I Believe in Angels:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. (Luke 2:8,9)
In the wee-hours of that first Christmas in Bethlehem’s stable, an angel of the Lord announced the birth of the Christ-child to shepherds in the fields nearby. Fear gripped them and the angel soothed their fears by divine re-assurance. Suddenly joining was a vast multitude of a heavenly host of angels who sang, “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind.” Luke reported this grand event with rare eloquence in the second chapter of the book bearing his name. It was such good news in such bad times. In fact, Luke mentions angels no less than fifteen times in the first two chapters of his gospel. They are important agents of God’s kingdom in bringing forth His salvation through Jesus.
In the last book of the New Testament called “Revelation,” which is actually “The Revelation of Jesus Christ,” the Apostle John refers to the following angels:
* seven angels,
* a mighty angel,
* twelve angels,
* the feet of angels,
* the angel of the waters,
*an angel come down from heaven.
Over and over, references are made to angels. Altogether, John refers to angels sixty-eight times in Revelation alone; and one can’t help but realize that angels play a very important role in the work of God.
I can testify from personal experience: The angel of the Lord encamps round about those who fear him, and delivers them. (Psalm 34:7)
It was Easter 1964 in our first pastorate in Ashland, Ohio. Needless to say, I was excited to enter the pulpit that morning to preach a celebratory message titled “The Tomb Has Lost Its Terror.” Uncharacteristically though, Beverly wiped her eyes as she sat up; she confided to me, “You know, Carl, I felt that pain again.” She was six months pregnant with our second child and I commented, “Too soon for the baby, isn’t it?”
“Not that kind of pain, silly. This is higher up, like maybe a pulled muscle in my chest, or my lungs,” she replied.
Lamely, I suggested maybe she should just stay home from church and rest. Everyone will understand, I reasoned.
“Are you kidding?” she asked incredulously. “Besides, whenever did a pastor’s wife have the luxury of missing church on Easter?”
“I’m concerned about that recurring pain though.” I took her hand and gently helped her to her feet. “Perhaps tomorrow or one day next week we ought to have the doctor check you,” I concluded.
Beverly’s doctor didn’t take the matter lightly. He insisted on X-rays.
“It’s your left lung, Mrs. Richardson. There’s some fluid there. I hate to tell you this but I believe it might be tuberculosis. I’d better draw this fluid out and we can check it,” her doctor said grimly.
Tuberculosis (TB) is still the leading cause of death in the world from a bacterial infectious disease. This disease affects an astonishing 1.8 billion people every year globally. But in the United States, it remains on the decline. Last year, only 13,293 new cases of TB were reported in America. An impressively low number – unless YOU – or someone you love – is one of those infected through this deadly airborne disease.
Beverly’s doctor was wrong. It turned out that she had pleurisy in her lung, something she had never suffered before, and from which she has never suffered again since. I was checked out as a precaution. All tests were negative.
Our son, Paul David? That’s when the bombshell exploded.
Beverly and I began to notice Paul David hadn’t been acting himself lately. He had appeared more sluggish. Beverly checked and found that he had a low-grade fever. We had assumed it was a cold, or an allergy from the Spring weather. A small boy doesn’t give up and quit easily.
“It’s really not good news, I’m afraid,” the doctor said. “We’ll do further checking, to be sure, but everything indicates your son has active tuberculosis. We have some new anti-biotic drugs and they have done marvelous things. But, if they don’t help him immediately, I’ll have to recommend he be hospitalized in the County Hospital in Mansfield. The sanitarium. That’s the only sure way we can handle this disease,” the doctor explained to us. Shocked and stunned, it was something we had never had to face before, but we earnestly hoped the new drugs would do the trick. I refused to think seriously of entering our two-year-old boy in the sanitarium. I was especially opposed and told myself that surely something else could be worked out somehow.
“Pastor Richardson, there’s just no other solution. We’ve checked this boy every known way. The disease is spreading extremely fast. He has what we normally refer to as galloping tuberculosis. The spot on his lungs, which was the size of a dime, has already grown to the size of a quarter. We’ve got to send him to a sanitarium. Besides, it’s the law.”
“For how long?” I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“Probably for at least two years. Maybe three. We can’t always be sure with TB. We don’t entirely understand it, even yet.”
“Two or three years! But he’s so small, Doctor.” Beverly was also shaken. “How can our little son survive? How can WE make it away from him all that time?”
“I’m sorry, Pastor and Mrs. Richardson. I truly am. But let me put it to you straight. Your son is on the verge of tuberculosis meningitis. Unless we act immediately, he could be dead within twenty-four hours,” the doctor concluded.
It was the lowest and darkest moment of our lives. I struggled with doubt and wondered why God hadn’t heard and answered our prayers. I looked at our two-year old son, held him in my arms, and knew what searing torture such a separation would surely bring. I looked at his toys, realizing how empty our 3-bedroom parsonage would be without him. It cut like a knife. “Oh, God! How can we ever make it through this?” It was a painful lament which seemed endless in the days ahead.
Beverly washed and ironed his clothes. She packed almost all of his things, including his little portable record player which Bev’s Dad and Mom had given him for Christmas. She also packed his favorite records – including Bible Stories and country singer Johnny Cash. Beverly made sure that Paul David had all the things he needed at the sanitarium. She knew parents could visit, at least some, but there would be so many hours and days when someone else would be looking after her baby. She wanted the nurses to have his personal things. She didn’t leave anything out.
Young love was so foolish, we both agreed, remembering her first pregnancy and Paul David’s birth in her hometown of Canton, Ohio while conducting our 7th revival at Canton Temple Church and while I was at church near the benediction when Beverly realized it was her time. She called the church and said to me calmly, “Carl, our baby will be here in only a couple of hours. I’m waiting for you.”
During those early days it had seemed to Beverly that Paul David was almost always sick. That proved to be a portend of the future.
It was a rainy, dreary morning. As I recall, Beverly and I didn’t talk much that morning. But we both were thinking as we drove the 15 miles to Mansfield from Ashland, that our two-year-old son would be 4 or 5 years old before he would be able to return home.
The following days seemed interminably long. Weeks dragged. Beverly and I never missed an opportunity to visit Paul David in the sanitarium. For six-and-a-half weeks this went on.
It was on Thursday morning when I made my usual morning visit. Beverly had a doctor’s appointment to prepare for regarding our expected new baby. Alone this day, when I saw Paul David, he seemed to be even more frail than usual. I felt that I was watching our son wasting away, little by little. The drugs and the doctor’s prescribed treatments seemed to be doing no good at all.
I hugged him, chatted briefly, and then sat down with him on my lap. It was a usual and an expected routine. There was no indication that today would be any different from all the days before.
Just after 11:00 a.m., when I had finished a favorite Bible story, I closed my eyes in that rocking chair and was suddenly overwhelmed with a spirit of weeping. Tears flowed. Paul sat quietly, and I thought he slept.
Quietly, but powerfully, the spirit of weeping became a spirit of worship. A warm peace washed down over me. To this day I can’t tell you for sure how long this experience lasted. It was something which could be measured only in impact, not by the clock.
“Dad, who were they? Dad?” Paul was tugging at my shirt collar. “Who were those people?”
“What people, Son? Was it the doctor and nurses?”
“No, Dad! There were lots of shining people, Dad. They stood all around the room!”
It would be some years later, when I could evaluate the situation from a better perspective, that I would conclude that we had been visited by several angels of the Lord.
I hadn’t even seen them personally, but the innocent eyes of a child looked beyond the natural boundaries of present existence and saw into the divine realm. A manifestation of the presence of angels of the Lord.
I could hardly wait to get home and tell Beverly the news of what I thought might have been an angelic visitation.
A few days later, we received a personal hand-written letter from a good friend and mentor, a pastor in Lakeland, Florida. Obviously, God was at work. His brief letter read as follows:
Dear Carl and Beverly.
We recently heard of Paul David’s sickness and want you to know that we are looking forward to hearing good news from you – very soon! My wife, Tannis, and some of the ladies of the Church felt impressed to conduct an unscheduled prayer meeting at our church earlier today (Thursday). My wife felt impressed to ask the ladies to join hands around the altar. She said that about 11:10 a.m., the Holy Spirit spoke and said that your son shall live and not die. With you, we are claiming God’s promise of divine healing for Paul David.
Pastor W.C. Byrd – Lakeland, Florida
With that letter, and the remarkable coincidence that, twelve hundred miles away, those ladies were praying at the very same moment the Presence of the Lord filled that hospital room, both Beverly and I felt a surge of faith and assurance which prompted us to act in faith.
We had prayer together in our parsonage once more.
“Lord, Bev and I are willing to suffer for you, to walk the hard path, and to sacrifice. Our willingness includes the anguish we presently suffer with Paul David’s illness. But we can’t see how such can bring merit to your Kingdom. We need our child home, and he needs to be home. We are therefore, in faith, asking you to make this possible today. Amen.”
Admittedly, we did something really brash. We loaded empty suitcases in our station wagon, everything we needed, and drove to the sanitarium in Mansfield, fully prepared to bring the boy back with us.
Dr. Beaty at the sanitarium protested that it wasn’t that simple, that according to their latest X-rays, the boy remained critically ill. Finally, he relented and agreed to take another X-ray that day. I waited in his office while Beverly packed the suitcases in Paul David’s hospital room. “We must have gotten hold of some faulty X-ray film,” Dr. Beaty explained nervously.
Again, I waited.
A second time the doctor returned and said, “I’m sorry, but it must be the machine. Be patient with us. We’ll only have to do this one more time. So why don’t you go wait in your son’s hospital room.”
After the third consecutive series of X-rays, the doctor took me into his office where all the former and recent negatives were hung up for viewing.
“Here’s the first X-ray we took when you brought your son to us nearly seven weeks ago,” Dr. Beaty cautiously explained. He used a pointer to mark the spot in Paul David’s lungs, the small speck about the size of a dime that several days later had grown to about the size of a quarter. “Then, he said, here’s the third X-ray and you will notice the spot keeps getting larger. That’s precisely what experience has shown us happens with galloping tuberculosis. Today, I expected that half-dollar spot to be even larger and I wasn’t at all eager to show it to you,” he explained.
Dr. Beaty moved to another set of X-rays and again used the pointer. “Fortunately, and I must say unexplainably, that’s not what has happened in the case of your son. The spot has regressed somewhat. So much so that you can hardly see it.”
I looked. I saw the spot and, for a moment, my heart sank. Surely it couldn’t be, I was thinking.
“That’s really not a tubercular spot,” the doctor continued. “It’s scar tissue. Your son has experienced what we in the medical profession call spontaneous regression. It’s very rare but it sometimes happens. I’ve read about spontaneous regression and I’ve heard about it but this is the first case I’ve ever actually seen. That may help explain my reluctance to believe the X-rays today. Here’s what has actually happened. The scar tissue has wrapped itself around the live tuberculosis bacteria, making it impossible to spread. For all intents and purposes, this has inoculated your son against the disease for life,” Dr. Beaty concluded.
“May we take him home today, Doctor?”
“Sure. The health department will require some precautions, though. You will need to permit county officials to send someone by your house two or three times per week. They’ll give the boy a booster shot of streptomycin in the hip. Other than that, the crisis is over. I see no reason why your son won’t be able to live a normal life. I’m happy for you.”
When we got home that day with Paul David, Bev and I watched him as he walked through the house, room by room, touching his toys, his bed, everything. Bev and I wept tears of pure joy.
A few weeks later Beverly gave birth to our second child. A girl. “Just like her mother – beautiful!” I said proudly.
Paul David was healed during that angelic visitation those years ago and throughout his boyhood suffered hardly more than a routine bad cold.
If ever there were any doubts about the existence of angels they were settled once and for all.
I believe in angels!
To doubt the existence of angels is to doubt the authority of the Bible. The fact that they are mentioned and are variously described some two hundred seventy-three times in the Bible (one hundred eight times in the Old Testament, one hundred sixty-five times in the New Testament) testifies that they are real beings with a definite mission, message, and ministry.
Angels often have multiple missions, all of them divinely ordained and sanctioned.
Here are thirty-one missions that angels accomplish.
1. They perform God’s bidding. (Judges 13:8)
2. They are appointed of the Lord unto our care. (Hebrews 1:14)
3. They deliver God’s messages to men. (Acts 1:10)
4. They are for our deliverance and assistance. (Acts 5:17)
5. They are sent for our guidance on earth. (Acts 8:26)
6. They are for our blessing and assurance. (Acts 27:22-25)
7. They stand by us and strengthen us. (Daniel 10:18)
8. They help us when we need help the most. (Daniel 10:19)
9. They report directly to God. (Job 1:6; 2:1)
10. They are watchmen. (Isaiah 62:6; Daniel 4:14,17)
11. They fight battles for us. (2 Chronicles 32:21; 2 Kings 6:17)
12. They can take action against God’s enemies. (Psalms 35:5,7; Acts 12:23)
13. They can bring healing power to man. (John 5:4)
14. They can come against demon forces that oppose us. (Daniel 3:24-28; 6:22)
15. They have supernatural power. (Psalm 89:6)
16. They praise and worship God. (Revelation 7:11-12)
17. They have the power to bless us. (Genesis 32:24-29)
18. They are the instructors of heavenly things. (Acts 1:10-11)
19. They can deliver the messages of the Lord. (Luke 1:19, 28-38)
20. They can instruct us through dreams and visions. (Matthew 1:18-24; Genesis 31:11)
21. They can become our guardians to protect us. (Psalm 34:7; Matthew 18:10)
22. They can go ahead of us and prepare our way. (Exodus 33:2)
23. They share in the rejoicing of repentant sinners. (Luke 15:10)
24. They help us to withstand temptation. (Mark 4:11)
25. They minister to us in the hour of temptation. (Mark 1:13)
26. They help us and strengthen us in severe trials. (Acts 12:11; Numbers 20:16)
27. They help carry out the word and will of the Lord. (Acts 10:7-22)
28. They are present during and superintend the death and burial of the righteous. (Luke 16:22; Jude 1:9)
29. They assist in the evangelization of the unsaved. (Matthew 28:7; Acts 8:25-26)
30. They sometimes execute God’s judgment. (Acts 12:21-23; 2 Kings 19:35)
31. They shall appear in the last days, as reapers of the Lord, and the righteous shall be laborers with them. (Luke 10:2)
That’s the list of thirty-one missions of angels, each of which has one or more specific biblical references for your further study.
According to Hebrews 12:1 we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses – watching us – cheering us on to ultimate victory!
Vance Havner, in his book, “Though I Walk Through the Valley,” tells of an old preacher who worked long into the night on a sermon for his small congregation. His wife asked why he spent so much time on a message that he would deliver to so few. To this, the old minister replied, “You forget, my dear, how large my audience will be!”
Vance Havner adds that “nothing is trivial here if heaven looks on. We’ll play a better game if, ‘seeing we are encompassed with such a great cloud of witnesses,’ we remember WHO it is in the grandstand!