It is remarkable to note in the Bible how little time Jesus spent talking with people about their past. He was more interested in their future. When the woman taken in adultery was brought to him, he did not explore the circumstances that had pushed her to her fall. He simply took her by the hand, lifted her up, and said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
And when Nicodemus came to him under the cover of night, shackled by an impossible legalism, Jesus didn’t ask him how he got that way or fuss at him for being that way, but simply said to him, “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”
Then nowhere is it more beautifully depicted for us than in his parable of the prodigal son. The father doesn’t even let the prodigal finish his confession-doesn’t want to hear it. He wants to get on with the party.
This, too, is the good news of our Christian faith for you and me. We don’t have to be defeated by the hurts or problems or failures or sins of the past. We can make a new beginning; we can have a new life. We don’t have to be victims. We can be victors.
This is the good news of the Christian faith. You can rise above it all! What an incredible promise! By the grace of God and the power of God—you don’t have to be a victim anymore. You can be a victor!
With the help of God, you can rise above your circumstances. I remember an old story about a family who had twin boys. One son grew up and became an alcoholic. When someone asked him why, he said, “Because of my father!”
The other son grew up and became a minister, and he dedicated his ministry to working with and helping alcoholics. When someone asked him why, he said, “Because of my father!” The two sons grew up in exactly the same environment. One was trapped, shackled, paralyzed, pulled down by his situation. The other turned to God and rose above it all.
Sometimes we hear people say, “I’m doing the best I can under the circumstances.” Well, we don’t have to live under the circumstances. By the grace of God, we can rise above them. We don’t need to remain victims. God can make us victors.
We know that with the help of God, we can rise above our circumstances.
With the help of God, you can rise above your defeats. Before Johnny Cash was thirty years old, his country songs had made him one of the most popular men on the American entertainment scene. But unfortunately, Johnny Cash started taking pep pills, then anti-depressants, and before he knew it, he had become a drug addict. At times, he was taking as many as 100 pills a day. Then one morning, somewhere in Georgia, he woke up and realized that he was in jail. He didn’t know how he got there. He didn’t remember a thing. But this had happened before. He was in jail again.
The jailer told him, “Johnny, one of the night men found you stumbling around the streets. We only brought you in so you wouldn’t hurt yourself. You’re doing time right now, Johnny, the worst kind. I’m a big fan of yours. I’ve always admired you. It’s a shame to see you ruining yourself like this. I didn’t know you were this bad off.” He shook his head sadly and continued, “I don’t know where you think you got your talent from, Johnny, but if you think it came from God, like I do, then you sure are wrecking the body he put it in.”
With that, the jailer opened the cell door and let Johnny Cash go free. It was the turning point. Later, he said, “Someday, I am going back to Georgia and find that jailer and thank him and shake his hand. He saved my life. That morning, as I stepped out into the warm sunshine, I took a good, hard look at my life, and I knew that I was a better man than the one I had become.
“It was that reference to God that suddenly cleared my mind, because until that morning it hadn’t occurred to me to turn to God for help in kicking my habit. Suddenly I realized that I would need all the power I could get, and I knew this power could come only from God. I asked God to go to work on me then and there, and He did. He saved me. He turned my life around. He set me free.”
I don’t know what defeats and heartaches and problems you are grappling with right now, but I do know one thing: You need all the power you can get, and that power comes only from God. God can save you. God can turn it around for you. God can set you free. That’s God’s promise. God can empower you to rise above your circumstances and above your defeats.
With the help of God, you can rise above your despair. Sometimes when you are in the valleys of life, you feel so down that you can see no way out. But if you will walk with God one step at a time, one day at a time, God will bring you out of the valley to the mountaintop.
A few years ago, an elderly Englishman, a man in his eighties, described the horrible bombing of London in World War II. It was one of the worst and most frightening times ever experienced by the British people. At the time of the bombing, this man was a teenager. He recalled how horrified he was as he stood on the outskirts of London and watched the central city go up in smoke. Bomb after bomb fell, one building after another burst into flames. The sky was filled with black smoke as far as he could see.
With tears in his eyes, the older man said, “It seemed to me at that moment that everything was lost-the war, England, all the values of civilization. I found myself asking again and again, ‘Is there any hope?’ I was filled with despair. I found myself crying like a baby. Then an amazing thing happened. There was a sudden gust of wind for just a moment. It blew the smoke away just long enough for me to see the cross of Christ atop the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral. And the instant I saw it, I felt a great surge of hope. And I stopped crying, because I knew, I really knew, as never before-that there is a power greater than all the power of evil, a power that cannot be defeated, a power that would see us through, a power that would live on.”
That is the good news of our faith, isn’t it? God wins! Nothing can defeat God. And God promises to share the victory with us. We don’t have to be victims anymore. We can be victors! That’s good news! It’s the greatest news ever heard and the greatest promise ever given!
Dr. Fred Andrea is the pastor of Aiken’s First Baptist Church.