When we talk about acts of courage and stepping out in boldness, it can sound intimidating, but when God is prompting us to act, it becomes much easier to obey than to resist.
He gives us his courageous love for those he is leading us to, and his Spirit of power to perform the task he has given us, as Jimmi Clarke discovered after a weekend of prayer for his town in the UK. His story is adapted from the recording of Mike Betts’ message ‘Acts of Courage’, preached at Lowestoft Community Church in February, 2019. You can listen to the full message here.
Last weekend really wrecked me. We finished the weekend by praying for people in Kirkley. Tim and a few others were bold enough to knock on a few people’s doors and say, “We love you, how can we pray for you?”
I stood there with my son and he started to pray for these people, and it just broke my heart. We were looking at these maps and praying over them, and my street was on one of these maps. As I was praying I started thinking “I’ve got to do more. If the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is alive in me, I’ve got to do more; I can’t stay silent.”
I woke up at about four the next morning, just thinking “I need to tell my street. I’ve got to tell my street that I’m here and that I love them”. The Holy Spirit gave me an idea to write a letter, so this is what I wrote:
Hi, my name’s Jim Clarke and I’m a neighbour. I live at number 36 with my wife, Emma, and our two sons.
A couple of years ago I started feeling unwell, so the doctor sent me to the hospital for some tests. They gave me an appointment and I went thinking I was going to get some tablets for a stomach ulcer. But I was met by a doctor and three nurses, who told me I had cancer. The doctor told me I would have to have powerful chemo, and after the chemo they would remove all of my stomach and some of my oesophagus. I was told that life would be very different after surgery, and I would have to get used to a new way of life, which they started to call my new normal.
I was devastated, not only because I’m young, but because I’m a husband and a father to an amazing wife and two amazing kids who I completely adore. I’ve also been self-employed as a musician ever since I was 17, back when I joined the Lee Vasey band in the late 1990s. Since then I’ve toured the world, playing bass for Bjorn Again, Living in a Box, Il Divo, and spent the last ten years playing for Gloria Gaynor. I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to play or tour again.
I was gutted as I sat reading through the endless leaflets that the nurses gave me, and as you can imagine, I was super scared about my future, my family and everything that we would have to face.
Amazingly, something changed. The worry and fear that seemed so deeply anchored to my soul went away. I was completely filled with peace. But not just peace, also hope. Hope for a very uncertain future, and more importantly, hope for my family.
I go to Lowestoft Community Church and I have lots of friends who pray. They prayed for me, and it was after they prayed that I was completely filled with peace. The fear left, and I was filled with hope. If I did feel scared, I would text someone from the church, and as they prayed the peace and hope would come back. I know this sounds a bit weird, and a bit mad, but it’s true.
It’s now two years on and I am completely cancer free. I’ve been completely discharged from the hospital. Yes, I’ve completely lost my stomach and half of my oesophagus, like the doctor said, but my new normal is actually better than the old normal. I’ve now been back working full time for the last 16 months, and last year was financially the best year I’ve had in years. I put this down to the prayer I received and also knowing there’s a God who could see me, and not just see me, but wanted to help me and not punish me. It was this that got me through.
You know, if you see a great movie, hear a great band or hear a funny joke, you want to tell someone about it. So I’ve sent this to everyone on Laurel Road because I believe if someone does something good for you, you should pay it forward. So I wanted to write to tell you that prayer gave me peace. And I wanted to say that if you’re going through something difficult, or know someone who is, then I’d love to pray. I’m not a weird religious guy; I’m a bass player who grew up and still lives in Kirkley. I won’t hassle you or knock on your door; but you can knock on my door, or send a note through. You can even send a note through anonymously if you want. I’m on Facebook as Jimmi Clarke, too. But if you feel this is not for you, please feel free to ‘file’ this letter in the bin.
It was a wet Monday morning. I printed off 12 of these, then the printer ran out of ink. I’d got really thin paper, and it was wet as it was going through the door, and the perfectionist in me was saying “This is a joke, what are you doing?” and the enemy was saying “Who wants to read this? Who wants to listen to this?” I was telling Emma about it after she came back from work and we got some more printer ink and started posting them to the rest of the street, and I just felt so alive in the rain in the street with this wet, soggy bit of paper.
And then someone knocked at the door and said “Hey, I’m Annie*, I live a few doors down. I’m a Buddhist, but I just want to say – what you put through my letterbox, that’s what this street needs.”
Since then I have had three people make contact on Facebook, who were all really lovely, sent lovely letters, and I’ve had two other cards from other people. That’s six people on my street this week. They’re real people with real names that I now know I can pray for.
Let’s do it! Let’s take courage and do it!
* Name changed for privacy