In the film Forest Gump there is a scene when Forest, who was played by Tom Hanks, is sitting on a bench alongside a lady. He has a box of chocolates on his knees and he makes a comparison between life and the box of chocolates. From memory he says “Life is like a box of chocolate, you never know what you might get”. That is a simple but often accurate description of how life can be.
I don’t know about you but when someone offers me a sweet from a box of chocolates I always look to see if my favourite ones are there, I seldom look at the piece of paper that comes with the chocolates identifying what all the chocolates are in the box. Most of us know what we like or dislike, one of the problems in life is that there are many circumstances and situations that we find ourselves in where we seem to have little or no choice and we don’t like it. Sometimes life runs smooth but suddenly life can turn rough.
This was my experience as I returned home from a layman’s conference at Lake Windermere in England. A group from the local church of the Nazarene in Lurgan headed off to the annual conference, I was in my late teens at the time. Before coming into the church I never had many opportunities to travel very far from home but since joining the church opportunities were beginning to open up. The scenery was stunning, I think I am a countryside man at heart, I find being in the countryside is often therapeutic for me.
This being my first conference I did not know exactly what happened during the weekend but as it happened each church was expected to participate by giving a testimony, doing a musical item or whatever else they could. One of our senior laymen approached me and asked me to give a word of testimony and without any consideration I immediately said no. Even though I had been a Christian for two to three years now there were still many fears and insecurities that I had still to overcome. Being in the company of so many strangers made me a little uncomfortable and I certainly did not feel comfortable sharing my story of conversion with them.
The man who asked me to testify seemed a little shocked at my negative response but he did not try to talk me round to doing something that I was not happy with and I was glad that he was wise enough to discern my position. Not everyone has this wisdom and sadly some people have been put off getting involved in church life because some well meaning person tried to force them into doing something that they were not perhaps ready for at that time and they did more harm than good.
We had a great weekend of fun and fellowship; I slowly came out of my protective shell and began conversing with some of the strangers around me. The highlight for me was the Saturday night when the different churches did their thing. Some of the singing may have left a little to be desired but it was listening to the different stories of how individuals had come to know Christ that captivated me. No two stories were the same, people with different family back grounds, some good some not so good but the joy of belonging to Christ was evident in them all.
During one of the testimonies I felt the Lord speak to me and challenge me concerning my spiritual life and my total commitment and full surrender to his will and ways for my life. I was also very sorry that I had turned down an opportunity to witness for my Saviour. I was sharing a room with a man who was very wise and he had become to me a source of great encouragement within the local church. I told him what I felt the Lord was saying to me concerning being more fully consecrated and committed to the will and ways of my Saviour.
We knelt at the side of the bed and prayed together and it was there that I asked the Lord to take complete control of every aspect of my life and use me for whatever purpose he chose. I remember making a covenant with God to never again refuse to witness for him if I was asked and the truth is that since that time over thirty years ago to the best of my knowledge I have never refused to be a witness if at all possible. The Lord also gave me a wonderful personal promise at that time; it is in Genesis chapter twelve.
1, The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.
2, “I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
3, I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
The words in that scripture that God really impressed upon my heart were the words, “I will bless you and you will be a blessing”. “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you”. With all my heart I believe the promises of God to be true, I know God has blessed me, I believe that God working through me has blessed others. I do not say that to take any glory for myself but all honour and glory goes to God because I know that the only truly good thing in me is him.
I, have seen God bless others because they have been a blessing to me, I believe in the favour of God. We read in Genesis thirty nine.
2, The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3, When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, 4, Joseph found favour in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5, From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph.
Rightly or wrongly I believe that those who intentionally bless Gods children will receive blessings from God themselves and those who would intentionally hold back blessing or hinder blessing from God’s children then God will withhold blessings from them as well.
On the last day of the layman’s convention which was on Sunday I had a strange encounter with a little man whom I think spoke with a Welsh accent? I was coming down the stairs for breakfast and he grabbed my arm suddenly and said to me, “You know son that after a time of great blessing there will come a time of great tribulation”. That was all he said, he let go of my arm and walked off and I don’t remember seeing him again. To be really honest I thought that there was something wrong with him, I had no idea what he was talking about. At least not then.
Before I had left for the conference life at home was quite good, my dad had not been drinking for some time and as I said earlier when he was sober he was a very quiet man but when drunk he could have been very nasty and unpredictable. I arrived home on that Sunday evening and my dad was not in the house which surprised me so I went up the stairs to unpack my case.
When I went into my room and switched the light on there were two suit cases on the floor and woman’s clothes scattered over my bed. I was totally confused, my first thought was that my dad had met someone and brought her home to live with us, beyond that I had no idea what was going on. Later on that night however all would be revealed. The door opened and in walked three people, all of them drunk. One was my father but the man and woman who followed him in were complete strangers to me.
In an instant I went from feeling great, calm, relaxed, fulfilled into someone who felt like exploding and destroying everything and everyone around me. The anger that I thought was going away evidently had not gone away, it was lying dormant waiting to be ignited and seeing my father drunk again was the spark that ignited it. I soon found out who the other two characters were, the woman was my dad’s sister from England and the other man was her boyfriend. She had apparently left her husband and was now living with this man and they were sleeping in my bed.
They tried to be friendly with me but they were not my friends, they had taken my father out to a pub and he was now drinking again, I saw them as my enemies and who knows but for the grace of God I might have treated them much harsher than I did. It was at this point that what the little man had said to me on the stairs started to make sense. The weekend had not only been a great blessing to me but it also had been a defining moment in my personal relationship with God. Up to that point I had no doubt that Jesus was my Saviour but that weekend I had invited him to be Lord and master of my life, I wanted to live more for his will and less of my own.
This was the tribulation after the blessings; I was beginning to learn more about the tactics that our enemy Satan uses against God’s children. Not only is he a liar but he is also a thief that tries to steal the blessings of God from us through trying circumstances and situations. But for the insight and warning that God had given to me through this little man I might have done something I would have regretted. If you read the story of Elijah on top of Mount Carmel and what happens immediately after that experience you will see a man of God who literally had a wonderful experience of the presence and power of God but because of a situation in his life he finds himself sitting under a tree wishing that he was dead.
1 Kings 19
1, Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2, So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
3, Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
I gave my father an ultimatum and told him if these two people were still in the house tomorrow that I would not be back, I would go back to living with my grandparents. Even though he was drunk either he or the other two got the message and left the next day. Things in the home were not so good now but God had blessed me and drawn me closer to him during the weekend away with the church. God was strengthening me and preparing me for things that lay ahead.
Praise God for the smooth and pleasant experiences we have in life but be mindful that after blessings tribulation will come, the rough will be following closely. Forest Gump was right with his analogy of life, life is like a box of chocolate and we do not know what we will get from one day to the next but the difference for the people of God is that he does know what each new day will bring and he gives us his grace to live one day at a time.