The Gilberts knew how to work. G. M. was industrious in business and the children learned to work. It was not an affluent society. Bruce was selling papers on street cars when he was in the eighth grade. It was rough; he had to get up at five every morning. But he earned about $2.50 each week, good money for a boy in those days. A good pair of shoes sold then for $3.50.
When he brought home his first pay, his mother said, “Don’t you think you ought to give something to the Lord?”
“How much should I give?”
“The Jews gave at least a tenth. Maybe you could begin there.”
With this encouragement he began a life of giving. When his pay came, the Lord was given His share first. Elijah told the widow of Zarephath, “Make me a little cake first” (1 Kings 17:13). It was a question of priorities—God first.
The fearless witness of his parents was an encouragement to him. He knew their desires for him were spiritual. One day a number of Christian women were visiting in the home. Bruce was home from school sick in bed. He could overhear them talking about their children and their desires for them. Finally one of the women said, “Mrs. Gilbert, you have six children. What are your desires for them?” She replied, “I am asking God to save them. If they are saved and give their lives to the Lord, I will trust Him for the rest.” These words went deep into the heart of Bruce as he lay quietly in bed. A life for God—this is what matters.
Both parents left indelible impressions on their children. G. M. Gilbert died at sixty years of age. But the morning he died he had been out visiting the businessmen near his store. He said, “I know I won’t be here long but I have trusted Christ as my Savior. I hope I’ll meet you in heaven.”
His death was a shock to all. Around five hundred who attended the funeral had known and loved him. On the casket was a floral piece with the inscription: “They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars forever and ever.—(Daniel 12:3).” It was sent by a woman who said, “I am the last one he led to the Lord.” One said, “He was kind to me.” Another said, “Many a time he kept the wolf away from my door.” G. M. had a liberal hand for the poor and those who served Christ.
Mrs. Gilbert died a few years later at the age of sixty-four from an automobile accident. As she lay in the hospital in critical condition her children and a brother were gathered around. Mrs. Gilbert had not spoken for over a day. The end seemed near. The silence was finally broken as James Gilbert spoke loudly, as if to arouse her, “Mother, is that which you have trusted all these years sufficient in the hour of death?” The question almost shocked the others by its abruptness, but they watched with fascination as she stirred, braced herself, clenched the covers in her hands and with great effort said, “I am redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.” She fell back on the bed and was quiet. These were her last words.
Ordinary people? Perhaps, at least in the eyes of a sophisticated world. But theirs were lives made extraordinary by the grace of God, earthen vessels, clay pots, filled with the life of God. They lived fruitful lives, lives of faith, beautiful lives. A life lived in the home and business world that knows the breath of God takes on eternal beauty and value. The Gilbert children had a godly heritage.