I remember that year very well. The congregation I was serving was asking me to stay for my 6th year. But before they even asked, my heart was made up. The Spirit was telling me that it was time. I just didn’t know what that “time” was going to look like. I thought I did, but boy, was I wrong. I met with my Superintendent and in those days, they were free to talk about places where they thought I might fit. He gave me 3 possibilities and 2 days to pray about it and give him my 1-2-3 preferences.
I did just that and when I called he said, “Oh, there’s another place that is open.” So, I told him that was my 4th preference. If you have insight and discernment, you know which place I was going to be appointed. When I arrived I learned the church had another split just a few months before my arrival. I had volunteered at the local fire department, but honestly I was putting out more fires at that church than I was for the fire department. I told God either HE or the Cabinet had made a mistake. I didn’t need this place and it’s chaos.
But something happened shortly after I arrived. One of the members came to me with her story. Carrie told me about her husband Joe. Joe only went to church when their kids were young, and even then only for special events. Their kids were grown and he hasn’t been back to church. She then told me more of her story. Carrie said, “Bro. Randy, God revealed to me over 20 years ago that Joe would be saved. You may be the one that God uses to make it happen.” At the time, I wasn’t so sure I had what it took; I didn’t, but the Spirit did.
One Saturday afternoon shortly after Carrie shared her story, I stopped by their home. Joe was out in the shop working on his boat. When I walked in Joe hid his beer can. I wondered why he didn’t offer me one. But two things stood out in Joe’s “Man Shop”—he loved to fish and he loved to hunt. I loved to fish and hunt. My first conversations with him was about fishing and hunting.
When the problems at church got really hot, I went to Joe’s to talk about fishing and hunting. It wasn’t long until he was inviting me to go fishing, and later on hunting. He knew a lot about both, and I knew very little. He mentored me on hunting and fishing, and I was mentoring him about Jesus—he just didn’t know it at first. I would invite him to worship and Joe’s answer was, “I don’t know, maybe.” This went on for months.
Then one Sunday as I walked into the sanctuary, there was Joe. I know my jaw hit the floor, but I quickly composed myself. I didn’t make a big deal out of it—I knew it would make Joe uncomfortable. After the service I shook his hand and told him I was glad to see him. We talked a moment about fishing, and he was gone. Then next week Joe showed up for Sunday School and stayed for worship.
Each Sunday I watched Joe grab the back of the pew in front of him, resisting God’s call and grace. After only 3 years, I felt worn out and knew I needed a change. An opportunity opened and I announced I would be moving. Joe and I talked about it, and he seemed to be OK with it. But each Sunday at the end of the service, Joe was resisting God with every fiber in his being and would never let go.
On my last Sunday there, I barely got the words out, “If there is a decision you need to make…” Joe literally came running down the aisle, tear streaming down his face. We knelt at the altar and Joe said, “If anyone can show me how this happens—it’s got to be YOU!” We talked and prayed and Joe became a follower of Jesus! Then it was brought to my attention, that 2 more people were crying. I shared with them and they became followers of Jesus.
And that afternoon, after 3 years of me telling God there was no purpose for me being at that church, I finally understood. God had a purpose and reason. His purpose had a name, Joe. And the other two, well they were just ice cream on top of the cake.
MORAL OF THE STORY
This week, the morals of the story is short and to the point. First, if God promises you something, never doubt it and be patient. Second, never doubt the places and situations God places you in, because HE knows what He’s doing—even if we don’t.