There was a man called Pete, who lived near a river. Pete was a man who believed in God. One day, the river rose over the banks and flooded the town, and Pete was forced to climb onto his porch roof. He asked God to help him and remembered that he had been taught that prayers are answered. While sitting there, a man in big tractor comes along and tells Pete to get on the tractor with him. Pete says “No, that’s ok. God has promised He will take care of me.” So, the man in the tractor drives off. The water rises, so Pete climbs onto his house roof. At that time, a boat comes along and the person in that one tells Pete to get in. Pete replies, “No, that’s ok. God has promised He will take care of me.” The person in the boat then leaves.
The water rises even more, and Pete climbs on his chimney. Then a helicopter comes and lowers a ladder. The man in the helicopter tells Pete to climb up the ladder and get in. Pete says to him, “That’s ok.” The man says “Are you sure?” Pete says, “Yes, I’m sure God will keep His promise to take care of me.
Finally, the water rises too high and Pete drowns. Pete gets up to Heaven and is face-to-face with God. Pete says to God “You promised me you would take care of me! What happened?”
God replied “Well, I sent you tractor, a boat and a helicopter. What else did you want?”
This is an old joke but the message is clear, when we ask God to help us, or others, he seldom sends a bolt of lightning revealing a huge white robed angel with golden wings! There is a verse from the bible which says “Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it!”
The meaning of the word angel is that they are God’s messengers, they have no power except what they need to do God’s will.
Usually we find help coming from ordinary down-to-earth sources. A couple of examples:
My husband Rob is blind and, long before I met him, when he still had a very small amount of vision; he was starting a new job, in an unknown town.
He got off the bus with his white cane, struggling to work out where he could cross two busy roads. He silently asked for help from God, and then a young woman with a baby buggy touched his arm and said “Can I help you cross the road?” She led him through the heavy traffic; he followed her squeaky buggy wheels till he was safely on the road he needed to go down. Now he had been shown a safe route through the traffic he stuck to it and completed every trip successfully. He never saw, or heard, that young mother again, though he listened for the squeak!
A few years ago, after we met and married, we moved down to live in a seaside town called Minehead, on the edge of the lovely, wild Exmoor National Park. My family were very concerned that we were moving to a new area, especially as Rob was blind. A place far from their help, where we knew no-one, how would we cope with the move, with getting our flat ready, unpacking etc? But we discussed this together and felt it was a good idea to send an email to the local Baptist church there explaining our situation and asking for help. By the time we moved we had 5 people from the church – total strangers to us – waiting to help us unload, putting up shelves for us, setting up my computer, getting the washing machine plumbed in etc. When we were finished, at the end of a long day, we were taken home by one of the men where his wife had a home-cooked meal waiting for us.
A year later we were on a lonely county road on Exmoor, miles from anywhere, when my car broke down. I pulled out my mobile phone to call the breakdown service but saw there was no signal. We said “Help us God”! A minute later a pick-up truck pulled up close to us and two young women jumped out and proceeded to hammer a notice board into the ground advertising an upcoming “Young Farmers Ball”. I asked them if they could help us, explaining our predicament. One said, “Oh, you never get a signal on that phone around here, I have a different company, would you like to borrow it?” I called the breakdown truck out and they stayed with us till he arrived and got my car fixed.
Since then we have moved 400 miles to the north east, 30 miles south of the Scottish border on the coast of beautiful Northumberland. My sister and her husband came to visit in early March 2009. We had taken them for a tour of this stunning area, had a meal in Berwick-upon-Tweed, near the border, did some shopping and then drove down, in increasingly awful wet, stormy weather to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, to visit friends. We drove across the causeway, but, when we arrived at our friends I realised that I had left my bag, with my wallet including my credit cards in it, hanging on a hook in the Ladies public toilets back in the car park in Berwick! We turned around and set off back up the A1 road, praying for help.
It was getting late and when we got back to the car park my worst fears were realised as the toilet block gate was locked for the day! I stood looking at them and one of two women standing nearby asked “Did you need the Ladies?” I explained what the problem was and she replied “Your lucky day dear, we are the attendants and our taxi is late, which is why we are still here, I have your bag in our little office, I’ll get it for you!” Now, if their taxi had not been late it would have been a real problem, but there they still were, waiting for me!
William Temple was Archbishop of York, then of Canterbury. His reply to mocking that “answered prayer was a mere coincidence” was, “That may be true, but I’ve noticed that when I pray coincidences happen and when I don’t, they don’t”
The stories of how we met and married are full of surprising ‘coincidences’ and provision, if you would like to read them follow these links