Seeking the Will of God
This is part 3 of a series of posts telling my story on how I got to Concordia Seminary. Begin here if you are just joining us.
In my previous post, I shared how I had made an incredibly huge mistake in trying to go against God's Will. As the calendar approached 2000, Debbie and I had to make a difficult and painful decision. We could no longer avoid the conclusion that God had closed this door. We had run into a brick wall of epic proportions.
I called my old employer in Springfield, Missouri, and asked him if he had an opening. Not only did he have an opening but he was looking for someone to help him run his new computer training center and could put me to work right away at a salary that could help us save our house in Nixa from foreclosure.
So, I informed Concordia Seward that I would not be returning for the Spring 2000 semester and instead moved back to Missouri. And, by January of 2000, went to work at New Horizons Computer Learning Centers in Springfield, Missouri, as an instructor and shortly thereafter as the Director of Operations.
The years that followed were among the most confusing of my life. I achieved immediate and sustained vocational success. God poured out his blessings on my new position at New Horizons and delivered my family literally out of the jaws of complete financial destruction. Instead, we began paying off all of our debts and were blessed with two more beautiful children (Aaron, born in 2001, and Ally, born in 2004).
The difficulty for me amidst all of this blessing was simple: Why did God halt my attempt at serving Him in full-time ministry and then subsequently bless my attempt at another vocation? I began operating under a very simple conclusion: God did not want me to be a pastor.
However, at the same time, Debbie and I joined a church plant near our home that would eventually have a very important impact upon our understanding of ministry. From 2001 to 2005 our lives gradually, but dramatically, changed. Our view of church life changed and became a faith-integrated approach to daily life. We began to interact with the reality of the Gospel in our daily life instead of being a people centered on our lives throughout the week and spending an hour or two “in church” on Sunday morning.
Instead of our Sunday-focused week, somewhere along the way we began living with a Christ-focused week. Our interaction with faith changed from a mostly compartmentalized approach to a more integrated approach. And, it would be in this fertile soil of a renewed and deepened trust in which the Holy Spirit had been working with His gracious hands that He would bring me back to face an important reality: I still had not sought to do things His way. I was still seeking His will for me rather than seeking to conform my will to His.
In 2005, I led a Bible study at our church on the Book of Romans. During the course of that class, one of the participants came up to me and asked me if I had ever considered being a pastor. This question arrived at my heart like an exploding bomb.
I politely responded that I had once considered it, but that it didn’t work out. I then briefly explained how God had subsequently provided another plan for my life. The elderly woman smiled warmly and with equal politeness suggested that maybe it was time to try it God’s way. She smiled, patted me on the cheek and walked away. From that moment forward, the stone in my shoe was back. In fact, I began to realize it had never truly left, and that I had simply developed calloused feet.
This realization broke me into pieces. The only description I have for this was despair. So, in the midst of my confusion, frustration, sadness and despair, I started praying.
I literally spent a year praying almost exclusively about this issue. For at least a month or two my prayer was for God to remove this from me. Take the stone away, I would pray. And then, as more time passed, and I spent more and more time in His Word, by the power of His Spirit, I eventually began to do something, which for me was completely amazing: I began to seek the Will of God.
I started praying everyday for His will to be done His way and in His time according to His plan.
In late-2006, my old friend Dana Hobelman called me up again (Dana, what is it with you and all of these huge life changing events?!?). He invited my dad and I to meet up with him and his dad in Kansas City for a conference. Again, it was great fun to reunite and enjoy tremendous fellowship.
While there, one of the guest preachers gave a message in which he asked a simple question: “What would you do with your life if there were no obstacles of time or money? Write it down.” As tears filled my eyes, I wrote down that I would preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a broken world. I would fill my days being with people who need Jesus and point them in His direction. I would be a pastor.
The preacher then asked us to consider if there were any obstacles that the Living God could not remove. “Don’t you think the One who spoke and the universe leapt into existence could remove the obstacles that are preventing you from doing what you are supposed to be doing?”
His message cut to my heart in ways that my words cannot express. He was even using the very words that I had prayed about in terms of me seeking God’s will to be done His way and in His time according to His plan. I had been praying not about God’s will for me, but rather for Him to direct my will.
I left that conference and came home, continuously praying about this. I prayed about the obstacles. I prayed about doing it His way. I prayed about being a humble and willing servant. One could say that I finally had joined with Abraham, as Paul records in Romans 4:21, in the sense that I was now fully persuaded that God has the power to do what He has promised, even with my own stubborn heart.
From this day forward, the stone in my shoe was gone. To be continued...