What do you do when God ruins your plans? What do you do when God takes the script of your life, the one you were sure God had written for you, and in the middle of your life He rewrites the script and completely changes the life you thought He wanted you to have?!
Real faith in the arena of life will never, ever, ever be learned sitting in a church service. Church services did not teach Joseph how to survive the catastrophic betrayal of his whole life by his brothers! Going to church did not teach Joseph nor enable him to cope with the complete destruction of life as he knew it! Going to church did not teach Joseph how to survive the horrific injustices rained down on him by his wicked brothers, the subsequent life of slavery he was subjected to, and the loss of all his rights. Going to church did not teach Joseph how to survive, process, or cope with the wretched, filthy lies and false allegations of rape that he was egregiously subjected to by Potipher’s wicked wife. Going to church did not teach him how to survive 13 years in a filthy, stinking prison, robbed of all the previous freedoms and the life he had once known.
Going to church did not teach Noah how to handle the complete destruction of his world and the entire planet, and how to rebuild his life after such a horrific, utterly destructive loss of all he once knew. Going to church did not teach Noah how to cope with the horrific stench of death and dead bodies that surrounded him on every side! Noah did not go to boat building school and always dream of being a zookeeper and a shipbuilder. That was not in his life plan.
Going to church did not teach Esther how to let go of all her dreams of married life to a nice Jewish husband, attending synagogue every Sabbath with her beautiful little Jewish babies for a life in the harem of a wicked Persian king. It did not prepare her to be, in one sense, his property, his plaything, to do with as he liked, and to cope with all the losses of her life, the deep sorrows, and risk all that was left to save the Jewish people.
WHAT DO WE DO WHEN GOD TURNS OUR LIVES INSIDE OUT AND UPSIDE DOWN? WHAT DO WE DO WHEN GOD HANDS US A SCRIPT WE CAN’T STAND, A ROLE TO PLAY THAT MAKES US SUFFER AND CRINGE WHEN WE READ IT?
Friends, I cannot begin to tell you to how deeply this all resonates with my heart and soul, and the circumstances that God has allowed in my life, and my journey over the last almost 44 years. God has taken the script of my life, more times than I can count, and rewritten the journey and path I thought He wanted me to take, the one I was sure He had me on.
This article is deeply personal to me. My faith has cost me a great, great deal, and it has all been learned and acquired in the brutal Colosseum of life. There have been emotional blood and guts, lots of sorrow and pain and thousands of buckets of tears. The stresses and the strains, the traumas and abuse have left a permanent impact on my life.
Church did not prepare me for the brutal rejection of my fiance’s family.
Church did not prepare me for the excruciating car accident my fiance and I were in, that upended our whole lives and brought us even more rejection and hurt from her family.
Church did not prepare me for the eleven years wait, filled with disappointments and delays, of becoming a pastor when I thought for sure it would take 4 years.
Church did not prepare me for the savage criticisms, the terrible betrayals, the gut-wrenching losses, and the incredibly hurtful lies and slander I would endure as a servant of God!
Church did not prepare me for the 7 long, arduous, painful, heartbreaking, years filled with emotional pain and anguish of watching my precious child suffer multiple illnesses, terrible pain, abuse at the hands of medical professionals, the losses she endured, afflictions we had to withstand, and the cruelty inflicted on us by others!
Church did not teach me the faith I would need in my 62nd year of life after 32 years of ministry, to watch all I had worked for deliberately burned to the ground by others I trusted, my godly reputation assassinated and destroyed, my livelihood gone, and my family, my precious family deeply hurt and betrayed beyond what I can describe!
My dear friends, God has taken my life, my journey, and time after time, He has rewritten the script! He has given and asked me to play a role that I would have never dreamed, wanted or asked for!
It is only in the brutal arena of life that any of us learns genuine, authentic, deep, abiding, meaningful, sustaining, precious faith in God.
Did you know that the most precious thing to God in you is your faith in Him? It was the faith that God commended and approved in the days of the Old Testament men and women. God cherished their faith in Him. What a price so many of them paid! I think often of Daniel, quite possibly watching his parents be slaughtered and killed in front of him, as he was dragged off to Babylon. I think of Daniel as the Babylonians most likely castrated him, as was the custom of that day, with slaves in the ruler’s court and Daniel’s dignity stolen from him, the pain and shame he must have felt and endured. I think of Daniel, never marrying, a single man into his 80’s when he was thrown into the lion’s den. My friends, these are the things no one really tells us about or prepares us for, do they?
And yet, they have been a reality for me in so many ways in the almost 44 years now I have followed my precious Savior.
You see, in America, we are told to dream big, we are told anything is possible, we are told to make our dreams happen, to only believe, we can achieve. Our Christianity has, in so many ways, been infected with Americanism, with an ideology that is the antithesis of what happens in the life of a faith-walking, God-honoring, person of faith! In fact, many churches, many TV preachers are actually teaching the same misinformation through their prosperity gospel lies! I know, I have seen them do it first hand!
I am here to tell you that nothing is more important than your faith in God, nothing is more significant than your genuine faith in God. That faith will be tested in ways most cannot imagine.
I am here to tell you, as a living witness, as a person whose faith has cost him so dearly, so painfully, so deeply. In fact, it has cost me everything! God will not betray you or fail you, even though He may rewrite the script of your life, and ask things of you, things that seem so unfair, so unjust, so not right! Things that seem to make no sense at the time.
My friends, you may think I am against the church. I am not. I heard many of the old stories of Bible faith at a church service. I learned principles of faith at a church service. I myself, as a pastor for 32 years, taught principles of faith and biblical concepts of perseverance through great trials, during my church services. I am simply stating that it is only out in the arena where the brutal savagery of life, people, and circumstances happen, and God hands us a script with a role we did not expect, nor ask for, that our faith either grows or dies. It either clings more tightly to God, it either digs its claws into the Almighty and decides to cooperate with God, trust God, accept the role He has asked of me, in this time in my life, or I give up, and slowly begin to turn against the very God I love so much.
My dear friends, I write this to all of you from a heart that is filled with compassion and empathy for the great difficulties that I know many of you are currently going through. I write from a heart full of tender emotions, with a heart full of understanding of just what it is costing so many of you to put your faith in God right now when it seems so frightening, so painful and costly, and so different than you expected.
My dear friends, I have experienced first hand, in many of the stories of my life I referenced above, the eventual illumination of some of God’s divine purposes. I have experienced first hand, in the stories of my life above, and the painful ways God rewrote my life’s script, the amazing faithfulness of God. My life today does not look like I had imagined just 19 months ago. The rest of my life does not look like I had imagined. I may never be asked or invited to preach a message again in my life or speak at a conference. However, I know I am God’s. I know He will keep His promises to me, even though He may do it in ways I did not expect, nor I would have chosen. I know God will meet you in your confusion, pain, deep trauma and difficulties as He met me, held me close, heard and collected my tears, comforted my broken heart, and somehow brought me through a seemingly catastrophic thing that I thought was killing me.
Last year, on a terrible, awful morning in February of 2018, God showed me this verse in Isaiah 41:9 (NLT), “For I have chosen you and will not throw you away!” As soon as my eyes took this in, I fell to the ground sobbing. How did God know that this very phrase was exactly what I was feeling? After 32 years of faithful, steadfast, sacrificial service, I was being thrown away in the most horrific way you can imagine. In fact, just 4 months later that is exactly what happened! I have looked at this verse every single day now for the last 16 months.
GOD WILL NOT THROW YOU AWAY. God will somehow, in all the confusion, pain, heartache and fear, and even at times our despair, God will, by His direct power and influence, work your situation for good, though that faith will cost you, and that experience will most likely leave a lasting mark and deep scar on you. GOD IS DEEPLY HONORED BY A FAITH THAT COST YOU SO MUCH.
I cannot thank each and every one of you enough for your prayers. I need them today as much as I ever have.