BlogGeneralInspiration

Earlier this summer, I asked for prayers for our huge team of evangelists during their two-week summer outreach campaign, and the results and stories are in. As promised, here’s what happened. First, the stats:

We sent out 850 evangelists across the country for two weeks.
They worked alongside 47 churches in their respective areas. 
13,831 people chose to give their lives to Christ.
16,474 people who had drifted in their faith renewed their commitment. 

Amazing! And there were other stories of marriages being restored, suicidal attempts thwarted or abandoned, community reconciliation and more. 

So here are a few of the many stories – all I can say is ‘Wow!’ and ‘Praise God!’ Enjoy the snapshots:

Sylvère had dropped out of school in 2018 because of mental ill-health or demons – demons is what the parents believed. He ran around the community in a crazed state until he was forcibly locked up and sedated. His parents tried both recognised medicine and witchcraft potions, but things only got worse. But then, a few weeks ago, his father Jacques met a friend who advised him to go to a nearby church, where he had heard of an evangelistic outreach taking place.

I was exhausted on that day. The doctors had told me there was nothing left to do for my son but take him home. I felt hopeless and had already given up. My wife encouraged me to give it one last try and take him to that church. I was very reluctant. I had heard many stories of people whom churches had scammed.

When we got to the church, we were greeted by a group of evangelists who were praying. They immediately started praying for my son. While praying, my son screamed and shouted and moved hysterically. The more he yelled, the more they prayed.

Suddenly, he stopped moving. One of the evangelists talked to Sylvere and asked him a question, to which he responded verbally. I was in awe. It was the first time hearing my son speak for three years. I fell to my knees and immediately repented.

Ten members of his extended family gave their lives to the Lord and burnt all their charms.

Sylvere, left, is recovering from years of suffering.

Goretti had been paralysed for three years. The team visited and prayed for her. She was healed, and straightaway gave her life to Jesus. Six of her family members and five neighbours also came to Christ on the back of witnessing her healing!

Éric and Aline had travelled 35km to consult a powerful sorcerer. Our team interacted with the trio, who were each deeply convicted. They renounced witchcraft, gave their lives to Jesus and did away with all their paraphernalia!

A poor 48-year-old widow in Gahombo had been blind for ten years. She was prayed for, healed, gave her life to Jesus and returned to her home where seven neighbours were blown away at her miraculous healing and likewise chose to follow Jesus, amidst huge rejoicing!

Makobero had been a witch doctor for sixty years. Having encountered the evangelists, he felt convicted and converted; at that point, six of his family also decided to follow Jesus, whilst he burnt all his idols!

22-year-old Désiré was seen by the whole community as a madman wandering around. When the evangelists visited his family, his parents said they’d only listen to the gospel if the team prayed for Désiré first and showed them God’s power. When he was healed, 31 people gave their lives to Jesus in response!

Beautiful!

Thanks so much for your prayers, I have no doubt they played a huge role!

I hope you are encouraged. It’s our 17th year of doing this, and we’ll be back at it next year.

BlogGeneralInspiration

We are entering a dark period of history, and we need to be ready for it.

I fear we are far from ready.

Are you ready? Am I?

“God did not give us a spirit of fear.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

I believe it is absolutely critical for believers in the risen Jesus Christ to embrace and live out this verse.

We live by faith, not fear. Or at least that is how we are meant to live. But my observation in lockdown was that many believers were as susceptible to fear as anyone else, absorbing endless fear-inducing messages and being crippled into inactivity and despondency when we should have been beacons of hope and light in that dark time.  

Remember the Satanic Lullaby? (Check it out here). This message went viral because it resonated with so many of you. Indeed, huge numbers of people are getting taken out by it. But whether we’re being lulled to sleep or conditioned into fearful living, it’s crucial that we recognise what is going on. The stakes are high.

Folks in the West – I’m not talking to Burundians or many other cultures and nations that have suffered for so long – we need to develop resilience (*see bottom for eleven tips on how to do that). We are possibly the most unresilient generation in the history of humanity. Despite being the most materialistically ‘developed’ society ever, we’re experiencing a darkening shadow of existential emptiness, anxiety, and hopelessness.

Since the Second World War, this largely peaceful period has shaped us over decades to seek comfort and ease above all else, which has weakened our ability to stand firm in a crisis. We’ve simply had it easy for too long – collectively, not necessarily individually – and we need to wake up. Jesus said: “In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

We just weren’t ready for the Covid crisis, and we’re still not ready for the multiple crises to come. Last month I listened to this measured but extraordinary prophetic word (watch it here), and it really chimed with my spirit. It’s 38mins long but well worth the listen. The picture painted is very bleak indeed on the one hand, but provides a glorious opportunity for those of us who choose faith over fear, have a balanced theology of suffering, and develop healthy resilience whilst boldly living out the glorious gospel.

Looking back and learning the lessons of history helps us to be able to look forward with confidence and vision. Tim Dieppe does just that in this excellent article, and challenges us at the end with the question: ‘How will our generation of Christians go down in church history?’ Read it here…

Along a similar line, Dr Stephen Backhouse wrote:

“In 165AD a plague swept through the mighty Roman Empire, wiping out one in three of the population. It happened again in 251AD where 5000 people per day were dying in the city of Rome alone. Those infected were abandoned by their families to die in the streets. The government was helpless and the Emperor himself succumbed to the plague. Pagan priests fled their temples where people flocked for comfort and explanation. People were too weak to help themselves. If the smallpox did not kill you, hunger, thirst and loneliness would.

The effect on wider society was catastrophic. Yet following the plagues the good reputation of Christianity was confirmed, and its population grew exponentially. Why is this? Christians did not come armed with intellectual answers to the problem of evil. They did not enjoy a supernatural ability to avoid pain and suffering. What they did have was water and food and their presence.

In short, if you knew a Christian you were statistically more likely to survive, and if you survived it was the church that offered you the most loving, stable and social environment. It was not clever apologetics, strategic political organisation or the witness of martyrdom which converted an Empire so much as it was the simple conviction of normal women and men that what they did for the least of their neighbours they did it for Christ.”

We can all be those people again in our day! We are here for such a time as this! The cliché is true: we may not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future – and we can live confident in that.

Smith Wigglesworth gave this challenge to followers of Jesus:

“Live ready. If you have to get ready when the opportunity comes your way, you’ll be too late. Opportunity doesn’t wait, not even while you pray. You must not have to get ready, you must live ready at all times.

Be filled with the Spirit; that is, be soaked with the Spirit. Be so soaked that every thread in the fabric of your life will have received the requisite rule of the Spirit – then when you are misused and squeezed to the wall, all that will ooze out of you will be the nature of Christ.”

So if need be, wake up! If awake, then get ready, and live ready! Not on your own, but deeply rooted in an active community of believers. This is no soft sell, but I look forward to seeing what oozes out of us…!

11 Suggestions (amongst many possible ones!) On Developing Resilience

  1. Live connected – in a community of faith, down your street, with family and friends. We can’t do this in isolation.
  2. Acknowledge and welcome God into every part of your day – I try to picture myself wearing glasses, and the lens through which I see everything is Him. I invite Him to filter everything. That brings much more peace and stability.
  3. Switch off the news – it’s good to know what is going on in the world in order to pray effectively, but you don’t need to absorb relentlessly negative news 24/7, it’s so depressing! That’s why I started my ‘Inspired…’ podcast, to counteract all the bad news with wonderful stories of overcoming faith.
  4. Memorise Scripture – storing up God’s promises in your heart and standing on them gives strong backbone.
  5. Get exercise – ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ – it’s true. Push yourself, even if you don’t want to. It doesn’t have to be much but it makes a huge difference.
  6. Be grateful/thankful – acknowledging and focusing on the blessings in your life brings joy and lightness that can blast away the negative thoughts.
  7. Keep things in perspective – as my Burundian brothers taught me, you will make it! God is still on the throne. The sun will rise tomorrow. One step at a time.
  8. Embrace the reality that you can’t be in control, and that change is a given – Remember the serenity prayer? “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference”.
  9. Take care of yourself – not in a narcissistic or self-absorbed way, but make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating well, working reasonable hours, not stuck indoors the whole time, doing activities that bring joy, make you laugh, etc.
  10. Listen to the right voices – God’s voice, your friends’ and families’ voices, trusted voices, not the relentless bombarding cultural lies we are being fed. Seriously limit time spent on social media. Get off that screen, cross the road and talk to a neighbour over a cup of tea!
  11. Ask for help – We all have tough seasons. Find a trusted brother or sister in Christ and share it without shame. Allow yourself to be encouraged by them and remember, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (1 Corinthians 12:9). Likewise, look out for those who may be in that place now.
BlogSermons

A Selfish Heart – 1 Samuel 2:11-36 

If you want to listen to last Sunday’s sermon, it was in my local church. The second in the series on Spiritual Heart Surgery, my given title was- ‘A Selfish Heart’, and the text was 1 Samuel 2:11-36. It’s not a passage I would have chosen to speak from, which makes it all the fun to dig into an unfamiliar text and find some real gold. I hope you enjoy it!

GLO

Meet my youngest, Josiah, as he shares with me in this short video on a desperate need right now in Burundi.

Economically, Burundi has never been worse, even in the war years. There’s virtually no fuel, food prices are exploding, and the nation is back to being both the poorest and the hungriest country in the world (according to the World Bank). One of our staff recently commented that Bujumbura was ‘like a ghost town’.

And yet, I’m so encouraged (and challenged) by how our faithful partners model such joy amid crisis, holding on to the Saviour and reaching out to help those without hope in practical ways.

My kids are heading back to school in the UK next week. Education is a basic human right. Whereas we can easily take it for granted, our Burundian colleagues are desperate to get all their kids back to school on Monday morning. Although education is free, you have to fork out for school uniforms and stationery, which is beyond many of them.

Often, parents are forced to choose which of their kids can go, because they certainly can’t afford to pay for all of them.

I’m still haunted by my co-worker crying on me and pointing out that it’s the children of parents in ministry that are usually the first to drop out of school…

That is why we are pledging to give £30/$36 to every single employee of the 25 GLO partner organisations we are backing. They are all busting a gut in the toughest of circumstances, and this week is literally the most depressing and stressful of the year as parents invariably have to close the door on the hopes of one or more of their children continuing education.

Please help us help them. Could you cover one family, two, or more? We have 773 staff working with us. Thanks for your consideration. Here’s to all our children, be they in the UK, the USA, Burundi, or wherever, continuing and thriving at school this coming year!

Uncategorized

Squeezed

What oozes out of you when you are squeezed?

Let me explain.

A favourite quote of mine is by Smith Wigglesworth:

Be filled with the Spirit – that is, be soaked with the Spirit. Be so soaked that every thread in the fabric of your life will have received the requisite rule of the Spirit – and then, when you are misused and squeezed to the wall, all that will ooze out of you will be the nature of Christ.

Suffice to say, Burundians, already living in the world’s poorest and hungriest nation*, are being squeezed to the wall right now in an almost unprecedented way:

  • For several months, there have been debilitating fuel shortages. 
  • Food prices have shot up spectacularly. People simply cannot afford to eat enough and malnourishment is increasing.
  • Power cuts are frequent, affecting refrigeration, medical services, and education. 
  • Authorities implemented an absurd ban on bicycles, motorbikes and tuk-tuks in the capital. As a result, many thousands of the poorest people’s livelihoods have been destroyed.
  • The fuel shortage and the ban mean folks have two options: If you can afford it, join a monster queue for a bus (often a two-hour wait) or walk miles to and from your workplace, school or market in the miserable heat and humidity. 

The squeeze is on amidst much despair and weariness.

I returned from Burundi yesterday, having met with leader after inspiring leader, all oozing Christ during this season of intense squeezing. It was a humble privilege. Beautiful fruit is growing in fertile soil.

The world is in a chaotic mess right now; there are huge needs everywhere. I hate asking, but this is part of the job that the Lord has given me – to seek support for God’s stunning servants.

If you could give a monthly (or one-off) gift, you’ll be helping to bring about transformation in many lives through our health clinics, community agriculture projects, schools, sanitary pad provision for girls, homes and help for widows, street-connected children outreach, Bible distribution, training centres (that enable young women to leave the demeaning cycle of prostitution), and so many more vital initiatives.

And if you can’t give, we understand. Please do pray though – we are a movement steeped in prayer, which is why we are seeing so much lasting fruit amidst so much relentless adversity.

Let me close with Smith Wigglesworth again, as he challenges each one of us:

Live ready. If you have to get ready when the opportunity comes your way, you’ll be too late. Opportunity doesn’t wait, not even while you pray. You must not have to get ready, you must live ready at all times!

How are you doing on that one?! Are you being squeezed?

Here’s to living ready! Here’s to oozing the nature of Christ, whatever you’re going through!

God bless you all!

Simon

Sermons

Matthew 7:24-29

Watch, listen to or download this sermon I gave last Sunday.

Some notes and cool quotes from the sermon:

Most of us have been educated way beyond the level of our obedience. It’s not about being biblically literate but biblically obedient…

Is your life built on rock? Not feelings… “Believe God’s Word and power more than you believe your own feelings and experiences. Your Rock is Christ, and it is not the Rock which ebbs and flows, but your sea.” (Samuel Rutherford)

“The waters are raging and the winds are blowing but I have no fear for I stand firmly upon a rock. What am I to fear? Is it death? Life to me means Christ and death is gain. Is it exile? The earth and everything it holds belongs to the Lord. Is it loss of property? I brought nothing into this world and I will bring nothing out of it. I have only contempt for the world and its ways and I scorn its honours.” Chrysostom’s last sermon which led to his exile.

The thing is, you can’t fake good foundations long-term – there’s a mixture of anger and sadness at high-profile leaders whose lives come crashing down – whether you’ve built your life on metaphorical rock or sand will sooner or later come to light. The foundation’s fragility or solidity is a reality whatever the outward appearance… a sandcastle is easy to build, but washes away with the next incoming tide.

Have we cheated or are we cheating in taking shortcuts with our integrity, our viewing habits, our ill-discipline in affairs of the heart, our spiritual apathy and disengagement, our lack of self-scrutiny in terms of spending patterns, use of time, loose-talking, viewing habits, wandering eyes, jealousy, greed, laziness, vulgarity, pride, judgmentalism?

As Dallas Willard so astutely pointed out, the cost of discipleship is high, but the cost of non-discipleship is even higher. Discipleship in that sense is a bargain: “Non-discipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, non-discipleship costs you exactly the abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring.”

One day an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget.

As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him.  Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”

Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”

Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing piece of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.  Then he asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was onto him.

“Probably not,” one of them answered.  “Good!” he replied.

He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!”

Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim.  Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

What are the ‘big rocks’ in your life? Time with your loved ones? Your faith, your education, your dreams? A worthy cause? Teaching or mentoring others?

Remember to put these big rocks in first or you’ll never get them in the jar at all. And of course, over and above that, Jesus is the ultimate Big Rock, around which everything else will fit appropriately. 

“We are at war, and the bloody battle is over our hearts. I am astounded how few Christians see this, how little they protect their hearts. We act as though we live in a sleepy little town during peacetime. We don’t. We live in the spiritual equivalent of Bosnia or Beirut. Act like it. Watch over your heart. Don’t let just anything in; don’t let it go just anywhere. What’s this going to do to my heart? is a question that I ask in every situation.” (John Eldredge)

Mike Mason in The Mystery of Marriage on himself in courtship: “A 30-year-old man is like a densely populated city. Nothing can be built… without something else being torn down. To grow effectively, we must realize that we cannot build before we have properly excavated, like a massive skyscraper at the base going deep.”

Smith Wigglesworth gave this challenge to Christians: “Live ready. If you have to get ready when the opportunity comes your way, you’ll be too late. Opportunity doesn’t wait, not even while you pray. You must not have to get ready, you must live ready at all times.

Be filled with the Spirit; that is, be soaked with the Spirit. Be so soaked that every thread in the fabric of your life will have received the requisite rule of the Spirit – then when you are misused and squeezed to the wall, all that will ooze out of you will be the nature of Christ.”

BlogGLOInspiration

United Christians in Evangelism

Last Sunday night, we had an evening meal with GLO Partner United Christians for Evangelism (UCE). They are a superb outfit doing incredible things on minimal funds, which is what I find so utterly inspiring. When I was last out here in October, we had done an outreach in Gatamba in Karuzi Province, which had been a real adventure and very fruitful – some of you might remember the demon-possessed lady Teresa who had thrown both her shoes at me from the crowd who was then prayed for, set free, and helped to make a fresh go of life having fallen on very hard times.

Well, with this latest visit and team, we joined up again with UCE at a different location, and again there were some beautiful stories including Ananias, who was on his way to kill himself (having just been released from prison after a previous suicide attempt) when he walked past our meeting and encountered God in a powerful way. I love his smile in the photo below, and you can be sure his wife is a happy woman! Click here to hear his own words on what happened at last week’s outreach, as put together by UCE’s Pacifique.

Ananias

Anyway, back to our evening meal. UCE had lined up a few people (as seen above) whose lives had been transformed during the outreach last October, for us to hear their stories. It was very encouraging. Here’s what happened to them at the Gatamba rally (from left to right):

Lambert came to the gospel rally with liver and stomach problems. He was also known as a drunk. But he wanted to be set free, so he came forward for prayer and received God’s touch. On the spot, his desire for alcohol disappeared, and he is a totally new man. As a side note, I have never seen anyone eat as much in one sitting (see below), probably three times my healthy portion – we had a good laugh together about that, he took his eating very seriously!

Lambert eating an extremely full plate of food
Lambert with his unbelievable plate!

Liberate’s brother had told her of UCE’s powerful ministry because he’d been healed previously at one of their rallies. She’d been bedridden for six months with horrific pains from her head to her toes. She’d visited three witch doctors who had only made her poorer and certainly hadn’t helped improve her health. So in her desperation, she was the first to come forward at the Gatamba rally to receive prayer. In her words, she felt ‘a strong warm wind go through my whole body, blowing away all my body pains and leaving me free!’ She is now an active member of her church community.

Rose hadn’t walked for two and a half years. One of her legs was paralyzed, but as she received prayer the paralysis went. She is now back cultivating alongside other women in the community.

Eric had long-term intestinal problems, which medicine and herbal remedies gave fleeting relief to. He heard the noise of the rally, came to listen, sought prayer, gave his life to Jesus, and was healed on the spot. He is now busy evangelising, has joined his church’s choir, and longs for others to encounter the Jesus who changed his life.

Diomede had a seriously swollen knee. After prayer, the swelling disappeared, and he got up on the stage and demonstrated his complete healing. On the back of experiencing that undeniable miracle, he became a follower of Christ Jesus on the spot, and over supper testified that he had never experienced such peace as he does now.

It was a joy meeting them and I like sharing such stories, to stir us in our own faith. Many Burundians are so open, hungry, desperate, and a whole lot less cynical than most of us in the West. They have much to teach us. We thank God for His gracious work in their lives. And keep up the great work, UCE!    

Sermons

So I’ve been in the USA preaching this week, and felt led to this passage, which is not what a visiting speaker would usually choose if he wanted to get invited back! 

What a passage! Just 9 verses, which include one of the worst and one of the best five verses in the whole Bible (which has 31,102 in total). I started with a few questions to reflect on, but you’ll need to listen to it to get the full impact:

Listen to the audio or download here:

“So I want to start with a question, a crucial question: What do you think about God? Because that’s the most important thing about you.

How much do you want of God? Because nobody has less of God than they want…

How close to God do you want to be? Because you will be as close to God as you want…

You see, if you draw near to God, He will draw near to you (James 4:8). You can have as much of God as you want, and can be as close to Him as you want, but many of us have the wrong conception of God. So we don’t want that much of Him and don’t want Him too close, rather holding Him at arms’ length, having a relationship with Him on our terms, keeping Him in the passenger seat whilst we drive where we want to go. And there’s shocking imagery in this passage that, if you have the wrong conception of God, will only make things worse…”

Podcast

Jeremy Marshall Still Alive for a Reason Inspired Podcast

How would you be after 37 rounds of chemotherapy and 10 surgeries? In your weakened state, would you like to go onto a football pitch at half-time and share Jesus with 22,000 spectators? Six years ago, Banker CEO Watford-fan Jeremy Marshall was given 18 months to live. He’s still alive and making the most of every opportunity. His story is so inspiring, challenging and stirring!

Four of my friends have died of cancer in the last few months. All of us have lost someone we care about, and all of us know people who are journeying right now on that difficult path. That is why I wanted to share this podcast with you – for you to listen, and then to forward on to someone else who is hurting and in need of encouragement.

So here’s the episode. You won’t regret taking the time.

Listen on Apple Podcasts inspired with Simon Guillebaud
Listen on Spotify Inspired with Simon Guillebaud

More about Inspired… with Simon Guillebaud

Sermons

Here is a talk I gave yesterday on being made in the image of God. Below is some of the material I shared:

Some guests were visiting an orphanage and shared the Christmas story with the children for their first time ever. They sat, enthralled, and were then given materials to re-create the manger scene. All was going to plan until one of the visitors spotted six-year-old Abu’s efforts – he had put two babies in the manger. He was asked to repeat the story, and he did so perfectly until the end when he made up his own version. 

He went on: “And when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had anywhere to stay. I told him both my mamma and my papa are dead, so I didn’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him that wasn’t possible, because I didn’t have a present to give him like everybody else did… But I so wanted to stay with Jesus that I wondered if there was anything at all of mine I could offer him as a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus: ‘If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?’ And Jesus told me: ‘If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.’ So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him – for always.” 

As little Abu finished his story, his eyes filled up with tears. He then slumped down on the table and began sobbing deeply. This precious little orphan had found someone at last who would never abandon him or let him down, someone who would stay with him – as he put it – for always.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people.

You have never talked to a mere mortal.

Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.

But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.

C.S. Lewis: —The Weight of Glory (HarperOne, 2001), pp. 45-46

Wow! That’ll change how you treat yourself, and your neighbour. Respect, dignity, honour…

Michael Parkinson once asked Dawn French during an interview what had given her her self-esteem and confidence in herself. She replied:

“I’ve tried to wonder what it was that gave me confidence from early on, and I can only put it down to my Dad. I remember that there was a night when I was going to go out to a disco, and I was really ready to have sex with anybody who wanted to ask me. I had some purple suede hot pants that I thought I looked great in. And my father called me into his office and sat me down, and I thought, “I’m going to get the lecture, blah blah.” And instead of giving me a lecture about what time to be home or any of that he just said to me, “you are the most precious thing in our lives and you are beautiful, and you are worthy of anybody who shows you any attention. You shouldn’t feel grateful for the scraps that any other girls leave behind: you should have the best.” And I went out, and in fact no boy came within ten yards of me! I wouldn’t allow them because they were beneath me. He just gave me a bit of self-esteem.”

Now this talk is about much more than self-esteem, although the lack of self-esteem is a feature of our broken society and culture. Hear this powerful story from a very different society and culture:

Johnny Lingo lived on the island of Nurabi, and he was one of the richest men in all the islands.  He got that way because he was a smart trader.  And Johnny Lingo was in love with Surita, who lived on the neighbouring Island of Kiriwadi.

If you were kind, you would call Surita “plain.”

Now on the island of Kiriwadi, they had a tradition, that when a man wanted to marry a woman, he would go to the woman’s father and bargain for the woman by offering a number of cows.  The average woman on Kiriwadi went for 4 cows; the most beautiful woman on Kiriwadi had gone for 6 cows.

Sam Korad, the father of Surita, had decided he was going to ask for 2 cows for Surita, but that he would accept one.

On the day of the trading, all the people of both islands gathered to watch.  This was the social event of the year.  And imagine their surprise when Johnny Lingo offered Sam Korad EIGHT COWS for Surita!  Everyone said, “He’s mad!  He’s blind!  Why would a man – a smart trader – offer eight cows for a woman he could have married for one?”

Well, here’s the reason.  They got married, and in 6 months Surita had become the most beautiful woman in all the islands.

She had been given value.  And she blossomed.

We all have the same value in the eyes of Jesus Christ.  He paid exactly the same price for you and for me as he paid for Billy Graham or Mother Theresa or Simon Peter..

We are all eight cow saints.  And so is everyone around you. The value of something or someone is determined by the cost someone is willing to pay, and God was willing to pay with the blood of his only Son, so that shows how much we are worth.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalm 139:13,14

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his (Eliab) appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7