In Good Company
As a young boy [before I could drive an automobile], I learned to do a lot of things. I could set the rocks on a grist mill to get coarse, medium or fine corn meal; could set the carriage to get 1”, 2”, 4” boards and turn the logs on a saw mill; could run a hammer mill to mix ingredients to make cow feed; could keep even heat under a cooking vat on a syrup mill and how to stir water and cane juice to make syrup; stand on a stool to gut a hog or deer; learned to plow behind an old mule (I simply followed where she went); knew when it was time to plant and harvest most vegetables; learned to stock and clerk an old country store; and fix most near anything on a farm, but I wanted to do more than that. I could be a farmer, I knew a lot about farming. I could be a store keeper, I had a lot of experience from ordering, stocking, clerking, doing the accounting – I had a lot of experience in farming and store keeping, but I had a plan.
I had a plan
My earliest dream was to be a soldier in the US Army. My plan was to join the army. When I was old enough, I volunteered, but was turned down. This was one of my earliest disappointments in life – I moped around for a while, then decided I needed to move on. So, I did the next best thing, I got a job on an army base. I moved rapidly in the ranks as a supervisor in civil service, and was waiting in the wings for a position in middle management. I had re-mapped out my life. If I couldn’t be in the army as a soldier, I’d work with the army as a civilian, work alongside soldiers, and make my way up the ladder. I had a plan and was working on that plan, when something happened – God had another plan – a plan before I was born. He had provided me to learn things that I would use in His plan [that I didn’t even know about].
God had a plan.
He started dealing with me to serve Him [I wouldn’t even say it for some time]. Hey, I can sing and play a guitar, maybe that will please God, so I volunteered as a musician with an evangelist, I started a multi-denominational youth group, doing the scheduling, promoting, get speakers for the group, etc. I thought I was doing something that God would be pleased with, but He wouldn’t leave me alone -He put me on the spot and told me to preach. I couldn’t do that. I had THE perfect excuse – I was so bashful I couldn’t talk before people. So, if I couldn’t do that, I couldn’t preach, plain and simple. You’ll have to find someone else. However, God has His ways to bring you around to His plan for you.
Have you ever been there? Abraham was there! Moses was there! Jonah was there! Simon Peter was there! And now I was there!
Abraham had a call. “The Lord said to Abram: Go forth from your land, your relatives, and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.’ Abraham was settled in a land, he had no reason to leave to another land; his father was there, his brothers were there; everything he had was there (evidently had great substance by then). Abrahm was being called by God to leave his native land, his family to take everything he had with him to go to a place he knew nothing about.
Can you just imagine? Picking up with bag and baggage and heading out to a place you have never heard of or seen before? That’s what Abram was called to do. Bear in mind, God said, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you.” But Abram had no concrete evidence of that promise. Abram had to go by faith; he had to walk by faith. In Hebrews it tells us Abraham obeyed and went by faith and lived by faith to become the father of a great nation.
Moses had a call! Well, you’re in good company. Moses was called to lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. Moses said to God, “I can’t do that, I stutter, they want listen to me. Moses did like I did, gave his valid excuses. God said, “Moses, what’s that in your hand?” “An old stick.” To make a long story short, that old stick led him through many a difficult time in his ministry. He answered the call and fulfilled his mission – to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, lead them through the Red Sea and into the wilderness for 40 years; he led them right up to the Promised land.
Jonah had a call! There is another guy like me, Jonah the son of Amittai. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach to that great and sinful city. Jonah didn’t want to go. He went in the opposite direction, and you know the story – he provided a great wind, a great fish to swallow ole Jonah, and Jonah, reluctantly went to Nineveh, the city repented, and God saved them. Jonah was not happy about that, he pouted, he was angry at God for not destroying that city. But he fulfilled his calling and accomplished his mission – to preach repentance to the Ninevites.
Peter had a call! Another guy like me was Simon Peter. He was a fisherman, a strong-willed old guy, probably red-headed, and wild, ill tempered, and often spoke before he thought. Simon, went as Jesus called him, he became an intern disciple with Jesus, he even became the first to stand flat footed and confessed that Jesus was the Christ, but when the going got rough, Simon, like me, he didn’t want to go there. When it seemed that Jesus had been set-up, was going through a mock trial, and was probably going to be executed, Simon denied that he even knew Jesus, and to make a point that he absolutely didn’t know the man, Peter cursed in his denial. Yet, at the descent of the Holy Spirit, that Jesus had predicted, Peter was the one who stood up and proclaimed the Word in such an inspiring way that 3,000 people were converted in a single day.
You have a call! So, when God calls you, and you hesitate, you don’t want to go there. Just think, you are in good company.
Abraham didn’t want to leave his land and go to a country he did not know; Moses didn’t want to go to Egypt and confront the Pharaoh to let the Israelites go; Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh to peach to that sinful city;
Peter didn’t want to divulge himself to a flogging and possible death; and
Me, I didn’t want to preach. That was the last thing on my bucket list in life was to preach. Not me, I can’t do that. I can’t even say “good morning” to a group of two or more people, much less stand up and preach to a crowd. Not me! No way!
It just ain’t gonna happen! You can just forget about that preaching stuff!
However, in God’s great wisdom, when he calls us to do something, He will make a way for us to get it done. He will even find a way for us when we try to run from him, to bring us back to our senses. In fact, I have been in several positions over the years where I have been challenged, confirmed (sometimes in a not so good way) to follow His leading in ways I did not want to go in.
I was waiting in the wings for the job I had waited for all my life, but God had another plan. My boss knew it before I did. He had been holding my resignation forms in his desk for almost three months saying, “All you have to do is put the effective date and sign it, I have known for some time that the Lord has something more for you to do than this job.” My pastor knew I was called before I admitted it to myself. In fact, many others who knew me, knew I was called before I admitted it to myself. It was kind of like I was the last one to know [or admit it].
I had an opportunity to hit the big time in music. Had an appointment to audition for Sun Records back in the day [when Elvis was the star], and things went wrong with that audition; in hindsight, God had a plan that didn’t involve me being in country music. I still love country music and country gospel, and I still sing a little country gospel at times, but that was not to be my primary calling.
After I had been in active ministry for a while, I was offered the job of a life time with a well-known motivational personality that would have put me on easy street for life, yet I knew I had to decline the position because God had other plans. People said to me, “Are you crazy?” “You have an opportunity of a lifetime.” In retrospect, my life would not have given me the kinds of opportunities I have had.
Guess what? God has a plan for our lives. We were born with parts to play. Some of us are stars, and some of us are support actors. I was not to be meant for glory. I was meant to bring glory to God by being a servant of servants of Christ. Our plans are not always God’s plan. Notice in the little diagram above that in God’s plan has a lot of ups and downs, but it is always an upward direction.
“Waiting In the Wings” is a song written by Alan Menken and Glen Slater that gives us a view of being waiting for the right moment, and finding ourselves where we really need to be, but it is never in the limelight, or stardom. Being there waiting for what God has next to us.
Guess we all are born with parts to play; Some of us are stars, and some are just in the way
I know I was meant for glory; But that’s never what my story brings; And yet I keep on waiting
When you have the passion and the drive; You expect your moment center stage to arrive
I show up with heart a blazing; Ready to achieve amazing things; But I’m left waiting in the wings
I hear my cue; And yet I’m kept there, waiting; Know what to do; And still I stand there, waiting
It’s always someone else who sings, While I’m left waiting in the wings
And so, I keep on keeping on; My chances come and then I blink and they’re gone
Always overlooked unfairly; While pretending that it barely stings; But it stings, yes it stings
And I’ll shed no tears; I’ll only keep on waiting; If no one cheers; Well, I can keep on waiting
Who cares how loud; The silence rings; You’ll find me waiting in the wings.
We have a role to play, and God know what that role is to be. The Apostle Paul says “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
In my early ministry I was called a by-vocational minister – I worked full-time as a job and served on a part-time basis as a pastor. Then I became a full-time pastor spending my full-time in ministry. I had several challenges during those years.
It seemed that my “calling” was to take dying churches and try to revive them. With almost 60 years in ministry, eight of my ten ministries were of that type of church, tittering on the brink of demise. And all of those churches survived.
One of the wildest, non-sense, risky calls I ever had was being called to a church 1,000 miles from home (leaving my native home, my family, my friends, a familiar way of life I was accustomed to) going to one of those dying churches, with about 20 – 25 people attending. The church had a great history and was at one time a spark of Christianity, but because of some bad decisions, she had dwindled away to almost nothing. I didn’t want to go there at first. I was determined not to go there; it made no sense at all [with any sense of human logic] to do such a thing.
We moved bag and baggage with no assurance of making a go of it (they had told us they could pay me for three months and then I was on my own). You talk about faith! Blind faith! If not blind faith, it was plain old stupidity.
We, like old Abraham, loaded everything we owned in a moving van to a (sight-unseen) parsonage in a strange community, in a strange state, with strange food, strange everything, to build a ministry in a last-ditch effort to keep the doors open of struggling church. We spent some time getting to know the people in the church, people of the community, learning how to eat their food [mostly foreign to us], how to talk in a way they could understand us, and how we could understand them. This was a complete culture shock!
In fact, I had turned down the call twice before God finally hit me over the head and I responded to the call. I relate to ole Jonah. I wasn’t swallowed by a whale, but God got my attention for sure. He had put me up against the wall.
I tried everything in my bag of tricks to develop a business or get a decent job to pay the bills. I even tried selling cars, worked at a motel, worked at a water system, digging ditches; worked as an exterminator (and I had a PhD at the time). Nothing, absolutely nothing happened. When everything was getting backed up, bills were piling up, I finally said, “Okay, God, I’ll do it your way.” Guess what! That church called again, they wanted me to come up again and preach and let’s talk turkey. Somehow, they got enough money together to fly us up there, pay for our hotel expenses, and feed us for the day, and we went. And God confirmed His calling in that service – they called us and we accepted all in one service.
To make a long story short, we never missed a paycheck in ten years, the church began to grow, 50, 60, 75, 100, 150, 180 in attendance and we became a part of the family there. Still after leaving that church some 15 years ago, we still have ties to many of the congregants there. We feel like family. They keep in touch. They are on my Facebook. We share birthday greetings, holiday greetings, just like family. Again, notice that what seemed to me like being a downward trend, God was moving me forward toward an upward trend.
During that ministry I became a volunteer fire department chaplain. That ministry grew into a full-fledged public safety chaplaincy in fire and law enforcement chaplaincy – sheriff, town police, state police, and an all-call chaplain with an Air Force Recruit Command. My chaplaincy grew over time, and after leaving that ministry I became Regions Chaplain with the FFC which gave me a world-wide ministry to some of the greatest men and women of God there is on planet earth, so much more than I could have ever dreamed of. God’s plan propelled me into an international ministry. Wow!
Had I not yielded to God’s will (even with much reluctance) I would have never had the opportunities I have had to encourage, to help, to mentor people the way I have had; to share Jesus (by actions) to the magnitudes I have had with places I’ve never even been, with people I would never have met.
So, if you are having a “call” that you don’t feel comfortable with, know what, you are in some pretty good company. Some of the greats in the Bible are people just like you and me, people who have had tremendous challenges in their ministries, but has given fruitful ministries to the glory of God. What a tremendous journey.
 Genesis 12:1
 Genesis 12:2
 Hebrews 11:8
 2 Corinthians 12:10