Read an Excerpt
Choice Words of Challenge
The 358-Million-Dollar Question
You never know when a moment and a few sincere words
can have an impact on a life.
She was just one woman trying to make a difference in her corner of the globe. Nothing particularly unusual stood out about her. When she walked down the street, no heads turned, and no one asked for her autograph. Certainly no one would have guessed that she would launch a worldwide movement.
Setting out from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Tena Hoelkeboer had trudged halfway around the world to the town of Amoy to teach little Chinese girls. Every day, she and her four hundred students faced poverty, overcrowding, and malnourishment. Though her life was a struggle, Tena saw the children as her own private mission from God.
On one occasion, an American named Bob happened to be visiting a nearby university campus. Bob was traveling through Asia on a speaking tour for Youth for Christ, and as he stopped in different cities, he made a point to spend part of his time encouraging missionaries and taking pictures of their work.
Tena had heard that Bob was coming, so she invited him to speak to her students. Bob agreed. But during his presentation, he used an American style of communicating the gospel of Christ. In accordance with that style, at the end of his talk, Bob invited the kids to accept Christ and told them, "Go home and tell your folks you're going to be a Christian."
But when Bob returned the next day, Tena met him at the door with a little girl dangling in her arms. The child's father had disowned her, and her back was bleeding from the beating he had given her when she announced her intention to live for the one true God. The father was enraged that his daughter had dishonored his ancestors by turning to Christ.
Tena's eyes blazed at Bob. She was incensed that his "American-style" altar call and cultural insensitivity had resulted in the beating and abandonment of yet another child. She walked over to him and dumped the whimpering girl in his arms. Then she said something that probably did more to save the lives of starving children around the world than anything else.
With tears streaming down her face, Tena said, "She listened to you. She believed what you told her, and she obeyed God. Now look what it's costing her! Don't think you can walk off this island without doing something for her. I've got six other little kids already sharing my rice bowl. Now you've given me one more. Tell me, what are you going to do about her?"
That was it. Bob felt shaken to the core as he held the frightened little child in his arms. He knew he didn't have the funds to save the hundreds of needy, deformed, and leprous children he had already seen on his trip. But he could rescue and support this one, whose name, he discovered, was Tam. Immediately, Bob dug in his pocket for money to feed and clothe the girl. And as he did, a vision was born.
That was 1947.
Within two years, Bob and Dr. Frank Phillips formed an organization to help missionaries meet the emergency needs of Korean War orphans. By 1961, they were supporting fourteen thousand children from 156 orphanages in nine nations. By 1998, their organization raised $358,351,000, sponsored 1,383,218 children, and met the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of more than fifty million people.
It was just an off-the-cuff remark. But God used an ordinary woman to speak to an American man about a homeless Chinese girl. Tena's challenge, delivered at a ripe moment to exactly the right person, made all the difference.
The man's name? Bob Pierce. His organization? World Vision now the largest international Christian relief and development agency in the world.
You might like to know
In 1967, Bob Pierce retired from World Vision due to illness. After a year in the hospital, he was offered the opportunity to lead another relief agency. You may have heard of it Samaritan's Purse. The flyleaf of Bob's Bible contained this phrase: "Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God." He died in 1978.
A Mere Suggestion Made the Difference
If people only knew how they might cheer some lonely heart or lift up some drooping spirit, or speak some word that shall be lasting in its effects for all coming time, they would be up and about it.
Dwight L. Moody
Chuck was in trouble. Big trouble. Just about the biggest kind of trouble a guy could get into. He had seen this kind of scenario before, and he was well acquainted with the possible outcomes. It didn't look good.
Chuck's was not the kind of problem you could handle by yourself in the privacy of your own home. It wasn't stretching things to say that just about the entire world had read something about his predicament. He was becoming famous, but his was the type of fame a guy could do without.
With the media hounding him, Chuck figured it was a good time to get out of town. But before he took off, he wanted to make one stop to see his longtime friend Tom. Maybe Tom could shed some light on the situation or offer a bit of advice.
Tom's wife greeted Chuck at the door, and the two men made their way out to the back porch. There wasn't much point in small talk, so Chuck got right down to business. He had seen a change in Tom's life, and now, with the courts breathing down his neck, Chuck was suddenly curious about that change.
Tom began by relating the journey of his business success. He recounted the details of his rise to the presidency of the largest company in his state. In the eyes of the world, he had it all. But he didn't have everything. Tom knew he was missing something, but he wasn't exactly sure what.
Chuck listened attentively. He could relate to this feeling of emptiness.
Finally, Tom described a great spiritual discovery he had made one night in New York City. The discovery made him feel peaceful for the first time. As he walked down the sidewalks that night, Tom said the lights of the city glowed brighter and his fears began to fade.
Tom's discovery had been a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Chuck knew about God, but he never understood how a human being could experience him. Tom's story sounded nice, and evidently his newfound faith was working for him, but Chuck wasn't the religious type. He didn't want to do something drastic just because he was in hot water. As a marine, Chuck had seen several guys who turned to God in the trenches but went back to their old ways of life when they were out of their foxholes.
As the men talked, a book lay on the table next to them. At a certain point in their conversation, Tom picked up the book and made a suggestion. It was a natural suggestion, one that happens every day. It's the kind of suggestion you make to a friend and, sometimes, if you're eager, to a stranger. In the moment, you don't stop to wonder if your suggestion has eternal or international implications. You just make the suggestion because you feel led to make it. As it turns out, Tom's suggestion would impact thousands of people across the globe, a reality that neither he nor Chuck could imagine at the time.
Tom held up the book and said, "I suggest you take this with you and read it while you're on vacation. Let me read you one chapter."
As Tom read the chapter, Chuck began to squirm. Right away, the author seemed to put his finger on some of the attitudes Chuck had prized all his life. Some of these attitudes had been responsible for getting him into the deep trouble he was in now. Chuck felt hot and exposed. He shifted in his seat. The words stung. He wanted to protest, to defend himself. Surely Tom understood there were legitimate reasons for his behavior. By the time Tom finished, Chuck was in agony.
Closing the book, Tom leaned forward and confronted Chuck about the issues in his life. Then he gently asked if he was ready to make the same step with Christ that he had made. The book had moved Chuck, but he wasn't convinced. He said no.
Before Chuck left that day, Tom took a minute to read a passage of Scripture and to pray for him. This hit a nerve that Chuck hadn't expected. Walking to his car, he was choked with emotion. And as he backed out of the driveway, his tears gushed so heavily that he was forced to stop the car.
Over the next few days, Chuck took Tom up on his suggestion, and as he read the book Tom had given him, something happened. Chuck's fears, tensions, and animosities began to drain away. Chuck came alive to things he'd never seen before, and God slowly began to fill the void in his soul.
Chuck was still in trouble, but now, at least, he wasn't alone. His friend's simple challenge to read a book had led him to the Savior.
The book was Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. And the man who read it was Charles Colson, who at that time was special counsel to President Nixon. Colson later pleaded guilty to a charge of obstruction of justice in the Watergate scandal and served seven months in prison.
Today, thousands of people who also find themselves in trouble look to Chuck Colson for help, hope, and guidance. Since reading Mere Christianity, Chuck has authored more than seventeen books of his own, the latest being How Now Shall We Live? His first book, Born Again, tells the story of the infamous back-porch meeting with his friend Tom Phillips. Chuck is a leading spokesman for criminal-justice reform and is the founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, one of the largest evangelical prison outreaches in the world.
You Might Like to Know
Charles Colson was in church when he discovered the title for his first book. When it came time to sing, Chuck's wife, Patty, opened a hymnal and smiled. Printed at the top of the page was the name of the hymn, "Born Again." Other significant ministries developed by Chuck include Fellowship Communications, developed to produce publications to mobilize the Christian church for social action; Neighbors Who Care, to assist victims of crime; and Angel Tree, to provide for the needs of prisoners' children.
The Hero and the Schoolboy
How many people stop because so few say go.
The auditorium was packed. More than one thousand students crammed in to hear the speech by a national sports hero. He walked to the front of the stage, put his hands in his pockets, and let a deep silence fall on the room. Then, with a booming voice he said, "Do you know who you are? You don't, eh? Well, I'm here to tell you. You are Americans, and you are children of God. You can be somebody. You can be anything you want to be if you have a goal and will work and believe and have good moral character. You really can be what you want to be with the help of the good God."
The speech inspired the kids, but when the applause died down, the students all filed back to class and forgot about it all except Jesse.
Throughout the talk, Jesse sat on the edge of his seat in the front row, his eyes fixed on the speaker. The hero had passion and had achieved something Jessie admired, and he etched every word of the speech in his mind so firmly in fact that, even decades later, he could still recite it from memory.
That day as the auditorium emptied, Jesse hopped up onto the platform to meet the speaker. When they shook hands, the boy felt an impulse like an electric shock jolt through his body. That was it. The torch was passed. And from that moment, the course of Jesse's life lit up like an airport runway.
Throughout high school and college, he ran hundreds of miles as enthusiastic coaches helped hone his remarkable running ability. But Jesse's road was far from easy. Since they had six other children to clothe and feed, his parents couldn't afford to pay for Jesse's education. So in addition to classwork and a grueling training schedule, he worked odd jobs before school or late at night.
Then, finally, on one of the most thrilling days in American history, the hero's words bore fruit, and all Jesse's work paid off.
The man at Jesse's school that day had been American track star Charlie Paddock, hailed on many sports pages as "the fastest human alive." And Charlie was the fastest, until 1936. That's when the boy in the front-row seat, Jesse Owens, astonished the world by returning home from the Olympic games wearing four gold medals.
You Might Like to Know
In his later years, Jesse Owens organized Junior Olympic games for eighteen hundred inner-city youngsters between the ages of twelve and seventeen. He also sponsored clinics with nationally known athletes as instructors. He said, "The top athletes can keep the kids interested and out of trouble. They inspire kids, just as I was inspired by athletes when I was younger."
The Challenge of a One-Minute Question
A man leaves all kinds of footprints when he walks through life.
Some you can see...others are invisible,
like the prints he leaves across other people's lives.
Margaret Lee Runbeck
Ken was no stranger to church. From the time he was a baby, his parents had taken him to religious services. In fact, his middle name came from a Presbyterian minister. But this time, Ken and his wife had had it. After the ugly firing of their much-loved pastor, they thought, If that's what church is all about, forget it. And for the next fifteen years, their spiritual lives took a nosedive.
But while spiritual things took a backseat, Ken's business opportunities suddenly kicked into overdrive.
One night at a party, Ken met a man who was destined to become his partner in the greatest achievement of his life. The man's name was Spencer, and he was working with a psychiatrist on a book called One Minute Parenting. As the two men discussed the project, Ken explained that he had been teaching similar principles in the business world for years. This intrigued Spencer. The next week, he sat through one of Ken's management seminars and was so fired up by the concepts that afterward he ran up to Ken and said, "Forget parenting! Let's go for managers."
It was then that Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson teamed up to write a little book called The One Minute Manager.
Within a month, the men were handing out copies of the first draft. Five months later, the book was ready for sale to its first official audience at the National Restaurant Association Convention in Chicago, where a friend of Ken's arranged for a slot on the program. And just twenty minutes after Ken's presentation, The One Minute Manager had sold its first thousand copies.
A year later, with very little promotion, the book had sold twenty thousand copies. Confident they had a good thing, Ken and Spencer decided it was time to put their book in the hands of an even wider audience. Along with their literary agent, Margaret McBride, Spencer pitched The One Minute Manager to several New York publishing houses. Many were eager to publish it. They signed with William Morrow.
The One Minute Manager became an overnight success! Only two weeks after publication, it hit the New York Times bestseller list, where it made its home for the next three years.
Soon after the book took off, Ken got an important call from his longtime friend and college buddy Phil Hodges. Phil worked in Los Angeles for the Xerox Corporation, where he was a top labor-relations officer. He told Ken that he just wanted to get together to catch up on things and suggested they meet for a walk on the beach at La Jolla.
As they walked, Phil posed a probing question. He asked, "Ken, why do you think The One Minute Manager is such a runaway bestseller? Is it that you're a better writer than anyone else or that you're smarter than most people?"
"No, Hodge, I don't think that at all," Ken replied. "I've thought a lot about it. I think the Lord wanted the book written, and he just used Spencer and me as his channels. When I go back and read the book, I can't even remember writing certain parts of it. The book seemed to write itself."
Ken believed in God, but when it came to Christianity, he had his doubts. But Phil's words made him think long and hard about his spiritual condition.
Three years passed.
Then one day, while on his way to speak in Mexico City, Ken ran into Bob Buford in the airport. Ken had been previously acquainted with Bob and knew that he was a Christian who ministered to pastors of large churches as well as business leaders. To Ken, it seemed providential when he discovered that they would be seated across the aisle from one another on the flight.
By an interesting coincidence, Ken found a copy of Campus Crusade's Four Spiritual Laws booklet in his wallet that Phil Hodges had given him, but he hadn't remembered keeping it. A few minutes later, he leaned over and said, "Bob, this booklet is in my wallet for some reason. Maybe it means we should talk about Christianity. I have a few questions I'd like to ask you."
Bob Buford, and later, pastor Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, thoroughly explained God's plan of salvation to Ken. Most of what they said made sense, and Ken carefully considered the claims of Christ. But he still wasn't ready to make a commitment.
Then in 1986, Ken experienced a gut-wrenching crisis. He was forced to consider drastic measures regarding his company's president and the future of their working relationship. For days Ken stewed in anguish, mulling over his options until, finally, he came face to face with his own glaring inability to find a solution. He knew he couldn't work things out alone. In desperation, he bowed his head and prayed, "Lord, I can't save myself here. I can't solve problems like this without your help. I admit I need you and recognize my vulnerability. I accept Jesus as my Savior and the bridge between you and me."
As Ken prayed, a great peace came over him. For the first time, he felt the assurance and relief that God was present, guiding and directing his steps. Suddenly, regardless of the outcome of his company, Ken's new bottom line was this: With Christ in the lead of his life, he could manage anything.
It has been fifteen years since Dr. Ken Blanchard prayed that prayer. By now, The One Minute Manager has sold more than nine million copies and still remains on bestseller lists. It has been translated into more than twenty-five languages and is regarded as one of the most successful business books of all time.
Dr. Blanchard has gone on to author other books, including The Power of Ethical Management with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Gung Ho! with Sheldon Bowles, and The Heart of a Leader with Bill Hybels. In 1999, he coauthored Leadership by the Book with the two men who have been most instrumental in his spiritual life, Phil Hodges and Bill Hybels. Dr. Blanchard is the chief spiritual officer of the Ken Blanchard Companies, a management training and consulting organization.
Concerning the talk on the beach that day, Ken said, "That meeting with Phil Hodges marked the renewal of my spiritual journey that had begun when I was a little guy being taken to church by my parents. Afterward, Phil kept calling me, sending me things to read, pushing me to think about my relationship with Christ."
Ken Blanchard knows the power of a few choice words in a well-timed question, and he is living at a whole new level because of it. Who in your life could use a walk on the beach or a talk over lunch this week?
You Might Like to Know
After Ken's spiritual conversion, his wife, Marjorie, and both of their children also made decisions for Christ. Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges founded the Center for Faith Walk in Leadership in an effort to assist leaders as they walk out their faith in the marketplace.
About the change in Ken's life, pastor Bill Hybels says, "The greatest change I've seen in Ken's life is a newfound exuberance in his work with marketplace executives. Instead of just challenging leaders to grow their organizations, now Ken is challenging leaders to grow their hearts and souls as well. Ken's faith is affecting everything he does and everyone he touches."
A Party to God's Purposes
Say what you want to say when you have the feeling and the chance.
My deepest regrets are the things that I did not do,
the opportunities missed and the things unsaid.
Captain Jim Keller
The plans called for a cozy honeymoon, but instead of love and romance, the air was filled with strife. Apparently there were a few things that the groom had neglected to tell his young bride, so he sat her down to set her straight.
"Kay, now that you're my wife," Tom announced, "here are the things I don't like about you, and I want them changed." Naturally, Tom's ill-timed comment and the listing of her flaws incensed and devastated Kay. An argument erupted, and in a matter of minutes, the honeymoon was history.
At the beginning of their relationship, Kay had been so drawn to Tom's creative, sensitive nature that she had failed to notice his dark side. But as their marriage progressed, it became obvious that Tom was an unhappy man. He switched careers, but nothing seemed to satisfy him, especially Kay. A few times he felt so low that he even threatened suicide.
But Kay's heart grew cold and callous. "Do a good job," she would goad him after his suicidal threats, "so I can get your money!"
Sharp words and quick comebacks were Kay's weapons of choice with Tom. One night, during a particularly heated exchange, she gave Tom such a tongue-lashing that he slapped her in the face.
"That's it!" Kay shouted. "It's over!"
Though Tom pleaded for another chance, Kay was finished. When she went to her priests for support, not only were they in favor of separation, but one priest went so far as to put his arms around her, kiss her neck, and say, "You sure are a good-looking gal, Kay."
With her two young sons in tow, Kay headed home to Virginia. Soon she and Tom were divorced.
Desperate for love and determined to get it, Kay went from one man to another. She spent two years in an illicit affair with a married man who was the father of six children. But inside Kay was miserable. She knew the life she was leading was wrong, but she always found ways to justify it. She eventually ended the affair, but even so, she felt troubled, her heart held hostage by a number of flagrant sins. God, she thought, if only I could have a fresh start!
Finally, one evening, Kay was talking with a friend at a party. As she told the man her troubles, he looked at her and asked the question that would radically alter her life: "Why don't you quit telling God what you want and tell him that Jesus Christ is all you need?"
His question was another slap in the face, but this time the words came from God. Their stinging power drove Kay to her knees.
The next morning, Kay notified her employer that she wouldn't be in for work. Then, by the side of her bed, she committed her life to Christ. "God, I don't care what you do to me," she prayed. "I don't even care if I never see another man as long as I live. I don't care if you paralyze me from the neck down. Just give me peace!"
As Kay prayed, peace did come. Suddenly she felt clean and alive. And as the days passed, her need for a man was replaced by a ravenous hunger for God's Word. Reading the Bible made many things clearer to Kay, particularly her relationship with Tom. Soon she became convinced it was God's desire that she reconcile with her husband. But before she could make plans to see him, she received a shocking phone call from Tom's father. Tom had hanged himself.
Kay grieved Tom's death, and suddenly she was plagued with "what-if " questions: What if she'd acted faster? What if she'd met Christ sooner? Would Tom still be alive?
All through this sad, uncertain time, Kay sought solace in the Bible. She devoured large portions of Scripture, often driving with a Bible on her steering wheel. For the first time in her life, the Bible made sense to her.
Before long, Kay's love for God and her zeal for his Word led her to a Bible college in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where she would lay the foundation for making one of the most significant contributions to the cause of Christ by a woman in the twentieth century.
Today the woman who went looking for love in all the wrong places is Kay Arthur, who during the past thirty years has pointed millions to the Master. She is known throughout the world as the executive vice president of Precept Ministries, which she co-founded with her husband, Jack, in an effort to help as many as possible learn the truths of God's Word for themselves. What began as a Bible study for teenagers has now exploded into thirty-five Precept upon Precept Bible studies used in fifty states, 116 foreign countries, and available in fifty-four languages. Kay hosts three radio shows and has authored more than thirty-nine books with more than four million copies in print, including her latest, Our Covenant God. In 1998, nine thousand people attended more than one hundred regional institutes to learn her inductive method of Bible study or to be trained as a Precept Bible study leader.
A "what-if " question we could ask is, What if Kay's friend at the party had kept silent? Would she still have found Christ? Would her ministry still have helped millions? Possibly. But one thing we do know is this: On that night, and for his own sovereign purpose, God chose the powerful words of a friend to pierce Kay's heart and claim her for himself.
You Might Like to Know
Kay was twenty-nine years old when she gave her life to Christ. One day, Kay sensed God saying that she would indeed have another husband. "Well then, God," she said, "you pick him out and bring him to me!" On a spring evening at Bible college, Kay and her boys were in the campus ice-cream shop when they spied a missionary to South America named Jack Arthur. Though they'd never met, Kay and her sons recognized Jack from his picture on their missionary prayer card. The four chatted briefly, and when Jack returned to the school that fall, he called Kay for a date. Three months later, they were married.
A Challenging Word from God
Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked,
"What do you want?"
Just as Christ did with the early disciples, he allows us to tag along behind him for a time, but sooner or later he will ask us to declare our intentions. He knows that sometimes we are fickle followers, our right hands reaching for the Bread of Life while our left hands grab for the cookie jar. And though Christ is infinitely patient with us, at some point he is sure to ask, "What do you want?"
Our problem is that we don't always know what we want. There are so many choices, so many options on the menu of life. But like a good father, God knows that all we'll ever get from riding the fence is splinters. So he shines his truth in the face of our wavering desires and prods us toward decision, asking, "What do you want?"
When Jesus asked his disciples this question, they answered him with a question of their own: "Rabbi, where are you staying?" Jesus responded back to them with the words that would alter the entire course of history, words he still offers fresh to us every moment: "Come, and you will see."
If Jesus suddenly turned and challenged you with the question "What do you want?" what would your answer be?
Boost Your Own Word Power
Become a missionary of encouragement. Challenge the darkness one soul at a time. Reject the mentality that says the needs in this world, my town, or my family are insurmountable. As you go about your day, focus on individuals. Use words to scatter hope!
Acquire a passion for great books. Keep a stack on your desk, beside your bed, and in your car. Give books as gifts. Tell people about the books that inspire you, especially ones that fan your flame for God.