May 5, 2008

Monday Morning Message - If This Is the Way You Treat Your Friends...

Eugene Peterson relates a story concerning Teresa of Avila in his engaging volume, Eat This Book. As Teresa is traveling the length and breadth of Spain, in her campaign to reform the Carmelite monasteries, she is one day thrown from her ox cart into a muddy stream. Standing, she shakes her fist at God and quips, "God, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you don't have many!

What happens when God doesn't act like the doting grandfather many believe Him to be? What is our response to be when our life is a litany of suffering rather than a listing of successes? The God that is most often trumpeted from televangelists and the God most often looked for by the masses is a God with little resemblance to the God revealed in scripture. The God of scripture is anything but a doting grandfather or tamed trinket to add to our lives. The God of scripture is not to be trifled with but who, nevertheless, invites us to know, love, and trust Him.

Our church family had the privilege of hearing the story of one man who has encountered this fearsome God and discovered that even in tragedy, maybe especially in tragedy, God shows His all-surpassing greatness. Reggie Jones has experienced numerous heartaches and tragedies in his short life yet he exhibits an unwavering trust in the goodness and faithfulness of God. Beginning with the life-altering accident his younger brother had at age 9 and coming to an experience he had as recently as a year ago, Reggie has grappled with God's designs and purposes for his life. It is evident that God is using him to inspire and encourage others to press on.

Reggie's younger brother Wes, at age 9, fell 25 feet from a tree house and broke his neck paralyzing him for life. This happened one month after Reggie's dad left a lucrative career with IBM to enter the ministry full-time. To say he was angry with God would be an understatement. I immediately thought of Teresa of Avila's statement, "God, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you don't have many!"

But this story does not end with a little boy confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. God had, and has, other things in mind. 20 odd years have passed since that fateful day in the woods of Covington, Georgia when Wes broke his neck, what was to become of him? Both he and his brother Reggie are in demand for speaking engagements across the country and their marvelous story of what God has done in their lives is being told to thousands. Wes now holds the #1 show on GAC network called Unlimited Outdoors and, with Reggie's guidance in marketing, it has incredible potential to reach even greater heights. You can read Wes' story here.

This story alone would be enough to touch the heart of the most hardened but there is more to be told from Reggie's life. The list includes
  • a near death experience for he and two hunting partners while duck hunting,
  • continuing health issues as a result of this experience,
  • a daughter he and his wife were told they would never have,
  • business partners turning on him after 7 years of unmatched success (Reggie was Recognized as the Young Business Leader of the Year in 2005).
In all of these things Reggie has chosen to look to God and at every turn God has proven Himself faithful. It's not been an easy journey but Reggie finds joy and hope in following God's plan for his life. Reggie states, "I have endured a great many obstacles in my life. But each obstacle I have overcome. It hasn't been easy, but I learned early on from my family to put God in the center of everything, and he wil see us through. God has always provided me with strength beyond measure; His timing has always been perfect, even when it seemed like we were facing the worst." (Triumph Over Tragedy, Reggie Jones)

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