As Thy Days
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

We are grateful that you are here today and we are grateful that we can be here. We are not going to take the time to express to all of you how very much we appreciate every thing that you've said, that you've done–every thing. We can't begin to express that. But I believe that if an investigation were made, there would not be found anywhere a man and his family who have been loved and cared for any more than we have, and we appreciate that.

I want to share with you some of the things God has given to me during these days of being laid aside. I'm doing that for two reasons. One is that I must do it to glorify Him, and the other is that perhaps you will have to go through an experience similar to this some time and these lessons may stand you in good stead.

I want you to indulge me a few things. Some of you who have spent some time with us have heard some of the testimony, so it will be a repetition for you. And then I'm going to have to use the personal pronoun more than I like. When I'm in the pulpit, I don't want anyone to see me; I want people to see the Lord. But you can't very well give a testimony like this without some reference to yourself, and you'll understand that, I trust.

The third thing is that I trust you will have patience with me; I said facetiously to someone since this surgery that they did quite a bit of cutting, and I think that in the process they must have cut my tear control. I find it very difficult when I'm speaking about these things to keep the tears from my eyes and from my voice.

I say I said that facetiously. Actually I think what has happened is that the Lord has melted my heart in a new way, and it is difficult for me to talk without tears. The reason I mention it is that there is so much false emotion in our world today and so much sham tear-jerking that I don't want anyone to think I am just turning on the tears for whatever effect they might have. Understand that when they are here, I can't help it.

Review of Year Verse

I would like for you to turn in your Bibles to a verse of Scripture that is very familiar to those of you who have been fellowshipping with us for any length of time. I refer to I Chronicles, chapter 4, verses 9 and 10. I ask you to turn to this particular verse because you will remember that this is a verse of Scripture, or a portion of the Word, that God gave us in 1963 when we asked Him for the verse of Scripture with which He was going to deal with us during that particular year. You will remember that at the end of 1963, when we entered into 1964, I told you that God had indicated to me that He was not through with this verse, that He had yet some things to teach me in relation to it. These things that have transpired in the last few weeks have all been related, I believe, to this particular verse and to others which I want you to look at with me. So we read from I Chronicles, chapter 4, verse 9:

I Chronicles 4

9And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow.
10And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.

We pointed out to you that this verse of Scripture speaks not of honor, but of blessing and that Jabez was the most blessed man of his generation. The reason is given in verse 10, where the fourfold request is mentioned. You notice that Jabez said:

I Chronicles 4

10…Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed [”Lord, I want you to bless me.” And I made that a prayer of my heart.] and enlarge my coast [ I made that the prayer of my heart.] and that thine hand might be with me [I wanted that.] , and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!…

You will remember that when we were talking about this verse, we said that the word “evil” here does not refer to sin, but to what we refer to as bad times, difficult circumstances, and things that are not particularly pleasant.

I call to your attention this verse because when I walked out of here on the first Sunday in September, the first thing the Devil said to me was, “What has God done with this verse? You have prayed that nothing evil would befall you that would slow you up in the work of the Lord, that nothing evil would befall you or slow you up in what you are trying to do for Him, but God hasn't answered that request.” I left here with that thought in mind.

A Supplementary Verse

Will you turn now to Jeremiah, chapter 29, because you will remember that when 1964 came along we mentioned to you that God wanted us to continue to use I Chronicles, chapter 4, verses 9 and 10, but He gave us a supplementary verse, and that supplementary verse is found in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 29, verse 11. We read from verse 10:

Jeremiah 29

10For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
11For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

We emphasize particularly verse 11. Literally it is: “For I know the thoughts or the plans that I have planned for you; they are plans of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end, or to give you the things for which you are hoping.” I call your attention to this verse because just as certainly as Satan reminded me of the last part of I Chronicles, chapter 4, verses 9-10, the Lord spoke to my heart and reminded me of this verse. He said, “Remember when I gave you this verse at the beginning of 1964? I know the plans that I am planning for you.” I knew that what happened on September 7 was written in the plan, and I rested on that verse.

You know, sometimes we find it easy to believe the Word of God when everything goes smoothly, but when the difficult things come, we think that maybe God isn't doing the things He said He would do and our faith begins to fade. It was as though God said to me, “Joe, this is one of the plans that I've planned for you. It's not a plan of evil; it is something that is going to bring peace, and it is something that is going to be used to give you an expected end.”

God's Promise of Strength

As the days progressed immediately after I left here, I told the Lord that I could rest upon these promises, but I had to have something more, because things were getting too difficult; they were getting entirely out of hand, and I had to have something upon which I could rest, regardless of what would happen. He gave me a portion of the Word that is found in chapter 33 of the book of Deuteronomy. You might like to turn there and notice what it says. It is a verse that is familiar to a great many of you, I am sure. I don't know how many times I have quoted this verse of Scripture. I don't know how many times I have stood by the beds of sick folk and quoted it, and I don't know how many times when I was weary in body and mind I would remind my own heart of this verse.

The Lord gave me some new things about this verse that I want to share with you. You'll notice verse 24:

Deuteronomy 33

24And of Asher he said, Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil.
25Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.

We are particularly interested in the last part of this verse: “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” I don't know how many times I have claimed that verse when I was weary and tired. I would say, “I have strength enough for anything; I have strength enough for as many days as God is going to let me live.” But as the Holy Spirit brought this verse of Scripture to my mind, I asked Him to enlighten it for me, to give me something that would be real; He gave me the real meaning underlying this verse. If you study it from a literal standpoint, you will find that this is the meaning: “As thy days, so shall thy quietness and security be.”

It is not a matter of how many days you're going to live. Every day the Lord said to me, “It is going to be different, and there is going to be security. It does not matter how bad the day, rest upon this promise: As thy days, so shall thy quietness and security be.”

Days of Discernment

God proved this verse true in a very marvelous way, for I had many different kinds of days. At the very beginning, I had days of discernment, for I do not believe that anything happens to a child of God by chance. I believe that everything is planned, and the Lord especially emphasized that to me. There came to my mind what is recorded in chapter 12 of the book of Hebrews, verse 11–that no chastisement for the present is pleasant, joyous, or enjoyable, but rather it is grievous. But afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Now keep in mind that chastisement does not necessarily mean that God is whipping you. The word “chastisement” means “child training,” and it refers to the kind of training a father would give to his child. It doesn't mean that the father is angry with the child because the chastisement comes, but it does mean that he needs to know something, he needs to learn something. Therefore, when anything unforeseen happens in my life and my experience, I always exercise myself about it. I always get alone with the Lord and say to the Lord, “Lord what is this? What is the meaning of it?”

I remembered the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians, chapter 3, verse 12, where he said he had not attained perfection; and because he had not attained perfection, he labored to apprehend that for which he was apprehended of Jesus Christ–that is, he longed to lay hold of the things that God had laid hold of him for. I knew that the Lord had stopped me short in my tracks, and I wanted to know why. I had to spend days saying, “Lord, why? Why has this particular thing occurred?”

Then I remembered the word of Paul in his letter to the Philippians, chapter 1, verse 10, where he was praying for the Philippian believers and all believers everywhere, that among other things they would learn to approve the things that were excellent. Literally rendered, it is that they would learn to discern the things which differ.

During these days of discernment I said, “Lord, let me know what this is. Is it just an ordinary physical ailment that would have happened, no matter what? Or is there something You want me to know? Is there something that I need to know?” These were days of discernment in a very special way for me.

I had been told from the time I was 16 years old that I could not live with the heart I have. Every time I went to a doctor for any kind of ailment–and I've had only minor ailments since that time–automatically stethoscoping me as a matter or routine, they would say, “Has anyone ever told you how bad your heart is?” And I would say to them, “Yes, but what can we do about it?” That was all that ever was said, but I lived with the full expectancy that some day this would come. That morning as I left the pulpit here, I thought, “Well, this is it. God in His mercy and His grace has been good. He has given me 47 years, and since I've found the Lord those have been precious years, and I can't ask for anything else. I have no right to ask God for an extension of time. This has been more than anyone could have deserved.”

But I had, during these days of discernment, to know whether this was the end or whether it was just a temporary laying aside. I had to decide these things. I had to know what to do, and I waited upon the Lord during those days. My two older children were leaving that day for Greenville, South Carolina. The doctor said they shouldn't go; it would be foolish for them to go, as they would have to come right back. I had to decide whether they should go or stay, and as you know, we decided to let them go. They couldn't do anything here, and they would lose a semester of school and a semester out of their lives, etc. Those were minor decisions, but it all meant that I had to have spiritual discernment from the Lord.

This is what I want to say to you for your own encouragement should you face days like that. During those days of discernment, there was perfect peace and perfect quietness. God proved again, “As thy days, so shall thy quietness and security be.”

Days of Decision

After the days of discernment came days of decision. What should we do? The doctor had a recommendation, but I believe in prayer. I believe that God is able to heal miraculously without the aid of human means, and I have seen Him do it, and I would defy anyone who questions that. I believe it with all my heart, and I had to decide whether I should lie there on the bed at home (because I was too weak to do anything else after I left here) and wait for God to heal me miraculously without the aid of human means. I believe it is a miracle even when human means are used. I said, “God, show me.” I asked the doctor to wait. He said it ought to be done immediately, but I asked him to wait. He said, “I'll wait two weeks, but any longer and I'm through.”

On Friday of the first week God gave me the answer. I had another attack, and the doctor said, “We can't wait any longer; there is no decision to make; it is made.” As most of you know, we went to Houston, primarily with the idea of finding out whether surgery could be performed; even though we knew it was needed, we didn't know whether or not it could be done.

I spent two hours in an operating room, perfectly conscious while they were catheterizing my heart, talking to them as they did it. I had a tube in my left arm up to my heart, and they were probing into every corner of my heart with the idea of seeing whether or not I could stand the surgery. All the time I was lying there conscious, I was saying, “God, give them wisdom.” I knew they were men. I have a very good physician friend who does not live here, but he talks in a personal way, and he once said, “Joe, after all, let's face it; all we do is practice medicine; we aren't perfect.” I knew they weren't perfect, and I asked God for wisdom for them. I asked God to give them such wisdom that there would be no doubts in our minds as to what ought to be done.

After that examination was completed, with others which lasted all day long, four different doctors came into the room and said, “You have to have surgery; there is no way to escape it.” The surgeon himself came into the room and said, “I've got you set up for surgery Wednesday morning.” I said to him, “Well, wait just a minute; I've got a decision to make. I haven't even decided in the first place whether I'm going to have surgery.” Of course he was nonplused at that. He said, “Black is black and white is white. What is there to decide?” And I said, “Doctor, let me tell you a few things about myself. In the first place, I'm a Christian. I love the Lord, and I've got that to consider. I would like for you to answer a question for me. What is the very worst thing that in your estimation could happen to me in that surgery?” He said, “Well, humanly speaking, the worst thing that could happen to you is that you could die; you might.” I said, “That is not my problem.” And I quoted to him what is recorded in the first chapter of Philippians, verses 23 and 24, “To depart and to be with Christ is far better, but to abide in the flesh is more needful.” I said, “There is much I want to do. There is so much I haven't done. It is no problem for me to die. Do I have a right to be rolled into that operating room and out the other side leaving a lot of work undone? Do I have that right? I've got to decide that.”

As most of you know, he said, “You don't have anything to decide. This has reached the stage where you have two years to live at the very most, and maybe not that long. They will be two miserable years. You will spend most of your time in the hospital in an oxygen tent. You don't have anything to decide.”

As he left the room I said, “Well, let's put it off another day or two at least; give me that. I've got to have the time to make this decision.” My wife and I talked about it, and we prayed about it. We asked the Lord to give us the discernment we needed. The Lord brought very forcefully to our attention that we had asked the Lord to give the doctors wisdom for the right decision, and if we had asked for it, we ought to follow it. And we did.

All of you have to make decisions of some kind, and you know how restless you can become during the time of decision and how uncertain you can be and how you can't get anything else done because that decision is hanging over your head. I want you to know, and I say it for the glory of God, that during those days of decision God proved this verse again: “As thy days, so shall thy quietness and security be.” I was making not only a decision that was related to my life, but a decision that was related to my family as well and for the work I'm trying to do for God. These were tremendous decisions, but still there was perfect quietness and perfect peace. “As thy days, so shall thy security be.”

Days of Darkness

Then there were days of darkness. I don't know how else to describe it. I believe sometimes the Lord lets you go through the darkness that you might walk by faith and not by sight. It's not difficult to believe that God is real if you can feel his presence with you all the time. It is difficult when you feel that He has left you. It's difficult when you feel that you are alone.

After the decision was made for surgery, there was a terrible feeling of apprehension that took control of me. It was almost fear, and fear was mingled with it, and I was puzzled by it. I said, “Lord, I don't understand this. Why should there be any uncertainty at all?” And the Devil said, “Well, these things you've preached all these years are good preaching, but when you come face to face with reality, they don't do you much good.”

Several doctors were on this case, and they were all very personable, and they came into the room and visited with me at times. I said to several of them during this time, “I can't understand this and I'm disgusted; I'm ashamed of myself. I have a terrible feeling about the whole thing. I have a terrible fear, and I don't know what it is. I know it is not a fear of death; I'm not afraid to die. I know it's not a fear of what is going to come out of this. I can't understand this apprehension.”

This is what they said to me. I don't know whether they were saying it to encourage me or whether it is a fact, because I don't know enough about these things. But they said, “Reverend,”–that is what they called me down there–“Reverend, you don't need to be surprised about that. When you are facing something like this, surgery as serious as this, you are physically apprehensive. Your faith has nothing to do with it. What you believe has nothing to do with it. It is more a glandular thing. You are just full of fear.” I said, “Well, I don't want to be full of fear. I don't think it is right.”

I talked to the Lord some more about it, and that morning the nurse came in with three new pills which she hadn't come in with before. She laughingly referred to them as “happy pills,” and I took them. Later that day, toward noon, I said to my wife, “You know, all this fear and apprehension is gone and I have perfect peace.”

My wife and my children had all said, “Daddy, will you come through this?” I've always appreciated their confidence in me. If I said, “This is the way it will be,” well, they believed me. I longed to be able to say, “Yes, I'll come through it; don't worry.” But I couldn't say it because I didn't know. I didn't want to say it to them, and then if the Lord saw fit for me not to come through it, for their faith to be wrecked because God went back on Daddy when God really didn't go back on Daddy. Daddy just didn't know.

So I said to my wife, “I don't know whether I'll walk out on Heaven's side or earth's side when this is over, but there is perfect peace. 'As thy days, so shall they peace and security be'.” The nurse came in somewhat later with these same three pills and I said, “You should have started giving me these pills days ago. All that apprehension and all that fear I had is gone. These are good pills.” She looked at me and smiled and said, “I don't want to disillusion you, but these pills have absolutely nothing to do with it. The doctors haven't given you one thing in the way of a tranquilizer; they can't afford to with the kind of surgery you are going to have. If you have any peace, if you have any less apprehension than you had before, it came without pills.” I thanked God then with bowed head for peace without pills. It's possible. “As thy days, so shall thy rest and thy security be.”

Those were days of darkness. We won't go into detail about the surgery. You know, of course, that it was a very serious thing. They put me into intensive care for six days, and those were indeed days of darkness, for I knew very little for six days. Lights burned brightly all the time; there were no windows in this particular area of the building. The doors were locked. No one could come in or go out except at stated times with certain permission. Wires from my ankles, breast, and arms were attached to a machine which provided information the doctors and nurses needed. I knew very little of what was going on. My wife would come in three times a day for a few minutes, and I remember looking through the haze of my mental pain and torture and just seeing her face and holding her hand for a few minutes. That is all I remember. But even in the midst of all those days of being utterly forsaken–that is the way I felt–I remembered the goodness of God.

Illustration of God's Provision

I want to give to you just a little illustration, because to me it was a wonderful illustration of how God cares for His own. I had a tube in my back, a big tube, almost like a hose you connect a gas stove with. I remember being literally burned up on the inside. I can't begin to describe the physical pain related to it. I remember particularly saying one day when I had just a little phase of consciousness, “Oh, Lord Jesus, if I could just get cool on the inside.” I don't know whether the nurse heard me say that or whether she was doing something routine; I don't know, but she took that tube apart and took a great big syringe of cold water and shot cold water through that tube, and it went all into the inside of me, and I remember lying there saying, “Thank You, Jesus. Thank You.”

If I live to be a hundred years of age, I will never forget the wonderful feeling of that cold water. I remember thinking of what the wise man said, “As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country” (Proverbs 25:25). I thanked God for it. I mention that, though it is just a little thing, because it is an illustration of the truth of the fact that “As thy days, so shall thy peace and security be.”.bp

Sharing the Suffering of Christ

I came back to the room after six days of intensive care. The second day I was back, I sat in a chair and ate breakfast; and as I lay back down, immediately I began to suffer tremendous pain in the chest area. I can't begin to describe it. It was the most horrible pain I've ever had in my life. They were very much concerned about it. The doctors mentioned all came in and they stayed all morning. They didn't understand the cause of my pain, but it was there, and it was very real.

It was on this day of darkness that I cried out to the Lord and said, “What is this? Why?” None of the doctors seemed to know, and nothing they did provided any relief. Now, this is my testimony; you don't have to believe it–you are patient enough to listen to it–but just as certainly as though the Lord would stand by my side today and you could see Him, His presence was real that day as He stood by my bed and in the midst of that pain and reminded me of what is found in Colossians, chapter 1, verse 24, where the Apostle Paul spoke of his own suffering:

Colossians 1

24Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church.

I have never been able to understand that verse in its entirety. I know what it says. The reason I say I don't understand it is because it seems so strange that that verse of Scripture actually says that Christians sometimes are called upon to suffer in their bodies and thus share in some of the sufferings of Christ for the sake of the Church.

I don't believe I had ever known real pain until that day, and the Lord Jesus Christ said, “You are filling up the sufferings of Christ.” Then He said something else. These verses have always been precious to me, but they are very real to me now because He said them in a new way. In II Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 9, He said, “My grace is sufficient.” I remember tears running down my face amidst that pain and I said, “God, I can't stand this.” And He said, “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in you.” And I replied, “Then most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities.” Then I fell asleep in the midst of the pain.

So there were days of darkness, and in those days of darkness the truth of that verse was proved: “As thy days, so shall thy rest and thy security be.”

Days of Distribution

I might add that there were days of witness, days of good distribution of God's Word. I had an opportunity to witness to the surgeon. I had an opportunity to witness to the heart specialist. I had an opportunity to witness to numerous resident doctors, and I gave every one of them a testimony. The Lord provided excellent opportunity. They all came in for consultation, and they would begin by saying, “Now, we've never met you, so you tell us everything about yourself, what is important and what isn't. Don't leave anything out; tell us everything.” That gave me a wide open opportunity, so I began with a few things I knew they wanted to hear and then said, “This may not seem important to you, but I must tell you when I met the Lord Jesus Christ.” And I gave them a testimony of God's redeeming grace and they had the witness. The nurses had it. And I might say that when we were ready to leave the hospital, one of the doctors came in to tell me goodbye and he said, “You are as perfect as a man can be as far as your heart is concerned. The surgery was perfect. But I'd like for you to do something for me. I'd like for you to go back and preach as you preached before, and then if you have just a little bit of time, I want you to pray for me. No one knows how badly I need prayer.” There was witness and there was testimony.

I had an opportunity to witness to a doctor from Red China who is going back to Red China as a doctor after his term of residency is over.

Only God knows what my wife endured during these days. She had a wonderful opportunity to witness during this time in intensive care, because though the individual families couldn't see the patients, they didn't want the families to leave the area where intensive care was. She had a marvelous opportunity to witness to different ones. Afterward, I met some of those couples to whom she had witnessed when I was able to get up in a wheelchair. There was one that particularly touched my heart, a precious Jewish couple. Jews are so persecuted and they feel so alone. She had a real opportunity to tell them about our faith in Christ and what God is able to do. They gave her their address and asked her to continue to write them and to keep in touch with them. There were days of distribution.

Days of Dedication

The last thing I want to say to you is this: These were days of dedication. I do not believe that an individual can go through an experience like this without some real heart searching or without realizing his own need and without being impelled to look upon things differently than he ever has before. During those days, God called to my mind the experience of Hezekiah as it is recorded in chapter 38 of the book of Isaiah. Read it when you have time. Hezekiah was at the point of death, you remember, and God was pleased to raise him up by human means, not by anything miraculous, just an old fashioned fig plaster when he was dying of blood poisoning. After it was all over, he gave his testimony just as I'm giving this one today. He said, in verse 15:

Isaiah 38

15What shall I say? he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it…

I say “amen” to that. “He hath spoken unto me, and Himself hath done it.” Hezekiah continued:

Isaiah 38

15…I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul [literally, because of the depth of my experience] .

I never expect to be the same again. I'll go softly all the days of my life. During those days in the hospital, when God was dealing with me, He gave me words to put into a poem that I want to read to you now. It sums up the way I feel about this experience through which I have gone. Listen to the words, for they represent my testimony from the day I was saved until this present hour:

The Savior found me long ago,
Nourished and blessed me, until I came to know
Through seed planted and in time full grown,
The meaning of life as I had never known.
Then came a day when the Savior said,
“I want this life I have nourished and fed.”
Ready and willing, I yielded my all
In glad response to my Master's call.
I lived my life, surrendered to Him,
Save for the days when the flesh would win
In that struggle which began in my heart
When of the body of Christ I became a part.
So it became a life, His and mine,
A partnership, both human and divine,
Busy and full, with not enough hours
To do the things needed in this life of ours.
But recently my pace was stayed
By the Savior's hand on my shoulder laid,
And through an experience known to few,
I was granted life, life anew.
And in a message only I could see,
His eyes spoke, “All of me and none of thee.
This life,” He said, “is not yours and Mine,
As was that one that once was thine;
This is new life, Mine alone,
entrusted to you, but not your own.
Walk softly and hold this trust dear.
Remembering always death is near.”

Before this experience, I spoke of God and me—a partnership. I spoke of giving my life to God to do with it what He would. I can no longer speak that way. That life finished, I believe, when I went into the operating room. Since I came out, it is not a matter of my life and His together; it is a matter of His life entrusted to me as a very sacred trust. I have to be very careful how I handle it. There were days of dedication, and I would say to you today that Christ is all.


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