I am writing this while on a train traveling down the west coast of the United States. I don’t want to be on this train, but I am. I will be on this train for over 30 hours. I will sleep in this seat. I will eat junk food. I will read old newspapers and books. I will look out the window. I will write this note. I will do some thinking.
I got to thinking about the problems I have faced while I have been a leader. Some have been with people. Some are about decisions I made. Some are within my family, but, the hardest ones have been physical. A physical problem interrupts and changes everything. That’s usually when I find myself saying “Why”” to God. I can handle, or at least work on, the others, but a physical issue, it’s out of my hands.
I am on a train because 10 weeks ago the doctors discovered that my brain was bleeding and so they put a whole lot of restrictions on my activities and life so I wouldn’t have a stroke or die. One of those restrictions was no flying for three months. So, in order to get to a conference in the northern part of the States, where I was scheduled to speak six times, I had to take the train.
So, here I am riding back to Southern California with time to literally “look back”.
Has it been fun to get 8 cat scans and 4 blood tests? No! Has it been fun to see 3 neurosurgeons, 4 medical doctors and 3 radiologists? No! Has it been fun to spend two nights in two different hospitals in the middle of our move from Colorado to California? No! Has it been fun to watch my wife do all the lifting because I’m not allowed to lift more than 10 pounds? No! Has it been fun to listen to doctors talk about how “I could have died” and “still might”? No! Has it been fun to mess with all the insurance and medical bills? No! Has it been fun to ride a train 30 hours one-way instead of flying in a plane for 2 hours? No! Is it fun, now, to ride the train back? No!
Has it been fun to speak six times to a large group of adults looking for the “next step” in their walk with Christ? Oh yes! Were the life commitments made to service worth the trip? Absolutely! Were the conversations about “what do I do now?” worth it? Yes! Were they worth all the “junk” over the past 10 weeks? Yes! Yes! Yes! Are you glad God let you live for this conference? Thank you Jesus! Is God still good? Yes He is! All the time? All the time! Does God still know what He is doing? Yes He does!
Would I make the same decision I made 53 years ago to go into ministry? Absolutely! It never grows weary. Everyday we get to serve Christ is a privilege! Every chance we have to share His Good News is awesome! Unbelievable! Why us? In fact, I will put up with all kinds of junk, even over 10 weeks, just to get to share the Good News about the joys of serving Jesus once!
Jesus never promised that we would not have problems. He never promised “fun times”. When He puts His hands out and says, “Follow me”, He never hides the holes in His hands. Problems are how we grow in our faith and how we grow closer to God. Problems in our lives are a sign that God is not through with us yet. He is still refining us, teaching us, molding us and using us.
Paul, who had lots of different kinds of problems said it best while talking to the church at Philippi, where the city officials had beat him and put him in jail. He doesn’t say a word about any of that bad stuff when he writes to them, he just talks about God at work in them… “I am confident of this very thing, that He who has began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
Are you in the midst of a hard time? Let me share 1 Timothy 1:12. This is where Paul shares the ‘next steps’ in his challenge to young Timothy:
1. Accept the fact that God is the one who allows this problem. He is in control and has gifted you, equipped you, or, enabled you with something that will bring honor to His name. Sometimes He will use good times to build that gift and other times He may use bad times to build that gift. This may be a growth period for you.
2. Understand that God is trusting you during this time. He is trusting you to use your life for His honor and glory, to build His Kingdom and not your own, in good times and in bad times. He is counting on you to be faithful to Him.
3. Figure out what He has appointed you to do and do it, whether it is from a hospital bed or in front of a crowd.
Looking back, all the “stuff” over the past 10 weeks is in God’s hands. And, I am still here! So, that means I can keep sharing and serving. It just doesn’t get any better!