"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."1
"The year was 1920. The scene was the examining board for selecting missionaries. Standing before the board was a young man named Oswald J. Smith. One dream dominated his heart. He wanted to be a missionary. Over and over again, he prayed, 'Lord, I want to go as a missionary for you. Open a door of service for me.' Now, at last, his prayer would be answered.
"When the examination was over, the board turned Oswald Smith down. He did not meet their qualifications. He failed the test. Oswald Smith had set his direction, but now life gave him a detour. What would he do? As Oswald Smith prayed, God planted another idea in his heart. If he could not go as a missionary, he would build a church which could send out missionaries. And that is what he did. Oswald Smith was pastor of The People's Church in Toronto, Canada, which sent out more missionaries than any other church at that time. Oswald Smith brought God into the situation, and God transformed his detour into a main thoroughfare of service."2
Years later Oswald J. Smith had a dynamic impact on my own life that changed the course of my life and ministry. Forty years ago when I was the South Australian director of Youth for Christ, I helped organize a week of meetings with Oswald Smith in the city of Adelaide. In one service Smith preached on the power of the printed page. Now I've never heard God speak to me audibly, but that night I felt like I was hit with a big "wham" from God. I felt tremendously challenged about getting into literature (even though I never wanted to be a writer) and walked out of that meeting telling God that "some day I would do something about literature but right then I was too busy with my high school ministry!"
What a dumb thing to tell God! Two weeks later my high-school ministry collapsed. For something to do I wrote the gospel message I had been teaching in the classrooms, printed it, and mailed it to several hundred high school student leaders from some 50 high schools in the greater Adelaide area. Nobody was more amazed than I when I received numerous responses. I've been writing and publishing gospel literature ever since—for the first three decades in printed form and for the last decade via email and the web.
And what was that first message I wrote, printed, and mailed to those high-school students? It was, "How to Be Sure You're a Real Christian … without having to be religious." More than three million copies of this message have been printed and distributed. Multiplied thousands more have read it on the web and responded to it. It has also been translated into several languages. You can see a copy at: http://www.actsweb.org/christian.
So, when God puts a detour in your path, you will never know what results it may produce. And I am only one person among thousands that were impacted by the ministry of Oswald J. Smith—and multiplied thousands more have been impacted by ACTS literature and our writing ministry.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you that when I daily commit and trust my life to you, you do direct my paths and lead me in the way you want me to go. Please continue to do this for all the days of my life. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Romans 8:28 (NIV).
2. Brian L. Harbour, Rising Above the Crowd. Cited on http://www.bible.org/