Staking eternity on Jesus
Amy Carmichael had often felt the love of the Lord Jesus as a child, but she only gave herself to Him when a teenage pupil in Harrogate.
After hearing a Christian address, the speaker told the pupils to sing, “Jesus loves me, this I know,” and then to be quiet. “During those quiet few minutes,” Amy would recall, “in His great mercy the Good Shepherd answered the prayers of my mother and father and many other loving ones, and drew me, even me, into His fold.”
Later she found words that satisfied her:
Upon a life I did not live,
Upon a death I did not die,
Another’s life, Another’s death,
I stake my whole eternity.
Working for eternity
Amy first met the living Lord on the streets of Belfast. She was just a teenage girl then and the meeting with her Saviour was sudden, startling, and unexpected. This encounter was life-changing:
“It was a dull Sunday morning,” she recalled, “in Belfast. My brothers and sisters and I were returning with our mother from church. We met a poor, pathetic old woman who was carrying a heavy bundle. … [M]oved by sudden pity, my brothers and I turned with her, relieved her of the bundle, took her by her arms as though they had been handles, and helped her along. This meant facing all the respectable people who were, like ourselves, on their way home. It was a horrid moment. … But just as we passed a fountain, recently built near the kerbstone, this mighty phrase was suddenly flashed as it were through the grey drizzle:
‘“Gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble—every person's work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be declared by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide—’ “If any man’s work abide: I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. The fountain, the muddy street, the people with their politely surprised faces, all this I saw, but saw nothing else. The blinding flash had come and gone; the ordinary was all about us. We went on. I said nothing to anyone, but I knew that something had happened that had changed life’s values. Nothing could ever matter again but the things that were eternal.”
That afternoon, Amy shut herself in her room. She talked to God and settled once and for all the pattern of her future life.
Being kept from falling
Amy’s “good works” entailed teaching and praying with youngsters and mill girls in Belfast and encouraging the reading of the Bible. Yet if these works were to be fruitful for eternity, Amy needed to know God more intimately and to rest more securely upon the everlasting Arms.
In September 1886, eighteen-year-old Amy was invited to Scotland where she attended a Christian convention. “I had been longing for months, perhaps years, to know how one could live a holy life, and a life that would help others. I came to that meeting half hoping, half fearing. Would there be anything for me? ... My soul was in a fog. Then the chairman rose for the last prayer. Perhaps the previous address had been about Peter walking on the water, and perhaps it had closed with the words of Jude 24, for the one who prayed began like this: ‘O Lord, we know Thou art able to keep us from falling.’ Those words found me. It was as if they were alight, and they shone for me.”
Building with gold, silver, precious stones
The work for the mill girls grew until a hall was needed to seat 500 for Christian meetings. It would cost £500 to put up an iron hall but Amy decided to ask her Heavenly Father only for money for His work. He provided through the generosity of a Christian lady. Printed by hand in large letters and hung in a long strip at the front, these words could be clearly read during the Dedication Service of the hall: ‘That in all things He [Christ] may have the preeminence.’
The power of God was present in the mission that opened the work of “The Welcome”, the name of that new hall. Yet then in one meeting, there was nothing, no power. Why had the Power left? Amy later recounted this troubling experience: “Lord, is it I? And then, as I prayed that prayer, I remembered something, a rollicking hour when we reached home after the meeting and, as usual, it was my fault. There was nothing wrong in the fun, but it was not the time for it. I have never forgotten the shock of that discovery. Grieve not the Spirit—that was the word then. In His mercy He forgave; and the work went on again.”
When Amy needed financial supplies, she looked to the Lord alone. And when workers were required for the work of “The Welcome”, only the Lord’s people could be permitted to help, those who were one with Amy in her desire for the salvation of the mill girls. “It is the word of 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 again,” she would write. “Do we want to build in substance that will abide the test of fire? Then let us see to it that the builders are those whose hearts are set on building in gold, silver, precious stones.”
Many years later, after Amy had been told by God, “Go ye,” and gone—gone to Japan, where she heard Him say, “None of them that trust in Me shall be desolate,” gone to China, returned to England, and then gone to India in 1895—the principle still held. Amy wanted God’s house, His work, to be built with His means and people.
Of stars and jewels
One day in India, while sitting under a wide-spreading tree, Amy became conscious of the “unfolding sense of a Presence”, a “Listener.” It seemed to her that Jesus Christ was looking for someone to listen with Him, to listen to the voice of one’s brother’s blood crying to Him from the ground. That day on the hillside influenced Amy's coming years and gave depth to them all.
Amy moved to Tinnevelly District in south India and began to itinerate with Indian women in a band formed in 1898, spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, a band dubbed the “Starry Cluster” by the Indians. They were ready to work without a salary: “A new love had been kindled in those hearts—they glowed. Thereafter it was never, ‘How much can I get?’ but always, ‘How much can I give? How much can I do without, that I may have more to give?’ … Can you imagine with what joy we worshipped the Lord together?” Some obeyed the Voice that spoke to them, their spirits “tender of the glory of God.”
Amy and her Christian co-workers were to help many Indian children live for Jesus Christ. In one village a young girl who had become a secret believer was given a Bible by a Christian lady. She lay down to sleep beside her mother one night and in the early morning was wakened (as it seemed) by the light touch of a hand, and a voice in her heart said, “Go!” She escaped for refuge to the house where Amy and another couple were staying and was given the name “Jewel of Victory”. Within six months another girl escaped, named “Jewel of Life” when she was baptised.
Later, Amy was used by Jesus to rescue girls from the Hindu temples (the first one reached her in 1901), and then boys in danger. Few missionaries or Indian Christians were in sympathy with her at first. Of this she wrote: “Sometimes it was as if I saw the Lord Jesus Christ kneeling alone … as He knelt long ago under the olive trees. The trees were tamarind now, the tamarinds that I see as I look up from this writing. And the only thing that one who cared could do, was to go softly and kneel down beside Him, so that He would not be alone in His sorrow over the little children.”
By the time Amy died in Dohnavur in 1951 in her Room of Peace, of physical suffering, at an orphanage that had been established, she had become Amma (mother) to many children for His sake. “I wonder what your biggest temptation is. Is it to be suddenly angry?”, she wrote to one. “I used to feel something like a fire suddenly burning up in my heart. If you feel like that, ask the Lord Jesus to pour His cool, kind, gentle love into your heart instead. Never go on being angry with anyone; be Jesus’ little peacemaker.” “What can you give, you little lovers,” she noted on another occasion, “to the One who gives you everything, and, more than that, gave His life to make you good and happy? You can give Him a grateful heart. If anything has gone wrong, you can give Him what the Psalm calls a humble and contrite heart. You can refuse to cover wrong things as if they didn’t matter much; you can confess them, and like David accept the fruit of your doings … and humbly and lovingly begin again. You can give your Lord Jesus all you have to give. Then your word will be, ‘I give! I give! I give!’ and He will hear and He will be pleased with His little lovers.”
“If you hold fast to the resolve that in all things Christ as Lord shall have the pre-eminence,” Amy once noted, “ … if you keep His will, His glory, and His pleasure high above everything …, and if you continue in His love, loving one another as He has loved you, then all will be well, eternally well.”
—See Frank L. Houghton, Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur