My view of God has grown through personal devotions in many ways. For one, my view of God’s majesty and sovereignty has expanded into greater depths and heights. I am hungrier for God’s presence than I first was as a new believer. The romance and idealism has died down since those days as an 18 year-old, unchurched zealot, but my love for Him has grown. I’m now in a place where I long to be with Him early in the morning, while it is still dark and no one else is awake. There are certainly days when I’m less disciplined and sleep in, but on better days, those quiet moments of prayer, scripture meditation and hot coffee are filled with blessing and the richness of God’s presence. I see the Lord in a greater light of holiness now than ever before. I see his mercy and love for me in every day experience. I understand that His Will is so far beyond mine that none of my futile, narcissistic plans will ever come to fruition. I desire to wait on His timing, though everything in me fights this incessantly.
My view of God has also expanded through ministry and life experience. When I was first an intern at a medium-sized church in the suburbs, I was an idealistic rebel. Everything in me wanted to take the role of Jesus vs. the Pharisees, no matter how naive and uninformed I was in my quest. Whenever I saw hypocrisy, lukewarmness and complacency I would shoot my tongue out like Cephas before Christ’s murder and ressurrection. This zeal to reach the lost and broken, in my fight against my own religiosity and comfort, led me to work in more urban settings. While doing all these things I became unsettled and the root of bitterness spread throughout my soul like a festering sore. I realized I had become an addict to my own image. I wanted everyone to think I was a radical Christian, but wasn’t really sure that everything I was doing was in the power of the Holy Spirit. This led to an era of break down and searching. I went back to the church I was an intern at and sought to reconcile with people I had been bitter towards. I returned to school to finish my degree and Trinity, and refined my theological understanding. I began to see that God has a love for the prostitute, the homeless man, the rich CEO, the apathetic complacent pastor, and the egomaniac like me. When it comes to the cross the ground is even. This has led me to where I am at now, working within the church and seeking to honor Jesus and make Him known to both Christians and non-Christians alike. I never do this perfectly, but strive with the power that the Holy Spirit has given.
I have had success because of God’s blessing. The greatest successes I’ve had is seeing hard to reach people and cynics come to Christ. This is why I believe that the Lord called us out to New England, because both my wife and I have a heart for the hard to reach. Sarah and I both grew up outside of the church and have a love for people with spiritual interests that don’t necessarily understand Jesus or His people.
I can say with great assurance that our successes in ministry have not been monetary! In fact, we have taken harder jobs with less pay, and continued to simplify our lives as a result. Currently, we’re sharing one car and living in a small apartment. We don’t have cable TV, and we’re thinking of dropping down to using one cell phone for both of us. We’re doing ministry in the highly unchurched area of Conway, New Hampshire, a ski/mountain town. It seems at this point that we’re one of the few churches in town that is teaching the bible, and one of the only ones that is growing. We’ve started a youth group that has grown from no one to twenty kids. We have a small group that meets on Tuesday nights that is geared towards intellectuals and non-believers. We’re part of a church re-plant that has grown from 40 people to 140 people in the past year and a half. We’ve seen people come into a true relationship with Jesus in this body of believers. God is doing great things, and these are the greatest successes of all, despite the financial struggles and continued dependence on the Lord for provision.
Yet there have been myriad failures along the way as well. My greatest failures have been due to impetuousness. Like Peter, I’ve often wanted to jump ahead of Jesus Himself before understanding exactly what He’s asking me to do! Every failure I’ve had can be summed up this way. I haven’t had obvious moral failures like adultery or pornography, drug or alcohol problems while I’ve been in ministry (before I was a Christian I had all these problems for sure!). God help me never to fall in this way, for we are all prone to failure, but He is stronger! My failures have been due to a lack of taming my tongue, or lashing out in anger at someone because they rubbed me the wrong way. I’ve had to learn to shut my mouth and pray for awhile, allowing the anger to pass, and in the midst of this I’ve found great blessings, seeing God work the situation out better than I could. In these moments I’ve just as well experienced refining from the Lord that has been painful in the present and sweet in the aftermath.
My view of myself has also grown through personal devotions. My outward narcissism and inward insecurity have been replaced by a trust and reliance in Christ. Every day I seem to become bolder in my witness, and yet more tactful as well. If it weren’t for the Word of God, these things would be impossible.
I also have greater confidence as a man and a provider. Being raised by parents of the 60’s often led me to a lack confidence or understanding of what it meant to be a spiritual leader of my wife. Before I really studied it, I thought the Bible portrayed manhood as akin to Wally Cleaver, and wanted nothing to do with archaic 1950’s chauvenism. But now that I’ve seen the beauty and love that’s described in Ephesians 5, I’ve been given great strength and courage from the Lord to lead my wife well by example, with strength, courage, provision, devoted love and understanding (though I have my moments of impatience of course!)