Tom McGivern - Eternal Hope - Maroota II, Australia Convention - 2017

Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.” John 21:15, “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?' He saith unto Him, 'Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee.' He saith unto him, 'Feed My lambs.'” That first verse I read has been coming back to me, and it always reminds me of my grandmother. I don’t have to tell you that I am Irish. The part of Ireland I came from was 95% Roman Catholic and I came from the other 5%. Up until about 1960, it would have been very difficult for a Catholic person to listen to the Gospel or to go to anything other than the Catholic church, so almost all of our friends would have come from the other 5% of the population. One lady, Mary Brown, was a Roman Catholic and worked as a maid with some of our friends and she listened to the Gospel and made her choice. When her family heard about it, they talked to the priests and arranged to kidnap her and put her in a convent, but she escaped and went to America and went into the work there. Quite a story_


My great-grandmother’s family were Roman Catholic and in the 1840s, there was a potato famine, and her family converted to become Anglican so they could get food, and my grandmother was amongst them. I sometimes think about God looking down the road; He sees everything. That is the kind of God we have and He sees away into the future. So, I feel it was God at work. My great-grandmother converted and she married and had children, and one girl was called Sarah, my grandmother. I think you have heard of John Sullivan, who was from that same family. When he was a young man, he became a school teacher and went to teach about 100 miles from home, in County Tipperary. He heard the Gospel and wrote home to his father in Cork, “I have found the Truth.”


I was in a place one time where a religious occasion was held on Saturday night at Easter. I was in a high building and at midnight, people went to church carrying candles. At midnight, the priest brought fire from the altar and lit some candles, and the flame passed from candle to candle, and just after midnight, those people started to go home carrying their candles. It was very important to them to bring the candle home, and to me, it is like the Gospel going from life to life. In Ireland, there was a great seeking for Truth and John’s father said, “Send them here.” So, the Gospel came to Cork and my grandmother was invited to go with her husband, James. They went to that first meeting together and when they were coming home my grandfather said, “Sarah, I am not going back to those meetings anymore and I don’t want you to go either.” She said, “James, this is what I have been looking for all my life. I will continue to go,” and she did. I don’t think the preachers spoke about smoking, but my aunt told me many years later that in that very first meeting, my grandfather realised, “I cannot be part of this and continue to smoke.”


John 21, Jesus said to Peter, “Do you love Me more than these?” I believe Peter loved fishing, that was his job, and I am always impressed when we read in Acts 10 of Peter on the rooftop, probably looking out to sea. Jesus put His finger on that big catch of fish. The way of God is not a competition between two people and it wasn’t, “Do you  love Me more than Matthew loves Me?” In my grandfather’s situation, it was like God put His finger on the pipe and said, “James, do you love Me more than you love your pipe?” and he said, “I love my pipe more.” That is how it was but my grandmother continued to go and faced opposition from her neighbours. We heard about bedtime stories and I had not thought of these as bedtime stories, but they wouldn’t be bad bedtime stories to tell your children. One day, my grandmother met her old minister and he said, “We haven’t seen you in church. What is happening to you?” She said, “I have gone to your church all my life and never had anything for my soul; now I have found something that feeds my soul and I will continue with it.”


I remember when my grandmother was a bit less than 90 years old and came to visit. She loved that hymn, “I’m glad I met with Jesus.” I love that hymn, too. I’m not sure what hymns will be sung in Heaven, but if they are from our book, that one probably will be. So, my grandmother was true and because of her faithfulness, her family had opportunity. Maybe I can tell you some more about James. In 1900, a little boy was born in that family and he became very sick in the winter time and they were afraid he was going to die (he didn’t die). My grandfather said, “He needs to be baptised,” so he sent for the pastor. It was winter and the pastor was not very happy to be called out, but he baptised him and then he said, “Why did you call me out on a night like this? You could have done the very same thing that I did.” Grandfather didn’t say anything about that for three years, and then he began to listen to the Gospel, threw away his pipe and served God until he died.


So, we are thankful for those who have gone before. I like the hymn that was mentioned in testimony, “Sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain.” For many years, I thought about the Workers being the messengers of God. In Luke 20, we read the parable of the man who had a vineyard and sent his messengers to bring back the fruit, but the husbandmen refused them. God sends His messengers with the message and it is, “I have a claim on your life,” but we tend to not want to recognise God’s claims. However, there are other messengers He sends and we heard about not being afraid of the dark days. Problems come, and I believe it is God trying to point out to us, “This world is not your home.”


Job 33:14, “For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. Then He openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction . . He is chastened also with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain.” When I went into the Work, I was the thinnest Worker on the staff. When I came home from Africa, my bones were kind of sticking out. Now you can hardly see any bones, but the bones are there. There are realities in life: there is the reality of death and eternity, and those are like the bones. When life is going well, many people don’t think about them very much, but problems come and the bones that were once unseen then stick out.


I remember a little poem, 


“I walked a mile with Pleasure; she chatted all the way,

But left me none the wiser for all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow; and ne’er a word said she;

But, oh, the things I learned from her, when Sorrow walked with me.”


We like good days, we don’t like trouble and sorrow, but problems come. It is good when God’s messengers try to help us to see the realities of life. Last weekend, everybody seemed to be happy but when you heard the testimonies, you realised there were some very difficult experiences. Faith is such an important part of our service to God.


Without faith, it is impossible to please God, because very often God asks us to give up something that we can see and to reach out to something we cannot see. Hope is a very precious thing. If it is taken away, it is very, very difficult, so we love to have hope. When you visit someone in hospital, you can talk to them about pain being a temporary thing, and that is wonderful. But sometimes it is terminal and what do you say then? If a person has no hope in God, it is very, very difficult but if a person has hope in God, the best is still ahead.


Satan would like to take away hope; he would like us to succumb to throwing our lives into the things of this world, but there is nothing in this world that is lasting. We come from the earth and what comes from the earth will meet the needs of our bodies; but the eternal part, our soul, has come from God and it is only what comes from God that can meet the needs of our soul. We can try to fill the gap with all kinds of things but eventually they will pass away and we will be left with nothing. God wants us to reach out for the things that are eternal and in these meetings, we hear about the eternal things. There are some very rich people in the world but not many will say, “I have too much money; I don’t need any more.” I understand that Napoleon conquered a little part of the world and was going on to conquer the whole world but he was stopped in his tracks, and said, “I wish there were other worlds to conquer.” He wasn’t satisfied. If we hunger and thirst after righteousness, that is what satisfies.


John 21:3, “Simon Peter saith unto them, 'I go a fishing.' They say unto him, 'We also go with thee.'” The power of example is strong. Peter loved fishing and knew how to fish, but it didn’t work out that time. Verse 5, “'Children, have ye any meat?' They answered Him, 'No.'” Maybe Peter took the wrong direction that day, going back to the fishing. Jesus told them to cast the net on the right side of the ship and they brought in a big catch, but they didn’t need them because Jesus already had the fire going and there was fish and bread ready. I love the way Jesus corrected Peter gently. After He fed them, maybe He took Peter aside and said, “Peter, do you love Me more than these?” At every stage in life, God wants to know, “Do you love Me?” Has He put His finger on anything in your life since you came to Convention, maybe pointing out that you would be better off without it?


Matthew 19:16, “'Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?' And He said unto him, 'Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.'” This young man had done all those things and Jesus didn’t contradict him. At one time, I wondered if Jesus was side-stepping the question a bit, but now I realise that we have to observe those things if we want to enter into eternal life. I am thankful for being brought to these things when I was a boy.


Little impressions were made, maybe nothing very big, but it is like the time Jesus put His hands on the children, there was hope for the coming generation. Then the young man said, “What am I lacking?” What Jesus did was to put His finger on his goods and say, “Do you love Me more than these?” The young man’s answer was, “I love my goods more,” and he went away sorrowful. If we love something more than we love God, we will never have salvation. It is a very strong statement but God wants us to love Him.


When I think of this matter of loving God, my thoughts go to Abraham. Genesis 22:2, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”  Abraham was an old man and he probably loved his son more than anything else in the world, but God put His finger on that and said, “Do you love Me more than you love your son?” Abraham rose early and took that journey with Isaac. They got to the place where they left the servants behind, and there are some things we have to leave behind. Then he made an altar and bound Isaac and was about to slay him when the angel spoke to him.


Verse 12, “Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from Me.” Abraham didn’t withhold anything and God doesn’t look so much on what we give; He looks on what we withhold. Regarding God’s plans for us, I was thinking about my grandmother and grandfather and others. There is a little hymn that was never in our book and it says that God doesn’t plan for days, He doesn’t plan for years, but He plans for eternity. God’s plans are for eternity and He wants us to be part of that plan.