I was never what you would call a "trouble-maker" growing up. Most people would have called me a "goody-two-shoes" and I took more than a little grief for how "good" I was. But looking back on my childhood, I was very fortunate that I did not get in more trouble. I remember this one time, when I was 14 or 15 when I was extremely angry with my parents. At that point, we had this key hanger where my parents tried to put their keys when they came in. For a couple of weeks, my mother had dutifully hung her keys there. On this particular day, while I was very angry with my parents (for what I don't remember) and while they were gone I decided I was angry enough to do something about it. My parents had gone out together, so I figured they only needed one set of keys, and I decided that I would take the car that was still home for a spin. I worked my anger into a hardened resolve and I marched over to the key hanger. There were no keys. My parents had taken all the keys with them. My anger quickly dissipated into frustration and, by the time my parents got home, I was fine again. Looking back on that incident, I've often thought about how the Lord protected me, both from danger and from doing wrong, by having my parents take both sets of keys with them.
There is a similar story in the life of David. David and his men had been standing guard for a group of shepherds for a season and, as was the custom, expected that he and his men would receive a token of tribute for their service when it came time to shear the sheep. David sent a few of his men to collect this token and Nabal, the owner of the sheep they had protected, turned them away with insults. When the messengers returned to David and told David of Nabal's response, David was furious and roused his men for war. Back at Nabal's home, Nabal's wife Abigail heard how foolish her husband had been and loaded up a wagon full of provisions to take to David and head off the danger her husband's foolishness had caused. She met David before he reached Nabal's home, presented him with the customary reward for guarding the sheep (and probably a little more) and spoke to David. Abigail said, "Now my lord, as surely as the LORD lives and as you yourself live, it is the LORD who kept you from participating in bloodshed by avenging yourself by your own hand" (1 Samuel 25:26, HCSB). David agreed with her sentiment and they both returned to their respective homes. Two weeks later, Nabal was dead from a stroke and David asked Abigail to be his wife.
In this particular instance, David was going to make a big mess of things because he felt he had been wronged, much like the mess I would have made if I'd had access to the car keys and had acted out my anger by taking an underage joy-ride. In those instances, neither David nor I could take credit for not doing something stupid. We were both saved from our own stupidity because of circumstances or people God had placed in our lives.
I often meet Christians who don't feel like they have a story to tell because they were never drug dealers or gang members whose lives were turned around by the power of the Gospel. But sometimes, the fact that God protected us by preventing us from doing stupid things is just as powerful a story. None of us, even the "best" of us, are all that good on our own. At times, only the loving intervention of our Heavenly Father keeps us from completely ruining things.
If you want a story to tell other people about God's power, don't think that you have to pull out an example of horrible sin and how God turned you around. Point out times where God, in grace, saved you from doing something stupid, protected you from your own penchant for sin, and saved you before you realized you needed saving. God's power can be demonstrated by the times God keeps us from going over the brink, not just by the times God pulls us back from it.
How often has God saved you from doing something stupid and kept you from ruining things? Thank God for the protection you've been given and then be willing to share that story. Never underestimate the power of God's preventive care.