Several years back, the country was for a moment riveted by the national unfolding story of an escaped killer who had taken hostage a young, single mom inside her apartment. The woman, Ashley Smith, was a self-confessed meth addict, who had relinquished her child due to her own poor choices in life. But that wasn’t Ms. Smith’s destiny. A few months before that regretful day, on which four people lost their lives to a murderer, Ms. Smith had begun a spiritual redirection in her life. She had begun reading the book “Purpose Driven Life,” by Rick Warren, and seeking spiritual change for herself. At one point in the intervening hours, her captor permitted her to read aloud portions of the book, which opened the door for spiritual conversation. Ultimately, at the end of seven hours, she convinced him to surrender himself peacefully to authorities. Remarkably, she escaped unhurt, unlike his other victims.
Before that day, some might have believed Ashley Smith was on a road to nowhere fast, and was not destined for anything noteworthy. Yet because of her awareness of her own spiritual need, she was able to preserve her own life and prevent further loss of life by acting as she did. She was able to identify with her captor’s spiritual condition and talk to him in a way that resonated with him. As a result years later, Ashley Smith’s daughter, who was only five years old at the time of the hostage experience, still has a mother. A mother who was able through God’s help, to change her spiritual path.
Ashley Smith with actor David Oyelowo, who portrayed her captor in the film "Captive."
Unlikely heroes. We see them from time to time, in the news, in sports, in every day life. If you’re like me, you probably don’t often (or ever) think of yourself as one. Seriously, what could I ever do to be thought of as a hero? The truth is, we don’t have to be “good” or “smart” or even especially spiritual to be a hero to the people we love and do life with.
One great biblical example of this is the story of Rahab. Right out of the chute, we’re told that she was a prostitute. (Josh. 2:1.) Not a promising start for a would-be heroine. And yet, there was more to the story. In fact, that was just the beginning of the story. Rahab may have been a prostitute, but her faith and actions made history of the best kind. She recognized and feared the true God—the God of the Israelites. She interceded on their behalf in her dealings with the spies sent in by Joshua to scope out the land. She pleaded for mercy for all of her father’s house. (Josh. 2:12-13.) Lastly, she listened to the instructions of the spies and warned her family accordingly. Rahab tied a scarlet cord in her window and gathered her family into the house. Scrolling ahead to the end of the story, upon the Israelites invasion of the city, Rahab and her entire family were spared. (Josh. 6:25.)
Three thousand years later, some of us recognize that we have family members and loved ones who are in spiritual danger. Yet we don’t think of ourselves as capable of doing anything to change the situation. We think we’re not good enough or powerful enough to reach a loved one who may be on a path away from God. And the truth is, we’re not. Neither was Rahab. But we can take a lesson from a lowly prostitute in a far-removed world. First, we must believe and fear God. Not just any god, but the Lord God Almighty—the Eternal One, I Am, El Shaddai and Jesus. Our faith cannot be in any other person or thing, for no other can save us or our loved ones. (Acts 4:12.) Our fear of Him is not characterized by cowering away from Him, but rather by humbling our hearts and revering Him for who He is. It is our ensuring that He is exalted above everyone and everything else in our lives.
Second, we can intercede for our loved ones just as Rahab did. Our family may not be facing a military invasion, but they are facing an eternity without God if they have not come to Him through His Son, Jesus. We shouldn’t and can’t lose heart in interceding for them to come to Christ. We can be confident that our Heavenly Father indeed hears our prayers and is at work in response to those prayers in the lives of our loved ones—even if we don’t see any external indication of it.
Third, we must be willing to speak truth and be obedient to God’s Word. Although there are times when God’s wisdom tells us to be silent, there are other times when He prompts us to speak up and to speak truth to those around us. We don’t have to be “preachy” or obnoxious to speak truth in love. God’s Word is life, as well as strength and peace and joy. There is no peace without Jesus—the Word of God in the flesh. Are we speaking His truth in love to those around us?
Closely related to that notion is our personal witness and testimony. Our honoring God’s Word and being faithful in our faith walk could be the difference in our loved ones’ response to God. No, we don’t have to be perfect, but we should demonstrate with our lives, words and actions, that we are serious about loving Jesus with all our hearts. Of course, when we love Jesus so completely, it shows in the way we relate to and treat others.
Believing and fearing God, interceding in prayer, and speaking truth in love combine to create a formidable force against those spiritual powers at work against our loved ones. We may not see immediate results, but we can be assured that God is at work. His power, combined with our faithfulness and persistence, will yield life-giving fruit in the lives of those dear to us.
Oh, and a P.S. to the story of Rahab. . . . Many centuries after her story is recounted in Joshua, her name appears in a most notable list of individuals. The list is the genealogy of Christ, and by it, we learn that the Messiah, our Lord and Savior, is a direct descendant of Rahab. (Matt. 1:5.) This lowly esteemed prostitute from Jericho not only saved herself and her family at that time, but by doing so paved the way for the eventual coming Messiah. What a legacy! Friends, we can’t know the impact that our small acts of faithfulness can have on eternity. Don’t lose heart. Keep being faithful, and trust God for miraculous results.