J.C. Penney is a name synonymous with department store success. Yet there were circumstances which challenged Penney and though which he needed to learn complete reliance on God, and in which God worked in a marvelous way to redeem Penney’s life in the midst of his darkness. Penney first launched his chain of “The Golden Rule” stores in 1907. In 1910 his first wife died. Three years later, he incorporated as the J.C. Penney company. In 1923 his second wife died giving birth to his son. In 1929 the stock market crashed and he lost $40 million. By 1932, he had to sell out to satisfy…creditors. This left Penney literally broke. Crushed in spirit from his loss and his health suddenly failing, Penney wound up in a Battle Creek, Michigan sanitorium. One morning he heard the distant singing of employees who gathered to start the day with God: “Be not dismayed, whate’er betide, God will take care of you….” Penney followed the music to its source and slipped into a back row. He left a short time later a changed man, his health and spirit renewed, and ready to start the long climb back at age fifty-six.
By 1951 there was a J.C. Penney store in every state, and for the first time sales surpassed $1 billion a year. [Woodbridge, J. ed. (1992). More Than Conquerors. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, pages 340-343.] The success of J.C. Penney can be traced to God’s merciful working in his life to redeem him in his humble circumstance. Do you find yourself in a humble circumstance? God is the only one who can use this situation to help you see your circumstance from His viewpoint. It is a teachable place because of what God is going to reveal to you in your humbled state. He does not intend you to stay there; it is merely a stopping place to learn some important things you would not otherwise learn. Let us together press into God and learn to trust Him to redeem this time and situation for His glory.
“When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the "prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing. Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life" (James 1:9-12 NLT).