Your Story Has Power

May 16 Day 136

Your Story Has Power

Mark Heather’s parents split up when he was a child and he was brought up by his alcoholic mother who beat him. When he was fourteen years old, he stood up to her and said he would not accept the beatings any more. The next day she committed suicide.

From that moment, he was placed in care and became, in his words, ‘pretty nuts really’ – getting into trouble with the police, involved in drugs, and spiralling into an increasingly self-destructive lifestyle.

Mark (now in his 30s) was invited by his girlfriend to Alpha at HTB. On the weekend away, he had a powerful encounter with God. He said, ‘My group leader, Toby, prayed for me, for the Holy Spirit to come – and I knew that it was happening. The experience resulted in me crying uncontrollably.

‘I ran to the pub down the road, grabbed a beer, wandered back and sat in the darkest corner outside that I could find. After sitting quietly, a total comfort enveloped me. I felt total love. I felt part of a family, which is something that I had no way of knowing until then.

‘Crying, I prayed for one more sign. I asked for Toby to come out the door. As I asked, Toby walked through that very door to look for me.

‘God is real and he loves me unconditionally and he is gentle. The Holy Spirit saved me. The Alpha weekend helped me find him. He knew where I was so when I got to the right place, he was waiting.’

Mark’s personal story has had a powerful impact on many people’s lives. Your story may not be as dramatic as Mark’s, but everyone has a story. Whether you were brought up as a Christian or whether you have only been a Christian for a few hours, your story has power.

Tell your story authentically

Proverbs 12:8-17

The proverbs for today cover many different subjects, from taking care of animals (v.10) to overlooking insults rather than showing our annoyance at once: ‘Fools have short fuses and explode all too quickly; the prudent quietly shrug off insults’ (v.16, MSG).

There is one proverb that is specifically on today’s theme: ‘A truthful witness gives honest testimony’ (v.17a). This, of course, has implications for witnesses in court. But also, all of us are witnesses in the sense that we are all in a position to testify about Jesus.

Whether you are on a night out with friends or speaking at the front of a crowd of people in church or elsewhere, there is something very powerful about a person telling their story truthfully, honestly and from the heart.

Lord, help me to tell my story from my heart, with honesty and authenticity.

Tell your story persistently

John 9:1-34

I love the story in today’s passage about the man born blind. First, Jesus expressly repudiates the automatic link between sin and suffering (vv.1–3). The Pharisees assumed that the man was blind because he had been ‘steeped in sin at birth’ (v.34).

Even Jesus’ disciples asked the question that every culture asks: ‘Why is someone born with disability? Whose fault is it – this man or his parents?’ (v.2). Jesus tells them that they are asking the wrong question. He replies, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned… but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life’ (v.3).

Jesus heals this man through his words and his touch. He touches him with deep love and respect. The miracle causes much excitement. Those who know the blind man begin to discuss the matter.

We see how it is always possible to attempt to explain away miracles of healing. When the blind man’s eyes were opened, his ‘neighbours and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No he only looks like him”’ (vv.8–9a).

We see the danger of getting caught up in religious minutiae and missing the whole point. When the man gave his testimony of healing, some responded, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath’ (v.16).

This man simply tells his story over and over again. He does not have the answer for all their complex questions. However, he gives the best answer that you can give when you are asked questions to which you do not know the answer. He simply says, ‘I don’t know’ (v.12).

What I love most is his answer when he finally gets frustrated by all their scepticism and cynical questioning. He tells them he does not know the answer to all their questions, ‘But one thing I do know, that whereas I was blind before, now I see’ (v.25, AMP).

As his eyes are opened, so too are his heart and his mind. He begins by knowing ‘The man they called Jesus’ (v.11). Then he sees him as ‘a prophet’ (v.17) ‘from God’ (v.33). Finally, he believes he is ‘the Son of Man’ and worshipped him (v.38).

This is the power of the testimony. It is an almost unanswerable way of dealing with objections: ‘Before I was like this… and now I am like this… This is the difference that Jesus has made to my life.’

Telling your story is still one of the keys to communicating your faith in the modern world as it was here in the New Testament.

Lord, thank you for the power of the stories of those who say, ‘I was blind but now I see’ (v.25). May there be many more who can testify about encountering you, having their eyes opened and being healed.

Tell your story humbly

Ruth 1:1-2:23

Real love is often hard, inconvenient and costly; but true happiness only comes to those who care about others at some cost to themselves.

The book of Ruth is a story of two widows and a farmer in a remote village. It is a wonderful contrast to the previous book of Judges. While the context of the two books is identical (Ruth is set ‘in the days when the judges ruled’, 1:1), the content of the two books is very different.

While Judges recounts a catalogue of evil and upheaval because ‘everyone did as they saw fit’ (Judges 21:25), the book of Ruth is a wonderful story of loyalty, faithfulness and kindness – all the more impressive for taking place in this period of strife. Furthermore, while Judges looks at the big picture of the nation of Israel during this period, the book of Ruth is focused on a specific family.

It is a reminder to us that the God of the universe and of history is also the God of all the little details in your life. He is not just almighty and powerful, but he is also your Father who is intimately concerned with you. Your life and all the details matter to God. Your life counts.

The book of Ruth reminds us of God’s care, provision and faithfulness in the little pieces of our life.

Naomi was more concerned for Ruth than for herself. Naomi wanted Ruth to return home so that she might have a better chance of remarrying and Naomi is prepared to lose Ruth for the sake of Ruth’s happiness (Ruth 1:8–13). Ruth’s love for Naomi was equally unselfish and self-giving.

She is quite prepared not to get married again. She shows extraordinary loyalty to her mother-in-law. She says, ‘Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God – not even death itself is going to come between us!’ (vv.16–17, MSG).

Boaz was also a God-fearing person. He had heard of Ruth’s reputation. She was not only loyal and faithful – she was extremely hard working (2:7). Someone must have testified about her. Boaz says, ‘I’ve heard all about you – heard about the way you treated your mother-in-law after the death of her husband, and how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and have come to live among a bunch of total strangers’ (v.11, MSG).

Furthermore, Ruth had obviously testified about her own faith in God, for Boaz knows that she is committed to ‘God, to whom you’ve come seeking protection under his wings’ (v.12, MSG).

Boaz then shows extraordinary kindness to Ruth. Ruth says to her mother-in-law, ‘The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz… He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead’ (vv.19–20).

Lord, thank you for the example of loyalty, kindness and faithfulness. Help me to be like that. Help us as a community to be a people known for our loyalty, kindness and faithfulness.

Pippa Adds

Ruth 1:1–2:23

What a relief to read the story of Ruth after all the terrible behaviour of the people in the last chapters of the book of Judges. Here we encounter a calm, rather idyllic life where everybody is honest, kind and reliable. The relationship between Naomi and Ruth is an extraordinary one of love and loyalty, setting the standards very high for the mother and daughter-in-law relationship.
 

 

Verse of the Day

‘Fools have short fuses and explode all too quickly;
    the prudent quietly shrug off insults’ (Proverbs 12:16, MSG).

References

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.