The reality is that sometimes when God leads us into the promised land, we must endure certain trials and testing. But, if we remain faithful, He will fulfill His promises. I can imagine the people of Israel wondering why they had to march 7 times around the walls and chant and blow trumpets. I’m sure they were confused, that is until the wall actually fell! Then they were able to see the promise come true.
After arriving in Kingsport and coming on staff @ Grace Place, my marching around the city walls began. I found myself wondering what I had walked into, and many more people besides me wondered the same. This church was founded on lies and built on sin. The people were dropping like flies because they had nothing to hold on to. There was no anchor in the Word and no spiritual direction. I was seeing Proverbs 29 :18 come true!
Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish
There was no articulation of purpose and vision. The leadership couched all of that in the idea of “What until the time is right....” There was no sense of need for spiritual leadership and direction. There was no desire on the part of the core leadership to start in prayer, live in prayer or rely on the standards of God’s Word. There was an unapologetic attempt at restoring the previous pastor to his post as the leader! There was justification as to why the standards of 1 Timothy 3 were not applicable here! There was a deep root of sin. The malaise was practically terminal.
The people, in general, had become focused on the idea that their efforts were the building blocks of this church. They did not give God all glory and credit for His church!But, as they became worn and discouraged, those blocks of personal achievement began to tumble. As they began to tumble, they fell on my head. The stress began to weigh me and my wife down. We began to become discouraged. Many times the blocks were hurled at us, as if it were our fault. Even as if our presence somehow caused the pain and hurt amongst the people. There was no credit given to a leader who falsely lead these people into the wilderness and left them there to die.
However, we held firm to the fact that God has directly answered our prayers and confirmed our call to this church. We began to wonder if God had, in fact, brought us here to teach us endurance and faith. And, when He was done, which we hoped was quickly coming, let us go. But, God’s ways are definitely higher than man’s.
As I began to confront the sin and neglect of God’s Word, the pressure began to grow. The result was an assault on my character, leadership and maturity. I had nothing except God’s Word and the truth within those pages to hold me up. I was accused of many things, called many names and trampled by many who I called friends. It was a season of pain. But, God was working the whole time, even when I was not watching.
God began to open the eyes of many people and they began to see the truth. Many times I wanted to defend myself, but I could not. I was reminded that God is my defender, vengeance is His! So, I had to endure this trial, and moreover, my wife had to endure this trial. Many times we neglect to take note of the pain many pastors wives go through in watching their husbands withstand the trials. They hurt as bad, if not worse in these trials.
Were it not for the encouragement of a few Godly men and women, I might have given up. Allison and I dreamed many days of going elsewhere and starting a new a fresh ministry. We longed for freedom from this trial. Yet, God would not release us from this call. I argued quite a bit with God.
Finally, after nearly six long months, I gave up. I quit fighting and decided to move on. I decided that I could not endure and could not handle it. In reality, I had simply let go of trying to be in control! I quit trying to be in charge. I quit letting pride cloud my eyes. It was in that very moment that God performed His miracle. It was amazing.....
Stay tuned for the next installment of our miracle!