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The Pilot’s Voice | Isabel C. Byrum

The Life-Preserver

The hour of departure had at last arrived. The carriage stood in front of the house, and the valises and suitcases carefully loaded. It was a few hours before train time, but as the station was several miles distant, it was thought best to start in good season.

As the family gathered about Byron and one by one grasped his hand to bid him goodbye, it was with difficulty that he managed to keep back the tears. Mother came last. Unable to control himself any longer, he threw himself into her arms and wept. The pent-up fountain of tears gushed forth as rain, but the cloud burst lasted only for a moment. Whispering, “Dear Mother, goodbye,” he kissed her tenderly and stepped into the carriage.

The evening shadows stretched long as they turned onto the highway. Byron looked back and saw his mother standing near the gate. Instantly two other scenes flashed before his mind. In one he had left without his mother’s consent and in the other with a broken heart because of his transgression. Now he was leaving the same gateway with a mother’s benediction and approval resting upon him. Then he had been miserable, full of guilt and condemnation, but now he was free and happy in the assurance that he was doing right and that God’s Spirit was leading him. What a change! And in so short a time! Byron could hardly realize it himself. Truly he was a new creature. Old things had passed away, and the world appealed to him differently. He now had not only a Pilot to guide and direct him according to God’s chart, the Bible, but a life-preserver as well. The latter had been discovered in the atoning blood of Jesus after his heart had been cleansed and made pure and white.

As Byron rode on toward the station, his thoughts were continually returning to his home and mother. Nothing could ever erase the memory of the happy times that he had spent upon the farm and around the home fireside. Now and then little glimpses of summertime games and of wintertime frolics flashed before him. They were all over now. Never again could he expect to mingle his voice in those boyish sports. They were past. He might return, but everything would be different. Sometimes he might again crack nuts in the dining room on the stones about the open fireplace and pop corn upon the kitchen range; but his siblings, like himself, would be older and changed. Was he, down deep in his heart, glad for the change?

As he thought of the expression upon his mother’s face when she waved him farewell from the gate, he was both glad and sorry. He was glad that he was going away with his mother’s approval resting upon him, and sorry because he was leaving the home that had sheltered him from both the literal and the spiritual storms of life.

Realizing suddenly that he had been meditating upon his yesterdays, which were forever sealed to him, he turned his thoughts into the future with all its possibilities of both failure and success. Would he have success in his business life, or would his efforts toward success be a failure? He seemed to hear his mother saying as she had so often remarked, “What is worth doing at all, Byron, is worth doing well,” and he instantly decided to accept these words as his motto in his business career and to leave his tomorrows to the care of his Pilot.

The train was late. While they were waiting, Byron’s companion said, “I hope, Byron, that you will not regret the step you are taking and that you will like your new home and surroundings when we reach our destination. A sudden change from the freedom of the country is sometimes hard to get used to by young folks when they first enter the city. I have no doubt that things will be strangely different to you, but I trust that, as you throw yourself into your new line of work, you will like it.

“Success does not come in a moment, and those who would attain to it need an abundant supply of courage and determination, and a decision to make the best of everything. It will be necessary for you to be on your guard and watchful for both advantages and temptations.”

“I am determined,” Byron answered, “to put forth every effort to succeed. Others whose opportunities were far beneath mine have succeeded, and I believe that I may if I will.”

“Yes, Byron, you may succeed financially,” his companion replied, “but I want to see you reaching out in another direction as well. Never forget your mother’s teachings and warnings. Be ever on your guard, for the enemy is very sly and cunning. He is roaming the earth seeking unwary souls as his prey. It will be necessary for you to diligently read and pray and then to apply the various scriptures that you find in your Bible to yourself. Never think that because someone else who is professing is doing a certain way, it is proper and right for all of God’s children to follow that person’s example.

“Upon such occasions listen for the voice of your Pilot, heed His warnings, and be sure that you obey the orders that He gives you. It is best to refer often to the chart and see that the orders agree perfectly with the chart’s directions and to know that you thoroughly understand them. But never cast any orders carelessly aside, considering them of no profit to you. The warnings of the Holy Spirit are very necessary and valuable, but God wants you to prove all spirits by the Bible, and to know that it is really the Holy Spirit that is talking to you, for there are many spirits in the world waiting to deceive the Christian. Their highest aim and endeavor is to cause a soul to lose its way. Beware of such spirits, Byron. They are false and will not agree with God’s Word.

“There may be some terrific storms, but remember, though the

Thunder rolls and storm clouds fall,
God’s loving hand is in it all,

and that His grace is sufficient to keep you.”

Byron was truly thankful for his friend’s advice and interest in him, though it was many years before he realized how needful it had been.

The delayed train at last drew up to the station, and a few minutes later Byron and his friend were speeding toward their distant home. After a long and tiresome journey they arrived at their destination. As Byron stepped from the train, he felt himself in a strange land.

His simple life upon the farm had given him a very limited knowledge of the world, but he soon became adjusted to his new surroundings and applied himself diligently to every new duty. As the days and weeks sped by, his faithful efforts to perform each task properly were very noticeable, and he was often promoted to a more responsible place.

Realizing he needed of a better education, Byron spent much of his spare time studying, especially his Bible. While alone in his room, in the stillness of evening, he often recalled his mother’s comforting words and advice, and they always seemed to strengthen him to press on toward success.

One evening as he sat by the window in deep meditation, his thoughts wandered back to the old home and farm. It was an ideal summer evening, and in fancy he could see his mother and all of the dear ones scattered about in the yard and upon the porch, and could hear the merry laughter of his younger brother with his playmates upon the lawn. As memories one by one crowded in upon his mind, he felt a great sense of loneliness stealing over him. He longed for those hours of pleasure once more, but they were gone. He wished for the comforting words of his mother, but he was too far away to hear her soothing voice.

Comfort—oh, yes, it was for words of comfort and encouragement that his heart was yearning; and, having learned the true source of this fountain, he quickly turned to his Bible. Before opening it he thought, “I will read tonight just where the book happens to open!” and when he looked upon the pages, he saw the name “James” in large letters before him.

Seeing the familiar name of his former friend brought with it a flood of recollections. In imagination, he was once more back near his old home with those boys. James, his companion and teacher, was giving instructions. Instinctively shrinking from these memories, he thought, “I can safely take this other James as my teacher and guide.” He began reading at once.

“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”* (James 1:12-27)

Long after reading this portion of Scripture, Byron sat in deep meditation. It meant more to be a Christian than he had supposed when he started in the Lord’s service, but he was glad that the way was daily becoming plainer to him, and that the Lord was so patient with him regarding what he did not know and understand. He did not want to be like the man who, after beholding himself in the mirror, went away and forgot what he was like; he wanted to understand and do the entire will of God and to abide by the instruction obtained from His Word. The book of James he found to be one of his best instructors.

He encountered many trials and tests along the way, but they only drove him closer to his Savior. In earnest supplication he poured out his heart to God in prayer for more strength and ability to win the battles that were ahead of him.

The weekly letters from home were bright spots indeed in his life, and with eagerness and pleasure he looked forward to the days when they were due. Many times while reading about the happenings upon the farm, he felt a degree of homesickness and longed to be back with the loved ones again.

Thus the weeks and months sped by. At the end of the first year he was permitted to return to his former home for a short visit. How good it seemed to be with Mother! How glad he was to sit and hear her talk to him as she used to do! He was as much interested as ever in all the proceedings upon the farm and noted every improvement. The meetings at the little chapel filled his mind with both pleasant and unpleasant memories. His old friends, eager to know of his new life, inquired of his success, and he was glad to tell them that he was prospering in both soul and body.

When the family gathered around the family altar, Byron realized as never before what his mother’s prayers were to him. In bygone days he had grown accustomed to hearing her ask God’s blessings upon him, and did not realize the true value of her prayers. While listening to her voice now, he understood as he had never been able to understand before, her earnestness, and why he had so often been blessed while away from her. Her prayers had followed him, and God had heard and answered.

His visit passed all too quickly, and when the time arrived for him to return to his work, he was sorry. But he would be expected at work upon a certain date, so he made arrangements accordingly, and on the day appointed he was at his desk ready for service. Resuming his former duties, he was soon helping to push the business forward with commendable zeal.

Time sped along, and the years rolled by. Now and then Byron made a short visit to his old home. Suddenly he awoke to the fact that his beloved mother was no longer a young woman. She was growing old and rapidly failing in health. One day a letter came saying that his mother was sick, and another the next day said she was no better.

Sorrow settled over Byron’s heart like a great darkness. “What if Mother should die?” When he asked himself this question, his courage and strength seemed to fail him. “It would be hard, oh! so hard, to give her up,” he thought. “How can I part with her? She has been so much to me!” He hardly dared to think of it and he seemed to be living in constant dread of something that he shrank from forming into words.

He sat at his desk trying to drown his feelings by applying himself diligently to his work. Then a messenger boy entered with an envelope in his hand. With trembling fingers Byron took the envelope from the boy and, finding it addressed to himself, tore it open. The telegram read: “Mother is dangerously sick. Come home at once.”

As he had been hoping for favorable news, the message shocked him greatly. Fortunately there was nothing to keep him from going at once, and he was soon on board a train, hastening to her. She might pass away before he reached her bedside, he thought. He pled with God to spare her until he could speak to her once more.

As Byron stepped out on the platform in front of the depot in his home town, he drew his collar higher about his neck, for the wind was blowing and he felt the change from the heated train. His brother was waiting to drive him to the old home at once, and the two hastened away to the carriage. Neither said much as they drove along through the country. Each was busy with his own sad thoughts. Their mother, Byron learned, was somewhat better, but there was little hope of her recovery.

When the old farmhouse came into sight, Byron could scarcely wait and sprang to the group even before the horses had stopped. Hastening to the house, he opened the door and entered. There beside the stove, in her easy chair, sat Mother. It was a happy surprise for Byron to see his mother in her chair and able to greet him. God had answered his prayer, and he learned that her improvement had begun not long after the telegram had been sent.

How the face of that fond mother lighted with smiles as she saw her son hastening toward her and how his heart throbbed with joy as he embraced her frail form! Byron spent the entire day with his mother, and her strength to visit with him was marvelous to all. During the night she slept well and was able to rise again in the morning, but she wanted no breakfast.

“I will stay with you, Mother, while the others eat,” Byron said.

When they were alone, she said, “Byron, I wish that you would read to me from the Bible. Please turn to the 103rd Psalm and read.”

As Byron read he realized as never before the food and strength contained in the Bible for the Christian. Every word seemed an inspiration; and when he finished the Psalm, he said, “Mother, I never knew before that there was so much in that chapter. It seems to contain just the encouragement that we both need this morning.”

“I know it, my son,” his mother replied weakly. “It has comforted me many times, but, as you say, I think I have received more courage from the reading of it today than ever before. Isn’t the tenth verse marked? Start there and read it to me again.”

So Byron read: “ ‘He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them. The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all. Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure. Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.’* (Psalm 103:10-22) ”

“Do you know, Byron,” his mother said, “that if God dealt with us according to our sins He would not only have cut us off from our inheritance, but have blotted our names out of existence and made us worse than the animal kingdom or the flowers and grass of the fields? Instead of this He has pitied us, for He knows how weak we are, and remembers that our frames are dust. If we do well, we shall reign with Him in heaven.”

Byron noticed that she seemed very weak, and bowing beside her chair, he prayed, thanking God for sparing her so long. He little realized how very close the death-angel was standing.

“Byron, I’ve enjoyed our little worship together more than I can tell,” she said. “I’m so thankful that I’ve been spared until you could be with me, but I’m tired now and should like to lie down.”

Those were the last words that she ever spoke. Byron helped her to her bed, and she seemed to rest easy. Soon they found that she was unconscious, and in a few hours the summons came. Thus she departed from her loved ones to be with the Savior whom she loved so dearly and who had helped her through so many of the perplexing difficulties of life.

As Byron looked upon the lifeless form of his mother, he noted her noble brow and finely chiseled features. Age and suffering had left their stamp, but there remained the same gentle expression and delicate lines that had marked the strength of her character and the depth of her wisdom. The ashen lips could no longer warn him of danger, but they had directed him to the One who could not only warn him, but pilot his soul into the haven that she had at last entered.