Joshua Swanson: Welcome to The Walk, a devotionals podcast for worshipers. If you’re ever in need of a spiritual pick me up, I suggest you listen to Rend Collective. They are a literal joy bomb. Our guest today is a band member, Chris Llewellyn, and he shares a personal story about the cross section of miracles and faith.
Here we go.
Chris Llewellyn: Hey, my name’s Chris Llewellyn, and I would love to share with you just a little bit about my journey today. You know, you maybe are unfamiliar with who I am, and so I’d love to start with my story. I grew up in a little place called Bangor in Northern Ireland, and got in when I was 17 with a group of very ragtag Christian believers, and that was how I was, uh, that was how I met Jesus.
And these guys were called Rend, and it was just this little Bible study that began on the floor of a sports hall in a church in a tiny little rural town. Um, we just tried to chase after Jesus. We opened up scripture together. We, we prayed together and we didn’t play an awful lot of music together, which is actually ironic now.
But what we, we did was we really wanted to influence and impact this little town and it really did have an impact. Hundreds of people in our area started coming to join us and really encountering God in really special and fresh ways. You know, we were trying to work out how to do faith and life and God and community in a way that was really authentic for us because I guess coming from Northern Ireland A lot of times things were being presented to us in a way that was Americanized, which is perfectly fine if you happen to be in America, but it doesn’t work for us.
So the cookie cutter didn’t work. And yet we have found this unique way to frame our faith. And that was, that was how I grew up. I got to know Jesus in this context of just hanging out with these 20 somethings who were just chasing after this stuff. And then we actually got to making music together after about five years of Bible study together.
We finally put together an EP, which was never intended to be a career thing because Well, in Northern Ireland, Christian music isn’t a real job. There’s no such thing as Christian music. There are Christians, and there is music, and there is church music. But there isn’t, uh, there certainly isn’t an industry.
And so we put together these EPs, mostly for our own interest. We just wanted to… put her journey down and record it somehow. Through one of the most amazing moves of providence or luck or whatever it was, these EPs found their way into the hands of Chris Tomlin. And so we got this email out of the blue from Chris Tomlin at gmail. com. You should definitely give that a try if you want to get in touch with them. And He, uh, well, he was inviting us to go on this major arena tour of the United States and at that time we were like, well, we’re not even really a band. Do we tell him we’re not a band or do we just go with it and see what happens and deal with the imposter syndrome later?
And so we just said, yeah, totally. Yeah, we can do that. We play arenas all the time. And so we, uh, we, we became a band and this is how Ryan collective began. And I guess for the last year, we’ve 10, 15 years that that’s been my journey has been having my life turned upside down, becoming a Christian musician and traveling the world, bringing a message where we’re very much known for joy and for for celebration.
And we’ve been carrying that all across the globe. And that really has been the dominant story of my life up until this point. And yet the story that I’d love to tell you today is not really one about what it’s like to be a Christian musician, but it’s just one about it.
Joshua Swanson: We’re going to take a quick break and we’ll be right back with more from Chris as he opens up about a personal crisis of faith.
Chris Llewellyn: I think in 2020 there was a major turning point in my life which was not necessarily the same one that we all, that we all experienced in that year. But rather, I had a moment that became a real crisis of faith for me and began opening up a lot of questions about how I was doing things. And that moment was the diagnosis of my son.
Uh, we went into a doctor’s office and we didn’t know what to expect, but we had prayed all the right prayers, and me coming from a charismatic background, I thought that was how it worked. I thought you prayed and you got miracles. I had never experienced that moment before, where you don’t get the miracle, or at least it doesn’t show up in the way that you expect.
And that resulted in all kinds of disappointment with God, with, with faith, with… this whole thing that I had given my life to. And working through that has been a really challenging but honestly a really fruitful season of growth for me as a person. You know, I think if we don’t face up to these big questions, like for example a question that I’ve asked myself time and time in a really deep way, is Can God be trusted?
And, of course, when we look at Scripture and we make that our reference point for that, it can seem like a really simple Sunday school kind of a question. But when you’re going through something that’s real in your life, going through a real struggle, and experiencing real difficulties, that is the question that is at the key to being able to proceed in your faith, to being able to move forward.
To be able to know on that gut level, on that cellular level, the goodness of God. And I guess my story within that has been that the miracles don’t necessarily come and you don’t see them the way necessarily that you hope for. Maybe, maybe the healing that you’re looking for doesn’t happen. In an instant at the front of a line at a tent revival, but maybe it’s about these little small miracles, the little miracles of being able to actually get up in the morning and finding yourself feeling slightly more hopeful, uh, the miracles of same progress for my son in therapy, the miracle of connection between Myself and my wife deepening and flourishing.
The miracle of seeing your friends show up. You know, those good friends who would lure you down from the roof if they had to. Those are miracles too. I think that that’s what I’ve learned is that trusting God can, can look like asking for the miracle, yes. And I’m always going to keep doing that. But, maybe it looks a little bit more like trusting him whenever everything’s dark and you’re not exactly sure what he’s doing.
Joshua Swanson: When we come back, Chris expands on some scripture that brought him through this difficult season.
But first, I wanted to remind you that we are taking a group of worshipers over to Israel next year. This tour is for anyone interested in biblical history and worship. It includes some incredible sung worship experiences with Meredith Andrews, Third Culture Worship, and Michael Bahn in places like On the Sea of Galilee.
At the Garden of Gethsemane and next to the Garden Tomb, it’s going to be a spiritual fire hose, and I really hope you can join us head to worship through israel.com to learn more. That’s worship through israel.com. Space is limited, so reserve your spot now.
Okay, back to Chris Lule to close us out.
Chris Llewellyn: So with that in mind, I would love to just read some verses of scripture that have been helpful to me during this season. One of the anchor points for me has been 2 Timothy 2. 13. It says there that if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. And I need those kind of promises in my life.
That’s something that I will cling to because I recognize in myself that I have more of Doubting Thomas in me than I do of Peter. That I do ask those difficult questions and that I do wrestle through doubt. But it’s such a relief to recognize that even at my most faithless, he is still faithful. It’s not, the burden’s not on me to be a fantastic believer, whatever that means.
The pressure is on God to be God and he has got that covered and we can always lean on that and just know that all we need is that mustard seed of faith. We don’t need, we don’t need mountains of it. We don’t need a massive stockpile. We just need to be willing to, to reach out and to have that little flicker of trust and he’ll do the rest.
So I constantly cling to that scripture. It was actually very influential in a song called Honest that I’ve released and Really, that, that song is all about the idea of trusting God with, with these really difficult things with these really heavy things and being honest about doubt. He really is so good that he receives us and he loves us in the middle of our most awkward angular questions and that he loves us despite anything that we might throw at him in terms of doubt.
As he really is that good that even in the worst seasons of doubt, even at our darkest, even in our chaos. He still draws us to himself. Another scripture that has been really raw for me, because it literally reflects my experience, is from Mark 9, when a father brings his son, who has been struggling with, with seizures and with foaming at the mouth and with all kinds of manifestation of, of demon possession and, uh, well, illness, mental illness.
This father brings his son to Jesus and asks for, asks for healing, and just asks that vulnerable question, wanting God to perform a miracle, and Jesus tells him, well, all things are possible for, for him who believes. And yet, what I think is the really vulnerable moment and the moment that I find myself in is the father saying, Lord, I believe, but, but help my unbelief.
Uh, he, he wants to believe, he’s trying so hard to have enough faith to, to receive this miracle. And yet he knows at the, at the heart of himself that… That he hasn’t got this and I think it’s in that moment that you recognize the compassion of Jesus Of course, the son is healed and we see that God wants to meet us Even in those even in those moments that he he wants us to get good gifts.
He, he doesn’t need us to be, he doesn’t need us to be these perfect examples or ambassadors of the faith, but coming to him with that, with that rawness, with that honesty, and with that, again, that tiny flicker of faith that that, that is enough. And I find so much encouragement in that. And I also find that to be a prayer that I can personally really lean on him that meets me in the middle of the darkest seasons of my life.
Because it’s so real to say, Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. That’s exactly who I am as a Christian. I’m a mixture of all things. You know, Walt Whitman says that I contain multitudes. And I guess that what he’s saying there is that in a sense we’re all conflicted people. That we all have multiple personalities.
We wake up on Monday and we’re full of praise and we’re full of confidence in God. And we’re just feeling totally blessed. But by Wednesday we might be getting a little bit worn down and we might be losing our faith. And… The beauty of it is, in all of that fluctuation, we have a God who doesn’t change, and who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and is constantly good, in both our belief and our unbelief.
So, in closing, let me pray. Father, we’re so grateful that you really are a God who loves us in every state that we can come to you in. That you’re a God who is patient with our doubt. Just like you met Thomas in the middle of his doubting season and you drew him close to yourself and you showed him your scars and you were patient with him, you’re the same God today that you’re patient with us in every season that we’re in and that you’re faithful whenever we’re faithless.
I pray for an increase in faith. Faith is a gift and we ask for it today for anybody who’s struggling. Hello, we just thank you so much and we praise you for your heart, for your generous heart of love. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
Joshua Swanson: Thank you, Chris, so much for sharing your journey with us. We’re going to play out this episode with the song Chris mentioned called Honest.