Timeless Truths Free Online Library | books, sheet music, midi, and more
Skip over navigation
Foundation Truth, Number 17 (Spring 2007) | Timeless Truths Publications

A Testimony of God’s Grace to Overcome Evil with Good

December 2006
Dear Friends,

I went through quite a trial last year when my carpenter walked away from the unfinished job after already being paid for certain aspects. I felt that no one had ever done me such a great injustice in all my life. I was strongly tempted to take legal action against him. But the Lord dealt with my heart in a very personal way and showed me that I needed to just commit the situation to Him. I made my decision to do that and the Lord gave me grace to forgive the man and keep sweet and pure in my soul. Also, the Lord supplied all my financial needs that arose from the situation and worked everything out. God is so good and so wonderful! But the story gets even better!

The apostle Paul said, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”* (Romans 12:19-21)

This year I got my chance to experience firsthand just how this scripture works! The carpenter who did me wrong got into some very serious trouble. A year ago this month, he went to jail, where he stayed until this past September. It was over an incident that happened at a bar in June of 2005. He was charged with four counts relative to an alleged rape.

After reading of the charges in a local newspaper, I assumed that the man was probably guilty. I figured he would probably end up going to prison for quite a few years. I had a concern for his soul, but I really didn’t feel too sorry for him. I figured he probably deserved it. But I had a desire to go to his trial and hear the testimonies of the witnesses and see what the final verdict would be.

His trial date finally came on Sept. 27-28, 2006. It was a jury trial, held at D——, MO, on change of venue from W——, MO, where he lived. As I look back on it now, I can see that God had His hand in causing the trial date to be set at the time it was. That was the week I was on layoff, therefore I was able to go. Had it been during a week when I was working, it would not have been possible for me to have attended the trial. I know now that God wanted me there.

I’ll never forget the look on J——’s face when he saw me in the courtroom that day. It was like, “Oh no, what now?” But I was looking for an opportunity to speak with him. (I had not spoken to him since he walked away from the job I hired him to do a year before.) I finally got my chance to speak to him in the courtyard as he was standing with his guard during a recess. At first he turned his back to me and seemed to ignore me as I was walking toward him. But I walked right up beside him and said, “Hello, J——!” He then turned to me and returned the “hello.” Our conversation was rather strained at first, but at a certain point I told him I wanted him to know that I was praying for him. It was at that point that he let his guard down. He said, “Harlan, I appreciate it. I sure do need it.” From that point on, he seemed to appreciate my presence in the courtroom.

The trial lasted two days. There were many, many witnesses called. As I sat and listened to all the testimonies that were given, I began to realize that this man must not really be guilty of all he was being charged with. He had sinned greatly, yes, but I couldn’t see how the woman who brought the charges against him could justly say she was raped in light of what the other witnesses testified that they had observed of her actions that night at the bar.

The jury deliberated less than an hour before returning with their verdict. During this time I noticed that J—— had his head bowed as if he were praying (which I found out later from him that he was). I also bowed my head in prayer and asked the Lord to show him mercy, if it could be His will. Each of the charges they had against J—— carried a minimum of 5 years in prison up to life in prison. His life was resting in the jury’s hands.

When the jury returned with their verdict the atmosphere in the courtroom became very tense. As the bailiff carried the verdict from the jury to the judge, I noticed that J—— began trembling and shaking. My heart went out to him. Then the judge began to read the verdict on each count, one by one. It was, “Not guilty. Not guilty. Not guilty. Not guilty.” After the very first “not guilty” was read, J—— began to weep uncontrollably. As each “not guilty” was read he began to cry harder. He bent over the table he was sitting at there in that courtroom, and wept and wept and wept. I heard later that one of the jurors said, “When we saw that, we knew we had made the right decision.” I don’t think I ever saw a man more appreciative of mercy than J—— was that day. It was so heart-touching. I’m a tenderhearted man, and I couldn’t sit there and watch all that without shedding tears myself.

After the judge had dismissed the court, I walked forward to shake J——’s hand. I had assumed that when the trial was over, I would go my way, and he would go his way. Little did I know what the Lord had in mind! When I stepped up to J——, he threw his arms around me and I threw my arms around him and we stood there crying on each other’s shoulders. He said, “Thank you, Harlan!” After we withdrew from our embrace we stood there side by side with tears streaming down our faces, not knowing what to say next. Then J—— said, “Harlan, I don’t know what to do now. I don’t have anything. I lost everything I had.” For the first time it dawned on me that this man was totally destitute. He had lost his home in a divorce about a year and a half before. Then, because of his loneliness and broken heart, he got into heavy drinking and bar life, which led to the trouble he got into. Then, while he was in jail, he lost the house he was renting in W——, and his socalled friends came in and took all his personal belongings, his tools, and his truck, and disposed of them as they saw fit. Somehow they falsified the title to his truck, sold it, and kept the money for themselves. (I guess they thought he would be going to prison, so it wouldn’t matter anyway.) So poor J—— came out of the ordeal with absolutely nothing left to his name but his jail clothes, and the clothes they bought him for his trial, and a few personal items that were given to him in jail. (If I remember correctly, he said not one person came to visit him during the whole nine months he spent in jail.) Also, he had no family in this part of the country to turn to for help.

So now, here I stood, side by side with the man I once felt had wronged me more than any man ever had. And now, he was needing help. What should I do? My mind was whirling. Finally, I said what my heart told me to say, “J——, do you want to come home with me?” I could tell he hardly knew how to take that. He seemed really reluctant. He said, “Well, I believe there’s a shelter in P—— where I can go and stay until I can get back on my feet again.” Also, he said he wanted to just go walk in the sunshine for awhile and be alone and think. He said he had hardly been in the sunlight at all during the nine months he had been in jail and he was anxious to just walk and enjoy the outdoors. So I gave him my phone number and told him to call me collect if he needed to.

I left the courthouse in D—— then and drove on home. On the way home I burst into tears several times just thinking about everything. I felt so good and so inspired in my heart. I felt that God was doing something good and something wonderful beyond my ability to really comprehend.

A few hours later, J—— called me. He had hitchhiked to P——, and he had also called his dad in Connecticut. His dad had told him that if he could somehow get back to Connecticut, he would give him a place to live and help him get back on his feet again. But his dad had no money to send him to make the trip. J—— said, “Harlan, could you do me a great big favor? Could you buy me a bus ticket to Connecticut?”

I said, “Yes, J——, I’ll do that for you.” But I added, “J——, I want you to see my house before you leave.”

He said, “Come and get me.”

He told me where to meet him, and I took off to P—— to pick him up. He was very tired and hungry when I picked him up, so I took him to McDonald’s in D—— on the way back home and bought him something to eat. (I didn’t realize he hadn’t had anything to eat all day until he told me.)

After we got home, the first thing was a tour of the house. He was very impressed with how it had all turned out. But he was so tired, he could hardly stand up, so he wanted to go to bed right away. I told him he could have the master bedroom. But I said, “Let’s have a word of prayer before you go to bed.” I then had prayer with him, and he thanked me.

He slept like a log that night. I hardly heard a noise from his bedroom until around 10 o’clock that next morning. After he got up, he said, “That was the best night of sleep I have had in nine months! It was just so good to be able to lay down and sleep and feel secure.”

We had a wonderful visit together that day before we left my place, as well as on the way to the bus station.

He said, “Harlan, you’ve been so good to me, after the way I treated you! I hope I can do something for you sometime.”

In our conversation I said to him, “J——, you don’t even seem like the same man I hired to build my house last year.”

He said, “I’m a whole lot more humble!” He went on to say, “Harlan, I was so proud. My whole life revolved around my possessions and what I had. I believe God allowed all this to happen to me to bring me down and show me just how nothing I really am. I want to give the rest of my days to God, however many they are. God has been so good to me, and I’m so unworthy.”

He also told me how that on the night of July 4th, he tried to commit suicide there in the jail. He devised a plan to hang himself and carried it out, but the jailer found him and they were able to revive him. He had already lost consciousness when they found him. But he said that during that time he was unconscious to this world, he looked up and saw his dear grandmother who had died years ago. He said he reached for her but he couldn’t get to her. Instead, he felt himself sinking. He said he knew he was going to hell.

Before taking him to the bus station, he gave me his dad’s address and phone number so that I could keep in touch with him. I also gave him some tapes and CDs and a couple of booklets to read. One of them a brother’s testimonial booklet, titled “From Darkness to Light.”

Since J—— has returned to Connecticut, we have continued to have steady contact through phone calls and letters. He told me on the phone, “If it hadn’t been for you, Harlan, I don’t know what I would have done…. I think about you all the time, and I pray for you every night before I go to bed.” He also said he wants to buy a Bible. And in a recent letter he said, “Things have been going well for me. Work is going good, and staying clean and sober is a wonderful feeling…. You are such a wonderful friend, and I thank God for that. God bless you, Harlan, and I’ll write again soon. Your friend, J——.”

There is no way I can put into words the joy and blessing that this experience has brought to my heart. It is beyond my ability to comprehend how God can take something that was such a setback and trial to me a year ago, and turn it around into something so blessed and wonderful! As the song “He Will Hide Me” says, “He will turn what seems to harm me into everlasting joy.” That is just what the Lord has done for me in this situation. I am so glad I put it all in His hands. If I had chosen to have avenged myself on J—— by taking legal action against him for what he did to me, who knows, maybe that would have pushed him over the brink of despair and he might have actually committed suicide. Or, even otherwise, I would have made an enemy of him for life. But like I told him in one of my letters a few weeks ago, “It’s so much better having you for a friend than an enemy.”

I know I’ve truly gained J——’s confidence and friendship for life. He holds me in high esteem. He wants me to come to Connecticut and visit him sometime next year. Also, his father has expressed a desire for me to come visit. (He seems to appreciate so much what I did to help his son.) I am hoping that it will work out for me to do that. I’ve never been in that part of the country and I would love, not only to see the country, but to go spend some quality time with J—— and meet his relatives. He has offered to take me on a tour of the New England states. So that’s something I’ve got in the back of my mind and looking forward to in the year of 2007, if the Lord wills.

I have thought much lately of the words of the song, “The Precious Seed”:

“We are sowing every moment,
Seeds that yield much good, or bad;
And each one is surely growing,
Cheering souls or making sad;
Let us sow good seeds for Jesus,
In the hearts of fallen men,
Many happy souls will bless us,
And a crown of glory gain.

“Let us sow each seed in kindness,
Praying God the fallow ground
May be broken up in softness,
And the fruits of peace abound;
When the heart with sin is heavy,
He will start the flowing tear,
And the gems of truth from heaven,
Fruit of life eternal bear.

“Give us, Lord, much grace and wisdom,
With the countless seeds we sow;
Though we scatter some at random,
They may germinate and grow;
Some may fall in crowded places,
On the dry, unyielding plain,
But, if watered by Thy graces,
Not a seed is sown in vain.

“Help us, then, O loving Savior,
Bless the precious seeds that fall;
We will sow in hope of gath’ring
In this final harvest call;
And the toilers who have mingled
With the seed their anxious tears,
Will return with shouts, and bringing
Many sheaves in coming years.”

My great desire and prayer is that J—— will come to know the Lord in a real “born again” experience. I ask those of you who thus know the Lord to join with me in prayer to that end.

As we live our lives from day to day, let us live by these scriptures: “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.”* (Ephesians 5:12) “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”* (Colossians 3:12-14) Let all your things be done with charity.* (1 Corinthians 16:14)

If we will live by these scriptures, then we can know the meaning of the angel’s proclamation, “And on earth peace, good will toward men.”* (Luke 2:14)