The date was November 6, 1983. There was an altar call after the evening service that night, and my whole body shook as the pastor gave the invitation. Though I was embarrassed, I knew I couldn’t leave that service until I surrendered my heart completely to the Lord! I had seen a burning bush, and my life would never be the same.
After the service, I remember praying that the Lord would use me fully for His glory. At the time, however, I had no idea what I was really asking for or what the cost of my request would be. Somehow I missed the fine print about the journey of faith being a ‘narrow road’ when I signed on the dotted line!
Just as Jesus was baptized in the Jordan and immediately sent into the wilderness, I was tempted and tried after my commitment to Christ. Unlike Jesus, however, I didn’t pass my tests so well, and chose a course for my life that wasn’t God’s best. The result of my disobedience was struggle and pain. Though I would never want to live through those years of suffering again, I am deeply thankful for the fruit that came through that time. The strange thing is, I don’t know if I would have been prepared for the ministry God called me to later in life had I not suffered.
On my narrow road of trials and suffering, I learned that pain is a powerful tool in the Lord’s hands. The Lord is the master redeemer who takes our mistakes, other peoples’ mistakes, and the sorrows of this world and uses them as tools to shape us into the image of his Son. In Christ, the stones that cause us to stumble can become rocks that slay giants if we use them for the Lord’s glory!
I love the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. He dreamed about his destiny as a teenager and then spent many years being prepared to fulfill it. The Lord used pain to make Joseph a vessel who could carry the authority God would one day give him to save his own people. The narrow road to Pharaoh’s palace in Eqypt was one of pits, slavery, false accusations, and dungeons. Joseph proved himself faithful every step of the way, and in the end God promoted him to the highest position in the land, second only to Pharaoh!
The truth is, none of us can fulfill the Lord’s highest purpose for our lives – only Christ in us can do that! To be fully used by God, we must learn to die to ourselves that He might live through us, but few of us are willing to walk that costly road of surrender. Like a McDonald’s value meal, we want our promotion to happen by the time we get to the drive-through window with no personal cost. What we may not understand, however, is that personal cost is the road to the wonderful plan God has for each of us!
When we are faced with trials, we have two choices. We can either get stuck in discouragement and give up, or we can follow Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2) In Christ, there is no transformation without a cross. There is no shortcut, but there is joy on the other side! God can use our deepest sorrows to bring us to the land of our destiny.
Finally, the best news of all is that the Lord never leaves us alone on the journey. We always have the Holy Spirit as our guide, our strength, and our comfort. There’s even joy on the journey as we discover God’s presence with us and in us at all times! Because Christ dwells in us, we don’t have to fear pain anymore. As Paul said in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
So here I am today – a very long way from where I was on November 6, 1983. If I could speak to the young Jean who was taking the first steps on her journey of faith that day, I would say, “Don’t be be afraid and don’t give up. The road of your highest calling in Christ might be narrow, but there will be joy along the way as you keep your eyes on the Him. And remember, little Jean, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it. (Phil 1:6)
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:14)
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