God’s Plan for Success!
Living for Eternity: God’s plan for Our Success
I was 4 when I heard my friends calling for me from the backyard. I ran out to the back porch climbed over the 3rd floor railing and with one hand on the railing looked down thinking “this would be a fast way to get to my friends.” All of the sudden I felt a hand on my collar whisking me back over the railing to safety. That same hand gave me a good spanking.
By the time I was 12 my parents had decided to get a divorce. Most of my friends’ parents were married. It was rare for couples to get a divorce in the 50’s. I knew my parents were unhappy and that my Dad was a difficult person. He had a very bad temper and had been abusive towards us. But still it shook my world. I couldn’t believe this was happening. And I didn’t know how we were going to get along. Little did I know that we would barely make it financially, and that we would struggle from day to day. And I worried about what would happen with my Dad and whether I would see him.
That was the turning point in my life. I began questioning a lot of things about life which started my spiritual journey. Divorce seemed devastating. It made me realize that life was very uncertain and that I couldn’t depend on my parents for security anymore. The future seemed bleak and threatening because of this loss.
Not long after the divorce, my grandfather died. So I began dealing with the reality of death and that life is short. I felt so much inner turmoil & grief. It caused me to ask deeper questions about life. What is life all about? Why am I here? Who am I? Where am I going after I die?
I know that crises in other people’s lives result in even deeper suffering & chaos. The tragedies of the school shootings and bombings in Littleton, Colorado (April 20, 1999) where 15 students died and many were injured, brings us all to our knees questioning life, God and why suffering and evil abound in the so-called civilized society we live in today. These painful events remind us of the brevity of life and trigger something in our souls that longs for peace, security, God and eternity.
Pascal wrote, “there is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man.” I felt that God-shaped vacuum.
It wasn’t long after the divorce in my family that I went to a church camp and heard about how Jesus Christ had died for my sins 2,000 years ago and that if I trusted in Him personally as my Lord and Savior I could receive forgiveness for my sins and be assured of going to heaven. I wanted that peace with God. I wanted everlasting life. So I prayed that week for Christ to forgive me, come into my life and make me the person He wanted me to be. I believed the scripture verse, John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
This began my relationship with Jesus Christ. But I still felt such a need to have many other questions answered. The basic questions I had about my identity, purpose in life and where I was going to spend eternity were answered though.
I truly wanted to live for God and for His purpose. I was convinced that now I had the best reason ever for living.. That living for Christ had greater significance than anything the world could offer. The unmet longings of my soul had been fulfilled.
Augustine wrote in his Confessions, “ Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” and he wrote: “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”
Throughout my teens I had a deep desire to learn all I could about Christianity and the Bible. I wanted evidence for my faith. I wanted answers for questions like: Why does God allow suffering in the world. I not only wanted a deeper understanding of theological truth but, I wanted to personally forgive and love my father despite the fact that he had hurt us so badly.
I studied the claims of Christianity and discovered an overwhelming amount of evidence for Christ’s claims & life.
Josh McDowell writes in Evidence that Demands a Verdict:
“Jesus fulfilled over 300 Old testament prophecies about the coming Messiah proving His claim to be the Messiah: “In the Old Testament, there are hundreds of prophecies alluding to the coming Messiah. The brilliant nineteenth-century Oxford professor, Canon Henry Liddon, found 332 “distinct predictions which were literally fulfilled in Christ.”
Many of the prophecies concerning the Messiah were totally beyond the control of Jesus, such as:
1. His place of birth (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2: 1)
2. His family line (of Jesse) (Isaiah 11:1, 10; Luke 3:23,32)
3. His time of birth (Daniel 9;25; Genesis 49:10)
4.His manner of birth, born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18, 23- 25)
5. His betrayal (Psalms 41:9; 55:12-14; Matthew 10:4)
6. His manner of death (Psalms 22:16; Luke 23:33; John 20:25)
7. People: mocking, staring, spitting at Him (Isaiah 50:6; Psa 22:7,8; Matthew 26:67; 27:31)
8. His side Pierced; His bones were not broken; He was wounded & bruised for our sins/iniquities: (Psalms 22:16; Zechariah 12:10; Psalms 34:20; Isa 53:5; Luke 23:33; John 19:33-4; Matt 27:26)
9. His burial site. (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60)
10. His resurrection. (Psalms 16:10; 30:3; 41:10; 118:17; Hosea 6:2; Acts 2:31; Luke 24:46; Matthew 28:6)
*See Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith by Josh McDowell, pp.145-175, for specific prophecies.
I grasped more deeply that Christ is more than a system, tradition, or belief. He claimed to be God. His miracles proved His deity.
Josh McDowell writes, “Among the religious leaders who have attained a large following throughout history, Jesus Christ is unique in the fact that He alone claimed to be God in human flesh. A common misconception is that some or many of the leaders of the world’s religions made similar claims, but this is simply not the case. Budda did not claim to be God; Moses never said that he was Yahweh; Muhammad did not identify himself as Allah… Jesus said that he who has seen Him (Jesus) has seen the Father (John 14:9). …Anyone who would dare to make such claims… to forgive sins, to raise Himself from the dead, etc…would have to be either out of his mind or a liar, unless he was (in fact) God.” (from:Answers to Tough Questions Skeptics Ask about the Christian Faith by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart).
Still I had more questions because I wanted to make some sense out of the loneliness, loss and pain I felt coming from a broken home. I wanted answers to the evil and suffering in the world today. I wanted answers to confirm my belief in life beyond this world. I read many books in my late teens and early twenties which began to build a stronger foundation for my faith.
Again Josh writes a concise answer to the dilemma of evil & suffering in the world: “Sometimes the problem of evil is put to the Christian in the form of a complex question, “If God is good, then He must not be powerful enough to deal with all the evil and injustice in the world since it is still going on. If He is powerful enough to stop wrongdoing, then He Himself must be an evil God since He’s not doing anything about it even though He has the capability. So which is it? Is He a bad God or a God that’s not all powerful?” Though many writers in the Bible complained about suffering and evil….the Scriptures make it plain that God did not create the world in the state in which it is now, but evil came as a result of the selfishness of man. The Bible says that God is a God of love and He desired to create a person and eventually a race that would love Him. But genuine love cannot exist unless freely given through free choice and will and thus man was given the choice to accept God’s love or to reject it. The choice made the possibility of evil become very real. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they did not choose something God created, but, by their choice, they brought evil into the world. God is neither evil nor did He create evil. Man brought evil upon himself by selfishly choosing his own way apart from God’s way.” (from: Answers to Tough Questions Skeptics Ask about the Christian Faith by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart)
C.S. Lewis’ books The Problem of Pain and Mere Christianity had a profound impact on my life helping me understand the cause of evil and suffering and why God allows it.
Lewis estimates that 4/5 of human suffering is caused by human beings being wicked to one another.
In The Problem of Pain, Lewis wrote: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
“The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and pose an obstacle to our return to God… Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” C.S. Lewis
At each phase of my life I have been able to find purpose and meaning, strength and hope in spite of trials because of my faith in Christ. Nothing has been as meaningful or fulfilling to me as knowing Christ and letting Him live out His purpose in my life. I want to say with St. Paul in Phil. 1:21: “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
I have seen God answer many prayers when family and friends have decided to trust Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I was able to forgive and even love my Dad. I prayed that he would become a Christian, also. Then in 1972, when Dan Ball (a Dean from Emmaus) visited him in the hospital, he helped my Dad accept Jesus Christ personally just a few days before he died. I look back now and can see God’s intervention in both of our lives. God used my Dad to rescue me from death at the age of 4 pulling me to safety. And then God rescued my Dad at the age of 63 from a lost eternity. Someday I will see him in heaven.
What does success mean to me?
It means having peace with God because I am forgiven in Christ. It means that I am a Child of the King. It means I no longer have to strive to be approved by God because what Christ did on the cross made me acceptable in God’s eyes. Success means that I have a treasure and inheritance waiting in heaven for me. That Jesus Christ is coming for me someday. That my life counts because God made me, loves me & has a purpose for me. It means that even when I experience loss, failure or pain, that God can bring something good out of it and accomplish His purpose. That when trials come, as they have to me: financial, death of loved ones, infertility, hysterectomy….. I can still experience peace and joy knowing He will help me & that this life is not the end of the story. It means that I can live for Christ now and that my life can count for God and eternity. That I can share with you what I have discovered, that Jesus Christ loves you, that He offers you eternal life and that once you know Him personally He will change your life forever.
Maybe you have questions about Christianity or would like to know more about how to have a relationship with Christ. Or maybe you have enough understanding and would like to make a decision to trust Jesus as your Lord and Savior today. I hope that my story has given you some inspiration and hope to search for God & grow in your faith.
The salvation Christ offers does not depend on what we have done for Him, but on our acceptance in who He is and what He has done for us. Instead of moral and religious effort, this salvation requires a helpless admission of our sins. Instead of personal accomplishments, it requires confession of failure to meet God’s standard of holiness. Unlike all other belief systems, Christ asks us to trust solely in Him and His work on the cross and to commit our lives to Him–not to merit salvation but as an expression of gratitude, love, and confidence in the One who has saved us solely by grace (the unmerited favor of God).
Eph 2:8-9 says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”.(NIV)
Rom 6:23 says:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(NIV)
Won’t you consider asking Christ into your life today. Just pray simply with me: “Dear Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for forgiving me of my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of my life and make me the kind of person You want me to be. Amen.”
If you have prayed this prayer Jesus says in Matt. 20:28: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)
If you have prayed this prayer please contact Lynette J. Hoy with your name and address and she will send you a free book.
© copyright 1999 by Lynette J. Hoy, NCC, LCPC