I am indebted to Thomas Carruth. When I get to heaven I plan to look Tom up and thank him for what he did for me. It was a simple thing. He sent me a brochure that described a retreat called an “Ashram.” Attached was a note on which he had written, “You and Dean will love this retreat and getting to know Brother Stanley. Love, Tom.”
Though I had never heard of the Ashram movement developed by E. Stanley Jones, we took Tom’s advice and made our way to a retreat center at Silver Springs, Florida. It was one of the wisest decisions we ever made. We had been married for eight years. I had been a pastor for five years. But we did not have a personal relationship with Jesus. Brother Stanley did, and we realized what we had been seeking was a dynamic relationship with the Christ I had been preaching about.
Tom was right. We loved the Ashram experience. And God used Brother Stanley’s remarkable influence to get us connected to Jesus. That week we surrendered our lives to the living Lord Jesus and began to discover what Saint Paul had experienced when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). The idea of Christ living in me captivated my thinking and led me to realize that this is the ultimate truth of the Christian faith. Christianity is not a religion; it is a life-changing relationship to the living Christ. It’s a connection to Jesus, as real as a branch attached to a life-giving vine.
The years following that transforming experience can best be described by the Gaithers’ song that we came to love: “Since I started for his kingdom, since my life he controls, since I gave my heart to Jesus, the longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows. The more that I love Him, more love He bestows. Each day is like heaven, my heart overflows, the longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows.”
Indeed, the longer I serve Jesus, the more I realize that He is everything. As George Beverly Shea used to sing, “I’d rather have Jesus than anything this old world offers today.”
Tom was an evangelist from Mississippi when I met him. He was a gifted preacher, a saintly man of prayer, as Christlike a man as I have ever known. Recognizing his giftedness, Asbury Theological Seminary made him a professor of Prayer and Spiritual Life where he served with distinction until his death. Visiting him at the seminary, I asked Tom the secret of his devout prayer life. He replied, “If I have a secret, it is that I have read the three letters of John more than three thousand times. I read them every day. The more I read John’s words, the more I am motivated to pray, and to love people with the love of Jesus. To love and to pray is the way of the Master.”
Tom touched many lives, including mine. He inspired me to treasure the confident faith of John, the beloved apostle. Like Tom, I am blessed every time I read John’s three letters. John lived, and wrote, with confidence. He was convinced that Jesus is the Christ, and that everyone who believes that he is, has been born of God. Eternal life is in the Son, and those who have the Son have this life.
John said those who believe may know that they have eternal life. So, a believer has assurance of salvation, with doubts and fears put to rest. This assurance enables us to sing joyously with Fanny Crosby, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine. Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.” When I sing those words, my heart cries, “Yes, thank you Jesus. I am a child of God, saved by grace.”
When we truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and trust him for salvation, God fills us with joy unspeakable, joy that enables us to persevere despite our hardships. He sends us out into the world to practice what Tom Carruth taught — to pray and love people into the Kingdom. And knowing our needs, He strengthens us when we become weary.
Yet there is more. He gives us the confidence that our joy here is but a foretaste of the joy that awaits us in heaven. So we live in the blessed assurance that eternal life is ours now and forever — because we have embraced the Son! “He who has the Son has life!” Glory!