Looking back, Looking ahead…

I can’t remember the exact date, but it was around this time 4 years ago that our family decided to transition from the Atlanta, GA area to Greenwood, AR. I remember the summer of 2016 because I had been very busy. Along with my regular responsibilities that year as a student pastor, I also preached 2 additional camp weeks for friends, and took a group of high school students to Haiti. We also had to move 700 miles away from our home and family, enroll our kids in a new school, find a house, and begin our ministry in a new place. It was one of the busiest summers of our lives.

Looking back 4 years later, I am grateful that in the midst of all of our busyness, we were able to discern God’s call to Community Bible Church in Greenwood. Our church family is full of people who love Jesus and love us. There is no place I would rather be on a Sunday morning that with my CB Greenwood family. I have many friends who are pastors in many different parts of the country, and I would not trade places with any of them. Our family is better because we came to CB Greenwood.

When I think back on the process, it would have been an easy opportunity to turn down. While God had been transitioning my heart and I was ready to pastor, we could have stayed where we were and been happy. We had family close by, decades of friendships, and Kerrie and I were raising our kids in the same communities we were raised. It was home. I can remember my first conversations and communications with Community Bible, thinking to myself, “I don’t know if this is even possible; it’s just too far.” I had moments of doubt along the way, but knew God was leading us to a new place with new opportunities.

In the sermon on Sunday, we were studying Jonah 3. I made this statement in the message:

We underestimate the magnitude of what God can do through us if we will humbly repent and surrender our lives to Him.

It was one of those unique moments as a pastor that as soon as I made that statement, I knew that it was for me. When I am discouraged, my mind and heart can meander into a sea of anxiety, filled with questions and concerns about the activity of God in my life and ministry. When things aren’t happening as I think they should or if people are responding in ways I think they could, I begin to underestimate the things God is actively doing. This is the result of my own self-centeredness, and assigning the work of the Spirit to my own abilities and inabilities. But today in the message, I was reminded through the life of Jonah that what God has called me to today is the same thing He called me to 4 years ago: to humbly repent and surrender to Him; every day.

It doesn’t feel like it right now, but I know God is at work. I know He is moving in the lives of people, and I know He is active in the hearts of those that He has entrusted me to lead. But when I can’t see the ways He is working, I underestimate what He may be doing.

The great missionary William Carey lived much of his life in struggle. He was a pioneer in the missionary movement, and was a catalyst for many who gave their lives for the mission field. In 1792, in his first meeting with his newly formed mission society, he preached a sermon with the call for followers of Jesus to: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!” 

As a follower of Jesus, I wonder how often I live my life with no expectation for God to work in my life or the lives of others. I wonder how often I preach, teach, and lead with very little expectation for God to show up.

Jonah preached one of the shortest sermons recorded in the Bible and a nation repented and turned to the Lord. I wonder if he underestimated the response? I wonder if God showed up in a way that he did not expect?

My friend Dr. Jay Strack often told me that “the big doors of opportunity swing on the the small hinges of obedience.” If all I do is look around at what is happening in our world, and not happening in our churches, I will become discouraged. But when I remember that God simply calls me to repentance and surrender, I can live, serve, and love with an expectation that He is going to do BIG things!

I am thankful today for the journey, and praying God increases my faith, grows my expectations, and supplies me the courage to attempt great things for Him.