Rev. Dr. T. Valson Abraham President India Bible College and Seminary Kumbanad
On February 13, 2018, the earthly body of my father, Pastor T. Stephen Abraham, was laid to rest. He is now with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and re-united with his wife, my mother, Mary Abraham, and many others who have gone before him.
At the viewing service and funeral, many people testified about the character of my father. What came out again and again was the testimony to his generosity in many forms. Both he and my mother gave of themselves to God and to others to such an extraordinary degree that others took notice and wanted to pay tribute.
These friends spoke of their giving themselves totally to ministry and teaching. They gave of themselves through words of encouragement, through mentoring. They took in those who suffered. They gave of their little to those in need. They prayed for those in crisis. They gave wise counsel to those who lacked wisdom. They prayed for those who persecuted them. They gave themselves to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They gave themselves to one another.
They woke up early and went to bed late. Every moment in between waking and sleeping was taken in dealing with others. There were no idle moments. There was no time for self-indulgence.
So it was every day, day after day, year after year, for more than 67 years.
They were quiet, unassuming people, not given to flamboyance, not seeking recognition for themselves. They were too busy with others to seek attention for themselves, but it was obvious from the words said at the two services of remembrance that they gained the attention of many.
What was the source of my parents’ generosity of their time, talents and money?
I believe my parents learned the life of generosity because they first of all discovered the generosity of God.
Most people regard God as remote, impersonal, aloof. But this was not the God my father and my mother knew.
My father discovered the generosity of God early in life. When he was only five and his brother only two, the family had no food in the house. The two boys suffered from hunger pangs. Their mother (my grandmother) urged them to go and pray that God would supply food, and to do it softly so the neighbors wouldn’t hear. They went to their bedside and began to pray. Soon, because of hunger and lack of strength, they fell asleep.
Just at that moment, a man living about 1.5 miles south of Kumbanad was sitting down to his meal when he felt a burden for the young Abraham family and children. He sensed they needed food and he must supply them with food before he ate.
He told his wife of this, and she prepared rice and other items for him to take to the Abrahams. He took the food to them, and the hungry children ate. When they woke up from their sleep, my father told my grandmother, “Now I know that our God can even hear and answer silent prayers.”
In later years, my father spoke of the profound impression this childhood experience had on him. He had discovered the generosity of God, so loving and kind, He heard even the silent and soft whispers of a hungry young boy who prayed in faith and answered his prayer for food.
This practical experience of God’s generosity was only the beginning of his lifetime of discovering the greater generosity of God portrayed by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians:
“…to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.”
The secret of my parents’ generosity is really no secret. Early in life, they discovered the generosity of God, and they wanted to learn more about this great God who created the galaxies who nevertheless hears the whispered prayers of hungry children. In the process, God made Himself known to them, and He made them generous like Himself, and like His Son, Jesus Christ.
From their early lives, they grew up with godly parents who taught them to immerse themselves in the Word, and to learn how to pray and fast, to record God’s answers to prayer in journals to encourage them to pray for even bigger things. Throughout their lives and ministries, through many different circumstances they followed and developed these practices until they supplied food, both natural and spiritual, for millions. They learned these simple but profound practices, not as religious exercises and rituals to impress God and others with their goodness, but to “connect” in relationship with the true and living God from Whom all good things come.
From early experiences where they saw God’s generosity at work in daily life, they hungered and thirsted after His righteousness, and they were filled beyond all expectation.When they discovered something of God’s wisdom and discovered their own lack of wisdom, they learned, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given you.” Many people at my parents’ funerals, in many ways, testified to God’s generous fulfillment of that promise.
They came “to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,” the knowledge of which they poured out to untold numbers of students, graduates and many others. They were “filled up with the fullness of God,” that is, with the generous spirit of God Himself, which spilled out in many forms to people of all backgrounds, poor and rich alike. They prayed and discovered “Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or seek.” That is, a God who worked through their prayers to call thousands upon thousands of men and women into His service as teachers, preachers, evangelists and church planters like themselves, who would also learn to trust God for great and mighty things.
They were empowered with a spirit of generosity by “the power that works within us,” that is, the generous Holy Spirit. They gave glory to God for what He did through them, which enabled them to put aside the slanders and threats of those who hated (and misunderstood) what they stood for. And in trusting the generosity of God, they glorified Him and gave glory to His church-those called of Him according to His purpose.
What God did through my parents is within reach of us all who love Him, regardless of age and background. May we all come to know this generous God better and make Him known.
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Father God, help me to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that I may be filled up to all your fullness. Do through my life that which glorifies you, more generously and abundantly, beyond all that I ask or think. In Jesus’ Name. Amen