One of the best things I did soon after moving into the Tampa Bay area five years ago, was to reconnect with an old friend, a pastor who figured prominently in my childhood, influenced my conversion to Christ at seven years of age, and baptized me two years later. His name was Albert R. Siebert and he was 94 years old at the time, and much more slight and shorter than I had remembered him. It had been more than 50 years since we had last met, but to my surprise, he remembered me!
I drove down to visit him one afternoon. And after reminiscing with him over lunch, Al, as he preferred to be called, invited me to his high-rise apartment overlooking Tampa Bay, and we began sharing God’s working in our lives. Just before leaving, he pulled an old thin book from the top of the stand next to his easy chair. He said, “You know what this is?” Bending closer, the faded brown cover read, The Practice of the Presence of God, its author, Brother Lawrence. He told me that he was still teaching a Bible class for seniors on Thursdays, and then he said, “I’m going to be sharing selections from this with my group at Northside.”
Al then shared with me how he rediscovered Brother Lawrence and how his little book had encouraged his walk in Christ. He had struggled with loneliness since the death of his wife Sue, just four years earlier. But in the midst of his loneliness, he spoke of experiencing the consolation of God’s presence. And then he read the following passage from Brother Lawrence’s last letter, entitled “From his death-bed.”
GOD knoweth best what is needful for us, and all that He does is for our good. If we knew how much He loves us, we should be always ready to receive equally and with indifference from His hand the sweet and the bitter; all would please that came from Him. The sorest afflictions never appear intolerable, but when we see them in the wrong light. When we see them in the hand of GOD, who dispenses them: when we know that it is our loving FATHER, who abases and distresses us: our sufferings will lose their bitterness, and become even matter of consolation.
Let all our employment be to know GOD: the more one knows Him, the more one desires to know Him. And as knowledge is commonly the measure of love, the deeper and more extensive our knowledge shall be, the greater will be our love: and if our love of GOD were great we should love Him equally in pains and pleasures.
Let us not amuse ourselves to seek or to love GOD for any sensible favours (how elevated soever) which He has or may do us. Such favours, though never so great, cannot bring us so near to GOD as faith does in one simple act. Let us seek Him often by faith: He is within us; seek Him not elsewhere. Are we not rude and deserve blame, if we leave Him alone, to busy ourselves about trifles, which do not please Him and perhaps offend Him? ‘Tis to be feared these trifles will one day cost us dear.
Let us begin to be devoted to Him in good earnest. Let us cast everything besides out of our hearts; He would possess them alone. Beg this favour of Him. If we do what we can on our parts, we shall soon see that change wrought in us which we aspire after. I cannot thank Him sufficiently for the relaxation He has vouchsafed you. I hope from His mercy the favour to see Him within a few days. Let us pray for one another.
[He took to his bed two days after and died within the week.]
Tears welled up as Al read these words, and I looked deep into the heart of a man who loved Christ more than life itself. Two years later, I discovered him a little more frail on the outside, but still a well of fresh life giving water on the inside. I wanted to call on him again on the occasion of what would have been his 97th birthday, but learned God had called on Him first, and taken him home a little sooner. Disappointed to have missed him, I was happy for him.
Oh, that I would love Christ like Al!