IN THE KAYAK
by Eric Elder
(You can listen to the audio of this message at this link)
Last week I shared with you about God being our Savior. I want to talk again about God being our Savior, and specifically, just how close God is to each one of us–how close He is to you.
Here’s a picture that Kirk Billiter painted for this talk that says, in Hebrew, “The God who Saves.” Kirk has printed out some cards with this picture on it, and if you look on the back, there’s a verse I want to focus on again this week. It says:
“Surely the arm of the Lord is not to short to save, nor His ear to dull to hear” (Isaiah 59:1).
I want to talk about how very near God’s arm is to each one of us.
I’ll start with a story. I was preaching this last Sunday at a church in Streator, and I was talking about God being with us. I felt the night before that I was supposed to not just tell people that God will be with them, but to let them know that God IS with them, right there, in that moment–just like He is with you now. I want to let you know that God is here, too, with us, in this moment. Jesus said, “Wherever two or three are gathered in My name, I will be there” (Matthew 18:20). And certainly there are more than two or three here, gathered in His name. That would mean that He is here.
So I was going to preach this message and before I preached, I went to the church early by about half an hour, and I thought, “I’m just going to look at some of the scriptures again that I’m going to talk about–just sit in my car and look. But I don’t want to pull up to the church, because then people will stop and they’ll start talking to me, and I really want to have a few moments just with God.”
So I went about a block away from the church. I was driving down the street looking for a little spot where I could park. I didn’t want to park in someone’s front yard–it’s a little creepy on Sunday morning to have somebody out there parking. So I went by and saw this open field on the right. I passed it and went to the end of the dead end street and had to turn around, so I decided to park near the open field, which was across the street from a house.
I sat there looking through some of the scriptures. I was looking through the book of Mark in the Bible and all the times when God was with people–there in the book of Mark–and what happened in those moments. As I was sitting there in my car, another car came towards me. It started slowing down, and I was thinking, “Oh, gosh, they live here. They’re going to pull in and say ‘What are you doing in my front yard?”
This couple pulled right up to my window and rolled down their window. I rolled down mine.
The man said, “I can’t believe you’re parked here in a little red Mini Cooper. My brother, who lives in this house, owned a little red Mini Cooper exactly like that. He sold it a couple of years ago, though. So as I pulled up here, I just couldn’t believe it. Why was that little red Mini Cooper parked in front of his house, which he had sold previously.”
Streator is not a big town, and I had lived in there for about ten years, and knew that it was highly unlikely that there was another little red Mini Cooper anywhere in Streator. He went on to say, “In fact, my brother had removed the white racing stripes, which most Mini Coopers have, you know. He had removed them, just like yours has them removed.” He added, “How strange is that, that you would be parked here?!?”
I said, “Well, I was just getting ready to preach a sermon at the church nearby, and I just looked for a spot to park.”
He said, “This is just amazing. I’m going to have to tell my brother about this,” and he drove on.
I sat there in my car, looking at all the times when God was with someone in the Bible. Sometimes He was with someone in a boat. There would be a storm going on and Jesus was right there in the boat with them. He was walking on the water, then He gets in the boat, calming the storm and calming their hearts.
I thought, “Well, that doesn’t happen to me today. Jesus doesn’t jump in my boat.” Well, even I don’t jump in a boat! It’s been a few years since I’ve been in a boat! But I’m in a car–a lot–every day. And Jesus jumped into my Mini Cooper with me that morning! In fact, it wasn’t my Mini Cooper. It was my daughter’s. She was out of town for the week, and I was just borrowing it since it was at my house. I hardly ever get to drive this car. I happened to drive it that day. I happened to park there, half an hour before my sermon. I happened to park in front of the very house. And this couple–God had to direct them out of from wherever they came from to come down this street at that very moment and point out to me that this house is where a little red Mini Cooper ought to be! And that made me feel that I was right where I ought to be.
I was able to get up and share a message that morning that “God is With Us” with total conviction–total confidence–that God really is “with us.”
What does that look like in your actual life? What does that mean when He shows up in your car with you?
I used to wonder. I would have these experiences, and I would think, “Wow, God! That’s You!” I would feel like the two disciples walking down the road to Emmaus, and Jesus was walking right with them, and they don’t recognize Him. Later, He breaks bread with them and all of a sudden they recognize Him, and He’s gone. Then they realize, “That was Jesus! He was right here!”
I used to wonder, “What do I do with experiences like that? Am I supposed to go talk to the guy who owns the house or something?” And I’ve come to the conclusion, over years and years of having this happen, that a lot of times God just wants to say, “I’m with you, Eric. I’m right there with you. I’m not asking you to do anything. I just want you to know that I am with you.”
About a month ago, I had another unusual experience when I was fully awake. I was thinking about being in the river of life–this great river that God takes us on. I was having this conversation with God, and I was picturing myself in this river, when God said, “Are you sure you want to take this? Do you want to go ahead and take this river?”
I said, “Yeah, I do.”
He said, “Jesus is over there on the shore, standing next to a kayak. You can go over to Him, and you can go on this river.”
I said, “That sounds awesome. Can He pull me over there with a rope or something?”
God said, “You can swim, Eric. You can swim.” (Just a little reminder that sometimes we need Him to pull us and other times He says, “You can do this.”)
I thought, “All right. I can swim.” So I swam over to the shore, and I got up to Jesus. I looked down and there were two seats in the kayak. I thought, “Do I sit in the front or do I sit in the back, if I’m going to go on the river with Jesus?” I’ll share what I had written that day, as I was was writing it down as it was happening.
God said, “There’s actually only one seat. He’s in you, and you’re in Him, like He’s in Me, and I’m in Him. Then I saw those two seats swirling, round and round and round–the front was in the back and the back was in the front–and all of a sudden there was just one seat.
God said, “One seat. One person. Two beings.”
I asked, “Who’s in control?”
God said, “You’re both in control. You move your arm, He’ll move His. If you let Him, He’ll move His arm and it will move yours. You’re both in complete control at all times. You both will move as one to the extent that You’re going in the same direction. You’ll both have to yield to the other if you want to go in different directions. But He’ll be as glad to go in the direction you choose as you’ll be glad to go in the direction He chooses. It’s a joint effort; truly a partnership.”
I put my hand on this steering stick in front of me (kayaks don’t normally have one, but this one did), and His hand, contained within my hand, went to it simultaneously. Then He put His hand back at His side, and mine naturally followed it.
And so began the journey.
I just love that, the fact that the arm of the Lord is not too short to save. In fact, the arm of the Lord is about as long as… your arm. If you have accepted Jesus Christ, if you have invited the Holy Spirit to come inside you, then He’s in you. I don’t know how you picture it, but I used to picture the Holy Spirit within me as a light inside my heart or something–the Holy Spirit in me.
But no, He’s a being, and He inhabits your body. Your arm is His arm. Your feet are His feet. Your words can be His words to the extent that you let them be. Your eyes can be His eyes. Your ears can hear with His ears. Your heart can feel what He can feel.
The arm of the Lord is about this long on me (as long as my outstretched arm). I don’t know how long it is on you–about the length of your arm, I’m guessing. And you can go any direction you want–you have free will. You can take your feet and go wherever you want, and Jesus will go right along with you. Sometimes He may cry as He goes. Sometimes He may plead with you, “Please, let’s not go there.” Sometimes He’ll rejoice with you and say, “Yes! This is where I want to be!”
Sometimes you’ll be worshipping God and raising your arms and He’ll say, “Yes! This is what I want you to do with your arms!”
Some days He’ll say, “Hey, I’d like to go over here. Do you want to come with me?”
And you can say, “Yes,” or you can say, “No.” But if you say, “Yes,” you are in for an incredible experience.
Maybe the next day He’ll say, “Where do you want to go?”
And you’ll say, “I would really love to do this.”
And He’ll say, “That sounds awesome! Let’s go do that.”
Does this give you a different perspective of Jesus being with you? Of God being with you?
I just want to encourage you, remind you, that God IS with you.
I mentioned last week, if you want an exercise, you can look through the book of Mark in the Bible, like I did a week ago. I just went through scripture after scripture. It’s sixteen chapters, the shortest of the four gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke and John–the stories about Jesus. And I started circling every time that God was with someone, that Jesus was with someone, and what happened when He was with them.
It was incredible. People were healed. People were saved. People were forgiven. People’s lives were changed.
I shared last week with you how my life was changed, and I’ll close with this. Last week, I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to mention this book I had written, Fifty Shades of Grace. It talks about my journey–I had been involved in sexual activity with men as well as with women when I was younger, and God said, “Eric, that’s going to kill you if you do that. I don’t want you to die.”
When I heard God say that, it quickened my heart, and I said, “God, I don’t want to die, either. I don’t know how to change. I don’t know what I can do.”
God showed me that Jesus came to die for my sins and sent His Holy Spirit to help me do whatever God wanted me to do. I put my faith in Christ that day, turned my life around, and I’ve never gone back. It’s been thirty years, and I’ve never gone back–never gone back–not for lack of temptations or all kinds of opportunities, but because God said, “I don’t want you to die.”
And when you sin, it will have consequences, and ultimately you will die.
So I wrote all this in a book about a year ago. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share about it last week because the high school team was leading worship, and I thought, “I’m not sure if I should share this. I understand high schoolers know about this, too–I get it–but there’s also a lot of stuff in here and I wasn’t sure if I should share it.
But God nudged me to share it and I did. Afterwards I went up to the high school worship team to tell them they did a great job. One of the girls said, “I can’t believe you wrote that book! I read that book and it was awesome!” She gave it to her friend, who was also on the worship team, and her friend said, “That is the best book! It was incredible!”
I had written it under a pen name so they had no idea who I was! So here, I was embarrassed, thinking, “I don’t want these kids to be exposed to this,” and I almost shortchanged an opportunity for God to speak. I don’t want to shortchange God on those opportunities.
God is with us–He is with you. He will nudge you in the right direction. And when He does, follow him. His arm, surely, is not too short to save.
Thank You, Lord, for coming–for being with us. Lord, I pray that You would help us to realize that You are with us, even now, even in this moment. Lord, for whoever might be listening to this, or reading this, I pray that they would know that You are with them–whether they’re in a little red Mini Cooper, or in a boat, or walking along a road. Let them know that You are with them–and let them know what a difference it makes to be in Your presence. In Jesus’ name, Amen.