Yesterday marked a significant milestone in my life and my walk with the Lord. I have been thinking about this article since the beginning of the year, and I can’t believe it is finally here. Yesterday, on July 16, 2017 I passed the milestone of serving the Lord for 20 years. Here’s what that journey has looked like and 10 of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far.
As a young man I came to the Lord in a small west Texas camp. I still remember the speaker, the message, and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. My life was forever changed on that day. I am forever indebted to countless people for their investment in my life in Christ over these last twenty years.
I’m not even going to pretend to be perfect. In these last twenty years there have been times that I have run away from the Lord and ignored his call. I have given Him a bad name more times than I can count. I even shot God the bird at one time. I’ve lied, cheated, stolen, and lusted. I’ve been selfish, self-centered, and self seeking. All of this and more.
The only constant in my life has been Christ. In my foibles and strengths, in my victories and failures, he has never left me nor forsaken me, just like we are reminded in Hebrews 13:5.
Even with the tremendous amount of sin and failings in my life I have had the honor and joy of witnessing:
- My still born nephew be raised to life,
- Miraculous financial provision for myself and others,
- People be healed from sickness and disease,
- Others be freed from depression,
- Marriages on the rocks be restored,
- And countless other testimonies.
The Lord has given me opportunity to work with different churches, to run my own gym that was more a ministry than a gym. I got to work at a camp in Maryland, and speak into the lives of some 5th grade boys for a whole summer. Now I get to minister through this platform and blog that the Lord has graciously worked through for the last three and a half years.
Over the last twenty years I have grown physically, mentally, emotionally, but most of all Spiritually. My theology and understanding of God has deepened and widened each year, but yet I still feel like I have barely even seen an iota of the surface.
I’ve come to realize, the more I know God and know about Him, the less I truly know. It’s a strange paradox of discipleship.
Here’s what I do know:
- The Lord is good!
- His mercies are new every day
- He desires fellowship and communion with us
- I have tasted the fruit of the world, and I know nothing compares to our Lord!
In this amazing journey of serving the Lord I have learned some life changing lessons that I wish I could go back and tell my self twenty years ago. Alas I cannot, so my prayer is that as I share them with you they will encourage and enrich your life. Share them with your children so they can learn them, and live by them.
Here are some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned over the years.
Be willing to change your mind
This is probably one of the biggest lessons I have learned. We often become ingrained with our ideology, theology, dogmas, and doctrines that we are unwilling to even hear out another brother or sister in the Lord who thinks differently than us.
The willingness to change your mind on a given topic shows maturity beyond measure. It’s not a vacillating, but growing and learning that causes us to minister the Lord regardless of the setting we are in.
Love trumps all
Being rooted and grounded in Love is essential to a deeper Christian life. Love is more than an emotion or way of acting; it is Christ incarnate that dwells within you. Living by the Spirit will always call you to love your neighbor as yourself, or as Paul challenges on a greater level, to consider others greater than yourself.
It is better to be disgraced or mistreated, than for Christ to receive a bad name. Am I perfect at allowing love rule every aspect of my life? By no means, I fail regularly, but I press on toward the prize.
It’s ok not to see the whole road, just take a step
Too often we become frozen with indecision unable to move. We become afraid that a decision will be the wrong decision. Personally I have had too many times in my own life in which I was too afraid to make a decision for fear of making a wrong one.
I have come to learn though that as long as we are acting within the bounds of love we can move forward. How do you choose when you have two “right” choices? You pick one. You move forward. You allow the Lord to be glorified in it. You don’t have to see the whole road, you just have to take a step.
You can’t live the Christian life
This goes hand-in-hand with being willing to change your mind. When I learned this lesson it changed my entire theology and outlook on the Christian life. For years I worked and toiled to “earn” God’s love and to please Him. The reality is that no matter how hard we try to live the Christian life we will fail. We can do nothing apart from Christ (John 15:5). It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20).
Knowing about God, is not knowing God
It’s easy read books, listen to podcasts and sermons, attend conferences, or learn strategies and techniques that expand your frontal lobe. The Christian life is about experiential relationship with a living God. We know God through experience and communion.
Knowing about God, is not knowing God. You can know about Bill Gates, but to know him personally is entirely different. There were many times I allowed my learning about God to substitute for my relationship with God, but that never satisfied. God desires you to know Him, more than you know about Him.
It’s better to be in relationship, than to be right
In a world of self-empowerment too often a person wants to be right about their view, their side of the story, their principles, rather than be in a relationship. I learned this the hard way when I almost lost a number of friends and clients by choosing to be “right.” In the end I chose relationship. Don’t allow your pride subvert your message or the cause of Christ. Whether it’s in your marriage, with your neighbor, or a coworker, choose relationships over being right because relationships lead to greater change than being right.
Read more about being in relationship than being right in this article.
Living un-offendable is a choice. When we fight against our brothers and sisters in the Lord, (or even against the world) to “be right” rather than in relationship, we are choosing to be offended. When you live un-offendable you set yourself in a place to build rapport with people in order to shine the light of Christ in their life.
After all it’s not about you (or me), but about bringing the reality of the kingdom of heaven to earth.
You can read more about living un-offendable in this article.
You can’t do it alone; don’t be afraid to ask for help
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. Metals are made stronger through the assistance of other metals, by making alloys. The devil wants nothing more than to isolate you from the body. His goal is to dismember Christ piece by piece.
Proverbs 27:17 tells us, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Strength is built in community when we can spur one another on to love and good works. Don’t be afraid to ask for help even if you have to pay for it.
Some of those “others” are professionals who charge for their work. If you need help in the arenas of mental, marital, or physical health seek professionals who can help you grow, and ultimately bring honor to the Lord in your life and relationships.
Beware of your pet peeves
It seems every Christian has a “pet peeve” whether it’s alcohol, abortion, social justice, cussing, homeschooling, having as many children as the Lord allows, or any other thing. Don’t allow your pet peeves to become the focus rather than Christ himself. Don’t sabotage the message of Christ at the benefit of your agenda.
Frank Viola has a section devoted to this topic in his book Revise Us Again.
Nothing compares to the Lord
Finally, nothing compares to the Lord. I’ve tried and tasted the world, and nothing compares to the Lord. Twenty years have passed and His name is just as sweet, His presence still breaks me, His voice still calms me and guides me, and nothing this world has to offer compares to the goodness of the Lord. What a Christ!
Friends, my prayer is that these ten lessons from my twenty years can help you in your walk with the Lord. I pray you continue to grow and the grace and knowledge of our Lord. And I pray that His life swells within you as streams of living water to a dying and dehydrated world.