I've always wanted my life to count, without my having to do anything terribly difficult, of course. But, the more I learn about the lives of men and women whose words and actions have a positive and profound effect upon others, I see that they learned life's most essential truths while struggling to survive the hardships they faced.
In the preface of her book, He Sets the Captive Free, Corrie ten Boom says: "I learned a great deal in prison, as this was a very difficult class in the schoolroom of life. When you are in a difficult class with a good teacher, you learn much - and my teacher was very good. It was Jesus Himself" (p. 7).
Although Corrie would never have chosen to experience the atrocities she suffered while a prisoner of the Gestapo during World War II, she learned this great truth and then spent the rest of her life sharing it with others: "Even when circumstances look utterly bleak, there is a victorious life which is real and available to you" (p.7).
Saint Patrick, who was born approximately 400 A.D., discovered that same truth, and it changed not only his life but also the lives of countless others with whom he shared it. At the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped, carried off to Ireland, and sold as a slave. He spent the next six years tending sheep on a bleak hillside. During those years of isolation, hunger, and cold, he began to see that a victorious life was both real and available to him.
"The love of God and the fear of Him increased more and more, and my faith grew, and my spirit was aroused, so that in a single day I said as many as a hundred prayers, and at night nearly as many, even when I was out in the woods or on a mountain. Before the dawn I used to arouse myself to prayer in snow and frost and rain; and I minded no pain, nor was there any sluggishness in me - because the spirit was fervent in me."
Wanting others to know the reality of the love of God and to learn to fear Him, he spent more than 30 years evangelizing Ireland.
These words on his breastplate contain the secret for living victoriously, no matter how frightening or harsh or long-lasting the external circumstances: "Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me."
The more we experience such an awareness of the presence of Christ within us and all around us, the more we rely on Him not only to sustain us but also to give us victory over our circumstances.
Then our testimony, like that of believers throughout the ages, becomes powerful. Even those who care little about religious doctrines long to have a faith that works, especially when life's lessons are the hardest. So, whenever you and I can demonstrate to others the reality of the victorious life and tell them such a life is available to them too, we'll be persons of influence. Our lives will count. No doubt about it!
© 2004 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill, who may be contacted at email@example.com
"...the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world" (1 John 4:4, New International Version).
"...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:11)
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