December 10, 2008

"Lifers" and "Rebels"

2008 1534 page31 capM . . . I DON’T REALLY HAVE A DRAMATIC STORY TO TELL. I’VE BEEN A Seventh-day Adventist all my life,” the speaker began nervously.
Sounds familiar, I thought, as I listened from my seat in the pew.
He went on to say he’d accepted Jesus when he was 10 and had been baptized. But it wasn’t until he was in academy that he really understood what commitment to the Lord was all about. He also explained that when he did recommit his life to God, others may not have noticed any remarkable changes. He had just tried to let his life show the difference.
As I listened to his story I was struck by how similar it was to mine, and that our type of testimony is rarely given from the pulpit. As a “lifer”—one born into the Adventist Church—I’ve heard countless testimonies; yet one aspect remains the same. It seems that a noteworthy testimony must contain a turning away from God (or a life without Him from the start), a wild lifestyle (parties, promiscuity, drugs, alcohol), or a very low point (attempted suicide, depression, homelessness, a near-death experience)―and then reconciliation with God.
2008 1534 page31These stories, while inspiring, leave many of us “lifers” feeling as though we’d better start rebelling if we truly want to appreciate God’s power and grace. I don’t believe, though, that God intended it to be this way.
For those “lifers” who feel they don’t have a story to tell, consider the biblical account of Joshua and Caleb. These men went with 10 others to explore Canaan. Upon their return, all those they traveled with reported “giants” in the land and presented a hopeless situation to the people of Israel. Caleb and Joshua, on the other hand, told everyone to be strong and full of courage, because God could easily handle a few giants. After all, God had promised the land to the Israelites already.
This was not isolated faithfulness on the part of Joshua and Caleb. The Bible doesn’t record either one of them turning away from God and heading down the wrong path. They lived faithful lives, and God blessed them. Joshua even went on to lead all the rebellious Israelites into the Promised Land.
Imagine if their stories were not in the Bible. After all, they simply followed God and believed in Him. There’s no big story there, right? Wrong. Every Christian’s story counts for something. God values each person’s life and testimony.
The “rebels” actually need “lifers” to help them on their journey; and the “lifers” need “rebels” to remind them how amazing God is.
The Bible is filled with stories of people who turned away from God at some point: Abraham, Jacob, David, Jonah, Peter—to name just a few. But His grace extends not only to those who have strayed from the straight and narrow. When God said, “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Cor. 12:9, KJV), He was speaking to everyone, in all time, in all walks of life—even us “lifers.”
As the speaker concluded that day, I felt the warmth of God’s grace.
“Well,” he said, “I know my testimony isn’t like that of some famous preacher who has a remarkable conversion story to share, but God has made a difference in my life anyway.”
Mine, too. 
Larissa Stanphill was a language arts education major at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, when she wrote this article.