The chapters in this book were originally published weekly, as individual columns in Clay Today, a local, county-wide newspaper in northeast Florida. In the writing of these columns, Reverend Bill Register has drawn on his extensive experience as a pastor, family man and successful businessman, to offer the reader an eclectic variety of thought-provoking, inspirational, and challenging messages.
`Serving Despite Sorrow
In 1871, the tragedy known as “The Great Chicago Fire” virtually destroyed the city. Horatio G. Spafford was a 43-year-old lawyer who lived in a suburb on the north side of the city.
He was married to Anna and they had five children—one son and four daughters. Spafford’s real estate investments were lost in the fire and suddenly his entire life savings were gone. That same year, their only son died from scarlet fever, at the age of four.
Two years later the Spafford family took a vacation in Europe. Business delayed Horatio, but his wife and four daughters sailed for their vacation on the S. S. Ville du Havre. He planned to join his family in a few days.
In the early hours of November 22, 1873, while gliding smoothly through the waters of the Atlantic, the Ville de Havre collided with an iron sailing vessel. Within two hours, the ship sank beneath the waves. Only 47 survived the shipwreck—226 perished. Among those who died were the Spafford’s’ four daughters. Mrs. Spafford survived. The rescued survivors were taken to Cardiff, Wales. When she arrived, she immediately cabled her husband the message, “Saved alone. What shall I do?”
Spafford immediately left Chicago to join his wife and bring her home. One night on the passage, the ship’s captain said to him, “We are passing over the location where the Ville de Havre went down.” He went to his cabin but was unable to sleep. He prayed, “It is well; the will of God be done.” He soon wrote the words to the wonderful hymn, “It is Well with My Soul.”
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Horatio and Anna Spafford moved to Jerusalem in 1881 to serve the needs of the people there. They ministered Christ to poor Arabs and Jews, bringing compassion to others from the depths of their own suffering and sorrow.
On a cold winter evening, two Christian men were sitting before a cozy fireplace, warming themselves. They were discussing their Christian lives and experiences.
The younger man expressed the reasons he did not believe attending church services was important to his Christian experience. The older, more experienced man listened carefully to the younger man’s excuses. By this time, the flames of the fire had diminished and the fireplace held only the glowing coals.
Carefully the older man reached out with the fireplace poker and pulled one coal away from the rest of the glowing coals. The one coal, separated from the others, was alone on the hearth. The fire in the single coal quickly died and instead of a bright red glow, the coal became cold and grey. Nothing needed to be said. The younger man got the message.
When we separate ourselves from the fellowship of Christian believers, we give up one of the great benefits of the Christian life. The fellowship of other believers is one of the invisible strengths that God has given His people. In corporate worship, we draw strength from the Lord by the encouragement of one another.
One of the most powerful statements the Apostle John made is in his first epistle. He says if we walk in the light of Jesus’ presence and teaching “. . . we have fellowship with each other and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7 NLT)
The fellowship of Christian believers is a gift of the father to His children. We deprive ourselves of God’s best when we do not meet faithfully with others who share our Love for the Lord.
This is why Scripture teaches us to continue assembling ourselves together and exhorting one another with encouragement. (Hebrews 10:25) It is signally important that you meet with fellow Christians to worship together and encourage each other.
William P. Register, Sr. is the Lead Pastor of First Assembly of God in Fleming Island, Florida, a suburb of the Jacksonville metroplex. During his more than 60 years in ministry, he has pastored churches in the southeastern U.S., and traveled abroad extensively, as a teacher and evangelist. Pastor Bill and his wife, Carolyn, have three children and seven grandchildren.