Rick Lewers: Life to the Full

Rock swimming pool at Cronulla Beach, NSW State Archives

My children call talking about yourself as, “you do you.” I get it, but when it comes to my personal testimony that TGC Australia has asked for, a better expression might be “God did me.”

I think my conception came with great pleasure to my parents but my birth was another matter and the jury is perhaps out on my life. Of course that makes me no different from almost any person. Conceived in pleasure, birthed through pain, and living somewhere in between.

I am a Cronulla NSW boy. I’m a son, a brother, a husband and a father. And I am a Christian by conviction, not by heritage. One thing Jesus said would illustrate why: “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full”. It is a tricky quote because Jesus promises to give a fullness to life in a context where life doesn’t always seem so full.

In a job that has me training people in how to share their Christian story with others, I often meet people who think their story is boring. Like them, I can’t really remember a time in my life when Jesus was not precious to me but that story can’t be boring because God does not do boring work. Whether you grew up a Christian or were converted at a later age the miracle of salvation is always extraordinary and worth telling.

God does not do boring work. Whether you grew up a Christian or were converted at a later age the miracle of salvation is always extraordinary and worth telling.

So, as I open my “you do you” presentation, here’s me doing me in three simple words: faith, hope and love.

Faith

From a faith perspective, my parents were church-senders. They sent me to Sunday School so I would learn to be good while they stayed home. The only reason I could see for them staying home was that they had already learnt to be good. I have to say that it didn’t take long for me to think mum and dad needed to be in church with me. Equally, it didn’t take long for me to realise that Sunday School made not a shred of difference when it came to being good. I still wanted to fight my brother and sister, nick chocolates from the shop, shoot sky rockets out of PVC piping at illegal fisherman, and lock horns with my mother (as long as the wooden spoon was in the draw or my father’s belt remained in his pants).

I have often thought I should have said, as that belt came out, “Stop, Dad, think about this. It was taking your belt off in the first place that created the trouble you are about to address.”

I have to tell you that life felt anything but full while I ran wild.  But strangely, through every struggle and belting, God was working to make me the person I am today.

In Sunday School, I didn’t learn what my parents hoped for. I learned instead that being good was beyond me, and that mostly my heart was not in it: the good I wanted to do I didn’t, and the stuff I didn’t want to do I did. 

While going to church to learn to be good was a failure, it was not a complete loss. Mr Brand, taught me about “faith”. I learned to trust in God to help me and my heart changed.

What the belt couldn’t do, the punishing cross of Christ helped me to do. And it has been helpful ever since.

I can’t tell you how many times in 60 years people have told me faith is a blind jump, but after 61 years I know that those people have no idea what faith is.

I taught my children the leap of faith by having them leap into the loving arms of their father. It was not a blind jump but a jump made possible by their faith in the father they knew would catch them. My faith in my wife has grown with every year of our marriage. It is the lived through proof of her reliability that has developed my total trust in her. Unsurprisingly that faith in our marriage has made for a full marriage. It has been nearly 61 years of a lived through proof of God’s reliability that has developed my trust in Him.

I taught my children the leap of faith by having them leap into the loving arms of their father. It was not a blind jump but a jump made possible by their faith in the father they knew would catch them.

And with this faith has come hope. The hope you find in God’s wisdom to keep you from making the same dumb decisions over and over again. The hope of forgiveness beyond those dumb decisions. The hope of help in times of trouble and the hope that overcomes the terror of death.

Going to Sunday School may not have taught me to be good but it did teach me to have faith in the God who is good and fills my life with hope.

Hope

If you have lived for any period of time and not learned the value of hope then life is just not educating you. A life without hope can never be full.

But to have hope requires faith in something bigger than one’s self.

I have watched my mother slowly killed off by cancer; my father’s journey into death by dementia. I have seen my daughter shackled to ICU medical technology by meningococcal meningitis. To these I could add the aftermath of sinful behaviour in one of my closest friends taking his own life.

All this stuff has an impact on making me who I am.

I remember my mother at Calvary Hospital saying to me, “I am not good enough for heaven.” This is the same mother who sent me to Sunday School to learn to be good.  You might be thinking “She should have gone to spec savers … oops … I mean, Sunday School.”  Mum did go to church before she died and while she struggled with not being good enough for heaven she learned about faith in Jesus Christ and the hope he offers for forgiveness. She learned to trust in God’s promise of resurrection and her prayers of faith are a treasure neatly folded in what was once her bedside Bible. 

I think again of my father’s belt. When it came off at my conception it was for pleasure; when it came off during my life it meant pain; when he forgot to put it on in the nursing home his pants fell down—but by then he knew that, where the belt failed, the death of Jesus Christ would cover his shame.

I have to tell you that there is nothing that can fill your life like the hope you discover when your daughter is lying in ICU in need of a miracle. She’s a survivor, but at one stage I was preparing her eulogy. Before she was sick, her God was a distant consideration. Now she lives by faith in Jesus Christ; fully alive and full of hope that this will never change. At her wedding, she told everyone that, when things were going badly for her, her mother would always say, “Rachel, you all need Jesus.”

Why? Because when your faith is rightly placed hope is given. And while Rachel is part of my story it is lovely to see her tell her story of faith and hope in Jesus, the one who came that we might have life to the full.

When your faith is rightly placed hope is given.

Waking up to the news of my mate’s suicide was one of my most significant challenges. He was wrong to do it. Sin emptied his life and made him see death as a better option. I admit that it is moments like this that have you questioning Jesus words, “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.”  

Love

But when it comes to Jesus Christ, suicide is not the unforgivable sin; a daughter’s sickness can be met with healing; a parent’s death can lead to a discovery of resurrection. And my personal inability to be good doesn’t damage this truth that the love of God can change me.

Jesus Christ came so that we would have life and have it to full. Every event of my life has taught me to value faith and hope and every bit of my life has reminded me that I am a man deeply and wonderfully loved by the God who would give his life for me in preference to living life without me.

Do you believe this? Well that’s faith.

Do you have faith in Jesus Christ? Then hope springs eternal for you.

Why? Because in a world of things that can empty us, Jesus came to fill us with the love of God.

“You do you” is pretty silly. To be honest Christ has done me. Christ made me, saved me and has given me a life where all its events have filled me with faith, hope and love. The good news is that Christ can do this for you as well.

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