Andy Hollifield 4-22-17
The word “before” is mentioned 1798 times in the bible. The word “after” is mentioned 1180 times. An interesting thought that occured to me just now is this; look at the word “before” and see how many letters it has. It has 6. The number 6 in numerology is the number of man. Now look at the word “after” and count the letters. It has five. Five in numerology is always symbolic of grace. That kind of explains everything we need to know in just one simple statement doesn’t it. Before we were born again we followed the will of man, and after, we received grace.
Lets look at the number six a little closer. If you look back to the beginning, man was created on the sixth day as well as the serpent. Also, the labor of man was intended to be done in six days just as the Lord’s had been. Also, the sixth commandment deals with the crime and sin of murder. There are a lot of different things that are noteworthy about the number 6 but that isn’t our focus.
The number five is a lot more familiar to us as it is representative of the grace of God. Grace is simply favor shown to the unworthy, to those that don’t deserve it. One example of the number 5 is the number of stones that David picked up out of the brook as he crossed it. Also, if I am not mistaken, Goliath had four brothers. Joseph brought his family to Goshen when there were five years of famine left. There are five commandments that deal with man’s relationship to God and five that address man’s relationship with each other.
The main focus of this article is the manifestation of God’s grace in our lives. We all like before and after photos of new hairstyles, weight loss, remodeling projects, and restored items but I want us to take at look at the before and after condition of our lives. Before God saved us by his grace and after. Although I was born again at an early age, I can still see the results of God’s grace in my life. I can see a lot of places in my life when I have walked away from the Lord when, had it not been for his grace, my life would be very different. I have mentioned many of the events of my life in my writings and detailed a lot of times in particular when apart from the appearance of grace, those events would have been just another story with a not so happy ending. I will highlight just a few of them for those that might not have been reading at that time.
In mid January of 1983 when the doctor gave me the news, when I was only seventeen years young, that within a year I would either be on dialysis or have a kidney transplant or both. Enter God’s grace. Before the enormity of the situation could really sink in, I told my mom the news before I left for church that Wednesday night. As she was telling my big brother when he got home from work, while he was making a bologna sandwich, he simply said, “I have two if he needs one. Just let me know when I need to take off of work.” That was it. That was all the thought he needed to put into that decision because I was his kid brother. Grace had shown up for me. To make a long story short, The kidney started working within a half hour of being put in and has been working 34 years this October 6th with the exception of the week I endured a rejection episode. That itself is another amazing story of God’s amazing grace.
Surgery had been on Thursday the previous week and I had been moved from ICU to a regular room on Monday after overcoming pneaumonia with a totally suppresed immune system. Again, another example of God’s amazing grace. On Wednesday night while watching the World Series I began to get sleepy. After the nurse came in and checked my vitals again around 10:00 I went to sleep. Temperature, BP, pulse oxygen levels all normal. I was even entertaining the thoughts of when I might get to go home and the doctor had even casually mentioned it a time or two. Three hours later, that had all changed. Around 1:00 AM, the nurse checked my vitals, stripped my cover except for a sheet, packed my main arteries in ice, put me on a cooling blanket set for maximum chill, and so began about a five or six day ordeal experiencing the grace of God. My temp was 105.3 and the doctor warned mom and dad later that morning of the possibility of brain damage. If there is any, it wasn’t from the fever. What was happening was the rejection episode that I had been warned would take place about 7 days after the surgery. I had progressed so well that I had put that out of my mind. Now it was reality. At around 7:00 AM, I was sent downstairs for a renal ultrasound. When I asked the technician how it looked, to my surprise he told me. He said it looked like it had rejected. Needless to say I was devastated. After hitting the bottom and throwing myself a pity party back in my room, I told mom and dad I just wanted to go home. At that point, my dad, apparently being infused with instant wisdom from God, kind of read me my rights. He informed me that I would be staying as long as the doctor said for me to and I would not be giving anyone a hard time about it and he better not hear otherwise. Now that I am a dad, I kind of realize how hard that must have been for him to do but it was exactly what was needed; party over. The doctor came in and told us that there was a regiment of five doses of steroids, I think is what it was, that they could inject through an IV to try to jump start my kidney since the fever was now gone. Prayer was made and the doors of my prison were once again opened. Three doses into the treatment, the decision was made that it was all I needed because my kidney was now working normally again. In case you missed it; that was five doses (the number of Grace) and three was all I needed (the number of the Trinity). Proving once again that all you need is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Like I said that was nearly 34 years ago out of the twenty years I was told I could expect from a transplant. If you think I have my math wrong and 34 is greater than 20, you are right. I have operated 14 years on borrowed time so to speak and the doctors say there is no reason I should lose my kidney at this point. Why God chose to bless me with this measure of grace is beyond me but I am sure glad he did and I am trying harder as I get older to make it worth his investment. I know I can’t ever earn the grace he has given me but he has sure blessed me for trying.
I will try to be brief and mention one more instance. In November of 1995 after a couple years of trying, my wife and I were finally blessed with the news that she was pregnant. Overjoyed with the thought that by Thanksgiving the next year we would finally have our family started. Little did we know that just over a month later our world would come crashing down around us. Just a few days after Christmas my wife developed some bleeding that we knew wasn’t normal. We went to her doctor and found out that she had a miscarriage. As devastating as that is, you have to understand that we had tried a long time to have a baby. Due to some health issues, the likelihood of her getting pregnant again wasn’t great to say the least. To make matters worse, this was on Friday before New Year’s Day so we had to wait till the following Tuesday for her to have the DNC done. You talk about a weekend of agony, it was almost unbearable. To make matters even worse, I was scheduled to preach a youth Sunday that weekend. How could I possibly preach when I was totally unhappy with how God’s hand was working in my life at the present. My wife asked if I was going to cancel and I told her that in 9 plus years of preaching I never had and I wasn’t going to start now. But what in the world was I going to preach in the condition I was in; answer: the Grace of God. That’s right! In one of the darkest deepest valleys of my life, I preached on “The Grace of God”. Not only did I preach it, but I was living it more in those moments than at any other time I had experienced. Back in the days of my transplant, I was not walking where I should have been with the Lord and therefore didn’t get to enjoy the spiritual aspects of what he was doing. Now, I was the full recipient of his grace and was totally submerged in it for those few moments only coming up occassionally for air. I have never experienced God’s grace in quite the same way as I did that Sunday morning. Over the next few months I would have to reach back on that morning a lot of times. Many of you have met my son Tyler and know what joy he brings to my life. In the year and a half prior to his birth, there were a lot of those dark valleys in between the mountain tops and to be honest, a few dry deserts along the way too. I remember telling my dad just a few weeks before we found out my wife was expecting again, that if God didn’t do something soon, she was going to have to have medication or something because she was so depressed over the loss of our baby. Then after we got the good news, a few weeks later came the bad news that the ultrasound didn’t show one of his kidneys. Of course that was particularly hard on me. Again, prayer was made and a week later he rolled over and showed the tech two perfectly functioning kidneys. She had complications and she was induced and he was born 3 weeks early and later diagnosed with Autism. He was non verbal for the most part till he was almost seven years old. Our lives have been filled with “God Stories” for over fifty two years now.
There are a lot of before and after pics in my life that to see me now and to have seen me then, you would see the working of the grace of God. I am sure by now that you have probably recounted a lot of before and after events in your own life. It encourages me to see what was before the grace of God arrived on the scenes of my life. Back as far as I can remember before mom and dad had gotten back in church, a saint named Francis Silvers came on Sunday mornings and took me and my brother to church with her. That was grace intervening in my life even then. Wonder what the “after” would of been had it not been for the grace of God? Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!