Chapter OneGOD RESCUES US
Directed at Seventeen
Have you ever needed to be rescued? Yes, rescued.
Have you ever needed to be snatched out of an overwhelming
situation? Have you ever prayed for deliverance
when it seemed like the walls were caving in on you?
When was the last time you needed to be taken out of
harm's way? I am sure you have been there at least once.
All of us have faced situations that seemed dark, desperate,
and desolate. Each of us has prayed to be taken from
death's door to a safe haven of peace and restoration.
If I'm not mistaken, all of us have also been at a place where
we have pleaded with God to save us spiritually, mentally,
"Please, God, mend my broken heart."
"Please, God, deliver me from this situation."
"Please, God, I have no one to turn to but You."
Desperate circumstances cause us to cry out to the Lord
It is in these times that we need a spiritual revival. In these
desperate moments, we need God's strength to revive us
from a code-blue situation. At these times more than any
other, we need the One who can capture us and rescue
us from our own fears, our insecurities, our own warped
way of thinking, or our own painful pasts.
Are you facing that kind of desperate circumstance today?
Let your faith be stirred by the evidence that God hears
and God delivers.
"IT'S NOT FAIR!"
I was seventeen the first time I felt this kind of desperation.
My father was buried not too much longer after the
country mourned the loss of our esteemed President John F.
Kennedy. I remember wearing sadness like a winter coat
. my heart was so heavy. My parents had divorced when
I was much younger, and I had chosen to live with my
dad. His new wife had never taken to me but had tolerated
me only as her husband's son. Needless to say, shortly
after my father's funeral she kicked me out of the house.
For days I wandered the streets of Oakland with no money
and no place to go. I felt abandoned and alone. My heart
and my mind played tug-of-war. I told myself, You can get
over this, E.K. When life gives you lemons, just make some
lemonade. Right? Yeah, right. That would be some sour
I wanted to be depressed. "It's not fair!" I shouted. I was
guest of honor at my own pity party. Over and over I asked
myself, How would a young black man get a new start
without the guidance, wisdom, and protection of his father? Why
would God do this to me?
My father had left a rich legacy. He was an outstanding
orator, a prolific and powerful preacher. He was tall, well-groomed,
and dedicated to preaching the truth of Christ.
He was the rock of our family, and I adored him. How
could his life be so tragically snatched away? What would
become of me? Even if I made a name for myself, my father
would never be able to see me reach my goals. I remember
sitting on a park bench one night, looking at the sky
and getting angrier by the second. Not only did I feel
fatherless, but I felt hopeless.
Then I began to hear God assuring me of His presence. I
sensed Him drawing me close to Him, whispering, "When
I take, I never take all." I began to cry because I knew that
I must work my way through the pain. I had to concentrate
on what God had left me: my father's rich legacy, a
healthy body, a creative mind, a long list of goals and
dreams, a mother who loved me, supportive siblings, and
caring friends. In my desperation I had forgotten about
all the people miles away who were praying for me and
rooting for my success. Little did I realize that God was
quietly working behind the scenes to prepare even more
encouraging people to enter my life.
Most of all, it was in those days of desperation that I discovered
that God had left me the gift of His comfort and
unconditional love. I drew from the strength and example
of my ancestors, who continued to plow and pray
despite their exploitation, tears, and bloodshed. I had to
press on because my father, the late Reverend V. M. Bailey,
would have wanted it that way. Sitting on that park bench,
I decided that I would live as my father had, serving Jesus
RESCUED AT SEVENTEEN
With nowhere else to go that day, I went to the Lord.
I acknowledged my fears and my frustrations to Him and
surrendered to His sovereign plan for my life. I cried
harder as God dealt with me. I admitted to Him that I had
been running for years from His call on my life to preach
the gospel. Because my father served as a senior pastor for
so many years, going to church was not an option for our
family. When the doors were open, we were there.
However, it wasn't until that dark night on the park bench
that the love for God's church began to grow in me.
Flooding my mind were all the Scriptures that I had
learned, prayers that I had prayed, and sermons that I had
heard over my lifetime. I began to be filled with an overwhelming
and unbelievable amount of joy.
At my point of desperation, I remembered all the other
times in my life when God had kept me, kept my family,
kept my friends, kept my reputation, kept my mind, kept
my body, and kept my feet from stumbling. Before I knew
it, my tears of sadness turned into tears of joy.
God did it! He rescued me! He snatched me from the very
jaws of death. He rescued me from my own selfish
thoughts. God helped me to fight against the negative
thoughts with which Satan had tried to suffocate me.
I dried my tears and praised God for His faithfulness and
for His extravagant love. I worshiped Him right there in
the park because God's greatness, goodness, and compassion
were so much greater than my hurt.
God used the deep pain of that experience to dig a well
of joy. I was certain that God would use me-not because
I was smart enough or had enough money and certainly
not because I was a Bailey but because He had plans for
me. He had plans to prosper me and to give me a hope
and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). Beginning then and there,
I had an unquenchable desire to tell the world the good
news of Jesus Christ. I was on a quest to search the
Scriptures and share with the world the hope of a God who
OFF TO COLLEGE
After the next several months of strengthening encouragement
from good friends and my godfather, the late Rev.
W. K. Jackson, I moved to Dallas to attend Bishop College.
Throughout my schooling at Bishop, I felt God's hand
move me from a state of depression to a state of adoration.
Like the apostle Paul, I experienced a transformation.
I went from being confused to being consecrated. No
matter how much it hurt, I delighted to know God was
smoothing out the ugly, rough edges of my life, shaping
me into His image.
Now, more than three decades later, I see the value of hanging
on at the end of the rope. Because of God's faithfulness,
I have achieved my goals personally, academically,
and professionally. I am so grateful to God that He has
blessed me with a beautiful wife of thirty-four years and
three loving children who also love the Lord. As a gift from
the Lord, He has allowed me to serve as pastor of the
Concord Church for almost thirty years. I am grateful to
have been invited to preach and teach around the world.
I thank God for an opportunity to tell of His goodness from
the pulpit, from the pages of a book, or through conversation
with a passing stranger.
HE ALWAYS DELIVERS
I see the importance of getting up after I have fallen down.
I know without any doubt that God cannot use anyone
greatly until He hurts him or her significantly. We cannot
drink grapes until they have been crushed, and neither
can we live out our full God-given potential until He has
crushed us, emptied us, broken us, and burned out any
trace of self. The good news is that He always delivers!
God may not answer our cry in the way we expect, but
He always displays His glory in our personal experiences.
He delights in rescuing us when we're floating downstream.
God is loving and compassionate. Even when He
allows us to endure pain, He strengthens, settles, and sustains
us (1 Peter 5:10). Through His Word, His comfort,
and His promises, I have been a front-row witness to how
He secures our world with goodness. Everything that happens
to us will not necessarily be good, but He is always
working all things together for our good and His glory
1. In what areas of your life have you felt abandoned?
2. How has God changed you and your perspective on
suffering during this season?
3. If you could post a billboard that shared a message
with the world about God's character, what would
that message say?
WHEN WE'RE WEAK
One Sunday morning while preaching, I noticed that
I couldn't hear very well. I motioned to the person
directing our sound to increase the volume on the pulpit
speakers. He gave me a thumbs-up. Thinking he misunderstood
me, I repeated, "Please turn it up as loud as it
will go." He responded, "But, Pastor, it is up as loud as it
will go." Puzzled, I kept preaching.
It must be a sinus infection, I thought. Both my ears were
completely clogged. Soon after that Sunday morning experience,
I visited the doctor, thinking it was something terribly
wrong with my hearing. At that time, I was misdiagnosed.
They told me it was an ear infection. It was on
my third doctor's visit that the doctor told Sheila and me,
to our surprise, that it looked like cancer and that we
should get a second opinion and then a biopsy.
Could this be true? Four years earlier I had undergone surgery
for kidney cancer; my doctor had anticipated he
would soon be declaring me cancer free. But now he
explained: "Nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a rare cancer
found in the nasal cavity."
Tears filled our eyes. We held each other. How could cancer
have crept into my nasal passage?
I needed a life jacket. So once again, I went to my Rescuer.
"God deliver me," I prayed. "What's going on?" "Help
My thoughts spun. "What does this mean? How could this
be? How could this have been prevented?"
Then, faith took root. I remembered how God had delivered
me during other desperate times when I needed
Him the most. He immediately brought back to mind
the Scriptures that quieted my restless spirit. I recited
Psalm 23 to myself with confidence. It became a personal
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He
makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me
beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides
me in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow
of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You
prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil; my cup
overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will
follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell
in the house of the Lord forever.
Unlike the easily angered and immature seventeen-year-old
E. K., I began to praise God for His goodness and greatness.
I thanked Him for being a loving and kind God. I
focused on Him as my compassionate Shepherd. I rejoiced
because He showed me how.
Before I knew it, I thought less about the cancer and more
about the One who could solve my problem. I wanted my
faith in God, not my emotions, to guide my thinking and
decision making. Here was an opportunity to live the
Word that I preached. I was determined not to succumb
to believing or teaching any watered-down theology.
I was determined to show God how much I trusted Him
as I walked through what appeared to be the final chapter
of my life. Compromise was not an option. Sure, I cried
a little bit on some days . and a lot on other days. I
prayed and prayed and prayed. I journaled my thoughts
and read my Bible. I talked with trusted friends and read
books and devotionals that encouraged my faith.
But the thing that helped my perspective most was I fixed
my eyes on Jesus. I recalled what He did for me at Calvary.
I remembered the brutality and humiliation of the cross.
I remembered those first days in this shadow of death as
though they happened yesterday. Aloud I said, "They
pierced Him in the side for me. They nailed Him to that
tree for me. He endured pain for me." It would have been
so easy for Him just to come off that cross. But He chose
to suffer so that I might be sanctified, justified, and
The thought of my Savior's suffering made me reconsider
my suffering. I wasn't sure what I would be up against,
but I knew it could not compare to the suffering of our
Lord. Suddenly I could much more easily trust God with
my health problems and the fear for my future. God simply
wanted me to hold on to Him as He took me farther
into His Word and deeper into His will. I wasn't strong
enough to do it myself but His grace was sufficient. I
learned firsthand that when I was weak, He was strong.
DOES JESUS CARE?
During the first decade of the twentieth century, a man
named Frank Graeff personified this truth. Popular by his
nickname, Reverend Sunshine, Graeff sparkled with contagious
joy. In his biography, however, he confessed to a
period of deep depression. For a long, dry season, the pastor
who always radiated a smile had shriveled into a bitter,
What had happened to Reverend Sunshine? He later
explained that a traumatic experience had caused his personality
reversal. He sulked and wallowed in self-pity.
Then one day a familiar old tune began to play on the keyboard
of his memory.
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.
The melody of the song became so sweet that he sat back
and allowed it to rock him. Then those penetrating lyrics
pounded at his heart. Without hesitation, Reverend
Sunshine fell on his knees and repented of his sins. He
confessed to carrying his heartache in his own
strength-but no more. He rolled it over on his Burden-Bearer.
Instead of doubting God's care, he entered into a fresh
relationship with Him. He poured out his heart to God and
soon experienced His joy again. He said that he felt the
power of God chop away the roots and branches of bitterness
that had once strangled him.
Reverend Sunshine attributed that entire process to the
saving grace of God. As God nurtured him back to a
spiritually healthy state of mind, the Holy Spirit brought
1 Peter 5:7 (KJV) to his remembrance, "Casting all your
cares upon him; for he careth for you." That verse inspired
him to write the words to the familiar song, "Does Jesus
Care?" It begins with the question, "Does Jesus care when
my heart is pained too deeply for mirth and song .?"
Oh yes, He cares. I know He cares.
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary; the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.