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Stealing Psalm 40

The Testimony of Jim Lamb

 Sometime in 1970, I stole a Bible. Perhaps “stole” is too strong a word. Let's just say I borrowed it and never gave it back. The theft wasn't intentional. It happened at the Naval Air Station in Atsugi, Japan. One evening, while on duty, I was in a room where someone left a Bible. I picked it up and began to read.

Though brought up in church, I'd questioned the existence of God, so His Word had become irrelevant to me. Fortunately, I had not become irrelevant to Him.

When my duty watch was over, I took the Bible back to my barracks, thinking, “I’ll return it when I'm done.” While flipping through pages, I found Psalm 40, and the words: “I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.”

The words touched me.

The year before, I'd been under investigation because of drugs. A dishonorable discharge loomed. But because I'd just become a father, I was given leniency. Perhaps fatherhood would straighten me out. Afterwards, I was sent overseas.

While rotating between Japan, Guam, Vietnam and the Philippines, I fell deeper into my own “horrible pit.” To deaden the despair, I turned to drinking. (I stayed away from drugs because I feared the Navy would throw the book at me—and it wouldn't be a Bible.)

In June 1971, my first wife wrote me a “Dear John” letter, launching a deep personal crisis that came just months before my discharge from the service.

The following Sunday, I attended an evening Chapel service. That night, instead of a sermon, a film was featured. It told the story of three men trapped after a coalmine collapse. One man was a churchgoer whose faith was not real. The second was an avowed atheist. The third was a believer. It was obvious that only the believer was prepared to deal with this crisis. I wanted to be like the third man.

After the film, the chaplain gave an invitation. I was the second person out of the pew. Later, a counselor had me read Roman 10:13, “For whosever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." When I read the word "saved,” I knew the promise of Psalm 40 was fulfilled. I was out of the pit, and onto a “rock.”

Thank God for that . . .

ABOUT: Jim Lamb is a retired journalist living in Florida and attending First Baptist-Elfers, where he regularly updates the church website and volunteers as a substitute Sunday school teacher.

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