At the outset, I want to thank my Beloved Husband for acting as my consultant extraordinaire on the topic of trains, engines, fuel, etc. This has been a hobby/interest of his for decades and I appreciate his willingness to help me with the accuracy of my account below.
Every Christmas we watch the 1946 classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a man who gave up his personal dreams in order to help others. The primary dream that George Bailey had was to travel across the world, having adventures and thrills that were simply not available in the small town of Bedford Falls.
Near the beginning of the movie, George hears a train whistle and the following colloquy occurs between George and Uncle Billy:
George: There she blows. You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are?
Uncle Billy: Uh huh. Breakfast is served; lunch is served; dinner…
George: No no no no. Anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.
Trains. Where distances made it virtually impossible for travel between communities, the train removed that impossibility; indeed, they increased mobility and the speed at which you could cross our continent. In 1869, the first transcontinental railroad even linked both sides of our country together!
Take for example this long passenger train going cross country, from Illinois to California. The picture does not say the destination, but I was on that train in 1955 as we went to visit my grandparents.
Train travel expanded the horizon so that people could experience areas of the country far from their local community. Families that were divided by hundreds and thousands of miles could now visit, after a marvelous trip on the train.
There were trains of various sizes and purposes, fueled by a variety of materials; but all were intended to go from one place to another.
The Norfolk and Western 611 is a steam engine that was based in Roanoke, Virginia. My husband has a long history with this particular locomotive. It has recently been restored to pull excursions.
The Alaska Railroad runs trains throughout the State of Alaska and the trains provide vital links to supplies and assistance to those folks who live in areas outside of the cities. Numerous reality television shows illustrate the railroad and its involvement with the “off-griders” in Alaska.
The Alaska Railroad also has tours of the state, with beautiful observation cars for the tourists’ enjoyment.
And there are train engines that have specialized purposes … consider the snow plow in Alaska!
Then there are the trains that carry freight from one place to another. Imagine how many trucks would be required to carry the freight that one train can pull!
Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you can go just a little off the road and find train tracks that have long been abandoned, reminiscent of the logging activity that took place there centuries ago.
Trains made the impossible possible. The Iron Horse pulled loads that were way beyond the ability of human or equine strength. The train could go into terrain and through inclement weather better than any transport available to man. Communities were brought closer because of the connection made by the train schedule. Isolation was lessened when the train arrived with materials from far away places.
Indeed, trains encouraged dreams and imaginations, as exploration of what was beyond the normalcy of life became a reality. While airline and automobile travel may have eclipsed the train for some, it is hard to comprehend what our country would be like if it were not for the trains that belched their way onto the scene in the Nineteenth Century.
But trains would not have accomplished the revolution that they did if they just sat on the tracks and didn’t GO. In order for the Iron Horse to fulfill its mission, it needed power. That power came from various sources: wood, coal, diesel oil, and electricity, but there is no debate that power was required to have functional trains.
As Christians, we are to be Jesus’ hands and feet, His words are to come from us and we are to express His love to those around us. It certainly is no easy task since we are sinners, saved by grace, and we have to fight our sinful nature to do that which Jesus commands. In short, we cannot live the Christian life in our own power – we have to have the Holy Spirit within us to give us the power to overcome evil, sin and Satan.
Prior to the beginning of his ministry, immediately after his baptism by John, Jesus was led into the wilderness and was tempted 40 days by Satan. Jesus successfully withstood the tests hurled at him and, at the conclusion of the 40 days, Scripture tells us in Luke 4:14 that:
Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.
Through this Holy Spirit, He was able to heal and teach as no other had done before. See Luke 4:32 where we read that the people “were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.” The King James Version of this verse says that “for his word was with power.”
In Luke 14:29 Jesus promises that the disciples would receive power from the Father, but they need to wait.
“And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
In the Book of Acts, Jesus tells his disciples why they would receive power from His Father:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 [ESV]
On the day of Pentecost, this promise was fulfilled, and as evidence of the power of the Spirit that filled the disciples, we read:
And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. Acts 4:33 [ESV]
The same Spirit that powered Jesus is available to us as Christians for the empowerment of our life and witness. Indeed, when we become Christians, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our heart and we read the Scripture with open eyes and an understanding that the Spirit provides. The Holy Spirit empowers us to be bold in our testimony so that we give an answer to any who ask about our Savior. In short, the Holy Spirit is the power for our life in Christ.
The train transformed our world. Its power accomplished much and we have evidence of the trains’ successful work throughout not just our land but the entire world. Trains had a variety of functions and purposes, but they all worked together to transform society.
Jesus Christ has transformed our world in a much more important, eternal way. His disciples are not all the same, each has his/her own spiritual gift to be used for building up of the Body of Christ. One by one, His disciples are spreading the gospel throughout the world and people are hearing of His work and saving atoning grace through His death and resurrection. Through that witness, God’s mercy is extended to people who are becoming children of God and are being adopted into His family through faith in Christ alone.
The train cannot sit in the station without power and expect to do any work. The train’s impact on the world becomes evident when power is used to get the job done. Likewise, we, as Christians and believers in Jesus Christ, cannot sit in the church pew and expect that we have fulfilled some sort of obligation to our Savior. We must access the all-sufficient power of the Spirit that will transform all those who are to come to salvation in Jesus Christ. We must represent Jesus Christ to each individual we meet, all through the power of the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Father, forgive me when I have failed to access the power you have provided through the Holy Spirit. Forgive me when I have not ministered to others as Christ would have me do, simply because I was too lazy to take action. Forgive me when I have failed to spread your Word to others in need. May I have the impact on my world that you want me to have so that your kingdom will be increased, all to your glory and honor.