I remember memorizing Hebrews 11 as a child, which detailed quite a few gruesome ways to die: “They were stoned to death, they were cut in two, and they died by being murdered with swords. They went around wearing the skins of sheep and goats, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. The world didn’t deserve them. They wandered around in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground.”1
When I was an idealistic fourteen-year-old, I read a biography of David Brainerd. I loved reading about missionaries like David Livingstone, C. T. Studd, and Amy Carmichael. They seemed to have no trouble inspiring devoted converts who made every sacrifice visibly worthwhile. But Brainerd’s story got off to a tragic start. The reason I remember so clearly how old I was when I read about him is because by the time he was my age, he was an orphan. I still had both of my parents, with many happy years left to enjoy both of them.
The Bible tells of a time Jesus went back to His hometown. I think it’s one of the saddest stories in the Bible, pretty much summed up in the final verse of the chapter: “He did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.”1
These people knew Jesus. They had watched Him grow up, and I guess they didn’t expect much from Him. So when He came around after He’d been doing miracles, they just couldn’t believe it. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?”2 they asked. It seems to me they were saying, “We know this guy. He’s just a carpenter—it’s not possible that He could be doing something great. It’s not like He’s the son of God or anything.”
I discovered the power of forgiveness on a July afternoon in 1976. It was during the Idi Amin regime, when Uganda had come to a standstill—careers, the economy, the infrastructure, education, everything. I was a student at Makerere University and also newly married and expecting a baby.
You’ve probably heard some of these familiar sayings:
Every day, when you step out the door to go to work or on an appointment, or to take the kids to school or the park, or when you’re at home working or cooking or cleaning, if you’re praying as you do so, you’re going to “the market,” so to speak, and you should take along a pretty big “basket” of faith and expectancy for God to work in and through your life to fulfill His purposes. Through our prayers we create a vacuum for God to work, and we should expect that He is going to respond according to His will.
Do not give up! Do not let go! Hold on to Me, because I love you. Hold on to My Word, which gives courage, strength, faith, hope, life, and power, even where there is none. I have so much more to give you, to show you, and to work through your life. There’s so much ahead for you!
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified … for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
—Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV
If you wait for perfect weather, you will never plant your seeds. If you are afraid that every cloud will bring rain, you will never harvest your crops.
—Ecclesiastes 11:4 ERV
Throughout our lives, we encounter situations and opportunities that have potential to open new doors for our future. Sometimes, it’s very clear that God is opening a door; other times, we simply have a sense in our heart. There’s often an accompanying feeling of excitement and positive anticipation that calls us to advance into unfamiliar territory.
I am currently reading a book about the Wright Brothers, who are credited with inventing and building the world’s first successful airplane and making the first controlled flight. It had always been a dream of mankind to take to the air and fly like birds, and while hot air balloons had been in use for some time, it was universally assumed that mechanical human flight was impossible.