This is a story of God’s Grace, faithful and True
He is here. He is happy. Generally speaking.
The Rebel Surrenders.
But it has not been an easy trip, the gracious Lord has put him through many fiery furnaces of affliction and refinements of the soul, and they were all worth the limited torments for the end value that was received — a little at a time over a period of many years. But “fiery furnace of refining” is no small event to experience. Those eventualities at the times of their taking place felt literal to him and not figurative. But the Lord was steadfast in His stubborn promise that He would never leave nor forsake him, even in cauldrons of refining the gold, silver, whatever He was working to purify in the Rebel’s soul.
The following is one incomplete example of picking up our cross and following Him daily. Here, to clarify, picking up our cross isn’t agony — it’s ecstasy for what it signifies in fellowship with Christ and the healing that results. But the event that brings us to the point of needing to pick it up, can be very dire, serious, and critical to our overall well being. And often brought about by ones own lack of needful understanding — thus the lifelong process afforded us for the Savior’s purpose of change and refinements in thinking and behaviors within our very soul.
This experience is just one critical event for illustration, for the Rebel thought he was irreparable during this time.
For background: The Rebel’s mother first told him about God and Jesus, God’s Son when he was four years old, and when she did his heart leapt within him. He wanted to “see” Him. The Rebel wanted to know this person! She explained that He was spirit, He wasn’t see-able in the physical, which made perfect sense to him for some reason, and didn’t need further explaining. And he never forgot the God who watched over him and never doubted His existence. He confessed his faith in Christ before the church congregation when he was twelve years old, and was baptized. When he confessed his faith before the congregation he thought he was set, he had to do nothing more, and the Lord would receive him at the end of his life on earth, having received no further instruction or discipling. However, he didn’t fully surrender his life into the hands of our Savior until he was thirty-five young years old. And that during a lengthy conversation with the Lord in prayer — it was set-his-will-like-flint total, no-looking-back, commitment.
Although he had surrendered his life to Him completely and had kept that commitment, he stumbled many times for lack of knowledge and misunderstandings. Some years down the road he took a headlong dive into alcoholism for a relatively short time of five years, but he was down and couldn’t lift himself out of it without Help.
Alcoholism is a disease. But it’s not a disease as described by the American Medical Association. It’s a disease of the soul. Now, the Rebel is an alcoholic for Christ – in recovery eighteen years, but he never forgets that it is a substance that he must always say no to, forevermore.
The Rebel was a Christian, consciously following Christ when he took a turn and went sideways. He suddenly developed a taste for alcohol. He was in a Christian marriage, active in his church, and had a genuine love for the Lord – up to the point that he understood his relationship with Him. The Rebel became a little fearful when he discovered how little he did know about the Lord and His ways. He had Him wrapped-up in a neat and tidy little box, but was willing to increase the size as he gained more knowledge. And as He is spirit, not physical, he thought that should be fine with Him. It was, after all, a very attractive little box.
He had heard that God is a gentleman and will always ask our permission before He takes something away from us. But he didn’t remember His saying a word to him when He began shaking and stretching that little cubicle called ‘his theology’. His marriage was coming unglued, he was confused, and God was out of the box and growing huge right before his nonplussed, panic-stricken eyes. How could a rebel like him possibly commune with a God this big? So he did what any normal man, not in his right mind, would do – he ran.
He ran into the Northeast where civilization was sparse. If God was going to communicate with him, He was going to have to initiate the communicating since he no longer knew how.
He hunted and fished and waited – to hear from God. His wife went on with the divorce – and he waited. He drank and he hunted and he fished – and waited. He consumed alcohol to ease the fear and pain. The alcohol dulled the pain and it took the position of replacing God’s peace until God could catch up to him – he thought. He was sure God would catch up with him sooner or later.
After about two years, he moved south to civilization and went back to work in his profession, but still he inebriated himself during off hours – and he waited. This lasted for a year when he quit his job and devoted his time to alcohol – and waiting. He began exercising the practice of contemplating — and even planning — his own demise, his self-inflicted exit from this world. Then quite unexpectedly Christ communicated with him in a dream. This just doesn’t happen outside the Old Testament, he told himself. But he couldn’t deny it was real. The Savior pointed him in the direction he must follow. The Rebel was ecstatically joyful in a way he hadn’t experienced in a very long time. Not by the direction He gave to him, but that He lovingly reassured him he was still His, and he was hearing from Him once again.
Within the week he admitted himself into an in-patient Christian faith-based alcohol/drug addiction program for one year. After completion he stayed and went on-staff as an addictions counselor and counseled others through that dark forest, as well as teaching Bible classes in regular chapel services. That plus occasional preaching from the pulpit, for fourteen years. This came about as he had been ordained by the Mission church as a Minister of the gospel of Christ, which requested his cordial welcome by all Christian churches everywhere – learning all the while just how great God’s Grace truly is. Some who he counseled asked him if he believed God had delivered him from alcohol. He told them yes, and he would remain delivered just as long as he never took another drink. He learned when we follow God’s direction we have to be willing –even when it’s hard – we have to be willing to follow. The Rebel followed the Savior in His leading and it’s been very good – very good, indeed. And he continues to follow Him.
When the Savior saves, he learned, it’s not just a one-time thing. He keeps on saving that we may persevere to the end. He leads and we follow, even though our path is somewhat serpentine compared to His – we follow Him by His Grace, by His strength, His guidance, His wisdom, His leading. Yet in His Grace and Mercy He gives us the credit. What an Amazing and Awesome and truly Loving God, Almighty God, our Savior, Jesus Christ is to us! The God of Grace and all tender mercies.
Where can I go from your Spirit? where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Psalm 139: 7-12
–Yes, the Rebel is happy, and content now, in his “retirement” and has time to reflect over his life journey to this point, and ready to experience what the rest of the journey and service to the Lord may bring — after all — it’s not finished yet. There is more to come. And our Lord of Mercy and Savior, Jesus Christ is not done with him yet. Whether here or there his service is to Christ Jesus, Almighty God in Christ! And the Rebel is now a rebel for Christ!
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father!
Yes — that’s it.