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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Lessons Learned: Part 1

*Note: This is from a sermon/testimony I preached in Tunnel Hill, GA in December 2015*

Hi, my name is Wayne Harder. I appreciate the opportunity to give really my family's testimony of what God has done in our lives over the last 11 months. In order to give the full picture of our testimony, I have to go back about 18 months. God started preparing our hearts and minds for a ministry of suffering during this time. I know that sounds odd to most American Christians, but that is exactly what Christ asks of us...to suffer for Him. The first step in the Christian walk is to know the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, with the emphasis on KNOW. The more you know Jesus, the more you know God. The more you know about God, the less prideful you become because you see yourself for who you truly are, a sinner. As you see God's holiness, you see your sinfulness. There is no way, in your own strength, that you can be HOLY. Romans 5:17 says, "Abundance of grace and free gift of righteousness [you can] reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ." God's first priority is to make you Holy and it starts with a broken and contrite heart. That is why in Matthew in the Beatitudes Jesus says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for their is the Kingdom of Heaven." Again, the Bible states in 1 Peter, "You shall be holy, for I am Holy." God wants a holy bride for His Son, the Bridegroom, and He will get that. It all starts with holiness. 

If we are living holy lives, when outsiders look at us as individuals, as a family, or as the church body, they will have no justification for what they think of us. 1 Peter 2:12, "Keep your conduct among the pagans honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation." So when the secularist, atheist, or pagan look in at the church, what is it that they see? My prayer is that they see nothing other than obedience to the Word of God. The question that 1 Peter addresses is, how do we, as a body, reach those outside of the church? Peter says that we reach the world through submission and suffering. "Wait! Back up and say that again! Submission and suffering?" I know you are probably thinking right now that this guy is crazy, but just hear Peter out. Scripture gives testimony to this. Peter says that we show the outsider the gospel message through submission to all authorities (bosses, governmental authority, or within the family structure). That is the first way we demonstrate out "walking with the Spirit."

The second way we show the gospel message is through our suffering. This is not suffering that results from doing something wrong, such as breaking the law, but suffering for the sake of Christ.

These are the things that God was teaching and showing me during this time. This leads me to where the story begins. My wife Rebecca and I were traveling with the family, our six daughters, to Kentucky for Christmas (2014). We though the six hour drive would be a good time to set some family goals for the next year. We were trying to figure out how we could suffer alongside Christians throughout the world who were being persecuted for Christ and with orphaned children. We came up with a list of things for the next year that would help us "suffer" alongside them and remind us to pray daily for them. Here were some of the ideas we came up with for the year:

January - pray 
February - eat rice and beans (meals that orphans eat daily to try to understand their plight better)
Other months - no a/c, no heater, no technology, no car, etc.

We were 11 days into our month of eating rice and beans when I had a grand mal seizure. The doctors revealed to me that I had a cancerous brain tumor. Over the next 10 months, my family and I had to deal with serious topics like God's sovereignty, His goodness, His faithfulness, and my mortality (just to name a few). I never once questioned the will of God. I was prepared to accept it. My wife said with me from that first day, "Whatever outcome brings my Jesus the most glory, that is what we want." The reason God sent His Son was to redeem us so that we would bring Him glory!

I believe we were able to walk this journey because God had started to prepare our heats for a ministry opportunity. It wasn't the ministry we anticipated, but the one that God chose to give us. One doesn't get a second chance with something like this and we had one chance to get it right. It is because we were already broken in spirit that He could mold us. We were thinking of petty ways, with the best intentions, of how we could suffer for the sake of Christ. In doing so, He showed us how we could really suffer for the sake of Christ.

1 Peter became real to me and my family. These are some of the more important things that we have learned. Due to the length of my sermon, over the next few days I will share what God taught me in each of these areas:

* The importance of knowing the one true God and Jesus Christ His Son (2/12)
* The importance of holiness and godliness in our walk with God (2/13)
* Humility (2/15)
* The power of prayer (2/16)
* To number our days (2/17)

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