There I was, in the middle of a stressful workday when I received an unexpected call. It was not a call on my cell phone or even a voicemail, but a call from God. He was calling to say, “I want you back in full-time ministry.” This call set off an emotional, spiritual, and financial roller coaster ride in my life.
While I have served in a lay-ministry role for several years, I have not considered my calling to ministry in almost 18 years when I dropped out of seminary and went to work in a secular job setting. I kept my wife in school and helped her get through her two Master’s degrees. Then I helped support her through her early years of working as a marriage and family counselor to the point that she has established a remarkable counseling ministry to the Hispanic population in Fort Worth. I thought this was enough. I thought I was fulfilling God’s desire for my life. Apparently He had other plans.
This call, this interruption to the status quo in my life, came as a surprise to me. It probably should not have been such a surprise, after all there were plenty of warning signs. But I was not paying attention to those. I was just busy living life and taking care of business and family.
After three years of volunteering as the lay ministry leader for HISchild Orphan Care ministry, leading the Operation Christmas Child effort at Christ Chapel, and establishing Foster Family FUNday, I have often found myself wishing that I could do this kind of ministry work on a more regular basis. But after each ministry project was completed I would return to my secular job with the feeling that I was missing out on something bigger and better. Several times over the last year or two, friends and family would indicate that they thought I would be good in a full-time ministry position. I would laugh it off or just say “I don’t think that is what God has for me right now.” When my boss asked me during my annual evaluation if I had considered full-time ministry as a possibility, it surprised me. Then it stuck with me. I found that question ringing in my ears throughout the days that followed.
The day that God impressed on my heart that He wanted me back in His service, I picked up the phone to call my Life Stage Pastor. My hands were shaking, I was near tears, my stomach was in knots, just as if I was in the middle of a giant drop leading into the barrel roll on a roller coaster. It can be an exciting, yet frightening time when God taps you to serve Him. Henry Blackaby calls this a Crisis of Belief in his book, Experiencing God. This is what Moses felt in the pit of his stomach when he stood before the burning bush saying, “Who am I, that I should go?” (Exodus 3:11). When faced with a God-sized task, we often find ourselves questioning whether God picked the right person for the job.
My encounter with God set me on a journey of prayer and waiting. I began to pray night and day as I continued my daily routine, “God show me what you want!” It was not long after this call that my family was blessed to go on a family mission trip to El Salvador. There is nothing like seeing your family sharing the gospel to put the winds in your sail. A few weeks after returning from El Salvador, I had the opportunity to go to Ecuador for an Operation Christmas Child gift distribution. This gave me the chance to see how our work with collecting shoeboxes helps to bring the gospel to children all over the world. Both of these mission trips just affirmed God’s call and reenergized my desire to serve Him.
As I continued to pray to the Lord about His will, He answered me repeatedly by telling me to wait on Him and rest in Him (Psalm 31:24; Matthew 11:28). So, that is exactly what I did. I continued to wait and rest and pray… until I lost my job.
I showed up to work and learned that I no longer had a job. My normal response to something like this would be to panic and rush out to find another job. However, the Lord impressed on me that this was not something that should cause me to panic. After all, at this point I had been praying for two months for God to show me His will for my life. How could I come to any other conclusion other than that God had taken away my job so that I could rest in Him and trust in His provision?
After discussing this with my wife we decided to take a very radical step. We decided that I should do exactly what God was telling me to do… rest and pray. This concept absolutely flies in the face of modern logic. Who… in this economy… in their right mind… with any common sense would consider waiting on God when bills need to be paid? But God has promised us repeatedly throughout this time that He is in control of the situation and is taking care of us in ways that we could never have imagined.
I should probably add a disclaimer here that this path is not for everyone. It is not necessarily easy to sit and wait while you are unemployed. And, to be honest, God’s word for me will very likely be quite different from His instructions for someone else. My wife and I prayed earnestly about this and felt that God was leading us into a time where we needed to learn how to trust in Him rather than ourselves for our daily provisions.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.Matthew 6:25-33 NET
We have certainly tightened up our belts and our budget during these lean times. But God has been faithful to His word. We have not wanted and have not missed a single meal. He has proven to us time and time again that we can trust in Him in good times and bad times.
Trusting God – totally trusting Him – is not so easy. There are days where I turn to Him and trust in Him completely. But the next day I may find myself struggling with anxiety or self-pity. I find that there are days where I can stand firm in defiance against the attacks of the enemy and other days where I am hunkered down in a foxhole under attack. But my Lord is strong and able to protect me from the enemy as long as I stay in His protection.
My journey of living in God’s will is not over. In fact, in many ways the journey has just begun. I have not yet found the best fit for a ministry job. And after several weeks of being unemployed, I continue to rest in Him and trust Him to provide for us daily. God is working in moving in ways that are remarkable. He is working out the details and putting together the perfect job for me. There is no place I would rather be than in the sweet spot of God’s will. Life with God is a rich life filled with joy and purpose.
This post was originally published in -ology, a ministry magazine of Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth, Texas.