At about three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lemá sabachtháni?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46).
In that moment, when Christ bore our sins, He felt the agony of separation from the Father.
In the following testimony by Brian Devany, pastor of Skyview Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, we find that Brian lost his worldly possessions and was left wondering where God was in his agony. But praise God, then came the morning and the "rest of the story."
In 1997, I turned a $100 investment into a multi-million dollar business. My family and I were finally experiencing the freedom of financial bliss. It was the era of the dot-com business when ordinary computer geeks were becoming billionaires overnight. I was on the merry-go-round of entrepreneurial success, and I was reaching for the golden ring. How could I fail when God was watching my back?
Five years later, I stood in my kitchen numb with the reality that we were within seventy-two hours of our home being foreclosed. The only positive thing I can remember is that the move out wouldn't be too burdensome, as everything we owned that had any value had been sold trying to keep up with the payments. But we wouldn't be able to use the van since the only remnant of its existence were the two skid marks leading out of the garage into the street from when the repo man had dragged it back to the bank.
As I stood there in the kitchen, at the lowest point in my life, God began to work on my heart. I was in a crisis of faith as I stood at the crossroads of the world and God's grace. According to the world, I had lost it all. According to God's grace, I had inherited the Kingdom of heaven and there was no material thing in this world that could be a substitute. The question God asked me at that moment of despair was, "Do you believe My Word?" If I did, then His grace would be sufficient for me.
In that crisis of faith, I realized that believing His Word was more than just a confession; it had to be a part of my inner being to the depths of my soul. I wept as the Holy Spirit brought me comfort and hope. God's plan was never to follow me around and watch my back. Our Lord wants us to follow and trust Him … in all things. Although that lesson was painful to learn, I now knew what it meant to be fully surrendered to God. Little did I know that His plan was to turn my spiritually bankrupt legacy into one that would bear eternal fruit.
My spiritual life was in hyper-growth. I could not get enough of God's Word, of worshipping Him, and fellowshipping with other Christians. A friend, Mark Cook, approached me in Sunday School and asked if I'd consider joining his team as a learner for the next semester of FAITH evangelism training. I wanted to be involved in any type of Bible study, so I said, "Sure, but what's it all about?" He replied, "We're going to learn how to share the Gospel and then knock on doors and tell the lost world about the saving grace of Jesus Christ."
Without delay, I wished him the best and told him to think of me for the next Bible study. But the enthusiasm with which he persuaded me showed me that this was something even I could do despite scoring a one on a spiritual gifts survey in the category of evangelism. I will never regret stepping outside of my comfort zone and trusting God to use me for something I could not do naturally.
In the three short years I have been equipped to share the Gospel, God has worked through me to lead well over one hundred people to saving grace through one-on-one evangelism. I taught my son the presentation when he was eight, and God has used him in a mighty way to lead dozens of his friends and adults to salvation in Jesus Christ. The most tender moment came when God allowed me to share the Gospel with my daughter and be with her as she repented and turned to Jesus Christ for eternal salvation.
God has used me in sentimental situations, and He has used me in sinister situations. When my son turned ten, we took him and a group of his friends to a local entertainment center called "Putt & Fun." About forty-five minutes into our evening of fun, a daunting young man of about twenty walked into the establishment. His 270 pound, 6'4" frame fit snuggly into a T-shirt with a vile curse word boldly printed on its front. He was loitering with a motley group of teenagers who were smoking and cursing without fear.
One of the women in our group went in to complain, but the manager told her in an apologetic tone that he was one of the owners of the place, so they could do nothing about it. She came out and told me the manager's response and said, "Brian, that guy needs FAITH," to which I promptly responded, "There's no way I'm going over to that group of thugs and start talking about Jesus. Let's just go and take our money elsewhere."
The Lord impressed on my heart that He died for thugs and even spent time with some during His ministry. With my sense of duty building, along with accompanying courage, I approached one of my friends who was of an intimidating size and said, "Come on, David, let's go share Jesus with these guys." Confident with his stature and strength, David courageously said, "No way! Those guys are too scary looking." But he repented when I reminded him that God does not give a spirit of fear, and we boldly approached the gang of six.
We struck up a conversation as I said a silent prayer to myself: "God, I don't know what I'm doing here, but if You really want us here to share the Gospel with these guys, then open the door for us. Oh, and make it obvious because I'm not that smart."
No sooner had I finished that prayer than out of the blue the hulking creature in the offensive T-shirt started to confess his life of sin. "I have been to jail, I smoke, I curse, and I drink a lot, but I'm glad I've never done drugs."
The door was open. Fire from heaven must have come down and entered my heart because out of my mouth poured an unplanned boldness that surprised even me. I said, "Sir, I have done drugs before, but Jesus Christ radically changed my heart and my life and He can change yours, too, if you're willing."
He locked eyes with me, and we engaged in a conversation about spiritual matters. We talked about his church involvement and his unsuccessful attempt to find the truth about God. After asking the key question and sharing the simple truth of the Gospel, that big threatening man sat in the middle of his friends and, with tears in his eyes, prayed to receive Christ.
He then went into the restroom, turned his shirt inside out, and came back out sharing with everyone he bumped into the good news that his name was now written in the Book of Life. It was a powerful moment and one I will never forget as God sent this trembling servant to the brink of Hades so that He could rescue one of the perishing.
Since that time, I have been called to pastor a church in serious decline. This church, which had as many as five hundred members in its hey-day, had dwindled down to eighteen by the time I was asked to fill the pulpit; and that number included six people I brought with me to hear me preach. This church, located in the heart of Austin, Texas, was rich in history and full of promise, but they did not have a Great Commission focus and were not actively sharing the Good News with the world around them. God had removed His lampstand because they had left their first love.
Slowly, they came to realize that if they wanted God's blessing to be bestowed upon them, they must repent and start doing what we are commissioned to do from the Lord Jesus Himself. We have finished our second semester of FAITH and have five new soul winners trained to share the Gospel. Over the course of five years prior to my arrival at the church, there was only one baptism recorded.
This year, we have already baptized seventeen and have seen many more pray to receive Christ as Savior. Lives are being changed, and the Kingdom is growing. As I look back on that dismal day in my kitchen, I realize God has generated more value from my life as a humbled and surrendered servant than I ever could have had as a businessman. We each have a choice. We can leave a legacy of success measured by worldly values that appear for a little while and then vanishes away; or we can leave a legacy led by godly values that will matter for eternity to those who would have otherwise paid the wages of their sin. One choice has you walking in front of God; the other has God walking in you and you walking in God. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Then Jesus came near and said to them, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).
What a command — what a promise! What the world takes away, Jesus replaces with something much better — when we follow and trust.