I haven’t posted one of these in a while! On Wednesday nights, I tell a story to our church’s Awana clubbers. Each story goes with our T&T verse for the week; in this case, I’ve linked it to Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. This one features Zeke’s two best friends—Jasper and Timothy.
Section 1.7 – God is with You
Two out of Three
During Sunday school, Milo told the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were so brave, they were practically superheroes. Zeke’s stomach felt all tickly inside at the thought of someone asking him to stop being a Christian anymore. Daniel’s three friends decided they would believe in God, no matter what. Even if it meant they were going to die.
Zeke figured it must have been a little easier since there were three of them. It was easier to be brave when you weren’t alone. But maybe that was the whole point of the story of the fiery furnace. None of those guys had ever been alone. God was with them the whole time.
“Any prayer requests?” Milo asked.
Jasper, whose mind hadn’t been wandering, beat Zeke getting his hand in the air. The best friends always had the same prayer request every week, so they raced to see who’d be the one to say it to Milo.
“Me and Zeke,” said Jasper. “Our best friend isn’t a Christian. We wanna pray for Timothy.”
Maybe that was one of the reasons Zeke liked the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He was part of three friends, too.
But the scary thing he had to face was different than a fiery furnace. Zeke was way more scared for his friend. He wanted Timothy to stay his friend forever and ever, but that couldn’t happen if Timothy didn’t love Jesus like him and Jasper.
After class, Zeke stayed back and told Milo about the fluttery scared feeling in his stomach and the wiggle in his knees when he thought about Timothy.
“You can’t believe for him,” Milo said gently. “Timothy will need to trust Jesus for himself.”
Zeke hung his head. He and Jasper had tried all kinds of ways to explain to their friend about how good it would be for him to be a Christian, but Timothy wasn’t interested. And lately, he would get angry at them for their “Bible bossing.” So Zeke and Jasper had to believe real quiet and pray without letting Timothy know. It was really confusing because they were trying to share something good with him.
Milo patted Zeke’s messy hair. “Until Timothy is ready to listen, there are other things you can do.”
“Pray for him,” said Milo, holding up one finger.
“We already do, lotsa times and everything!” grumbled Zeke.
“Keep praying, then. Don’t give up just because the answer doesn’t come right away.” Milo added a second finger. “Be patient.”
“For how long?” Zeke asked.
“As long as it takes. But most importantly…” And here Milo held up a third finger. “Be his friend.”
“I already am!”
“Yes, and I’d be sad to see that change. Your friendship may not be enough to save Timothy, but it may be part of God’s plans. Timothy may not be ready to trust Jesus, but in the meantime, he can trust you.”
Zeke’s forehead furrowed. “I don’t get it. Say it again?”
Milo patiently explained, “Timothy doesn’t trust Jesus, but he trusts you. Someday, he may realize that the reason he can trust you is because you belong to Jesus … and that you love him like God does.”
Later, Zeke explained the new plan to Jasper, who got a funny look on his face. “We gotta be like Jesus?”
“Yeah … sorta. So Timothy can trust us.”
“But he already does. That’s what friends do.”
Zeke scrunched up his nose. “Well, yeah. That’s what I think, too. But Milo said if we’re like Jesus, Timothy will figure out about God and heaven and stuff.”
Jasper didn’t look convinced. “How are we supposed to be like Jesus?”
“Guess we gotta start by figuring out what Jesus was like.”
“Makes sense. There’s lotsa stories in the Bible.”
But even after reading every story in the church nursery’s Great Big Book of Bible Stories, Zeke didn’t have a plan. In fact, he was even more confused than before. Which could only mean one thing. It was time to ask Dad.
Zeke’s Dad was in charge of bedtime, which meant a Bible story (which really, truly happened), a just-for-fun story (which came from someone’s imagination), hugs and kisses, and one last prayer. And sometimes a pillow fight, if Momma wasn’t close enough to hear the ruckus and make them stop.
So that night, between the pillow fight and hugs and kisses, Zeke spoke up. “I gotta problem.”
Dad turned from straightening a picture on the wall. “Tell me about it.”
“Milo ’splained something to me, and it made sense when he said it, but it doesn’t anymore. So I need you to fix it. Otherwise, I can’t be Timothy’s Jesus.”
“Whoa, now, buddy.” Dad piled the last of the pillows back on the bed and sat in the middle, patting the space left on both sides. Zeke and Jude climbed back onto the big bed, one on each side of their daddy, who held them close. “Let’s back up. Is there a problem between you and Timothy?”
“Nope,” said Zeke. “He’s my best friend, same as always. But he doesn’t understand anything about Jesus.”
“Have you talked to him about it?”
“Yep. Me and Jasper both. But Timothy didn’t like it. He said no thanks, but not as nice.”
“So you want to know how to stay his friend, even though he doesn’t share your faith?”
“That’s closer, but nope. Because I am his friend, and that’s how it’ll stay. That part’s easy.”
“What’s the hard part?” asked Dad.
“Milo said me and Jasper can be his Jesus. Only except we checked, and that’s next door to impossible. For instance, I can’t walk on water!”
Dad frowned, but it was the kind of frown that grown-ups used to pretend they didn’t want to smile. “Zeke, I thought you said you fell into the duck pond.”
“I did. Right after I didn’t stay on top of the water.”
Zeke grinned at him.
Dad asked, “Did you try anything else?”
“Well, sure. I didn’t have loaves and fishes, but Grandma made me a tuna fish sandwich. So I prayed for it and divided it between the barn cats. They were real happy about it, but when they were done, my sammich was gone.”
Dad laughed a little and rumpled his hair. “You did seem especially hungry at dinner.”
“I think I’m starting to understand.” Dad said, “You know how your Aunt Ida is a missionary?”
Both boys nodded. They loved stories about their Uncle Lo and Aunt Ida, who traveled all over the world.
“In the places my little sister goes, many people don’t have Bibles. They can’t read the stories that you and Jude know backwards and forwards. That’s why your auntie likes to say that she loves everyone she meets as hard as she can for the little while she’s there … because she might be the only Jesus they ever see.”
“Auntie’s a girl!”
“Yes, but she loves people like Jesus loves them.” Dad asked, “Is that close to what Milo tried to tell you earlier?”
“Yep.” That sounded right. Love Timothy like God does.
“You know, it might be easier to think of yourself as the friends of the man who needed Jesus, but couldn’t get to Him because of the crowds. Those friends ripped up the roof of the house where Jesus was teaching and lowered the man on a stretcher, right down to the floor in front of Jesus.”
“Did they get in trouble?” asked Zeke.
“Maybe a little, but the Lord praised their faith.” Dad said, “So in a way, you can be like Jesus to Timothy, and in another way, you’ll be the friend who carries Timothy to Jesus. But most of the time, you’ll just be Zeke. Because Timothy likes you, trusts you, and wants to spend time with you. And that will make a difference someday.”
Zeke asked, “Because I love Jesus?”
“That’s right, buddy. And it shows.”
The next weekend, Jasper and Timothy both got permission to go camping with Zeke and his brothers. Being a good friend was easy, especially since Timothy was … well, he was Timothy.
Zeke and Jasper were both pretty tall and pretty strong for their age, but Timothy was skinny and skittish. He ran screaming from crayfish in the creek, and he didn’t like to get too close to the campfire. He worried about snakes, poison ivy, and freckles. Zeke could understand the first two, but he wasn’t sure about the freckles. Timothy had so many already, nobody would notice if he added a few more.
But even though Timothy could be a scaredy-cat sometimes, he was always braver with Zeke and Jasper around. Sunderland State Park, where they always camped, was famous for its caves, and this time, Jasper and Zeke had convinced Timothy to take the tour. It would be okay, since they’d face the tunnels together.
Timothy had the biggest flashlight ever, but during the cave tour, the ranger told them to get ready to switch off their lights. So they could see how dark it was underground.
Timothy’s eyes got super big, and he looked ready to run.
But Zeke grabbed his arm and cheerfully said, “Be strong and of good courage.”
“What?” squeaked Timothy.
Jasper grabbed their friend’s arm on the other side, tucking it through his. He grinned and said, “Don’t be afraid. We’re with you.”
Zeke felt sneaky, quoting verses to a friend who didn’t want to know about God. But this was something their friend needed to hear. Lights were clicking off all around them when Zeke promised, “We won’t leave you. Not never.”
And Timothy might not have believed in God or Jesus, but he believed in Jasper and Zeke. Because even though his hands were shaking, he took a deep breath … and clicked off his flashlight.
Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.
If you’re looking for more Milo & Zeke stories, use this blog’s Awana tag! ♥