(December 14, 2020) Robert and Maureen McQuillan share a Christmas-centred challenge:
Christmas in in the air and we just had to watch it yet again… It’s a Wonderful Life, that 1947 classic Jimmy Stewart movie, commended by Movieguide® as ‘arguably the most beloved movie of all time.’
A Christmas story about (as Jimmy Stewart put it in a recent Movieguide® report) ‘… an ordinary man who discovers that living each ordinary day honourably, with faith in God and a selfless concern for others, can make for a truly wonderful life.’
Recognising… God carries
After serving for four years during WWII flying B-24 bombers over Germany, having been appointed Chief of Staff of the 2nd Combat wing, 2nd Air Division of the 8th Air Force, the actor, now Major James Stewart, ended the war after 20 combat missions, receiving recognition and medals.
This splendid movie was his first after returning from England – but he was war effected, sickly-looking, couldn’t sleep or focus and depressed. Jimmy Stewart has told how a little book that his dad gave him before he was shipped out brought him through those tense years of leading men into bombing raids. Called The Secret Place—A Key to the 91st Psalm, he would read it before every raid over Europe – and carry it with him. He has said, ‘And I was borne up. Dad had committed me to God, but I felt the presence of both throughout the war.’
Realising… God cares
Jimmy Stewart is known to have relied on his faith both during the war and in life in general. In It’s a Wonderful Life, the character he plays is George Bailey, a humble businessman who turns nastily ungrateful, worried sick due to an unexpected seemingly unsolvable crisis and wanting to end his life.
But faith in Jesus drives the man behind the character. Jimmy Stewart recalls his own feelings during that lowest point in George Bailey’s life when he is faced with unjust criminal charges and, not knowing where to turn, ends up slumped in despair in a little roadside restaurant, unaware that most of the township’s people are arduously praying for him because they care:
‘In agony I raise my eyes and, following the script, plead, “God… God… dear Father in heaven, I’m not a praying man, but if you’re up there and you can hear me, show me the way. I’m at the end of my rope. Show me the way, God…”
‘As I said those words, I felt the loneliness, the hopelessness of people who had nowhere to turn, and my eyes filled with tears. I broke down sobbing. This was not planned at all, but the power of that prayer, the realisation that our Father in heaven is there to help the hopeless, had reduced me to tears.’’’(Source Movieguide® quoting from a Guidepost article:)
Recalling… God converts
George Bailey’s simple but powerful prayer (and that of hundreds of the townsfolk wherever they are, plus an unexpected angel sent from heaven to help) converted everything around!
Even though it’s a Pollyanna type Hollywood movie the message about always doing the right thing, having the right attitude, considering others first and of a caring God is noticeably clear!
Turning from his own concerns to care for someone else becomes the reprieving agent in Bailey’s night of darkness, his not knowing what to do, to the revelation of appreciation that the gift of life is indeed wonderful, and that prayers get answered… God’s way.
Now… as readers know that we enjoy old movies… but where are we going with this! Well, last month we wrote about the power of prayer, that it changes and charges (Prayer-changes-charges). Let’s pick that up again…
Requesting… God champions
Over the past few months of lockdown, we’ve had various people both local and overseas contact us requesting strong prayer… ‘old’ friends, ministers, leaders and some ‘new’ folk. It seems that even strong Christians, even established leaders, are under attack at this pandemic time physically, positionally, ministry-wise and mind-troubled. Aspects that Robert covered in his Encouragement article this month (link: A-time-of-Confusion-and-Uncertainty), that was also published in and ACA’s Counselling Australia journal, are currently very relevant… even in the church! Troubles such as…
- Illnesses including cancer, which it would seem has been again rearing its ugly head!
- Deceit, fear, doubt (Satan’s three masterpieces of devilish tricks) and other headaches.
- Downcastness, like George Bailey’s heart.
- Feelings of uncertainties.
- Inability to make decisions
- Losing the plot and one’s calling in life.
- Wrongly believing life isn’t worth living, there’s no answer has been frustrating many.
But the reality is that whatever our challenges, we need to be conscious that we’re not licked, we’re on the victor’s side! Or rather, our caring Father in heaven God is on our side and, as no back armour is mentioned by Paul in Ephesians 6:11-17, the Holy Spirit has our back as we can dare to travel on!
In verse10 the apostle tells us to be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. The Message puts it this way: ‘God is strong, and he wants you strong.’ Then, after highlighting the various weaponry of our God-given armour so that we can stand firm and be champions against challenges and Satan’s schemes, he directs us in verse 18 to always pray in the Spirit and to be alert!
Resolving… God comforts
There’s an expectancy here! An our adage we share when teaching on the ways of the Holy Spirit is this: In the things of the Spirit, expect the unexpected!
If we’re praying sincerely as Paul urges, then we should resolve to be expecting our comforting, all-powerful God to move on our behalf! And even mysteriously at times.
In learning of people’s situations and prayer requests; their dark nights of concern, feeling there’s no answer and they want to ‘give it away’ we often share five things (five – that well-known number in respect of ‘grace’), assuring them that, to quote Jimmy Stewart, our graceful Father in heaven is there to help the hopeless –
1) Remember always that prayer is the answer (In some cases, the only answer)
2) Do whatever you can or have to do (eg wisely seeking medical, business or legal advice).
3) Go with the flow, standing firmly on some scripture verse.
4) Share blessings with others, even in some way.
5) Keep trusting, believing, praising God and be expecting!
We can testify that again and again that in difficult, seemingly impossible circumstances, the answer has come and certain miracles have resulted as we’ve prayed for/believed for on behalf of others! And often a comforting prophetic word has flowed as has, if required, interpretation of dreams, discerning of spirits and clear biblical teaching on misunderstood church policies.
Requiring… God controls
Many churches kicked off 2020 with referrals to the well-known optical phrase ’20/20 vision’ challenging Christians to have godly 20/20 vision in 2020.
However, as we pointed out 20/20 vision only refers to clearness of vision in respect to the small presentation on optometrists’ walls and that we need to be aware of God’s bigger picture if we’re to grow in trusting our Lord! This means, especially in times of concern and heartache, looking in faith beyond the current picture of what we see going down, and reaching up to our heavenly Father who sees beyond today!
George Bailey’s humble prayer was ‘I’m at the end of my rope. Show me the way, God…’ and he got his answer in a miraculous way. Hollywood style yes, but the reality that our caring Father is willing to comfort us and help us find the way ahead when we ask in prayer.
Often, it’s a knowing that we know that we know (Holy Spirit assurance within) or begins with an enlightening scripture. Bible concordances will list many scriptures on the word ‘show’… that’s ra’ah found over 1300 times in the Old Testament, primarily meaning to see, look at, inspect, perceive, consider. One of God’s names is Jehovah Raah, indicating intimacy between God and his people (eg Psalm 23:1 – our shepherd friend).
Here’s a few other scriptures in respect of God wanting to show the way ahead in his purposes…
- Abraham, challenged to move on, hears: ‘… I will show you’ (Genesis 12:1).
- Moses, seeking God’s presence, hears: ‘I will show love to those I love’ (Exodus 33:18-9).
- Samuel, seeking God’s protection, hears: ‘I will show you what to do’ (1 Samuel 16:3).
- David, knowing his God confidently wrote: ‘No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame… Show me your ways, Lord’ (Psalm: 3-4).
Revealing… God concerns
‘Show’ in the New Testament is translated about 100 times in different ways. In connection with God revealing things here’s…
- Jesus, sharing future incidents… ‘began to show his disciples that he must…’ (Matthew 16:21).
- Paul, explaining God’s goodness… ‘He might show the incomparable riches of his grace’ (Ephesians 2:7).
- Hebrews, assuring readers … ‘God desired to show more convincingly… the unchangeable character of his purpose’ (Hebrews 6:17).
- John, about his book … ‘The revelation of Jesus Christ… to show to his servants the things that must soon take place’ (Revelation 1:1).
George Bailey had his prayer answered. As we move beyond Christmas, let’s seek God’s ‘bigger picture’… aware that it goes beyond a ‘small optometrist-type visual.’ God will show the way! With his help, hopelessness can become happiness!
Dr Robert and Maureen McQuillan’s links are OnlinerConnect@gmail.com and Facebook (Scriptures mainly NIV/all emphases in this Onliner ours. Appreciated images/pics: various general sources). Christmas Links: Carol Round’s Putting Joy Back in the Christmas Season / Erica Grace’s Making-Christmas-Memories / Brian Bell’s The-Prospect-No-Room-at-the-Inn / Norman & Margaret Moss’ God-Supplies-the-Victory