November 5th, 2011 marked my 16th spiritual anniversary in the Lord. I will never forget what it felt like the day I first met Jesus on 11/5/95 at my Mother’s kitchen table. I was 18 years old, a high school dropout, with drugs in my pocket, living with a girl I wasn’t married to, and a past history of being arrested 8x. Just moments prior I was cursing God and mocking the power of the cross. However, within seconds I was repenting of my sins and receiving the everlasting gift of salvation. Praise God, I have never been the same since, I was born again!
I thought now after 16years of following Jesus, being 34yrs old with a beautiful family, having earned a Master’s Degree in Religion, with three church plants, and over 13 years of full-time ministry service I would share some things I have learned along the way. I hope you enjoy them and they encourage you today!
1. Living for Jesus is Not a Sprint, but Rather a Marathon: Hebrews 12:1-3 talks about “running the race set before us with perseverance,” therefore, we cannot give up or just stick it out for a season but we must start and finish strong. I have seen so many people throughout the past years start following Jesus strong and run fast, but overtime lose steam, get tired, and quit. They all leave the race for different reasons, (a) felt the standards were too high, (b) were hurt by the church, or (c) let doubts takeover- however, the reasons do not matter much. The bottom line, they quit on Jesus.
Lesson 1: The race is not won based on who is the fastest, but who endures to the end.
2. Life is Not Fair: The books of Job and Ecclesiastes do a great job of explaining this. Many times “fairness” and “justice” do not come in this life. I have seen babies come to those who never wanted them and they get abortions, while godly parents have lost their children in miscarriages and infant death. I have seen the wicked live long prosperous lives, while some of the most righteous people I know live in constant trials and financial tests. I have seen pastors work a lifetime and lose their ministries because of what sinful staff members have done and at the same time I have watched churches grow overnight on a foundation of sand.
I have watched people fast and pray for years for their family’s salvation and they never saw it, while I have witnessed new believers come to church and within weeks “they and their whole household are saved.” I have watched some of my favorite “healing preachers” die of horrible illnesses well before their time, while those who never taught “Word of Faith” live into their 90’s. I have seen people leave churches wrongly, split churches, destroy churches, and still prosper in life- while dedicated disciples, who have served faithfully at the Lord’s feet have lost their jobs, homes, and faced terrible times in life.
I have seen the uneducated being interviewed to speak for a Christian nation to millions of people, while those who have spent their whole life in study of God’s Word only speak to dozens. I have watched many church planters close their churches because they held uncompromising to the Word of God- but lacked “shine and public appeal,” while those who rejected the Word and chose a path of compromise became the conference leaders of “church growth.” I have seen marriages end in divorce for ungodly reasons, the people remarry in sin and their life seems to prosper, however, I have watched godly couples stay committed to God and they suffer loss in this life.
Why? Life isn’t fair.
Lesson 2: When life isn’t fair, trust God anyways. He sees all and one day will tip the scales for righteousness and justice sake.
3. Jesus is The Only Thing That Lasts Forever: In Philippians 3:7 Paul states that He considers everything a “loss” compared to “having Christ.” After these many years I agree with this truth more than ever before. The joys of family are temporary, the successes of life all pass, the talents of men fade, but those who love the Lord abide forever. Even our greatest earthly treasures will pass away one day. The child will say goodbye to their parents at death’s door and then the child who is grown will have their children say goodbye to them when their time has come. The only thing that lasts in this life is Jesus. Therefore, Jesus is worth it all.
Lesson 3: Always remember to love God with all your heart and place His kingdom first, for it is He who gives and takes away.