Pre-written history: My ‘destiny’ story

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Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

Peter knew Jesus pretty well, and he certainly understood his own limitations, his fears, and his failings.

Although he was not a young man, he was quick to leave his day job to follow this inspiring and most interesting street preacher around Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. He was assured only by the promises the Lord had made concerning his future well-being, even the hard stuff.

To Peter’s remark that he had left everything to follow Jesus, the Lord’s response was as follows: ”I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields — and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:28-29)

That’s a seriously comprehensive promise, one that can put all our anxieties (if we so choose) at ease. We don’t have to be some sort of spiritual giant to get in on this offer. Peter certainly wasn’t and was quick to admit it. He simply believed Jesus enough to follow him, not knowing for sure where that might lead him. At some point that didn’t matter anymore. Peter, through his life experiences, learned to cast his worries on Jesus because he understood above all else that Jesus cared about him, even more than Peter cared about himself.

Over the years Judy and I have experienced the same thing. Above all else, the promises of Jesus prove true, and anxiety is a totally unnecessary distraction to our life in Christ.

Part of the reason for my musing about this verse has to do with my own destiny. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I’ve had a lot to say about that verse over the past few years as I reflect on where I am and how I got here.

It certainly wasn’t my plan or idea. God had his own plan for me in the beginning … even before I was a physical reality. He had a purpose for my life that was hidden from me and my parents until, in the fullness of time, the Lord gradually revealed it. That didn’t happen all at once in one big insightful moment.

Like Peter, I left what I thought was my calling to follow him. I had assumed that I would be a career naval officer enjoying a life of travel and adventure until retirement. When I first met Jesus, my assumption was altered somewhat. I was now going to be a “saved” naval officer … that was until I fully realized what “follow me” entailed for my life. But all of that is merely a part of a history that had already been written.

My “destiny” story includes a very young mother whose toddler was dying of pneumonia right before her eyes. He had become ill on a winter train ride to see his father, a sailor whose ship was in port during World War II.

The family was not particularly religious, but it can be amazing how quickly agnostics will reach out to a higher power in times of crisis, not even knowing what to pray or how to pray it.

The doctors gave the mother a dismal report and suggested the possibility that her son would not make it through the night. One can only imagine her despair and sorrow. In desperation, she retreated to a quiet corner of the hospital where she fell on her knees and found herself making a deal with God.

She cried out to him, “If you will spare his life, you can have him.” She was pouring out her heart to the Lord very much like Hannah did over conceiving Samuel, whom she consequently gave back to God as his servant forever.

After about a half-hour, a nurse found the mother and delivered some wonderful news. The boy had miraculously recovered. The doctors were mystified; the mother was astounded and delighted. Her only son was alive and well. What joy there was in this divine healing! I’m sure she must have pondered these things in her heart.

Life has a way of going on and lots of stuff can easily fall through memory cracks as we live it day to day and year to year. God, however, never forgets. The mother never told her son about his brush with death or about her promise to God, even as she noticed that he had an unusual interest in spiritual things, especially the Bible.

As the boy grew into a teenager, his spiritual interests were somewhat displaced by the foolish pursuits that all too often distract men away from the things of God. All things religious were put on the back burner of life as he completed his education and planned out his future.

When everything seemed to be lining up according to that plan, including marriage to his high school sweetheart and the birth of their first son, God called in his markers. He visited the man and his wife one early Christmas morning, and their lives were changed forever.

The young man eventually went to seminary and became a pastor. Remarkably, his first assignment was to a church in the very city where he had almost died as a small child. It wasn’t until then that his mother recounted to her son the “deal” she had made with God.

I’m sure this is not a completely unique story, but it is my story. I was the very sick little boy for whom the doctors could do nothing, but for whom God could do everything, even beyond what I could ever ask or imagine.

My young mother had turned to God in sheer desperation, pleading with him to spare my life. She had no clue just how much God cared for her. He heard her cry and answered her with a miracle. That miracle eventually released my destiny, which continues to produce good works that God had prepared for me to do from the beginning. For this, I am eternally grateful.

Knowing who it is who calls you and the incredible love he has for you makes it easy to drop all your own plans and dreams to follow his. Yes, there are bumps along the way, and it’s not always smooth sailing. Jesus promises trouble and persecution as well as the blessings we receive when we follow him.

There isn’t a lot we can do about that except to cast all our anxiety on him because he cares for us. What comfort we find in this blessed assurance.

God bless you.

[LeRoy Curtis is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Asbury Theological Seminary. He served four years as a U.S. Naval Officer after which he became a pastor, Bible professor, educator, author, and missionary living in East Africa for eight years where he and his wife developed a curriculum of biblical studies for untrained pastors in rural Kenya. His passion for training young church leaders takes him to various parts of the U.S., Latin America, and Africa. He and Judy are currently residing in Carrollton, Georgia.]