Simple Acts; Saving Grace

This post includes a testimony from Stuart Cooper, shared recently at Redeeming Grace Church. The testimony highlights how God used one man’s act of simple faithfulness to bring about His saving grace in Stuart’s life. I pray it encourages you that God can use your simple acts of faithfulness to work powerfully in the lives of those you interact with.

Charlie Robarge was a single adult who faithfully attended Cornerstone Church in Knoxville for several years. Because of his love for the Lord and for the lost, Charlie was involved in campus ministry even into his 30s.

Stuart Cooper Testimony

With no fanfare, on a regular basis, Charlie would knock on dorm rooms doors to invite students to meetings.

In 1995, I did not know Charlie… but more importantly, I did not know Jesus.

I was a young, arrogant, hypocritical 18-year-old freshman. I had attended church three times a week,my whole life, at the direction of my parents, but I was not right with the Lord.

The dangerous thing is that because of my church attendance and involvement since my youth, I considered myself a Christian. If anyone had asked me, “Are you a Christian?”, my immediate answer
would have been, “Yes.” But, my sins had separated me from God, and I was too proud to understand my need for a Savior.

My freshman year, my brother Craig and I were roommates in our dorm. During Fall Break that year, most of the dorm was gone, including Craig, and I was in my room, alone with my thoughts. I was listening to music, and one of the lines in a song said, “No one is listening to me, not even the trees.” Feeling hopeless, I looked out the window and prayed, “God, I don’t know if you even exist, but if you do, please do something right now. I need help.”

Right after I prayed that, a flyer slid toward my feet. It was an invitation to an evangelistic outreach meeting. Charlie had knocked on my door earlier that day, but with the music up so loud, I had not answered the door. So, he decided to slide a flyer underneath the door. I looked down and saw the words, “Victory in Life through Jesus Christ”, did a double take out the window, and thought, “I should go to this meeting.”

The night I attended that meeting, I heard the gospel communicated in a way that clearly convinced me of my need for a Savior, and I was drawn to Christ through the Holy Spirit in such a way that I could not help but respond.

The speaker was a man named Rice Broocks. There were multiple times as he preached where I felt the Holy Spirit specifically speaking to me. On at least three different occasions I would have a thought, and the speaker would answer my thought. Rice was saying that you can have all the outward appearances of a Christian and still not be one. I would think something like, “Well, I know that I’m a Christian, because I’m a leader in the youth group.” And then Rice would say, “Don’t think, ‘I know I’m a Christian, because I’m a leader in the youth group’. You can be a youth group leader and still not be a Christian.” This happened around three times.

At that meeting, I was convinced, for the first time, that I was not a Christian. And I was also convinced that the only way to become a Christian was to put all my trust in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not my works. Believing the good news, I was born again.

Often, on the anniversary of that night, I think of Charlie, and at times when people point out grace in my life, that would not be there had I not become a Christian, I send a note to Charlie to thank him for being faithful to participate in the Great Commission.

I’m grateful to God for the powerful way He used the simple act of Charlie sliding a flyer under my door, and I pray He will use my simple acts that others may come to know Jesus, as well.

A Life Unafraid

This post was written by my 13 year old daughter, Karis Elizabeth Cooper.

Have you ever felt scared of the future? If this at all describes you, I hope this article encourages you and reminds you of how God works in wonderful ways.

This past summer, I was reading over the book of Job. I read as Job’s life was torn apart, and I was terrified that something like that would happen to me — that my life would be torn apart.

Then, one Friday night in late August, our family was thrust into a fiery trial, and God reminded me with His sovereignty.

My little eleven year old brother was at the park, playing football with some friends. My mom asked me to go tell him it was time for dinner, so I walked over to the park to bring him home. One of the boys had left his keys inside the pool area of our neighborhood clubhouse. The gate was locked, but my brother said he would help him get his keys. The pool area is surrounded by a wrought-iron fence…and my brother attempted to climb it.

It all happened so fast. But it was like it was in slow-motion as I watched it all unfold.

I will never forget the horror I felt when I saw my brother fall.

His shoe was wet; he slipped, and he was immediately impaled on the arrow point of the wrought-iron fence. My brother was screaming, in searing pain – entirely helpless. My parents rushed him to the ER where the doctors discovered that he had perforated his colon. Our family was entirely dependent on the Lord. The next few months were some of the hardest in my life.

It was exactly the thing I was the most scared of.

But, God used that fear of mine to draw me even closer to Him. I was drawn to His Word. I could feel Him embracing me as His child, and I was leaning on His love as someone who needed Him desperately.

I was weak. I was dependent.

While that may sound terrifying to you, as it did to me, I want to assure you when you suffer, you are not alone. In her book Kisses From Katie, Katie Davis says that she learned that “the powerless, broken, dependent place was actually the place where God was closest.” Yes! God is close to those who call to Him, and he will not over look you.

One of my favorite Bible stories is when Jesus and His disciples go out for a boat ride and Jesus falls asleep. When the storms come, the disciples cry out to Jesus, and He answers them. He asks them why they are afraid – he was always there. Then, he says a couple of words, and the storm becomes silent.

Like the disciples, we are trying to follow the Lord, but there are moments that the storms are raging, and we are anxious for God to come stop it. Moments when we forget God is right beside us.

But you know what God does when we cry out to Him?

He calms the sea.

In Proverbs, it speaks of a woman who is clothed in strength and dignity and laughs with no fear of the future (Proverbs 31:25).

I want to be that kind of woman. I want to laugh without any fear of the days to come. And I can, because on that day of judgment, I know that there is a righteous and holy Savior who lived a perfect life and died a substitutionary death for every one of my sins, so that I could be blameless before the Lord of the heavens.

Jesus died for us. He had a plan for each and every one of us before the beginning; a plan wonderfully, gloriously, awesomely, and fearfully crafted specifically for you. Our God is in control of every second of our lives, so we can live a life unafraid. Even in our suffering, He will be with us.

So, if you are at all afraid, rest assured that our God is bigger and stronger than anything that could ever come against us. He is with us. He is the Solid Rock on which we stand, our firm Cornerstone.

Never Alone

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Heb. 13:5

We waited to hear from Mr. Yung. A serene man in his seventies, he had been confined to the cruelest of solitary confinement for two years for his faith in Jesus Christ. Locked in a tiny cell without light, with no contact with visitors or other inmates, Mr. Yung sat day after day, week after week, month after month for two years in total darkness (Except for brief and rare walks outside). Who wouldn’t want to hear what he learned about life, death, fear, faith and suffering as he languished in cramped darkness for two years?

Looking Up

When the moderator asked him what he had learned, Mr. Yung simply stated, “This is what I learned. I learned that Jesus is always with me.”

That’s it? Two years of inhumane treatment, both physically and psychologically, and what you learned was, “Jesus is always with me”?

The moderator rephrased the question, thinking he could coax a bit more from Mr. Yung.

He replied, “That Jesus is always with me is what I learned. He was with me when I was hungry. He was with me when I was cold. He was with me when I was hot and delirious. He was with me when I was afraid for my family. He was with me when I was sick. He was with me when I was beaten. He was with me when I was hopeless. He was with me when I was confused. Jesus was with me when I was sure I was dying. Jesus was always with me. Jesus IS always with me. That is what I learned.”

Christians rightfully focus on what the Lord has done for us. Yet Mr. Yung’s rather anticlimactic reply to the question was actually a most profound one. The knowledge that Jesus is always with us is equally necessary to walk whatever walk the Lord has prescribed for us. Jesus for us and Jesus in us. These are the two truths that help Christians put one foot in front of another, day by day, regardless of what our darkness consists of.

Do YOU believe this?

Ponder for a moment that Jesus who died on the cross for your sins is also present in your life, closer than a shadow and more intimate than a breath. He is with you right now, in your heart and soul. Your ever faithful friend, “Jesus is always with you”. Jesus is with you when you wonder if you have the strength to make it through work one more day. Jesus is with you when you fear the path your child has taken might ruin their lives. Jesus is with you when you drive to AND from your doctor’s appointment. Jesus is with you when you sit down in front of your computer. Jesus is with you when you think there is no other solution to your marriage than to end it. Jesus is with you when your boss says your position has been replaced by a teenager working in a call center in Malaysia. Jesus is with you when the doctor takes your child and says, “we will see you in five hours.” Jesus is with you when you review your life and wonder, “how did I wind up here?” Jesus is with you when your temptations attack you with the fierceness of the Orcs on Frodo. Jesus is with you when you feel the outcome of your life has been shaped by the choices of others. Jesus is with you when you have nothing but darkness surrounding you. JESUS IS ALWAYS WITH YOU.

There is great power and strength that comes from reflecting on what Jesus has done for us. AND, there is great power that comes from reflecting on Jesus in us. Moment by moment, his spirit in us, comforting, challenging, directing, warning, empowering, consoling and emboldening us.

He is with me, even to the end of the age.

He will never leave me nor forsake me.

United to a living Christ, living in and through me now. If you are a Christian, that is your testimony.

This instant, in the midst of your scrambled thinking, your fractured friendships, your uncertain future, Mr. Yung’s testimony is true of you. “Jesus is always with me.” The one who for hours was THE MOST alone person who ever trod this dusty orb says to you right now, I will never leave you. I am with you. I am in you. Moment by moment, event by event, trial by trial, temptation by temptation, step by step, you are not left to your own strength. You are not left to wield the sword alone. I am ALWAYS with you.

So, weak one. Remember, your weakness is to direct your attention to the strong one. Jesus, who is always with you, living in you by His Spirit. The next step? No one knows. Who will be with you when you take it? You do know, because if you have learned anything from Mr. Yung, it is this, “Jesus is always with me”

This post was written by Steve Shank. Steve has served in pastoral ministry for over 30 years and is the author of First Steps of Faith.