God is Real; God Answers Prayer; God is Trustworthy.
This Summer, our church is working on an assignment. Each family is going to write their own Book of Remembrance detailing the ways the Lord has shown Himself to be faithful in their personal lives. This assignment finds its basis in Malachi 3:16 and Nehemiah 2:17-18. The purpose of the assignment is that we, at Highland Community Church, would remember what God has done in the past, His faithfulness and His trustworthiness, so that we might continue to pray boldly for what God is doing presently and what God is going to do in the future.
This past Sunday, I shared one of the stories that will be going into The Strickland Family Book of Remembrance. I wanted to take a moment and share it with each of you so that we all might find great confidence in the fact that God is real; God answers prayer; and God is trustworthy - what He says, He will do.
In 2006, our family had been living in North Highland for about 4 months. To say the least, things were not going well. Our family was burdened, depressed, isolated and we found ourselves questioning the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God. At that time, we were serving chicken and rice on Saturdays and breakfast on Sunday mornings to anyone living in North Highland and to the homeless as an outreach and opportunity to share the Gospel. The church, at that time, did not have a kitchen so we were preparing all the food out of an old, dilapidated house that was next door to the church. Needless to say, the house was in serious disrepair! For example, inside the house there were places where the walls had separated from the floor and you could actually reach your hand down and touch the ground underneath the house…not good! Our insurance company also thought that was not good and they told us we could no longer serve anyone food from that home. In order to remain insured, they gave us two options: 1) tear the house down or 2) renovate the home. The cheapest of the two options was to tear it down, but just to tear it down was going to cost $10,000. When we were told that, I had never been so happy! Remember, at that time, I did not want to be living in North Highland and I was grateful for any excuse to move on. I thought “this is my way out of here!” I knew our family, and the church as a whole, did not have $10,000 to put toward the demolition of the home, so in my mind, I was thinking we would just close the doors of the church and call it quits.
At this point in time, we had 5 people who were overseeing the activities of Highland Community Church - Rob and I, Rob’s parents, and a man named Randall Lake. After hearing the options regarding the house, Randall requested that the five of us meet together at mine and Rob’s house and hold a prayer meeting asking God for the $10,000. I agreed (only because that’s what a pastor’s wife should do - agree to the prayer meeting, right?!), but in my spirit I had absolutely no desire to ask God to give us $10,000. I was counting on the verse “where 2 or more are gathered, you can ask anything in My name” and hoping that since I was part of that 2 or more and since I was not agreeing, that surely the Lord would see my lack of faith and decide to save His blessing for someone who really wanted it. Of course at the time, I told my true feelings to no one, but instead proceeded to host the prayer meeting and listen to Randall boldly pray and ask God for the $10,000. The prayer meeting ended and everyone went on their way. The following morning was Sunday and we were getting ready to begin our 11:00 service when a college girl walked into the sanctuary. She was home for the Summer and during her Summer break she had been volunteering with the Chicken and Rice team on Saturday afternoons. We had seen her several times at Chicken and Rice, but she had never attended a Sunday service. However this particular Sunday, she walked right into the sanctuary, walked right over to Rob, handed him something and then walked right back out the door. When I walked over to ask Rob what she had given him, he looked stunned. All he could do was open his hand and when I looked to see what it was, sure enough, it was a check for $10,000.
It’s hard to put into words what happened in my spirit that day. It was both a crushing and a divine lifting all at the same time. Crushing because in the most gentle, yet firm way, I heard the Lord say, “Carrie, I don’t need you in order to fulfill the plans I have for this church and for this community. I have already determined to show My power and faithfulness here and nothing you do or don’t do can ever stop that.” It was also a divine lifting in my spirit because never before had I been so assured of the presence and power of God. He made it crystal clear to me that day that He had a divine story already written for the North Highland community and that story did not have me or my family at the center of it. At the center of the story would be His glory and His glory alone. Since that day, I have only grown in my confidence for what the Lord has in store for the North Highland community. In many ways He has already done exceedingly more than I could have ever asked or imagined, and yet, I know that greater things are yet to come. God is real; God still answers prayer; and God is trustworthy - what He says, He will do.