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Eternity in the Hands of One Man
Can a wretched beggar influence the world? This is the story of one man who faithfully and obediently shared a message that touched lives around the globe.

Jim walked hand in hand with his dad one hot day on a sidewalk in Sydney, Australia. He was hopping, trying to stride the cracks, when he stopped. On the sidewalk was a word, elegantly written in yellow chalk. Jim read E … ter … ni … ty. He wondered. Looking up at his dad, he asked, "Dad, what's that word?"

By the time he died...he had written the word half a million times...

"Eternity," Dad answered.

"Dad, what does that mean?"

"It means forever, son."

Dad smiled. Mr. Eternity had written again. The man had been there that morning. He was a small frail man with grey hair, weighing only 100 pounds. As always, he wore a grey felt hat and a navy blue double-breasted suit. He had awakened at 4:00 in the morning and prayed for an hour. Then, he wandered the streets wherever he felt he should be. He stooped down and very carefully, in elegant lettering, he wrote Eternity. By the time he died in 1967, he had written the word over half a million times since 1930. His name was Arthur Stace.

Why did he do this? To understand, let's find out something about his youth. Born in 1884 to two drunken parents, Arthur wandered the slums of Sydney. He was not cared for, nor was he disciplined by anyone. He stole milk from doorsteps, rummaged for food in garbage cans, and stole baked goods from stores. He never learned much in school, for he hardly went there. Like his parents, he lived carelessly and sinfully. As a teenager and a young man he became a thief and drunkard.

"God can save from the guttermost to the uttermost."

When World War I came, he went to France as a soldier, but returned harmed by poisonous gas and half-blinded in his left eye. He sunk further into sinful living, until desperately poor, ragged, and wretched, he begged for food. He was a bum.

There was no hope or power to save him, until he went to Broadway Church in Sydney. He entered the hall, hoping for a cup of tea and some sweets. Before he could eat, he and 300 other men had to listen to someone preach. Arthur noticed five cleanly dressed and happy young men. He asked a criminal sitting next to him: "Who are they?"

"I'd reckon they'd be Christians," he replied.

"Well, look at them and look at us. I'm having a go at what they have got," and Arthur slipped down on his knees and prayed. That night, Arthur went outside, knelt under a fig tree, and really prayed. Weeping, he begged, "God be merciful to me a sinner." Arthur was a changed man since then. He never drank, and soon gained respect and received steady work.

To understand why he wrote the word "Eternity," let's attend a meeting in 1930, a few months after Arthur became a Christian. Arthur sat in the Burton Street Baptist Church, moved by a sermon preached by an evangelist, the Reverend John Ridley. John Ridley spoke clearly about the judgment of God against sin and the need to repent and believe. He preached on eternity. At one point, John Ridley bellowed, "I wish I could shout ETERNITY through the streets of Sydney." He then shouted repeatedly, "ETERNITY! ETERNITY! ETERNITY!"

The words rang in Arthur's ears. Arthur left the church crying. As he walked on the sidewalk, he put his hands in his pocket. He felt a piece of yellow chalk and pulled it out. He stopped, and felt a strong urge. He stooped, and there on the sidewalk he wrote "Eternity" in a handwriting that amazed him. Arthur could hardly spell his name. From that moment, Arthur never stopped writing that word each morning on the sidewalks of Sydney for 37 years.

Arthur was known to say, "Arthur Stace is weak, unclean and powerless, but God has all power; so obey God in everything, small and great, and His Spirit will break sin's power and make the crooked will straight." He used to say, "God can save from the guttermost to the uttermost." Each time this small man stooped and wrote "Eternity," he was filled with a strong urge to spread the message of God's love for sinners heading for a never-ending eternity.

… God uses the weak and foolish to do great things.

For each child, Arthur desired he or she would turn to God while young. The sermon John Ridley preached was on this text: "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the spirit of the contrite ones. For I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made" (Isaiah 57:15,16). Arthur took that message and wrote it on the streets in a one-word sermon: ETERNITY.

We may judge Arthur's way as odd, but God uses the weak and foolish to do great things. He showed this through Arthur Stace, for the word Arthur wrote became international. On January 1, 2000, in Sydney, Australia, thousands watched the fireworks over Sydney Harbour bridge. The crowd was light-hearted and merry. The $5,000,000 fireworks had ended, and there, hung on the middle of the bridge, was a large bright yellow sign with the word, ETERNITY. The thousands gazed and then cheered for the New Year and the New Millennium. Among the crowd were many aged men and women, who as children had stopped to look down at the famous sidewalk message of Arthur Stace. When asked what he meant by his one-word sermon, Arthur simply replied, "Where will you spend Eternity?"

Originally published in Messenger, January 2001.
www.frcna.org

 

 
 
 
 

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