Recently, my husband and I attended a Friday evening worship service at a church that was begun not long ago by several of our friends. Looking forward to worshiping with them, we were additionally pleased to learn upon our arrival that the speaker that evening would be a visiting Apostolic leader, whom we had heard speak once before.
Called by God to equip Christians for greater personal ministry, the Apostolic leader freely shares the work that God is doing in and through him, teaching others through modeling and guidance. By sharing testimonies from his own experiences, he draws others into active participation through his encouragement. Then, in providing opportunities for others to have their own first-hand experiences, a ripple effect of benefits is generated.
On this particular evening, he was demonstrating the specific prayer method that he was then currently using to lead others in acquiring greater awareness of both God’s Presence and God’s personal knowledge of individuals. The method that he was using in his submission to God for the purpose of allowing God’s love to flow through him is simple. While shaking an individual’s hand, he mentally asks God to reveal something to him about that person. Once he hears a response from God, he speaks the response aloud to the person to reveal specific knowledge from God about him or her. Then, while maintaining hand contact, he repeats the prayer and response process three more times to reveal a total of four pieces of information. By the time the fourth word is spoken, God, not the leader, has the individual’s attention.
Though he stipulated that the order of the four revealed words is important, the leader also quickly admitted that he didn’t always understand why. Only God, “the builder of everything” (Hebrews 3:4b), has the complete picture.
After explaining the process, the leader called a few volunteers from the congregation forward to help model the prayer. The first time, he did the praying and asking. But after that, he stepped aside to give others opportunity to pray and speak. Since the responses were all from God, they were all equally accurate, no matter who received and spoke them. The words that were revealed, such as palm tree, nose and white farm house, sounded innocuously generic to most of the people present, while proving to be most meaningful to the specific individuals to whom they were delivered.
After the completion of several prayers, the leader asked if anyone present had been sick for more than five years. Half a dozen arms went up in the air, including my own.
I consider the fact that I raised my hand to be a “minor miracle” (an oxymoron, I admit). For most of my life, I have concertedly tried not to be noticed, especially when it comes to volunteering in group settings. But on this night, instead of scrunching down in my seat, I raised my hand. Apparently God had prepared me to do so, for the leader called me forward.
Taking my right hand in his, the leader smiled before closing his eyes for a few moments. Then, opening them, he said, “I see you in a gymnasium type place with pine floors.”
The memory that the words called to mind was of my first day of teaching. Before the common use of computers, the high school, where I had been hired to teach, assembled all students and faculty in the combined gymnasium-auditorium that had pine floors on the first day of school. One by one, the teachers had to stand at the microphone in the middle of the room and read their homeroom roles. Petrified of public speaking, the event terrified me. But somehow, despite the fear, I did what needed to be done, marveling since then that it went as well as it did.
After I had shared the memory, the leader briefly closed his eyes for a second time. Then he said, “After that, your life was threatened.”
Anything but innocuous, this word from God really surprised me, as well as others. I replied, “Yes, by a student.”
Nodding, the leader confirmed, “He threatened your life.”
The he, who had threatened me, was an angry young man, with a reputation among school officials and local police officers as a regular troublemaker. When other students confided to me that he had threatened to put an explosive device in my car, I became apprehensive about where I parked each day. With the threat replaying each morning in my head, I made a point of arriving at school early enough for the remainder of the school year to park in the tiny lot next to the office, avoiding the more isolated field behind the school.
Following my affirmation, the leader spoke for a third time, saying, “Then you had a broken relationship.”
I did, and it was no small matter. Turmoil, having sprung up unexpectedly, had brought with it an ongoing apprehension of extended duration before resolution was attained.
Astonished, I said, “Yes!” Then the leader spoke the fourth and final word, saying, “Then you were robbed.”
I was, multiple times. My husband would remind me later that evening that we had been robbed physically twice, first of appliances in the new home that we were building and then of our car from the parking lot of a neighborhood grocery store. Despite the appliances being replaced by insurance and the vehicle being found abandoned across town three days later (contrary to police assurance that it was already in pieces in a chop-shop), the robberies left behind a sense of vulnerability.
But when the leader said “robbed,” neither of those two events came to mind. All that I could think about was my regular use of the word to describe what disease does, stealing both God-given time and opportunity.
Jesus once said, “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 10:10). Jesus left no room for doubt that God isn’t the one who steals from the life that He gives.
But that evening at the church, God did want me to lose something in order to gain more life. Looking straight at me, the leader said, “Let go of the trauma.”
Trauma is the lasting effect that either a physical or psychological injury can inflict. Unlike the cause of the injury, which becomes history, trauma continues carrying forward to threaten future wellbeing. The residual fear and anxiety that exist in trauma can produce a victim mentality that is forever expecting the other proverbial shoe to drop at any moment.
When the leader said, “Let go…,” nothing appeared to happen. But when he repeated the words, they apparently struck a chord, causing me to gasp. Surprised by my audible response, I was then more surprised to feel myself beginning to fall backwards, only to again be surprised when unexpected hands behind me lowered me gently to the floor. Startled, I laid still for a minute, while the service continued without me.
But my greatest surprise of the evening was yet to come, for when I tried to stand up, I couldn’t. The discovery was bizarre… beyond worldly explanation. Neither paralyzed nor weak, I was just plain “stuck,” as if I had been super-glued to the floor. I could wiggle all parts of my body slightly, but I couldn’t separate myself from the floor in the least. I felt like a chunk of metal being held firmly in place by an overwhelmingly powerful magnet.
For over an hour, I remained where I had been placed, talking with a friend, who remained at my side, until the eventual release arrived. Only after the slow release had worked its way from my toes to my head was I finally able to be helped to my feet.
That night, I returned home clueless as to the meaning of the evening’s events. Later, in giving testimony to another individual about what had happened, I hoped to gain understanding. I was certain that the events, being from God, had purpose that would prove beneficial. But no understanding came, until the time of this writing. Then I received one word: commitment.
Prior to the leader telling me to let go of the trauma, he had made one other comment. Smiling, He had said, “God was always there with you, through everything, wasn’t He?”
I had nodded, intellectually knowing that it was true. But still, I sensed that I was missing something deeper: unshakable personal conviction of the statement’s truth.
The four events in my life to which the statement had specifically referred had all occurred in the years between my confession of faith as a teenager and the time when I came to begin having a more personal fellowship with God. Though I believed in God’s existence during that time, my awareness of God’s Presence was negligible. Though God had been with me, I had noticed Him very little. Yet God was always faithful in His care for me.
Even before time began, God anticipated with delight the creation of each and every unique person with whom He would come to share His life. (See Jeremiah 1:4, 5 & Ephesians 1:11, 12) Forming us in His image (See Genesis 1:27), God has birthed us each into specific times and places (See Acts 17:26) to suit His good and perfect purpose. We are designed to share in His eternal love in Christ Jesus (See John 17:23 & 1 John 3:1) through His unmerited grace (See Romans 5:17 & 1 Timothy 1:14) that sustains us (See Matthew 6:31-33).
In His desire for eternal fellowship with us, God has placed a God-sized need within us that only He can fill. Additionally, to assure that we never get our fill of God, He also has provided us with an outlet—one another—into whom we can pour out His loving grace that we receive, producing an ongoing desire to receive and share “more” of God.
God alone is our Saving Grace. Saving us from every lack (which isn’t really lack, but opportunity to ask and receive from God—See Matthew 7:8 & 21:22), God draws us deeper into fellowship with Him—the fellowship that He desires and that we need. Everything—everything—in existence depends upon Saving Grace—Jesus. While infants are born into a life of grace, the more mature must continue relearning so.
When Satan subtly planted the seed of doubt in Adam and Eve’s minds regarding God’s goodness to them, they chose separately to tend the fear that doubt produced. In doing so, they reaped destruction upon themselves and the world. Their lack of commitment to live according to God’s Words enslaved them to lives of toil, pain and shame. Still, God’s commitment to mankind never wavered.
Even in our doubt today, we are blessed by a God who is fully committed to accomplishing the highest good for all, which includes every individual’s singular wellbeing. God’s necessary faithfulness to His own righteousness holds the world together in Christ Jesus, despite every unfaithful act of the world at large. In using the nails that held Jesus to the Cross, God proved His commitment. He proved Himself the Consummate Provider, meeting every need with His personal Sacrifice. This is the committed care into which God births us.
“He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
When I was lying on the church floor, unable to get up, I had a singular viewpoint: my own. I lacked God’s knowledge, understanding and perspective. But later, in His commitment to change that, God expanded my vision to enable me to see the situation from a point of view that is more in line with His. Zooming in initially on me, in order to meet me where I was, God then panned out, as with a camera, to show me the bigger picture of which I am a part.
The floor, to which God had stuck me and from which I could not separate myself, is part of the entire church (the body of Christ in this world and His Bride in the next)… which is connected by its foundation (Jesus) to the entire world… which is connected to the entire natural universe… which is connected to all of Creation, both the natural and supernatural alike… which is of its Creator: God.
As bizarre as my experience seems by this world’s accounting, it was right on target, exactly as God had aimed for it to be. God gave me exactly what I needed: assurance of His firm hold on me, despite any evil suggestion that tries to lead me into doubting otherwise.
Trusting God is not a difficult task. When we awaken in the morning expecting that the Earth has continued to rotate while we slept and that the sun will rise, signaling roosters to crow and bees to buzz, we are employing faith that God is holding the universe—Creation—together. We—part of Creation—are inseparable from the totality of God’s plan. We who are in Christ Jesus are more firmly held in plce than are the stars in their galaxies.
When mankind fell from grace and couldn’t right itself, God maintained a firm grip on all of us via Jesus, who would be lifted up upon the Cross for us all. In lying at the foot of the Cross, we are positioned by God to gain right perspective in looking up at Him. From that vantage point alone can we see that we are precisely where we need to be: in the Church Universal… in the Body of Christ… in Provision… in Saving Grace. The inescapable Truth is that, squirm as we may, we can’t stand on our own. We never could, and we never will. Without God raising us to life, we would be down and out by our own lack if ability to raise ourselves.
We need a continual Hand-Up from Jesus, the only One strong enough to maintain our right standing with God. Using His Son’s Blood, God “stuck” Himself to us forever, fulfilling Eternal Promise. His ironclad covenant grip on us in Christ Jesus will never let us go, nor will it ever let us down.
And to those with a limited view who scoff at the power of Jesus’ life-giving Blood, know that its reality is not bizarre in the least, no matter how it may sound to any particular individual..
It is simply plain commitment… pure, eternal commitment—a commodity that is much needed by all the world, no matter what our individual perspectives may be.
“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22, 23)