This week I was asked to write on the following topic:
“When you set out to follow God’s direction for your life, there will be some things that the Lord leads you to start… What is God calling you to start? There will also be some things that He calls you to stop… What is God calling you to stop?”
I’m going to change things up a bit with this devotional. Just for today, I’m going to spare you from my usual long and drawn-out theological argument. Today, I just want to share with you a story about when God called me to start something.
Some of the most influential factors of change in my life were not theological arguments, but personal testimonies of a person’s walk with God through a certain situation and what they learned about God in the midst of that situation. So, I hope you can find something helpful in my story.
The Lord saved me in January 1998, just before my 20th birthday. Before the Lord saved me, I had my whole life planned out. I had wanted to be a horse vet since junior high, and everything was right on track for it to happen. I had been a horseshoer since I turned 17. I was working one day a week with a vet who had already offered me a job after I completed vet school. And I was only four classes away from completing all the prerequisites to get into the vet school at Texas A&M. I was in the process of making my dreams come true. Nothing was going to get in my way. At least, that is what I thought.
Have you ever noticed how God can really mess up a person’s plans? I hadn’t before this particular time in my life.
About a year or so after the Lord saved me I remember fumbling around trying to witness to two of my friends in their apartment one night. I don’t remember anything I said, but I will never forget what one of them said to me. My friend told me that I would make a good preacher. I remember this so well because this was the moment that everything began to change for me. I just couldn’t get that comment out of my mind.
Over the next six months or so, all I could think about was that I wanted to spend my life sharing God’s Word. The desire to share his Word continually grew, and the desire to be a vet started to fade. I even started to feel that becoming a vet would be a waste of my life. Now, this was a very scary time in my life, because I had been heading in a certain direction since junior high, and now my desire for that life was being stripped away. A new desire was being placed in my heart. By the end of the six months, I found myself filling out an application for Bible college instead of vet school.
God had called me to abandon the plans I had for my life and to begin a new direction. Was it scary? Yes. I thought about dropping out of Bible college my first semester because I was assigned to read a book that was just too hard to understand. In the first 10 pages, I found more than 100 words, Latin phrases, and names that it seemed I was supposed to already know and understand before picking up the book. I was so intimidated by all the reading I had to do. I was a slow reader and a horrible writer. But God had called me to start Bible college, so there I was.
I started Bible college in 1999 and graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in 2012. During that period, I tried to take many detours. I kept getting distracted by other things. I never tried to abandon my call to complete Bible college, but I wasn’t in a hurry to finish it. I had other things I wanted out of life. I tried to change careers a couple of times. I took a break from Bible college to take college classes with my wife to become a nurse. I got accepted into nursing school in 2007. That is how far I strayed from God’s call for me. But I ended up giving up my place in nursing school, because one thought kept coming into my mind: The last thing God said still stands. He hadn’t told me to go to nursing school. The last thing he had said was go to Bible college.
I hadn’t heard a clear word from God in many years. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t heard anything from him concerning my future since I heard his call to go to Bible college. But I realized that, if he has been silent on the matter for eight years, maybe I should just stick with the last thing he said to me.
The last thing God said still stands.
If you get anything out of this story, let it be this: Why should we expect a new word from God if we have neglected to finish the last thing he told us to start?
If God takes the time to tell us to start something, then we should focus on that until it is finished.
I finally finished my Bachelor’s degree after 12½ years. But, even after I finished it, I did not get a new word from God. I finished the degree that God told me to get. Why was he still silent? Well, I figured that maybe it wasn’t just about getting a degree. Maybe it was about preparation. I kept thinking, the last thing God said still stands. So I just kept learning and growing in my knowledge and understanding of God. I felt kind of lost, having finished the degree years ago and still not getting a new direction for my life or having a ministry to be in, but I had to keep reminding myself that the last thing God said still stands. So I would keep preparing until he told me something new.
Then, in February 2016, 17 years after hearing God’s call to go to Bible college, God broke the silence and gave me a new call. It wasn’t an audible voice, but I knew it was him. I felt God tell me two things: preach the gospel and go to Ghana.
The funny thing is that I never wanted to leave the country. I have always been scared to set foot out of the United States. I always figured someone would try to smuggle drugs using my suitcase, and I would die in a foreign prison. Also, over the years, I had preached a little and learned that I was possibly the most boring preacher the world had ever seen. So don’t say God doesn’t have a sense of humor. He called me to do the two things in the world I feared most. I feared leaving the country and I feared being the worst preacher the world had ever seen. And these are the two things God called me to.
Well, in June 2016, I went to Ghana and preached the gospel there. And I’m going back in January. And I will keep going back and keep preaching the gospel. Why? Because the last thing God said still stands. It may be another 17 years before I hear a clear call from him. It may even be 30 years. But I will need to just keep going and keep preaching until he tells me to do something else or until I die, because the last thing God said still stands.
Whatever God has told you to start, just keep doing it until he tells you to do something else or until you die. Why? Because the last thing God said still stands.