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Soul Surfer Devotions
By Bethany Hamilton, Ann Byle
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 Bethany Hamilton
All rights reserved.
God 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 write a book, or throw out the first pitch at a New York Yankees baseball game, or talk to people 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 any opportunity to tell people about him because sometimes God uses us in small ways too.
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, sketched 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 whizzes have their own languages 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 our love for Jesus.
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 and activities and what I need to do. We become self-centered, forgetting all 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 include 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 had been 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?" "What if I hadn't skipped church to go to the mall?" Or, "What if I had just spent time reading the Bible instead of sleeping in?"
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. Then 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)
Are you good at making decisions? While you're a teenager, you have to make some of your first important ones—about your faith, your morals, your college plans. It can mean a lot of pressure for someone whose biggest decisions, up until a few years ago, centered around which pizza toppings to order.
So how do we make sure that our choices are the right ones? The most important way is to seek God's wisdom and direction. You can do that through prayer and studying the Bible. Another good thing to do is get as much information as you can. If you've got college questions, research schools and careers yourself, and don't be afraid to pick the brains of your guidance counselors and parents. Faith questions? First, search for the answers within your Bible. You can also get answers from a leader at your church or, again, your parents. Trusted adults have a lot of wisdom to offer.
Most importantly, don't forget to take your choices to God. He wants to hear you, and he wants to help. And he always makes the right decision.
"Come now, and let us reason together," says the Lord. (Isaiah 1:18 NKJV)
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 has 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)
Have you ever seen 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 11:28–29). 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)
Just a Thought
Ever notice how bad thoughts randomly pop into your mind? "I'm worthless." "No one could ever love me." "I should just give up; I'll never make it." Or maybe you think something bad about someone else. Don't worry. It happens to all of us. We just need to recognize where those thoughts come from and learn what to do when they come. Bad thoughts like these come straight from the devil, who's trying to get you to sin. But you don't have to let him get his way.
In my daily life, I have to disregard the thoughts that enter my mind that I know are not from God. The Bible tells us what to do when those thoughts pop up: "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV).
How do we take our thoughts captive? First, by recognizing where negative thoughts come from—the devil. Second, by talking to God at that moment and asking him to redirect your thoughts. Another good thing to do is quote a scripture you have memorized or open the Bible and find a scripture that sets your mind in a better direction. The verse below is a great place to start.
Brothers and sisters, think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected. (Philippians 4:8)
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 international emergencies, such as the earthquake in Haiti; they help children who have been orphaned 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 $35 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.world vision.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 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—Daniel 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 me, thought I'd never be able to surf again. I'd just lost my arm in a shark attack, and two arms seem pretty necessary to surf, period—let alone eventually compete as 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, "The things impossible for people are possible for God." (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 both her and Ruth widows.
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)
God Makes Us Different
So maybe my body is a little different than most of yours. The missing arm thing tends to throw people off at times, and some even stare at me. Sometimes I don't know if they're staring at me because they recognize me or because I'm missing an arm. Kids ask me questions or make weird comments about it too. Guess what? Just because I look different doesn't mean I'm bad or ugly. And just because your body looks different from other girls doesn't mean it's bad either.
God made each of us unique. God planned each one of us. He organized our bodies to be just what he wanted them to be, whether drop-dead gorgeous or a little plain, whether toothpick thin or a little chunky. When we complain about our bodies, we're really complaining about God's body. I'm not saying that we should eat whatever junk food we want, ignore exercise, have unhealthy habits, and then say, "This is the body God gave me."
Excerpted from Soul Surfer Devotions by Bethany Hamilton, Ann Byle. Copyright © 2011 Bethany Hamilton. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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