MARTIN R. DE HAAN
1891 - 1965
M. R. De Haan was born in
Zeeland, Michigan, the son of a cobbler who
had emigrated from the Netherlands. He graduated
from Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and
the University of Illinois College of Medicine.
The founder of Radio Bible Class discovered
new purpose for living while close to death.
On a hospital bed he examined the course of
his life and decided to head in a new direction.
His decision transformed him from a doctor
of the body to a physician of the soul. --by
James R. Adair
It is well known that when
some people face death they see their past
deeds flash before them. There's no written
record of what transpired in the mind of 30-year-old
Martin R. De Haan, M.D., as he struggled for
his life in October 1921 in a Grand Rapids
hospital. But it is known that he did considerable
thinking about his past--and about his future.
For all of his 30 years he
had been identified with the church. As a
boy he had attended regularly and was even
faithful while in medical school. But his
life hadn't been counting for God as it should
have. God's finger was pointing at certain
sins in his life. He felt condemned, though
as a 12-year-old boy he had presumably settled
his relationship with God.
Nurses passed silently in
the hallway outside his room as a transaction
took place in the heart and life of the patient
from Byron Center. He never made a point in
telling and retelling the experience. But
in 1929 he wrote, "I was born in 1891
of the flesh, 'a child of wrath even as others.'
After a life of sin for 30 years I was born
again of the Spirit in October 1921. Since
then, my only hope and aim is to exalt Him,
to whom be all glory forever and ever (Eph.
Dr. De Haan's wife Priscilla,
who learned of his spiritual experience when
she talked with him shortly after it happened,
recalled that as he talked about it afterward
he mentioned that he questioned whether or
not he had met God at age 12. The hospital
experience was a spiritual struggle not unlike
Jacob's, who wrestled with God until dawn
before he received a new touch and blessing
from the divine hand. "Spare my life
and I'll serve You," Dr. De Haan pleaded
with God. And evidently he meant it with all
As the weeks passed, he talked
with his wife--and with God--about the kind
of Christian service he should do. Preach?
Become a missionary? He wasn't sure. He talked
about going abroad as a missionary, but friends
pointed out that he could continue his practice,
be God's man on the job, and at the same time
support a missionary. For a time he thought
perhaps this was the answer.
The matter continued to burden
him increasingly, until finally, one day in
early spring of 1922, he came in from house
calls and said, "I can't go on any longer."
In an act of finality, he slid his medical
bag across the kitchen floor and said, "This
is it!" After selling his practice, his
home, and his office equipment, the young
doctor made plans to enter nearby Western
The transformation that had
occurred in his life continued to amaze Dr.
De Haan to no end. As he read and studied
his Bible, he was overwhelmed with God's grace.
In later years he was to make a careful study
of the grace of God, and pen these words:
"Like electricity, light, and life, we
know only what it [grace] does, rather than
what it is. Why God should choose the meanest,
basest, most unworthy individuals with absolutely
nothing to commend them at all to God, except
their miserable, lost condition, and then
exalt them to become the sons of God, members
of the divine family, and use them for His
glory, is beyond all reason and human understanding.
Yet that is grace."
That he saw himself as the
object of God's grace is illustrated in an
incident that he related:
"Some time ago on my way to Colorado,
I stopped off to visit my son Marvin on Chicago's
North Side. After parking my car, I took a
shortcut to the apartment through an alley.
There, amid the dust, the refuse, the filth,
and the rats, I encountered one of the most
pathetic sights I have ever beheld.
"There, beside a leaking
barrel filled with garbage and black with
flies, stood one of society's outcasts, a
man about 65 years old. Only the rim of his
tattered hat was left. His shoes were tied
on with rope. His coat was in shreds. His
trousers were in tatters. His hands were black
with filth. His hair was matted together,
and his beard even worse. I watched him as
he pawed about in the garbage. Finding a whiskey
bottle with only a teaspoon of its poison
left, he lifted it to his lips. He found another
drop or two in another bottle, and then he
fished out a crust of garbage-sodden bread
and placed it in his mouth with his filthy
hands. As I stood there, I. . . said to myself,
'O God, O God! That's me! That's me, apart
from Thy wonderful grace.' . . . Under similar
circumstances of birth, environment, and opportunity,
I would have been no different, and no better.
What a humbling truth grace is!"
In experiencing God's grace, M. R. De Haan
had been born from above. He found himself
not merely a sinner redeemed from hell and
on the way to heaven, but he began to discover
that God had imparted His very own life deep
within. Yet, he was still as human as ever,
and subject to temptations as before. But
his new God-implanted life made a world of
difference. He had a ready source of victory:
the indwelling Holy Spirit, a mighty Savior
and Friend, Jesus Christ, and an omnipotent
In a real sense, 2 Corinthians
5:17 was being worked out in his experience:
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he
is a new creation; old things have passed
away; behold, all things have become new."Excuse
me, but your purpose is showing. That's right.
The way you live reveals your real reason
for living. Actions do speak louder than words.
Test yourself. Look at the
following list of goals for life that we have
discussed in this booklet. Take a long hard
look at your life and evaluate where your
energies are being spent. Are you trying to:
Do your responses to the
following questions support your answer above?
How do you spend your time? Do you know God's
Word so you know how to obey? Can you honestly
say that you are living in full obedience
to the Lord? If not, why not? Do you enjoy
life? What are your greatest frustrations
in life? To what are you looking for satisfaction?
What are you doing that has eternal benefits?
If these questions make you uncomfortable,
maybe you need to see, as Solomon did, the
waste of living for anything less than God's
If you've never taken the
first crucial step of trusting Christ to rescue
you from God's judgment against disobedience,
accept His offer of forgiveness right now.
He will forgive, and He will give you new
purpose and power for living (John 3:16; Rom.
5--8). Ask Him to help you to make the most
of the new life He's given to you. Jesus said,
"I have come that they may have life,
and that they may have it more abundantly"