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GOD RESCUES US WITH HIS GOODNESS
Delivered and Directed at Seventeen
Have you ever needed to be rescued? Yes, rescued.
Have you ever needed to be snatched out of an overwhelming situation? Have you ever prayed for deliverance when it seemed like the walls were caving in on you? When was the last time you needed to be taken out of harm's way? I am sure you have been there at least once.
All of us have faced situations that seemed dark, desperate, and desolate. Each of us has prayed to be taken from death's door to a safe haven of peace and restoration.
If I'm not mistaken, all of us have also been at a place where we have pleaded with God to save us spiritually, mentally, or emotionally.
"Please, God, mend my broken heart."
"Please, God, deliver me from this situation."
"Please, God, I have no one to turn to but You."
Desperate circumstances cause us to cry out to the Lord for help.
It is in these times that we need a spiritual revival. In these desperate moments, we need God's strength to revive us from a code-blue situation. At these times more than any other, we need the One who can capture us and rescue us from our own fears, our insecurities, our own warped way of thinking, or our own painful pasts.
Are you facing that kind of desperate circumstance today? Let your faith be stirred by the evidence that God hears and God delivers.
"IT'S NOT FAIR!"
I was seventeen the first time I felt this kind of desperation. My father was buried not too much longer after the country mourned the loss of our esteemed President John F. Kennedy. I remember wearing sadness like a winter coat ... my heart was so heavy. My parents had divorced when I was much younger, and I had chosen to live with my dad. His new wife had never taken to me but had tolerated me only as her husband's son. Needless to say, shortly after my father's funeral she kicked me out of the house.
For days I wandered the streets of Oakland with no money and no place to go. I felt abandoned and alone. My heart and my mind played tug-of-war. I told myself, You can get over this, E.K. When life gives you lemons, just make some lemonade. Right? Yeah, right. That would be some sour lemonade.
I wanted to be depressed. "It's not fair!" I shouted. I was guest of honor at my own pity party. Over and over I asked myself, How would a young black man get a new start without the guidance, wisdom, and protection of his father? Why would God do this to me?
My father had left a rich legacy. He was an outstanding orator, a prolific and powerful preacher. He was tall, well-groomed, and dedicated to preaching the truth of Christ. He was the rock of our family, and I adored him. How could his life be so tragically snatched away? What would become of me? Even if I made a name for myself, my father would never be able to see me reach my goals. I remember sitting on a park bench one night, looking at the sky and getting angrier by the second. Not only did I feel fatherless, but I felt hopeless.
Then I began to hear God assuring me of His presence. I sensed Him drawing me close to Him, whispering, "When I take, I never take all." I began to cry because I knew that I must work my way through the pain. I had to concentrate on what God had left me: my father's rich legacy, a healthy body, a creative mind, a long list of goals and dreams, a mother who loved me, supportive siblings, and caring friends. In my desperation I had forgotten about all the people miles away who were praying for me and rooting for my success. Little did I realize that God was quietly working behind the scenes to prepare even more encouraging people to enter my life.
Most of all, it was in those days of desperation that I discovered that God had left me the gift of His comfort and unconditional love. I drew from the strength and example of my ancestors, who continued to plow and pray despite their exploitation, tears, and bloodshed. I had to press on because my father, the late Reverend V. M. Bailey, would have wanted it that way. Sitting on that park bench, I decided that I would live as my father had, serving Jesus Christ.
RESCUED AT SEVENTEEN
With nowhere else to go that day, I went to the Lord.
I acknowledged my fears and my frustrations to Him and surrendered to His sovereign plan for my life. I cried harder as God dealt with me. I admitted to Him that I had been running for years from His call on my life to preach the gospel. Because my father served as a senior pastor for so many years, going to church was not an option for our family. When the doors were open, we were there. However, it wasn't until that dark night on the park bench that the love for God's church began to grow in me. Flooding my mind were all the Scriptures that I had learned, prayers that I had prayed, and sermons that I had heard over my lifetime. I began to be filled with an overwhelming and unbelievable amount of joy.
At my point of desperation, I remembered all the other times in my life when God had kept me, kept my family, kept my friends, kept my reputation, kept my mind, kept my body, and kept my feet from stumbling. Before I knew it, my tears of sadness turned into tears of joy.
God did it! He rescued me! He snatched me from the very jaws of death. He rescued me from my own selfish thoughts. God helped me to fight against the negative thoughts with which Satan had tried to suffocate me.
I dried my tears and praised God for His faithfulness and for His extravagant love. I worshiped Him right there in the park because God's greatness, goodness, and compassion were so much greater than my hurt.
God used the deep pain of that experience to dig a well of joy. I was certain that God would use me—not because I was smart enough or had enough money and certainly not because I was a Bailey but because He had plans for me. He had plans to prosper me and to give me a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). Beginning then and there, I had an unquenchable desire to tell the world the good news of Jesus Christ. I was on a quest to search the Scriptures and share with the world the hope of a God who lives.
OFF TO COLLEGE
After the next several months of strengthening encouragement from good friends and my godfather, the late Rev. W. K. Jackson, I moved to Dallas to attend Bishop College. Throughout my schooling at Bishop, I felt God's hand move me from a state of depression to a state of adoration. Like the apostle Paul, I experienced a transformation. I went from being confused to being consecrated. No matter how much it hurt, I delighted to know God was smoothing out the ugly, rough edges of my life, shaping me into His image.
Now, more than three decades later, I see the value of hanging on at the end of the rope. Because of God's faithfulness, I have achieved my goals personally, academically, and professionally. I am so grateful to God that He has blessed me with a beautiful wife of thirty-four years and three loving children who also love the Lord. As a gift from the Lord, He has allowed me to serve as pastor of the Concord Church for almost thirty years. I am grateful to have been invited to preach and teach around the world. I thank God for an opportunity to tell of His goodness from the pulpit, from the pages of a book, or through conversation with a passing stranger.
HE ALWAYS DELIVERS
I see the importance of getting up after I have fallen down. I know without any doubt that God cannot use anyone greatly until He hurts him or her significantly. We cannot drink grapes until they have been crushed, and neither can we live out our full God-given potential until He has crushed us, emptied us, broken us, and burned out any trace of self. The good news is that He always delivers!
God may not answer our cry in the way we expect, but He always displays His glory in our personal experiences. He delights in rescuing us when we're floating downstream. God is loving and compassionate. Even when He allows us to endure pain, He strengthens, settles, and sustains us (1 Peter 5:10). Through His Word, His comfort, and His promises, I have been a front-row witness to how He secures our world with goodness. Everything that happens to us will not necessarily be good, but He is always working all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).
1. In what areas of your life have you felt abandoned?
2. How has God changed you and your perspective on suffering during this season?
3. If you could post a billboard that shared a message with the world about God's character, what would that message say?CHAPTER 2
GOD STRENGTHENS US WHEN WE'RE WEAK
One Sunday morning while preaching, I noticed that I couldn't hear very well. I motioned to the person directing our sound to increase the volume on the pulpit speakers. He gave me a thumbs-up. Thinking he misunderstood me, I repeated, "Please turn it up as loud as it will go." He responded, "But, Pastor, it is up as loud as it will go." Puzzled, I kept preaching.
It must be a sinus infection, I thought. Both my ears were completely clogged. Soon after that Sunday morning experience, I visited the doctor, thinking it was something terribly wrong with my hearing. At that time, I was misdiagnosed. They told me it was an ear infection. It was on my third doctor's visit that the doctor told Sheila and me, to our surprise, that it looked like cancer and that we should get a second opinion and then a biopsy.
Could this be true? Four years earlier I had undergone surgery for kidney cancer; my doctor had anticipated he would soon be declaring me cancer free. But now he explained: "Nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a rare cancer found in the nasal cavity."
Tears filled our eyes. We held each other. How could cancer have crept into my nasal passage?
I needed a life jacket. So once again, I went to my Rescuer.
"God deliver me," I prayed. "What's going on?" "Help me!"
My thoughts spun. "What does this mean? How could this be? How could this have been prevented?"
Then, faith took root. I remembered how God had delivered me during other desperate times when I needed Him the most. He immediately brought back to mind the Scriptures that quieted my restless spirit. I recited Psalm 23 to myself with confidence. It became a personal declaration:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Unlike the easily angered and immature seventeen-year-old E. K., I began to praise God for His goodness and greatness. I thanked Him for being a loving and kind God. I focused on Him as my compassionate Shepherd. I rejoiced because He showed me how.
Before I knew it, I thought less about the cancer and more about the One who could solve my problem. I wanted my faith in God, not my emotions, to guide my thinking and decision making. Here was an opportunity to live the Word that I preached. I was determined not to succumb to believing or teaching any watered-down theology.
I was determined to show God how much I trusted Him as I walked through what appeared to be the final chapter of my life. Compromise was not an option. Sure, I cried a little bit on some days ... and a lot on other days. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I journaled my thoughts and read my Bible. I talked with trusted friends and read books and devotionals that encouraged my faith.
But the thing that helped my perspective most was I fixed my eyes on Jesus. I recalled what He did for me at Calvary. I remembered the brutality and humiliation of the cross. I remembered those first days in this shadow of death as though they happened yesterday. Aloud I said, "They pierced Him in the side for me. They nailed Him to that tree for me. He endured pain for me." It would have been so easy for Him just to come off that cross. But He chose to suffer so that I might be sanctified, justified, and redeemed.
The thought of my Savior's suffering made me reconsider my suffering. I wasn't sure what I would be up against, but I knew it could not compare to the suffering of our Lord. Suddenly I could much more easily trust God with my health problems and the fear for my future. God simply wanted me to hold on to Him as He took me farther into His Word and deeper into His will. I wasn't strong enough to do it myself but His grace was sufficient. I learned firsthand that when I was weak, He was strong.
DOES JESUS CARE?
During the first decade of the twentieth century, a man named Frank Graeff personified this truth. Popular by his nickname, Reverend Sunshine, Graeff sparkled with contagious joy. In his biography, however, he confessed to a period of deep depression. For a long, dry season, the pastor who always radiated a smile had shriveled into a bitter, critical man.
What had happened to Reverend Sunshine? He later explained that a traumatic experience had caused his personality reversal. He sulked and wallowed in self-pity. Then one day a familiar old tune began to play on the keyboard of his memory.
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.
The melody of the song became so sweet that he sat back and allowed it to rock him. Then those penetrating lyrics pounded at his heart. Without hesitation, Reverend Sunshine fell on his knees and repented of his sins. He confessed to carrying his heartache in his own strength— but no more. He rolled it over on his Burden-Bearer. Instead of doubting God's care, he entered into a fresh relationship with Him. He poured out his heart to God and soon experienced His joy again. He said that he felt the power of God chop away the roots and branches of bitterness that had once strangled him.
Reverend Sunshine attributed that entire process to the saving grace of God. As God nurtured him back to a spiritually healthy state of mind, the Holy Spirit brought 1 Peter 5:7 (KJV) to his remembrance, "Casting all your cares upon him; for he careth for you." That verse inspired him to write the words to the familiar song, "Does Jesus Care?" It begins with the question, "Does Jesus care when my heart is pained too deeply for mirth and song ...?" His conclusion?
Oh yes, He cares. I know He cares.
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary; the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.
Does it comfort you to know Jesus cares? Invite God to chop down any roots of bitterness that have entangled your heart. Allow your brain to think it, allow your mouth to say it; ask God to help you live it with your actions. God cares.
Whatever you may be dealing with right now, God cares. He sees the pain in your body. He understands the frustration of lacking the energy that you once had. He knows all about the pressures of your job. He holds you up as you persevere in a marriage that needs revival. He knows all about those thoughts that would embarrass you to share with anyone. He sees your tears. But not only does He know what you're going through, He cares.
I have been like Reverend Sunshine before he embraced the truth. Most of us have. I live every day under the protective umbrella of 1 Peter 5:7. Yes, even pastors need encouragement. After walking with the Lord for more than fifty years, I still need the comfort of our Burden-Bearer when I consider the threat of this cancer.
CAST ALL YOUR CARES ON HIM
Perhaps you too feel weighted down by worries. If so, I would like to share with you a practical principle that can lift your spirit and remind you of God's continued concern: Cast all your cares on Him.
Does it surprise you that Christians have cares? Don't believe any watered-down theology that says Christians don't experience trials. And yes, even Christians, overwhelmed by the tidal waves of trouble, sometimes get mad at God. It is easy to blame God when you lose someone precious to you. It's easy to doubt that God loves you when the doctor delivers the news. It's even easy to wonder if God cares at all.
Jesus' disciples had a similar experience in Mark 4:35–41. Out in a boat when a great storm blew across the Sea of Galilee, they tried to control the ship with all their physical might, while Jesus slept in the back of the boat. But the storm was too great for their feeble strength, so they woke Jesus with this question: "Teacher, do You not care that we perish?"
Have you ever questioned Jesus like those disciples? Jesus, do You not care that I'm dying? The Word of God assures us that yes, He cares. Philippians 4:7 even says that God's peace runs guard around our hearts when difficulties, troubles, and anxieties come. When we are weak, God's strength is our protection. Whatever comes our way is not stronger than God. That's why we must cast every care upon Him.
Are you battling some debilitating disease? Perhaps you are the spouse or son/daughter of a patient who is fighting for life. Maybe you are a friend of someone with a terminal illness. Whatever your role, it is my hope that you will grasp the truth of 1 Peter 5:7 with both hands in order to be restored, renewed, and rejuvenated. Jesus cares for you. You can cast all your burdens on our great Burden-Bearer and let His joy fill your life and extricate any bitterness or anger that has strangled your heart. He cares for you.
Excerpted from Farther in and Deeper Down by E. K. Bailey, Sheila M. Bailey, Cokiesha L. Bailey. Copyright © 2005 E. K. Bailey. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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.
1. God Rescues Us with His Goodness
2. God Strengthens Us When We're Weak
3. God's Presence Brings Peace in the Storm
4. God's Sovereignty Is Our Security
5. The Power of God Will Fight for Me
6. God Delights in Us When We Pray
7. God Is Present in the Dark
8. God Hears Us When We Cry
9. God's Supremacy Gives Us Perspective
10. God's Love Restores Our Soul
11. The Lord Is Our Shepherd
12. God Holds Us Up
13. God's Grace Meets Us in Our Pain
14. Our God Is Forever the Same
Posted September 6, 2005
This book is one that anyone dealing with a serious illness will find great comfort with supportive Biblical Scriptures to deepen ones faith. It has good advise for the caregiver also.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 8, 2005
This book has changed my life. I have learned so much about living and about dieing. Thank you Bailey family for inviting us into your sacred place and revealing to us what God can and will do when you simply trust Him. I have never been impacted by cancer so I was hesitatant about buying the book but I am so glad I did.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.