If you pay attention to details, you’ll discover why Russ Taff: I Still Believe was shown in theaters only on October 30 (2018). What a special day it proves to be!
If you haven’t read the first three parts of this review, now would be a good time to do so. You need to understand the powerful influence Russ’s family of origin had on him and how fame and success didn’t make his problems go away. You also need to understand exactly how love contributed to his redemption/deliverance.
And in this post, we see how God showed up in a spectacular way!
The Redemptive Power of the Creative God
God’s love is a redemptive love. Redeem has several definitions, but the one I like has to do with changing something so that it has value (again).
Sin, though, is a destroyer. Scripture tells us it causes death (James 1:13-15). Even if your sin doesn’t literally kill you, it can/will bring destruction into every area of your life: health, work/career and finances, relationships—you name it; sin has the power to cause total devastation, leaving you in total ruin.
Russ’s use of alcohol brought him to the brink of total ruin. He was being reduced to nothingness.
But God’s grace and love, exhibited through the Christians around Russ, began a redeeming process that took some time but did a thorough work. Not only was Russ set free from alcoholism, his wounded spirit was marvelously healed in a way that only God can arrange!
After the intervention, Russ participated in several rehab programs. It took more than one because he would have a relapse with the death of each parent. (Just proof to me that the root problem wasn’t the alcohol, it was the troubled relationship he had with his parents.)
Immediately after the most effective rehab stay, Russ was asked to visit a dying fan. So, before heading home to his waiting wife, Russ brought his guitar to bless an old man on his deathbed.
I mentioned before how cameras can be the bane of a famous person’s existence and how one had captured a cringe-worthy moment in Russ’s life. But now, a camera recorded a powerful and beautiful moment!
Whether it was a surprise for the older gentleman, I don’t recall. But Russ was certainly shocked by what he saw when he walked into that room! The man looked exactly like Russ’s now-deceased dad!
To avoid needing a spoiler warning, I’m going to simply say that by the time Russ left that room, God had done a great healing work in Russ’s heart and mind by reversing the roles of who was ministering to whom! Only God could have worked out the details and inspired the words that were spoken! (I’m so very glad it was all caught on video!)
Russ has been free from alcohol’s grip and shame ever since that life-transforming encounter on October 30, more than ten years ago. When God redeems, He redeems fully!
As I tossed and turned in my bed all night contemplating Russ’s life story, I thought of all the pain that was experienced for years, of how Russ—his ministry and marriage, too—had been almost destroyed. AND of how God was taking his nothingness and making something out of it.
The devil meant to totally ruin Russ, to silence a powerful voice and ministry. But God knows how to take a mess and turn it into something useful for His glory! Russ not only has his life back, he’s also got a new opportunity to minister!
And here’s the thought that nearly made me bolt upright out of bed: every time God redeems the life that has been reduced to “nothing”, He’s demonstrating that He is the God of Creation. Genesis 1 is happening all over again with every formless and void soul that yields to His creative power!!
I know a lot of people want to ask the Why question: why does God allow someone, even a believer, to go through such devastation? But we’ve got to learn that this is pointless to ask.
While I could offer a lot of theological and psychological explanation for why “God allows” such to happen, I’ve learned that when we’re in the midst of a crisis, we really don’t want such an explanation.
(Which is a relief because trying to answer the why question is extremely difficult to do! It’s not that there is no accurate answer; it’s just that we couldn’t fully comprehend it, even if God Himself explained it to us. Our minds are just too limited. As someone once described it, us asking God why He “allows” evil is like a 5-year-old asking a nuclear physicist, “What’s nuclear fission?” Of course, the physicist could fully and accurately explain it, but that doesn’t mean the 5-year-old will understand it!)
So, if we aren’t really wanting to know the answer to why, what are we searching for when we’re confronted with the devil’s destruction? We’re looking for security. We want to know that despite all the chaos, there’s some sense of order and control, that in the end we can/will be okay. That things will turn out alright; that all can/will be good again.
And that is exactly what happens with every trash-heap of a life that is surrendered to the redeeming, creative genius of God. Even if you think your life has been reduced to nothing more than ashes, the God Who created this earth out of nothing can turn your ashes into something beautiful and useful.
Regardless of why such destruction has happened, God is still able to resurrect life out of death and bring forth something beautiful out of the chaos! And just as God said everything He created in Genesis 1 was “good,” what He makes out of your mess will be good, too.
The question to answer, then, is: Will you let Him? Will you keep looking to God for deliverance and victory? Will you—no matter how much hell the devil drags you through—continue to believe in God and Jesus and diligently Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand? (You need to see the movie to fully appreciate that musical reference.)
It’s what Russ Taff did. He held onto Jesus even when everything else seemed to be slipping away. He lost faith in himself but not his faith in Jesus. And it paid off. The Lord Came Through!
It wasn’t easy. Overcoming alcohol and child abuse is a long, intense battle. The baby-faced handsomeness of his youth is gone, but Russ Taff is still standing—like a war-toughened veteran—saying and singing, I Still Believe.
Thanks for reading!