Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Offers Hope When the World Seems to Have None in Latest Book
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Needless to say, it has been a tough ten months since people were forced into quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic. What used to make sense now seems like a distant, foreign concept. It has forced most of us to view life through a different lens, one that is cautious, hesitant, and sometimes broken.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez believes that despite the world in crisis we are living in, hope and healing can be readily found. In his latest book, From Survive to Thrive, Rodriguez offers seven words that begin with the letter H to help (yet another H word!) overcome the challenges we are facing: Holy, Healed, Healthy, Happy, Humble, Hungry, and Honoring Life.
I recently spoke to Rev. Rodriguez about what differentiates a person from being a survivor or thriver, advice for those who are struggling right now, and what we can learn from King David’s story to help us through the difficult times.
First off, how have you and your family been making out through the coronavirus pandemic? I understand that your daughter had quite a scare with it.
Our entire family was impacted with the COVID virus in the first week of July. I was primarily 98% measurably asymptomatic. But unfortunately, my oldest daughter was impacted egregiously. She ended up in intensive care (ICU), but by the grace of God, we really saw divine intervention. At that time, the therapeutics were not fully developed. We really experienced divine intervention. (She had) a 24 hour turnaround that I truly believe emerged via the conduit of just people praying in Jesus' name out of intercessory prayer. And the Spirit of the living God invading my daughter's hospital room with her testimony, her sensing just an invasion of Heaven. Everything turned around in her favor. So yes, we've experienced it firsthand. That situation emerged as an integral part of the book, From Survive to Thrive.
Well, I'm glad she's she made it through and is on the upside now. Let's talk about the book. Obviously, this book is a response to what so many people around the entire world have been going through this year. What was the inspiration or the catalyst for writing From Survive to Thrive?
At the end of the day in 2021, we can't deny the fact that we will return to some sense of normalcy. We will. The question is whether or not in perpetuity, we're going to embrace a survivor's mentality or modus operandi. Let me explain. Every single person right now during COVID, and even after COVID, is either failing, surviving, or thriving. Every person on the planet. They fall into one of these three respective categories. You could say, me and my family right now are either failing, we're surviving, or we're thriving. The vast majority would probably be in the surviving category. If I were to engage the Biblical narrative as a metaphor, every single person right now can best describe your life as an Egypt, the desert, or the promised land.
And the vast majority would say, right now, we're going through a desert … economically, socially, politically, culturally, the COVID-19 pandemic, maybe even spiritually, whatever it may be. But the question is whether or not you want to stay in the desert in perpetuity. And I would argue the vast majority of people in life never truly make it to the “promised land.” Vertically, when you have a relationship with Jesus, of course you do. Jesus is your promised land. Eternal life, new life, abundant life in Christ, that is your promised land. But horizontally speaking on this side of eternity, do Christians ever truly make it to that abundant living that Jesus referenced in the latter part of ? (This is) what I would deem in 21st century recontextualization as life without a lid. And can you imagine living life without a lid? That's what my book is all about. I look at the life of David. I think David's life, from the beginning all the way to the end, the good, the bad, and the ugly. As I look at David's life, I frame each chapter with a Biblical rubric. You should live a holy, healed, healthy, happy, humble, hungry, honoring life. Let me repeat that. If you live a holy, healed, healthy, happy, humble, hungry, honoring life, you will not just survive. You will thrive.
As you have just mentioned, in your book, you focus on King David’s story, as it serves as a thread throughout the book. What can we learn from David’s story in these difficult times we are living in?
There's one simple anecdote that I share that everyone has heard of if you're a Christian. If not, it's a simple story. We've all heard about David and Goliath. And we hear about David finding the brook and picking up five smooth stones. As a preacher and as a student of the Word, you've heard countless preachers try to amplify and expand on the five stones. He only used one, but why five? You have heard preachers say it could have been a foreshadowing of the New Testament five folds ministry. It could have been because Goliath had five brothers, which is not even completely biblically substantiated. I understand it. It's not done with malice, but certain preachers kind of create their own narratives, right? Their own assumptions, their own suppositions. In the book I share why David picked up five stones … because he did … period. It seems naive. Are you being sarcastic? No. Literally speaking, he picked up five because he did. Simply stated, he had more than one stone. I find it to be beautiful. What does that mean? We are not one stone Christians. We have enough ammo for everything life sends our way when Jesus is the Lord of your life. When Christ is the center of your life and your pursuing righteousness, you're not a one stone Christian. You have enough in your arsenal. You have enough arrows in your quiver. You have enough ammunition to really see the spirit of overcoming . Against everything that life sends your way. That’s the David message. You're more than a one stone Christian. I love David's response to his brother who told them, get away from here.
And I truly believe that every single person can stand up right now, even in the midst of this pandemic, go from surviving to thriving, and say, no, I'm going to remove the lid. I'm not going to live life with a lid of past shame, condemnation, failure, anxiety, depression, despair, or sorrow. Watch me glorify Christ. Watch me be light in the midst of darkness. Watch me become a blessing to everyone I know. Watch me speak faith and not fear. Watch me.
It’s easy to batten down the hatches in times like this. But I want to dig directly into your book title if you don’t mind. It has two key words in it: survive and thrive. What differentiates a person who is a survivor from one who is a thriver?
Brilliant. Let me even give you phrases for the way we pray. A survivor prays in the following manner. “Lord bless me. Bless me.” A thriver prays, “Lord, make me a blessing. Make me a blessing to everyone.” A survivor will pray, “Lord, please answer my prayer.” A thriver will pray, “Lord, make me the answer to someone else's prayer.” For you to survive, you must learn to climb out of hell. I’m speaking to you metaphorically. But for you to thrive, you must learn to bring down heaven. There's a difference. There is a differential. The way you talk, the way you think, the way you pray, the way you act, to survive, you have to ask for forgiveness. To thrive, you have to learn to forgive those that offend you. Forgive those that come against you.
Surviving is not condemnation because in the desert, forgive me for using Biblical metaphors here, but in surviving, there is water in the desert coming out of a rock. There is manna. So, you're not now nourished in the desert. That's why surviving is dangerous because we are all supposed to survive, but not in perpetuity. We're supposed to go through to get to. Too many people die in the desert of excuses, procrastination, unbelief, and unforgiveness. I would argue a bit of narcissism. Some of us die in that desert going around in circles when we really should be thriving in the promised land.
You write about the fact that sometimes closed doors have much more value than open doors. Why is that and how does it apply to someone battling through “survival” right now?
Western civilization historically, has been obsessed with this idea of open doors. How many Christians have you ever heard pray for closed doors? I bet you never have. That’s because it's not part of our lexicon. Ironically, some of the greatest miracles and some of the greatest encounters took place behind closed doors, in the Old Testament, when the prophet Elisha encountered the widow with the jars who fussed and left her with an incredible amount of debt. The Bible says he closed the door. He said, ‘Close the door. Watch this.’ And then the jars that they brought were filled the oil. They were able to liquidate their debt. And then in the New Testament, the quintessential example, right after the Resurrection, the disciples were behind closed doors. They were in their own personal quarantine. Jesus appears behind closed doors. He lets them touch (his hands). He says, ‘You see the scars here?’ Thomas inevitably touched them. Watch my scars. Here are the wounds. And then he breathed upon them. The Bible says (he did this) in the form of the Holy Spirit.
So, behind closed doors, private encounters lead to public elevation. Those closed door moments are critical. There must be a closed door moment in the presence of God, where you and God are alone, where you're not at all driven by what you see out there in this fear (we see) in the world and culture … even motivating factors that are external. It's just you and God in the solitude, in the silo of transparency and authenticity. In those closed door moments are some of the greatest encounters. And I would argue a closed door in the presence of Jesus precedes an open door before the presence of men.
Final question, after people have read From Survive to Thrive, as an author, what would you like your readers to get out of that experience? What is your greatest hope for the book?
(I would like to see) people putting the book down after the last chapter and going, “Oh my goodness. I was surviving, thinking that I was thriving, and I literally put a lid on my God-ordained purpose and destiny. And this book has opened up my eyes to understand the following: there is more in Christ. There is more in my relationship with Jesus. There is more in the Word of God, and the spirit of God. There's more for me and my family, my children, and my children's children. I'm not just going to survive. I'm going to thrive.” That's what I hope. That's my prayerful expectation, my deliverable prayer for every single person who reads this book.
Watch Rev. Samuel Rodriguez preach a sermon (44:11) based on his latest book, From Survive to Thrive:
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