I have just recently celebrated another birthday. Since coming to faith, birthdays have had a growing significance to me because, simply put, birthdays celebrate life. For most of my life I’ve taken my life for granted. This has played itself out with the many years of living an extreme drug lifestyle where I cared very little for the well being of my own life, let alone for the life of others. To sum it up, I was shooting to live until about 30, that was my attitude toward life and the speed of my trajectory. When I look back, I believe it’s because very early on in my life the devil began to steal, kill and destroy any and all of my hopes and dreams. I can honestly say that it was around the age 10 that I slowly stopped caring about life. I don’t say this to escape taking responsibility for the life I lived, regardless of the extenuating circumstances I chose to live my life, my way. I wasn’t a victim (though it would be easy to take that position), but a willful participate.
The devil would love for us to think of ourselves as victims, this way he can keep us wallowing in self-pity blinded from seeing the strength and resilience that God has placed in us because we are made in His image (Genesis 1:27). Victims live in fear, but God created us out of love, for love and to love. He promises us that there is no fear in love (1 John 4:18). Are you tired of living in fear? Jesus says that though the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy, He has come to give us fullness of life (John 10:10). Birthdays have had a growing significance to me because each birthday celebration reminds me that if it wasn’t for Jesus intervening in my life, I would literally be dead. To this day, I can honestly say that it is solely by the grace of God that I live today. Most people don’t see what I see when they look into the rearview mirror of life and I’m glad because I wouldn’t wish my life on anyone. I’m also so very grateful that God chose to have mercy on me, but this wasn’t always the case.
In the first year of coming to faith, I suffered from survivor’s guilt because I couldn’t understand why God decided to save me and not my friends. I can still remember asking God, “Why me?” But, I also remember God saying back to me, “Why not you?” One of the greatest mysteries of God is understanding His ways. Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “God moves in mysterious ways” which is from a poem titled the same by William Cowper. And though there is some truth to this, it’s not the whole story because God has given us the Bible and Holy Spirit, so that we can begin to understand His ways. Now granted God is God and we are not and His ways are higher than our ways, so there will always be some mystery in understanding God’s ways. But, we are definitely not totally lost here. “But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us” (1 Corinthians 210-12 NLT).
When it comes to understanding why some people choose to come to faith and others don’t (Arminianism) or why God chooses to save some and not others (Calvinism), will always be one of the great mysteries this side of Heaven. There’s plenty of reading on Calvinism and Arminianism out there where you can decide or not decide for yourselves which perspective is more persuasive. Personally, I believe that God chose to have mercy on me because His heart is for none to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) which translates into: God’s heart towards us is to heal, save, redeem and restore. I also believe that our prayers move God’s heart (Psalm 34:4; 120:1). A revelation that the Holy Spirit spoke to me, which I believe is a revelation that every believer needs to hear, happened one day when I was driving down the road. I was at a red light watching a person walk by when I very distinct heard Holy Spirit say to me, “Pray for that person because their name/image has never been brought before the throne of God.”
In that moment, God broke my heart for the lost. Since that day, I have made it a point to pray for strangers (people walking down the street, people driving in cars, people I see on TV or read about, people in restaurants or at the grocery store, etc.) because I may be the very first person to ask God to intervene in their life. I may be the very first person to pray that He would pour out His mercy and grace upon them. Think about it. How many people do you think are living right now that have never been prayed for? Just thinking about it, overwhelms me. But, I need to remind myself that it is not my burden alone, but the burden of all believers to be praying for the lost. I hope reading this has ignited within you a burning passion to begin praying for strangers. Who knows, the very next stranger you pray for could be the first time their name/image has ever been brought before the throne of God.