[Written by Dr. Carl F. Painter on August 17, 2001]
I consider this to be the most important letter I ever wrote or may ever have the opportunity to write. To each of you eleven grandchildren I’ll try to pass along the thoughts and counsel that I hope will most enrich your lives. Your grandmother Dorothy and I have been so blest and happy to have each of our children remain strong in their faith and see them pass along to each of you the desire to follow Jesus. We pray for each of you that you in turn will pass this rich heritage on to your children. We pray as Jesus did that “not one of you will be lost.” There are so many ways that the evil influences of your generation will tempt you to turn aside and we know that you will face incredible obstacles in your future.
A good athlete thrives on an obstacle course. The Apostle Paul and the writer of the letter to the Hebrews both compare the Christian life to a race in which running effectively involves a total commitment and a resolve to abandon all encumbrances. In my college years I competed many times in running events and a few times with famous competitors such as Fred Wilt and Wes Santee, who taught me much about how to master the techniques of running to win. On one occasion I had the opportunity to meet Gil Dodd the great distance runner at a large indoor track meet in a field house at Naperville, IL. One of my team mates asked Mr. Dodd, then a coach of one of the teams entered, for his autograph and I watched as he wrote, “Wherefore seeing we are encompassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and run with patience the race that is set before us.” He noted the passage was Heb 12:1 and then signed his name. Every good runner exercises strong self discipline in extensive training preparing for a race. Take sufficient time preparing for the race before you, but keep pace with those of good character and do not ever let evil influences catch up on you.
The Apostles also compare the Christian life to deadly warfare that requires a total commitment to defeating the forces of evil arrayed for battle against us. The full armour of God and the sword of the Spirit are essential to success in winning this battle. The Devil is relentless in his attempts to find where you are vulnerable and attack your weaknesses. Keep vigilance in your daily walk with your Lord and seek His power to overcome temptation and be alert to the subtle deceptions the Devil will use to detract you from serving God. Remember God does not permit the Devil to tempt you beyond that which you are able to resist and with each temptation He provides a way of escape. But He expects us to be alert and use the way He provides. Always remember that the best defense is a good offense and the sword of the Spirit is your offensive weapon.
Character that God expects of us takes a lifetime to build and yet it can be lost in a few reckless moments. The pure virtuous character the followers of Christ must demonstrate makes the world a better place for everyone. Your life can influence many others to follow the Lord and be saved and that is such a heavy responsibility to realize your actions can bring others to Christ or lead them away from obedience. Think about each step you take as to how it may help or hurt someone else. No one is an island whose life will not affect others. As Jesus asks, “How much then is man more than a sheep?”
Many in the world are trying to redefine truth as if it were flimsy and changeable to be anything someone might desire. You and I know that truth is embodied in Jesus the sovereign and creator of the universe. Always surround yourself with truth and don’t waver in it. You may feel that you have a long life ahead of you and you will have plenty of time to think about these things later, but life is shorter than you realize and later will be sooner than you think.
My grandfather and my father left me a great heritage of Christian character that I have not fully exemplified, but I want each of you to see how wonderful it would be for each of you to pass along this legacy to your children and your grandchildren as an unbroken chain. What a great family reunion we will have in that heavenly landscape. Grandma Dorothy and I will pray for each of you every day all of our remaining days on this earth and look forward to meeting great-grand children we may never see here in that great reunion in the place God will provide.
There is much more we would like to write to you about that. We hope to include more in another letter the Lord may yet let us write sometime. Again we want you to know we love you so much and are so proud of your maturity and your Christian walk with the Lord.