“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel…”
We’ve been reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians in my Bible Study.
Paul was specially called by God to preach the gospel. And yet he constantly found himself imprisoned; he spent roughly six years of his ministry as a prisoner. He was put to death in Rome after his last incarceration. Why would God do this, allow such confinement of the man he appointed to proclaim His Word?
“This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.” (2 Tim 2:8)
When Rhema was born we, like most new parents, sent out a birth announcement. Brandon explained the meaning of her name:
Rhema (pronounced ray-mah) is the Greek word God uses to describe the living, soul-stirring communication He uses to reveal Truth to individuals. It is the “rhema” that draws each person to salvation. Romans 10:8-9, 17 states, “The word [rhema] is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the word [rhema] of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…consequently, faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word [rhema] of Christ.” It is our prayer that Rhema will be used as God’s instrument to communicate the Truth of God’s Word to many souls who need to hear the message of hope and forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ.
We gave her a middle name after her great-great-grandmother who spent many years praying for all of her children and grandchildren to come to faith. We hoped Rhema would be a bold witness to everyone around her just as her great-great-grandmother had been.
It’s funny looking back. We had such big plans for her (we still do). Before she was born we’d already envisioned who she would be and how things would go. Our purposes were good, just what we thought God would want our purposes for her to be. When she was diagnosed with autism and a seizure condition that assaults the speech and language centers of the brain – we felt duped, offended, disappointed that God would allow our good dreams to be crushed.
Over the years I’ve come to understand that God’s dreams for my children are far bigger than my own. Indeed I’ve seen that “what has happened to her really has served to advance the gospel.” Some have encouraged me, saying that I speak for her through this blog. Yes, I record the stories and share what God is teaching me through it all. But I believe that she speaks (and will speak in whatever form that may be – writing, pictures, etc.) for herself. God’s word is not chained by prison walls or epilepsy or autism.
Years ago I also saw myself serving and ministering in very specific ways. Since then my own failures have left me constantly battling feelings of guilt, unworthiness, and the whispers in my head that I’ve no right to speak. But I am strengthened by this fact: if God can spread His Word across continents and decades through a jailbird and speak Word through a girl without words, then He can still speak through bumbling me.
Even now Paul’s joy and courage embolden me, and Rhema always inspires. So I say (if you are still reading at this point):
Jesus loves you. He takes away the pain of sin and death and gives Life. If you will trust him, He will meet you and say, “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have swept away your sins like a cloud, I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” I am so thankful for grace, that we don’t have to be eloquent or deserving or even good to gain Christ, we just have to believe.
That’s gospel truth.