Heard a wonderful message this past Sunday presented by Curt Hoke at the Y campus of my local Sulphur Grove United Methodist Church. Curt, a quadriplegic, shared his own marvelous testimony of Christian faith attributable to his acceptance of God’s control over his own life, using even the circumstance of his own spinal chord injury from a diving accident some two decades ago “for good” as promised in Romans 8:28.
In response to this great message of faith in God’s promises, I uttered this prayer silently in my own mind: “Lord, thank you for Curt Hoke. For his faith, for his surrender to your right to be in control over his life, and for the vast influence his testimony, like that of so many other friends of the great Joni Eareckson Tada and of Through the Roof ministries, is having in the lives of people here and now upon this earth. Lord, I believe his influence in our needy world is your influence. I believe your Holy Spirit is informing and influencing Curt’s decisions in ways that are going to make your Kingdom come closer than ever before to our world, closer than before his accident, and in ways far stronger than all the muscles in his own paralyzed body could ever do. Thank you for the very words from Curt’s mouth that carry more power and strength than all the muscles in his once very athletic body ever could in any lifetime. Thank you for his witness to your loving influence in our world. Please continue to use him for your own loving influence over our world. Amen.”
In response to my own prayer to God re. Curt Hoke’s ministry, I can imagine two rather different messages to me from God through His own Holy Spirit. The first would go like this:
“Thanks anyway for your prayer, Dan, but you need to understand that I have everything under control and I’m going to do what is best for Curt and for the world regardless of what you ask for. You can pray or not pray. My mind’s already made up. I’m always right. And, because I’m the One in control, it really doesn’t matter to me what you think I should do, or what you might ask me to do. Just remember, young man, that I’m the Sovereign God who is in control over this little world you live in.”
Here’s the second message I can imagine getting from God in response to my prayer. “Thank you for your prayerful request, Dan, concerning the future influence of Curt Hoke’s loving testimony of Christlike faith. Curt prays to me along the same lines, and I’ve always admired his own attitude of “not my will but yours be done” where his own life on earth is concerned. I really do agree with you that I should continue to use Curt to get my message of loving influence out to other people in today’s world. I just want you to understand, though, that my loving influence in and through Curt is a rather slow and gradual process. Love always takes a long time in its influence of positive change, whereas fear takes a quick and short-term approach to gaining control over others’ thoughts and decisions. Just remember, my child, that love — yours, mine, and Curt’s — really will win out over fear in the long run. And thanks, as always, for each one of your faithful prayers.”
It is your right, of course, to question or even condemn my own imaginings where answered prayer is concerned. People of equal faith can have strong differences involving God’s answered prayers or kept promises. But my point today is not just that God is capable of influencing and being influenced through our prayers. My larger point is that, yes, God is in control, but paradoxically God’s first act of control is to choose not to control our lives at all. Rather, God’s preferred alternative is to influence our lives, thus making prayer itself powerful. Influence always empowers others in the long run. Control always empowers ourselves in the short run. Love seeks out influence over others, while fear seeks out control. God is love. And there is no fear in love. I John 4:18.
Which brings me back to Curt Hoke’s wonderful testimony. God did not control what happened to Curt that day of his diving accident. But through Curt’s own prayerful surrender to God’s will, God has influenced Curt’s multitude of choices, informed his decisions, and thus used him to lovingly influence many others for Christ since that day. And it doesn’t get any better than that.
In my next blog, how does Jesus seek to influence the very people trying to control him? Who succeeds in the long run?