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Message

Interview with Brian and Haley Sakultarawattn
Miles McPherson - September 27, 2009

Message Recap

When trials come in life, are you tempted to blame God? You always have a choice: complain or grow through your pain.

Brian and Haley Sakultarawattn joined us to deliver a powerful message about clinging to our amazing God through whatever trials come our way. At the age of 18, Brian had an accident in which 99% of his body was burned so badly that the doctors said he would not live. He did live, and he lives victoriously in Christ. Brian and Haley have been married for over ten years and have two children (and another one on the way)! You won't want to miss watching this inspiring interview.

Through the process of your life, God is trying to draw you close to Him. Our problems come when we fight God and insist on having our own way. If you surrender to God, He can show Himself strong and turn your life into a powerful testimony.

Brian and Haley met as teenagers working in the same restaurant. Brain realized immediately that Haley wasn't typical teenage girl; she took faith in Jesus seriously. They became friends, and after nurturing their friendship and eventual relationship for a few years, Brian (age 18) asked Haley (age 17) to marry him.

Five short months later, Brian had a life-altering accident. He was working on logging equipment at a tree farm. It was cold, and the workers would often start a barrel fire to warm their hands after using the tools. This particular day, the fire became bit too high, so in an effort to bring the fire down to a safer level, Brian grabbed what he thought was a bucket of water to throw on the flames. The bucket was actually filled with gasoline, which caused an explosion and twenty-foot fireball. As Brian's clothes were already saturated with grease from working, the flames burned him relentlessly. Somehow Brian's employer and his wife were able to remove Brian's clothing and get him to the hospital.

How much credit do you give to the opinion of men?

Brian was transferred to the Oregon Burn Center in Portland, where the doctors assessed that Brian had third-degree burns on over 97% percent of his body and had only a 1 in 10 chance of survival. He was in a coma for a month, after which he endured incredibly painful treatments, the loss of his eyesight, and the amputation of his arms, leg, and foot. These losses were difficult and life-altering, but by God's grace and with the support of his loved ones, Brian was able to slowly accept these changes and move on. Most miraculously of all, Brian survived it all, carried by God's own hand.

People around you will always have opinions concerning you, your life, and your potential, but they are all irrelevant. Throughout your life, people may talk about what you can't do or will never be able to do, but the only thing that matters is what God says about you. His ways are not ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), and He uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27). He plans not to destroy you, but to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). Let the discouragement of people motivate you to trust God all the more.

For Haley's part, she was initially shocked to discover the extent to which Brian's body was damaged, but even as she stood next to his hospital bed for the first time, she felt an incredible peace come over her and knew that Brain was in God's hands.

Though she had her days of despair and anxiety over the loss of the image of the future they had planned together, time and again God worked to save Brian's life. She and the family saw firsthand God's power and grace, and over the recovery period, God worked in each one of them to help them grow and adjust.

How quickly do you want to give up when things don't go your way?

Soon it came time for Brian and Haley to discuss their engagement. Brian wanted to release his young fiancée from her commitment, so made it clear to Haley that he would understand if it was too much for her to continue with the relationship. However, by her actions, being present with him, and her words, she made it clear that being "free" from Brian had never crossed her mind. Although they had not yet taken their vows, Haley's "yes" to a life with Brian meant that she was committed to him in sickness and in health until death parted them. Yes, Brian's body was altered, but his heart was the same, and Haley knew that Brian was the man that God had chosen for her. She knew their life together would be more difficult than she had imagined, but she had faith that God would prove Himself faithful and strong in that area as well (as He has!)

If you are married, you must expect that your marriage will have problems, as all marriages do. Remember that your spouse is not someone who's supposed to make you happy, but holy. God uses husbands and wives to refine one another-that's the commitment made at the altar. God made marriage to be an earthly representation of the spiritual union that He makes with you. He doesn't break his commitment to you; He saves and redeems you!

What impact can your adversity have on the life of another?

Dr. Kajatami (Nick - what's the spelling on that?) joined us for the message today, having been one of the doctors overseeing Brian's care at the Burn Center who had not seen Brian since his release.

Dr. Kajatami had never had a burn patient before, so the team of doctors chose Brian to be her first patient simply because he was not expected to live. According to their calculations, Brian had a 118% chance of dying, and as far as their research revealed, there was no evidence of any patient surviving a 99% full thickness burn.

When Dr. Kajatami was introduced to Brian's family, their request was that whenever the medical team didn't know what to do, they should tell the family and the family would pray. Dr. Kajatami was not a believer at the time, but she began to see evidence of spiritual forces at work in Brian's recovery. The doctors began to notice that every time they thought they were losing Brian, they would tell the family he was not going to survive, the family would pray, and the problem would be resolved.

Two statements made during Brian's recovery had an impact on Dr. Kajatami's spiritual outlook. The first was one day when the head surgeon said to his surgical team, "I don't believe in God, but whenever I'm in the room with Brian, I feel a presence. I don't know what to call it, so it must be God."

The second occurred after Brian's treatment extended to the amputation of his arms and legs. People began to question the ethics of the treatment. The doctors were made to attend ethics committees, during which the hospital said Brian's treatment was a cruel experiment and he should be allowed to die. In one of these committee meetings, the head doctor said in reply, "I think this patient is going to make it because whoever that God is that the family's praying to is doing things that we cannot explain medically."

Dr. Kajatami began to believe that there was a God. After nine years had passed, she began to feel an overwhelming sense that she needed to read the Bible. She told God, "Whoever you are, just give me till the morning and I promise I'll read the Bible." The next morning she bought a Bible and read it over the following six months. She kept thinking, "What did Brian see in this?" She felt she needed to have a powerful heart change in order to believe as Brian did. Finally on December 23, 2004, she saw. She had an encounter with God and was finally able to say, "Now I understand how Brian could have faith like that."

Are the trials you're going through worth this pain and suffering?

People ask Brian, "How can you live in this situation?" Brian simply states that his life has been a challenge, God is all-powerful and limitless, so severity of your trial doesn't matter-you can't wear him out! God gives him the strength and grace he needs every day, not just to survive, but to thrive. You have the same source of help.

Instead of seeing a trial as something you want to be over and done with, look for the opportunities for yourself to grow and to reach out to others. As Brian said, he wouldn't have this type of opportunity to share Christ with people if he had never experienced the trial. He also asserted that even if only one person (Dr. Kajatami) had come to believe in Christ by witnessing his faith through trial, it would still have all been worth it.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Brian's scars are visible, but many of us have hurts on the inside that no one can see. When Jesus looks at you, He says "I love you, I accept you as you are, and I want to cleanse you. Accept my forgiveness. I will comfort you through your pain." God is on your side, committed to me, and is not going to let you go!

This Message

Today we hear the story of a couple who have walked through immense trials together, challenging us to examine our response to trials. Do we blame God or grow through the pain?

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