My Story: Doing good by not doing good

Sometimes the best way to help somebody is by not helping them.

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(Photo: Getty Images)

In 1948 our dad shifted us from Melbourne (Vic) to Nunimbah (Qld) at the foot of the McPherson Range, north-west of Murwillumbah (NSW). We lived next to the Brindsmead farm. East of us, Bernard Shoobridge, our closest neighbour, owned a dairy farm.

It was a Sabbath morning in 1949 and my brother Robert and I were on our way to church at the Brindsmeads’ home. Robert was eight and I was 10 years of age.

We saw Bernard at the junction of our bush road and his track. Our non-Adventist friend was anxious and frustrated. He was on his way to the Saturday calf market in Murwillumbah with a full load of calves on his truck. A large tree had fallen across the road and blocked his progress.

“Boys” he pleaded in frustration, “run home and bring back your axe so we can all clear the road.”

“The Bible says, and our mum taught us, that today is God’s Sabbath so we are on our way to church. We do not chop trees on Sabbath,” I kindly informed him.

He was not amused. “But I need to get through so I can sell my calves. It will soon be too late,” he replied.

I suggested, “Why don’t you take the calves home and we will help you tomorrow to clear the road. Besides, on Wednesday you are sure to get a better price.”

Disgruntled, he took our advice and went home. We went off to church. In 1950, we moved to a new Adventist school at Upper Burringbar, built by W O Edwards, retired editor and book writer at Signs Publishing at Warburton. We never saw Bernie for years.

"God intercepted 'Bernie' . . . and his direction changed."

Fast forward 12 years. As a married Avondale theology student, we visited Murwillumbah church to worship. I met face-to-face with Bernard. He told me how he had followed my childish advice. God had blessed him with twice the price for his calves—much more than what he would have received at the Saturday market with its glut of calves.

The Lord set Bernard into real thinking about God and His Sabbath. God intercepted “Bernie”, as we called him, and his direction changed.

Then God sent an evangelist to Murwillumbah to conduct a public series. Bernie saw the advertisements and went along to learn the truth of Scripture. He was convicted, baptised and became a member of our Church.

What a meeting we had that day! What joy for us all! What a large tribe are listed in his obituary.

God be praised. He knows when to act. I have since mused: Is it lawful not to do good on the Sabbath on some occasions? Especially when God has His plans and is in control.


George Porter is a retired pastor. Bernie’s obituary was in the October 6 issue of Adventist Record.

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