I can do all things through Christ...

Friday 15 July

Sylvia Venables learnt the verse Philippians 4:13 –  “I can do all this through him who gives me strength”, as a teenager and has remembered and put it to use many times during some extraordinary experiences living in Paraguay, Essex, Bolivia and Argentina. Kerry Stewart summaries some of these wonderful examples of the living Word at work.

Why that verse? When I younger, in the 60’s, my mother was quite worried about me, with reason. We didn’t get on very well so she gave me a book called “The power of positive thinking”. I didn’t do much with it but I read the introduction. It said that one good thing to do was to learn this Bible verse. I learnt it, and repeated it but I didn’t even know who He was, and I wasn’t going to read any more of the book to find out.

Later on, when I was going through a difficult period of my life, I went to stay with a friend and on the bookshelf in her house was several copies of the Bible and I recalled that verse again so I got up, lifted a Bible and began to search until I got it. That was the beginning of the search for something better in my life. Looking back now, I can see the power of the Word of God from then.

Hebrews 4:12 – 13 - “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Verses came to me when I needed them. The Bible is more up-to-date than a newspaper.

2 Tim 3:16-17,  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”.

My life was transformed by one verse. It is so important to learn about the real God, the true faith that is Christianity.

My mother did go to church and I grew up with a message given in school assemblies although I didn’t have a faith. I was invited to go along to the local church where I’d been baptised and confirmed. I didn’t like church or church people because I thought they were judgemental, but then I had a guilty conscious. The only people who went to church were the people who tweaked the curtains when I walked past with my beehive hair and mini-skirt.

I soon began to realise that I had hurt people during my life and when the new curate invited me to a youth camp I decided to go. I’d only arrived when a university student took it upon himself to convert me.

I was really embarrassed but he showed me a passage from John 14: “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” 

The word ‘you’, really struck me and that night I repented and God cleansed me, which was a massive thing because I felt dirty and unworthy. I told my family and they were not over the moon, in fact my dad told me he preferred me before! It was a real eye-opener as well as to learn that not everybody who goes to church is a Christian.

That same year, God, in his mercy brought Greg along. I was just considering going to college and he was in his second year studying and within a few weeks we knew there was something going on between us. The first year we were married the idea of us going to Paraguay came up, but I kept putting it aside. Greg had followed all the advice given to him and he was ready but he’d always said we wouldn’t go unless I felt called. I didn’t want to be called so I hadn’t done anything about it. Finally then I got on my knees and prayed asking God to tell me today what His plan was, then I read my daily readings. Firstly, Deuteronomy 11 were the word today is found seven times!

The next Scripture was Psalm 95: “Today, if only you would hear his voice, “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah…. For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.’”

And also Psalm 96:3 - “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all peoples.”

God had answered what I asked, and when I told Greg he was so happy. I got cold feet though when it came to filling in the forms, so we drove out to Botany Bay, by the cliff and suddenly, I heard a very strong voice in my head saying,

“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

And I knew it was God.

From then things moved quickly and our thoughts were very much focused on going to South America. God was preparing me and one of the ways He did that was through a terrible rash with a severe reaction where my face was swollen, my eyes were like slits, my hands were massive due to swelling. The doctor came to see me and he told Greg that we would have to reconsider leaving.

Again the Lord spoke to me through His word, this time in Psalm 119 were it says,

V67 “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.

V75 I know, Lord, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.

V92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction”.

The Word of God relates to circumstances –

We had lived in Paraguay for 12 years but we felt that it was coming to the time we should leave so we came back to Essex so Greg could complete a curacy. The culture shock left us gobsmacked. We were sad because we had left South America and although it was tough we made wonderful friends and it was great working practice for Greg. We had planned to go back to Paraguay but we were offered a place in Bolivia so that’s were we went as a family but our 17 year old daughter flew back after ten days to be with her boyfriend, which we were not sure about. I didn’t want to get out of bed.

I didn’t know what to do with the situation, so I read the Bible, Psalm 121; remember we were in Bolivia, one of the highest cities in the world, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber”.

I took that as a promise. Ten months later, she came back to us. Praise God. This is just another example of how and where you can see the power of the Word of God.