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An Unlikely Source of Hope

The worst day of my life was the best day of my life.

It was the day I learned that hope can come from the most unlikely source.

It was a travel day. Though notorious for its hazards, I’d always been fine when traveling on this path. Until this particular day.

One moment I was walking upright. The next, I was face-planted into the ground, choking on dust. I was viciously beaten and kicked. My clothes were stripped off and everything I had with me was stolen.

I don’t know how long I lay there, floating in and out of consciousness. I discovered that one could shiver underneath the blazing sun rays.

At some point, I heard footsteps. I cracked an eye open to see a minister’s robes. Finally, my help had come!

Except he did nothing.

He didn’t even check to see if I was breathing. In my haze, I was confused. Why would the minister not help me? He’s not blind; he can see that I’m unable to help myself. It sounded like he actually ran away from me. He did not represent the same God that He taught about in church.

Later, I heard more footsteps. I caught a glimpse of a church worker’s clothing. Surely he came to help me.

But instead, he did not a thing. This must be the new standard in churches. Do nothing when people are in need.

Well, I give up! I’m about to die under this hot sun. If was a lost cause with my own church people then I must not be worth saving. No one wants me.

God, if You’re still there, please take me now, I pleaded.

After some time, I heard sounds. Great! I’m about to be trampled to death by a wild animal. Wait—there’s also a man. A third person has come to look at me before turning away.

This man is hovering, rather than leaving.  I don’t recognize his clothes. His scent is distinct though.

Uh oh! It’s a Samaritan. This is the worst day ever!He probably came to finish me off. What a humiliating way to die. I have no energy to resist even him.

Another set of smells. It’s—owwwwww!!!! I winced. Is this what death feels like? Hang on a minute–this Samaritan guy is cleaning me up. He is actually helping me. Doesn’t he know that our people don’t ever mix?

He’s mumbling something. If my head didn’t hurt so badly, I’d think he was praying for me.

Wherever I am, it’s much cooler now. It’s dark and I’m in a bed. I laid eyes on my rescuer.

It IS a Samaritan. Oh boy! What are people going to think when they hear just who helped me.

How can I twist this story? I can’t exactly lie about the minister or the church official. But could I lose my job, my friends, because this other guy helped me out?

He did help me out, didn’t he? No one else stopped, but this man. He didn’t even torture me first. Instead, he tended to my wounds and brought me to safety.

He saved my life. Wow! I didn’t know that these people were the compassionate type. Those are not the stories I grew up hearing about Samaritans.

I wouldn’t have learned the truth had I not been lying on that roadside.

When I was flat on my back feeling completely hopeless, the hope of rescue came in an unexpected manner.

Wow, God! I guess You really are there. Thank You for sending help. You care about all kinds of people, even Samaritans. I learned something new about You, God.

Turns out that this was the best day of my life.

(adapted from Luke 10:30-37)

When We Drift

Living the high life as royalty, complete with answered prayers, world-renown fame and riches galore, Solomon drifted from God.

When presented with the option to pray for whatever he wanted, Solomon humbled himself. Rather than seeking to satisfy the human desire for material things, he chose to ask for wisdom. As newly established king of Israel, he did not know it all. In order to rule God’s people effectively, Solomon needed God’s type of wisdom.

Pleased with this request, God answered Solomon’s prayer for wisdom and gifted him with bonus blessings. He promised Solomon an unmatched level of wisdom that no one before ever had and no one after will ever have. He was then given riches and fame. God also promised him long life if he continued to walk in obedience.

Yet, even with all the wisdom and understanding in the world, we cannot stop praying to God when things are going well. We have to be diligent in maintaining our relationship with God. We need to make Him our main priority in all things.

It doesn’t take much for us to drift. But if we don’t quickly reroute when we start drifting, we’ll soon find ourselves in an unplanned and unrecognizable destination.

There is still hope in this story. Though Solomon drifted away from God, God never drifted away from him. Solomon was never stripped of his God-given blessings and gifts. His disobedience did have consequences for him in his later years as well as the generations that followed him, but God never stopped loving Him.

We drift. It doesn’t take much, just a tiny nudge off the path and we’re slowly veering in a slightly different direction. We can be encouraged by Solomon’s experience.

God is there. He’s not eagerly watching, hoping for us to mess up so that He can strip us of our blessings. Rather He’s anticipating our call, for us to realize that we need Him.

And God lovingly answers our calls too.

No Self-Discounts

David. A notable person of prayer?

The idea sounds like an oxymoron. Yet, the more we think about it, we can understand how this is possible.

What often comes to mind when we hear the name “David” are the more colorful details of his past. A puny boy ignored by his father, yet hand-picked by God. A shepherd who kills wild animals bare-handed. Goliath & the stone. Escaping from multiple murder attempts by Saul. Nabal. Bathsheba. Absalom…

One who repented.

This is the reason why David was able to commune with God the way he did. David understood his status as a forgiven child of God and knew that the grace and mercy of God, though unbalanced to humans, was fair.

Our pasts are littered with their own collection of colorful moments. The enemy loves to highlight our ugly at the most inconvenient moments. This causes us to forget that the God who thoroughly forgave David also forgives us thoroughly as well.

When we feel unworthy, we sometimes feel that we cannot ask God for too much. We pray as though His grace is pre-packaged according to what we’ve earned throughout our lives. We pray for what we believe are the ‘easy-to-answer’ prayers. Perhaps we might find it easier to intercede for others, willingly praying great things on their behalf, yet neglect to pray as willingly for ourselves.

Lord, forgive us for discounting ourselves without Your permission. Forgive us for self-regulating our prayers hoping that it might improve our chances of Your approval. Help us to remember our status as children forgiven by a loving God. Guide us when we’re tempted to feel inadequate before You because You do not see us as inadequate. Help us, Lord, so that we can walk more closely with You each day. We pray in the name of Jesus.

Amen.

Hannah’s Story

Have you ever read 1 Samuel chapters 1 and 2 from Hannah’s perspective? Though she’s mentioned in those chapters, rarely do we hear this story told with Hannah being the main focus. We discussed some of what we’d learned at our November 22 prayer meeting. When it comes to Hannah, the most commonly known detail is that God answered her prayer for a son. Yet there’s much more to her situation.

In the book “Prayer”, author E.G. White writes that “Hannah had been communing with God.” Closeness with God is what makes Hannah’s prayer life notable. The dictionary defines ‘commune’ like this:

To converse or talk together, usually with profound intensity, intimacy.

Hannah is commonly known for her many years of being childless. In Bible times, childbearing was the main thing for women. To be childless gave the impression that you were marked or perhaps even cursed by the Almighty in some way. Society considered childless women to be even more inferior than they already were. Elkanah, Hannah’s loving husband, also struggled with his marital issue. In a crisis of faith, he took a second wife to have children. This second wife was abusive and unkind towards Hannah.

Because of her closeness with God, Hannah didn’t react as we might expect. She never lashed out or sought revenge against Elkanah, Peninnah or anyone else who hurt her. Instead, she went straight to her God with her pain and trusted Him to fill her heart with peace and soothe her weary soul. She always kept talking to her God throughout the years. Nothing distracted her from His love.

Another place where Hannah’s relationship with God was tested was in the temple. In her desperation to connect with God during a painful moment, Hannah prayed. She prayed from deep within her heart, crying through her agony. Too overwhelmed to speak, she trusted that God could understand her words as she mouthed them. Again, she asked God for a child and included a promise to dedicate him back to God.

The priest, Eli, was disgusted by the behavior he witnessed from Hannah. He did not know or understand her story. He did not know the torment that drove her to the temple that particular day. And he also did not recognize this type of spiritual connectedness. Society had drifted so far from God’s ideal closeness that when Hannah appeared, her actions were misunderstood. Rather than learning about her perspective, the priest assumed the worst.

Even though she was falsely accused by Eli, Hannah remained calm and confident. She knew that her behavior was misinterpreted. She had done nothing wrong that morning, nothing that needed to be defended. She was able to rationally explain that she was praying from a place of pain. And the surprised priest blessed her.

There are times when we’re overwhelmed by the hardships of our lives. Though all our experiences will be different, the one commonality is pain. Life will hurt us. And yes, we might even be attacked in our home and in the church, like Hannah was.

Like Hannah, we can commune with God. If a book was written about your life, wouldn’t you love to read this line: “__(insert your name here)__ had been communing with God”? Just as He gave her the strength to stand with confidence through her hard moments, He does the same for us.

If we’re not close to Him, we will miss out on the assurance that comes from being in His presence.

Don’t Quit

A family wanted to plant a baby tree in their front yard. They dreamed of watching this tree grow. Birds would build their nests in its branches. Their children would go on imaginary adventures as they climbed the tree. As it matured, the tree would provide shade for their home as well. The family had great intentions for their tree.

They shopped around for the ideal tree and sound found the perfect one. A hole was dug and they dropped the baby tree into it. They carefully repacked dirt around the base of the tree, then stepped back to admire their handiwork. They were not a green thumb family, so this was a major accomplishment. Things went well, except for one obvious detail.

The tree was crooked.

Back into the dirt they plunged, as they worked to straighten the little tree. A bit better, but still the lean was still obvious. Each time they attempted to straighten the tree, it stood more erectly. But never fully upright.

Exhausted by numerous attempts and backbreaking labor, the family was spent. They were tired of doing what was good. They had worked hard and figured it was good enough. The tree was pretty well straight, at a glance. Satisfied, they went inside to clean up.

As the tree grew, the family did enjoy some of the great moments they had once dreamed about. But the tree never did straighten itself out. It kept on leaning. As each year passed, the tree leaned heavily to one side. It eventually became a safety hazard and the family was forced to cut it down.

Don’t quit!

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” — Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

Doing good is meticulous work. It’s exhausting to keep on going because the process seems much slower than we’d like. All the doing takes a toll on us. To see something through to completion can drain us mentally, physically, emotionally, financially.

And spiritually.

The family in our story gave their best efforts doing good. When they got tired, they were distracted from the end goal. Their aches and pains outweighed the positioning of the tree. They figured good enough in the short term would be good enough in the long term. They never pictured removing the tree prematurely.

For Christians, our end goal is the Kingdom. God desires to save all of His children. Anyone that He took time to create and give life to is worth saving, in His eyes. This is why God is remarkably patient and uber-gracious with us. He loves us all and wants us with Him forever. This is why we cannot get tired of doing what is good.

May this be our motivation as we encourage each other to keep doing what is good.