Monday, 2 January 2017

A New Year testimony: God will be with you, wherever you go

Yesterday at church, people gave testimonies of God's goodness over 2016. For me, one of the most amazing things in 2016 was the arrival of our fifth child in April. When we started the year, we did not know whether we would be approved for adoption, of if we were, whether we would wait a long time before being matched. We are very thankful for how things turned out.

But that was not what I spoke about. I spoke about how nine years ago, we were expecting our first child, also a daughter. I reflected about God's faithfulness - about lessons we learnt then, which we carry with us into every day. Sometimes people think that 'testimonies' have to be about major breakthroughs, or healing, or success, or supernatural provision. I wanted to bring a deeper message of hope: that whatever may come, we can be fully confident that God will be with us and be all we could ever need. There were six main points I brought out:

1) Bad things will happen. In 1 Peter, the church are reminded 'do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial that is to try you as though some strange thing happened to you' (1 Peter 4:12). Jesus reminds us that, 'In this world, you will have tribulation'. In part, I was making the point that even as a foreigner, we are not immune to trial (lately, there have been times when I have felt that it is assumed that as a white person we never face trials or loss of any kind). But more than that, it was a reminder that God's word is perfect for all situations, and prepares and equips us for whatever we may face (2 Tim 3:16).

2) We should not worry. Matthew Chapter 6 goes into quite a lot of detail as Jesus tells His followers not to worry about the practicalities of life, not to worry about tomorrow, not to fear. There is no point and it changes nothing. And truth be told, often the thing we worry most about is not the trial which actually takes us by surprise.

3) God's grace is ALWAYS sufficient (2 Cor 12:9). One of the biggest lessons we learnt during our daughter's illness is that God gives enough strength, enough hope, enough peace - at the perfect time when it is needed. It was never that we felt we had sufficient 'in the bank' to draw from. If you had told me before what was to come, I would never have thought we would get through that time. But God proved His perfect love and grace time after time, and gave beyond what we thought possible. Isaiah 43:2 speaks of how, 'WHEN you walk through the flames, I will be with you, WHEN you pass through the rivers they will not overflow you'; not if, WHEN. The promise is true.

4) Our faith is proven genuine. 1 Peter chapter 1 speaks of how 'in this you greatly rejoice, though if need be you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ'. As my daughter faced death, I knew for the first time with complete certainty that my faith was genuine. As I felt I lost everything in the world, heaven was more real to me than ever, and I had no doubt whatsoever. Corrie ten Boon once said, 'I didn't realise Jesus was all I needed until Jesus was all I had'.

5) God's word is proven genuine. For many years we had prayed for the chance to share our faith plainly with those around us, and during the six weeks of her illness (where we were communicating by email since we were far from either our African or European homes) and afterwards, we can be pretty confident that everybody we knew well had heard the gospel. Years later I heard of somebody who became a Christian at her funeral. Even now, I hear people speak of the encouragement and challenge to their faith that her life was.

6) 'All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be' - Psalm 139; these words are on her gravestone. There is no such thing as a life 'cut short'. We all have the number of days God has given us, and responsibility to use those well. God was glorified more through our daughter's three month life than through many much longer lives. It is important to remember that - not to feel wronged or cheated, but to trust entirely.

As I spoke yesterday, and as I write today, I want to encourage you that whatever 2017 brings, God will be with you and will provide all you need.

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