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The famous Scottish missionary John Paton was no stranger to loss, pain, and near-death experiences. After leading a thriving ministry in Glasgow, he left behind home, family, and a comfortable life for the joy of bringing the gospel to those dwelling in darkness on the islands of the New Hebrides (now called Vanuatu). Paton lost his first wife and son to malaria shortly after arriving on the islands, and yet he persevered. Many times he would face death only to be spared by the providence of God. One night on the island of Tanna, he recounted how death was so close, but the presence of God was even closer:

I climbed into the tree, and was left there alone in the bush. The hours I spent there live all before me as if it were but of yesterday. I heard the frequent discharging of muskets, and the yells of the Savages. Yet I sat there among the branches, as safe in the arms of Jesus. Never, in all my sorrows, did our Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among those chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told all my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone! If it be to glorify my God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Savior’s spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship.

Fortitude is the ability to find God-given courage and perseverance where the natural mind finds doubt and discouragement. Fortitude is different from courage. Fortitude strengthens inwardly first, and then shows itself in the quiet resolve to choose a path that will often result in great sacrifice.

In Him we trust, knowing that for each challenge, each enduring trial, He will be sufficient for these things.

The people of God for thousands of years have persevered through adversity, not because they possessed superior mental strength but because when they were weak, their God was strong. David speaks to this stronghold, this bulwark we find in our God: “In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me!” (Ps. 31:1). Throughout his earthly journey, David faced trials and troubles of many sorts. Yet in the darkest hours we see the heart of this man and where he drew strength.

The well-known words of Psalm 31:5 were the final words of Christ on the cross and have been a comfort to countless others in their final moments: “Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.” Those who know the grace of God in Christ have nothing to fear even from death. The close of Psalm 31 is equally fortifying to the saints: “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!” (Ps. 31:24). Whether we find ourselves in a tree at night hiding from cannibals or speaking up against the tide of our culture, we will not be found lacking if we find our strength in the Lord.

John Paton would continue on in ministry in the New Hebrides. He would face shipwreck, spears, broken bones, and the loss of two wives and four children. But over his forty-two years there, he would establish nearly a dozen churches, translate the New Testament, and finish the race that God had called him to. This same fortitude marks Christians past and present as the people who find their strength in their God. In Him we trust, knowing that for each challenge, each enduring trial, He will be sufficient for these things. May the Father of all comfort, the ordainer of all things, give you the courage, the perseverance, the fortitude for the days He has called you to.



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From the October 2022 Issue
Oct 2022 Issue