"My Personal Example"
Although I could go on and on regarding God’s Divine guidance in my life, I will not bore you with too many details. However, it is my hope that a quick and concise rundown of critical points in my life and calling may help us understand.
Although I attended church from the time I was a little lad, God undeniably performed an extraordinary Divine work in my heart and soul following graduation from college. I was filled to overflowing with His Spirit. I discovered, for the first time, genuine purpose and meaning and direction in life.
Shortly thereafter, Patti and I were married. I have spent considerable time expounding on our “gifts” from God. Patti considers “me” as her gift from God (lol). We next had to determine what direction God was leading us as a young couple.
Patti had been recently hired as a teacher. But was God calling us into ministry? Would we (newly married) pack up everything and move to Virginia to attend a School of Divinity and study ministry? That was a tough decision, though not unlike several others since that time. Even though we prayed and prayed, God never seemed to give us a plain answer, but we had to make a decision. So even though we were far from certain, we decided (hopefully somehow with God’s guidance) to pack everything into our two little cars and go.
There was soon another important decision, “What area of ministry would I study?” I wish I could say I heard God clearly regarding this crucial decision regarding ministry, but I cannot (which has been a continual pattern through the years). Since I was enthusiastic about sharing the love of Jesus with others and desired to reach the world for Christ, “World Missions” seemed an appropriate degree concentration. So that’s what I studied.
Would you believe there was yet another life-changing decision directly following graduation? A requirement for my Masters in Biblical Studies Degree with a concentration in World Missions was to travel overseas for about a month to serve as missionaries. After we returned home from our internship in Central America, we were offered positions there as missionaries/teachers at an English speaking school. What would we do now? It initially appeared to be a continuation of the path we were now traveling with our concentration in World Mission, but it would definitely be quite a step of faith to move permanently to Central America. We prayed and prayed continuously for guidance and sought counsel from godly men and women, and did everything we knew to do. Again, no clear answer.
We were down to the deadline (as usual). Finally, although it was not exactly clear (more like muddled), I did get a “sense” (probably not a good description but the best I can share) within that God was saying something like, “You could go or stay. Both would be fine, but staying here would be best.” Now this answer, more or less, blew away my current “theology.” I mean, “God surely has one perfect plan for my life. Is He actually giving me a choice? Could both alternatives work out fine? How can that be?”
Even though it messed with my mind and heart and theology, I did trust God. So if remaining in the States was God’s best for us and His Kingdom, then I would stay.
Now, as I mentioned a couple of times, following God’s will does not always result in “smooth sailing.” I thought at the time that making a decision according to God’s will would immediately open wonderful opportunities for ministry…tomorrow (if not today). But, it was not tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or even next year. As a matter of fact we entered a dry, dry wilderness period as I wondered if I had rightly discerned God’s voice and made the right decision. Have you ever found yourself in that place?
After a long and arduous wait that tested us both, two doors opened simultaneously, which is not unusual. I had earned my first Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. I had two wishes. I either wanted to pursue the business field with a Christian emphasis or enter the ministry. The first open door consisted of an opportunity to serve as a manager for a chain of Christian bookstores. Perfect, right? Except that shortly after I was hired, another door opened. I was invited to serve as an Associate Pastor in a Methodist Church.
Patti was a little skeptical about the ministry position after just finally landing a good job. The pattern continued. We prayed and prayed and sweated bullets and still no clear answer. It’s as if God opened both of my destiny doors at the same time in order to see where my heart was. To make a long story short, I “felt” (another poor description) I should give ministry a chance. If it did not work out, then it did not work out. Real spiritual, right? And that is how, in a nutshell, I have ended up in West Frankfort sharing this story with you about my destiny.
For you who have difficulty discerning God’s will, I hope this brings you solace. We questioned our calling many times. Our faith and destiny were tested on numerous occasions and are still tested today. I was never privy to a sneak-peek of the end of the movie. I still have not. The way was never completely clear. However, God has always led us on this journey. He has led us to mountaintop experiences but also through the valley of the shadow of death. He has led us to green pastures and cool, clear streams but also through wilderness periods.
Some roads were smooth and straight. Others were filled with potholes and hairpin curves. Some days were foggy with low visibility. Other days were sunny and clear. Sometimes the road was well-marked. At other times, we felt utterly lost. But we kept moving forward with God, and He always guided us back to the main road.
As we followed God each and every day, each and every year, He has been faithful even when we were not. We have lived and are now living our destiny. I hope you feel the same way.