He was already 77 years old when I met E. Stanley Jones, but God used that encounter with Brother Stanley to change my life. He was the evangelist at an Ashram, a spiritual life retreat that my wife and I attended at Silver Springs, Florida, when we were 29.
I was mesmerized by his preaching that focused on Jesus. Within minutes he had us joyfully raising three fingers and saying with him, “Jesus is Lord!” He spoke of Jesus with such calm confidence that It became crystal clear – for him Jesus was everything. The more he spoke, the more I wanted what he had – a life-giving relationship with Jesus.
The next day, I met privately with Brother Stanley. After sharing with him and admitting my need for assurance, he said, “Let’s claim the promise of Jesus in Mark 11:24 for you.” He quoted the verse from memory: “When you pray and ask for something, believe that you have received it, and you will be given whatever you ask for.” We knelt and he prayed, asking Jesus to give me the assurance I longed for. No angels sang; I heard no bells or whistles, but God’s gracious gift of assurance has been mine since the hour he prayed for me.
Ten years later Brother Stanley suffered a paralyzing stroke that left him with what seemed like insurmountable handicaps. Doctors said he would never walk or preach again. His sight, hearing and speech were seriously impaired. He could no longer read and had lost the use of one arm. But when his daughter reached his bedside in the hospital, with a feeble voice he said, “Daughter, I cannot die now. I have to live to complete another book – The Divine Yes!”
Before his death 14 months later, Brother Stanley surprised his doctors by learning to walk and preach again. With the help of his daughter Eunice, he completed his book, affirming the conviction of Saint Paul that Jesus is “the Divine Yes.” In 2nd Corinthians 1:19-20, Paul says that “The divine ‘yes’ has at last sounded” in Jesus, “for in him is the ‘yes’ that affirms all the promises of God” (Moffatt). (A revised edition of the book is available from Amazon.)
Jones wrote, “Before Jesus life was a no. The ancients did not know how to say yes.” Rejecting the cynicism of those who live by no, he insisted that we cannot live by negation. “We have to live by affirmation, for we are affirmative beings.” After ages and ages of no, Jones declares, we have this great affirmation by which to live – Jesus is the Divine Yes of God!
Brother Stanley said yes to his suffering – and used it to “demonstrate” the truth of what he had been preaching. Refusing to whine about his handicaps, he wrote, “If I keep my eye on Jesus, I can say to life, ‘Come on. I’m healed at the heart. Let life do its worst or its best. I’ll take it and make it into something else by his grace and power.’”
Old people often fall, and because of his handicaps, Brother Stanley fell a few times. But he said he had learned “the art of falling well.” “Usually,” he wrote, “I have managed to fall forward!” Though his stroke had left him in shambles, Jones said, “I knew that the only Christian way to fall was to fall on my knees and thank God that though outwardly I am only a half person, in Jesus I am whole and well and the same person as before.”
Brother Stanley has taught me, by his teaching and the way he faced his suffering, that when Jesus is Lord, when Jesus is everything, he gives you the power to live by affirmation. So in the challenges of my own life, I keep trying to say yes to life, yes to whatever I must face, yes to Jesus the divine yes. I want to die with “Yes Jesus” on my lips. Glory!
Thank you Brother Stanley for teaching me to not only say “Jesus is Lord,” but to live it out in daily life. Yes, Lord, yes!