I had a crisis moment the other night. When I was reading the Bible, it reminded me of something I had read and copied into my journal a few years ago. So, I pulled out my recent journals and the one I needed was missing.
This might not seem huge to you, but it was sad and frustrating and a little worrying to me. My journals aren’t personal diaries of my experiences and feelings. They are records of the verses, quotes, prayers and thoughts I’ve had as God interacts with my life. Oftentimes, I can vividly remember exactly where I was and what was happening in my life when I wrote an entry in my prayer journal.
The entry I was looking for that night was written while sitting at the Ben & Jerry’s in Yorktown, Virginia, eating a scoop of chocolate peanut butter ice cream on an incredibly sunny day. I was struggling with some ministry issues and I copied down a quote from David Crowder’s book, Praise Habit, that encouraged me. Of course, what really helps me remember this particular entry is the ice cream!
Losing my journal is like losing some of my testimony, the written record I keep of God at work in my life. In the Bible, many of God’s people created monuments or kept mementos of times when God rescued them. It was their way of remembering that God saved us then and He can save us again.
Samuel the prophet did this in 1 Samuel 7:12: “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” We often sing the hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing without realizing that when it says, “Here I raise my Ebenezer,” it’s referring to this monument Samuel created. Literally, it means “a stone of help.”
Samuel’s stone reminded Israel of how God delivered them when they repented and returned to Him. After rebelling against God and being punished as a result, “then all the people of Israel turned back to the LORD” (1 Samuel 7:2, NIV). Following this new beginning, this repentance and restoration, God routed the enemy Philistines in a mighty and miraculous way. All of Israel could see that God was faithful to save them as long as they walked in obedience.
But Samuel didn’t want the people to forget what God did in that place. We humans are forgetful creatures. God saves us. We praise Him. Things are good for a while. Then a crisis occurs and we fret, we worry, we wonder, “Is God going to let me down this time?”
We need a string around our finger to help us remember who God is. We need an Ebenezer, a record of what God has done, so when life is hard and we need healing and provision and intervention, we can look at the monuments of the past and say, “Look what God did for me. He saved me here, and here, and here—-and He’ll do it again.”
That’s one reason our testimonies are so important. It’s our way of reminding ourselves and encouraging others that God is still at work in people’s lives. Every once in a while, our pastor takes the microphone around the church and we listen to others share, at first a little hesitantly, and then with great emotion and boldness, about how God has been real to them. I love those Sundays because the testimony of others–their Ebenezer–reveals God to me.
The Bible is like “testimony” time to me also. God passes the microphone around and different people share how God changed them. Jonah gets up and says, “See, I’ve been struggling with obedience lately, but God . . .” Sarah says, “I have something to confess. Sometimes I like to ‘help’ God out with His plans, but God . . . ” Mary says, “I was just a really simple, God-fearing girl, but God . . . ”
All these people in the Bible are broken, sinful, and imperfect, just like me, and yet they encountered God. Their testimonies help me remember not just what God has done in my life, but what He has done in others’ lives throughout history.
Eugene Peterson wrote:
With a biblical memory, we have two thousand years of experience from which to make the off-the-cuff responses that are required each day in the life of faith. If we are going to live adequately and maturely as the people of God, we need more data to work from than our own experience can give us.
Our lives are short. Our experience with God is just a fraction of His activity here on earth. So, when we look at life through the filter of our personal experiences alone, we miss out on what the Bible offers us. By reading Scripture, we tap into 2000 years of people experiencing God. We read the testimonies of people who lived a long time ago and find out they needed God as much as we do and He loved them and cared for them just as He loves and cares for us.
Thankfully, I found my missing journal the next day and—amazingly, if not miraculously—it was flipped open to the exact page I was looking for.
I hope you find ways this week to create Ebenezers in your life–a prayer journal, testimony book or verse cards. Don’t stop there, though. Connect with other Christians who can share their testimonies, through church, small groups, community Bible studies, and by reading Christian books. Then, dig deep into God’s Word and read it as if it were a testimony time of the saints written just for you. All of these things will serve as strings tied around your finger, physical reminders of what God has done and what He will continue to do.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King