Looking back, Jim and Jan Sharp don’t view their meeting in the Birmingham, Alabama airport as a coincidence. The pair got acquainted on a Southwest Airlines flight, and their love story has had more drama than some might find in a Hallmark movie.
In a recent TAB “Amplify” podcast, they shared some of the highlights with host Maggie Evans — from Jan’s double organ transplant and healing from Type 1 diabetes to beginning a ministry together based on a book written by Jim. But first, the love story.
The Sharps said they knew from the beginning that God had brought them together for a purpose.
They lived within a couple of miles of each other but had never met. When God brought them together that day, they immediately felt a spiritual connection.
“I knew that there was really something stirring from God because before [Jim] walked away, he prayed with me,” Jan recalled. “And it was amazing. We talked every night that week while he was out of town and I was out of town. Then when he got back to Birmingham, he came over here and the rest is history.”
‘God’s perfect timing’
“It was truly God’s perfect timing. We both just had this passion for our faith, and we both realized that we have this desire to have a ministry, hopefully full-time one day,” Jan added.
When the Sharps met Jim was writing a book, “The Journeyman: Our Spiritual Journey to Experience God’s Love,” recording his observations from ministry to men and teenagers. As someone who came to faith in his mid-30s, Jim recognized he had wrestled with God over understanding how to live as a spiritual being with his identity rooted in Christ.
“A lot of people are struggling, people who’ve maybe lost some hope and maybe lost some direction in life,” Jim said. “The world is still going to throw challenges at all of us. But there is, through Christ, this ability to find joy and happiness every day.”
The book identifies and outlines five spiritual attributes or tools for embracing spiritual life: God’s unconditional love, God’s amazing grace, God’s truth, faith and trust in God, and dying to self.
The Sharps realized they shared a passion for helping people reengage with God, find identity in Christ and understand what a life of faith truly looks like. That shared passion inspired the Sharps to begin Good Good Life, a weekly remote study group that meets via Microsoft Teams every Thursday to explore how believers can live a more meaningful, abundant life by embracing the life and purpose God intends them to live out in the Spirit.
Elements of the study are based on Jim’s book. Learners discover how to live in the Spirit by first understanding they are spiritual beings made in the image of God. Then the group explores a believer’s spiritual identity and Christ’s transformative power for overcoming anxiety, stress, fear and other spiritual strongholds.
‘Unconditional love’ of Jesus
“We live in a world where it’s all about transactional love,” Jim said. “What you do for me determines how much I’m gonna love you back. Our message is for people to understand that we have this amazing God who has sent His Son on this ultimate rescue mission for all of us, to show us what unconditional love can look like, how that can manifest in our lives each day and to be able to transcend that to other people.
“Our Good Good Life message is to help people walk through that struggle of understanding that they do have this Father in heaven who loves them, regardless of what they’ve experienced or what they’ve maybe done in their life.”
The Sharps teach from personal experience, having lived out the precepts and witnessed God’s faithfulness through life’s challenges.
Struggle for life
At just 8 years old, a virus left Jan’s pancreas damaged beyond repair. She developed Type I Diabetes, then Ketoacidosis left her in a weeklong coma. She almost lost a foot and has suffered severe neuropathy in her limbs.
She has since gone through major eye surgeries and countless infections. After experiencing total kidney failure, Jan prayed for a transplant donor match and waited on God’s timing.
“It was just one of those surrender moments,” she remembered. “I had to trust every single person that God put in my life and He eventually performed the miracle of all miracles for me, because I became a double organ transplant recipient. I received the kidney that saved my life, but I also received a new pancreas.”
Her Type I Diabetes has been reversed and she gives God the glory for her healing.
“We do not put on any pretense that life is just rainbows and butterflies all the time, even though we’re joyful,” Jan said. “We want people to be equipped to know that, even through the tough times.”
For more stories on spirituality and life, check out the TAB Amplify podcast at thealabamabaptist.org/podcasts.