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Comforting words for a new year

By Wayne Warner

The world was four years past the worst war in history. Four years trying to forget Pearl Harbor, Stalingrad, the Battle of the Bulge, and the atom bomb. But the longed-for peace had not yet arrived. Russia had just tested an atom bomb, the communists had taken over China, civil wars raged throughout the world, and African Americans who fought for freedom in Manila and Munich still rode in the back of the bus in Montgomery.

And if the Assemblies of God executive officers, standing on the threshold of 1950, could see the future only six months away, they would have seen North Korean soldiers crossing the 38th Parallel into South Korea. They would have seen the start of the Korean War and the deaths of more than 36,000 Americans.

In the midst of these turbulent times, the executive officers, who had been chosen to lead the Assemblies of God nearly four months earlier, reached for encouraging words to give to Pentecostal Evangel readers in the last issue of 1949. Two of these selections seem fitting as we enter 2005.

Wesley R. Steelberg, the new general superintendent, quoted Psalm 37:5: “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”

Several years earlier Steelberg was in a moment of indecision, and friends had offered a variety of advice. Some questioned his decision. “My heart was in communion with God both night and day,” he wrote. “As I crossed the street at Germantown and Chelten avenues in Philadelphia, these precious words came to me.”

He stopped by a mailbox at the intersection as tears began to run down his face. “I felt as though God had actually stepped up beside me as He whispered, ‘Commit thy way unto Me.’" It was at this point Steelberg realized that he had come short in his commitment. “I want you to commit completely and leave it in My hands,” he sensed God speaking to him.

From that day in Philadelphia, this verse became a beacon for Steelberg, and in 1949 he told his story to encourage others as they faced an unknown new year.

So much in the world was confusing and offered little hope, General Treasurer Wilfred A. Brown confessed. But God wanted to guide His children, he reminded readers: “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:24). “The place of prayer brings all into proper perspective,” he added. “We see things in the light of the illumined Word; and with the revelation of His will to our lives, we walk life’s journey with sure feet and with the living hope of enjoying His glory at the end of the way.”

More than half a century has passed since humanity cautiously viewed January 1, 1950. Evil still permeates society, but the true church remains as a towering lighthouse in a darkened world, comforting and guiding believers, and giving hope to those who have lost their way.

— Wayne Warner, director, Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

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