I Am Second – Faithful
“He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.”
This article is the third in the 4 part series that I am doing for the debut of the I Am Second’s Doug Bender’s latest devotional book “Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First“. I strongly recommend that if you haven’t read my first entry, that you do it now since it will shed a lot of light on the content of this post. You can read it here and the second entry here.
To get your own copy of this book and let it show you how you can Live Second too, click on the picture above and it will take you to an online order page for the book. As a disclaimer – I am NOT a paid contributor. I am writing all of this of my own free will.
In my first post in this series, I mentioned that I was raised a Christian and was taught the ways of a good Christian.
This post, I’m telling you, of a fact that, I was saved at the age of 6 and shortly after that baptized by immersion and so began my Christian journey. My father was an, Independent, Fundamental Baptist preacher; and so was until I was 11 years old. My mother passed away at the early age of 39 of cancer (we believe that it was the same type of Carcinoid Cancer that I have currently). After that point, my father left the pastorate and we moved to another town, another church (same denomination) and another life.
For some time I did as most people might do after a great loss of a family member, and that was mourn. Although, my mourning included, again as some would, blaming God for my loss and blaming myself for her death. “I wasn’t worthy to have a mother…”, “I didn’t love her enough…”, and so went my rants. I spent many a night lying next to my dog (my best friend and only friend) crying until I fell asleep with my head buried in her coat.
I went through quite a period for the next 4 -5 years where my life was just tossed around, it seemed. I had a new step-mom that hated me and my siblings – I was the stereotypical, proverbial, “Cinderella” , except I was a guy. I, literally, was made to do everything that she did in the movies (almost); I even had the evil step-sisters - 5 of them – and one brother. I knew what responsibility that I had, of course, given by God, to respect her as an elder and that of a step-mother, but that didn’t mean that I had to like her; and I didn’t respect her that much.
My dad saw to it that I continued in Christian education until I was in Jr. High school (I know, what’s that?) and since I was doing so poorly in my classes, I was held back in 5th grade and then finally asked not to come back for my 7th grade year. That threw me from the pot into the fire!
I was put into the public school system. I really didn’t do much better there either, considering, I didn’t WANT to do ANYTHING! For anybody. And especially do anything that might make my step-mom look good (I keep wanting to type “stop-mom”… I wander if the Lord is trying to tell me something…).
During this period, I was introduced to pot, hash, coke, porn, cigarettes, and quite a bit more. I was a different kind of guy in that cesspool. No one wanted to be my friend. All of the popular groups would kick me out of their circles and pick on me – talk about “bullying”. The only crowd that “accepted me” were the “freaks”, the “pot heads” and otherwise known as rebels. Just like me. Just different.
It wasn’t until the end of my 9th grade year that I witnessed one of my “freak” “friends” being hauled off in the back of a police car and I stepped outside of myself and saw myself in that police car, because I was doing the same things that he got busted for… I was someday, if I continued on the same path that I was on, going to end up there too. I really didn’t want that…
Up to that point I knew what I had been doing was wrong, but didn’t care at the time. Now, at that time, I’m starting to care… I didn’t want that to be me, so I decided right there and then that I was going to clean up my act. I was going to start back down the straight and narrow again. **Notice I didn’t say that I was turning my life over to Christ again.
One thing led to another and I became the driving force that made my evil step-mother and my dad “separate”. Notice I didn’t say the “D” word. My dad was a great man of God (and still is) and tried as best he could to give me the right influences in my life.
After their separation, I finally begged the Christian school, that I went to earlier in the story, to let me come back and that “I was different now”, “I was going to make it work”. They weren’t too sure about that, so they told me that if I memorize Proverbs 4 – the whole chapter – then they would put it up to a vote to see if I could come back, or not. I memorized that chapter backwards and forwards, verse by verse. They finally allowed me to come back. The problem was that, they found out, I flunked my 9th grade year because I told a teacher off. **Bad career choice here.
I had been put back in 5th grade again when my mom died, now I have to repeat the 9th grade due to my udder stupidity. I will do my time. Now, I’m the oldest kid in the class. My junior year I became the President of my class. My senior year I had to work almost full time, because my dad couldn’t afford that school any longer, then playing sports on top of it, to put myself through this school so I could graduate from a Christian school and not a public school.
It was “tradition” within our church’s youth group that we would all go to summer church camp for a week. It was notorious that everyone – mostly – would come back as someone “new”, they would get convicted and make life changing decisions to follow the Lord better somehow, than they did before. Some guys would come out “being called to preach or become a missionary”, the girls might “be called to be Proverbs 31 women (in training) and/or become missionaries or preacher’s wives or a missionary’s wife”.
That year I couldn’t afford to go to camp, I had to work at my new job instead.
When everybody came home from camp, I began watching my “best friend” and wondering if his new choice to follow the Lord was actually going to stick or not. After the second week, I realized that I was losing my best friend because I was beginning to be de-friended by him since we no longer desired the same things anymore.
After the 3rd week or so, I made my own decision to turn my life fully over to the Lord; for Him to do whatever He wanted to do. I don’t usually do things half-way. When I made this choice, it took a lot of soul searching for me, because I had a bunch of stuff that I had to quit doing or things to destroy/throw out, to clean up my life. All of my choices from there on out were going to be made by putting them through the “What Would Jesus Do?” filter (that was long before the WWJD movement started).
From that point on, I did everything that I could for God. I started really applying myself to my school work. I became a “spectacle” at work – the jokes were always on me, at least until I finally became their boss. I played sports to the best of my ability and gave the glory to God – and it seemed that He got quite a bit.
I became active in my church; I started working in our children’s church department as teacher/preacher/story teller/song leader – I saw quite a few children get saved and their lives changed; I started singing in our church’s choir every Sunday morning; I went out on “visitation” on Thursday nights, calling on people that we had leads on, as well as going out on our teen visitation every Saturday morning, where we went up and down neighborhoods knocking on doors inviting people to our church and witnessing at every opportunity. I was, personally, privileged to see many souls come to Christ in those capacities – and I was just a teenager. All of this seemed to make it obvious to me that I was being called by the Lord to become a pastor.
If you’ve read any of my previous posts and have followed parts of my life as I tell them, you already know that I wasn’t able to go to college after I graduated high school like all the rest of the kids. I had a situation where, my dad and I lived together in an apartment, since he and my step-mom had separated. He, since, had to take a job assignment in a different state. He offered to take me but I already was putting down roots where I was at. I had, what looked like, a “promising” future at the job that I was in at the time. I stayed behind. Problem: my dad left me with EVERYTHING! If I were to go to college, I had nothing to do with all of “my” stuff, now. I couldn’t put it into a dorm room, and that was the way I would have had to do it.
That sealed my fate… I became a salesman. Then a sales manager. Then a district sales manager… Then a salesman again…
…In the story of Paul in the passage above – remember, that is the reason that I’m telling you this epic mini-series – FAITHFULNESS!
As you can see by the turn of events in my life, I had times of fatness (spiritually) and leanness. I think of an analogy of the images of fitness gurus. On one side, you have the muscle men, the body builders; and on the other side, the marathon runners, all lean and slim muscled people.
Why do I draw this analogy? The muscle man is one who has gone to school or church and memorized a bunch of scriptures and even, in some cases, learned theology and doctrines and how to apply it to certain situations, primarily witnessing and daily life applications. But, these guys just hold it in; they have contests among themselves as to whose muscles are bigger or who can memorize the anatomy of the muscles or something better than the next guy. They retained all of that information. Wonderful!
On the other hand, we have the runner. He’s in it for the long haul. He may never see the inside walls of a gym, but he’s still strong. He might not be able to bench press 250 pounds like the body builder, but he could run farther and faster than the body builder. He was well conditioned to get in the race and press on and run miles upon miles. Body builders aren’t usually into too much of that cardio stuff.
My application is this; as Paul stated in another passage in Philippians 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” He was a “runner” for the Lord. Yes, Paul was very learned and smart. He knew the Old Testament backwards and forwards and he was even the head guy in the Sanhedrin before his conversion. After his conversion though, Paul put a pin into his balloon of an ego, being his knowledge of God’s Word, and popped it. He started letting it out and finally using his knowledge of God’s Word and using it the way God intends every Christian to do.
Drawing my story into all of this: During my life, I had good, even great things going on and then there were times where I just got fat and learned, and then there were times where it seemed that I was going backwards in my Christian life.
Yes, I admit that I believe I missed my first and highest calling, to be a preacher. Let me tell you something: Any man can preach! God allows us those ups and downs to build character within us. He would rather that we were straight as a pin, but if that were the case, we would be gods ourselves and we know that that just can’t happen because of our sin.
Sometimes I really hate character. Because, I know what it takes to build that character. I would have much rather followed the Lord’s call to become a pastor, but that didn’t happen. I am who I am right now and I can do NOTHING to change that and neither can anyone else, as much as they might like to.
God can and will still use us if we are or become faithful to Him and His Word.
Now, quite a few years and a whole lot of character later, I’ve finally succumbed to His will. I finally give up (continually) the reigns to my life and let Him guide it.
No matter how broken we are, God still has a plan for us and wants to use us for some reason.
Take a look at your life – right now – and find the ways that you are and aren’t being faithful to Him. Where do you need to make the changes? God really would rather not give us character building experiences. We can keep that from happening by yielding to Him and His will as soon as possible - RIGHT NOW. Don’t wait! Please, don’t wait! Some of those exercises that He lets us go through can be really, really hard to recover from… Someday, you might not recover from one of them…
God Bless You!
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©2012 Mark Davis
Read all of the I Am Second Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First posts:
This is post #3