Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Back to Zac's last night after missing the last two weeks and took Sean's birthday cake with me. Unfortunately he wasn't there.

Like several others, he was suffering from flu - in fact a couple of people who were there initially left before we started the bible study. (Steve, who was leading in Sean's place, was ready to put a guard on the door to stop anyone else going.)

By the way, Gareth and Una also celebrate birthdays this week but as they haven't been able to get to Zac's for ages I didn't include their names on the cake (although I was carrying my instant icing writing pen with me in case). Also by the way, in case you're wondering about the significance of the cake, they're the colours of Sean's home football club, Reading. (And I've just looked at my birthday diary and realised it's not Sean's birthday until next week!!!!)

Anyway it was great to be back for what turned into an interesting session.

We had a newcomer, a friend of one of our regulars, and he declared himself, several times during the study, to be a confirmed agnostic or atheist; he couldn't decide.

We were looking at a passage in Mark's gospel and at one point after Steve had suggested something, our newcomer commented, quite politely, that 'those words are worth less than the shit on my shoes.' One of the things I love about Zac's is that no-one even blinked an eyelid. 

Steve talked about a time when he'd been in hospital with heart problems and a moment had arrived when he really thought he was on the point of death. Even though he and many others had prayed for healing he felt this could be the end. Our newcomer piped up with, 'But you believe in God and you'd prayed so why did you think you'd die?'

I can't speak for Steve - although I suspect his thoughts would be similar - but for me the answer to that is, 'Because I've seen too many people die in spite of prayer.' Which must be the case for everyone. After all if each sick person who was prayed for was healed some people would never die! (Which may or not be a good thing ...)

I absolutely don't believe it's lack of faith on the part of the sick person, for two reasons: there are examples of Jesus healing in the bible that suggest no faith on the part of the sick person; and healing depends on God not us and to say otherwise puts both the onus and the blame on the shoulders of the sick who already have enough to bear.

The answers that came from the floor last night concentrated on the healing that God has done and the way people have experienced it, which was great but if I'd been the visitor I wouldn't have felt my question had been answered. He and Steve chatted a lot after the study so I'm sure Steve was able to respond more fully to the man's questions. Although I don't really think he was at a point when he was truly listening to answers or alternatives to his made-up mind.

He reminded me of Nicky, in prison. I spent some time with him a few weeks ago to help him write up his story. Nicky had gone into prison as 'the man' with an answer for everyone and no time for losers but, in his words, 'God opened a secret door in my heart that I didn't know was there.' 

I related that story last night suggesting that our visitor could read the bible and talk to as many people as he wanted but until God opened that door in his heart he wouldn't want or be able to change. He replied, 'Perhaps I'll keep the door locked.' And he's entirely able to do that. God won't force his way in; he's not like that. It's our decision in the end whether to take what's offered or keep the door locked.

Thank God.


katney said...

Very true. Faith is a gift. A gift we need to nurture lest we lose it. But you never know what is going to be the spark that opens that door to accept that gift. (That should probably be a key, but spark works better with faith.)

Ole Phat Stu said...

Forcibly preventing people from leaving of their own free will is a crime in this country and - I strongly suspect - in your's too! :-(