By Billy Cole
And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? (Luke 11:6)
I want to talk to you about the importance of having a little bit of bread in God’s spiritual house. Let me give you a little background on this verse. A man is traveling at midnight. That tells me something. Why would a man be traveling at midnight? In the time of Christ traveling was very dangerous. Thieves were everywhere and man’s life was threatened on the highways. There wasn’t modern transportation like we have today. The very best they had to offer was a camel or a donkey. I doubt very seriously if this man had any of those things. He was traveling at midnight – very dangerous.
They built walls around cities in those days to protect them from thieves that would come to molest and destroy. Farmers would build their houses around the walls, so that in the event of war everyone could rush inside. In the evening they would close the gates. They had a little door in those gates called the “eye of the needle”. Jesus made reference to this when He said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved. I think Jesus said that because there is no way you can get a camel through it without completely unloading him. That camel would have to get down on his knees and they would literally drag him through the door. He could not come in loaded. I saw the ruins of such a city in Thailand when I was a missionary.
Very likely this man was financially bankrupt, without a penny in his pocket. It was not customary to eat at midnight. They would eat early in the morning then again when the sun was straight up. Their last meal was when the sun was setting; however, here is a man hungry at midnight. The neighbor is concerned about him being hungry at midnight. Very likely this man had gone all day without anything to eat. Very likely he was walking. It was dusty and dirty, perhaps even a rocky road. He had to be extremely weary. So we have the picture of a man who is very tired and dirty, hungry and bankrupt.
In this I see a picture of the world today that you and I are living in. People are spiritually dirty and in need of rest. They are spiritually hungry and spiritually bankrupt.
I can relate to the kind of traveling he was doing. I remember making a trip to the north of Thailand. I had not been in Thailand very long and I had caught the attention of the Presbyterian people. They were having a conference in the most northern province of Thailand, what they call the Golden Triangle in the province of Chiang Rai. It was right where Laos, Burma and Thailand come together. It was a very long trip in those days. The roads were so terrible there were times we would have to travel at ten miles an hour. They were so rough that I put a belt around my chest and tightened it because I felt my heart was jogging up and down inside of me.
We were just about half way to where Sister Elly Hanson was a missionary with the World Evangelical Crusade. She lived in a very primitive area of Thailand outside of Kamphaeng Phet (which means “the diamond wall”) in a little village called Pranga Dai (which means “the rabbit hunter”). The only way to get to her place was through the woods on a little narrow road – nothing more than an oxcart trail through the jungle. That area was very famous for its thieves and robbers.
Believe me, I am not the hero type. I’ve never seen a devil, never heard tell of a devil, never felt the presence of a devil in my life that I was afraid of. But I sure am afraid of people. I’m afraid of flesh. I was very uneasy about trying to go through those woods because it was getting dark. We sat down in this little restaurant – it was a pitiful place. We had some Chinese food and were so poor in those days we were discussing whether we should try to go to Elly’s house or not. A policeman dressed in civilian clothes overheard our conversation. He came over and assured us that it was perfectly all right to go in.
He said, “I killed seven of them last week.” That was supposed to give me confidence to go in there? That was supposed to calm my nerves?
Well, nervous or not we decided to go. Brother Jarang Ratarabutra was driving the old car and the road was just up and down. About half way there came an old World War II jeep toward us with two men in it that we did not know. They were waving their hands at us which meant “Please stop”.
I told Brother Jarang, “Don’t you stop – you just keep going.”
Well, those two men were so disappointed that we didn’t stop that they turned around and started following us. I cried, “Oh my God, these men are going to kill us, they are going to rob us.” The only money we had was gasoline money. They were getting closer and closer and I told Brother Jarang, “Put your foot in that gas tank and let it roll!”
He was literally jumping that thing off of the ground, but they were right behind us. They couldn’t catch us because the road was too narrow to pass. Then we came to one spot that was wide enough for them to pull up beside us. My wife had one of those UPC hairdos. She had never cut her hair and she had it all on top of her head. She took the money and put it inside her hairdo to try to protect it. We were praying. Let me tell you, we were ready for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. We were terrified. When they got beside of us, something happened to the front end of that old World War II jeep. He drove down into the woods and crashed into a tree. Oh how we praised God for that!
We arrived a little while later at Sister Elly Hanson’s. She said, “Did you see the jeep I sent out to lead you?”
I said, “Well, don’t look now, but I think we crashed them into a tree back there somewhere.”
It wasn’t very long until they came along and both of them were so angry. They were angry that we had humiliated them. They must have forgiven us because today one of them is the Assistant General Superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church of Thailand and the other is the General Secretary. So God saved them. They were Buddhists. In those days there were only three Christians in the whole province. Thank God that God gave us a revival in that province with over five thousand Buddhists being baptized in Jesus name and filled with the Holy Ghost. Sister Elly joined our trip and we went on to the north of Thailand. It took two days to make that trip. We had no money to stay in a hotel. There wasn’t any (hotel) to stay in if we had had money. We were so tired that when we finally arrived at the Presbyterian Church, (about 4 a.m.) they were not prepared for us. They had no place for us to sleep or for us to take a bath. We were covered with dust and dirt and grime from the road. We were a mess. I said, “We will just lay down here on the platform and go to sleep until church time.”
When we woke up the church was packed with people. We were all laying on the platform. At that conference we baptized one hundred forty-six of those Presbyterians in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I told you that story so I could tell you that I could relate to traveling like this man. Very likely he was filthy dirty. He had not had anything to eat all day. He was in need of money. He was in need of food. He was in need of rest.
That is the picture of the world you and I live in. You may be living where they drive luxury automobiles and live in homes worth several hundred thousand dollars, but spiritually they are bankrupt. They are without God. They are in need of the rest of the Holy Ghost and the washing of baptism in the wonderful name of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are in desperate need of the food of the word of God. When this man received his friend at midnight, there was no way he could go out into the yard and just pick up a stone and give it to him to eat. He couldn’t get a hold of a scorpion somewhere and give it to him for an egg. He couldn’t get a serpent and give it to him for a fish. That was impossible. What this man needed was some bread.
He said, “I have nothing to set to before him.” This is the picture of some churches. People wander into our churches and sometimes we have nothing to set before them.
They are so destitute and bankrupt. We must never allow our churches to have such a testimony. This is the midnight hour. We are near the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. If there was ever a time we need the bread of life and the power of God in our lives to minister to the lost and dying, it is today.
I had to bury a wonderful deacon that I loved like a father. He had a large family and the church had prepared a meal for them after the funeral. I learned that one of his nieces was a registered nurse, working with alcoholics. I sat at the table across from her so I could talk to her about her work. She was working in one of the city hospitals in Charleston, West Virginia, a small city, nestled in the mountains. It’s not some great metropolitan city like New York or Chicago. It wasn’t long until she said, “Pastor Cole, You don’t understand the kind of work I am doing. I’m not working with adult men and women that are alcoholics. I’m working with children that are ten, eleven, twelve and thirteen years old. There are 50 children that age in the Charleston hospital that are already alcoholics.”
That’s the kind of world we are living in. We come to the house of God with our beautiful singing and our beautiful, holy people. We worship the Lord and there is such a marvelous atmosphere in the church. It is so easy for us to forget what it’s like on the outside. There is a great need for our churches not to become some kind of social club. I thank God for fellowship. It is such an important part of the house of God, but that’s not the purpose of the church.
Our churches have got to be an emergency room at the gates of hell to snatch people from the fire. We meet them everyday. We work with them. We rub shoulders with them at the gasoline station and at the supermarket. We do not comprehend their need because we become sterile in our thinking. We become totally oblivious to the condition of the world. You and I live in a society that has gone bankrupt. Spiritually they are in desperate need of a washing. They are filthy, dirty and we need an awakening.
We live in a world today where the society and the church many times want to tell the leaders what to do. There is a story of a fictitious general that served under Napoleon. He said, “My men are fleeing. I have got to find out where they are going so I can get in front of them and lead them.”
God help us. We need to know where God wants us to go and not be dictated by the people. We need to be dictated by God and be so totally dedicated and so sensitive to the power of God that we know which direction He wants us to go. My job is not to find out what the people want to hear, although I love the people and am concerned about their opinion. My job Is to understand and interpret the mind of God. So many times ministers take their task so lightly. They want to seek out what is culturally acceptable among the people and somehow maneuver their words and manipulate all of these things into being the will of God. We live in a society where a man can get on TV and boast that he has AIDS because he had sex with a thousand different women. We make him a national hero. That is the kind of society we live in. We can become so blinded to the sin that is around us. If there was ever a time that we need to take a stand against sin, it is today.
I am an American. There is not a nation I love more than the United States of America. However, the United States is a violent nation. In 1991 alone there were over 23,000 American people murdered with guns. Violence is on every hand. Drug related crimes are everywhere. A few years ago I thought we were getting this drug problem under control. The fact was it was so out of control that public officials stopped talking about it. There was nothing they could do about it.
There are areas in our nation that are totally distraught because of drugs and crime and the killing it brings. From the ganglands of Los Angeles to the murdering capital of Washington DC, our cities are like a little Beirut where drug dealers shoot it out and command the street corners. Children grow up under the reign of terror. Civil authority has broken down in housing projects. Tenements are coupled with crack houses in areas like south-central Los Angeles, the west side of Chicago, the `graveyard’ in Miami and the ‘war zone’ in Dallas.
I could talk about my own little town of only 60,000 people. You would think we would be protected, but we are not. We have murders every week because of drugs. Recently they made a raid on our high school locker rooms. They found six loaded pistols in the neighboring county. They momentarily shut down the high school and middle schools because so many students were carrying loaded pistols. I’m not talking about New York City. I’m talking about a little country town in the hills of West Virginia. We are a violent people.
We are surrounded by backsliding. If you are in a congregation that has three or four hundred people you can be sure that in that immediate area there will be two thousand people that were once baptized in Jesus name and filled with the Holy Ghost.
Homosexuality is everywhere and these people have clout. They have political power and are trying to force their lifestyle upon us. Drunkenness is everywhere. Last year in the United States 100,000 people died because of alcohol related accidents. This is terrifying. In 1991 over 400,000 Americans died from cigarette smoking. I hope you understand what I mean. We were so alarmed when Pan Am flight 103 crashed in Scotland and two hundred seventy nine people died. We ought to be alarmed. We ought to be up in arms. We ought to be concerned about that. But did you know that to equal the deaths from cigarettes alone, we would have to have four jumbo jets crash every single day of the-year to equal the number of people dying from cigarette smoking?
I say unto you to awaken, look upon the fields and see the people that you’re rubbing shoulders with everyday. There is desperate spiritual destitution. There is spiritual bankruptcy. There is spiritual starvation. There is spiritual death and we walk through whistling in the dark and never see it. Oh God, touch our hearts and help us understand what kind of a generation we are to minister to. Divorce is on every hand. Adultery is so rampant that if you want a judge to laugh you to scorn, try to get a divorce for adultery. Pornography and child molestation are growing rapidly. Lying, cheating and stealing have become a way of life.
False religions are not the answer. I was surrounded in Thailand and throughout Asia with false religions. I never shall forget going up to the Golden Mountain when I first arrived in Thailand. They were having some kind of a festival, a Buddhist concept of a revival meeting. They brought a little carnival into the Buddhist temple grounds. On top of the mountain there was a Buddhist temple with many concrete steps. The concept was to sacrifice by walking up those steps and into that temple and worship before Buddha, then to ring a bell to declare to the whole world that you are a Buddhist. If they really wanted to make a great sacrifice they would climb those steps on their knees. An elderly lady was climbing the steps in front of me on her knees. It was not long until she was leaving a path of blood on every step. She finally made it to the top and went into the Buddhist idol. In Bangkok there were four hundred Buddhist temples like this one. She bowed to the floor three times before that idol and I watched her shaking hand as she put a gold leaf on the heart of that idol and then bowed three more times. That idol could not see her. That idol had no ears to hear her. That idol had no tongue to speak to her. That little woman went away just as broken and empty as she came in.
I was at another Buddhist celebration down on the Chao Phraya River where they would bring their little boats made of banana leaves. They would put the little boats into the river with a candle burning until it would float away. They felt that the boat would carry away some of their sins. The old women who took Buddhism very seriously would cut their hair very short like a man’s. They would take their hair and put it on the little boat because they felt that their sins were attached to their hair. They would try to get it into the water and into the current. I stood there and watched hundreds of them and without exception the little boats would turnover and the water would snuff out their candle. They would walk away with no peace. The refrain of the old song came to me, “What can wash away my sin? nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
You and I have this message and if there was ever a day we need Spirit and Truth it is today. We cannot have indifferent services. I don’t care if it’s a midweek service or the youth service. We must not have a service that the power of God is not in enough to save a soul. We cannot allow our churches to have their cupboards with no bread in them. We must be on fire. There must be so much of God that at the moment they step through the door they feel His presence. Dead, dry, boring services are not acceptable.
Preachers that don’t pray, elders and saints that don’t pray are unacceptable. We are the extension of the day of Pentecost church. This is the midnight hour. Whatever they did, we must do. I believe we have the truth. I don’t want to offend you but I believe it takes repentance of your sin, baptism in the wonderful name of the Lord Jesus Christ by immersion and being filled with the baptism of the Holy Ghost, then living a clean, holy life before God.
Some say, “Just believe on the Lord and you’re saved”. As far as I’m concerned they are doing more harm than good. What good does a doctor do when he tells a man that is dying with cancer, “You’ve just got a little problem – you’re going to be all right. Go home, everything is okay”. He is not helping that man. We must speak the message of truth.
There was a story in the newspaper about two cars in West Virginia coming toward each other. In those days we had very narrow, crooked roads. The roads were so crooked in just a few miles there would be dozens of curves. Sometimes curves would be so sharp you would go right back the same direction you were coming. These two cars were headed toward each other. In West Virginia they get so used to the mountains that they start doing what they call cutting the curves and get over in the other man’s lane.
Someone did this and crashed into another car head on. In one car every single human being instantly died. In the other they were unconscious. They were bleeding and they were broken. It wasn’t long until a great crowd of people gathered around trying to get those people out of those cars. None of them were paramedics. None were doctors or nurses. Finally a very fancy sports car drove up and a man jumped out that looked like a doctor. Sure enough he had a doctors bag in his hand. He screamed at the crowd, “Get away from them! Get away from them! You’re going to kill them!”
They immediately stopped what they were doing. Then the man with his bag got into his sports car and drove away and let those people die.
Of course that really did not happen. No doctor would ever do such thing. Let me tell you something. Members of the United Pentecostal church have earned at the Methodists and the Baptists and the tholics. They say, “Get away. Leave them alone.” en we let them die and go to hell without ever fling them the message, You are just as bad as that doctor who climbed in his car and drove away.
Don’t let me frighten you with all of these statistics. They are true but they don’t have to be as frightening as they seem. There is something we can do.
Some of you are thinking, “Brother Cole I am anxious to do something about these people. I want to feed them. I want to help them. I want to change their lives through the power of God.”
I suppose some of you live in Chicago and New York City and Dallas, cities that are overwhelming. You wonder, “How in the world are we going to get their attention? Just to put a newspaper ad big enough in those cities would cost thousands of dollars.”
What are we going to do? That’s where God steps into the picture. None of us have enough bread to feed the lost of our nation and of our world. We do not have it. We only have a small amount of bread in our spiritual cupboard. The glorious and marvelous news is that God is a multiplier of bread. One of the most beautiful stories in the word of God is found in 1st Kings chapter 17. I love this story of the little woman that only had a handful of meal and just a little bit of oil left in her cruse. She had come to a place of despair. She was going to make one last cake and she and her boy were going to eat it and die. But the man of God came along and said, “Give me a little cake first.” He took that cake and blessed it and God caused the meal to grow in the barrel, and the oil to grow in the cruse.
In 2″d King’s chapter 4 there is a similar story. A woman was ready to lose her children to bondsmen. They were going to take them away because her husband had died leaving many debts. The man of God came by and he asked, “What do you have in your house?”
God is interested in what you have in your house. I’m not talking about that wooden or brick house with the roof and windows and porch on the front. I’m talking about the house your spirit lives in. What do you have in your house? God is in the business of multiplying. He asked for vessels to be brought to him. When they brought vessels he blessed the oil and they were able to fill all of the vessels so she could pay her debt. Her boys were set free from bondage. So it is in the New Testament. God is in the business of multiplying and increasing what we have. He no longer creates. He is in the business of multiplying.
We cry, “Lord I want you to give us great revival in our church and in our district. Give us revival in our nation and our world. Bless foreign missions and give them great numbers and great revival.”
Then the Lord says, “All right.” Then He just kind of takes the roof off of the place. And He asks the question, “What have you got in your house?”
If God looked into your heart, what would He find? If He found hatred and strife and sedition and sin and adultery and fornication then God would have to say, “If I would multiply that mess, I would absolutely destroy the city”.
He will not turn stones into bread. That’s one thing God will not do. You will notice that when the oil was multiplied, God made more oil out of oil. He made more meal out of meal. He did not turn that meal into potatoes or corn. Satan challenged him and said, “If you’re hungry you can turn the stones into bread.”
Oh yes, He could do it, but there are some things God will not do. In the beautiful story of the loaves and fishes, do you think for one second that God could not have turned one of those great stones into bread and fed that whole multitude with one humongous loaf? Sure He could do it, but He will not do it because He will not turn stones into bread.
Satan said, “Turn stones into bread.”
To paraphrase Jesus, “I can do it, but I won’t do it.”
Those disciples searched the crowd until they found one single person with a little bit of the right thing. That’s what God needs today. He doesn’t need somebody with a lot of bread. All He needs is somebody with a little bit of bread. God is able to perform miracles and catch the attention of the nation and world we live in.
When I first went to pastor in Charleston, West Virginia, the congregation was very small and God gave us one of our very first families, Tom and Robin Weise. Robin came to me and said, “Brother Cole, would you go and visit my father?”
I had witnessed to him and I said, “Why certainly. I’d be glad to visit your father.”
Then she said, “You don’t understand Brother Cole, he is terminally ill and dying with cancer. He is a very self-willed man and stubborn. The doctors want him to go to a nursing home but he has refused. He is in an apartment by himself.”
I said, “Well that’s all right, I will go, I don’t mind.”
When I went to the apartment and rang, I heard one of those buzzers that unlock the door. I was not prepared for what I saw when I walked through the door. There was a man lying on the couch almost naked. He looked like skin and bones had just been stretched over a skeleton. There was a large patch on his chest. He had no voice. His voice and larynx was gone. But he was able to speak to me with a vibrator. He held that vibrator to his neck. I’ll never forget the look in that man’s eyes and the words he said. His voice was like a monotone, like a computer speaking but I could understand him perfectly.
He said, “I know who you are. You are Billy Cole. I was baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ thirty-three years ago. I never received the baptism of the Holy Ghost and I am dying. I don’t have enough strength to talk to you one more second.”
He closed his eyes and let his hand and vibrator drop over the side of the couch. My mind was in a whirl and a spin. I fell on my knees and began to pray – not for him – I was praying for myself. My mind was so totally confused that I knew not what to do. I prayed for some twenty minutes until the Holy Ghost spoke to me and told me what to do. I laid my hand on that old man and I said, “Have you repented?” He never opened his eyes but he nodded his head.
I said, “I’m going to pray the prayer of faith for you, And when you feel the touch of God I want you to press that vibrator against your throat again.”
I prayed for just a few minutes and his trembling hand pressed that vibrator against his throat. He was speaking in other tongues as the Spirit of God gave the utterance. God gave him the baptism of the Holy Ghost. In two days he was moved to a nursing home. Later, he was dying and I came to be with him. He went unconscious one hour before he died. Just before he went unconscious he made one last statement. With his vibrator against his throat, he said, “Pastor Cole, I am dying. I am not afraid. I am not afraid.”
Seventy years old he was wandering through this world tired, hungry, dirty and bankrupt, spiritually. He wandered into my house at midnight, and the first reaction I cried, “I have nothing to set before him.”
When I searched the cupboard of my soul I found a little bit of bread and God multiplied it. God will do the same for you. If you can find just a little bit of bread God can multiply it and meet the needs of the people.
This article “The Importance Of A Little Bread” written by Billy Cole is excerpted from Teaching By Billy Cole compiled by Arthur Skip Lefler.