Last Sunday as I preparing to “preach” the message that the Holy Spirit shared with me at the New Wilmington Mission Conference, a rather mind-blowing, life altering realization came to me. Anyone who knows me knows that getting up in front of a large group of people is way out of my comfort zone. Over the years, God has given me some truly amazing revelations to share with you in my writing, but taking those revelations from the paper, through my introvert brain and out my mouth is a difficult task indeed.
If I was going to present this message in a somewhat intelligible manner, I was going to have to keep the anxiety and self-doubt at bay which unfortunately is like trying to hold the ocean back with a spoon. As I was going through my morning routine of getting ready and out the door, God and I had a frank conversation about this. Then came a moment when I was able to perfectly articulate exactly why I was feeling so anxious—God had given me beautiful words and I so desperately wanted them to be beautiful when they came out of my mouth and I just didn’t see that being possible. God’s reply—these words can only be beautiful when you speak them because I gave them to you in your own voice. (Like I said….mind-blowing!!!!)
Instantly, the anxiety and self-doubt evaporated and God’s peace and confidence filled my being. I arrived at the church a half hour early and was so calm and collected that a friend who knows me well was puzzled at my very obvious lack of anxiety and insecurity. The morning went well and the Holy Spirit did indeed share beautiful words of hope and discipleship with those in attendance.
The peace and confidence God filled me with continued throughout the day. Instead of anguishing over whether or not I did a good enough job or analyzing every moment of the morning to find the faults or thinking of things I should have said, I left it all behind at the Sanctuary door and enjoyed the rest of my day. I even forgot about it by evening. (That’s never happened!)
On Monday I received the following bible verse in my email:
I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. 1 Corinthians 1:4-5 (NLT)
I smiled and thanked God for the affirmation.
On Tuesday, I had some devotion time in the morning. I had just started reading 1 Corinthians and opened my bible to pick up where I left off—with chapter 2.
1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power. 1 Corinthians 2:1-16 (NIV)
I read the first five verses and realized why I didn’t need to worry about whether or not my words made a difference two days earlier because it was never my words or my delivery that were going to touch the hearts of those in attendance but God’s power, and he never fails.
I love how Peterson says it in The Message: 3-5 I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it—and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else.
When I got to work that morning, I found a gift left for me in the door from a friend who “saw it and thought of me.” It’s a colorful little word portrait that says:
He will make you a Blessing!
He will LOVE YOU forever!
He will TAKE CARE of you!
He will Never Leave you!
Did my friend give this to me because this is what I needed to hear and know in my heart? After all, this is the very thing my friend ends us having to remind me of often. Or is it that this is the message God brings to those around me through the example of my life and faith. God has made me a blessing to family, friends, neighbors, coworkers and the occasional stranger. I have no doubt that God’s love expressed in Jesus’ sacrifice and in the presence of his Holy Spirit in my heart and my life are all the proof I need of his never ending love for me. When my whole life is turned upside down or just thrown a little off kilter, my confidence in the fact that God will take care of me is the rock I stand on and the peace in my heart that sees me through all the uncertainty. Through it all my experience is that God has never nor will he ever leave me. Even when I leave him, in my disobedience and pride, I can’t turn around without finding him right there with me.
Maybe the one thing we are supposed to teach others about God is the one thing we need to learn over and over again in our own lives. Maybe that’s the message God wants to share through us in our own voice. Every failure, every fear, every heartbreak is the start of a wonderful parable in which God shares with me and those around me the wonderful mystery of his grace and power. I don’t need to worry about what I will say or how I will say it because he is specifically speaking through me and my life to share his incredible message of love and redemption in a way that can only come from me. What an awesome thought!