Wednesday, September 14, 2005

God Walking With Me

I have often talked with people about how to find “God’s plan for their lives.”  So I thought that it might be beneficial to tell you how I came to be what I am:  a pastor and teacher.  Hopefully, my story will at least demonstrate that living the Christian life is far better lived in wisdom and patience than burning bushes and signs from heaven.

I guess I should begin with a short version of how I came to feel “called” to the ministry in the first place.  I became a believer in Jesus Christ my second sophomore year of college.  (It took me five years to get out, okay?)  I was twenty years old.  I had no idea what I wanted to major in, much less what I wanted to do in life.  But after I knew that Jesus Christ was truly the Son of God and Savior of the World, I knew that I wanted to serve Him.

So being the new Christian that I was, I prayed.  I prayed that God would show me what I was supposed to do with my life and how He wanted me to serve.  God answered my prayers, in part, about six months after He saved me.  (Yes, I know that He really saved me a long time ago on the cross, but as someone once said, I only found out about it recently.)  It would be more than a few years before I would even begin to understand what this answer meant.

I remember it vividly.  I had just written a letter to a friend of mine who was serving as a missionary overseas.  After I sealed the envelope, I prayed for my friend.  During this prayer, I suddenly knew that I was a teacher.  I just knew it like I knew that Jesus rose from the dead.  It was an epiphany from God.

I know that people say that God talks to them all the time and that He tells them to do things.  That sort of talk makes me extremely nervous.  It can happen, I’m sure.  It has happened to me twice, but it wasn’t really God “speaking” to me.  The first time it happened is when He crushed me with the knowledge that He is God, I am a doomed sinner, but that the death of Christ Jesus avails to me.  That was the night I got saved.  This revelation did not have me running around the room and shouting.  I shook with fear and broke into a cold sweat.  It was a terrifying experience at first.  But after I realized that Christ could and would save me, I felt joy and peace.  It was a peace like falling in love.

The second time it was the opposite.  When I knew that I was a teacher, I felt peace.  It was as if a great burden had been lifted.  It gave me direction for life.  That moment has dictated every step I have made from that day to this one.  However, the peace did not last long.  It was soon followed by fear.

After I finished praying, I settled down to continue a Bible study that I had been doing on my own.  My Bible study consisted of reading the Bible.  I did not have any guides or anything to help me.  I just read.  You’d be surprised at how effective that is.

I had been working my way through the book of James.  That night, I was supposed to pick up at the beginning of chapter three.  When my eyes fell on that passage, I instantly memorized it.  It was as if it were seared in my brain with a hot iron.  It reads, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).  Quiet time was over.  One verse read, one magnificent lesson learned.  The God whom I loved and feared was going to be particularly strict on me in the great day of judgment.  I was stunned.  I still am.

At the time, I was not even active in a particular local Church.  I honestly did not know which to attend, so I went to a few different Churches in town.  The closest thing I had to a “Church” was Campus Crusade.  That’s not even a Church.  The fact that I had no Church, and therefore I had no idea which Church I should teach in, bothered me a great deal.  I had a lot of studying and work to do.  After all, my judgment will hinge on what I teach people.  I had better be accurate, and I had better be humble and open to correction.

This is the beginning of my understanding of my sojourn in this world as a teacher and pastor.  I am going to write a few posts as to how my understanding of what it means to be me has grown over the years, especially the last year and a half.  

3 comments:

Daniel said...

I have attended a shepherd's college for three years, and I am being personally mentored by my old pastor (65 years in the pulpit - and a man who has personally read the bible cover to cover hundreds of times without exaggeration - a godly, godly, humble man - as sweet an old saint as any to be found, and full of wisddom). One day, in church no less, his wife turned to me and asked me how I knew I was called to be a pastor.

Her directness caught me off guard, but I answered her something like: "I tremble before God's word, and even abhor myself because I am in no way worthy to handle it - but God has given me a desire to preach that is greater than any fear of failure - I would give up house, wealth, wife, and family to preach, and I cannot imagine what my life will be like if I don't." She was satisfied, but afterwards I was more than a little self absorbed - was God trying to tell me that He really wasn't calling me to the ministry - that I was just full of myself, or that my desire to be obedient in this was coming from my own inflated ego?

I am not good at second guessing, so I just left it with the Lord. Surely he will put me in the pulpit if that is where I am to be. There is no sin in desiring the ministry, so I continue today. I have preached in a few churches, and been approached to pastor, but the Lord hasn't opened the way yet.

Calamity Man said...

i was also in the same kinda journey you were but in my situation, i rediscovered my own religion, islam.

its been a worthwhile journey so far and theres still a lot more for me to learn and discover.

i respect every human and whichever religion or beliefs he chooses.

Sojourner said...

Daniel,

I have often talked about "the call" with guys who are wondering whether or not they are "really" called into the ministry. My gauge for this has been relatively simple, and I hope not overly naive.

Paul writes, "It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do" (1 Timothy 3:1).

When someone questions their call, I go to this passage. Do you have a powerful desire to teach the Word of God, to model the Word of God, and to love the people of God? Is it an inward, flaming, zealous urge? Is it a desire to serve the Church of God and not exalt yourself? If the answer to these questions are "Yes", then how may we question your call if we, as a Church, have witnessed this zeal and blamelessness in your life?

We don't need a burning bush, my brother. We just need a bone-deep love for Jesus Christ and His Church, and the zeal to serve it.

Mr. Loobz,

You are welcome here. If anyone disrespects you as a person, they are out of line. You know by now that I have serious disagreements with your faith, as I am certain you do with mine as well. (If not, then you'd be a Christian, right?) It has been my pleasure to read your comments, and I am glad that you are here. I hope to converse with you more in the future about the differences in our faiths in a respectful manner.