by Steve May

Editor's Note: One of my dear friends who has worked with us numerous times in all kinds of circumstances is the author of this article. Steve takes young men and groups of preachers on canoe trips with Bible studies in the Canadian wilderness. Immediately after going with us on our 1988 Grand Canyon trip, Steve took a group of 16 preachers on a camping trip with Phil Slate doing the teaching. Lightning hit the group and Steve describes the experience in this article. This is actually a part of a sermon Steve preached at his home congregation in Tintern, Ontario, right after this trip. It is a powerful lesson we felt our readers would enjoy and profit from.

I thought after the Grand Canyon that a couple of small lakes south of Parry Sound would seem a little dull. Little did I know! After three hours at home on Monday I managed to catch up to the group camped on an island in Spider Lake. We had a good day Tuesday, then moved on down to a small island on Clear Lake. It was a good group, with a good sense of fellowship. We shared together and even had a good preacher's argument going at one time. The lessons and the material presented by Phil Slate and the things that he had us work through by ourselves or in small groups was just really the kind of thing that I had hoped for. We had up to four hours of lessons per day, plus the devotional time at night. Good stuff--sort of what we needed. We ended up with 16 part-time or full-time preachers as part of our venture. I hope the excitement of our last night does not overshadow the value of the time we had together and the teaching and the discussion we shared with one another.

On Thursday the weather was hot and humid as it had been all week. I have never seen the lakes in any part of Ontario, especially that part, so warm, especially in contrast to the Colorado River. But there had been a light south wind that morning and I was afraid that

it was going to rain. It waited until dark, however, and then in the middle of our devotional time together we had to conclude with a hasty prayer and beat a hasty retreat to our individual tents. Earlier in the evening, we had watched an electrical show off to the north of us, but soon the rumblings and flashings were much closer to home. The rain was heavy enough to blow right into the tents regardless of how hard we tried to keep it out.

Terry, my tent mate, and I were talking when there were several rather close cracks of thunder, the kind that makes you flinch whether you want to or not. I was right in the middle of a sentence when something hit me harder than anything I have ever felt before. I thought I had been hit with a baseball bat or a piece of timber. The island was hit by lightning and all of us, with the exception of one, felt the varying degrees of its power.

Fifteen of the 16 of us felt the power of it in some way or another, with nine of us hurt in fairly major ways. Dave Walker and Phil Slate were in the tent facing the only tree, and we were off to the side of the same tree. They were holding on to the poles of the tent, trying to hold it up and trying to hold the flaps together to keep the rain out, and they both were struck through their hands. Phil Slate had one finger up, one finger down, one finger up, one finger down kind of thing, and was sometime getting movement back in his hands. He said he felt like his head was puffed out all over and his eye was still bloodshot when he left yesterday morning. For some time he was seeing double at a distance. Dave Walker said that he saw his hand light up and the flame or charge arc from his hand to the ground or to the post that he had been holding onto. Guy Stopard, who was some distance away from us, felt that his arm had been burnt off. Later he found the bones in his shoulders had been shattered. Dave McMillan was partially paralyzed down the left side of his body, especially in his arm. John Roach was left nauseated. Blake Steel felt the pin that is in his spine. Rayburn said he felt like he got kicked in the seat of his pants pretty hard.

When we examined the area in the morning, we saw a root of the tree going out to the water on one side. Some of the other roots ran under the tent that Dave and Phil had been in, and another root, coming off quarter ways around the tree, went under the tent that Terry and I were in. It seems that the lightning ran along the roots. Terry was lying one way, and I was lying the other. It went under his legs and he was not able to stand or walk for awhile. People were calling out for Terry because of his medical training, and he managed to crawl on his hands and knees to those who seemed to need him the most. I was lying the other way and felt it from my chest up. I was lying on my back, and I really did not know what had happened. I did not think of lightning at first. I had visions of myself tumbling in the air, although I am sure I was not. I could see nothing but black and red, and my arms felt like they were flailing around and like they were about a foot thick. My hands felt like they were about as big as an encyclopedia book, and I could not control them or move them. My throat felt like it was all swollen up. I did not realize what I was doing but I guess I beat up on Terry pretty bad, hitting him in the mouth. I eventually heard myself hollering, and tried to get a hold of myself and bring the whole thing to a stop, but just could not do it--it would not work. It was not just me; I realized that I could hear hollering elsewhere. I said, "Terry, we have got to get out there." He said, "I can't walk. I can't walk." I found my light, but I could not hold on to the thing. We got outside and I dropped it and had to find it again.

Eventually, we found out that everybody was alive and everyone was all right to one degree or another. We came back to the tent, because it was still raining rather hard, to put on a shirt and jacket. But when I went to crawl into the tent, my arms would not hold me. I fell flat on my face. There was just no power or strength there at all. We gradually gathered ourselves together trying to decide what would be the best thing to do safety wise. We got down to a lower part of the island. When I say lower, I mean two feet lower, but that seemed better than nothing.

We grabbed the old tarp and held it above our heads. Some of the brethren began to pray and some of them sang. Some of them began to reassure those of us who were not taking it all so well. Personally, I must confess that I was as scared as I have ever been. I thought I was a pretty brave person, but I was scared that the lightning was coming back. Every time it kind of rolled back again, it would get a little louder. I just knew we could not take another jolt. Eventually, the storm sort of died off. Terry, Ed, and some others took the leadership, got some tents back up, and we tried to spend the rest of the night getting some rest. I managed to sleep, but some others did not sleep at all.

The next morning we were packing up, getting ready to leave, and it started to come back again. I thought we were trapped and could not get off, but it did not come as bad, though it did rain. Eventually, we got off the island and back across the other two lakes and home again.

Well, I hope that does not scare anyone from thinking about the outdoors. I have not told this to discourage our camp work, although I must confess, at one point, I thought if I ever get home I'd never be leaving again and you could have bought a whole trailer load of canoes for 50 cents a piece.

You are probably wondering what possible Scripture can we illustrate with this one. It is in the New Testament, Ephesians 3:14-21.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

Two times Paul speaks of that power that works within us and in verse 16 he talks about being strengthened with the power that exists within us through His Spirit in the inner man. In verse 20 he talks about what God is able to do according to that power that works within us. The other night I felt in a real way the power within. More power than the body could handle. But it was a destructive power! At one point when I felt like I was floating and tumbling, I was sure that I was dying. If that was it, why was it not over? Why did it just kind of go on and on? It just would not quit. It was so destructive physically, emotionally and in every other way. But it was physical power--power that was able to destroy. Fierce and awesome and necessary, the scientists tell us. But as powerful as that was and is, there is a spiritual power within us that is far greater--the power of God's spiritual world, that through His Spirit can work within us. First, He says that there is a power to strengthen us. The power that hit us the other night left us weak, hopeless victims--unable to even pick up a flashlight or stand or walk. But this power, more powerful than that, is the power to strengthen us spiritually. It gives us the power to endure, the power to believe, the power to overcome, and the power to be victorious despite whatever might happen to us in a physical way.

Second, it is the power to provide us with the ability to do the will of God and to be victorious in that sense. Here Paul is not talking about the power to perform miracles. People like to look at it that way and to take that spiritual thing and relate it strictly to physical terms--to be able to lay on hands or whatever and perform something in a physical way. But the context here has to do with Christ dwelling in us by faith that we might become more like Him. This means the power of being rooted and grounded in love which gives us the power to be what we need to be, can be, and should be in terms of the love of God. We are also able to comprehend something, just something, of the breadth, and depth, and height of the love of Christ, being filled up, he says, with the fullness of God.

If someone was able to get rid of something that was physically destructive, it would be fantastic, but it would not be filling one up with the fullness of what God is. I am not sure I understand all that, but are not those the things that we really need and want--to be filled with the fullness of God, to understand the love of Christ, to be rooted and grounded in love, and to be able to do the will of God? I have been impressed these past two weeks by God's incredible physical power in the natural world, both in carving and shaping the earth ever so slowly and also by unleashing 125 thousand million volts of energy, in a single split second flash of a single bolt of lightning. If that kind of power is there in the natural world, then how much more power is there in the spiritual realm?--power to save, to forgive, to allow, or to cause us to grow into spiritual maturity of the One who has love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control--the fruit of the Spirit--Galatians 5.

The power to become is there--to be a decent person, to be a son of God, to be the kind of person we need to be. The power of God is there to overcome temptation and discouragement. The power to heal and to help others heal is there. The power by which to live is there and to be able to walk and live by the Spirit that is within us.

We need to tap into that power far more than most of us do. It is sort of like having 110 or 220 wired into our house, having all the sockets in place, and having the lamp standing in the corner while we still stumble around with a little candle. It is like having the stove there to cook the meal but not having connected it up to the fuse box to get that 220 to the switch and have the burner hot and ready for what we need. Sometimes we stumble around in the dark with just a little light or we go out of our way to cook our spiritual diet--when all the time there is power there if we would just plug in and flick the switch for God's grace.

I have no formula or no special doctrine of the Holy Spirit and His work, but I believe it begins with having faith in and being utterly impressed with God's spiritual power within us. Utterly impressed with His power to change lives, His power to change our purposes, His power over our relationships, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. And let us start this week to tap in to the Word as the sword of the Spirit. Let us marvel at its message of grace and faith. Let us surrender to it and its call and allow the Spirit within us to lead, guide, forgive, and to conquer.

I think if we could see, and this is a contradiction, but if we could see physically the spiritual power available, that it would scare us far more than all the collected fear we felt on Thursday night. But the power here is positive, spiritual, and eternal. May we resolve to tap in more to the power of God by faith, surrender, love, and by the priorities we use in making decisions in our lives. There is power in the Word and in the blood of Christ. This power cleanses us and gives us the power to forgive. There is power in the blood of the Lamb.

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