Secure in The Rock

Fred Smith tells an intimate story of a friend who was tried by fire.

By Fred Smith

For fifteen years I served on the board with a friend who was Chairman of a New York based corporation, President of his denomination's lay organization, on the board of a seminary, as well as other Christian organizations. His wife was socially prominent. I always knew him as a successful, contributing man. Little did I know that during this time he suffered greatly. His story could bring tears to Job's eyes. As I started studying perseverance, I wanted to hear his whole story because I had only heard snatches of it. Nothing in his attitude or his participation on the board had ever given me any idea how deep his hurt had been. In all of our meetings he was positive, constructive, and loving. Two or three times a year he would call me just to encourage me, having read something I had written or heard of a talk I had made.

While he was chairman, ensconced in a large Manhattan office, his company was attacked by an outside raider. Two of the corporate officers were his close friends and confidants. They felt that it was possible to withstand the attack. My friend personally borrowed $600,000 and ran up large lawyers' fees only to find out later than his two friends had betrayed him and gone over to the other side.

Consequently, he was replaced by one of them as chairman and offered a city sales job with a small desk in an open cubicle. He took it. Not because he wanted to but because he felt a responsibility to the company. He firmly believed that the new management would destroy what he had built. The new regime took all of his executive privileges and humiliated him as much as they could. He continued to go door to door with his briefcase meeting with customers who had known him as the Chairman. As the company started to get into trouble they kept turning over increasing marketing duties to him and he took them without demands. While three of their competitors failed, the company made money.

Although he was in charge of the marketing he had not had lunch with the president in five years. They became convinced that he would carry out his responsibilities without reward. I asked him how he could work for those fellows. He replied, "I never worked for them. I work for the Lord." And then he gave me the verses of scripture: "Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve." Then he repeated, "I never worked for them, I work for the Lord."

When we talked about the two friends who had betrayed him he pointed out to me that Christian brothers had done him in but he wasn't looking for revenge.

With my usual analytical approach I asked him to outline what he had learned from his experience and he said, "1 learned that I didn't have to commit suicide even though I considered it when my two friends betrayed me. I learned not to have any bitterness, believing that the Lord holds the rights to vengeance, not me." He knew that bitterness would only attack him and not the people to whom it was directed. With patience he paid $550,000 of the $600,000 personal debt and the lawyers' fees. And, "I have no ulcers. I have not missed a single night's sleep." He confidently expressed his trust that God was sufficient. He had done his study and pointed out that "fear not" is the most-repeated admonition of the Lord, used some 354 times in the scripture.

Finally, from his conversation I realized that he had learned to trust the promises because until you have trouble the promises are only words. God's promises are only proven true when they are needed. You never know whether a man will pay a note until it comes due.

He had used scriptural principles like pitons on which a mountain climber risks his life. As he climbed the bluff he drove in scriptures and tied his ropes to them.

My friend experienced the constructive comfort of scripture and chose to avoid the destructive vengeance of human nature. He grew. However, we cannot assume that going through the furnace automatically makes us grow. Some are melted down to midgets. The children of Israel wasted their time in the desert, not learning anything, and died in the wilderness. Joseph spent thirteen years as a servant in prison but came out to be prime minister. We see there is a purpose but the result is not automatic. We make a choice.