Weaving It Into The Message
Dr. Stephen Davey, in his message “Ready for Either” – Moving Forward, illustrates how to use your introduction for more than just introducing the subject of the message.
In 1934, John and Betty Stam were new missionaries with the China Inland Mission. Along with their 3-month-old daughter, Helen, they were serving in a small town.
But civil war had erupted nearby and the communist or “red army” forces were fighting with government forces.
The town’s magistrate knew it was life threatening for any foreigners, especially missionaries, and he came to the Stam’s missionary compound and urged them to flee for their lives.
Taking no chances for his wife and daughter, John arranged for Betty and their baby girl to be escorted away to safety. Before their plans could commence, the 19th Division of the Red Army had streamed over the mountains behind government troops and entered the town.
Gun shots echoed in the streets as the rebel forces began looting and killing. It wasn’t long before some of them began pounding on the Mission station’s front gate.
John opened it and invited the soldiers inside, asking them if they were hungry? Betty set before them tea and cake. Their courtesy meant nothing and the soldiers demanded all the money the Stams had. John handed it over.
Still, the men tied up John’s hands as he pleaded for the safety of his wife and daughter. All three of them were eventually taken to a local prison where some of the prisoners were released to make room for the Stams. In the midst of all the chaos, little Helen began to cry – nothing would console her. Finally, one of the soldiers offered to kill her, since she was bothering all of the troops.
One of the prisoners who were in the process of being released asked how anyone could even think of killing an innocent baby. The soldiers turned to him and said, “Well I will allow the baby to live tonight but you will take her place.” And with savage rage, he hacked that prisoner to death in the prison yard.
The Stams knew that they would certainly not be allowed to live much longer.
John wrote a hasty letter to the Mission, explaining how they’d been captured and ended his note with the words, “May Christ be glorified whether by life or death.”
The next day, as they were leaving, John handed the letter to the postmaster and the postmaster, a believer, asked John where he was going. He looked at this man and quietly said, “I don’t know where these soldiers are going, but we are going to heaven.”
That day, after a forced march of 12 miles, they arrived at the town where they stopped for the night at a wealthy land owner’s home who had fled upon their arrival.
Betty was allowed to tend to her little girl; but Betty did more than that. She hurriedly fed her baby, hugged her goodbye and then wrapped her in a sleeping bag and hid her in one of the rooms of that large home. Inside the sleeping bag she placed a change of clothing and all the money she had – $10 dollars.
The next morning the young couple was led to the town square without their baby and none of the soldiers seemed to notice.
Both John and Betty’s hands were tightly bound. As they were led past jeering soldiers and curious citizens who had been forced to come and watch, they were stripped of their outer garments in the tradition of common criminals being led to 2 execution. John was barefoot, having given his socks to Betty to help keep her warm in the winter air.
The commanding officer stopped and ordered John to kneel. John and Betty exchanged a few words that went unrecorded on earth and then John knelt and as he was praying softly, a soldier flashed his sword through air and severed John’s head with one vicious swing.
Bystanders reported that Betty did not scream out, but merely shivered and then fell to her knees beside her husband’s body. And there, with her hands bound, as she knelt there next to him, the same sword rose and fell again, ending her life.
Their baby, Helen, was found two days later, her muffled cries in that abandoned house had aroused curiosity from neighbors. They called a Chinese pastor who came and took her to his home.
Sometime later she was safely delivered to her maternal grandparents who would raise her, while also serving as missionaries in China. Later she came to the United States where she lived with her Uncle and Aunt – she would grow to serve the Lord in a variety of ways, including writing. She passed away just a few months ago.
As for her martyred parents, a small group of Christians took their bodies and buried them on a hillside nearby.
John was 27 years old . . . Betty was 28.
Their deaths would impact and inspire the evangelical world in the west. For instance, at Moody Bible Institute, 700 students immediately dedicated themselves to missionary service . . . no matter what.
Their biography would be written by the daughter-in-law of Hudson Taylor. The courage of John and Betty Stam wasn’t the first to be written into the annals of church history.
In fact, on their headstones were lines from a letter written by another martyr, lines inscribed next to their names:
John Cornelius Stam, “That Christ may be glorified whether by life or by death.”
Elisabeth Scott Stam, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Those words came from the pen of the Apostle Paul in one of his missionary letters we know as the Book of Philippians.
Like John and Betty Stam, he has no idea at the moment which way the Lord will arrange his future. . . . .
Look, sooner or later, the stuff of earth sours . . . whatever earth produces eventually spoils . . . rusts . . . expires.
Twenty Minutes Into The Message:
Whatever God’s Spirit produces lasts forever. And that’s real treasure. Betty Stam wrote these words sometime before her martyrdom in China, “When we consecrate ourselves to God, we think we are making a great sacrifice when we are only letting go of some little trinket . . . and when our hands are empty, He fills them with His treasures.” – Betty Stam Paul says, “Listen, one of the reasons I want to live is to get more opportunities to multiply true treasures that lasts forever.”
Thirty Minutes Into The Message:
As I studied several sites that recorded the biography of John and Betty Stam, I’m almost convinced that they must have been either reading or studying or memorizing this paragraph from the Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
So much of their brief correspondence is steeped in this language; for instance, in his last letter home from China, in 1934, John Stam had written his parents, “God knows what our end is, but we have decided that, by life or death, Christ shall be magnified.”
You want a convicting thought? Does our living cause anybody to deepen their desire to praise God?
Do our lives lead others to want to provide even more ample cause to grow in their faith and glorify Christ?
Just Before The Concluding Words:
As a young woman of eighteen, just 10 years before Betty Stam would be martyred in China, she had written a prayer that would later be published throughout the western world:
Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes
All my own desires and hopes
And accept Thy will for my life.
I give myself, my life, my all
Utterly to Thee to be Thine forever.
Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit
Use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt
And work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost now and forever.
This poem would be copied by a young 12 year old girl into the fly leaf of her Bible – a 12 year old the world would one day know as Elizabeth Elliot. The fruit continues to multiply to this very day.
Elizabeth’s husband would become one more martyr in the annals of church history. A likeminded man who once wrote of his commitment: He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.
Which is another way of saying with Paul, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die, is gain.”
Whatever is used in your introduction, think about “pulling it down” into other portions of your message, think about using that person, a word, those words, or the initial point of the introductory content and using it again, and again, and then finally again in the conclusion.
In fact, you may be able to divide up Davey’s extensive beginning introductory material about the Stams and take some of it for later use to continue to add to the Stam story as you moved through the message. Instead of four references to the Stam story, you might be able to have six references to them.
This rhetorical technique . . . . .
- provides a greater impact to the point which was made at the very beginning — The introductory material is now seen as not just your way of beginning your message but is now seen as a designed part of your message. It is not seen as something said merely in the beginning, but as progressively part of your purposeful intent.
- provides a unifying element — In Davey’s message, the four mentions of the Stam family both creates four dots, and connects them throughout the message.
- brings the audience back to the emotions and feelings previously felt by the introductory story. The impact of the true story, which was felt at the very beginning, is re-introduced as you move through your message. The impact of the story is not over even till the end.