This is probably the most personal post I’ve had since I published my testimony and the story about my dad. I hope that my story, or more, God’s story in my life, is able to encourage and lift you up. With that being said, let’s get started.
Muscle is usually not a word that’s in my vocabulary. Never has been. I consider myself to be in shape, but I definitely could stand to be better about taking care of my body, and I certainly am not going to win a weight-lifting contest. However, I do enjoy working out, and that’s what I’ll be basing this post on. For those that know me…yeah it’s weird for me too. Try not to laugh too much.
A miracle just took place in my house. Seriously. I get home, relax for a while, and figure I’ll work out some before I grab a shower. I do my regular stuff: situps, curls, pushups, and those kind of things. However, up to this point, I haven’t been able to do more than 33 pushups in a single workout session, without stopping. I got to 35 today, after doing several other exercises. And I wanted more.
You ever have those moments where some small event brings out emotion from everything else going on in your life? I’m joining the club today. I thought about all that has happened over the past few months, and I mean every little detail. I thought, as I worked out, about all that I am planning on doing when school starts, and all I’d like to do. It’s overwhelming. It’s a terrible habit of mine, and one that needs to stop, but, it happened.
I blogged earlier in June about how Jesus must be everything to us. And that’s completely true. But that isn’t a decision that’s made once. It’s a decision made daily, in everything that we do. And so many times, I fall flat on my face, humbled, emptied, and broken before the Creator of the universe, and my Savior. What are we truly dependent on? If it isn’t Jesus….it’s something else, and it’s wrong.
Back to my exercise…I got to 35 pushups. I wanted more. 36. 37. 38. 39…..Now, I’ve always been one that I don’t want to end on an odd number. It’d weird me out and bother me if I didn’t get to 40. I wanted it. But as I went to push myself up for that last pushup, my arms and legs gave out, and I couldn’t do it. I tried again…same result. I tried a third time, and still, I couldn’t do it. If you feel inclined to laugh at me at this point, do it. I did. Just not at the time. For me, this was a result of my awful eating habits and years of just not caring. This is what I got. Me, at 20 years old, not able to do 40 pushups. And it broke me. I laid on that floor, crying. Not just because I couldn’t do 40 pushups. But because I realized, at that moment, at how lost I am without God. It hit me that I can’t do anything on my own.
As the tears came rolling down my face, I thought about everything that’s gone on, and will go on, and I cried out, “I can’t do this, God. I don’t have anything left.” I can’t handle my relationships, my job, my finances, my family, my ministry, and all that life, and God Himself, demands. Heck….I can’t even take care of my own body. I literally felt like I could not push myself up off the floor. I screamed that I was done.
Now, what happened next is the miracle. I didn’t get this great surge of energy, or this miraculous return of strength to do a pushup. I just knew in my heart that just like all the other times before in my life, God was looking right at me, and was reaching out His hand to pick me up off the floor. And He did. I picked myself up. And I went right back to it. I got myself in position to do a pushup, lowered myself, and with everything within me, raised myself up off that floor. I would go on to do 50 pushups today.
It was a miracle because God found me in a place where I could not pick myself up, and He picked me up, and allowed me to keep working. When I needed one pushup, He gave me 11 more. As I sat and relaxed, I thought about all the times God has done that.
When my family was torn apart by divorce, and I wondered if I would ever feel that fatherly love, God showed me His love. He provided His loving hand, and gave me the most incredible, loving, Godly, and supportive grandfather I could ever ask for.
When I found myself angry at the world, He called me to calm down in Him. Nothing in this world or the next is outside of His control.
When I was 8 years old, He drew me to Himself in Christ, and showed me what it means to trust in Him.
When I struggled to find friendship, He called me to Himself, and showed me what a friend I have in Jesus. Years later, He would provide, and continues to provide, Godly brothers and sisters that encourage and build me up, and love and care about me no matter what happens.
When I struggled to maintain relationships with the other side of my family, He reminds me of the grace and forgiveness He’s shown me so many times.
When He found me 12 years after salvation, in rebellion and sin and doubt, and wondering if the life in Christ was truly better than the life without Him, He brought me back with open arms, and showed me what real growth and maturity looks like.
When I sin, when I doubt, and when I hurt, He continues to bring me back and restore me.
When I seem to lose everything I have, and when I lose the things and even people that matter the most to me, He shows me what is truly important. And it’s not a thing, it’s not a relationship with anyone else, it’s not school, it’s not family. It’s Him.
On that Thursday night in Virginia, when everyone else was either sick or incapable of leading, and all was thrown on me, I cried out, “I can’t do this, God.” He took my hand, and said “You’re right, Neal. You can’t do this……but I can.” And 20 boys put their faith in Christ for the first time, not out of anything I did, but all because of what God did.
July 7, 2011—-I can’t bring myself up off the floor to do 40 pushups. But He can. And He did. Not by a supernatural physical power, but out of His love and His affection for me. I heard a voice saying “It’s okay, I’m here. And you can do this.”
And I did 50. When we have nothing left, God is more than able to fill us up, and allow us to do more than we ever thought we could, through His power.
Maybe that’s where you find yourself tonight. You’ve tried and tried to fix it yourself. And every attempt at success, at popularity, at looking and feeling good, it fails. Every attempt at holiness fails. I can speak from experience…as long as you continue to trust in yourself, it will continue to fail. But we have a marvelous and unfailing hope in Christ. Through Him, all things are possible. Whether it be getting through the death of a loved one, dealing with a relationship that is strained. Maybe your unemployed and wondering how you can possibly provide for your family. You may not be able to….but God can. Let Him use you, and do what He asks, for it will never be too much, and the results will be nothing short of amazing. Maybe you’re just sick and tired of feeling worthless. You know the gospel. You know the Bible, and you know you’re in sin. But you just don’t know a way out. That way out is Jesus. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, what you’re going through, or what you’ll have to deal with in the next 50 years. Our God is an awesome God, and He provides salvation, forgiveness of sins, and an eternal, everlasting hope in Christ Jesus. Life may not be easy, but we can place our trust in the one who’s been there. We can place our trust in our Savior, who we will see one day, face to face.
Maybe you just can’t do one more pushup. Maybe you’re like me. You’re out…you don’t have anything left. Overwhelmed by the burdens of the world, and possibly even what God has called you to do, you feel like the world is crashing around you. That’s not the case, for the same God who holds the world together is holding you. He won’t let it crash down on you. It may be tough, and it may seem impossible, but there is nothing that is impossible with God.
I’ve felt more lonely this summer than I’ve felt in a long time. The difference between now and ten years ago is that my first instinct is to run to my heavenly Father, who welcomes me with open arms each time. The loneliness fades away in the light and love of God. He is good….in every season of life, God is God. No amount of death, hurt, pain, unemployment, sin, divorce, break-ups, hatred, disasters, and disappointment can change that. He is God….and He is faithful to His children. He loves you, more than you could ever imagine.