The most boring part of any youth group outing is the long bus trip, especially if the trip is from Michigan to Arizona. Not long ago I interviewed some kids who went on this mission trip to the Navajo Reservation, but I don't think they will remember the trip as boring. Because of the carelessness of another driver, their bus had to swerve sharply at one point and the bus went off the road and started to roll all the way over into a ditch. Needless to say, it was very scary. One-by-one they emerged from the bus and thank God, no one was killed. Some were injured and had to be treated at a local hospital. Well, when they finally arrived at that Indian reservation they were a sorry looking bunch. They weren't able to bring all their luggage with them, some were on crutches, in braces, patched, bandaged. But when they found out at least one reason why the bus had rolled well, they have been thanking God for that accident ever since!
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Hard-Earned Credentials."
That youth group didn't exactly come running into that Native town, they came in limping and hurting. And that is why those Navajo kids listened to these white kids from Michigan! The comments of the Indian young people made it pretty clear. If those Michigan kids had arrived looking like they had no idea what pain meant, Indian kids who live in so much hurt would never have listened. But, as one girl from the youth group said, "Our wounds were our credentials!"
Our word for today from the word of God comes from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. It's about finding some meaning in the pain - maybe the pain you're going through right now. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." You go through a hurting time, you know how the pain feels, you reach out to God for whatever resources He can give you to get through it. You experience His great resources, now you are qualified to help other hurting people, telling them about the difference Jesus makes in a hurting time. And, just like those Native kids with those banged-up white kids, they will listen, because you've been there.
It's almost ironic - the worst things that happen to you in your life teach you the most about God, and give you the best chances you ever have to tell people about Jesus Christ. Day after day we are with people who, just under the surface, are carrying a lot of pain, a lot of scars. They won't listen to just anyone, they'll listen to someone who has been through a deep valley, too. Maybe someone like you.
Your pain can become your credentials to enter hurting lives with the love of Jesus Christ. They might be closed to someone who has had an uneventful bus trip, but they will listen to someone whose bus has rolled and who carries some of the damage. These are hard-earned credentials, ones you would never have chosen to get, but they are credentials God can use mightily in a hurting world. He uses wounded messengers, look at His Son. Remember, Thomas didn't believe until he saw the wounds. You may know some people like that.
The pain you've been through may never make much sense until you see Jesus and He shows you the grand design. But until then, offer that pain to Him as credentials, to make a difference for Him to other wounded people. Remember, your wounds are your credentials.