Had a fair few views of my blog yesterday, and, without wanting to bore you with it, I just wanted to add something important. I’ve posted on Facebook today a clip of a video featuring Rick Warren (who, you might know, had his 27-year-old drug addict son commit suicide recently), Oprah Winfrey, and Nick Vujicic, whom I’m sure many of you will have seen – he was born with no arms and no legs, but has become an inspiration to millions. (https://www.facebook.com/pbennison1?ref=tn_tnmn)
My hope is that, if you read yesterday’s blog, there was nothing in it that came across as boastful to you: or ‘look how much I’ve suffered and lost’. That wasn’t – isn’t – my intention. I’m not writing this because anyone’s reacted to it, just that, last night, I didn’t sleep a lot, certainly not until very late, and I thought about things that I could have written. Probably best I didn’t, in that blog, as it was quite long anyway! What I hope came across, and what I wanted to get across, is effectively what is in the Oprah/Rick/Nick video clip: that everything we do, have, become, achieve, is not to do with how we were raised, the misfortunes of our lives, the problems we’ve had: it’s all to do with NOW – and the choices that we make.
Some people, like those devastated folk in Moore, Oklahoma, had everything, including loved ones, ripped away from them in an instant. Mostly, that’s not going to happen to the majority of us. But when Jesus talked about ‘if you want to save your life, you’ll lose it: but if you’re willing to lose your life for my sake, you’ll find it’ (Matt 10:39, 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; John 12:25) is to do with choice: how we respond if we’re IN a situation like Moore, OK, or like Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad, or simply the choice we make to the challenged God gives ALL of us, to preserve our lives, or be willing to lose everything.
A number of people have said/spoken over me/prophesied to me, that what has happened has been right: I don’t see myself as a bold, courageous person at all. A number have said that it really is a ‘Job’ situation: one had a dream, seeing Satan go to God, asking to have a go at me. I don’t see myself in any way in Job’s category. From a family of shy, non-world-travelling people, it wouldn’t have been my choice to do what I’m doing, or find myself today, sitting in a rented house, having travelled (and again, this isn’t a boast, it’s a statement of awe) to 105 countries in the last 26-27 years, some of those multiple times (I’ve been to Romania 126 times, and when I go to Colombia with Alan & Barbara in July, it will be my ‘golden anniversary’ trip – 50th time – there. That astonishes me. It’s not because I CAN do it, it’s because, somewhere in the past, I made a choice: ‘God, I’ll do it, however stupid it seems to me and others’…
In 1983, when I’d been with Youth for Christ full-time for four years (about 9 years in all including spare time), and God said, sell the house, go to Bible School, it was ludicrous. Three kids, 4½, 3, and 18 months old. People told me I was stupid, irresponsible, God didn’t say/do things like that. I KNEW that, in my head: but what I knew in my spirit was that the choice was made, and that there was no way back.
So often, we want a ‘way back’ left open, just in case. That isn’t losing your life: that’s protecting your interest, just in case what God says ISN’T true, or that he DOESN’T keep his promises. Within 4 years, I was in China: delivering Bibles to pastors, which scared the crap out of me, if I’m honest. The first time, going through the New Territories in Hong Kong, Shenzen, on the train to Guangzhou, I wished I’d got a nappy on.Standing in the immigration and customs lines (this was 1987, so it might be a bit different now), I was petrified. All of my ‘team’ got through. And I met the pastor I mentioned yesterday, 22 years in a coal mine: the other, 18 years in a cesspool, and countless others, who’d paid a price, and knew a God, I had no idea about. They KNEW a God I’d never met at that stage: they LIVED in miracles, salvation in the tens of thousands every day….and they told me, ‘we never have a prayer not answered’. I wanted to know THAT God…..
In Samuel’s church, one night, in a meeting in his home (directly then above the Security Police Station!), with 1,000 people in two relatively small rooms (500 upstairs, 500 down), he introduced me to two elderly ladies. I did the polite ‘Chinese’ thing, and shook hands with them, smiled and bowed a lot, and kept repeating the only two Cantonese words I knew – hello, and thank-you (maybe that’s three words!). When I asked Samuel why he’d singled them out for me to meet, he told me that the first had been dead for 4 days, the second for 7 days…. when you’ve shaken hands with two ex-dead people, something happens inside you, not just in your head.
I came away from that first visit, saying ‘God, I HAVE to see these things happen. I HAVE to see the dead raised. I don’t care what it costs me, PLEASE, do it…’. Twenty years later, 10 dead people prayed for, who remained dead. (Doing that scared the life out of me, as, since my dad had died, I’d had a crippling fear of dead bodies). The 10th, a friend, in Cali, Colombia: Lisandro, 45 years old, died with cancer. A lot of praying for him soon after his death was interrupted by a meeting (I’ll NEVER again let meetings interrupt what God wants to do, since that evening!). When I got back to him, he was in the funeral home, embalmed, in a sealed coffin.
God told me to do what Wigglesworth had done on at least one occasion. Get him out of the coffin. There were many members of his family there, and lots from his church, all grieving, obviously. I couldn’t do it. I compromised as best I could manage, and got the coffin opened, laid my hands on him, but of course, nothing happened. I’d made my CHOICE. I couldn’t do what God wanted me to do because of my own fear of looking stupid, and offending the family. The next morning he was buried, and, at his funeral, I told God I couldn’t do this ‘stuff’ anymore. I can’t tell you how much I wept. But God just kept saying, ‘Yes, you can: you’re seated with me in heavenly places, and nothing is impossible’ – over and over again, to me, and that there was NO WAY BACK….
A few years later, in a boiling hot hospital ward – it was 45C OUTSIDE and no air conditioning inside, so probably about 55C, God did what he’d promised to do, through ALL of us, if we will take the risk. This time, it was to ‘do an Elisha with the Shunnamite woman’s son’. I knew I had no option. After about 30 minutes (fortunately NOT the same as Elisha there!!), God told me to leave. I knew I had no option. As I moved away from the 4-year-old Andres (he’d died with cerebral malaria), his chest ventilated and he coughed. All I wanted was to see him get up and run around, but God had other ideas. In tears, I walked out, asking God, ‘Why?’ His answer? ‘I didn’t want, with the first one, that you might ever say “I raised someone from the dead”‘. I didn’t: God did. Three evenings later, a visiting prophet to the city, called me to the front in the meeting, and said, ‘God says to you that the dead IS raised, you were there, you were part of it, you did your part, and there will be many more…’ I exploded with tears and snot….
CHOICE. Would I choose to be a retired ex-bank manager, with a big pension, a big house, playing golf (perhaps!), holidays in the Maldives….or am I happy to sit here today, looking forward to getting, in 5 years’ time (65 years old then!), £10 a week pension from my bank? I’m SO glad that there’s no way back, and NO, I wouldn’t choose anything other than what I have, right now….