The notorious fugitive behind Britain’s “Great Train Robbery,” arrived home on Sunday, May 6, 2001, to begin serving the remainder of his 30-year prison sentence. Ronald Biggs, then 71, left Brazil on an executive jet chartered by The Sun, Britain’s top-selling newspaper, and entered the airport in a wheelchair. His Brazilian son, Michael, and Bruce Reynolds, a fellow train robber who’d already served his sentence, were on the flight with Biggs. Today, at the age of 84, he is a free man, released from prison on compassionate grounds, because of his health.
Back in 1963 Biggs and 14 others robbed the Glasgow-to-London Royal Mail Train, in the predawn hours, of 125 sacks of mail with bank notes worth 2.6 million pounds, or $7.3 million at the time, which translates to nearly $50 million today. Most of the 15-member gang were easily caught, served their sentences and went on to live fairly normal lives. Biggs, however, escaped from Wandsworth Prison via a homemade rope ladder and became somewhat of a folk hero by his ability to elude Scotland Yard detectives and the long arm of the law.
On the run for 35 years, Biggs fled to France, Australia, Panama, and finally to Rio de Janeiro. After three strokes, which debilitated him, the sick, silver-haired swindler headed back to prison. When he appeared before District Judge Tim Workman, Ronald Biggs was barely able to respond. But that’s not the worst part.
Ironically, Biggs’ escape and the plastic surgery he had to have done to alter his appearance consumed most of the loot from the train robbery. In other words, one of the most promising get-rich-quick schemes of all time was, in reality, a bust. Literally. The “Great Train Robbery” wasn’t so great after all. The promise of quick cash and a lavish lifestyle never materialized for Ronnie Biggs or any of his 14 buddies.
Get-rich-quick schemes don’t work. Neither do get-ready-quick schemes. How many times have you watched the shipwreck of a life, a family, a business or even a ministry because someone tried to do something too quick. Either sailing into uncharted waters, assuming a position of leadership, taking on a responsibility, or heading out to save the world. You name it. Those who head off and head out with breakneck speed will almost always set new world records for quitting or getting themselves in a mess.
The time-tested truth of the matter is that God always takes His time with us. All of us. There’s always a time of separation, preparation and consecration before there’s ever an ordination and an initiation. Whether your name is Moses, Joshua, or even Paul. Even our Lord was thirty years in preparation before He began to minister.
So don’t get discouraged you haven’t become the next Billy Graham yet. Or that you’re not writing epistles like the apostles, or getting your prayers answered like Elijah, or conquering cities like Joshua, or preaching to the masses like Peter.
God is preparing us ... for something great ... all of us. If we can just learn to wait on the Lord’s timing and be patient in the preparation, we’ll be jubilant in the celebration.
However, if we try to rush it, we’ll end up like Ronald Biggs ... robbing ourselves.
And that would be a crime.
© 2013. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Today, more than 8,000 people call Crossroads their church home. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.