43.What’s Your Rating?

‘His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love’. – Psalm 147: 10-11

I love these verses. I first heard them on a sunny 2nd September 2017, whilst sitting in a local park with my younger brother, listening to him tell me about his recent trip to Ibiza, with 24/7 Prayer. 24/7 Prayer is a Christian prayer movement started by Pete Greig, and it is largely detailed in his book, ‘Red Moon Rising’ (I highly, highly recommend it). I read this book back in 2011, while at home and also on a month long trip travelling across Thailand and Cambodia with two of my college friends. I found the book life-changing at the time, reading about the countless miracles and incredible ways the Holy Spirit moved through Pete’s life. I also found it comforting and helpful to delve into and focus on while travelling through countries that had strong spiritual influences from other religions and practices. There were times I faced stark spiritual attack and felt somewhat alone in those experiences.

The book led me to be inspired to go to Ibiza the following summer, with 24/7 Prayer, and to spend time working in the nightclubs and on the streets amongst the throngs of tourists there for a wild holiday of partying and drinking and generally having a blast with their friends. The 24/7 Prayer teams work closely with the clubs and DJs and are highly regarded on the island, particularly along the main strip (San Antonio), as they help people with any manner of difficulty, medical or otherwise, due to over drinking or over dosing or losing their friends or way back to their accommodation, or just needing someone to talk to and pray with them. This sort of ‘Christianity in action’ and working in ‘real’ scenarios with ‘real’ people, appealed greatly to me. And so, when my college chaplain let me know he was putting together a team of people to head over, I was in! I chatted with him about the ins and outs and signed up. I was going to be on the team! I was excited to dive in and eager to see how God would show up, what miracles I would see happening, and how I would personally grow in my faith and connection with God, as a result of the trip.

Then the doubts started creeping in. Was I ‘Christian’ enough to go? I didn’t lead worship at church or run youth group, I was a very, VERY, rare CU (Christian Union) attender, I barely had any Christian friends. Why? By that stage most times I had been hurt or felt betrayed or treated badly in some way by a close friend, they were Christian – usually also in leadership in CU. This resulted in me having a very negative perception of Christian peers. A perception that would unfortunately be deeply engrained in me for years after. My experience was that Christian folk tended to be hugely hypocritical, and falsely nice but could be quite unkind behind closed doors. I had little trust in church goers, despite having a strong faith. In fact, I had got to the stage where I felt so much more judged than loved by Christians, that I in turn, tended to judge Christians most harshly and brand them all with the same ‘hypocrisy’ brush. Which was not fair at all and was an untrue perception. Oh, the irony! Perhaps a blog for another day…

And so the devil preyed on my fear. The other Christians on the team wouldn’t think I was good enough. I hadn’t yet ever spoken in tongues and I had certainly never healed anyone – would I look like an amateur? Surely I would be taking up a spot that a more ‘qualified’ Christian could fill. I would be of no use to God out there! And I had already seen some skepticism at the idea of me ministering to drunks and druggies. I knew in myself I was ‘up for it’. But the thought of having to prove myself to all the doubters – was I up for that side of it? What if I was too shy with the people on the team themselves? I was certain that I would be judged and ‘found out’ as not good enough. Also, who was I to be out praying for and caring for people who had gone on a night out and had a bit too much to drink, when I myself had nights out where I found myself in the same situation? I hadn’t got my life together in a perfect neat little box and tied up in a bow. I still made mistakes. I still had regrets. I knew I would continue to make the same mistakes. Who was I to go and be an ambassador for God? Sure, He could use me in little ways, but certainly not on this scale.

And the thoughts swirled. And the doubts increased. And the fear overtook the calling. And I contacted my chaplain. And I cancelled my place on the team.

Huge regret.

Jump forward again to 2nd September 2017 and I’m sitting out in the sun as my younger brother told me all about his recent trip on the 24/7 Ibiza Prayer team. You see, I was still inspired by ‘Red Moon Rising’. I had grown and progressed (not 100% but majorly) in my impression of Christian peers. I had forgiven the previous people who had hurt me and who I had then watched being ‘the ideal Christian’ publicly. I understood better that no-one is perfect – ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I‘. I understood better that we are all doing our best, we are all trying, we are all learning and growing, and we all make mistakes along the way, even with the best of intentions. Yes, even Christians make mistakes and yes, even Christians can fall short of what is right and can be unkind or hurtful.

After years of forming unhealthy relationships with people who were not ‘in my tribe’ i.e. atheist or firmly against my beliefs from a faith standpoint (a habit formed by seeking out ‘real’ people, people who were unashamedly themselves and not pretending to be anything they were not), I was finally back in a place of seeking to surround myself with people who were ‘in my tribe’. Other believers, Christian mentors, people who I could grow spiritually in the presence of. During all of this process, I had given my brother a copy of ‘Red Moon Rising’. He read it and felt inspired to go to Ibiza with 24/7. So he joined a team, and he went.

As I listened to the stories he shared with me, the miracles he encountered, the incredible people he met and helped along the way, how God used him, his own steep journey of spiritual growth that took place during the trip, I felt so proud of him, so happy that he had not made the same mistake I did and chickened out, and filled with gratitude that God was enabling me to live vicariously through him and be blessed by the stories I was hearing. However, I also felt some sadness and regret that I had turned down that opportunity for myself, that I had let my fears and insecurities get the better of me. I chatted through all this with my brother and told him about my ‘history’ with 24/7 Prayer and the reasons I didn’t go. I shared the conflicting emotions I was feeling now listening to his journey 5 years later. And in turn, he shared these verses with me:

‘His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love’. – Psalm 147: 10-11

God does not assess based on who puts on the best Christian performance, who appears to fit the part best, who is best able to overtly put across the image that their life is on track or they are ‘super tight’ with Jesus. He loves to see people earnestly and genuinely living their life for Him. He loves to see people using their own unique gifts and skills for His glory and in order to further His kingdom. Whether those gifts are more visible publicly, or are more subtle and don’t receive much or any accolade or recognition. He delights in seeing a Christian attitude behind closed doors, and especially when it is hardest. When one is tired and feels like being anything but kind in that moment. When one is pushed and pushed and resists biting back in anger, but tries to exercise grace and forgiveness. When one is selfless or caring when it is seen by no-one but the person who was served. God does not rate based on how the world rates. He is not overawed by performance or show or appearances or strength of status in the way that the world is. He is only interested in the truth and He looks at the heart and its intentions. He can use any gift you have, for His glory, if you are willing to surrender it to Him.

‘When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”.’ – 1 Samuel 16:6-7

‘A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart’ – Proverbs 21:2

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God’ – Matthew 5:8

This was my brother’s point to me. It didn’t matter if I hadn’t my life ‘all together’, it didn’t matter if I wasn’t as extroverted and loud as the others on the team, it didn’t matter if I wasn’t on paper ‘as incredible a Christian’ as everyone else. What God cared about was the intent and the desire to be used for His glory. My perceived skills didn’t matter, my willingness to be used by the Father mattered. My perceived strength or ‘status’ didn’t matter, my heart did.

And guess what? There were people on my brother’s team who had very recently come to faith – and God used them hugely for His glory. Because they were there and willing and available to be used.

What a lesson I learned. And what encouragement I received from my brother. He gave me a little pocket Bible with ‘Jesus Loves Ibiza’ written on the front; the same Bible they would hand out to people they met on the streets out there. Inside the cover he thanked me for the role I had played in inspiring him to go to Ibiza, and then scrawled some verses specially for me, similar to how they would do in Ibiza. They would write verses in the cover and hope that these would speak personally to the person they were giving the Bible to. How amazing is God’s grace? He took my regret and blessed me hugely through my younger brother, bringing healing and teaching along with it. God’s grace knows bounds.

Often since that day, I have come back to these verses in Psalm 147. When the world underestimates you, when you underestimate yourself, remember that regardless of how you are perceived or viewed, regardless of your apparent capabilities or status, God sees your heart and He can use you above and beyond all that you can imagine, for His glory and kingdom. Your focus should be on one thing – to forever delight in Him and surrender yourself to Him.

Draw strength and empowerment from these verses if you ever feel like the underdog, if you ever sense doubt around you or even within yourself. Your strength does not have to be obvious in a worldly way. You do not have to shout about it. You can just quietly and peacefully live your life for God’s glory. He sees your heart. Put your confidence in Him. Allow Him to guide your steps and empower you to navigate life the way He sees fit. Yes, even if it looks unusual to the world. Yes, even if it is not the way everyone else does it. Yes, even if it looks downright ridiculous. God’s way for you, is the only way. He does not care about appearance, He cares about the genuine nature of your heart and intentions. That is all that matters. That is all He wants. And He will reward you richly for persevering in His name’s sake.

Love,

Abbie x

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