Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,

Or what's a heaven for?

—Robert Browning

Someone said, "Poor eyes limit your sight; poor vision limits your deeds."

A vision without a task is a dream;

A task without a vision is drudgery;

A vision and a task is the hope of the world.


'Tis looking downward makes one dizzy.

—Robert Browning

I will study and get ready and the opportunity will come.

—Abraham Lincoln

The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.

—Benjamin Disraeli

We live in deeds, not years; in thought, not breath;

In feelings, not in figures on a dial.

We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives

Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.

Life's but a means unto an end; that end

Beginning, mean, and end of all things—God.

—Phillip James Bailey

That man may last, but never lives,

Who much receives, but nothing gives;

Whom none can love, whom none can thank,

Creation's blot, creation's blank.

—Thomas Gibbons, "When Jesus Dwelt"

If you can sit at set of sun

And count the deeds that you have done

And counting find

One self-denying act, one word

That eased the heart of him that heard,

One glance most kind,

Which fell like sunshine where he went,

Then you may count that day well spent.

—Robert Browning

Essentials for Greatness

Many years ago I wrote a book called Moses' Mighty Men. The thesis of the book was that at the human level three things are essential to make a person great. A person must be endowed with the capacity for greatness; the person must live in a historical environment that calls forth greatness; the person must be surrounded by lesser greats who contribute to another's greatness.

However, we cannot ignore the place God fills in producing a great person. For without His power and grace all human efforts will prove futile.

Opportunities, Hopes, and Dreams

On the last day of the year a celebration is held throughout the land. Beginning at the stroke of midnight in Times Square in New York City, the multitudes cheer, horns sound, whistles blow, and people laugh and cry for joy. Amidst the celebration are the shouts of "Happy New Year!" This spectacle is repeated in succession in the various time zones from the Atlantic Seaboard to the far western reaches of Hawaii. We say, "A New Year has come!" For us a new year symbolizes new opportunities, new hopes, and new dreams.

And yet, the stroke of the hour simply has marked the dawning of another day. Whether the year really will be new lies within each person. If, when the shouting is over, we fall back into the same old rut of sin and rebellion against God, then nothing has changed. No, years become new only if we make them so. Resolutions for new days, new beginnings, opportunities, and dreams are not to be made only in the excitement of the moment; but long after the glamor is gone these resolutions are to become the order of each day.

This Is Success

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men, and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty, or failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others, and given the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction.

—Thomas Stanley

Always a Success

Thomas A. Edison was the most prolific inventor in modern times—perhaps ever. He made scores of attempts to invent the light bulb. After an unsuccessful effort, one of his associates said, "Well, you have failed again." "No," replied Edison, "I have succeeded again. I now know another way how not to invent a light bulb."

God's Hand Is on Him

Many times I have been asked how I explain Billy Graham's successful work. I could mention his ability as a preacher, his co-laborers, and the effectiveness of prayerful organization. But my reply is, "God has His hand on him." That's the difference between success and failure in the Lord's work.


Someone said that a kicking mule cannot pull, but a pulling mule does not kick.

A. T. Robertson used to tell his students that the Pharisees could split a hair six ways and still have some hair left. I am convinced some Pharisees still exist.

Victims of Their Own Doing

Some people approach life with an attitude that makes for hard going. They were born in the "objective case" and the "kickative mode." They always have a chip on their shoulders and dare anyone to knock it off.

Such people may claim, "God made me this way." Well, I do not agree. Actually, they are victims of their own doing. They never grew out of the "brat" stage of childhood. They are unhappy and make everyone else about them unhappy. These people are sand in the gears of life.

What a World It Would Be

One mind-set says people are to fight for their own rights. People with this mind-set keep books on everything bad ever done to them. Instead of living by Christian love, they live by an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth morality. Such people are their own worst enemies. They make life miserable for themselves and for everyone else. If everyone lived this way, we would live in a jungle of tooth and talon.

A Jealous Attitude

Like unseen termites, jealousy eats away the very foundation of the social order until the entire structure falls.

Could It Be Me?

If something is wrong with your church and you wonder why, the place to start seeking an answer is with yourself. Is your church unfriendly? What about you? Is it unconcerned about the lost? Are you? Is it behind on its budget requirements? Are you behind, or are you penny-pinching in your giving? Is there hostility in the fellowship? What of your attitude and behavior? You may or may not find the answers within yourself. Nevertheless, you need to be certain you are not part of the problem before you begin pointing an accusing finger at others.

"Ride the Wild Horses"

I recall reading a sermon that likened our emotions to wild horses. Instead of letting our emotions run wild, destroying us and others, we are to ride or control our emotions so that they serve us and bless others. "Speaking one's mind" is not a virtue if in doing such we inflict injury.


The New Testament is the flower of which the Old Testament is the bud.

Fires of iniquity may burn Bibles, evil hearts may deny its truth; but they do not destroy it or evade its message. The Word of God endures forever!

After reading the doctrine of Plato, Socrates, or Aristotle, we feel that the specific difference between their words and Christ's is the difference between inquiry and revelation.

—Joseph Parker

When you have read the Bible you will know it is the Word of God because you will have found it the key to your own heart, your own happiness and your own duty.

—Woodrow Wilson

Willard Johnson on the Bible

Generations follow generations—yet it lives.

Nations rise and fall—yet it lives.

Kings, dictators, presidents come and go—yet it lives.

Torn, condemned, burned—yet it lives.

Doubted, suspected, criticized—yet it lives.

Damned by atheists—yet it lives.

Exaggerated by fanatics—yet it lives.

Misconstrued and misstated—yet it lives.

Its inspiration denied—yet it lives.

Yet it lives—a lamp to our feet,

a light to our paths,

a standard for childhood,

a guide for youth,

a comfort for the aged,

food for the hungry,

water for the thirsty,

rest for the weary,

light for the heathen,

salvation for the sinner,

grace for the Christian.

To know it is to love it;

To love it is to accept it;

To accept it means life eternal.

God's Word in History

The Bible was wrought out in the arena of history. If it is impossible to fathom its message apart from ancient history, it is also true that a person cannot plumb the depths of the meaning of ancient history apart from the Bible. For that matter, to understand history subsequent to the first century, even today, it must be seen in the light of God's Word.

The Bible and Science

Although the Bible contains no proven scientific error, it is not a science textbook. The Bible is a book of religion. Science is concerned with what; the Bible is concerned with Who.

Endurability of God's Laws

Persons do not break the Ten Commandments any more than they break the law of gravity. However, persons are broken by them if they live contrary to their intended purpose.

The Value of the Word

Daniel Webster said, "If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper, but if we and our posterity neglect its instruction and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury our glory in profound obscurity."

Stay on Base

Theology is somewhat like the game of baseball. In baseball a runner must keep one foot on base or else risk being thrown out. In theology the base is the Bible.

The Need for the Word

If truth be not diffused, error will be; if God and His Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendancy; if the evangelical volume does not reach every hamlet, the pages of the corrupt and licentious literature will; if the power of the gospel is not felt through the length and breadth of the land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness, will reign without mitigation or end.

—Daniel Webster

It Will Come to Pass

One characteristic of prophecy is that its fulfillment is not limited to the time period in which it is uttered. Prophecy telescopes time as humanity sees it to declare the purposes of God that are not limited by the calendar. So while we may see roots of the prophecy in a given time span, the full realization lies in a future uncharted by humankind.

Reading prophecy is like looking at a distant mountain peak while soaring aloft in an airplane. We discover that many mountain ranges are between us and the distant peak we are focusing on. Thus we are to view prophecy from God's vantage point, not ours.

God Said It

Through the years I have tried to be an expository preacher. Occasionally someone will come to take exception to something in the sermon. Believing that I have faithfully drawn the truth from the Word, I say, "Well, I suggest you take that up with the Lord. I didn't say it of myself. I simply told you what God said in His Book."

Bible as Progressive Revelation

We speak of God's progressive revelation. This does not mean God began to reveal Himself crudely and learned to do a better job as He went along. Genesis is as much His revelation as is John. Progressive revelation means God revealed Himself progressively to people as they were able to grasp and understand Him. Thus we have a clearer revelation of God in John than in Genesis, but the same God is revealed in both books.

How would Einstein teach arithmetic to a small child? He would not start out with the equation for the theory of relativity or for splitting the atom. He would begin with two plus two equals four. That is not all the arithmetic he knows; but that is as much as the child can grasp. Years later he would teach the child, now an adult, about complex theories. This is also how God revealed Himself to humanity. He did not reveal everything about Himself at one time. He did it gradually.


Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thine?

Dost thou love and serve God? It is enough

I give thee the right hand of fellowship.

—John Wesley

Prejudice is man-made, not God-made, but only God can help us overcome it.

Equal rights is a blade that cuts both ways. It protects the innocent and punishes the guilty.

The Same Commander

During World War II the Allied Forces were composed of the armies of many nations. None of the armies renounced its own identity, but together they defeated Hitler and his allies. How? They had one greater loyalty and goal. So must the army of the redeemed follow their commander, Jesus Christ, with full assurance of victory over the evil one.

Prejudice Removed in Christ

According to Ephesians 2:14, Christ has removed the "middle wall" that separated Jews and Gentiles. Paul was alluding to the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was divided into various courts or sections: Gentiles, Women, Israel, Priests, Holy Place, and Holy of Holies. Gentiles were not allowed beyond the first court.

On the wall beside each entrance into the court of women were stone slabs warning Gentiles not to go beyond that point. One such slab was discovered in 1871 and is in the Museum of the Ancient Oriental in Istanbul. Part of another is in the British Museum. The whole slab reads, "No foreigner may enter within the balustrade and enclosure around the Sanctuary. Whoever is caught will render himself liable to the death penalty which will inevitably follow" (Jack Finegan, Light from the Ancient Past [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959], 325). Paul used this well-known fact to illustrate the truth that in Christ such estrangement and prejudice are removed.

Prejudice Is Widespread

Flying from Benares to New Delhi, India, Frances and I were given a newspaper printed in English. Not having seen one in several weeks, we devoured almost every word in it.

One section particularly intrigued us. Parents, through small ads, announced they had either a beautiful daughter or handsome son eligible for marriage. We laughed over the apparent fact that India had no ugly young people.

Most of all we were interested in the words at the end of each ad: "Caste no object," or else the name of a particular caste was given. The inclusion of a caste name meant that people of any other caste need not apply. Here was an example of prejudice among people.

Basis for Racial Harmony

Here are three simple rules that form the basis for racial harmony.

  1. All persons have a common origin: God.
  2. All persons have a common need: God.
  3. All persons have a common purpose: God

Polish but Don't Pray

Can you believe this happened? A white pastor entered the place of worship one weekday to find the black janitor on his knees at the altar. When he was asked what he was doing, the man replied, "I am polishing the brass on the altar rail." "Well, all right," the pastor replied, "but don't let me catch you praying there!"

An Experience of Brotherhood

In 1965 Dr. William R. Tolbert, Jr., an African, was elected president of the Baptist World Alliance. I was a asked to serve as vice-president. Although I was hesitant to accept since I had many other commitments, I feared that my refusal to serve would be misunderstood. Some would have thought that a white Southern Baptist just did not want to serve under a black African. So, I accepted the position.

Those five years were filled with great blessing. Chief among them was the relationship that grew between the Tolberts and the Hobbses. From mere acquaintances we became warm friends. When Frances and I looked at Bill and Victoria Tolbert, we did not see two black people. Rather we saw two wonderful Christian people who were our dear friends personally and in Christ.

Two Hands Clasped

I was born and reared in the Deep South in the early years of this century. According to the social mores of the day in that area, whites and blacks each had and kept their place. I had never harmed a black person or been harmed by one.

During seminary days I was pastor of a church in Hope, Indiana. Only one black man lived in the town. One Sunday morning he was in the worship service. At the close, I was at the door shaking hands with the people. As the black man approached, thoughts were rushing through my mind. I have never shaken a black man's hand in my life. What shall I do? Then the thought came to me that in Indiana no such customary distinctions existed. So I shook hands with the man. To my surprise, his hand felt the same as others. I realized that it was a different custom, not Christian love, that had made the difference all these years.

Through the years of my life, Christian love has grown and been victorious. No longer do I see a black hand and a white hand. I see two hands of God's creation clasped in friendship and love.

A Portrait of Brotherly Love

In 1949 the Southern Baptist Convention met in Oklahoma City. The president was the late Dr. R. G. Lee.

For the first time in the Convention's history, a black man from outside the fellowship was invited to preach. He was Dr. E. W. Perry, for over a half century pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church, Oklahoma City.

When Dr. Lee presented him, he put his arm about Dr. Perry and said, "Brethren, you are looking at a portrait of black and white painted in red" (see Eph. 2:13). The messengers stood and cheered.

Prejudice—A Universal Problem

Prejudice does not have a "Made in the U.S.A." label on it. Through the years as Frances and I traveled in other parts of the world, we found prejudice everywhere. For instance, in South America we found economic prejudice; in Europe, class; in India, caste; and in Africa, tribal prejudice.

While in Kumasi, Ghana, I heard that the superintendent of schools had made a trip to the United States to study the racial situation. He traveled from New York down the East Coast; across the deep South as far as Texas; through Oklahoma, Missouri, and the Midwest; then back to New York and his homeland.

Back in Kumasi he reported, "I find more prejudice in Kumasi than in the United States. There it is based on race; here is is based on tribal separation. For example, some say, 'I will teach your children in school, but I will not eat in your home.' Nevertheless, we are so much alike."

Do You Accept Others Socially

We may talk about not being prejudiced, but are we really? What does our witness say?

In Oklahoma City, one particularly fine Christian family, who lived in a lovely neighborhood, had a black family move next door.

They warmly welcomed their new neighbors. Not long thereafter the daughter of the white family was to be married. A group of friends gave her a bridal shower in the mother's home. The mother invited all her neighbors, including the black lady. Although she graciously declined to attend, the white family had given their Christian witness by their willingness to accept the black neighbor socially.

Guess Who the Real Foreigners Are?

Those who have traveled or resided in foreign lands know the loneliness and isolation resulting from differences in culture and language. "Yankee, Go Home" only adds to the hurt. Sometimes in our country one hears in references to some ethnic Americans, "Why don't they go back to where they came from?" Perhaps the American Indians feel that way about all of us.

In a humorous vein Will Rogers, who was part Indian, used to say, "Many people brag about their ancestors coming over on the Mayflower. My people went down to meet the boat!"

All One in Christ

In Miami Beach, Florida, in 1965, William R. Tolbert, Jr., an African, was elected president of the Baptist World Alliance by acclamation. The retiring president John Soren of Brazil said more Southern Baptists were present than all the other Baptists together. Such a large contingent of Southern Baptists could have elected anyone they wished. Nevertheless, without a dissenting vote the first African ever to hold this high position was elected.

Later, before more than sixteen thousand messengers, I pledged my support to Dr. Tolbert. I said, "I shake hands with many people, but I embrace only those I love. And I want to embrace Dr. Tolbert." As the multitude cheered, we embraced. I later learned that this was the way the African men show their love for each other.

Why did I embrace this black man? Not for acclaim. Not to show how broadminded or emancipated from prejudice I was. It was an expression of Christian love. For in Christ we were not white and black. We were Christian brothers!