Is it real?

“Your faith will be like gold that has been tested in a fire. And these trials will prove that your faith is worth much more than gold that can be destroyed.”
(1 Peter 1:7).

Although my family did not attend church for most of my childhood, my mother made sure that I knew about God, and about people of faith, people who believed the God of the Abraham, the God of the Bible.

I knew the great Bible stories: Daniel saved from the lions, three men who didn’t burn, the unseen army of angels in the hills, the oil that didn’t run out, a boy’s lunch used to feed a crowd of thousands. I grew up reading all the famous missionary stories, and many not-so-famous stories as well, from centuries past, all the way to the present age. I read of George Mueller who dared to trust God to provide for orphans by prayer only; Hudson Taylor, who was mocked for living among the Chinese dressed in their clothing, living their lifestyle; Amy Carmichael, an Irish young woman determined to serve God as a missionary, even when rejected by official agencies; Corrie ten Boom, who faced Hitler’s death camps for hiding Jews (the Hiding Place); Brother Andrew a young Dutchman who followed God past Communist border guards to bring Bibles to the Eastern Block (God’s Smuggler); Jim Elliot and his 4 friends who flew the Gospel to the unreached Auca natives in South America and were speared to death (Through Gates of Splendor); Loren Cunningham’s vision of waves of young people taking the Gospel all over the world (YWAM, Is That Really You God?). My heart swelled as I read true adventures that belied the forces of nature, resisted the evil of the world, and often appeared to rebel against the established religion of their time. Even in their day-to-day life, they trusted God, they knew his provision. These true people of faith risked all for what they believed, and God rewarded that faith.

I believed it all. I believed in that God of the Bible, who created the world, who called people to live for Him. I believed He had called me to live for Him. And yet as I looked around me, I had the same thoughts that faced some of those I read about. In the words of Hudson Taylor,

“The inconsistencies of Christian people, who while professing to believe their Bibles were yet content to live just as they would if there were no such book … I frequently felt at that time, and said, that if I pretended to believe the Bible I would at any rate attempt to live by it, putting it fairly to the test, and if it failed to prove true and reliable, would throw it overboard altogether.”

(A Retrospect, Hudson Taylor, 1832-1905)

As a young adult, that’s how I felt exactly. I didn’t disbelieve the stories of old, I did not disbelieve God, I just couldn’t fit those stories with my life. I began to wonder if anyone really lived out their faith like those I had read about. It’s not that the people around me actually did NOT live out their beliefs, but what I saw appeared inconsistent. I watched as my Christian friends were enticed by the world, and wandered away from their faith. I felt very alone in my belief. I began to wonder, “Does anyone actually live what the Bible says? Is it real? Is it for me?”

desert image from open

I think that every believer must go through a time of loneliness, of searching, to find out “is it real”. Something just between you and God. No one else can help you in this. It is a personal struggle. A place you must walk through – a desert, a wasteland, barren, devoid of anything familiar. You must meet with God in that place. You must wrestle with God through the night. And then you will know. You will have something that no one can take away from you. Every man and woman in those famous stories went through that place at some time in their life. Maybe even more than once. Peter tells us “Your faith will be like gold that has been tested in a fire. And these trials will prove that your faith is worth much more than gold that can be destroyed.” (1 Peter 1:7).

Fast forward thirty-five years. I know, I skipped the part where God answered those questions for me. That is another story. Today’s thought is my own day-to-day example of God working. Something small, yet significant. Not enough to be recorded in a “famous story”, yet revealing the way our Father works through his Spirit who lives in us who believe.

It was a Saturday morning. I had heard that there would be a funeral at the church that morning. The young woman had been a student in my classes when she was a child. I considered if I should attend the funeral or not. I usually would, but I had so much work to do, I wanted to stay home and not be distracted by another trip to town. Would anyone even know or care if I did not attend? Yet, as I talked to the Lord in the morning, I felt so strongly that I should go. I was compelled to dress quickly and drive to town, even a little early. Work would just have to wait. Perhaps I could use the opportunity to drop some food by to a sick family on my way home.

When I arrived at the church, there were very few cars in the parking lot. Several men from the men’s breakfast greeted me as I walked though the doors. “You’re early!”, they laughed. The sanctuary was dark, and no one was around. Odd. I asked the men if there was not a funeral for that morning? They didn’t know, but a quick phone call revealed that the funeral was scheduled for the following week. In frustrated annoyance, I threw my hands up in the air and walked out. “What a waste,” I huffed to myself. A waste of my time, a waste of gas.

I started to drive straight home. Did I get it wrong? A quick thought of the sick family, of purchasing some food at the store flipped through my mind. My irritated self battled against my spirit, “Just go on home.” The Holy Spirit began to speak … reminding me that he doesn’t waste effort. This trip was not for nothing. “What Lord? Did I hear wrong? Why did I make this ‘mistake’?” Yielding to His presence, I went to the store, looking for clearance items that would fit my budget and could still be a blessing for a family. Loading a grocery bag packed with kid friendly food and snacks, I sent a message on ahead, “I’m stopping by to drop off some food.” A very sick mom blinked back tears as she opened the door to receive the bundle, standing at a distance to not spread germs. Task accomplished, I headed home.

The answer machine blinked a “new message” light as I walked in the door. A tearful recording of gratefulness played from the machine, “I hate talking to machines, but I have to tell you how much this meant to me – I’m going to cry! I’m out of food for the kids and I’m too sick to go to the store. I wish I could have hugged you!” A written message filled in details, “Seriously. My kids where starving, my older daughter left for her dad’s yesterday, my mom would not watch my kids and my husband is sleeping. I had no way. Lest I take them both, but it would have been horrible.”

I was so humbled. Sure, for you mom’s out there, we’ve all been through the “I’m really sick and have little kids” routine. Nothing earth shattering there. Except when you are in the middle of it, desperation is overwhelming. You feel all alone. If you believe in God, you know that he sees you, but you need to KNOW THAT HE SEES YOU. In Genesis 16:13, the Egyptian servant Hagar speaks this out loud. “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

My part? It was what any friend might do for another. Drop off some food for a sick family. Nothing miraculous, nothing to brag about. Yet I got to be part of God’s plan to care for his children. Would I have naturally driven the 25 mile round trip to do so? Not likely. My mistaken date was God working.

When George Mueller (1805 – 1898) sat down to the breakfast table with his “family” of 300 orphan children, there was no food in the house. They prepared anyway, and thanked God for the meal. The breadman’s insomnia resulted in loaves of bread at the door for breakfast. The milkman’s broken wagon wheel brought gallons of free milk. In time for breakfast. Miracles? For the breadman and the milkman … no. For the Mueller orphanage, emphatically yes. That is faith at work in everyday life.

I often say that if there is any good in me, it is all Jesus. When I say that, I don’t mean that I am worthless. Quite the contrary. The Creator of all the Earth, the King of Glory knows me, has called me, has chosen me. He gives me worth beyond measure. Isn’t that generally how we measure worth? Does a diamond have value to fish? Does gold have value to a dog? No, those items have value because we value them. I have value and worth because the Greatest One values me and gives me worth. The goodness in me simply comes from God. On my own, I always tend toward selfish, base behavior. With God, he changes me, he redeems me. Now I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able.   He. is. real.

– iBeleave

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