When I was 11 years old, I asked Jesus to come into my heart, to forgive me of my sins, and be my Lord and Savior. He did and what a great moment that was for me. I was baptized, and loved learning about Jesus and all he was and is. My daddy taught Sunday School classes at the church we attended and together, we sang in the choir. Those were some of the best times I had growing up.
When I was in Jr High (back then it was called Jr. High-now it’s called Middle School) and High School, I joined a group called Young Spirits. It was a group of Youth members from area churches and we would practice for months (and attend a weekend retreat) to put on a performance on Palm Sunday at the local high school for the community. The music and dance steps were sometimes difficult to learn, and making sure 50-100 kids could all get in tune with each other, was sometimes difficult, but the one thing we all shared was the love for the Lord. Before, the main performance on Palm Sunday, we would do “dress rehearsals” at local churches on Sunday morning, the weeks leading up to Palm Sunday. Being part of this group, not only grew my faith, but made me realize that God loves each one of us and gives each one of us talents or gifts, and it’s up to us how we use them. (Let’s just say, my voice alone may sound “off tune”, but I know by the time it reaches God’s ears-it’s beautiful.)
I continued to attend church, even walking three miles one time, because I wasn’t able to drive yet, and I really wanted to go to church. My father wasn’t feeling good that Sunday and thinking I would never do what he suggested (if you want to go so bad, walk); I had no idea the walk would be so long, my legs felt like rubber in those high heels, up and down hills (this was country walking), but I made it and that’s how much I loved learning about and being with God. My father said something to the effect, if I had known you wanted to go that bad, I would have taken you.
I loved reading the Bible and learning all about God and all the people in the Bible that trusted God and did what he told them simply out of their Faith; not knowing the outcome, but taking a step of Faith and trusting God for the outcome. When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, Abraham didn’t question God, he walked in Faith. And God provided a sacrifice for Abraham-a sacrificial ram.
Genesis 22:1-14 New International Version (NIV)
22 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
I often wondered, as I was growing up would I be tested to that degree, that I would have to step out in faith. While I have never had to offer my children as a sacrifice, I have endured many “tests” in my lifetime, that had I not had great faith that the Lord would always provide, no matter what; I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. I have also learned that sometimes God will challenge us to be better followers and that also means listening to Him and being obedient.
He wants us to live beyond our wildest dreams! To reach for the unreachable, and for each one of us, that is something totally different. He didn’t send his only son, Jesus, so our lives would be easy and carefree, he sent his son Jesus so that we would accept Him as the Messiah and we would choose to take up our cross and follow Him; to care for the needy, the poor, the widowed, the sick, the ones that are lonely, the hungry and to share HIS LOVE with others. He also sent Jesus as this was the only way we would ever have access to the Father.
John 10:10 New International Version (NIV)
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:25-30 New International Version (NIV)
25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[a]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
Over the years of being a Christian, I have taken a couple Spiritual Gifts Tests. The first time I took one, I was skeptical, I will admit. But when I finally finished filling it out and then looking at the chart to determine what my gifts were, I was sold! And then I realized that God knew in advance what my answers would be, because He created me. He knew my heart and he had “wired” me according to His plans. When I took my first Spiritual Gifts Test, my three top gifts were (1) Faith (2) Encouragement and (3) Mercy. That was over 10 years ago. About 6 months ago, I took an abbreviated version of the test and once again my results were the same.
It is was no surprise to me about faith being my number one gift. Even in the darkest times in my life, I knew God was with me. He has always provided for me and my family, even when all hope seemed lost. Even when I wasn’t so faithful in being his follower. There were years when I was lost, but as I found my way back, He welcomed me with open arms.
Encouragement for me has always come easy when encouraging others, encouraging myself is not always as easy, but that’s where faith steps in and takes over. And showing mercy has sometimes caused me more difficulties than I would have ever thought possible. I am still trying to learn that there is a difference between extending mercy and enabling others to walk all over you. As with everything in life, there is always a learning process. For me, sometime’s it takes more than one lesson to grasp the concept.
In a few months, I will be turning 51 and it simply amazes me that for the last 40 years I have walked with the our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It seems like only yesterday that I gave my life to Him. He has brought such joy and hope into my life; helped me walk through many dark valleys and sorrows and loved me unconditionally.
He can and will do the same for you. If you have yet to start walking out your faith or not even sure if you know what real faith is, or not sure if you are ready – know this: Jesus doesn’t expect you to be all cleaned up before you follow Him. He loves the broken, the messiness of life. He will make things right-you just have to have an open heart and a little faith, even as small as a mustard seed, that’s enough faith. God loves you right where you are! May you be blessed beyond your wildest imaginations!