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Read A Sample
I was sixteen when it happened. It was the end of an ordinary school day, and as the last of the lights in our house were turned off and the darkness finally settled, I quietly slipped out the ground-floor window.
There was enough moonlight to walk by, but I could easily have made the short walk in pitch black or in a full-scale blizzard. I had done this a hundred times before. But that night was different.
I knew where I was going. To my favorite tree and my secret hideaway. I had always loved climbing high up into the sky, into her arms, hidden from view below by all the limbs and leaves beneath me.
The news that my godfather, Stephen, had died suddenly and without warning of a heart attack had hit me so hard. Stephen had been my father 's best friend in the world, and he was like a second father to me. He came on all our family holidays. He 'd helped me learn to do so much and always laughed and cheered me on. His death felt like someone had ripped my heart out.
The shock of his sudden passing had made me feel angry, confused, and lonely, all at the same time. It just felt so cruel and way too soon. In fact, I didn 't even know what to feel anymore. I just needed some space and time—alone. That was why I was out that night, making my way toward that lone tree.
I climbed quickly. The feel of the bark, the angle of the branches, the way the tree started to move with my weight the higher I got—it all felt familiar. And when I was forty feet up and had reached the last limb that I knew I could hold me, I stopped.
And then the tears came. And the anger. I help my head in my hands. I sobbed and hit the tree. Some would call it prayer.
I 'd been silent on God for years. When I was younger, faith had felt so natural, as if somehow there was this thing inside and it was there just for me. Like a simple presence: quiet, nonjudgemental, strong, and always good.
But when I started going away to school as a teenager, I was forced to sit through endless religious services in chapel. Faith died a slow death. Death by boredom. Death by religion. Death by irrelevance. I assumed that belief belonged in the past, that growing up meant leaving any sense of the supernatural behind me. That was all kids ' stuff.
Stephen 's death had stirred up some deep coals of emotion in me, the flickering of an ember inside, like the pain was shaking everything up. And through it all, the quiet, calming presence of God was gently fanning that black ember of faith. That Presence was all I wanted again while I was up that tree. And then that ember gave the tiniest of flickers.
As the anger subsided for a few moments and the tears dried for a little while, I prayed the only prayer that ever really matters to the human heart: "Jesus, if You are real, if You are there, please be beside me this night."
1. Friend Indeed
Does God need us to be strong? No. Does He need us to be impressive? Definitely not. God is not wowed by our abilities. He goes where He is welcome and needed. He 's looking for people who say a quiet yest to Him in their hearts. Those who understand that alone we are so limited. When we are empty, He can fill us and work through us.
When we think we have it all in hand ourselves, there is no room in our hearts for Him to work His miracles.
Jesus said, "You are my friends....I no longer call you servants....I have called you friends" (John 15:14-15).
There is nothing more empowering—and no greater privilege in life—than to be called a freind of the Almighty. We are loved regardless, forgiven, restored, and befriended.
2. Who Jesus Is
"When I was growing up," Madonna once said, "Jesus Christ was like a movie star, my favorite idol of all."2
Napoleon Bonapart went further: "I know men, and I tell you Jesus Christ was not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and other religions the distance of infinity."3
And then there was novelist H. G. Wells: "I am an historian, I am not a believer. But, this penniless preacher from Galilee is irresistibly the center of history."4There has never been a human quite like Jesus. He towers above us all in goodness and courage, in impact and influence. The greatest artists, leaders, and thinkers, all put together, are dwarfed by Him.
Yet Jesus did not come to impress us. He said He had come to save us, in total humility, as God come down among us. If He is who He says He is, and the gospel is real, then this is very good news. He simply wants us to learn to reach out and trust Him to help and calm us, to forgive and restore us. If we are to live fully and empowered, then this has to be the first step.
So wherever you are with God—whether you are searching, are wanting more, or have turned your back and are walking away—this verse is truth:
- "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10)
Remember—or discover for the first time—that we can trust Him and that He has the power to change our lives for the better. I am slowly learning that He is the key to everything.
3. It 's Good To Be Reminded
I have to walk through the door of fear regularly in my life. We all do if we are to get anywhere meaningful. But I have learned to pray quietly in my heart in those moments and to draw on Someone bigger, braver, and stronger than I am. That 's been the key. Don 't go alone. Put your hand in the hand of the Almighty. He 's there for us.
That 's what great fathers do. They hold their children 's hands.
The prayers I pray when I 'm afraid are raw. (They are maybe not prayers in the sense I was taught at school. But they are real prayers.) I 'm showing God my deepest fears and asking Him to be beside me. I 'm asking Him for His help to keep me moving forward.
A lot of us try to keep our fears secret, but burying them is how they grow. When we bring them into the light, they often start to wither. But to bring them out and share them with God or loved ones takes courage.
See what the Bible says:
- Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified or dismayed. (Joshua 1:9 AMP)
But how do we find that courage?
- For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (v. 9 AMP)
Whatever fear we 're facing, remember this: we do not face it alone. The Creater of the universe is good; He is beside us, within us, and for us.
4. The Lessons We Learn When We 're On Our Knees
Life can be hard, even brutal. It can so often be marked by pain, loss, grief, broken relationships, and ill health. No one can avoid all of these things, because they are part of the journey. And we wouldn 't be human if we didn 't at times feel desperate for help.
But the wonder of our faith is that those moments aren 't times when we are hopeless or helpless. In fact, it is the opposite. They are our times of maximum power. We just don 't always know it or feel it. But read this:
- "You 're blessed when you 're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule." (Matthew 5:3 MSG)
When we can no longer stumble on in our own "strength," we have no choice but to kneel down and cry out. And as people of faith, we are never taller than we kneel down. Less of us. More of Him.
Remember the poem about the footprints in the sand, when the writer was wondering why she only saw one set of footprints when she needed Jesus most? He replied, "Because it was then that I carried you."5
In those times when we 're aware of how desperately we need God, He is there. Right beside us. He is the closest He can be when we really need Him.
5. Be Thankful
- Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God 's will for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
This verse is interesting and challenging because it isn 't what we first think of when the worst happens! Our default all too often can be to fall down and give up when things go badly wrong. But God has a better, smarter way. He says for us to be grateful in all circumstances. Instead of blaming and wailing, give thanks for all the good in your life. That 's radical living.
At its most basic, that good is the truth that we are loved by God and given a future with Him for eternity. That in itself is crazy good news.
When it comes to living life on earth with power and purpose, it is scientifically proven that gratitude changes our state for the better. So let 's make this a daily attitude and way to live: always in gratitude for our blessings, whether it be food, health, fortune, relationships, fun, family, or simply His promises for our futures.
Paul knew all about this too:
- Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
In other words, look for the positive and choose to be grateful.
He was right. When we look around us and focus on all that is good, it helps us see God in so many of the little things that we often overlook, whether it be the leap of a dog in delight at seeing us, or the smile and kindness of someone serving us a coffee. Christ is in it all. When we live like this, it is as though out eyes are being opened. And it starts with gratitude.
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