The man on the bench is no more….
Something happened over the weekend, and it means that there will be no more visits to the bench to meet Philip.
It’s because, in Philip’s own words spoken yesterday, he said, “I’m not going to sit on the bench any more.” No-one told him to stop sitting on the bench. That’s something he came to by himself. And so, just as I started by saying, the man on the bench is no more.
You see last week things got about as dark and low for Philip as they could be. I don’t want to go into the detail on here for Philip’s sake. But even in the darkness of last week, I could see and feel the beauty of Jesus himself. To experience how Jesus gets down to where a person has fallen and gives dignity to them. And to know that in that darkness, the One, Jesus himself was right there in it all and shining. And he has proven himself that he, as the Light, shines in the darkness. And darkness doesn’t overcome him, ever.
Whilst I won’t go into detail about last week, there are some very simple but powerful things that I will share.
On Monday Philip described what had happened. He woke up on Saturday, and thought to himself, “This really isn’t good.” So he asked for help. “Father, help me. Jesus, help me.”
Then he was reminded of something Jesus had said to him a while back. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” So he continued to ask for help to do what he needed to do.
He began to do things he hadn’t done for a long time. He felt better. Then he remembered something Freddie had said to him (read The Man On The Bench (2) to see Freddie and Philip).
“I’m an overcomer.” So he continued to say that to himself over the course of the weekend. And guess what? Yes, he started to overcome the things that have been weighing him down.
We met Philip on Monday at Frankie’s cafe in Aldershot. Philip explained everything. It was evident that Jesus had done something amazing in him. Evidenced by what I call “The Jesus smile.” This is the smile that all those who have experienced Christ within should have. The smile that when they start to talk about Jesus and what he’s done, their face can’t help but show it with a huge grin. And their whole face lights up.
I called my Dad as I was given something that Philip needed last week and it was in Dad’s car. When I called him, Dad said, “While I was praying for Philip over the weekend, God told me to buy Philip a new coat. Just like when the younger son returns to the father, and the father gives him the best robe and gives him dignity, so this new coat is a sign of dignity for Philip.”
So Dad came to Frankie’s, and we went and got a new coat for Philip.
Then Philip made another huge leap yesterday. I mentioned before that we’ve invited him to join us on a Tuesday at Wetherspoons in Aldershot on numerous occasions, but that wasn’t where he was at and we had church on the bench instead.
Well, yesterday Philip came to Wetherspoons. He sat and talked with others. Jesus was shared. He did so well. He arrived just after 10am, and stayed till he had to leave just before 1pm for a doctor’s appointment. That was a huge leap to make! Here is the proof.
As he left, he said “I’ve got a new family.” That’s Jesus working in someone. Giving them a sense of worth and belonging. Giving them dignity within which is then shining out too. You don’t say something like that unless you know it. No-one can tell you to say it. It’s something that happens in your spirit and stirs in your heart and comes out of your mouth.
There is a simplicity in all this. Take Jesus at his word, just as Philip did, and things will change. Jesus makes the change himself. He proves himself true. He proves true what he says. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” At rock bottom Philip dug into his spirit and remembered those words. And the rest flowed from there.
Something I learnt last week. We have to accept that when we sit where they sit and walk where they walk, it may take us to some places where, just as when the stone was rolled away from Lazarus tomb (thanks Sarah), “he stinks, for he has been dead four days.” I learnt of the beauty that exists in someone willing to roll the stone away in their situation. To expose the death that is evident. They know and we know it’s gonna stink. But, the beauty is this.
There stands Jesus. Our consciousness of Christ in us transforms a situation from darkness to light, from death to resurrection. Some time back Father challenged me by saying, “Be faithful as I’m faithful.” I never knew quite how that would work out. But I get it now. It is that when the stone rolls away, I have a choice. I can turn tail and run because of the stink, frightened and afraid of getting in and dirtying my hands, or not knowing what to do.
Or I can trust in the Life within me, stand faithful because Christ is standing at the entrance to the tomb, and I can hear Jesus call the person’s name. “Philip, come forth.”
Faithfulness speaks volumes to people. If we could be just one tenth faithful as he is faithful, it would speak volumes. But Christ in us takes us above and beyond our own abilities to be faithful. Christ is faithful. He will take us out of our way, beyond our comfort zone, but he will enable us to do that as it is his Life that is leading us from within.
For those of you who have felt connected reading these Man on the Bench posts and have prayed for Philip, please continue to do so. He is no longer the man on the bench. He is an overcomer. He has made huge leaps through Jesus working in him since Friday. There is so much more to come, but in all this I pray that he doesn’t lose the simplicity of Christ. The simplicity of trusting that Jesus means what he says when he says to Philip “Apart from me you can do nothing.” And the simplicity of Philip knowing that because of the Life of Jesus within him, he can truly say, “I’m an overcomer” and continue to do so.
Let me encourage you to sit where Jesus is sitting and walk where Jesus is walking. Because he is sitting where they are sitting and walking where they are walking. And be faithful as he is faithful. Jesus will do the rest.
Eat the Living Bread, drink the Living Water.