Sunday mornings, our church is tracing the master story-line of the Bible, through the Bible—the promised redemption brought about in its fullness by the person and work of Jesus Christ. I’ve entitled this sermon series From Garden to Garden, since we began in the Garden of Eden and will end in the heavenly garden of the New Jerusalem. This journey from one to the other, from the first promise God made to sinners until the final redemption, is fully accomplished because of our Savior’s surrender in a third garden, the Garden of Gethsemane.
Last Sunday, we entered the life of Abraham, the most revered patriarch of the Bible, and learned about biblical faith. To live and walk by faith means learning to depend upon the promise of God, and to trust the God who always keeps His promise. During that sermon, I shared a personal illustration which some have since told me they appreciated, so I thought I’d share it here.
I remember when the Lord first called me to the ministry of the gospel. It was early in the summer of 1984. I was saved for only about a month when, through daily Bible study, I sensed a desire building within me to serve God vocationally with my life. The more I studied the Bible, the more convinced I became that God was calling me. Within a few more months, I met the girl who would become my wife.
I can still see the scene in my mind, the place where I told her that I believed God had called me to the ministry. We were close to being engaged. We were sitting in her parents’ living room. She deserved to know what I was thinking. She needed to know that being in the ministry would mean there would not be the same kind of earthly security that other career paths typically bring (though I’ve never viewed ministry as a career). This would also mean I had no idea where God would lead us, or how many times He would move us around. And since we already knew we wanted God to give us the faith to receive as many children as He may give to us, our life would not be a cake walk.
I’ll never forget her response, which almost brought me to tears. “Paul,” she said. “If God has called you to the ministry, and has called me to be your wife, then I will go wherever He leads.”
So, we’ve moved a few times in our almost 32 years of marriage. In July 1986, six weeks after our wedding, we packed up everything we owned into a 14’ U-Haul truck and the back seat of our 1977 Toyota Corona. With $400 to our name, we moved 500 miles south so I could go to Bible college. During the day, I attended classes. In the evening, I loaded trucks at UPS.
Almost six years later, in February 1992, we moved again. This time we packed everything we owned into a 22’ Ryder truck, along with our 4 and 2/3rds kids, student loans and medical bills, and drove back to the city where we married. God had called me to pastor a church that had been all but destroyed by internal strife. Twelve members were left, and they wanted to continue the Lord’s work there. With the promise of a house to live in and a $200/month salary, we began to love the congregation to whom God called us.
Twenty-three years later, God moved us again. This time 500 miles east to Mayfield Heights, Ohio. Leaving adult children and grandchildren in Wisconsin was not easy, but God’s will is always best. And the older I get, the more thankful I am for my wife. The promise she gave me back in 1985 still holds true. Where the Lord leads, she follows—and does so without ever complaining. I am more blessed than I know.
So, what’s the point? The point is this: When God calls you to serve Him, in whatever way, in whatever vocation He chooses for you, you have to obey by faith. When you surrender the control of your life to the One who made you, planned how to use you within His plan, and redeemed you by the blood of His Son, then why would you want to be in control? Living by faith does not mean life will be easy. In fact, most of the time it will be very difficult. But when you give your life in service to Him there is the promise of His faithfulness to lead and guide, ultimately to our eternal home where we will receive eternal reward.