I sat quietly in the circle, hoping no one would notice me, or think about why I hadn’t spoken out. Me–the extrovert who gets into an elevator and says “Now the reason I’ve called this meeting,..” The one with the bling, who loves color, jewelry that is too heavy to wear–the one who is so much like the mother I was so ashamed of! Yeah, that one. In this instance, the quiet one. The one who wasn’t going to speak.
Circumstances compel us to act in certain ways at certain times, did you know that? You may be the life of the party when there’s no pressure, but when everyone is listening–and assessing what is being said in comparison to how they see you live on a daily basis–then you become someone else. Perhaps someone meek. Someone quiet. That was me in this circle.
It had been such a fun morning! We had been invited for brunch at the home of one of those “Southern Living” houses–you know the kind, where the hostess takes things you’ve thrown out, puts a vine around it, and everyone dies for the décor. Where she looks like she’s spent seven weeks cooking for the group of friends, and has burned nothing (I can’t relate. When I turn on the oven or stove top, my smoke alarm beeps just out of habit). Where you can put on a white glove and run your finger around the bottom of her commodes (multi-bathrooms, not several in one) and it still comes up white. Mine would be … well, we won’t go there.
The reason for the celebration? A new baby? A shower? An engagement party? No. New car, new house, new job? Nope. Someone who had been on “skid row” for years had come to the Lord (the Christianese is “being saved”) for salvation, and it was a happy time for all of us who had prayed for so long that they repent of their sins and put their hand in the Hand of the One who holds all things together. It was one of those times, the Bible says, when the angels in heaven rejoice!
Until. The hostess thought it would be a great witness to go around the room and tell our particular story of how we came to ask the Lord to save us. The reasoning was that there would be experiences that could be pulled upon when crises (plural) hit, and that even though we do go through rough times, the “righteous falls seven times but gets back up.” (Proverbs 24:16.)
I sat like a stone, listening. Joe had been on drugs, alcohol–the whole street scene. His wife had gone to church, gotten saved, and begged him to come. Long hair, camouflage gear, hiking boots, dirty, smelly, he decided to get her off his back so he would go with her–ONE time. Where did they sit? The front row. Can you imagine the ones sitting around them, who had to hold hankies to their noses for the hour? But he listened. He got saved. He actually went on to seminary and became a pastor! Wow–what a testimony!
Then someone told of Jennifer: a young girl who was saved, but had prayed hard that God would use her to impact her friends. Her family was involved in an accident, hit by a truck at over 80 mph, and she was thought to be dead. She has now been witnessing with a boldness of the Apostle Paul for almost ten years! What encouragement! Tons of exciting testimonies.
When it came to the point where people were winding down, everyone looked at me. Anyone who was my age, who loves to dress “sassy” (as my friends say), who never holds back–why certainly I would have a story of conversion that would go off the charts. But I didn’t. I sat there, knowing God would not bless something that was exaggerated, made up, was just a good story, or anything but the basic truth. And then it hit me: I seldom share my story because it is not flamboyant, interesting, or awe-inspiring! Suddenly, I realized, I had been blessed with the sweetest story of all.
I was raised in a home where my earliest (VERY earliest) memories were of my mom standing on the platform with her guitar singing the old “Stamps Baxter” songs (Google them). This was the guitar that I later tried to see if the broom handle would fit in that “S” figure on the top. It didn’t. She cried so hard that she couldn’t even discipline me, but made my dad do it when he got home and she was still crying. I still have the guitar but she’s playing a harp in heaven and singing like an angel. She sang at funerals, weddings, wherever the Lord moved her. She didn’t have a great voice, but she loved Him with her whole heart.
Whenever we ate, there was always grace. Daddy prayed at breakfast, Mother prayed at supper. We went to every church service, helped with every need we could afford (which wasn’t many), and the church was our social life. You see, at that time, in their history, there were two types of people: the ones whose life revolved around the church, and the rest. Ours revolved around the church. I helped in the nursery from the time I could hold a baby, started playing the piano at thirteen (with tons of mistakes), and talked to the Lord. Oh, I didn’t have my theology correct: I remember wishing on the first star at night: as soon as I saw it, I would ponder all I knew, what all I wanted. Eventually my “wish” was always the same: that everyone in the world be saved. How old was I? Seven, maybe? Eight? But somehow at that young age, I knew in my heart that if they were, there would be “peace on earth.”
I never remember a time when I didn’t believe with my whole heart that God was in His heaven, and all was right with the world. Eventually I realized He had sent His only Son to die for those of us who just couldn’t get it right–but we still had to pay for our sins. So what did He do? He paid them for us! And I believed that–and asked Him into my heart. Did I rebel? You bet. Later–decades later–I couldn’t stand responsibilities I had brought on myself, and decided to try life the world’s way. THAT should have been my testimony–but that wouldn’t be the story of my conversion but of my backsliding. No, I couldn’t do that. Afterwards, when I had returned to Him, I could only look back and know that, although I had tried the sinful pleasures of the world for a season, I had never not believed He was my savior. Even when I was faithless, He was faithful.
So I started my story: my being raised in a Christian home, knowing from my earliest memories that God was my Savior, being baptized, and walking with Him. So very unlike the other, grandiose stories that were being told! But I realized, as I told it, it would be like talking today–in the midst of a world that has gone haywire with divorces, mixed marriages, and living together without commitments,–of being born and growing up in a home with the two parents who conceived you, and raised you to adulthood; a blessing that is so extraordinary today as to be abnormal. It is my story, and I need to be thanking God for the simplicity of it, and the blessings in it, rather than focusing on the lack of drama.
Is that you? Are you rather embarrassed because your story isn’t flamboyant? Full of drama? Thank the Lord for His grace toward you! Now take your story and bless someone else with it. Look for the sermon preached at Thomas Road Baptist Church on Sunday, March 12, and settle in for a time of worship and praise! After you’ve heard the sermon, go to the study notes below, and ponder a little deeper into ways you can be a witness to those you know who need the Lord. If you have a friend, ask them to join you, and study and discuss it together. But get your notebook, something warm to drink on this cold day, and click on http://www.trbc.org/sermon; click on “Story Taker,” and give God your week!
Storytellers: “Story Takers” Matt Matt Willmington
Was there an exciting story or piece of information (ball game, book, movie, etc.) that you shared with someone this week? Did you think to examine why you did this?
Last week we looked at one of the stories in the New Testament, applying principles to help us share the story of our salvation with people we meet. Today we are going to look at exactly what that story should look like, and where we can share it. If you are with friends, discuss the study; if you are alone, get your notebook and keep a record of your answers, so that you can see growth in your life as you walk with Him!
Focal Passage: Matthew 9:1-13, Mark 2:1-17
Think About or Discuss:
What Is the Story? There are usually both “bad” parts and “good” parts in any story.
- What is the best part of God’s story? (John 3:16) He loves you!
- What is bad about your story? (Rom. 3:10, 23) You deserve punishment.
- What did God do for you? (1 Pet. 3:18) Jesus paid it all!
- What does He offer you? (Rom. 10:13, Eph. 2:8, 9) The free gift of salvation.
- What is God’s promise? (Rom. 8:38,39) Eternal life with Him.
TAKE PEOPLE TO JESUS
- Read Mark 2:1-12. What were some of the anxieties these four friends had for their paralytic comrade? What was their major concern?
- Why were they determined to get him to Jesus?
- Are you so concerned about your friends, that you will take them where they can hear the gospel? If it’s not your responsibility, whose is it?
TAKE JESUS TO PEOPLE
- Read Matt. 9:9-13 and Luke 5:28-29. What are several reasons that made Jesus’ action of calling Matthew uncommon?
- What were three immediate responses of Matthew to Jesus’ call? What was courageous about him calling his “IRS” friends?
- If you knew your story would bring this result so quickly, would you run to tell it to everyone?
TAKE JESUS’ BURDEN
- Read Matt. 9:35-38. What is your main concern when meeting a friend whom you feel is not saved? Do you stay away from the subject of eternity? What are some things Jesus felt and some things He did?
- What are some things you can do for unsaved friends?
- Only you know if you have been changed by God. If you have, then realize your story is simple: 1) God loves you; 2) You were a sinner who deserved to be punished; 3) Jesus paid your sin debt with His death on the cross; 4) You have been given full pardon for your sins the moment you ask Him to save you; 5) You will spend eternity with Him!
- Be committed to having a team of friends pray for lost loved ones or those you are burdened for, and work to bring them to where they can hear the gospel; know God wants them to be saved, and praise Him for any opportunity;
- Invite friends to your home for a meal at a time when other Christians will be there; dig deep to find courage to be hospitable, despite what others may say;
- Serve those who are in need at every opportunity! Have compassion on the lost, and pray that God will surround those you have a burden for with Godly people.
- Share your story at every opportunity!
Our story is unique: it is ours, and no one else will have the same experience. Does it bother you that you can’t think of a time, a moment, or an instance when you became a child of God? Perhaps that was not meant to be your story but someone else’s! Were you changed in some way? Probably. It is hard to get used to witnessing, but recent statistics show that even in one’s home, only about 3% of children and grandchildren know the testimony of their parents. Does that convict you? That would be a great place to begin telling your story! The only thing you will take to heaven are the souls whom you lead to Jesus Christ. Don’t you want those to be your family, friends or your circle of influence? Pray diligently that God would multiply your faith this year, and burden you with two or three that you can pray persistently for, with heartfelt compassion and love. You cannot save them, but you can introduce them to the Savior.
Memory Verse: Matt. 9:38: “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”