In scripture, we often see people building an altar to God to commemorate a monumental occasion in their walk with Him. And after the sacrifice is offered, the altar is left standing so that every person passing by will know that something very important happened there. The altar that Joshua built to the Lord became a national monument. Every time Israelite families passed by with their children, they would recount the story of the great deed that God performed there much like we visit monuments today that commemorate the founding of our country or our fight for freedom.
As a Christian, I have monuments that I visit from time to time. My monuments are scripture verses that God used to minister to me in remarkable ways. These verses and their work in my life have made me who I am. Written in my Bible beside each verse is the date and situation I was in when the Lord used that verse to minister to me. Each time I flip through my Bible or I happen to be on those pages, I recount to myself the story of the mighty things God did in my life through that passage of scripture and I'm encouraged and my faith is bolstered.
John 15:16 was the first monument verse I ever marked in my Bible. It was in 1983, just a few short months after I became a Christian. My grandmother had fallen in a rest stop in GA and broken her hip. Shortly after surgery, a blood clot traveled to her brain causing a stroke and she wasn't expected to come out of it. She had attended a main line church all her life. They had never told her that she needed to be born again. Still, her heart was tender towards the Lord. I had talked with her on several occasions since being converted, but still was not sure about where she was with God. With her in GA in a coma and me stuck in PA, there was no way to communicate with her. I spent days fasting and praying, even though I didn't yet know that there was such a thing as fasting and prayer. I just couldn't eat. Concern for her eternal destination consumed me.
She passed away on a Tuesday evening. Wednesday morning we got the call. On Wednesday evening the Lord prompted me to go to church even though I was packing and preparing to leave to go home for her funeral. I didn't want to go, but thought that maybe the worship would soothe my soul. Upon arriving at church, I discovered that our musically talented Pastor and his wife were gone. In their place was a deacon who could not sing and a retired missionary who tortured the ivories much more than she tickled them. "God, you must have made a mistake", I thought to myself. What was worse was, the man responsible for leading the service had only just found out that he was in charge and hadn't prepared anything. I just sat there in my misery wondering if God was playing a cruel trick on me. (Remember, I was just newly saved and ignorant of how He works, even through seemingly terrible situations, but was about to learn a valuable lesson.)
After we blundered through a hymn, he stood and read a passage of scripture from John 15. He stopped at verse 15, but I continued reading into verse 16. As I read the verse, time seemed to stand still. The noise from the service seemed to grow strangely dim. Verse 16 seemed to magnify right before my eyes as if it was leaping off the page and covering my eyes until it was all I could see.
"You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He may give it to you."
Immediately, peace flooded my heart like a dam bursting from the deluge of water that had been pushing itself against it's walls with relentless force and I was assured that God had heard and answered my prayers and my grandmother was in heaven with him. It was my first "I know that I know that I know" moment since my salvation experience.
At her funeral, I could hardly sit still. Her body lay there dressed in her favorite pink dress, still and silent, but in my minds eye, I could see her dancing on the streets of gold, twirling in a white robe and singing as her bright blue eyes twinkled with delight. The reality of eternity in heaven had never been more real. I honestly wanted to jump up from my seat and twirl around her casket, joining her in her dance. My sorrow was swallowed up in knowing that her life was now complete and victory had been won!
I will see her again someday. She will tell me of those last few hours when she was sleeping and I was praying and God was working. I can't wait! The marked verses in my Bible will be here on earth, but they will be more alive to me than they were here, even while they were jumping off the page at me.
This verse and the notation beside it always reminds me that God does hear and answer prayer, even when all we can do is pray. He does take the efforts that we make to share our faith and plants them as seeds in other's hearts, even if all we know of scripture is what we've experienced through being newly born again. Of course, after 28 years with Christ, this verse means so much more to me now, but it will always remind me of the first time that God really "spoke" His Word to my heart as a direct and clear answer to my prayer. The sheer simplicity of the reality of His everyday presence in our daily affairs encourages me now, even as I write this. Thank you Lord!