Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Over these past several days, we’ve been listening to a precious story of the amazing grace of God, and we’ve seen that in the life of my long-time and dear friend, Kay Arthur.
Kay, thank you so much for your willingness to share out of where God found you so that His grace could be magnified. I believe there are those who have been listening to this series who are experiencing God’s grace, perhaps, in a whole new way themselves as a result of your willingness to share.
Kay: As a result, precious ones, of our prayer for you . . . This has been Nancy’s and my prayer for you. We’ve learned as He says, “My grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9), He’s talking about the fact that when you get saved, you get all of God and the grace of God, and that grace—which gives you access to everything that Jesus Christ is and has—is sufficient for you. We’ve longed that you would experience it and live in it. Right, Nancy?
Nancy: Yes, and our team is praying that, too, even as this series is being aired, that God would connect the dots in your heart and make Christ real to you. That’s what it takes—the Holy Spirit drawing us to Christ, opening our eyes to see what we could not see apart from Him, and then showing us that Christ is our righteousness and our life and our only hope.
If you haven’t heard the first part of Kay Arthur’s story, you need to make sure to go to our website, ReviveOurHeartsRadio.com. You can listen to these past several days, or you can order a CD. There may be someone that you would want to share this story with—somebody that you know needs to hear this testimony of God’s grace. If you’ll call us or go online and place an order, we’ll be glad to send that to you.
Kay: May I interrupt, my friend?
Nancy: Of course.
Kay: When you’re saying that, I just think about 1 Corinthians 15:10. Paul’s writing. He’s telling about the gospel. He’s talking about how God appeared to him as one untimely born. He was living during the time of Jesus, saved after Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected. He was a persecutor of the Church.
So many times we think, “I’m untimely born,” but listen to what he says. He said, “He appeared to me” (verse 8, NASB) Then he said, “By the grace of God, I am what I am,” and I love this, “His grace toward me did not prove vain” (verse 10, NASB). In other words, it wasn’t useless. “But I labored even more than all of them”—the other apostles—“yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”
I think that’s a good verse for you to maybe memorize, don’t you think, Nancy?
Nancy: That grace of God is something that we desperately need. I think about the apostle Paul. Talk about somebody who could have had regrets; talk about a past.
Kay: That’s right. Yes. He said he was the chief of sinners. He was a murderer.
Nancy: He tried to wipe out the church and almost succeeded.
Kay: Exactly. So this is what you need to know, and you need to understand that so many times what we do is we live a life of regret because we look at our past and we think, like I did, “Oh, if only I had known Christ.”
If you didn’t hear that part of the testimony, you need to go online and get this from Nancy.But we look at the past, and we say, “Oh, I blew it. If only I hadn’t . . .” God knows all that. God even knew what my children would go through. Now, it grieves Him, but He still knows, and there is grace to cover it. He says His grace is sufficient; His power, grace’s power is perfected in weakness.
He says, “Therefore, I will glory in my infirmities—and my necessities and my reproaches, etc.—for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10, paraphrased).
Nancy: “And where sin did abound . . .”
Kay: “. . . grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20, paraphrased). It’s His lavish, extravagant grace. And listen, Romans chapter 5 says, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace”—now listen carefully—“in which we stand” (verses 1-2, NASB). We stand in it. It’s in the perfect tense—past completed action with a present result. That’s where you’re permanently rooted—in the grace of God.
Nancy: Kay, you had this background that you shared with us, and we won’t go back into the details of that today, but there was a lot of immorality, failure. You left your marriage, which in retrospect you said you should not have done. After you became a Christian, did you struggle with guilt? Or did the grace of God just wash all that away?
Kay: After I became a Christian, I told you in the last program that I started devouring the Word of God. I also started devouring biographies—Isobel Kuhn, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Robert Murray McCheyne, D.L. Moody, George Mueller, all of those—and those in a sense mentored me. They gave me a vision of what I could become in the Lord.
I’ve got the Spirit of God inside me. I’ve got the Word of God. I’ve got the example of others, and I’ve got a hunger and a thirst for righteousness, so I wanted to be obedient to God. I knew that God hated divorce. I said to God, “God, I’ll go back to Tom. I do not love him. I feel in love with the first man that I met.” His name was Dave Pancer, and he loved the Lord. I wanted to marry him, but he wouldn’t marry me—by the grace of God, he wouldn’t marry me. So I came to the point where I said, “God, I want to be pleasing to You.”
I love that verse in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verse 9, “I have as my ambition, whether in this body or out of this body—to be pleasing to Him” (paraphrased). I wanted to please Him, so I said, “I know You hate divorce. I’ll go back to Tom, even though I don’t love him. You changed me; You can change him.”
So here I am all primed to return to my husband. I’m thinking about writing a letter to tell him that I would come back. I don’t get around to the letter; I get a phone call. I’m to go into John Hopkins at that time. I was in an automobile accident, and I needed a cervical fusion. So I’m getting ready to go into John Hopkins to check in. It’s a Sunday and I get a phone call. It’s from the hospital, John Hopkins, saying Cleveland, Ohio, is trying to get a hold of you, call this number. It’s my in-laws. I think, “Oh, Tom is there, and he’s calling because he knows I’m going into surgery.” He told me, “I want to take care of you.”
So I call. It was my father-in-law. He came on the line, and he was kind of slobbering and saying, “Tom’s committed suicide.” So my husband at 31 years of age hung himself on a closet door in the apartment that he had rented. I took the kids and got them settled. I called my parents. But before I did anything like that, when I hung up the phone from talking with my father-in-law, I tried to call my pastor. I’m so thankful he wasn’t home. I’m so thankful that it wasn’t the arm of flesh that strengthened me.
I’m not saying that God doesn’t often use that, but I slipped to my knees off of that bed where I had the phone, and God just spoke to me. He brought to my memory three Scriptures that I had read and focused on, but I didn’t know where they were in the Bible.
One was 1 Corinthians 10:13. I had memorized that (I should have known where it was) as the assurance of victory. It says, “There is no temptation . . .” Later on when I would study the Bible, I found out that the word for temptation is periosmos, and it means “trial or testing or tempting,” depending on the context. “There is no temptation—trial or testing—taken you but such is common to man. You’re not unique, but God is faithful, and with the temptation—the trial, the testing—He will make a way of escape that you might be able to bear” (paraphrased). So I knew I could bear.
The second thing that came to my mind, and I’m not saying this is the order (I can’t remember the order). First Thessalonians chapter 5, verse 18, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (KJV). God was going to show me that He was sovereign. This was the truth, Nancy, that helped me the most in all of my life. I’m going through horrendous trials right now—horrendous. I can’t share them, but they’re horrendous, but I’m able to walk as more than a conqueror.
Nancy: Because . . . ?
Kay: Because I know God is sovereign. Because I know He rules over all. Because I know He does as Daniel 4 says, “According to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. I know that no one can stop God’s hand, and I know that no one can say to God, ‘What are You doing?’” (verse 35, paraphrased).
He knows what He is doing, so in every trial—and this has been trial upon trial upon trial upon trial, and things that we never thought that we would experience those trials—His grace is sufficient because I know that He is sovereign. I know that it’s not an accident. I know that He has a purpose. I may not see it; I may not know it; I may not understand it, but I am the clay, and He is the potter (see Isaiah 64:8).
The third verse that God brought to my mind was Romans 8:28, “All things”—and this is all that came to my mind. “All things work together for good to those . . . who are the called according to His purpose” (NKJV). That’s all I got.
Now, I always, when I’m teaching from Romans 8:28, together with 29 and 30, which leads us to the culmination, but He says, “in all things, keep on working together”—it’s in the present tense—“for good” (paraphrased). It’s not all things are good, but because God is sovereign, because He is in charge, and because I belong to Him, and because I’m His workmanship, and He’s transforming me into the image of Christ, which is what 28 and 29 talk about, then He’s going to make it work together for good.
So I had those three Scriptures when Tom committed suicide because, remember, I had said to God, “I will go back to him.” I’m expecting to go back to him. Well, in an earlier program, we talked about the tongue, and I told you about my tongue. James talks about how a tongue is a little member, but it controls the whole body, and it has the power of life and death in a sense.
I knew in my heart that I had helped put the rope around Tom’s neck because when he would call me (this is when we were separated and then divorced) he would say to me, “I’m going to kill myself.” The philosophy in those days was that if somebody is talking about suicide, you bluff them out of it. So I was trying to bluff him out of it.
Nancy: They don’t really intend to do it?
Kay: Yes. They don’t intend to do it. You just make them angry. You bluff them out of it. So I would say, “Well, go ahead, but do a good job, so I get your money.” He got a private plane, and he was flying, and I said, “Well, why don’t you fly your plane into the side of a mountain?” That was cruel, absolutely cruel, so I knew that I had encouraged him in suicide. I hadn’t said, “No, your life is valuable.” Now, this was all before I came to know Christ, when I would say this to him, but I knew I had helped put the rope around his neck.
How do you live with that? Well, you remember what He teaches you, “You’re a new creature, old things are passed away” (2 Corinthians 5:17, paraphrased). Youremember that He has forgiven all of our sins—past, present, and future. You either live in misery with your failures, or you live in grace remembering that God’s grace has covered your sins and has redeemed everything and is going to use it for His good.
I had a choice, and that choice was whether to believe God or not, and the reason that I was able to go on and the reason that I’ve been able to handle Tom’s suicide is because I understand who God is.
There’s a verse I love. I absolutely love it. It says in Daniel chapter 11, verse 32, the second part of the verse says, “But the people who know their God will be strong and stand firm, for they will be able to be strong and do exploits—to take action” (paraphrased). In other words, you are not immobilized; you are not paralyzed.
I want to tell you, precious one, today, as you’re listening, whoever you are; if you know Christ, you are not immobilized. You are not paralyzed. You are not defined by your past. If you think so, then you need to keep listening to Revive Our Hearts. If you have extra time, you can listen to or watch our television program, or go online and listen toPrecepts for Life. You’ll just get the Word from Nancy; you’ll get the Word from me. You need the Word because it’s the truth that sets you free.
I saw and discovered John chapter 8. It says, “But if the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed” (verse 36, paraphrased), and, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (verse 32, paraphrased). That’s what you and I are all about. That’s what revives our heart. He says in Psalm 119, “Revive me according to Thy precepts” (verse 25, paraphrased).
Nancy: And it’s His precepts, His Word, that really has set you free and renewed your heart and your mind and given you hope.
Kay: Exactly. The Bible says, “Through thy precepts, I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:104, KJV). It’s good to hate false ways because they’re false. But that was just the beginning.
Here I am. My husband has committed suicide, and I’m saying to God, “God, what do You want?” God takes me to Bible school. He moves me from Baltimore, Maryland, to Chattanooga, Tennessee. I went to Tennessee Temple. I didn’t have a degree or anything—didn’t get a degree—but I went to Bible school.
There God laid on my heart one day . . . my family didn’t understand me. In a sense they had all rejected me because I sent them a “You must be born again” letter, and they didn’t like it. I was visiting my family, and it caused a family quarrel, and I ran upstairs and fell down beside the bed.
I’m a student at Tennessee Temple; I’m home for Christmas, and all of a sudden, on my knees, I’m just feeling like I’m so out-of-kilter. “God, am I crazy?” This is so different, and then God speaks to me. In the stillness of my heart, I hear Him say, “You’re going to marry Jack Arthur.” I thought . . .
Nancy: And Jack Arthur was . . . ?
Kay: Jack Arthur. When He said, “You’re going to marry Jack Arthur,” well, I knew he was a missionary. I knew he was with Pocket Testament League. He was a graduate of Tennessee Temple. I knew that he had been stoned for preaching the gospel in South America.
He did open-air evangelism, and they would go in with a truck and their own power supply and show Christian movies and then give the gospel and hand out Gospels of John in that wonderful, wonderful ministry, and he had been stoned. So our church was praying for him. Highland Park Baptist Church—which was connected with Tennessee Temple—where you were dedicated, right?
Kay: So our church was praying for him. I knew who he was, but I didn’t know what he looked like or anything. I came home and I got his prayer card so I would know what he looked like when he came along. Do you know that one day, God closed the hospital where I worked. I would work weekends—12-hour shifts—and He closed the hospital. I said, “God, why did you let them close the hospital? You know I’ve got to have the money.” He reminded me, “In everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NKJV). So I said, “Okay. I don’t know why, but thanks, anyway.”
So I was off. I took my two boys to a recital that was there at Tennessee Temple. Afterwards, we went into the happy corner. I was buying ice cream cones for my boys, and I heard my Mark, my younger son, say, “Mr. Arthur, would you sign our Bible?” I turned around. Our ice creams were melting. There he was—Jack Arthur. He looked just like his picture, and that was nice.
Nancy: Now tell me you introduced yourself.
Kay: We . . . yes. He was talking to my boys, and so we talked. As we talked, he told me what he was doing—that he was going back to South America. I just stood there, and I thought—this is what I thought; this was me in those days—“You don’t know it, buster, but I’m going with you.”
Nancy: You love him and have a wonderful plan for his life?
Kay: I just knew what God had said; I just didn’t know how He was going to do it. Then he left, and I didn’t see him, so I thought, “I better go to summer school so I can graduate.” So I went to summer school, graduated, and he didn’t show up. So then I thought, “Well, I’ll go to college at Tennessee Temple.” So I enrolled at college, and he showed up. Then in November he asked me to marry him; in December we were married, and then we went for the mission field. That is what I was called to do—the mission field.
My heart was broken when we had to come off the mission field because of my health. I didn’t know that disappointment is God’s appointment—you drop the “d” put in an “h” and give a space between His appointment. What He had in mind was Precept Ministries International. So my missionary heart is more than satisfied in 150 countries and 70 languages, teaching people how to discover truth for yourself.
Nancy: What an important and powerful and beautiful reminder that God specializes in taking tangled, hopelessly messed up pieces of lives and making something beautiful, something that will bring Him glory. There are no messes that God cannot redeem by His grace.
Kay: Exactly. Do you know what I titled my first testimonies that were coming out? I titled my testimony, “Help Me, Lord, I’m a Mess.”
Nancy: We’ve got some listeners who would say, “That’s where I am. I’m a mess. Is there really hope that God can do something, make something out of my life?” And you say . . .
Kay: I say He’s described as the God of all hope. As He says to Israel, “I know the thoughts that I have for you; thoughts of good and not thoughts of evil, to give you a future and to give you a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, paraphrased). He said it to Israel, His chosen people, and He’s saying it to you, and He’s saying it to me because that’s what God is all about—He’s the God of all hope.
Used with Permission. Revive Our Hearts.