By Chaplain (Col) Stephen W. Leonard, USA, Ret.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
A writer once described Paul Anderson as “the strongest man in the world, and he also lifts weights.” He was referring to where Paul’s greatest strength truly lay. Perhaps the following story about Paul can provide context.
Immediately after the U.S. Olympic team reached Melbourne, Australia, for the 1956 Olympic Games, Paul contracted a strong viral infection, which raised his body temperature to dangerous levels. The team’s doctors decided Paul should go home, because he was too sick to compete, and though the weightlifting competition wasn’t for another two weeks, Paul would not be better even by then to compete.
During this waiting time, Paul lost a lot of weight due to his continuing sickness. He was weak and still running a very high temperature. But he was unwilling to give up. He had put too much into preparing for these Games and knew he had lifted more weight in the past than any of the other contestants. So he took lots and lots of aspirin to bring his temperature medicinally down to normal so that the team doctors would allow him to compete.
As the competition drew to a close, Paul was actually one of the final three remaining contestants. These three were down to their final lift to determine the winner of the Gold Medal. Paul had enough weight placed on his bar that if he lifted it, he would win the Gold Medal. He had three chances to make the lift.
His first two lifts were fruitless. This was a very great disappointment. Having lost over 30 pounds with his sickness, he was far weaker than normal. He went out into the adjoining hallway for his break before attempting his final try.
In the quietness of that hall, he had a talk with the Lord. He admitted to Him that up till now, he had not used his gifts and his talent to serve Him wholeheartedly. He also knew that only the Lord would allow him to get this weight over head. He needed strength from Him alone to win this Gold Medal. To be the strongest man in the world, he needed first, above all, to be strong in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he was not.
Paul committed then and there that he would make Jesus the first One in his life and serve Him completely for the rest of his life. Whatever he would do with his life, it would be to serve Him with his all. Then he went out for his final try.
The rest is history. Paul, in the strength of the Lord, got the bar with enough weight to win the Gold Medal over his head. The American announcers went ballistic. “He did it! He just won the Gold Medal,” they shouted into their mics.
Paul never forgot one iota of his talk with the Lord. Together with his young wife, Glenda, he began the Paul Anderson Youth Home. His reputation was renowned because of being an Olympic champion. He was actually known around the world, as well as throughout America, for he had lifted behind the Iron Curtain, in Russia and elsewhere, in Arab countries, and in Europe. That notoriety would help in raising money and resources to begin and establish the Home and pay the bills for food, land, buildings, and maintenance.
But this required great sacrifice, tremendous energy, and, of course, the hands of faithful helpers. Paul spent many weeks and months on the road, and Glenda ran the Home as Paul was away so much. The Home existed by faith and on the bended knees of prayer.
God was fully in the existence of this Home from the beginning to the present. It is only by His hand that the Home continues today to reach troubled boys coming from far-flung places to experience transformation in their souls through the grace of God. Soli Deo Gloria! All glory to God!
“In want my plentiful supply, in weakness my almighty power, in bonds my perfect liberty, my light in Satan’s darkest hour, my help and stay whene’er I call, my life in death, my heav’n, my all.”
(4th verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Thou Hidden Source of Calm Repose,” 1749)