By Nathan Ray Thomas
WINSTON-SALEM, NC (AgapePress) - David Ring mounted the stage slowly with a noticeable limp, paused at the podium, and looked out on the crowd of over 600. In painful moves and halting speech, he paced the stage and told the listeners at Friedburg Moravian Church to get off the sidelines and get involved in their local church.
"God doesn't want your ability, he wants your availability," he said. "If God can use me like I am, he can use you."
Ring, a nationally known evangelist with cerebral palsy, spoke at Friedburg on November 20. He said too many Christians want to feel sorry for themselves rather than helping their church build up the body of Christ. They think they are victims because someone said or did something that hurt their feelings, so they sit and do nothing.
Ring gave a short version of his life story and listed examples when, before his salvation, he fell into the victim mentality.
Born with cerebral palsy, losing both parents to cancer, orphaned at age 14 when his mother died, passed between seven brothers and sisters, and constantly told he wouldn't amount to anything, Ring said it was easy to fall into self pity and bitterness towards God.
"If God loves me, why do I shake? Why do I talk the way I do? Why did he let my momma die? I'm just a nobody," Ring told himself.
His life turned when one of his sisters took him in and encouraged him to learn to do things. She kept inviting him to church, but he resisted. Eventually he gave in and went.
"Didn't want to go to church because God let me down," Ring said. "If God loved me, why did he let all this happen to me?"
In that service, God spoke to his heart. He went to the front when the invitation was given and received Christ as his savior.
"I've never been the same," Ring said.
"I've been to the doctor -- Dr. Jesus -- and you don't have to wait in the lobby for two hours," he said, provoking laughter. "I've been changed by the power of God."
Ring said the reason most people today don't want to hear the Gospel and be saved is that they look at the average Christian's selfish behavior and don't want to be like them.
"God can make lemonade out of your lemons," he told the audience. "The problem is we don't want to give God the lemons. If we give him the lemons, we won't have anything to talk about."
"You won't let go because you enjoy talking about the past -- the bum deal you got, about being shafted," Ring said. "If I can serve God like I am, it's time to buck up and get over it."
"You look at me and wonder if I'm alright," Ring said. "God's still working on me. I'm still in the oven."
"People, don't you want to be normal?" Ring asked. "I'm looking here at you tonight, some of you got a long way to go, and some of you are not going to make it."
Ring stressed to his audience the importance of being obedient to God. He said service in the church is the responsibility of every child of God, whether they are healthy or have a handicap. He said after his conversion, he started out volunteering in the church by sweeping floors and cleaning toilets, something many Christians are not willing to do.
"I've got cerebral palsy -- what's your handicap?" he asked, looking quizzically at the crowd.
Along the way his family and friends told him he would get nowhere because of his disability. Ring said his change in attitude after being saved enabled him to go to college, get ordained, become an evangelist, find a godly wife, and have four children.
"I've been doing this twenty-seven years now," Ring said. "Maybe in a few more, I'll get the hang of it."
Friends and acquaintances told him no one would invite him to speak to them because of his cerebral palsy.
"Last year, I got 800 invitations to speak, turned down 600," Ring said with a bit of sarcasm. "Maybe when I get a few hundred more, I'll go full time."
Ring finished his message, telling the crowd that God desires to work on all of his children. When we're obedient to Jesus and his Word, he said, God can use us and work with us.
"It's not your ability, it's your availability," he said. "Look at me. God's not finished with me yet. I'm still in the oven, being tried in the fire."
"When God is finished with me, he will say, â€˜Well done, thou good and faithful servant.â€™"
Nathan Ray Thomas writes for The Charlotte World, a Christian newspaper in Charlotte, North Carolina.