“What’s your Ebenezer?”
Jason stared at the pastor as if he were speaking Elvish.
Pastor Mac chuckled and leaned against the back of a pew.
The sermon was over, church had let out, and most the congregation had left, leaving the huge sanctuary so empty their voices echoed even though they spoke in low tones.
Sunlight filtered through the giant stained-glass window above the podium and the air, like always, smelled of old wood and candle wax.
“After the Lord helped the Israelites defeat the Philistines,” Pastor Mac explained, “Samuel set up a stone as a memorial and called it Ebenezer, which means ‘stone of help’.”
“Okay,” Jason said not having a clue where the pastor was going with this.
Pastor Mac smiled, “As humans, we’re naturally selfish creatures. We do things for our own gain and comfort. We do things from the frame of mind of ‘What can I get out this? How do I make this work best for me? How can I get the most pleasure or glory from this?’ But, as Christians, we need to surrender all of that selfishness. Instead of asking, ‘What can God do for me?’, we need to ask, ‘What can I do for God?’. Instead of, ‘How can I bring more glory to myself?’, we should ask, ‘How can I bring more glory to God?’ It’s especially hard to overcome this self-centered attitude for those of us who are blessed with strong talents. For me, it was speaking. I’d always been good at communicating, making people see my point of view. I joined the debate team in high school and found that I could best any opponent, shoot down anything they threw at me. When I went to college, I studied things to help me become an even better public speaker. I went to seminary. I got my doctorate. I became the pastor of a mega-church. I got accolades from everyone who heard me speak. I spoke on radio shows, TV interviews; I gave lectures, talked at conferences. Every Sunday I got up in front of thousands of people and preached about God’s Word and God’s love and God’s sovereignty…but all I was really doing was flaunting by talent in front anyone who would listen. I didn’t care if people learned about God. Saving souls never crossed my mind. All I wanted was to show off my ability and hear people praise me and tell me how great I was. It took a long time and a hard fall for me to realize that none of that was important, that my talents weren’t my own. Since then, I’ve surrendered my selfish spirit to the Lord, committed my abilities to Him to use as He sees fit, to use me for His purposes and to bring Him glory. I’ve committed my talent to Him and set it up before the world, not as a catalyst to bring myself glory, but as a standing stone and memorial to bring honor and glory to my God and Redeemer.”
He looked long and hard at Jason and continued, “If you’re wondering why I’m telling you this…it’s because you remind me so much of myself when I was your age. I don’t want you to have to go down the same road that I did and learn the hard way. So, Jason, I’m asking you…what is your Ebenezer?”
Jason swallowed hard and felt Pastor Mac’s eyes boring into his soul.
He suddenly felt very transparent.
Pastor Mac gave him a slap on the shoulder as he turned to leave, “Think about it.”
Mac stopped and turned to face him again.
Jason struggled to find the right words, “I…I don’t know if I can…do that. Football is my life; it means everything to me. Does God really expect me to just hand over the thing that means the most to me in the world? I mean, what if…what if He doesn’t come through for me? What if I do that and I ruin my chances at going pro?”
Mac nodded. How similar were those words to ones he’d once uttered?
“You ask, ‘What if God doesn’t come through for you?’ He’s God, Jason; He always comes through for us. ‘for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.’ ‘God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?’ He may not always come through for us in the way that we want, but that’s not for us to decide. God is almighty and omniscient. He sees the big picture and He knows how to run our lives far better than we ever could. ‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.’ ‘A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.’ You say you don’t think you can do it? Jesus willingly gave His life for us…knowing that He would be mocked, beaten, killed, and crucified…because He loves us beyond measure. You don’t know if you can do it…but in the face of the cross…is it really too much to ask?”
Jason felt his eyes grow wet and his breath came hard. His heart felt like a hundred pound weight was pressing down on it.
He felt like one of the soldiers at the cross who’d just realized he’d helped crucify the Son of God.
“I know I’m pushing you,” Mac said, “but it’s because I feel that God has laid these things on my heart to say to you. It’s because I want you to truly know Jesus and commit your life to Him. It’s because I don’t want you to have to learn the hard way like I did. When it’s all said and done, Jason, there’s only one choice that really matters…and that’s whether or not you’re going to accept the gift of eternal life, commit your life to God, and follow Him.”
Jason watched the man walk away and then stared down at the brown patterns in the carpet.
His next football game was the determiner of which team went to the playoffs. When he stepped foot on the field, with the scent of the fresh-cut sod and the roaring sound of the fans in the bleachers, he looked up to the night sky through the glare of the stadium lights, and raised his hand to heaven.
If he won tonight it wouldn’t be because of PEDs, it wouldn’t be because of his talent, it would be all God.
This was his Ebenezer.
© Whitney L. Schwartz
Scripture quotations from the KJV
So, friends, what’s your Ebenezer?