This is my annual letter sent to all our new listeners and readers of the PLAIN TRUTH. Even though you may have received a similar letter a year ago, I thought you also might like to have this one.
Hundreds continually write in asking "WHAT DENOMINATION do you represent?" Or "who sponsors and pays for your broadcasting, magazines and booklets?" Or "For what reason do you offer these FREE — WHY don't you ever ask for money?"
And so as briefly as possible I try at least once a year to give all our interested listeners and PLAIN TRUTH readers the frank and straightforward answer. You have a right to know all about me and this work of God.
Getting into the ministry was the very last thing I wanted to do. I tried to go the other way but God changed my course. Let me briefly skim thru the strange and most unusual experience from the beginning.
Until age 16 I drifted, with no special goal or incentive, a follower instead of a leader among boys, with mediocre grades in school. Then I got a summer vacation job in another town — my first time away from home. My employer expressed great confidence in me — told me I would have a very successful future. This had an electrifying effect. It aroused ambition stimulated incentive. Now, in addition to school studies I began to frequent the technical, philosophy, and thought-provoking sections of the public library. I began to "burn the midnight oil." I was fired with initiative and dynamic zeal.
At age 18 a thorough course of self-analysis with a book titled "Choosing a Vocation" pointed me to the publishing field of newspapers and magazines, specializing in the advertising end. Immediately I went to the leading advertising man of my state, who happened to be my uncle. He advised me to start out by devoting one year to soliciting and learning to write want-ads on a daily newspaper. I succeeded in convincing the manager of the want-ad department of a daily paper that he ought to hire me — at $6 per week!
I was a hustler by day, a student by night. The salary soon was raised to $8. The opposition newspaper was losing business and traced the cause to my competition. They offered me $10 a week to come with them. But my uncle advised me to learn the important lesson to STICK WITH A THING at a cost of $2 a week. It proved a good investment in later life. This "kindergarten" year behind me, my uncle advised that it was now time to enter the national magazine field. He told me of a certain national magazine where there were two men who, in his judgment, knew more about advertising and merchandising than anyone in the country. I wanted to learn under them. They had no opening — didn't need any help. But I was by then very self-assured, cocky, and conceited, determined and persistent. I literally "hired myself a job" — because the advertising manager was unable otherwise to get rid of an egotistical young upstart who refused to be turned down. With this magazine, I travelled over most of the United States as their "idea man," was trained in writing advertising copy and magazine articles.
At age 23 I became a publishers' representative, representing a nationwide string of magazines, with an office at 123 W. Madison Street in Chicago's loop. At age 25 I fell in love and felt I had progressed far enough to support a wife and assume the responsibilities of married life. I'm still in love, and with the same woman, who has been by my side ever since.
My young wife was deeply religious. I was not. I had been reared in one of the old, highly-respected protestant denominations, but after age 18 the fierce-burning fire of ambition for business success burned out every other interest, and I had drifted entirely away from any contact with God — if I had ever had any genuine contact. I was full of conceit, driven with a passion for achieving just one goal — to become important in the business world — to some day acquire all the "good things" that money could buy.
Within 30 or 60 days after our marriage God spoke to my wife in what might have been an intense unusual dream, or a vision — but it was years later before we came to realize that this really was a message from God. I'm pretty skeptical about God speaking to anyone today, by direct vision or dream. God speaks to us today thru HIS WRITTEN WORD — the BIBLE. My wife "saw" an angel, revealing that God was calling me and her to the mission of WARNING this world of the fast-approaching END OF THE AGE, and the Second Coming of Christ. When she told me of this impressive dream, I was embarrassed, and somewhat awed, but didn't recognize it as any message from God — and tried immediately to dismiss it from my mind. I certainly didn't heed it.
I was developing my business, and soon making an income equivalent to $125,000 a year on today's dollar. But at age 30 God took away my business, struck me down, financially — demolished my idol of money-making and business prestige. Three times during the next seven years I started another business promising national development — and each time forces entirely out of my control intervened to destroy the business and all possibility of its future. I was like King Midas in reverse. Every-thing I touched turned to nothing. I learned what it is to go hungry.
During this ordeal, a religious controversy arose between my wife and me. It almost separated us. She had come to see that a Christian must obey God — live GOD'S WAY. But I had drifted so far from God that a Christian life of living HIS WAY seemed like fanaticism. Worldly vanity flamed my emotions. I was not going to tolerate this "fanaticism" in my home. What would my worldly- prominent business acquaintances say? Finally, as a last resort, I entered upon an intensive study of the Book I had always neglected — in order to PROVE to her by the Bible itself that such a life of obedience to God wasn't necessary to be a Christian. The churches preached "you are saved by faith in Christ ALONE." Obedience wasn't necessary. I was sure all these churches couldn't be wrong!
For six solid months of intensive study, night and day, I wrestled with the question. But I found what seemed incredible to me. I found that the Bible says, on so many important points, the diametric opposite of what I had been taught in those childhood Sunday-School years. I was confused. My head was swimming. Could all these churches be wrong, after all? By now I was determined to know the TRUTH. I was forced to see that my wife was right and I was wrong. But did I have the honesty and courage to confess what I now clearly saw? I found myself face to face with the life-and- death decision of whether I would be willing to surrender my will to the will of God, or reject what had proved to be the TRUTH, and resort to dishonest twisting of God's Word to justify this rejection. God had softened me by repeated defeats, by reverses beyond my control, by humiliating poverty and hunger, to a point where I had lost all self-confidence. I had come to feel frustrated, like a rat caught in a trap with no place to turn. I felt my life was a failure — it was worth nothing to me any longer. And in this time of humiliation and despair, I did at last turn to GOD — for there was no other place to turn. At last I was made willing to surrender, completely and unconditionally, to Him, and to present this useless failure of a life to HIM, telling Him that if He could use it and make anything out of it, He could have it! I was CONQUERED!
This experience was agonizing. But it began to change everything! Even in this humbling financial poverty, life began to take on new hope. The BIBLE began to open to my understanding. It became more interesting — more fascinating, thrilling, than any past carnal interest. It was like entering into and exploring the richest gold, diamond, and ruby mine in the world, glittering in glorious splendor. I was enthralled with the Bible. I studied it day and night, in reverence and awe, much of the time on my knees. Material success had been taken from me. But now I was excited with eager joy! For the first time I was experiencing the REAL RICHES!
For the next three and a half years Jesus Christ taught me — by His written word. He talked to me a great deal — for during these continuous hours of Bible study He was talking to me, and during other hours of private prayer, alone with Him, I was talking to Him. Thus we had a great deal of conversation together, and we became well acquainted! You can, too — the same way!
Of course this intimate contact and acquaintance with Christ and my heavenly Father has continued ever since, but after the first three and a half years of eagerly absorbing the divine revelation and true understanding, God literally plunged me into His work as His minister. I did not, even then, seek entrance into the ministry as a profession — I was literally PUT IN, by circumstances of God's making. By now the former egotism had been burned out in the crucible of adversity. I had been rebuked, chastened, brought to a willingness to repent and to acknowledge error where I found it. The former self-confidence was now replaced with living FAITH in God and in His Word. God must first humble those He can use — and I had been humbled.
And so as I wrote to some of you a year ago, as the Apostle Paul wrote to those at Galatia, so I certify to you, that the Gospel which is preached of me is not after man, for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it but BY THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST. When it pleased God, who called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me that I might preach Him to the world, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood (men), neither went I to any sect or denomination or human theologian, but I went directly to the WORD OF GOD, on my knees, surrendered, to be taught, corrected, reproved and instructed in God's righteousness and TRUTH. (Compare Gal. 1:11-18).
When God starts anything thru His called HUMAN servants, it always must begin as the very smallest and, like the grain of mustard seed, GROW large and great thru God's power! And so this world-wide program, now reaching around the earth, changing thousands of precious lives, started out as the very smallest possible activity. It started with nightly meetings in one-room country school houses. Then the first Sunday in 1934 God opened a tiny, very small DOOR — the door of RADIO.
It started on one little local station in Eugene, Oregon, of the smallest power of any commercial radio station — 100 watts! It has never missed a Sunday since, and now is heard around the world, and DAILY over most of the United States. That original 100 watts of radio power per week has grown to more than FOUR MILLION watts per week!
This great work of God, proclaiming Christ's true GOSPEL to the world, has never been backed, financed, sponsored, endowed or controlled in any way by any denomination or organization of men. I was ordained in the summer of 1931 in what I then believed to be the true Church of GOD, and employed as an evangelist on the small salary of $20 per week. But by the fall of 1933 I learned by sad experience that I could not continue to receive a salary (at that mid-depression time only $3 per week) from MEN unless I would serve those MEN and preach what they demanded. At that time I was ordered to quit baptizing converts as GOD'S WORD instructs, and do it as my employers demanded.
Mrs. Armstrong stood firmly with me in thereupon renouncing their salary. We learned that if we were to serve and obey GOD, we would have to let GOD be our employer and we should have to look to HIM, in living faith, for material compensation. He says "the servant is worthy of his hire." We had to trust Him to send it to us.
From that very day we have looked solely to GOD to keep His inspired written promises to supply our every need. More people would believe in miracles, and see them happen, if they had the courage and faith to really BELIEVE God and take Him at His word! Once we had to have a dime, with absolutely no way to get it except to go into a small room, close the door, and ask God in faith to send it. That time I quoted the 70th Psalm — claimed it as God's PROMISE to "make no tarrying," but to hasten. In less than three minutes that dime was SENT to our house! Sometimes, now, we have to have $15,000, or $40,000 or other large sums within a certain time limit — and if it is a real NEED, God always sends it!
We have never asked for money on the air. When we went on the ABC radio Network Coast to Coast, our advertising agency pressured us to permit the Network announcer to make the statement which the Network permits: "You are invited to send your gifts and free-will offerings for the support of this program." But we emphatically refused, and you have never heard any begging for money on The WORLD TOMORROW program.
So now, to answer some of the questions quoted at the beginning of this letter: "WHAT DENOMINATION?" The answer is, this is GOD'S work — not ours. It is NOT DENOMINATIONAL. When Jesus was on earth there were the various sects and denominations among the Jews. But Jesus joined none of them. He said, "I will build MY Church." He called His followers to come OUT of the man- organized religious denominations. HIS Church is HIS BODY — that spiritual organism which consists of ALL those who have completely repented, accepted Christ, received His Spirit and now are being LED BY God's Holy Spirit. Just as GOD started His Church by the work GOD did in and thru the individual body of Jesus, over 1900 years ago, so He carries it on today thru that collective BODY in which dwells and works the SAME HOLY SPIRIT that actuated Jesus.
"HOW IS THIS WORK FINANCED?" It is GOD'S work, and we TRUST HIM to finance it. Of course God does not rain down $5 bills or thousand-dollar bills thru the air. But God is Creator and owner of the earth and all that therein is — its silver and gold, He says, are HIS. And God Has ordained the tithing system, retaining the first tenth of all income as HIS — HOLY to Him for HIS work, and also the giving of free will-offerings. God's work is financed by God's own system — the honest tithes and free-will offerings of His people, and those whose hearts HE makes willing voluntarily to give to HIM.
Specifically, our method of applying God's principle is this: We do not ask or beg the public for money — We ASK OF GOD, IN BELIEVING PRAYER. We GIVE, freely, of the Gospel over the air and in print. No one is ever solicited, directly or indirectly for money unless and until offerings or tithes have been sent in, voluntarily, at least twice within a six-month period. Then if the tone of the letter indicates the writer desires to have regular part in supporting God's work, he or she is put on our "Co-Worker mailing list." A letter is then sent, explaining this. Jesus said: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." From this word of Jesus we assume that one whose treasure has been placed in God's work twice in six months must have his or her heart in God's work. To those on this special "Co-Worker" mailing list I send my regular "Co-Worker" letters, usually once a month, giving them inside information on the progress of the work — its plans for the future, its problems. And, when necessary (which seems to be most of the time), I tell them of its financial NEED — even as Moses and the Apostle Paul, under God's inspiration, set the example. But all appeals for money are confined to this inner special "Co-Worker list" composed of those who have indicated voluntarily that they desire to be a Co-Worker with Christ in His glorious work.
That is WHY most of you have never heard any request for money on The WORLD TOMORROW, The PLAIN TRUTH, nor any way in the mail, regardless of how many times you may have written to request free literature. Many have written me to ask: "Would I be permitted to send you an offering for God's work? or, "Would you be offended if I sent money for the support of the work?" Well, I believe I have given you a frank and honest answer — most certainly everyone is permitted to have part in God's work, and we most assuredly are not offended by it — but we still ask GOD, in believing prayer, and not YOU, unless or until we know you are truly a member of God's true Church or voluntarily desire to have part in it. THIS IS GOD'S WAY.
Truly this has been from the start a WORK OF FAITH! Not merely in name, but in FACT! Of course our faith has been sorely and frequently TRIED! It seems it is ALWAYS tried in a very special way, at the Christmas season now once again approaching.
For years the month of December was our most difficult month of the year, in the struggle to meet the financial needs of this great work. It seems that at this season most people, apparently not realizing what they are doing, FORGET any gift for CHRIST and His work! It does seem strange and paradoxical, doesn't it? And yet people become SO ABSORBED in exchanging Christmas presents with their friends and relatives, they seem to overlook CHRIST entirely! They SUPPOSE they are celebrating CHRIST'S birthday, yet their presents are not for Christ — but for business customers, friends, and relatives!
Did you ever stop to think about that? At this season people seem to have a very GENEROUS spirit — for all except Him whose birthday they think they are celebrating! They spend lavishly for Christmas presents. Ask people WHY they do this, and they reply, "Why, to follow the example started by the wise men who gave their gifts to CHRIST!"
But does anyone ever stop to realize that those wise-men did not exchange presents back and forth — they gave their gifts to CHRIST! And few people know that the wise-men were not giving the Christ-child birthday presents at all — for they presented their gifts actually weeks after his birthday! It was simply an eastern custom to present gifts to a KING when coming into His presence — and they knew Jesus was born to be A KING!
Why don't you write for our book of plain facts about CHRISTMAS? This booklet is rather shocking — but it's TRUE — you can check up on every statement in your Bible and at your public library.
And before closing, may I say sincerely, and from the heart, THANK YOU for the very great PRIVILEGE of being able to serve you, on the telecast or broadcast, or by the things that I, or colleagues on our staff have written.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN? I've found it's TRUE — what Jesus said — "It's more blessed to GIVE, than to receive!" I feel, sincerely, it is a far greater privilege God has granted me, in being able to serve you, and to be His instrument, that thru my voice and pen (or typewriter) you may receive the precious truths of God, than the privileges He grants you in receiving. WE'RE BOTH BLESSED!
And may I add a word about the new booklet, "1975 IN PROPHECY" — a fast-moving, one-two-three SUMMARY of all the major prophecies in world events FROM NOW — in plain, simple language, in their precise order of time-sequence, exactly as YOU'RE GOING TO SEE THEM HAPPEN! And are you enrolled for the Ambassador College Bible CORRESPONDENCE COURSE? I think it's the most interesting, most valuable course of Bible study ever prepared. Thousands think so. If you're willing to devote not less than a half-hour every day to the study of YOUR BIBLE, then please write me and enroll by return mail. Or, ask for further information about it if you prefer. I enclose a self-addressed envelope for your enrollment.
THANK YOU AGAIN, for your interest in the precious things of GOD!