Now, on December 17th, God hasn't opened up that next door of ministry. Neither has He brought us a buyer to buy the house. And tomorrow, Friday, we will pack up all of our belongings in a moving truck, pull out of the driveway on Saturday, saying good-bye to precious friends, and leave the keys to our house on the kitchen counter for the bank to come and secure our home and take possession of it. And we'll move to NC and as of January 1, we will have little to no income.
And you can be rest assured, I have been confused and questioning over these final couple of months of waiting. A few weeks ago, I had a fairly intense time of interrogating the Lord. My round of questioning went something as follows:
"God, why? I am the one who stayed faithful to Your Word. I am the one who refused to compromise Scripture for pragmatic purposes. I am the one who refused to sacrifice the global part of the Great Commission in order to build a local kingdom. God, I was faithful to You and to Your Word and faithfully preached it.
But now God, we are the ones who are suffering. We are having to say good-bye to precious friends. I am the one who is not able to do what You've called me to do. We are the ones who are losing our financial livelihood. We are the ones losing our home. It's our little girls that are having their lives pulled up and losing their friends too. It's our five year old who is having to change schools. God we were faithful, but we are the ones who are suffering."
And then the Lord answers in that way that humbles you and shames you, but at the end of the rebuke, encourages you. It was as if the Lord reminded me, "Why are you surprised by this? This is the normal outcome of those who are faithful."
"Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Tim. 3:12)"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it." (Mark 8:34)"For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also to suffer for his sake..." (Philippians 1:29)"...who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two; they were killed with the sword..." (Hebrews 11:33-37)
In this sinful, fallen world, this is what happens to God's people as they faithfully follow Him. I should not be surprised and really I should have never asked that question--I knew the answer. I've preached the answer many times. I've counseled that answer many times.
"Behold, you have instructed many, and you have strengthened the weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees. But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed. Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?" (Job 4:3-6)
And so while this is definitely not where we thought we would be two and a half years ago and while, in our minds this is not where we should be, this is where God always intended us to be. This is His plan, discomfort and all. And though it is uncomfortable, I am encouraged and thankful for a few things.
First, I thank the Lord for an amazing wife who has stayed by my side and who has suffered with me through this and who has spoken God's truth to me when I needed it the most.
I am thankful for our two little girls who are oblivious to all that is happening. They have demonstrated the child-like faith God wants me to have towards Him. Over these six months, it has never crossed their minds that their mom and dad will not take care of them. They have not worried or been anxious. They have simply trusted in the care and love of their daddy and mommy.
I am thankful to the Lord for my family who has stood by us and who is supporting us in so many ways right now.
I am thankful to the Lord for the amazing friends that God has given us here in Tennessee. Leaving them will be tough, probably the toughest good-byes we have ever had to make in ministry. However, we praise the Lord for them. Their support in this time has been an evidence of God's grace sustaining us through this trial.
I am thankful for the unexpected and surprising faithfulness of the Lord as He continues to provide for us and meet all of our needs.
I am thankful for the privilege of suffering with Christ. I hesitate to even call what we have been through, "suffering," when there are brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who are giving their life for the cause of the Gospel. But to whatever measure this can be considered suffering for Christ, I am thankful that He has counted us worthy to endure it and has chosen to use us to glorify His name through this trial. I am thankful He has given us this gift. I pray we will be found faithful.
I am thankful for God's sustaining grace in the midst of this trial. Our ability to persevere in the midst of this is evidence of God's grace. It is not natural to go through what we are going through and to lose what we are losing and still be able to laugh and trust the Lord and His Word. I cannot do that. In my strength, I would have folded a long time ago. I would have compromised and not been faithful. But thankfully, "...it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13)
Finally, I am thankful for Jesus--the perfect life that He lived in our place and the perfect death that He died on our behalf on the cross. It is only because of Jesus, who He is and what He has done and continues to do, that is the reason for all of the above. God's grace flows to me in the cross on which the Prince of Glory died and from the cross. No matter what the bad news is for the day, the Good News of Jesus is always present. It is the Good News that Jesus died for our sins and rose again for our justification that sustains us. It is the gift of Jesus Himself that is enough for our family in the midst of this trial. No matter what happens, because of Christ, we are doing better than we deserve.
"Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." ( Isaiah 43:19)"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places." (Habakkuk 3:17-18)