As I listened to his story, I felt privileged that he honoured me with trust. When life has thrown so many different things at someone, it’s understandable if they give up. Yet his narrative included hope and gratitude- discovering that God is full of compassionate love enabled a new beginning and a sense of real worth.
His testimony is the fulfilment of the prophetic promise of Isaiah that Jesus used as the basis of a manifesto of Kingdom grace: Isaiah 61 v1-3.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendour.
Oak trees are majestic, strong, and beautiful; they can thrive for hundreds of years. When Isaiah spoke God’s message, the oak is a symbol of the transformation through God’s power. Ordinary people, weak people, and hurting people are changed and become more and more like Jesus.
A common fallacy is to think that only weak people “need religion” – that to trust in Jesus is a cop-out from personal responsibility. As a result of such incorrect thinking, Christians can be regarded as sub-standard, a pushover for any strong-minded and determined opponent. This is confused thinking: a Christian is a miracle of grace with gentleness who has made the decision to live a God-focussed way! Grass is easily trampled- oaks stand tall.
Those who receive Good News are set free, healed, comforted, joyful and resilient. Such people are no pushover because they do not fear death and are no longer trapped in fear and despair- they are living examples of God’s favour and choice.
Life with God has a way of setting new shoots from what may seem to be sleeping or dead: just like the oak buds unveiling in the photo.
As Paul wrote to the Romans: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)