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In the summer of 2006 I was honored with an invitation to headline the first open air, Christian concert in a central city of the nation of Bosnia. The great majority of the population of this region being Muslim, it was a true wonder that the event was approved by the Muslim mayor of the city. Advertisements were posted, staging and lights were set in place and the downtown city streets were blocked off for the event. In a nation of less than 500 Evangelical Christians and the general population facing over 60% unemployment, we called the concert HOPE ’06. It was one of the great honors of my life. In my excitement and zeal for sharing the love of Jesus, I hadn’t considered the potential repercussions of having my name and face on posters throughout a predominantly Muslim city, nor standing on a platform proclaiming the love of Jesus in the city square across the street from the downtown Mosque. Perhaps I should have?
About three quarters through the concert that night with thousands in the streets in front of us and hundreds more listening from their apartment balconies that surrounded the downtown square, something happened. Three young men rode their motorcycles into the crowd and began yelling and revving their motorcycle engines to drown out our worship. As I’m in the middle of singing songs to Jesus I feel fear start creeping into my spirit. The louder they got the more scared I became. All of the sudden the fact that I was on a stage, with my photo on advertisements all over town began to feel more like a liability than a privilege. About that time someone in the crowd throws something at me and hits me in the head. In that moment, it was as if someone dumped a 5 gallon drum of fear all over me. I began to fail in fear and my strength started leaving me. I was certain that someone was coming for me as soon as I walked off that stage and there was nowhere I could hide. (Click Here To Read My Post “Carrying The Kingdom”)
Nowhere to Hide
I somehow finished the song and made my way to the side of the stage. As I gathered some leaders around me to pray I noticed a red grape sitting on the floor where I had been standing, reminding me of what had hit me in the head. I slowly started calming down and felt my spirit stabilize enough to think more clearly. About that time the Holy Spirit started speaking to me. He said, ‘Nathan, you know, Paul was shipwrecked and spent a night stranded on the open sea for The Gospel? He was stabbed and nearly stoned to death on multiple occasions for The Gospel. He was imprisoned and accused falsely for The Gospel….. You got hit in the head with a grape.” It was too good of a line for me to not laugh out loud at myself and the situation. He wasn’t making fun of me but was putting things in perspective for me. Maybe it will help put some things in perspective too. (Click Here To Read My Post “He’s On Every Page of Your Story”)
When we have our eyes fixed on Jesus, the storms around us become less impressive. I was doing great, excited about the unprecedented opportunity God had given me to proclaim His praise in the midst of a dark and depressed place. It wasn’t until I began to take my eyes off of Him and focus on the ‘potential dangers all around’ that I began to fail in my faith and become consumed with fear. This is how fragile our human nature can be. We start off well, but so easily become disheartened through trial or difficulty. If a singular ‘grape of wrath’ could cause me to spiral out of control in fear, how am I supposed to ‘endure to the end’ when much bigger challenges come my way? I believe the Lord allowed that event to take place so that I would learn the lesson of keeping my eyes fixed on Him in the midst of the storm. I want to encourage you to do the same. (Click Here To Read My Post “It’s Worth The Weeds”)
He’s Preparing You For ‘Grape Things’!
We finished the event with thousands having heard the good news of Jesus. The small, local churches were encouraged and emboldened, even by the feeble attempts of a guy who was terrified by a grape. I was invited back the next year and we reached even more people. That year, a bomb threat was called in and the police stopped our event in the middle of the concert and escorted us to safety. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I was less afraid of the bomb threat than I had been of the grape the year before. I kept my eyes on Jesus and disregarded the wind and the waves. We got back on the stage, finished the event and had an ice cream cone afterwards to celebrate. (Click Here To Read My Post “Please Pass The Salt”)
Remember, the same waves the terrified the disciples in the storm, were the same ones that rocked Jesus to sleep in the boat. God is for you today. He is maturing you and preparing you to do great things. Trust Him. No matter how big or small, know that He is using every circumstance for your good and His glory. Don’t lose heart today. After all, it’s only a grape…
From The Bible
…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith… 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 NIV
Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move…. 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. – 2 Corinthians 11: 25-31 NIV
Watch the Message I Preached on This Topic in Our ‘Greater’ Series Here:
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