A year ago today, my world turned upside down. The shock of what happened that day is not something that subsided quickly. I walked through the valley of the shadow of death and I’m not out of those woods yet. I am here, though, one year later, to tell you – I met God in the valley. He was there that very first moment, and He is here even now. Today I want to share some important things with you. What I’m sharing today has been on my heart since early September, and it was a refreshing reminder that God is still at work – even in the valley of the shadow of death. It’s a story of redemption – to let the world know that I stand for redemption.
A year ago I was plunged/shoved/bulldozed into a situation I never wanted to be in, talking to people I never intended to deal with, keeping appointments I never would have made on my own. Shock, fear and sleeplessness were my new companions. Emptiness was a feeling with which I became incredibly familiar. Trust…years of my life poured into something only to see it blow up in my face in a major way. These are not situations into which I would put myself.
But that’s just it – we are relational beings, and when we have others in our lives, their choices do sometimes directly impact us.
I’ve watched relationships of convenience and frankly, they frustrate me. I’ve seen people be friendly until it wasn’t beneficial for them any longer. I’ve seen couples stay together, until one was tired of the old and ready to move on to the new. Where has commitment gone? There are a lot of hurting people out there because someone turned their back on them when they were no longer viewed as “convenient”.
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When things first fell apart for me, I couldn’t make a decision. I didn’t know what to eat, what to wear, I couldn’t even determine how to feel. The million dollar question really was, “What are you going to do?” I couldn’t make a life-changing decision at that point; I could barely figure out which toothbrush to use in the morning.
And so I waited. Here I was, in this horrible predicament, against my will, because of someone else’s choices. Waiting was my only option. The situation and the timetable were out of my control, and so I set up camp.
I set up camp in the valley of the shadow of death.
I waited. I wondered. I worried.
I called, cried, cried out, but I did not move.
The peace of God, the hand of God in my life, became so evident. It was the hand on my head that prevented me from running. It was the instinct that let my heart know that God was at work, even though I could not see it.
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Last month I was blessed with a ticket to the Women of Faith event. The theme for the conference was, “From Survival to Revival” – and I had been in survival mode for 11 months and 3 days on the day of the conference.
Friends, can I just tell you, God had words for me that day. Words to lift my heart, to bless my soul and to get me to pack up camp. That was the day I picked up my mat, decided I wasn’t camping out anymore, looked my enemy straight in the eye and said,
“My God can shut your mouth!”
You see, on October 2, 2013 at 7:10am, I am convinced that the devil was having a party. He knew what was coming at 7:15am and I am certain that his plan was for our demise that day. When everything fell apart at 7:15am, I have no doubt that he was just bubbling over with happiness!
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I tell people that I have a boring testimony. I wasn’t saved out of drugs or alcohol. My life wasn’t a mess. I was born into a Christian home to parents who have loved Jesus for a long time. I came to know Jesus at an early age and I haven’t diverted from that decision. I can recount story after story of how God has worked in my life and in the lives of people I know. And at 39 years of age, I can tell you that there hasn’t been a time, since childhood, where I have not loved God!
And now I have a story that is one year long, that will last a little while longer, and that is messy and ugly. It is full of deceit, sin, mistrust, painful indiscretions of the past, and has the enemy’s name written all over it.
I camped out there this year. I thought this was going to be “my story” that would maybe, somehow, be a blessing to other people. I took my time, I worked through my pain and my fear. I let God work, and then I heard some very wise words at that conference.
Friend, I have a story that will someday ooze with redemption, but it’s only a part of my life. It’s only one year of my 39 years on this earth. Why, why, would I camp out there? Don’t get me wrong – someday, I may really be able to extend compassion, grace and mercy to someone who has a similar story.
But, I have 39 years of my “boring testimony” where God was always there, where God always provided, where I was never forsaken, and I camped out in the one year story. I camped out in the tiny slice of life. Granted, I was trying my best and there will always be benefits of going through that valley. Now, though, I can see that the “boring” testimony is really more of a story of God’s never-ending faithfulness.
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My redemption choice has come at a high price. I’ve lost a lot this past year – ministry opportunities, friends, peace of mind, trust, a sacred place in my heart. I was frustrated about the choices being made around me, until I realized that even though I don’t like it, all of this is not ultimately about me. It’s about God at work – grabbing hold of someone and doing a work in their heart that only He can do.
And that’s the other side of us being relational beings – when God does a work in the life of someone around us, we get to share in that blessing! We get to see their growth, we get to celebrate in their gains, we get to rejoice in the gift of their redeemed life.
My personal stand for redemption means that I am choosing to stand to see the redemption of another person, whether the world chooses to stand with me or not. All of the things that I thought were exactly what I needed – many of the things I lost as a result of my redemption choice – were a “safety net”. When all of life fell apart and when I let go of my perceived safety net over time, do you know what happened?
I did not drown.
Instead, quite the opposite. God started a movement in a different way and gave me other ministry opportunities. As I let go of my safety net, God refocused my priorities – faith, family, ministry. And He is blessing and working in so many ways. Maybe I needed a reason to let go of my safety net, and God moved in such a way to remove everything so that I would fully trust Him.
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You see, the devil had a plan, but so did God. It was a good plan that the devil had.
Sin is ugly – it’s horrible. But there is not a “big sin” or “little sin” in God’s eyes. The “smallest” sin is no different than the “greatest” sin. I find, myself included, that we often judge people based on their level of sin.
We look at a person and we call them by their sin – “Liar, Cheater, Thief….”
When God looks at us, though, He sees our sin, but He chooses to call us by name – His name. (Isaiah 43)
What if we looked at everyone based on their need for redemption? We’d see equality everywhere, in every face, in every heart.
In my 39 years, I have seen redemption win out time and time again.
The Bible tells us that Jesus is not willing that anyone should perish. Matthew 18:12-14 –
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”
What do we lose by going after the one who is lost? Time, effort, energy, yes. Sure.
But what might we gain by pouring effort into the one who has strayed?
Another soul saved for eternity!
Another child of the King!
Another one taken out of the clutches of the enemy!
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The cost for this decision has not been easy to bear, but God doesn’t promise a smooth and easy path. Through this past year, I have had an overwhelming sense that this will all work out for the good. I can’t explain it, but similar to the feeling of peace, I can tell you that this is something only God could place in my heart.
“The devil, on his best day, couldn’t take me out on my worst day.” -Christine Caine
But the devil is going to wish he could have.
See, I plan to go after the same people he’s going after – but for exactly the opposite reason. He’s going after them for harm; I’m going after them with the good news of salvation. I’m pursuing them to tell them of redemption – not just reformation, but redemption.
You see, about 2,000 years ago, someone stood for my redemption. God sent Jesus, who was without sin, to stand in my place, for my redemption. He paid the price so that I could have the opportunity to live a transformed life. It wasn’t an easy choice – Jesus asked the Father if there was any other possible way to provide for the redemption of mankind. (Mark 14:35,36)
There was no other way. And so Jesus went to die on the cross. He went to take His stand for my redemption – for our redemption – offering us the opportunity to accept the gift of salvation, yet knowing full well that some would never choose to accept the gift.
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Why would I stand for someone else’s redemption? Why would I choose to stand up and say, “I believe in you,” when I could turn and run?
Friends, I am not a theologian, so I don’t have a deep, philosophical answer to give you.
I have an answer that comes from 39 years of loving Jesus and seeing how He works.
Why would I stand for someone else’s redemption?
Simply, because Someone stood for mine and it has made all the difference in my life.
Maybe you’re here today, feeling like your sin is keeping you from God. It is. But God gave His Son to bridge that gap. Today could be the day of your salvation – your redemption. If you would like to accept that gift today, all you need to do is pray this simple prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank you for standing in my place.
Thank you for sending Jesus to provide a way of salvation.
I acknowledge that I am a sinner and that I need your salvation.
Please forgive my sins, create a clean heart within me.
Guide and direct me as I seek to follow You.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
If you said that prayer, today is your day of salvation. Your redemption has come today!
Friends, I wish that we didn’t have to deal with some of the hard things in life. I wish my October 2nd had not happened. This life – it’s a journey, but it’s not our destination. God provides a way for salvation so that we can be with Him forever in Heaven. Our imperfect humanness prevents us from Heaven, but God’s redemption opens the door.
And until the whole world hears, I stand for redemption!