I have long admired the life and work of the late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.
You remember Dr. Peale. He became famous for writing a book titled The Power of Positive Thinking. The book sold millions of copies and was translated into many languages. What you may not know is this: When the original manuscript of the book was delivered to the publisher the title was The Power of Faith. The editor told Dr. Peale a book with that title would never sell. So the title was changed. It was a subtle change, but in the marketing world it made a world of difference.
Having been on the professional speaking circuit for many years and having lived a few more years I can assure you there is a world of difference between positive thinking and faith. But that is a subject for another day.
Dr. Peale was a marvelous speaker. He also founded The Foundation for Christian Living which gave birth to a very popular Christian magazine called
Guideposts. Although I never met Dr. Peale, I learned much from him through his sermons and writing. He had a wonderful, sonorous voice and he was a master of telling a story. But it was a letter he read in a sermon many years ago that has really stayed with me. It was from a young woman named Susan. (Actually, I can’t remember her name, so I will just call her Susan.)
I don’t remember her name, but I will never forget her story.
Her letter went something like this:
“Dear Dr. Peale,
I am writing you this letter in the hope it will help someone else like me.
Not too long ago I what you might call a member of the ‘party crowd.’ To be perfectly honest, I was a non-stop party girl. Whenever there was a party, I was there. And wherever I showed up, I brought the party with me. I was really living it up. Or, at least I thought I was. I drank. I smoked. I slept around. None of my girl friends could keep up with me.
On weekends, I stayed out all night, sometimes coming home just before daylight. My parents tried to talk to me, but I wasn’t listening. I was too busy living the good life — the ‘party life.’
But, Dr. Peale, some of those nights when I can home in the wee hours of the morning, and I was alone, and I was sober enough to think; I would lie awake and think about how miserable I was. I was one miserable human being. And I knew my life was as empty as the Budweiser cans my friends and I had thrown out the car windows on the night just past.
And I knew what was wrong with me. I was in desperate need of a savior.
But I kept partying. And the more I partied, the more miserable I became.
Then early one morning as I lay in my bed in the dark after one of those big nights on the town, I couldn’t take it any longer. I was just too empty.
So I crawled off my bed and found myself on my knees. And I told Jesus I had made such a mess of my life. And I told him how miserable I was. And I told him I was sorry for all the things I had done. And I promised him, if he would have me, I would live for him for the rest of my life.
And Dr. Peale, you know what? The most wonderful peace came into my heart.
And I knew I would never be the same again.
Two years have passed now. And I must tell you it hasn’t been all that easy. All my friends stopped having anything to do with me. I’ve had to make new friends. But that’s ok.
And a few times I’ve wondered what it would be like to go back to my old ways.
But I didn’t think about that very long.
You see, Dr. Peale I have a new life. I’m not the person I use to me. And I want to thank you for your sermons and some of the things you have written. They have really helped me be true to the promise I made to Jesus.
Well, there you have it. That’s Susan’s story. In a way, Susan’s story is the story of every man and woman who has made peace with God.
In its simplest form, it is called repentance