As I mentioned earlier, due to my poor health, Bob and I left staff with Cru and Bob became a pastor at our home church. His main focuses were missions and the college ministry – both suited his core call in many ways.
Every summer, he was responsible for planning and putting on a huge outdoor picnic. The picnic helped to kick‐off the summer and also provided a way for our church members to share the gospel with the surrounding neighborhood. It was always an encouraging day – hundreds of people gathered to worship and spend the afternoon together.
Several years ago, after all of the picnic festivities concluded, Bob had what he calls a “spiritual epiphany.” Earlier that weekend, we learned that the founder and president of Cru, Dr. Bill Bright, had passed away. Dr. Bright’s love for Jesus and life of faith always inspired Bob, and the Lord used his death to challenge Bob in a fresh new way.
Throughout the weekend Bob took inventory of his life and examined afresh his purpose and call. Upon returning home after the picnic, he turned on the TV only to find the Public TV channel rebroadcasting an interview with Dr. Bright conducted a year earlier. The interviewer asked Dr. Bright, “How would you like to be remembered?” Dr. Bright’s classic answer: “As a slave of Christ.”
The Lord used that statement, which Bob heard Dr. Bright repeat on many occasions, to pierce his heart. He realized that although he’d been involved in church ministry for ten years, he’d lost his passion for Christ and the Gospel. He was no longer walking by faith, but was comfortable and settled – too comfortable and way too settled.
After wrestling with the Lord, late that same night, Bob wrote a letter of resignation. He spent the next day explaining his decision to the pastors and elders of the church; then, he called me late in the afternoon to tell me what he’d done. On one hand, I was quite surprised (as you can imagine), but on the other hand, I sensed something exciting was about to happen. Just a week before, I’d visited a new doctor who said, “I think I can help you.” I’d waited ten years to hear those words. God was on the move.
The church, graciously, refused to accept Bob’s resignation. Yet, we knew God was preparing us for a change. We waited, prayed, sought counsel from good friends, and listened for the Lord’s direction. In the meantime, my health began to improve slowly and ever so slightly. About nine months later, we were invited to visit a Cru summer project in Lake Tahoe. The students were studying Philippians and using a Bible Study guide that I’d written, so I was asked to speak to the project. We spent several days chatting with and ministering alongside the staff, and also encouraging students in their walks with the Lord.
One morning, having coffee and reading our bibles at the base of the “Heavenly” gondola, we discussed our future. Right then and there, our core call flooded back full‐force. It was clear: the best place to invest our lives and follow through with God’s call was on the staff of Cru. Four months later, we began raising support. In January of 2005, we joined 100 other New Staff in Daytona Beach, Florida for training. We were the oldest New Staff there, but I think we had the most fun.
My point in sharing this portion of our story is two‐fold. First of all, there’s nothing more amazing, frightening, or exhilarating as following Jesus Christ. Second, the Lord uses our core call to guide us throughout our lives. Bob was 53, I was 46, and we’d been married for almost 23 years when we began what we call our “third missionary journey.” Yes, our vocation and location have changed several times over the years; but God’s call upon our lives has only strengthened, matured, become more refined, and much more certain.
During my ten years in the “wilderness” of poor health, the Lord helped fulfill my long‐time dream of writing Bible Studies. One of my favorite projects was creating a study on the book of Philippians. The Lord led me to write Living Passionately for Christ at an especially discouraging point. Throughout my Christian life, I desired to live wholeheartedly for my Savior. My sense of “call” was strong and I wanted my life to count. Yet there I was, sick in bed, unable to “do” much of anything. The apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church in Philippi from jail, confined, held prisoner, simply because he was a follower of Christ.
Paul didn’t view his imprisonment as an interruption in his ministry; instead, he used it as an opportunity. He wrote:
“Now I want you to know brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well‐ known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear” (Philippians 1:12‐14).
A few verses later he exposes the true intent of his heart (his core call perhaps):
“...according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20‐21).
As you forge ahead in your journey with the Lord, you will face storms, hills and valleys, barriers, temptations, highs and lows. The Lord will use every experience to deepen your love for Him and consequently your desire to follow His call. The decisions you make today will affect your life five, ten, twenty years down the road. Look into the future and describe where you hope to be with the Lord in ten years. I’ve included he following questions to prompt your thinking.
How will you choose faith in the midst of sorrow or listen for God’s voice in the midst of confusion?
What steps can you take to follow Christ even when those closest to you disagree?
In light of your current circumstances, what does this phrase mean to you: “With all boldness, Christ be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”?
Go back to your core call and ponder what you have so far. Remember that you want to keep it “open‐ended,” a statement that will apply to your life five, ten, twenty years down the road.
I’d encourage you to take some good time with the Lord. Maybe take a Saturday morning and get away from the familiar. Turn off your cell phone, leave the internet at home, and bring just your Bible and journal. Take a look down the road of your life. Process your future and your heart’s desires with the Lord. Read. Listen. Pray. Listen. Surrender. Listen. Follow.
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