow. But “last” was to me an unhappy position, no matter what the Bible said. Like everyone else, I did not want to wait until some future date in Glory to be “first.” I wanted to be first NOW.
I can smile now about my attitude for I have learned through much tribulation that nothing comes to us now if we are like Jesus. We must wait for the Kingdom and become fit to inherit it then. But few members of Christ’s Body want to wait. As a result, I fear the Church is taking matters into her own hands and is going out making things happen without the anointing of God.
For example, I am often puzzled by the glorious tales that I hear of sudden, dramatic, once and for all occurrences that make folks instantly fit for entrance into Glory. If such a thing can happen without the chastening of God through the years of our Christian walk, then we would be super-people. Actually we would be instant super-people. But we are not super-people. We are lowly sinners, fallen from grace without the least spark of spirituality apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit. We are sinners saved by grace and born again into a new family, a new life. We are people who learn what we are by making mistakes, facing our anger, our resentments, our jealousies, our fears, our lack of love. We will never be super-people, for if we were super we would not need Jesus Christ.
As a result of our wanting to make things happen now, we have become a hypocritical Body, expressing beatific smiles and spouting pious phrases and all the while we are hating our enemies, refusing to forgive those who despitefully use us, refusing to submit to God’s sovereign will, and in no way displaying the character of the Beatitudes which would make us truly a spiritual Body.
Somewhere along the way the Church began to forget the principles that Jesus taught and lived. God always waited that He might be gracious and often I think how long it must have been throughout the eternal ages before Jesus was sent to earth to be our sacrifice for sin. How long God had to wait with this knowledge of what was to happen to His beloved Son on that awful day at Calvary.
Even when Jesus came, He had to wait thirty long years before he could even fulfill His purpose. He was always last. When the miracle of the loaves and fishes occurred His disciples went out and gathered twelve baskets full after everyone was finished. I often wondered why they did not gather thirteen. They must have forgotten that Jesus, too, was hungry. And in the Old Testament we read of Moses, the deliverer of Israel in Egypt, who had to tend sheep all those long, drab years on the back side of Midian. Having been the adopted son of the Egyptian princess, how weary the life must have seemed to him there.
I have always been so thankful that in my spiritual infancy God saw to it that I was last so that I would not get any big ideas about being first. He arranged circumstances where I was either too ill, or too poor, or too determined to follow at any cost, and so I could never, in the beginning days, go out and do the great exploits that my heart longed to do.
There were some terrific temptations, though. My deep desire was to reach the multitudes, of course. Salvation was so precious to me that I could not bear to think of the millions who have not experienced it. I almost became entangled in the snare of making things happen myself without waiting on God. In order to reach others I decided to form a “team” and go out and win souls. A Christian friend of mine who was in the advertising field (and who was a real fireball in this profession) offered his services if he could be on the team. Before I realized what was happening, we were mailing out rather hyped-up letters to churches in the area, hinting that we had something special and wouldn’t it be exciting to hear our message?! Humanly speaking, he did a great job of advertising. Our stationary was beautiful, his plans were specific, and he knew all the big names in the religious circuits.
But suddenly I felt smothered by a force not of God. I was getting into something which I did not feel right about and I went to the Word for confirmation. It was then that I learned that God does not put His Son on cheap display. How quietly Jesus went about, doing good; how firmly He refused honor in the flesh; how unhurried were His efforts at reaching those whom He had come to save; and how often He was forgotten and made “last,” for He said of Himself, “The foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head.”
I studied the life of my Master and I looked at our appeals for speaking engagements, our fancy paper, our scheduled appearances at all the “right” churches. And I decided that the team
was not for me. I really could not blame my friend for becoming furious when I told him. He had never received the revelation about being last and so of course he was angry. I lost his friendship which I valued, but I gained something eternal. And I was never deceived into going on the wrong path concerning a ministry again. My ministry was to be a hidden one, and now I would be prepared for whatever happened and know that I was in the perfect will of God.
It is good that I was prepared for God’s will because in the following six years or so, there was nothing delightful about following Jesus. The way was hard. I held Bible studies in homes where there was a need. Many times when the message became too hard for flesh to accept I was not invited back. Since I could make no dramatic appeals for support (it was forbidden of God), I used the nickels and dimes and pennies that were thrown my way. Often, after I would see some dear one born into the Kingdom, he or she would immediately join a neighboring church and put all of their tithes into that church, and of course forget that I needed gasoline to drive the old car to the Bible study, or food to keep me going. I thank God that I never coveted the money they gave to an organization because my thinking was that God Himself knew my needs and He would give me enough to go on. But if not, then I would somehow go on anyhow and not give in to the pressure of well meaning friends who wondered why I lived so poorly.
It is strange how people react to what one does for Christ when the ministry does not conform to the popular concept of ministry. I remember a lawyer friend knocking on my door one day. He sort of coughed, then lit his pipe and said that he and other influential friends of the community knew that I did not ask for financial support, but that it was a disgrace to drive an old broken down car and not have any earthly goods. So he and other men had gotten together and they decided to offer me a monthly income if I would teach under their auspices. Of course I refused. If I taught with strings attached then how would I know if I compromised? Might I not compromise a little?
So I continued to drive my old broken down car and reach an individual here and there who did want to know God. I smile to myself at the attitude of human beings. For now, when I live in a lovely home and drive a lovely car that seldom gives me any trouble, I am blamed for “having too much.” I still do not ask for help but I receive so many reports of what folks think of my prosperity that I have learned to accept their unkindness with a charitable heart and just ask God to forgive them. But had I compromised way back I might just wonder if they had a right to judge me.
It was during the lean years when I learned to “pray through” and enjoy being last. I had to pray that the car would start. Often when the motor went dead I would coast over to the side
of the highway, wait until it cooled off, and pray that it would start again. And miraculously, it did. I had to pray that my “empty” signal for the gasoline tank of the old car might be a few points off, for many a day I drove miles and miles on EMPTY and always got back home alright. The next day a dollar or two would come in and I would proudly buy my dollar’s worth of gas and head out for my next Bible study.
I had to pray for strength to get up and teach. I suffered a terribly painful disorder called “tic doloreaux.” It has been said that if you have this affliction you suffer the highest degree of pain possible, and I believe it. So I would pray all through the study that I could just hold out without letting anyone know how I felt, so that it would not create a weakness of my own flesh in wanting to give up and go home when someone needed help. I was not noble. I was merely obedient. My flesh cried out desperately for relief from the pain, but I am allergic to any drug that would relieve the pain. And besides, I could not have afforded the drug then, anyway. During this time I learned that God loves us even when He permits such pain, and indeed expects us to go on in spite of the pain.
I prayed for enough money to meet my daily needs. And I prayed for little windfalls that would permit me to give my son something lovely for Christmas. Once I was fortunate enough to sell some beautiful Christmas cards and I got enough money to buy him a luxury bike. What a glorious joy that was, to give him such a nice gift.
I prayed through for graces that would enable me not to covet my neighbor’s goods. All my children in Christ had such lovely homes and I had nothing. But the joy of being happy for them, and actually enjoying these homes as though they were my own, was something that I treasure to this day. In my poverty I had made many rich in spiritual things and how could I covet their blessings when I loved them so?
During all those years of praying through I learned an all important lesson. In being last we do indeed become first. For we learn the merit of spiritual values. We do not look upon the things which are seen, and are temporal. We look upon the things that are not seen, which are eternal in the heavens. I have often told my dear ones in Christ that we do not suddenly become fit for the Kingdom. There is no way that this can happen. We become fit for the Kingdom by learning to do without, by learning to love those who hate us, by praying for those who despitefully use us, by giving and not getting in return, by loving and remaining unloved, by taking insult without fighting back, and by accepting with meekness the blessed will of God when there is nothing in that will except His refining fires upon our flesh.
I often think back upon the times when I was exposed to the love of Jesus in my paternal
grandmother. She was so very “last.” I have memory pictures of her tiny little figure rushing up and down the outside stairs of her second floor apartment with her little coal bucket in her hand, making her own fire. I catch a glimpse back in time of her sitting at my mother’s old sewing machine, trying to make me a costume for the glee club so that I could sing at the county contest. We didn’t have much money in those days, so she made a grand costume for me out of some old sheets and things. Or I see her being so needed. Everyone needed her, and hands stretched out to her continually for help. She never rested. She was always last.
And I think back upon our Sunday dinners when my mother fixed fried chicken and she always got the wing. I used to think that she preferred the wing, but now I know (since I have learned to be last) that she was taking what she thought no one else wanted.
If you have felt out of sorts for always being last and not doing the great things for God that others do, remember that God is looking for people now to inherit the Kingdom, to the last, and thus be fitted in spirit to be with Him then, right in the midst of all His Glory. Pray through on this matter, and take heart. And give thanks to God that you are last here, and that you shall be first “over There!”
One evening this week I tuned in the live broadcast of Pastor Melissa Scott. She was talking about commitment to our calling. Once we claim to be Christians we do have a calling. She asked the question, what if we were all told that we had just one week of life left? How would we live our life that last week?
What she said got me to thinking. I often feel helpless. Satan has done a job on the Church as a whole. And what can I do to change it all? Not much I’m afraid. “Christianity” has become powerful in the world system. It now has a voice and control in politics. The largest churches are “pastored” by motivational speakers and the people only want to hear how much healthier, richer, and better they can become. It’s a “do-it-yourself Gospel.”
In 2nd Timothy 4:3-4, the Apostle Paul warns Timothy of the danger threatening the Church: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine but, after their own lusts, shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” So less than a hundred years after the death and resurrection of Christ people were already twisting the Gospel to fit their own ideas of what kind of God they wanted. I looked up the word FABLE in the dictionary. A fable is a myth, a ridiculous story, an old wives tale, a falsehood, to invent, or to relate as if true.
But the true Word of God has survived through the ages, passed along by faithful men who taught the Bible only, and in many cases paid with their lives for this treasure of God’s Word which we have today. We had men like Paul who stood up to even the Apostle Peter (Galatians 2: 11-12); and Luther, who withstood the organized corrupt Church; to men like Tyndale, who’s determination to translate the Bible into English, the
language of the ordinary folks, so infuriated the Church authorities that he was burned at the stake in the year 1536.
In Revelation 22:19 God warns us not to take away or add to the words of His Book. Yet I hear this being done continually by these so called “pastors.” They will have a lot to answer to before God one day. In Matthew 15:14 Jesus said, “Let them alone; they are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” Jesus knew that some would never want the truth. They turn a blind eye to reality and never face themselves. But “the Lord knoweth them that are His” (2nd Timothy 2:19).
So if this was the last week of my life I would continue the work which was placed before us with Billie’s death. Everyone here would. This is our calling and we will continue the path which God has set out for us.
Our ministry has always been under spiritual attack, and by God’s help we have survived and kept going. The attacks have become more intense as time passes, for the devil knows that his time is short and he will do what he can to crush all truth and love from this world.
Some weeks ago we were notified by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections that we could no longer send books or bibles to prisoners there. Also, we were told that no more money orders could be sent on birthdays or at Christmas. One Chaplain wrote to us and stated that no personal letters could be written under the heading of the prison ministry. They seem to have a problem with us sharing personal things in our life.
We are fighting these policies vigorously. We have an attorney from the Rutherford Institute who is helping us with all this. We ask that you all pray about the situation because that is the only way we will have a break-though. This is not just an earthly battle with the government, but more importantly it’s a spiritual battle. Satan wants to keep love, kindness, and the Word of God from reaching the prisoners in Oklahoma.
God loves to hear us ask for His help. I know this as we have had a personal answer to prayer recently. Most of you know that Rodney suffered from severe back pain for many months. The doctors wanted thousands of dollars to treat him and we could not afford that. But a little over a month ago the pain started to leave and Rodney says he has absolutely no pain in his back now at all. We believe that his healing came about as a result of many prayers and he wanted to thank each of you who prayed for him.
Its getting hot on the mountain, but then its August and that time of year. So it’s to be expected. We’re all managing to “beat the heat,” for the most part. Brian and Gail are taking a few (well deserved) days off later this month. Ed and Shirley are well. Shirley wanted to thank all of you guys who remembered her on her birthday last month. She received several cards and notes and it meant a lot to her. Jay and Terry are doing well, too. They both seem to either be working or sleeping all the time. Rodney has been fixing up a house for our neighbor across the highway to rent out, plus a lot of weed eating and watering around here. In between there’s mail to read and answer. We are all keeping busy.
“The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell.”
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, in late 1800s
Prayer Requests for August, 2008
For Freddie Lee Lott, Galesburg, Illinois, that his lung cancer will stay in remission.
For Willie Harper at Joliet, Illinois, who has stomach cancer and will undergo surgery in September.
For Willie Scott, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, for his health, and that his diabetes will stay under control.
For Michael Small’s son, Derek, that he will come back to the Church. Michael is at Menard, Illinois.
For Michael Chavez’ friend, Ambre Adams, and her new baby. Michael is at Grady, Arkansas, and Ambre lives in Springdale, Arkansas.
For David Harp at McAlester, Oklahoma, for his anger, and that God will give him the strength to get thru his last year of prison.
For Frank Williams, Jr., death row at Grady, Arkansas, for favor with the courts to stop his execution which has been set for September 9th.
For Cleveland Cook at Florence, Arizona, that the medical staff there will get their act together and have him scheduled for liver treatment.
For Willie Clark at Iowa Park Texas, that the pressure in his eyes will stay low; and for his new friend, Ms. Gill.
For Joseph Runge’s Mother who has bladder cancer. She just had surgery and will be going thru chemotherapy for a long time. Joseph is at Centralia, Illinois.
For Marcos Zavala’s Mother, that she doesn’t get stressed out and sick because of Marcos’ situation. Marcos is in jail at the Tarrant county jail in Fort Worth, Texas.
For everyone on H unit (death row) at McAlester, Oklahoma, that the air conditioning will work the rest of the summer.
For Sister Ann & all the Carmelite Nuns in Little Rock.
For Robert Heffernan, Grady, Arkansas, for his health, and that he’ll be able to walk on his own soon.
For Pastor Scott & her ministry in Los Angeles.
For our friend, Ed Ewing in Dinuba, California, who is 87 years old.
For Tommy Hayes & everyone at the Stevenson Unit at Cuero, Texas.
For all of us at Wingspread.
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