by Tony Copple
Many people think that as they get older, that things will just happen naturally. Maybe you’ll go to school, or maybe you’ll do something else other than college. Or maybe you’ll go out and work in a shop or whatever. But I want to tell you today is that your life can be what you want it to be as long as you plan it. As long as you say “what I would like to do is this, or that.” I know that some of you have plans for your lives, I know that some of you would like to be a lot of different things. (A girl shares she wants to be a teacher). That is wonderful that you want to be a teacher. We need teachers. As you get older, your mind is getting ready to be a teacher.
Now you can change from the inside out. That means it’s not something where the outside world changes. We have to plan something now. There are people in prisons today. They didn’t plan to be in prisons. They did something and then they were taken off to prison. But if they had done some better planning, then they wouldn’t be in the prison in the first place. So it’s you, in your heart that allows you to decide what’s going to happen in your life. And really, it can work out very well. It doesn’t work out for everybody; sometimes you get ill or sick. That’s not your fault. You can’t help that. But you can still plan for what you’re going to do after you get better, after you have been ill.
You know about St. Paul, you’ve heard about him. Before he was St. Paul, he was Saul. He was not a Christian. He was a Jew; he was a very good Jew. He understood everything about the Jewish faith. He could even teach the Jewish faith; and he didn’t like Christians. And St Paul persecuted the Christians, he made it very difficult for them. In fact, some Christians got killed because of St Paul. These are people who were put in jail for loving the Lord Jesus. Saul took them and put them in jail. He went on a trip, and was on course to go and find more Christians so that he could put them in jail too. Something very, very special happened on the way that changed him and changed the world. Do you know what it was, when St Paul was on his horse and he was going somewhere.
Suddenly, there was a very bright light and he saw Jesus standing right there in front of him. The light was so strong, it knocked him off his horse. Of course, he had no idea what this was, but he knew that was Jesus. When he got off the ground, he was blind. He couldn’t see anything. But he had servants to help. And he went on to the town of Damascus. He found a place where he could lie down in Damascus. He couldn’t see and had never been blind before. And then another man came and knocked on his door, and this man had heard the voice of God, telling him that he had to go and see Paul. Now everybody knew that Paul was really, really bad, and they were afraid because he was bad. So this person, his name is Ananias. He was very worried about going to see Paul. But God said, Go and see him, and you will be able to bring his sight back. And you will tell Paul that from now on, he is going to follow Jesus. And that’s what happened. Ananias went to see him, and Paul knew that Jesus was alive, even though Jesus had died. So this was a special vision that Paul had of Jesus. For that moment on, Paul was completely different. He didn’t have any experience as a Christian, but he decided that he would study. So he studied all the people who knew Jesus, when Jesus was first alive. He learned from them, people like Peter and the other apostles. And then he spent the rest of his life telling people about Jesus, and that Jesus died for us, so that our sins could be forgiven. He spent the rest of his life doing that. None of us would be talking about Jesus today if that happened to Paul. So that’s a situation that where God got involved in Paul’s life.
Then Paul decided to plan everything out, and he went on three journeys all around the Mediterranean, telling people about Jesus. He planned it, and had a lot of problems on the way. But with all the problems, God helped him overcome. He was shipwrecked, he was whipped, he was stoned, he was put into jail. Once when he was put into jail, they were singing praise songs. Songs just like we were singing outside; not those exact same songs, but other songs just like that. Then there was an earthquake that came when they were singing; and unlocked all the doors – so he could have walked out of the prison. He didn’t walk out of the prison, because he knew that the jailer would probably kill himself if he (and the other prisoners) escaped. So he said to the jailer, “no, don’t kill yourself. We haven’t left, you will not lose us. You don’t have to lose your life because of us.” And the jailer followed Jesus at that time – him and his family.
Now if we go back a long time, thousands of years, we’ll look at the children of Israel, who used to be slaves in Egypt. They lived life as slaves. They didn’t earn any money, and yet had to work, work, work, work. And Moses led them away from Egypt to a place called the Promised Land. It was a place of promise. This meant that they could have their own land, their own homes, and they wouldn’t be slaves any longer. Now God gave them a lot of miracles in order to get there. At one point they had to cross the river Jordan, it was a big river. This also happened earlier at the Red Sea. When they were at the Red Sea, the Egyptian armies wanted to stop them leaving. They just kept on coming. And God opened the waters in the sea, so they could go right through the sea on dry land. And then once they were through, he let the waters come back again. So, the Egyptian armies couldn’t catch them. That’s one of the miracles that God did to help the children of Israel. But do you know? Some of those children of Israel, even when they saw how they were being helped by God, into a better life, even when they saw that; some of them wanted to go back to Egypt! This was because they were hungry and they thought their old life was better. They didn’t have a plan for their life. They didn’t have a plan for going forward. And do you know what God did? He made a miracle that bread would grow on trees (or fall from a cloud), so that they could eat and not be hungry. They called it manna, so they were able to stay alive, because of another miracle.
Why I’m telling you this, is for, is that all these people who wanted to get to the promised land, they had to follow a plan. They had to be determined. They needed to not give up. And that’s the message I wanted to give to all of you, for all of your lives. If you want to be a teacher, never give up. Go and study. You have to study a lot to be a teacher, but it’s a wonderful life because you will be able to teach LOTS of people! You can tell them about Jesus, among other things. What would you like to teach? Anything particular? How about science? Science is a good topic.
So we need to change our thinking, if we are going to change our life. If we’re going to be able to make ourselves a better life, then it starts here, in our brain, in our head. And we plan it, and we are determined to get there. And if any of you was determined enough, and you wanted to be and astronaut, you could probably be an astronaut. It’s determination that makes the difference. So I’m hoping that all of you will have that strength, and that courage in your hearts that will be able to achieve whatever you want to achieve in life. The first thing to do, is to decide what that’s going to be. I’m so proud of you because you said you want to be a teacher. Everybody here should decide what they want to be when they’ve grown up. Would any others of you like to share what you’d like to be? An artist? Anybody like to be a film star? Yes? A doctor! Wonderful! I’ll tell you something. Some of the best doctors in the world are in South Africa. They have the best doctor training in the world; so that’s a good thing. A firefighter! Right now, you’re needed! You’re needed in California. Right now they are having terrible fires there. So if you were a fire fighter, they might send you to California to help there. That’s a very good thing to do.
Does anybody here want to end up in jail? I hope not. It’s very important that you keep clear of people who might go to jail. You might have friends that are doing bad things, keep away from them, they are not your friends. If there are people who are trying to get you to take drugs, don’t go anywhere near them. Never say, “Oh, I’ll just take a little, and it won’t matter.” If you take a little, you will certainly end up taking a lot. This is strength of character. Every one of you can make a big difference in the world, if you have that strength of character. The BEST place to get your strength of character from God, from Jesus. Keep him in your heart. Keep the Holy Spirit in your heart. And if you’re ever tempted to do something that you know is wrong, say “No, I’m NOT going to do that.” And there’s one other thing you can do, is to love your parents. Or if you only have one parent, then love them. Because they love you, just as God loves you (and we do too).
Tony and Laurie-Ann Copple (usually Laurie-Ann)
L-A's devotional blog
TONY'S DEVOTIONAL BLOG
Tony's south african journal
Tony and Laurie-Ann Copple are Canadian missionaries and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
48 Hooggelegen, Langerug, Worcester 6850 Western Cape, South Africa
Johan and Marie Fourie, Iris Western Cape Base, PO Box 765, Robertson 6705 Western Cape, South Africa