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    Chapter 1—A Pony and a Dying Promise

    Some of you have prayed for some special thing and your prayer was apparently not answered, so you felt discouraged. When I was a mere lad my father hired me out to herd cattle on the Western plains. Other boys had ponies, but my father could not afford to buy me one, so I had to stub my bare feet; and I had a sorry time of it.FF 3.1

    I asked the Lord to send me a pony, and every time I saw someone drive down the road with a pony, I thought, “Here is God answering my prayer”; but each time I was grievously disappointed. It was many years later before I found out why the Lord did not send me a pony: I have had to do much hard work in my life which required sound muscle. The muscles in my limbs are almost as hard as wood, and I developed them chasing after the cattle barefooted. If the Lord had answered my prayer, the pony would have gotten the muscle and I would not. The Lord looked ahead and knew it was not best for me to have my prayer answered. But I did not make the mistake some folks have made; I kept right on praying for other things, which the Lord has given me.FF 3.2

    The reason some of you have not had your prayers answered is because you are praying for ponies. Moses must have had a terrible disappointment when he had to herd sheep for years and years. He never would have planned it that way, but finally he saw in it a burning bush, yes, a great mission for his life. It put character into him, it made him the leader of a great nation. So the Lord can take the most grievous disappointment in your life and show you the burning bush in it.FF 4.1


    When I was seventeen years old, an epidemic of virulent diphtheria invaded our neighborhood. An older brother died of it after a few days’ illness. I contracted the disease, and directly was at death’s door. I heard them say there was no chance of my living more than a few hours. I had had the religious experience of the average young people of our church that I knew, yet I might as well have tried to make a plank reach across the Atlantic Ocean as to have made the faith I had in Christ tide me over to the next world. In other words, somehow I had missed the real thing.FF 4.2

    In the agony of my soul I promised the Lord that if He would raise me up I would unreservedly dedicate my life to Him. And He answered my prayer. I took God in as my partner, and all that has come into my life that has been sweet, and all I have been able to do, has come and has been done as a result of that sickness.FF 5.1

    I then appreciated the necessity for some sort of an education. I had grown up on the Western plains with practically no educational advantages. I could not have told the difference between a noun and a verb if I had met them on the street.FF 5.2

    A couple of years rolled by, and by almost herculean efforts I secured enough money to carry me through one year in Battle Creek College. When that year was over, I knew I had only scratched the surface of an education. I decided to go to work for the Battle Creek Sanitarium during the summer vacation, with the hope that they might permit me to continue to work for them for my expenses while going to school the next year.FF 5.3

    I rose early in the morning and carried hot water to the patients’ rooms. I washed tinware in the kitchen during the day, then ran calls in the evening until ten o'clock. I beat carpets, scrubbed floors, washed windows, tacked down carpets, and did a hundred and one other things that a boy naturally dislikes to do. The physical strain of that program nearly cost me my life, but the Lord helped me to win the good will of the managers, and when practically all other applications for student help were refused, mine was accepted. Meanwhile at the College the good Lord was using the teachers to satisfy an insatiable thirst for knowledge that He had planted in my soul.FF 6.1

    Time rolled on, and I was promoted to be night watchman for the latter half of the night. That gave me a little chance to study between the regular rounds while I was on duty. At the same time, it was extremely difficult, in a great institution, to get enough sleep early in the night to keep one’s nerves in the right tone.FF 6.2

    The small salary I received in the summer time enabled me to get my clothing; what I earned at the sanitarium during the school year practically covered my other expenses. Finally after three years I was graduated.FF 7.1

    That promise on my deathbed brought me to the Battle Creek College for a preparation; it brought me to the Sanitarium; it brought me to the Ann Arbor medical college; it brought me to a life of toil in sin-cursed Chicago; it brought me to the disheartening task of building up a sanitarium at Hinsdale in “troublous times.” It has enabled me to bear with joy the scoff and scorn of others who saw no light in my program.FF 7.2

    I got that secret when I was looking into an open grave. I have been living on borrowed time ever since. I have not had a day of real sound health from that day till now, but I have been trying to work for the Lord. I never had a day when I didn't have plenty to do.FF 7.3

    I am here carrying out that promise, but incidentally, I have had the time of my life doing it. I would recommend to others who are sick to give themselves to the Lord to be used of Him.FF 8.1

    The experience that God gives us to-day, be it light or dark, is worth a great deal more to us than if He repeated for us the brightest experience we ever had; for that is dead and gone, and would be only a second-hand thing. God is so wonderful an educator that He can teach us equally well in the dark or in the light. To-day from a trying experience we may learn something that will so wonderfully impress us that some time in the future it will be worth more to us than any other we have yet known in our lives. Sometimes it seems as if God were showering blessings over us, and at other times it appears as if He were not doing much for us. But it takes all these varied experiences to make us all-round workers.FF 8.2

    Sometimes we may appear to be floating on the top wave of success, and at other times our faith will be severely tested, and we may seem to be lost in the depths of despair; but these experiences all serve as spiritual gymnastics to develop the right kind of spiritual muscle and sinew.FF 8.3

    While working my way through school, how I envied the boys and girls who did not have to work their way through! But now I feel sorry for some of them—and why? Because in order to get my education I was compelled to learn the trick of studying and working at the same time. Most students, when they begin to work, cease to study, and when they begin to study again, stop work. I learned to do both at the same time, and this habit has been of priceless value to me, as it enables me to do about the same amount of study each year as I did when I went to college, and that without slighting any of the ordinary duties that life has brought to me.FF 9.1

    Let me say to those who are compelled to “work their finger nails off” in order to secure an education, instead of murmuring at your lot, thank the Lord for the opportunity. The man who does not learn to study and work at the same time, will, within a few years after he has begun his life work, have forgotten nine-tenths of what he learned, and so will soon be left far behind in life’s struggle.FF 9.2

    How many discouraged persons are ready to say, “If only I knew how to study, or at least were able to recall what I have studied, I would feel encouraged; but my mind is like a sieve. I fear I shall never amount to anything.” The fact that you believe that you have a poor memory is no evidence that such is really the case. The best way for you to test the matter for yourself is to consider a few questions: Did your house ever burn down? Have you any difficulty in remembering all about that? Was your brother or your sister killed in an accident? If so, have you forgotten all the shocking details? Do you remember the tragedy that occurred in your community? Or do you have to stop and review such things every few days, for fear you may forget all about them? You may say, “Oh, but that is different.” No, it is not different; it requires the same kind of memory to recall such things as is needed to remember what you see and read and hear. The only difference is that such events make a vivid impression on your mind, while you have failed to learn the valuable secret of making what you regard as “ordinary” things impress you in a similar manner.FF 10.1

    When we get down to the root of the matter, there is nothing really ordinary in the world. Every act of our lives is full of realities. Every opportunity we have of looking into a book ought to change us for time and for eternity. The great secret of remembering what is studied is the ability to concentrate the mind fully upon it, thus shutting out everything else for the time being. Then a definite, ineffaceable picture of what is read is made on the mind; and in proportion as we appreciate the importance of what we are studying, to exactly that extent will it become easy to concentrate the mind upon it. We should never read nor study anything that is not worth focusing our attention upon almost as intently as if our very life were at stake. Has not God bidden us study to show ourselves approved unto Him, as workmen who need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth? You can study even the truth, and get so muddled and confused an idea of it that it will seem tame and uninteresting to those to whom you try to tell it; or you can so study it that it will fall from your lips clear-cut and beautifully expressed, fascinating to all who hear. The thought of having God’s approving smile upon us moment by moment in our study ought to be a sufficient incentive to thoroughly concentrate our attention upon it, so that as vivid a picture may be made upon the mind as would be made by a burning house.FF 11.1

    Dedicate your life fully and completely to the Master. Don't wait for an attack of diphtheria or a glimpse of an open grave to lead you to do so. Not until you have thus dedicated yourself do things begin to come your way in a manner that makes life full of agreeable surprises at every turn of the road.FF 12.1

    When I went to Battle Creek I was given the job of washing dishes in the kitchen. Then later I was told I was needed on the call force. During all that time I felt I was not working altogether for the Battle Creek Sanitarium, I was working for the Lord. So I thought if the Lord gave me some extra time in the evening I could do so much more work for Him. I thought the more sick people I could see, the more work I could do for the Lord. I literally ran calls. The other boys said, “Paulson likes to work, let him do it,” so I ran most of the calls. I had the time of my life working for the Lord while they were getting along the easiest way. When Mrs. Hall, the matron, was gone away, the boys did not work. I kept working. They said, “Paulson, why do you work?” I said, “I am not working for Mrs. Hall, I am working for the Lord.” I kept on working for the Lord, and if the Lord didn't want me to do a certain thing, I didn't do it. Do you think I was put out of the institution? No. I stayed there until I was acting superintendent while the superintendent was in Europe.FF 12.2


    Every time we violate a principle we betray our Lord. Our personal influence does not amount to much unless measured by principle. Those who, like Daniel, “purpose in their hearts” to do right, will pass through both fire and water rather than sacrifice principle.FF 13.1

    If we live by principle, steering straight ahead, sometimes we shall suit other people and sometimes we shall not; but we shall always be sure of pleasing God. Many of those who point the finger of scorn at a man of principle possess in their hearts a secret admiration for him and a desire to be like him. If we have a divine purpose in our hearts, no matter where we may be found, or under what circumstances we may be placed, that purpose will remain steadfast with us.FF 14.1

    It is our privilege to have the Spirit of God unfold to us simple, definite principles, which we may incorporate so thoroughly into our life’s experience, that, like a master key, they will serve to unlock our most troublesome perplexities.FF 14.2

    The person whose Christian experience is one of impulse only, cannot expect to be a source of strength to others; because while one day he may utter some great truth or do some noble deed, the next day he will likely do some inconsistent thing which will cause others to lose faith in him altogether.FF 14.3

    Do not ask permission to carry out your principles. Leave those with whom you associate to take it for granted that you are true to principle. They will never think to question, for instance, whether you are honest or not. If we serve God from principle, He will make even our enemies to be at peace with us.FF 15.1

    If you are situated where you are called on to do something which you cannot conscientiously perform, do not arbitrarily substitute some other course of action, but in a quiet manner withdraw from the arrangement, rather than compromise principle.FF 15.2

    When a man is continually looking longingly back to various idols from which he has parted in order to live by principle, he is in a dangerous position. The moment he backslides, even a little, he will at once embrace the idol that is nearest and dearest to him.FF 15.3

    Those who weave the magnificent tapestries produced in Oriental countries work under the goods, and see only the rough threads hanging down beneath; but they have in mind a definite pattern of the beautiful figure that is being wrought out on the top. Often in our daily work, seeing only the loose threads, we seem to have abundant reason for discouragement; but if we work from principle, we may be sure that a Divine Hand has marked out for us a glorious pattern which will abide through all eternity.FF 15.4

    An unsightly block of marble may have been used merely as a doorstep; but by and by a sculptor finds it and begins to chip off its rough comers and edges. Where others saw nothing but a rough, undesirable stone he sees the form of an angel. Every blow brings out more fully his ideal. So from the standpoint of sight and feeling, we may be only rough stones; but the various trying experiences through which God allows us to pass will, if we submit to them as does the block to the chisel, serve as blows to bring out the figure of the divine where before appeared only unformed material.FF 16.1

    An eaves trough made of ordinary lumber may carry off as much water, provided it is so hung as to catch the drops, as one made of silver. So although, from a human standpoint, we may not seem to be very promising, if we are willing to be placed of God, where the droppings of the latter rain can fall into us, we shall be happy ourselves, and a blessing and help to others.FF 16.2

    Years before I left the Battle Creek Sanitarium I learned as a personal experience that if a man bows before his Creator he never needs to bow before his fellow men. The Lord will see to it that he has standing room. He will never need to beg his fellow men for elbow room.FF 17.1

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