Two nights ago, on October 12, 2010, I was one of the over 1 billion viewers worldwide who witnessed the begin stages of the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners. At around 11pm I was tuned into the live stream of the rescue grounds. I saw the rescue team—a mix of engineers and medics—not even paying attention to the limited media crew on site. Their energy and focus was on a simple contraption. This contraption was a cage, attached to a pulley-system which resembled a middle-school science project I created back in the day. The plan was to have a rescuer get in the cage to then be lowered down a narrow tunnel for about 20 minutes, reach the pit where all the miners had been living in for almost 70 days, and come back up the 2,041-foot shaft to reach civilization. Believing that the trials we go through are not just for us, I gleaned a couple lessons from that miraculous rescue:
1) Don’t underestimate what God can do in your “night.” To many, this was already a situation doomed for failure. Chile was not new to mining tragedies—in 2006, a mining accident resulted in 65 miners perishing due to the inability to rescue them. Furthermore, with the world recovering from the BP oil spill and the continuing threat of war and terrorism, this was an event many had mentally thrown in the towel on. Even on the night of the rescue, there were skeptics who understandably were weighing in on the possible failures that may occur. But God is ruler of both the good and the bad. The word says that “even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:12. God’s power is not limited by dark situations. In fact, He is not even phased by them. We must trust that the will of God surpassed our problems, perils, and pits. Do not let your past failures dictate your current circumstance. Always fight! And fight WITH GOD!
2) Your shout is your out! Before any of the rescue team went down to save the men, the crowd of supporters were singing and chanting songs of praise and encouragement. Even as the rescue cage was dipping into the cave, the trapped miners were cheering, screaming, yelling from inside the cave! At around midnight, the cheers erupted even more as soon as the first miner was visible by onlookers above ground. The message is quite simple: There is POWER in your shout. Acts 16:16-35 tells us the story of Paul and Silas, who were prisoners in a Roman jail. They were flogged, beaten, and stripped of their clothes…left to suffer the loss of freedom, pain, and humiliation. Even in the holding cell, the guard was commanded to chain their feet down. But at “about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly, there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.” (Acts 16:25-26). God is more than ABLE to deliver you from your cage. The question is are you willing to work your praise? Our relationship with God is centered on CONSTANT communication. He wants to know how you are feeling, what your trials are, and where you are struggling. But He also wants to know that you trust Him IN SPITE OF your dilemma. If you get it in your head before trouble comes that NO MATTER WHAT, you will praise the Lord, and if you work that praise in the midst of trouble, you are literally calling the attention of our Father in Heaven. He will move any structure to create a shift; He will touch the knowledge of the right doctor to give you the correct diagnosis; He will whisper in the ear of the right person to promote you to the next level. Just praise Him! There are no set words or songs. Just think of His goodness. Think of the all the past things He has done. And here’s a hint…every GOOD and PERFECT gift comes from above (James 1:17)…so anything GOOD that has happened to you came from God! Thank Him for it! Praise Him for it! Work your praise…and get out!
3) Can’t get out? God will come in. My pastor said once that “God does not always deliver you FROM…sometimes He delivers you IN.” This simply means that while God does have the power to keep you from trouble before it occurs, His providence sometimes requires us to experience a challenge so He can deliver us IN the midst of it! And He’s pretty good at delivering people IN some mess! In Daniel 3, the story of three servants of a King Nebuchadnezzar is told; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to a golden image of the king and thus were sentenced to death by a fiery furnace. After they were thrown in, King Nebuchadnezzar, himself, observed two major things: 1) the young men were STILL alive and 2) there were not three, but FOUR men in the furnace. Out of the King’s mouth, he said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like the son of God.” (Daniel 3:25). Even when they emerged from the fire, they didn’t even smell like smoke! When I saw the first miner free, I cried…not only because he was safe, but because he looked NOTHING like what I expected a person who had been trapped for 70 days to look like! He was literally glowing, smiling, strong, healthy, and walking. The Chilean medics are still talking about how he is amazed at the great condition of the miners. God not only has the ability to meet you in your mess, but He will stay with you and preserve you. There is no escaping His presence, and no circumstance He cannot penetrate. And the best part is…when people look at you, they won’t even be able to tell what you went through! There were 33 men trapped…but there was a 34th man ensuring the well-being of them all along. If the extra man in your life isn’t God…send him an e-vite…He will accept your invitation all the time!
4) Re-JOICE…and let your spectators KICK ROCKS! The second miner who came up was probably the most memorable of the miners. Mario Sepulveda Espina could be heard from the cage even before he reached the surface. Even the medics and engineers who were trying to remain serious could not stop smiling and cheering before Mario made it to their level. As soon as the cage door opened, Mario let the world know he was free. He kissed EVERYONE in sight, consoled his family, and immediately went to the crowd and started a “C-H-I-L-E” chant that could rival any World Cup soccer game. His heart was evidently gladdened…and he had no shame showing the world what he was delivered from. Mario, who received the gift of freedom, had gifts to give as well—he had a bag full of rocks, brought up from the prison that once trapped him! When God brings you out, you ought to rejoice. We hear often “rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4). But why? The same passage goes on to say “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5-7). Your deliverance is not just a gift for you…but it is a gift for those around you. It serves as an example of hope…of how another can get out in spite of their circumstances. Helping another learn how to rejoice helps others learn how to get “self” out the way, and pour God in! It does not surprise me that Mario said this quote: “We always knew that we would be rescued. We never lost faith.”
5) Preparation today, Saves you tomorrow. The miracle really lies in the emergency cave that held the men. Wisdom was used in creating that mine. The emergency cave was built with the hopes that it would save lives. Jesus came not only to heal the people of His day, but to save all who came after Him. His blood was the “emergency cave”—it is intended to save! Out of this example of sacrifice, we too should prepare for our tomorrows! Every day is warfare, but the more preparation we have, the more we can endure. My personal mission is to not be a “half-prepared” soldier—for the reality is if I use only half my tools, I am still destined for failure. I must put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), wearing the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of readiness, shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and prayer! We are told to do this so that when we are tested, and after we have thrown all our best shots, we will still STAND! That doesn’t mean we won’t get hit or sustain some injury…but an injured soldier is still a VETERAN…a dead one is just a casualty. Prepare yourself to live today.
Viva en Cristo!