It Works!! It Works!!
July 16, 2014
Jennifer Hagler Photography
By Laura DiFatta
“I’m amazed at the lack of faith.
I’m amazed at the love we rejected.
I’m amazed that we accepted this place.”
–My Morning Jacket, song titled: “I’m Amazed”
A while back, I read a story that went like this: “Once I asked a parachutist, ‘How did you feel when you jumped from the airplane with a parachute on your back for the first time?‘ He answered, ‘There was only one thought: it works, it works!!
What does it mean to go through life with Jesus? I can answer from experience, “It works, it works!”
A few years ago, my husband and I went on a vacation to St. John, USVI. It was like being in a postcard from paradise. I have never been to a more beautiful place. One of the wonderful things we enjoyed about the island is that we could go to many of it’s beautiful beaches and be the only people on the beach or two of only a handful. One day, at mid-afternoon, after snorkeling several hours that day already, we decided to go across the island to a particular beach known for it’s nurse shark population. After hiking for about a mile and reading several “No lifeguards! Enter the water at your own risk!” signs, we arrived at the beach. It was isolated and had a unique beauty in comparison to the others. There were only two other people there when we arrived. This beach was comprised of small rocks and bits of coral. It had a clearly defined, wide harbor with two of it’s sides being rocky, craggy and steep. The surf crashed upon these harbor sides like scenes from a movie set on a deserted island. Unlike the other beaches we had snorkeled whose coral reefs were only a few yards off-shore, the must-see reef was about 100 yards from the beach and at least 50 yards from each side of it’s harbor and it was just at the yawning opening of the harbor at it’s opening into the sea. The water was also choppier here. Filled with an adventurous spirit that overtook my normally over-cautious personality, we set out. After going about 50 yards, I began to feel fatigued. I quickly realized that any way I turned, I had to swim at least 50 yards to reach land. I had underestimated the current’s strength and my own fatigue/weakness while overestimating my abilities. Panic began to set in. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was in trouble and I felt very alone. (As an aside, I knew then and I know now that my husband would do anything for me including risk his own life, but he was way ahead of me toward reaching the reef and I didn’t want to waste my limited energy screaming.) I made a decision to swim toward one of the rocky cliffs. And do you know what I started doing? You better believe it!! I started praying! And the 23rd Psalm began flowing through my mind. The Psalm gave me a mental fixed point that helped to keep the feeling of panic–that was threatening to choke me– from rendering me helpless. At some point, Ken realized something was wrong and I heard him yelling, “you’re swimming the wrong way!” I looked up and sure enough, the current had pulled me toward the open sea, not toward my destination!! I screamed in my mind, “Oh, God!! Only You can save me!” I turned and swam with all my might with renewed intensity toward the closest shore. I only stopped when I heard Ken yell again, “you’re going to hit that rock!” I looked up just in time to see and grasp onto a huge rock formation that rose above the surface of the water just off-shore that I hadn’t seen before. I was saved!! I didn’t care that it was covered with sea urchins, I didn’t care that the surf was banging me against it while I was holding on and catching my breath. I just knew this: I was not going to drown.
Have you ever felt like difficult circumstances in life just might overwhelm you? You may have felt like you just might not make it through. When we feel like this the temptation can be to flail, to panic and to feel very alone and helpless. What we each need is a rock, a firm place to stand. We need to remember “I am not alone.” God’s Word is that rock that I clung to when I thought I was about to drown. You see, because of God’s great love, I can say–along with the psalmist, “When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,‘ your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” (Psalm 94:18-19, italics, mine) I say with confidence about my Lord: “He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” (Psalm 40:2) My confidence, the reason I have hope in this life–whether in crisis or in the everyday stuff–is because of Jesus and what He did for me. He did what I could never do for myself.
It is important to understand this: God’s standard is perfection. Because any sin violates His perfect standard, we could never, no matter how “good” we try to be, (and believe me, I have tried) meet that standard. God is holy, I am not. You are not. But, God…knew. He knew and so He sent His Son, Jesus, out of His great love. Jesus lived a perfect life, died the death we deserved–taking our sin and punishment and rejection onto Himself–so that we could be made right with God through faith in Him–that is, accepting what He did for us. And so, I have chosen Christ. I have set my feet upon that Rock. He achieved my standing with God and he maintains it. The joy I have is an undercurrent in this life only because I can daily celebrate what He did for me! My relationship, my standing with God, is firm and secure. It is rock-solid, because of Jesus.
Honestly, I am amazed at the reasons I have heard for the rejection of a relationship with God. I have lived long enough to hear many. They often revolve around fear, pride and anger. But, Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full.” He offers Himself as our forgiveness, our Reconciler, our burden-bearer. He calls Himself our Rock, the Lover of our souls. I’m amazed at what we accept in His place. We each place deep faith in something or someone. Faith for the fulfillment of our lives and the salvation of our souls that is not in Jesus, is grasping onto something that just won’t save. That faith is misplaced.
When I lifted my head up as I swam for my life and saw that rock inches from my face and grabbed onto it for dear life, great relief washed over me because I knew my life was saved. That does not compare to the daily knowledge that I am never without hope, that God has accepted me– not because of my performance– but because I accepted the One He gave to save me: Jesus! He is great at Rescue! In fact, He specializes in it! When I saw the rock in St. John, I didn’t say, “Naaa, I’d rather have a boat.” No!! I grasped that rock and held on with every fiber of my being!
I invite you to grasp onto Jesus, Who holds His arms out to you! He calls Himself, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (John 14:6) You do not have to be afraid, or clean yourself up before taking His hand! (the Bible says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”) He gave His Life to offer you and me what we can never earn or achieve! Let nothing in this world, no excuse, no fear stand in the way of you seeking Him! “When you seek Him, you will find Him.” And you will find Him…good.
Will you take hold of the Rock of your salvation? He is there. If you have trusted him already, will you join me in remembering that He did not only save you so that you could go to heaven, but that you could enjoy fullness in this life, daily, regardless of your circumstances? I got up today and ran to that Truth. Jesus is proof that you are loved by God. No matter what.
Here is a prayer that you might pray if you are seeking:
“God, I guess I could consider myself a seeker. To be honest, most days, I think I am doing just fine on my own. But there are days, when a darkness from within threatens to overwhelm me and swallow me whole. When I stop long enough to reflect, I realize that there are questions that I can’t answer and needs that I can’t fill. I have fears, disillusionment, confusion and a lot of wants. And I want to bring you a list of my accomplishments, but now I’m told they don’t earn me anything toward my standing with you. To hear that your Son Jesus is the truth and the way and the Life and that he is the only way to peace with you scares me. I really don’t believe that yet. My four pound brain wants you to fit into the box I’ve constructed for you, into my understanding of you. But what if I’m missing it? I feel a longing in my heart toward the idea of you. I’m just beginning to admit that I don’t know. If you are real, relentlessly pursue me and do not let me miss you! I’m told that you give me a choice. If you are real, if your Son did what I read and hear He did for me, please help me choose you. Please, blow my mind with you and help me have this thing called faith…in you.”
“Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His Name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12