Before attending a gathering of STS leaders at the headquarters in California I needed to select and prepare a Bible story from a list of 296 stories. I felt a longing in my spirit to learn a new story; one I had never worked on before.
While looking over that list, my eyes came upon the story of 1 Kings 19:4-16 titled, Fear After Success. Although I did not know why, I felt a strong confirmation in my spirit to do that story. The story involves God ministering to the prophet Elijah following his amazing triumph over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. But then, after receiving a death threat, Elijah is filled with fear and runs for his life. In fact, Elijah is so discouraged that he asks God to take his life, saying, “It is enough!”
It was a joy to learn and practice the story. I tried to make it my own. While meditating on the story, it ministered to my spirit and God sent many treasures to my soul. It was clear that God had led me to that story for a reason. Was it just for me? Perhaps it was for a discouraged colleague coming to the gathering. I did not know.
I told the story at the conference and we all enjoyed discussing it. But I did not sense any specific impact. Then, a few weeks after the conference, something happened . . .
I received an email from the wife of dear friend (let’s call her Linda.) Linda asked if I had time to give some counsel and comfort to her husband, who we will call Jerry. He is the youngest of three siblings and the only believer in his family. When Jerry lost his father six years earlier, the last words his father said to him were, “Take care of your mother.”
Linda explained that Jerry’s ninety year-old mother, who we will call Doris, had decided to end her life. Doris was in a nursing home after falling and breaking her leg. She did not have a terminal illness, was getting better and receiving excellent care. Doris claims to be a believer, but had made the decision to refuse any nourishment or water except what small amount she might need for any pain medications.
That day Jerry and I met over lunch. He shared how he and Linda and some of the kids had gone to visit his mom the previous weekend. When Jerry asked his mom why she was doing this, he learned that Doris had attended a class called Death and Dying taught by her pastor. Doris had decided that she did not want to be a “burden to her family.” She no longer felt she had “quality of life” and she wanted to exercise her “right to die with dignity.” Jerry’s two sisters approved of Doris’ “brave decision.”
As we talked, Jerry’s greatest burden was his belief that he had failed his father’s dying request for him to take care of his mother. I asked, “May I share a story with you?” He nodded a “yes”, so I told (yes, you guessed it) the Elijah story. (In the story, God had sent an angel to minister to Elijah with “cake already baked on hot coals and a jar of water.” In fact, the angel came twice to Elijah.)
As we discussed the story and Elijah’s desire to die, I asked Jerry if he felt he could identify with any of the characters of the story. After some thought Jerry said, “the angel.” Part of our conversation went something like this . . .
Me: “Did the angel force Elijah to eat the bread and drink the water?”
Me: “Who sent the angel to minister to Elijah?”
Jerry: “God did.”
Me: “Did Elijah make any decisions here or could he have made another choice?”
Jerry: “Yes, he ate the bread and drank the water.”
Me: “Do you think the angel was responsible for Elijah’s decision?”
Me: “So what do you think God might be saying to you from this story?”
Jerry: “I am not responsible for my Mom’s decisions.”
The next day I received the following email from Jerry’s wife Linda.
Hi MY Friend-
Just want to extend a heartfelt thank you for what you did to encourage and strengthen Jerry yesterday. It was clear to me that the Lord had gone before you, considering the fact that you were available, the Scripture you had been meditating in previously, and its relevance to the difficult situation at present with Jerry’s mom.
When he came home after work, he told me he had had lunch with you, and that being with you and what you shared with him were deeply helpful.
One of the things that has clearly been weighing on him [and brought him to tears] is his dad's final admonition to him to "take care of your mother" . . . and how stymied he has felt by her insistence on her "choice." You helped him see this through the lens of Scripture and that has lifted the burden that he cannot change. It also helped me when you mentioned on the phone what Doris is doing is really defiance against God . . . and the fact that Doris told Jerry God didn't give her a “yes” when she prayed and yet is persisting in this course anyway gives me great pause. Is there anything harder than a human heart?
According to my sister-in-law, the night after we had visited was an especially rough one for Doris, with sleeplessness, and many tears . . . I don't know if the Lord offers comfort when we refuse to repent of a decision such as she has made . . . but I do know that is what she needs, and to that end I'm praying now. Jerry said you told him "God will do what He will do" . . . that was so helpful for me.
Thank you so much for ministering to my dear husband . . .
If I had not been obedient when prompted in my spirit to learn this particular new story, I would not have been as prepared as I was to minister to my friend. I want listening to God and responding to Him to be my life.
”Once a week is not enough!”
“This is the best presentation of the Gospel I have ever heard.”
“I wish our church meetings were presented this way.”
Those are only a few of the encouraging reactions spoken to me after ministering the Word of God with the Simply The Story presentations.
My position is working as a volunteer chaplain in a faith based drug and alcohol recovery centre in Perth, Western Australia. We have a holistic (spirit, soul and body) approach to helping our clients break free from addictions of many kinds.
When first working at the Recovery Centre, I met with the head chaplain. He and his team had been praying for nearly three years about starting some Christ-centred meetings for the clients who were looking for and needing transformation. The team saw the challenge as, “How can we provide the Word of God to people in a way that is not literacy based?”
When I told the chaplain about the skills I had learnt using Simply The Story (STS), he had a great deal of difficulty maintaining his composure! He knew immediately that God had brought him the answer as to how to minister the Scriptures to their clients.
We have begun Christ-centred meetings for those who want a real life change. These meetings focus on developing life-skills with God’s Word as our foundation.
Many of our clients prefer not to read or have short attention spans due to their addictions. The STS approach to presenting the Scriptures has really made a huge impact in our clients. This has been demonstrated by the numbers of folk who return the following week to get their “fix” from God through His Word, and by the comments we have received from them and our volunteer helpers.
It is yet in its early days; we have been doing this for nine weeks so far. But we are praying as to how the Lord would have us utilise this STS tool further. As well, I have begun to train anyone who comes to these meetings in this way of Bible study. We thank God for His mighty Word which is able to “…discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
If you would like to check out the website of the recovery centre, this is it: http://www.freshstart.org.au/
T. Dower Australia
I know the value of feedback and thought you might want to hear some, especially from a guy who struggled through the whole week of the workshop you just led.
My position as pastor at my church often leads to opportunities to counsel people. This morning, when I least needed it, a young girl, whom I’ve met with on many prior occasions, stopped by. She was complaining about a situation that keeps surfacing between her and her Mom. We have had this conversation in similar form before. So, what did I have to lose? Obviously, prior counseling didn’t quite help with a solution to the problem.
She, through the process, discovered that sometimes when we decide to be obedient we find ourselves in a rocky boat, maybe even doubting the choice to be obedient. She also discovered, and this was the good part, that if the disciples had not been obedient, they would have missed out on a miracle by Jesus – not an observation from any of us in our “tribe” during the workshop.
It felt like the divinely appointed meeting between the king, Gehazi, and the woman whose son Elisha had restored to life (one of the other stories we learned in my tribe study group.)
JC Workshop attendee in Joplin, MO