I believe that our lives have been shaped many times by men and women of faith who have been giants in their day. As we look back on their lives and their examples we should never criticize or make fun of stands that they took. We should learn from their faithfulness and dedication to the Lord and go forward to do greater things than we could have on our own. In other words we are all standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us and as we learn from them and their ministry we can do great things as the Lord strengthens and directs us.
A few years ago I spoke in chapel at TFC and referenced the following illustration about our founder, Dr. Richard A. Forrest. The illustration of the “ragged little boy” challenges me to stick with the task that the Lord has given me. Let me relate the story to you now.
Ten years after the founding of Toccoa Falls College, Dr. Richard A. Forrest went to Los Angeles with the hopes of meeting Lyman Stewart, the man who was the founder and president of Biola University. Through a God arranged appointment, Dr. Forrest met Lyman Stewart. And within a short period of time Richard Forrest and Lyman Stewart, was also the co-founder of the Union Oil Company, became very good friends.
It doesn’t take long for the character of a man or woman to show through the clutter of the world. Dr. and Mrs. Forrest had a reputation for commitment even in the most trying circumstances. Soon, Lyman Stewart began to support the work of Toccoa Falls College. He and his brother helped pay off the original mortgage and even gave money toward the completion of the offices above the Paul and Mary Williams Chapel. Then their interests towards Dr. Forrest took a different turn.
During a later visit, Mr. Stewart asked Richard Forrest to meet with him. They talked about family, life, and the two schools. Near the end of the meeting Mr. Stewart asked Dr. Forrest to leave Toccoa Falls College and come to Biola. He offered Dr. Forrest the position as superintendent of a school, which by the world’s standards, was much more successful. It was a tremendous opportunity. It was a life-defining moment for Dr. Forrest.
Dr. Forrest knew what God had called he and his wife to do, but he struggled with his answer. Over the years he had watched his wife painstakingly rework donated clothes that had been give to her. He knew the times she had stayed up late at night in order to complete lesson plans for the next day’s classes. Her days were always filled with solving one problem after another in his absence. And there was always the lack of and the need for money.
What would you have said? Would you have been tempted by the increase in salary, the prestige of the position, and the opportunity to go to a larger city to work in a better environment. Many wrong decisions in life are made as a result of frustration, personal disappointment, and fear.
The following day the two men met again and Dr. Forrest had the answer to the offer. He said, “I hope you won’t misunderstand me and think that I do not appreciate the magnificent offer you made, but last night I happened to see a picture in a magazine of a little boy dressed in fine clothes. On the page next to him was a boy dressed in rags, but his mother was with him. The article posed the question, “which one would you rather have?” The mother said, “I’ll take the ragged little boy, because he belongs to me, he is mine.” That’s the best way I can answer you, Mr. Stewart. Mr. Stewart turned to a friend that had accompanied them and said, “I told you that’s what he would say.”
The next day as Dr. Forrest was preparing to leave and return to Toccoa Falls he received an envelope in his hotel mailbox. In it was a check for $1,000 and a handwritten note, “for the ragged little boy.” It was signed by Mr. Stewart who remained a faithful supporter of TFC until his death.
As we obey the Lord and follow Him and remember that God’s call on your life you must also remember those men and women upon who’s shoulders we stand. We should never make fun or negative comments about their work and their dedication to the calling of the Lord during their time. I truly believe that God will bless us as we bless those who have gone before us.