March 8, 2023
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Ashley Smith was just getting her life back together. A 26-year-old single mom, she had had a pretty rough journey. A Christian upbringing but a youthful rebellion - brushes with the law, some drug issues, jobs found and lost - and finally marriage and a little girl. Four years earlier, her husband had died in her arms from stab wounds in a violent attack. On that night in March of 2005, she was just getting settled in the apartment she had moved into two days earlier. When she returned from her 2:00 A.M. run to the store, accused killer, Brian Nichols, forced his way into her apartment at gunpoint.
Nichols was the object of the largest manhunt in Georgia history up to that time. He had had a deadly escape from a downtown courtroom where he left the judge and three others shot to death. Later, he shot another man. Initially, he bound and gagged Ashley. Eventually, he began to trust her enough to give her some freedom. For seven hours, she began to talk to the killer in her living room. She talked about the battles of her life, about the little daughter she was supposed to pick up the next morning, and about her newly reborn faith. With his permission, she read to him from the book she was reading, "The Purpose-Driven Life."
Ultimately, unbelievably, he allowed Ashley to leave - after she seemingly had persuaded him to consider ending the killing and to give up peacefully. After she called law enforcement - as he almost surely knew she would - they swarmed around that apartment only to see him come out and quietly surrender. Later, Ashley Smith recalled some extraordinary things that Brian Nichols had said to her. He told her he thought she was an angel sent from God, that he was lost and that God had led him right to her so she could tell him, from the well of her own hurt, how the people he had hurt were feeling.
She told him he was a child of God and she wanted him to do God's will. Then she said, "I guess he began to want to." For days, the national media talked over and over again about those extraordinary seven hours and the incredible young woman who had helped end a bloodbath. She said it wasn't her at all. It was the God who was leading her now "purpose-driven life."
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "A Bigger Purpose Than You Ever Dreamed."
Ashley Smith, unlikely hero for God, was on assignment from God that night. So are you. With her life on the line, she did not miss the divine opportunity in front of her to save a life and maybe even a soul. Make sure you don't miss yours.
Because every one of us is like Esther in Bible days, who was chosen Queen of Persia so she would ultimately be in a position to save her people from the king's decree to destroy them. The challenge from the man who raised her is recorded in Esther 4:14, our word for today from the Word of God: "Who knows but that you have come into your royal position for such a time as this?"
Just like Esther, just like Ashley Smith, you have been divinely positioned to save the lives of people you live close to, you work with, and you go to school with. God does these life-saving divine match-ups as He did that amazing night in Ashley Smith's apartment. Who would have guessed? He puts you with people who can be reached by someone like you, however unqualified you may feel. But God knows that your background, your battles, your interests, even your failures, your abilities uniquely qualify you to rescue a particular lost person that He brings into your life.
Life suddenly becomes amazingly exciting when you live it assuming God is setting up divine match-ups - and using those match-ups so you can tell about your Jesus. Rescuing people that God has assigned to you becomes the eternal purpose that drives your life.
Wherever God puts you - whoever God puts you with - remember that purpose. And help the people He brings your way be in heaven with you someday!