Read an Excerpt
DEVOTIONS FOR THE SOUL SURFER
By BETHANY HAMILTON ANN BYLE
W Publishing GroupCopyright © 2007 Bethany Hamilton
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGOD HAS A PLAN!
I didn't plan on losing my left arm in a shark attack on October 31, 2003. I didn't plan on having to learn to surf all over again, and I certainly didn't plan on becoming famous. I never thought I'd talk to Billy Graham, or throw out the first pitch at a New York Yankees baseball game, or talk to kids all over the world who have lost limbs in wars and accidents.
One thing I did plan on doing was whatever God wanted me to do. I wanted my plan to be his plan no matter what. In fact, one of my favorite verses, Jeremiah 29:11, talks about the plans God has for those who follow him. God put his plan into action in my life in a dramatic way, yet I'm thrilled to have these huge opportunities to tell people about him.
Maybe you've had something happen in your life you didn't plan on: your parents divorced or someone you loved died. Maybe you've gotten sick or injured or lost your home to a natural disaster such as a hurricane. Guess what? It's all part of God's plan, and he'll use you through it if you're willing.
Willingness means letting God's plan become your own, whether it's losing an arm in a shark attack or simply listening to his voice.
* * *
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)
DIFFERENT WORDS, ONE LANGUAGE
Surfers have their own language to describe the sport. For example, "haired out" means being too scared to take off on a wave; "grommet" or "grom" is a young surfer; and "tubed" means riding deep inside the barrel of the wave. Skateboarders, stage actors, photographers, and computer geeks have their own language as well.
Christians have a special language too. Sure, we may use different words in our worship services or sing to different music. We use different translations of the Bible, and may even worship at different times of the day. But our common language is love.
The Bible says that people will know we are followers of God by our love for one another. Sometimes we get so caught up in our daily lives or in the rules and practices of our church that we forget about loving the people around us.
For you, this love might mean being nice to the girl who doesn't like you and talks behind your back, tolerating your younger brother or sister for a night so your parents can go on a date, handing out food and blankets at a homeless shelter, or befriending a person at school who has no friends. Some ways that I like to show love for others includes encouraging people who have lost limbs, giving money to support missionaries, and talking to people about Jesus. What can you do to turn your religion into the language called love?
* * *
All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other. (John 13:35)
THE BIG WHAT-IF
It might be easy to ask myself, "What if I hadn't gone surfing that Halloween morning?" Or "What if I was too scared to surf again?" The problem with these questions is that they keep me from asking the more important question, which is, "What does God want me to do?"
You probably do it too: "What if I hadn't gone to that party and had those beers?" "What if I hadn't made that nasty comment to my friend?" Or "What if I hadn't skipped church to go to the mall?"
It's easy to get caught up in those "what-if" questions. It's easy to spend so much time in the past, beating yourself up over some bad decisions, that you forget that God has work for you to do. He put you where you are, he forgives you, and he has a plan for you. God tells us to put our faith in him into action (James 2:17). For me it means doing what God created me to do and love-surfing, using the opportunities God has given me to talk about him, helping others, and learning more about God and his plan for me.
If "what-if" questions are stopping you, ask for God's help in putting them behind you, grab hold of your faith, and get busy!
* * *
Just as a person's body that does not have a spirit is dead, so faith that does nothing is dead! (James 2:26)
Got any bad habits you'd like to be free of? Like biting your nails, whining, or chewing on your hair? I have a bad habit of not looking people in the eye when I talk to them. I also leave stuff all over the floor of my bedroom, which makes me frustrated living in a messy bedroom. But it feels great when I pick up my room. And I'm a lot happier when I can actually find things.
Bad habits can be annoying, that's for sure. The worse the habit, the more it controls us. But isn't it great to be free of bad habits-when you stop chewing your hair or overeating or saying "like" all the time?
It also feels great to be free from sin. Just as you can break a bad habit, you can break the habit of sin. You can stop letting it control you by turning that sin over to Jesus. Jesus died to clear away our sinful hearts, to clean up the habit of sin we all are born with. It's not like you are never going to sin again; it's that sin doesn't control your life anymore.
Just as that messy bedroom habit controlled me, sin controls all of us. Jesus, however, gives us freedom from a sinful heart. What a great habit to break!
* * *
We know that our old life died with Christ on the cross so that our sinful selves would have no power over us and we would not be slaves to sin. Anyone who has died is made free from sin's control. (Romans 6:6-7)
Remember Simba, Timon, and Pumba singing "Hakuna Matata" in The Lion King? Simba liked the idea of never having to worry about anything ever again. This seemed great after he thought he'd killed his dad, then abandoned his family and friends.
I'm sure you have worries and fears too. I know I do. I worry that I won't do well in a surfing contest or that I'll get hurt. I worry about my family and about my friends making bad choices. Maybe you worry about whether your outfit looks stupid, failing an algebra test, your mom and dad getting a divorce, or your grandma getting sick.
God tells us to hand over our worries to him because he'll carry them for us (Matthew 11:28-30). It's sort of like handing him a whole backpack full of rocks you've been carrying around for months. It's not as if you immediately never worry again, but God takes the heavy burden of worry away so it doesn't weigh you down. He wants to do this for you, and eagerly waits for you to give him your burdens. Tell God you're giving him everything you worry about. The more you get to know him through his Word, the easier it is to trust him. Because with God, there really are no worries.
* * *
Give all your worries to him, because he cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7)
World Vision is a Christian relief and development organization that helps poor children and communities in about one hundred countries around the world. They offer food and water during global emergencies such as the tsunami in Asia, they help children who are left orphans by the HIV/AIDS crisis around the world, and they rescue children who are forced into the global sex trade or forced to fight in wars.
One of the best ways to get involved with World Vision is by sponsoring a child for $30 a month or a family for $40 a month. I've supported a child for years, and I'm working with World Vision to let people know about the organization and about the huge needs that are out there. For more information on World Vision, visit www.worldvision.org.
Surfing is an extreme sport. It can be dangerous, especially in huge waves, but it is a thrilling experience. There are tons of other extreme sports, too, such as snowboarding, rock climbing, and motocross.
Believe it or not, Christianity is extreme. Lots of people in the Bible were extreme in their quest to follow God, doing radical things in the name of faith (think Paul, Moses, and Jesus). One of the most extreme was Daniel. He risked his life for the convictions and purpose God gave him. First, as a young captive in Babylon he obeyed God, but he defied the king by refusing to eat the royal food that God had asked his people not to eat. God spared his life when it easily could have been taken. As an old man, he defied a law that said no one could pray to anyone but the Babylonian king or they would be put to death. Daniel prayed to God anyway and ended up being thrown in a den of hungry lions. But because Daniel obeyed God, God saved him by closing the mouths of the lions. That's extreme-he risked his life out of obedience to God.
I want to be as extreme in my love and devotion for Jesus as I am on my surfboard. I want to follow God wherever he leads and do whatever he asks me to do because I trust him-whether it's talking about him on national television or being faithful to pray and spend time with him every day. I want to obey God no matter what the price.
* * *
My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king. (Daniel 6:22)
WATER OF LIFE
I know water. I know about waves and surf and undertow and current and reef. My friends say I have salt water in my veins. But the water I surf in and the water I drink every day aren't enough.
The Bible has a great story about water. One day Jesus stopped at a well at midday. He talked to a Samaritan woman who was drawing water there. Jews never talked to Samaritans, and Jewish men would never talk to a Samaritan woman in those days, so what Jesus did was extreme. He told the woman that the water she was drawing would never quench the thirst she had in her soul. He said that only he could quench that thirst and that his Living Water would never run dry. The woman, whose life was desperate and full of sin, accepted Jesus' message. She'd still have to draw water every day to quench her physical thirst, but her spiritual thirst for God was quenched forever thanks to Jesus. Her life was changed eternally.
Are you filled with spiritual water or just physical water? If you don't have a relationship with God, your soul is thirsty for spiritual water; Jesus is the answer. Trust me. The water I surf in off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii, is beautiful and warm, but Jesus is the best Water ever. Trust him.
* * *
Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give will never be thirsty. The water I give will become a spring of water gushing up inside that person, giving eternal life." (John 4:13-14)
MASTER OF THE IMPOSSIBLE
Most people, including myself, thought my surfing career was over. I'd just lost my arm in a shark attack, and two arms seem pretty necessary to compete as an amateur, and eventually a professional surfer. Clearly we were wrong. God gave me the courage and passion to get back on the board only a month after the attack, and I'm competing regularly to this day.
Surfing again seemed impossible at first, but obviously God had other ideas. I believe that God did the impossible for me. In fact, he does impossible things every day. He heals brokenhearted people, forgives and changes the vilest sinners, and uses seemingly tiny events to bring people to himself. He heals people with illnesses, helps victims forgive those who hurt them, and helps enemies become friends. Better than all that, he saves us from the consequences of our sins. Lots of things seem impossible to us humans, but with God even those huge things are possible.
* * *
Jesus answered, "God can do things that are not possible for people to do." (Luke 18:27)
WOMEN I ADMIRE: RUTH
Ruth is one of the most well-known women in the Old Testament. She was a woman from Moab who decided to go with her mother-in-law, Naomi, to Naomi's home in Israel. Naomi's husband and sons had died in Moab, leaving them both widows. Ruth decided that following God was important to her.
I admire Ruth because she decided that following God was important to her. She gave up everything out of love for her mother-in-law and for God. She faithfully served Naomi by working hard in Boaz's fields, gathering grain to make bread so they could survive. And God rewarded her for her faithfulness and loving heart. She ended up marrying Boaz, having a son, and becoming an ancestor of Christ.
I pray that I am willing to give up whatever it takes to follow God. And I pray that I can pass on a heritage of faith to my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
* * *
But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16)
I thank you for this day. I pray that you would continue to use me to be a good witness to my friends and to be a light to them and to the world for you. Make your light shine through me brightly today in everything I do. And provide opportunities for me to show your love to others.
You should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and will praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Excerpted from DEVOTIONS FOR THE SOUL SURFER by BETHANY HAMILTON ANN BYLE Copyright © 2007 by Bethany Hamilton. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.