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THIS I KNOW FOR SURE
Taking God at His Word
By BABBIE MASON
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2013 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
EMBRACING A DEFINING MOMENT
I thought about my life, and I decided to follow your rules. I hurried and did not wait to obey your commands. —Psalm 119:59-60 NCV
It was shaping up to be the perfect Sunday. The weather was gorgeous—warm and balmy, not a cloud in the sky. I was invited to sing that morning at a church not far from home in a nearby suburb of Atlanta, so my husband, Charles, and I had attended worship there.
After church Charles and I were heading to a friend's house, where I would celebrate Donna—one of my dearest friends in all the world as well as my songwriting buddy—by helping to throw her a bridal shower. I was on my way to partake of an afternoon of levity and laughter and celebrate one of the biggest moments in my friend's life, and I was enjoying lighthearted conversation with Charles, my man, my husband of thirty-three years. The day couldn't have been more special.
I was driving the car that day. Atlanta's traffic is always congested, even on a Sunday afternoon. I got off the freeway and stopped at the light at the end of the exit ramp. We sat in the center lane of traffic, my view to the left obstructed by a van. When the light changed to green, I was approaching the intersection when the driver of that van suddenly slammed on his brakes and laid on his horn. Instinct kicked in, and I slammed on my brakes as well. Just then, a car came racing from the left, speeding through the intersection, running the light. Had I not stopped precisely at the moment I did, had I been a few more inches into the intersection, that speeding vehicle that I never saw coming would have T-boned our car.
I sat frozen in the intersection, unable to move. All I could do was call on the name of Jesus. I shudder to think how things could have turned out so differently that day, but God in all His grace and mercy saw fit to spare our lives. There's no doubt in my mind that angels of protection were encamped around us that Sunday afternoon. In the next few moments and days, that incident replayed in my mind. That narrow miss thrust the issue of my mortality to the forefront, and I was forced to review my life. I wondered, If those had been my final moments on earth and I had been ushered into eternity, would God have been pleased with the life I had lived? I was not asking, Would He have been pleased with the songs I've written or awards I've won or people I've met or places I've been? Instead I pondered, Would God have been pleased with me and my relationship with Him? Would He be pleased with how I've represented Him here on earth?
Deep in my heart I want to live every day to the fullest, right up to the moment I breathe my last breath and then hear the Lord say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." One of the first questions I asked myself was not, Am I ready to die? No, I'm certain that if today were my last day on earth, I'd go home to heaven to be with Jesus. The question I faced was, Am I really living the life God designed me to live?
The words of Psalm 138:7 are a powerful reminder of how God raised up a hedge of protection for me and showed Himself strong in a very real way:
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me. (NIV)
Dr. Ravi Zacharias, a well-known Christian author, theologian, and apologist of the Christian faith, said so aptly: "God is the shaper of your heart.... God does not display his work in abstract terms. He prefers the concrete, and this means that at the end of your life one of three things will happen to your heart: it will grow hard, it will be broken, or it will be tender. Nobody escapes." Aware of this truth now more than ever before, I desire to yield my heart, tender and trembling, and place it in God's hands. Not only do I desire to know God's plan for my life here on earth, but I'm determined to see that plan through right up until my very last breath.
SO OTHERS WILL KNOW HIM
I recently heard a story that made me consider the confidence I have in God. It was art day in a kindergarten boy's class. As he took out his paints and brushes, he announced, "I'm going to color a picture of God."
"But no one knows what God looks like," responded his teacher.
"They will when I get finished," the little boy said with certainty.
I like that little fellow's attitude. He has a child like confidence in God that is truly admirable. I'm a bit envious. I have prayed for that kind of gumption—for the gall to stick my neck out and paint God in big, bold colors.
That day of my near accident, I took inventory of my faith in Christ. I wondered, Babbie, do you really love Jesus? Does your commitment to Him run deep, all the way down to the foundation of your soul? Sure, I made Jesus my Savior a long time ago. But the close call at that intersection forced me to recommit every area of my life to Him all over again. I realize that this life God has given me and my relationship with Him that springs forth from it are precious. And out of that relationship comes my assignment to serve Him and others. In light of that revelation, average is just not good enough anymore. Jesus deserves only the best. I am determined to give Him what's right, not what's left.
The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:8-9, "Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him" (NLT). To do anything less is to compromise. I was reminded that life is precious and today is a gift from God. What I do with today is my gift to Him. I am to take nothing for granted. Not my family, my friends, or my church. Not my work, my play, or my worship, not even my next breath, because all of it could be gone in an instant. I have a new sense of urgency and a desire to live with intent and purpose. There is a newfound hunger to live an authentic life. More than ever before, I pray that what happens when I'm onstage becomes an overflow of who I am when the lights go down and the music stops rolling. My prayer is that the Babbie Mason people see under the bright lights onstage is one and the same with the woman they see under the glaring fluorescent lighting of the grocery store.
I've asked God to grant me many more opportunities to say like that little boy in art class, "People will know what God looks like when I'm finished." There is a lifetime of work left for me to do. I'm still here, so it's evident that God is not finished with me yet.
LESS DOING, MORE BEING
David's prayer in Psalm 119:59-60 says,
I thought about my life, and I decided to follow your rules. I hurried and did not wait to obey your commands. (NCV)
Sometimes we need a good old-fashioned reality check to get us on the right road, don't we? God is teaching me not to be so concerned about the work He has left for me to do. I've been way too obsessed with doing the work. I admit I have far too often worshiped my work. I confess the ministry at times has been an idol. And at times, I've been caught up in the things I've been able to accomplish, proud of my to-do list.
I now know that God is not the least bit impressed with my to-do list. Instead, with God's help, I am learning to be more concerned about His to-do list. There is a work God wants me to do. But I must not make that the priority. That moment revealed to me that God wants to do a greater work in me; God is more concerned about my to-be list. And the work He does in me is what I truly desire much more than anything He could ever do for me. If He doesn't do anything else for me, He's done enough. However, He's the God who never stops investing in us. He is always calling us to come up higher. Jesus opened my eyes to the awareness that He is shaping me and making me, on a daily basis, to be more like Him. The process of shaping and making is at times uncomfortable, even painful. But through that process, I become the person He wants me to be. And as I become the person He wants me to be, the doing will take care of itself.
THIS DEFINING MOMENT
If you could orchestrate the ideal last day of your life, what would it look like? Suppose that the lights on your life would go down by the end of tomorrow. How would you spend the remaining hours? Would you spend your time with family and loved ones? Would you spend it praying? Would you visit an aging parent? Would you hold your grandbabies? Perhaps you would throw a party, serve delicious food, dance, and celebrate with your family and friends. Would you say words you've been needing to say for a long time? Words like these: I love you. I'm so sorry. Would you forgive me?
I'm asking you not to wait for that one defining moment that causes you to examine your life or your faith. Don't wait for the near miss to ask the Holy Spirit to shine His light on your heart. Instead, think about what if this moment was your defining moment?
In this moment, I'm challenging you to ask and allow God to examine your life and to show you how He wants you to draw near to Him. But don't get it wrong here. God doesn't use guilt to shame or to humble you. By His Holy Spirit, He draws you to Himself. With conviction and truth, He leads you to recognize it's time for change. And with His help, change is just a prayer away.
Begin by asking yourself very real, very pertinent questions:
Do I really love God as I say I do?
Do I really believe God's word?
Am I putting God's plan for my life into practice?
Where do my priorities lie?
Am I obsessed with my accomplishments?
Do I care more about impressing people than pleasing God?
Am I painting God in big, bold colors for all the world to see?
Take the time to digest these questions and answer with an honest spirit. What is God revealing to you? Where do you feel His presence urging you to draw close to Him? As you wrestle with these questions and open yourself up to where God is leading, prepare your mind. Decide that you will be honest and transparent with God, giving Him permission to do His work in you. Then prepare your heart. Be honest with yourself by submitting yourself to God and receive the fresh start He offers you.
If your response is, "Lord, I'm not sure how to do this, but I'm ready to make the first step toward becoming the person You want me to be," that's the perfect starting place. If you're ready to shore up your faith in Christ, boost your confidence in His word, strengthen your resolve, embolden your witness, raise your hopes, and increase your desire to paint God in big, bold colors, then embrace this defining moment. This I know for sure: there's no better time than the present to begin.
Excerpted from THIS I KNOW FOR SURE by BABBIE MASON. Copyright © 2013 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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