Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tried and Proven

"The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits."
2 Timothy 2:6

It is hard to sell something you have never tried.
It is difficult to convince someone else to buy or try something
you've only heard about second hand.
How much more persuasive our salesmanship
when we are able to say,
"I've tried it.
I recommend it.
It works."

When I was a child, one of my mentors used to write the letters "T&P" in her Bible.  
One day, she told me the letters meant "Tried and Proven", 
and she explained that she wrote it next to Scriptures 
that God had personally proven to her to be real.
They were promises she had clung to in the hard times
and found them to work....
in the most personal of ways.

Her method impressed me.
The fact that she had lived it,
that she had actually been through difficulties and tested the quality of the Holy promises,
that she had proven their accuracy and dependability...
added an undeniable element of credence to her profession of faith in God.

Since she told me that, my life has been full.
I've lived many years and experienced a wide gamut of highs and lows.
Looking back in retrospect,
I have personally tested and proven the validity and credibility 
of many of the Bible's 7,487 promises....
on my own....
on a personal level.

Somehow they mean more when you have tested them 
and experienced their truth and faithfulness first-hand.
Hearing someone else tell you how great something is 
somehow doesn't come close to partaking of and enjoying it yourself.  
It just isn't quite as convincing as you personally walking through the fire 
clutching only the Word of God to hold you up, 
then coming away from the heat unharmed and unscathed.

I've personally tried and proven God to be faithful to His Word.
I feel sure you have, too.
When He says He will forgive,
I can vouch for the validity of this promise...
many times over.
My memory isn't big enough to remember all of the times I have fallen short of the glory of God, 
only to come back to Him with a penitent heart.
I have found that when His Word says,
"For Thou, Lord, art good, and  ready to forgive; 
and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee" in Psalm 86:5...
He absolutely means what He says,
and He says what He means. 
He has forgiven me...every, single time.

When I read these words in I Peter 2:24
"Who His Own self bare our sins in His Own body on the tree, 
that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness:  
by Whose stripes ye were healed"...
I can personally testify that it is true.
He absolutely endured the scourging stripes for our healing.  
How do I speak with such conviction?
Why am I so convinced?
Because, He has applied a soothing, healing balm....
 to my soul, my mind, my emotions, and my physical body 
more times than I can count.

It has happened to me.

When I rejoice as I read the words in Isaiah 43:2
"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; 
and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee:  
when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned: 
neither shall the flame kindle upon thee"...
my rejoicing is driven from having passed through stormy waters more times than I care to remember,
and having walked through the fire over and over again,
and seeing myself still here....
still standing....
convinced more than ever.
He walked with me.
Therefore, I survived.

God keeps His Word.
He fulfills His promises.
He can be trusted.

I say this not because someone else says so.
Not because I read all about it, and it sounded good.
I can tell you it is true because I have put His promises to the test...
in the most personal of ways.

When she told me about the "T&P's" in her Bible, 
I could only trust that she was telling me the truth.  
I had not walked through the testing laboratory of life 
to actually be able to put my personal validation on the promises.  
Now, I have...
and I can.
  I can tell you it works.
I can add "T&P's"...
all my own.
Because now I know....
for myself.

Job was a Godly man.  
He avoided evil.
He prayed for his children.
He was an honorable and devoted husband and father.
He worshiped God and did what was right.
He had a head knowledge of who God is.
But it wasn't until the very last chapter of the book in the Bible that bears his name,
 that Job could finally utter these words,
"I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear:  
but now mine eye seeth Thee." 
 Job 42:5

Why is this?
He had lived it.
He had walked it.
Read the Old Testament book of Job.
The man was pushed beyond human limits.
He was tested, tried, and tormented in the worst of ways.
God allowed the tribulations to enter Job's life.
But, Job never walked alone.
God was there.
He had tried...
and proven...
that God is Who He says He is...
that God will do what He says He will do.
At the end of the book, he was thoroughly convinced.
At that point, his experience was not based on hearsay.
At last, he could see God...
from a first-hand point of view.

It is one thing to hear about God, His power, and what He can do and accomplish.
It is quite another to see Him with our own eyes.  
First-hand knowledge is so much more convincing.

God recently brought someone across my path
whose life is literally in a state of shambles.
He bears the mark and scars of sin...
both on his soul and on his outward body.
A very noticeable scar all across the left side of his face...
compliments of a deep knife wound...
serves as a constant, permanent reminder 
of the sinful, violent life he has chosen to live.

His nose...
once straight and well-formed,
now appears crooked and off-center...
thanks to being broken in anger during a fist-fight.
There are other outward signs, 
but the thing that struck me most were the manifestations I saw 
from the deep inward scars he bears.

I had the opportunity to counsel with him,
As he sat near me,
relating story after hair-raising story,
tale after near-unbelievable tale,
told from the first-hand experience of the rough life he has lived,
tears began to fall from his eyes
and course down his cheeks.

There, under the surface,
beneath the tough-guy facade...
was the tender heart of the little boy
I knew and loved...
and have prayed countless prayers for over the years.

Through the glazed over mask,
I saw the pain of regret in his eyes.
The sting of remorse.
The deep desire to go back and do things over.

He's lived it.
He hasn't read about it.
He has walked through years of life...
on the streets....
in jail cells....
infiltrated by drugs, alcohol, moral depravity,
and social degradation.

I looked at him...
square in the eyes, 
and I said,
"Don't you see?
If only you would surrender your life fully to Christ!
Can't you understand?
Your testimony!
What amazing power it would wield!"

I went on to explain that whenever God allows me to encounter someone such as himself,
I can look at them with all of the compassion my heart can hold,
 and I can empathize with their pain...
but that is where I must stop.
That is all I can do.
I can't relate...
at least, not past a certain point.

His testimony would hold so much more weight.
It would be so much more powerful.
A thousand times more persuasive.

For you see, 
he has been there.

He has felt the jolt of hearing heavy, iron gates of jail cells slamming shut...
from the inside.
He's lived life on the street
and tasted every aspect of it.

Do any of us truly realize how much more weighty it is to say, "I've been there"
 rather than to say "I can only imagine how you feel?"

He has tasted, tried, and proven a life of deep sin.  
He is a personal ambassador of God's mercy
 and though he has not yet made the decision to completely surrender his life to Christ, 
he consistently admits that he is alive only through the prayers prayed by those who love him.

He acknowledges that God's mercy is the only explanation.

There is nothing as convincing as a personal testimony told from first-hand experience.
Nothing else is nearly as persuasive.  
I would love to see the creative ways God would use to draw others to Himself 
through this young mans' testimony.  
Where he sees his life as over, ruined, and hopeless...
I see a wealth of untapped potential.
Imagine what God sees!

In order for you and I to truly grasp the greatness of God, 
we must experience Him on a personal basis.
Until we've really tried and proven Him, 
our Christian testimony will be flat, unconvincing, and without passion.
We won't be fully persuaded, nor will be successful in persuading anyone else 
until we have personally tried and proven God on the most intimate of levels.

Psalm 34:8 says,
"O taste and see that the Lord is good:  
blessed is the man that trusteth in him."

Only after we've tasted will we truly absorb the greatness of God.
Only after we have absorbed it will we be able to convince anyone else.

We must first taste and see.
We must first try it and prove it...
to ourselves.
We must first be a partaker of the fruit.

Then, and only then,
can we ever hope to convince someone else how sweet it is.

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