When Bad Luck Is Not Luck

She prayed, “Lord, even though I’ve been walking with you for years now, I feel so spiritually immature. Can You help me mature a little bit more?”

Not hearing anything, she went to sleep.

The next day, everything went fine at work and she forgot about her prayer.  But after work was a different story.

Stopping at Walmart, she couldn’t find most of the things on her list. It was made even worse because she had her two kids with her and they fought the entire time. Trying to rush, she grabbed what few things she could find and got in line to check out. It turned out the only line not moving was the hers. “Just my luck,” she thought angrily.

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Finally getting home, she started dinner. Preparing muffins, she broke an egg only to have it squirt out all over her shirt. She managed to break the second egg into the muffin mix and put the mix in the oven, then went to change her shirt. When she got back, she found the muffins didn’t rise.  More bad luck, she thought.

Frustrated, she took the kids to Pizza Hut, only to find that Pizza Hut wouldn’t honor the coupon she had. Of course they wouldn’t, she thought. Not with the luck I’m having today.

By the time she got back home and put the kids to bed she was so stressed and tired that all she could do was hide in her room and cry.

But then she remembered that God had said to come to Him when she was weary. And she had read that praising Him in the midst of trials was important. So she tried it. After some time, she began to feel better. Although still tired, the stress had left her. She picked up her Bible to read a little before bed and opened to James 1:2-4.  ...trials produce perseverance and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature.

The words struck deep into her heart as she remembered her prayer from the night before. All that bad luck wasn’t luck after all. Amazingly, she had even asked for it.

“Lord,” she prayed with a smile. “Thank You for answering my prayer. I know it’s not over yet, and it’s definitely not the way I would have handled it, but I trust You know best. And thank You for being kind enough to wait until AFTER work to answer it!”

And when she fell asleep, she was still smiling.

Hanging on

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She hung there, grasping the rope with one hand and wondering if she would be able to hang on this time. No matter how hard she had held on in the past, she had always ended up falling off. Her fingers just weren’t that strong.

She looked down. And wish she hadn’t. She already knew what lay below. Rocks strewn around, thorny bushes, putrid water. From experience, she knew the fall would hurt no matter where she landed.

She looked up, grateful to be hanging from the rope rather than down there. It was actually pleasant up here, she thought. Fresh air, blue sky, a sense of peaceful freedom. If only she could hang on.

Her thoughts were interrupted by some people who walked past her as she walked along the beach. She wasn’t really hanging by an rope. Actually, the whole hanging by the rope thing was a picture that had formed in her mind as she contemplated her new level of trust in God’s promises to her and in her growing grasp of her identity in Christ. She felt strong in her faith, peaceful trust that He can and will take care of everything that concerned her. It felt like she was hanging from a spiritual rope and enjoying the fresh air and blue sky. That’s fine for now, she thought. I’m not being tested. What will happen when I am? Will I fall like I’ve done every time in the past?

As you’ve practiced what I’ve told you to do, your fingers have gotten stronger. You can hang on. But if you do fall off,  you will get another chance. One of these times, you will no longer fall.

And she thought of some of the other ropes in her life, the ones she no longer had to fight to stay on: her belief in God, her salvation, and her faith that God will help her accomplish what He calls her to do. But this rope seems so much thicker than those other ropes. Her fingers could barely wrap around it. And she had fallen off this rope more than a few times already.

That’s how you felt when you first tried hanging from those other ropes. But with practice and perseverance, your fingers stretched and grew stronger. The same will happen with this rope.

So she relaxed and hung there in the air, hoping she wouldn’t fall, but confident that if she did, it wouldn’t be the end. With her amazingly patient and faithful God, there is always another chance.

Am I Saved Yet?

After her amazing encounter with Jesus, she read every book she could find about Jesus. From those books, and from some new friends she had made, she learned that, although she was in love with Jesus and told Him that daily, she had never actually responded to an altar call or repentance prayer. So was she saved?

She had been taught at an early age the importance of following rules. There were rules for everything. And now she learned there were rules for being saved. It didn’t matter that she spent time with Jesus every day, talked about Him to everyone she met, and doodled His name in her books.  If she never responded to an altar call, was she saved?

Her church didn’t do altar calls. So she found a friend’s church that did and made plans to attend it. When the altar call was given, the thought of everyone looking at her caused her to panic inside and she froze, unable to make herself get up and walk down that aisle. The preacher said that not going down the aisle was the same as saying no to the Holy Spirit. Full of remorse, she asked God to forgive her.

She talked with her friends and decided to try a smaller church.  Maybe it would be easier with less people. But the same thing happened. And even though she said the sinner’s prayer in her heart as the preacher said it out loud, she knew it wasn’t good enough because a book she had read said that it wasn’t good enough to just think the sinner’s prayer, she had to say it out loud in front of a witness. So she wept silent tears for her weakness, wondering if she would ever be able to get saved.

But she didn’t give up. She continued going to churches and reading books until one day she finally got the courage to make the walk to the front. Trembling so hard she thought she might faint, she repeated the sinner’s prayer with everyone else and went back to her seat.

IMG_20180307_111959575Was she saved? She had read how everyone in the books described all the peace they felt when they got saved. She didn’t feel any different.  Maybe a group prayer wasn’t good enough after all. Maybe that new book she was reading was right – that people should be led to Christ individually.

“Jesus,” she cried out. “Help me figure this out! I want to be saved. I want to be Yours. But I just don’t know how to do it!”

Beginning to get discouraged, she continued reading books, finding more rules and prayers, and following each one each time.

Respond to an altar call. Check.

Repeat the sinner’s prayer. Which one? She had repeated several so maybe she was covered.

Ask Jesus to live in her heart. Did she do this. Quickly she did and checked it off her mental list. Was she saved yet?

Give her life to Jesus and tell Him she would go wherever He wants to send her. OK, this one was harder, but she did, even if that meant moving to Africa and eating bugs. Was she saved yet?

Making Him Lord of her life. What did that mean? Maybe this was the hang up. “Whatever it means, Lord, I agree with it.” Was she saved yet?

Eventually she was so confused, she gave up. Salvation was just not for her, she thought. If God wanted to save her, He would. She wasn’t going to try anymore.

One day, months later, she was singing a praise song, about a group of people who rejoiced in belonging to Jesus, and the realization bloomed inside her that she was one of those people! She had been saved! When – she didn’t know. But that didn’t matter. She now knew who she belonged to. And she had the peace that came with that.

A gentle voice whispered unheard, “Silly girl. Don’t you know you were Mine the first time you told Me you loved Me? The words don’t matter. The place doesn’t matter.  Feelings don’t matter. What matters is your heart. You were saved on that day, and I’m glad you finally believe it.”