I once was leading a group session as a counselor at an adolescent treatment facility. There were about a dozen kids in the group. We were outside on a deck between two buildings. There were two brothers in the group – 16, 17 years old. One of them had been in the facility for several months, the other only a few days. They got into some kind of argument and it escalated until it was disrupting the group. I went over to them and told them to cut it out. The newer one kept it going. I stepped up to him, face to face, but not really in his face, and told him I needed him to settle down so we could continue the group. He went into an aggressive stance – clenched fists, staring me down. He was about my height but 20-30 pounds heavier, 20-30 pounds of solid muscle. I started thinking, “He’s going to hit me, and it’s going to hurt.”
But, you see, he needed to know some things. He needed to know that he was not running things; he was not in charge and he was not going to be in charge and that was okay. He also needed to know that there was a better way to handle life than what he was exhibiting that day and what he had learned – fighting, stealing, assaulting, vandalizing, running away. And he needed to know that I and the rest of the treatment program staff cared about him enough to respect him, to challenge him, and to help him.
To my great relief, he did not hit me. He calmed down and after group apologized for his behavior, and I thanked him for his cooperation. Several months later, when he was being moved to another facility, he hugged me, thanked me, and said he was scared. He would not have made that admission that day in group. I told him I understood how he felt but I knew he could make it because he had made changes and was headed in the right direction.
If you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus, you need to understand those same things about Christ’s relationship with you. You are not in charge; you are not running life, yours or anyone else’s. He is – not just will be – Lord. When you have faith in Christ, you are embedded in his Kingdom living under his authority. That doesn’t mean that he micromanages everything or that everything which happens is his will. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have any freedom or responsibility. But he is in charge and that is okay; in fact, it is very, very good.
And you need to understand that his way of living is better than your way of living. He gives life that is abundant. That doesn’t mean that he merely blesses you with good things and good feelings. As you trust him and learn from him, you can accept and follow new desires, new dreams, new priorities, new behaviors that come from Christ.
And you need to understand that everything he wants for you and everything he does for you is because he loves you. That doesn’t mean he merely pats you on the head and gives you an encouraging word. He cares about you enough to challenge you when you need it. He cares about you enough to carry you when you need it. And he cares about you enough to enable you yourself to love others like he does. His love is available to fill you and to overflow from you and energize all you do.
You can make it, headed in the right direction, by learning to trust Jesus Christ.
One summer day when I was about 13, some of my friends and I got together to spend the day in the woods. It was land owned by the family of one of the boys. I don’t remember the exact number but there were about 6 of us. We explored, climbed trees, fished, and just generally did what boys did. We got hungry and decided to fix our own lunch. We caught a chicken, killed it and cooked it over an open fire. Well, we half-cooked it; it was still almost raw next to the bone; it’s a wonder none of us got food poisoning. After lunch we continued our activities. Mid-afternoon, we came to a barbed wire fence. We crossed it and fairly soon came to a stock tank. For you non-Texans, that’s a pond. We were hot and sweaty so decided to go swimming.
We knew we were trespassing. We began stripping off our clothes. I was just about to get in the water when we heard a pickup coming our way. Somebody yelled “Run!” and we did. We scooped up our clothes and shot across rocks, sticks, and prickly pears. I think I still have stickers in the soles of my feet. We made it into the trees and bushes and hunkered down.
The pickup approached along a ridge above us and stopped. The driver yelled, for he knew where we were hiding: “Come on up, boys! I just want to talk to you!” We didn’t believe that. We knew we were in trouble, so we stayed still and quiet. After a short while he left, leaving us a warning: “Don’t come back here!” We got dressed and went home.
Several years later, I was married. One summer weekend, my wife and I visited her parents. We frequently went fishing when we were with them. This time my father-in-law said he wanted to take us to a new place to fish. A friend of his had invited him to come to try his luck on his ranch. We loaded up and drove over. We drove through the gate and stopped at the house. My father-in-law’s friend took us down the dirt road to a stock tank. We got out and started getting our fishing tackle ready. As I looked around, suddenly the place seemed mysteriously familiar. Then I realized – this was the land my buddies and I had trespassed on! This was the tank we had started skinny-dipping in! These were the woods we had hidden in! This was the place we had to run from and never go back to! I felt a little startled at this, but I knew I was not in trouble. Didn’t have to run. Didn’t have to hide. Didn’t have to be ashamed. I was with the owner and was freely welcome to enjoy my time there.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Genesis 3:8-10)
For the joy set before him he [Jesus] endured to cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right had of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
…He [God] raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:20-21)
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6)
In him [Christ] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12)
As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him [Christ] will never be put to shame.” (Romans 10:11)
In Christ, you don’t have to run, don’t have to hide, don’t have to be ashamed.