“Trey, I’ve never EVER heard from God. I’ve gone to church my whole life. Hell, I’ve been a Christian since I was born. I was confirmed into my church at 12. I’ve tithed, prayed, worshipped, sat through countless sermons on how God moves. Yet, to this day He has never reached out to me. He hasn’t helped me. Seems all that stuff hasn’t done any good. I’m now in the lowest point of my life. God’s obviously not in control of things. Is His will really what’s happening in this forsaken world? I need answers and no one I talk with can't seem to give me anything definitive. I’ve paid my dues and done what I’ve been taught I need to do. Why hasn’t God reached out? I need answers Trey.”
My new friend doused me with these words before I could take my first sip of morning coffee and enjoy my first bite of my Panera cinnamon roll. He had reached out to MPACT through our brotherhood support page on the web site. He was obviously frustrated, confused, concerned and he seemed . . . tired and worn out. I then asked him the simple question I always ask . . . “What’s the rest of your story brother?”
During the next hour I heard of a strong middle class suburban upbringing, a family that frequented church and community events, high level academic achievement, career and financial success and an amazing wife, daughter and son. My new brother was proud of his professional years and how he climbed the corporate ladder and how he grinds it out every day. He hung his hat on how he managed his life so well and checked all the boxes of life. He was proud he was a straightforward guy and always told things like it is, “That’s who I am. I’m hard working and keep things simple. No fluff: I just tell it like it is.”
Now, as the past years of struggle in his career and some bad decision-making resulted in financial and personal setback after setback, he feels like life is slipping out of control, he feels there’s a hole growing inside of him. He began to fill that hole with outside things, primarily alcohol. His wife talks to him less and less as he drinks more and more. She even started drinking to medicate her own pain. They are now contemplating divorce. His teenage daughter and son have noticed their parents decline and have become withdrawn. My friend has isolated himself so much that he just doesn’t want to do the simple things anymore. There’s no motivation to pursue life as he struggles just getting up in the morning. There’s no drive to take chances anymore, no passion for his wife or desire to just sit down and have serious, real discussions about anything in life.
“I was THE MAN Trey. I was that guy who walked into the room and was bigger than life. Now it seems I’ve lost it all. Where is GOD . . . for ME! RIGHT NOW Trey, where the Hell is he?! After all my years of trying to be a good Christian, I DESERVE and have a right to know!” My next question for my new friend is the hardest question I ever ask of someone who’s in a similar pit, “Ok, that’s good info. Now . . . What haven’t you told me?”
Yes, there is always more. His lip quivered and a tear came to his eye as he took a deep breath and began purging years of inner turmoil. It turned out he had buried so many things and he is still paying the consequences today. Like with so many other brothers, his list was long, and he wore a mask for years to hide it.
As he purged, I could sense a little weight was being lifted from his shoulders and his mind seemed to clear. Sensing our conversation was moving in a better direction and he was taking off the mask he was hiding behind, I asked him about his revelation of Jesus. After all, he’d been a “Christian since he was born.” He then began an explanation of everything he’d done in church; how often he went, how much he served, how much he gave, how he listened intently to his pastor’s sermons . . . etc. “Yeah brother, that’s great, but again . . . what is your revelation in Christ?”, I asked.
Like me, it seemed my brother hung his salvation cap on a certificate he received from his church when he completed a confirmation course when he was in middle school. He has never really understood his need for Jesus, was never told about who he is in Christ, he’d never heard what Jesus’ blood and resurrection truly meant and the change that happens when a person believes in both. He had never thought about The Holy Spirit for all who believe in Christ and, he had never dived deep into scripture to try to find out about Him and God's promise on his own.
I then asked him if he was sure about never hearing from God. His puzzled look made me smile as I asked, “Who do you think inspired you to reach out to me? Who do you think initiated all of these questions you have? Who do you think gave you the strength to confess so many of your transgressions to me, a relative stranger, just now? What about the birth of your kids, the sunset you enjoyed last night? You’ve had a positive impact on so many over the years as you were “THAT MAN” everyone loved. Who was responsible for that brother? Who do you think gave you the skills and strength to help you raise two amazing children? Yeah, God has always been there and reaching out to you brother, you’ve just been too caught up in what he HASN'T done for you that YOU NEVER NOTICED or acknowledged Him. You’ve constantly relied on your 5 senses to experience God and you’ve failed. Fo you know why? Because Jesus isn’t about what you can see, smell, touch, taste or hear. HE . . . IS . . . SPIRIT. Jesus said these very words to Nicodemus; a man trying to figure God out 2,000 years ago, exactly as your narrow mind and blind eyes are trying to figure Him out today. You ever hear the saying 'You’re missing the forest due to just staring at a tree?'"
“The great news for you my friend is that God is speaking to you now, RIGHT NOW brother! Through me, through others that believe and love you, through your children’s eyes as they look at you out of love with concern. They know your struggles. They know your marriage problems. They see your wife hurting. The want their dad back. They want THE MAN back. God is stirring these things in your heart . . . RIGHT NOW! You're search for answers has brought you right where you need to be. You're right in front of Him, but your pride is too big to see Him. Now is the time to wipe away the scales and open your eyes and most importantly, YOUR HEART."
I grabbed his hand as he cried. He said, “Oh my God, you’re right. I’ve just been too self-centered and controlling with everything in my life. I haven't had a conversation like this in years! I need help. I just feel like all I do is fail over and over and then try harder and harder to fix things and then fail again. My marriage, kids and job; I can’t do this by myself.” I now had a tear in my eye as I stared at him and said, “Brother, the one who created you. The one who is TRULY in control, just spoke to you and gave you your first true revelation in Christ. You my friend, just heard from God; and this time . . . you didn’t demand answers; YOU ACTUALY LISTENED. Now, all you have to do is accept His grace and walk out who you are, HIS SON. Get ready brother, the answers to all of your questions will begin coming to you over time. You, my friend, are about to fly! You have Him and brothers to help you grow."
I've had several more cups of coffee with my friend since that day. He and his wife are now seeing a Christian counselor trying to reconcile. They are looking deeper into God's promise through Christ and what their heartfelt belief in what His blood and resurrection did for them. They have a long and difficult journey of healing ahead. But today I sense my friend knows he is not alone.
So, friends, what are your struggles? Do you feel God isn’t a part of what you’re going through? Do you think your struggles define who you are? My answer to you would be, "Are you really looking and listening? The answer, Jesus, is staring at you right now, in the middle of your mess. He wants you to see and listen, RIGHT NOW, just as you are."
Today my prayer is that you look a little deeper beyond what you feel. When you do, you’ll see Jesus is there; His Spirit, in you. He will confirm your need for Him as you have the revelation of why He died on that cross. You will then grow in the understanding that your identity is HIM and HIM alone through your new heartfelt belief in your need for His blood and resurrection. Yes, those struggles don’t define you; JESUS does! So, listen and see Him. Let Him get to work . . .IN YOU!
Thanks for believing in MPACT and our mission of helping everyone discover grace and revelation through Christ. Prayers of peace and strength to you all!