Tribute of Thankfulness

article by site founder, Connie Rice

As I’ve been reflecting during this season of Thanksgiving, it struck me that God not only gave us Himself through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, He also gave us the “great cloud of witnesses” in the Bible listed in Hebrews, Chapter 11, as well as many more people of faith throughout history to inspire and challenge us. What struck me is that He also provides those trusting in Him with their own personal “great cloud of witnesses”.

I’m thankful for those in the Bible who had faults, but God still used them in mighty ways. Whether they are from the Old or New Testament or whether they were being a good or a bad example, we can learn from them. Below are many of the names from Hebrews 11 as well as a few that are not listed there, but they are people God has used to teach me through His Word:

  • Abraham – an example of trusting God even when it meant leaving everything behind and going to an unknown area and believing God’s promises even though they were not seen in his circumstances;
  • Noah – an example of believing and obeying God in spite of being mocked by others;
  • Job – an example of trusting and praising God in spite of intense trials;
  • Joseph – an example of trusting God and choosing to obey Him even when rejected and falsely imprisoned for years;
  • Moses – an example of trusting God to empower and guide him as a leader of Israel, taking then to the promised land;
  • Joshua – an example of believing and obeying God even against seemingly impossible odds and with strange instructions (Jericho);
  • Samson – an example of how temptation can blind and deceive us;
  • Gideon – an example of how God can use the least of us and how He creates circumstances that help us know that He’s accomplishing something through us, but that it is His power and not ours;
  • Ruth – a great example of loyalty.
  • David – an example of someone who sinned in worse ways than most of us, but was quick to repent and considered by God to be “a man after My own heart”,
  • Solomon – an example of a young leader who asked for wisdom and received it plus many blessings from God, yet still allowed himself to be drawn to idols;
  • Jonah – an example to us that trying to run or hide from God’s call on our lives is not good for us and reveals God’s love and mercy for those who are far from Him;
  • Isaiah – an example of a prophet who was faithful to God and His call without fail over the entire scope of his life and provided numerous amazing prophecies of the Savior to come, Jesus Christ;
  • Jeremiah – an example of a prophet whose heart was broken over the people’s refusal to follow God, knowing that judgment was coming if they did not repent;
  • Daniel – an example of how to live a godly life in the midst of sinful culture and subject to ungodly leaders;
  • Shadrack, Meshach, & Abednego example of 3 young men taken into Babylonian captivity who did not eat food forbidden by their faith and would not bow down to an idol, even while facing death.
  • Nebuchadnezzar – an example of someone whose pride was his downfall and how God uniquely humbled and then restored him;
  • Esther – an example of a queen who prayed and then stood up for her people in spite of the danger involved; her uncle told her that she was in place “for such a time as this”.
  • Nehemiah – an example of someone who was compelled to respond to God’s call, in his case to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls in spite of opposition and threats.
  • Paul – an example of someone radically transformed by Jesus.
  • Peter – an example of someone who was impulsive and had a tendency to speak before thinking, but Jesus was referring to him when He said, “on this rock I will build my church” (Peter means rock in Greek).
  • James (Jesus’ earthly half-brother) – an example of someone who struggled with believing that Jesus was the Messiah promised by God (John 7:5), but became a strong leader in the faith and early church.

My encounter with Jesus brought about a radical change in my life – one which I have never regretted. Written and video works in addition to the Bible have greatly impacted my walk with the Lord (C. S. Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, Oswald Chambers, G.K. Chesterton, Os Guinness, Francis Chan, David Platt, Ray Comfort, Ken Ham, John Piper, D. James Kennedy, Alister McGrath, Wayne Grudem, Al Mohler, J. Daniel Hays & J. Scott Duvall, Dave Coppedge (“Creation Evolution Headlines” & “Creation Safaris”), Mike Riddle (“Creation Training Institute”), Timothy Mackie & Jonathan Collins (“The Bible Project”), Allen Parr (“The BEAT”), Bobby Conway (One-Minute Apologist”), and Bible studies by Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer, just to name a few). I just found a book today in a used book store that I look forward to reading (not thinking it was a coincidence) – “A Cloud of Witnesses: The Greatest Men in the World for Christ and the Book” by Stephen Abbott Northrup D.D. (book link is to a reproduction printing). The book includes quotes about their faith in Christ from Charles Dickens, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, Charles Lyell, Sir Walter Scott, Thomas Jefferson, Sir Isaac Newton, Wolfgang Mozart, and hundreds more.

However, I would also like to take an opportunity to acknowledge and thank the personal “great cloud of witnesses” that God has used in my life to help me grow in my faith. The names below may not end up in history books and most do not know who they are, but their lives have had a great impact on me and I’m sure others as well:

  • Melba Goodman, a good friend who had the courage to share Jesus with me when I had no interest in hearing it.
  • My family, who help me grow spiritually and as a person.
  • Jim Ryan, who followed God in moving to California, enabling me to hear the gospel plainly once God led us to a church.
  • Carol Ryan, whose gentle, loving, gracious, patient, and godly example had a huge impact on me when I was trying to understand God’s Word and how to live His way.
  • Jack & Judi Winkel, who grew alongside us as new believers and Jack later invested in my kids as a junior high leader; they were examples of what it looks like when God fills His faithful followers with supernatural strength (in the tragic loss of their precious teen, Jill).
  • Dave & Heather Krogstad, pastor and his wife who greatly impacted both of my kids in junior high and beyond; their love and caring ways reflect Jesus well to everyone they know.
  • Kathie Kallestad, who invested in my younger daughter in junior high while making her feel loved and accepted.
  • Jim Jackson, pastor who is gifted by God to teach in creative and effective ways; I’m so thankful for the investment he and his wife, Julie, made in my older daughter’s life.
  • Jeff Steele, pastor who was my personal “Bible Answer Man” and a great example of a godly husband & parent, who always made time to speak with me and provide honest feedback and direction.
  • Dr. Wong, professor of one of my Bible Institute classes who in spite of severe persecution in his and his family’s lives, stood out as a gentle, caring man and brilliant scholar; when our younger daughter was ill and doctor’s had no idea what happened to her, he told me, “God must think you’re pretty strong.”. It was strangely comforting and I’ve shared those words with others since.
  • Ron Jones, pastor who gave a message that has greatly affected and challenged me – to be “fully present” with people.
  • Paul Luna, pastor who helped me see “outside the box” in ministry and directed me to my second ministry position; he was the first one to suggest I start a blog.
  • Sue Marshall, Julie Sandeen, & Debbie d’Amico, fellow children’s ministry leaders who were part of a network group that provided prayer, encouragement, and brainstorming; we worked together to provide local, inexpensive training for children’s ministry teams; Sue’s suggestion that I start a blog (she said because I knew of so many resources that might be helpful to others) eight years after Paul suggested it caused me to pray about it; she helped me set up the basic structure and this website is the result. 🙂
  • Todd Smith, pastor who is a godly shepherd who helped me see blind spots and encouraged me to always leave time to teach; it was powerful for me to see him almost physically shake off a compliment of his preaching to prevent pride from gaining a foothold in his mind.
  • Tom Halstead, professor at a Bible college and elder who is one of the most godly, patient, gracious, caring, & encouraging men I’ve ever met, as well as a Bible scholar.
  • Wayne Dell, elder whose faith, service to God, wisdom, and sense of humor never waivers – even in the midst of severe trials, which was a powerful witness to me.
  • Students, leaders, parents, and friends at Heart of the Canyons, Crossroads, Valley Christian Fellowship, and now at Harvest Church.

It’s been an amazing time of reflection that causes my heart to overflow with thankfulness for how God has revealed Himself to me through the people He’s placed in my life. Our time on earth is filled with trials, but when we’re on the path God created us for and we choose to partner with Him in our spiritual growth, it’s also the greatest adventure anyone could have. God fills us with a sense of purpose as well as the peace and joy that is only found in Him. As if that wasn’t enough, we also look forward to being in heaven with our Creator and loved ones who have gone before us – where there’s no more sickness, no more evil, and no more of this world’s trials. I especially look forward to not having to fight my sinful nature any more. Until then, I will follow God as His plan for me continues to unfold – but now with a greater awareness and with more gratitude than before.

My prayer is that God will empower me to live a life worthy of the calling He has given me, that my life would accurately reflect Christ, and that I would be intentional about sharing His love and truth to whomever God places in my path as others have invested in me. To God be the glory!

© Constance Rice 2019

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