I have constantly been on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger from the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. – 2 Corinthians 11:26
Tomorrow I will be 46 years old. I can’t believe how fast each year passes by. I remember when I was young hearing someone say, “The days may go by slow, but the years go by fast.” I thought that was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard. I sure get it now. This month also marks 30 years of salvation. When I was 16, I prayed by a lake to receive Christ into my heart, mind, and life. I had no idea what that decision would entail.
The Apostle Paul lived a comfortable religious life up until the day he got saved. As I read the book of Acts and his letters to people and churches, he endured so much. In a moment of reflection, he writes what we know as 2 Corinthians 11:26. He thinks about all that he has endured for the sake of Christ.
I read his list this morning and reflect on my own journey. For whatever reason, God seems to have me constantly on the move. I’ve been a Methodist, a Baptist, a Pentecostal, and a Non-Denominationalist. I’ve preached in churches, in high school auditoriums, Christian schools, on the streets, and in the woods. I’ve preached to my family in my living room, and to my cat in the garage. I’ve been accepted and well received by churches, and I’ve been rejected as well. I’ve preached at many places where God moved so powerfully, but people who hated me made sure I didn’t return. I’ve been received by non-believers, and I’ve been scorned by non-believers. I’ve been praised by my own family members, and I’ve been labeled as “old-fashioned” by them as well.
Needless to say, following Christ is tough. I will tell you when it was the easiest, though. It was easiest for those first five years when I was 16 to about 21. It was easy because I made almost no effort to truly follow Christ. I was nothing more than a church attender. I always knew I needed to go to church, but as far as following God and representing Him in my everyday life, that was pretty much out of the question. When it came down to His Way or the easy way, I almost always chose the path of least resistance. Nobody cared that I went to church, and nobody ever asked me about my faith as long as I lived, talked, and behaved like the world.
Something happened in my early 20’s. I saw myself heading to rock bottom. I wasn’t there, but I didn’t want to find out what it was like. I dusted off my Bible and started reading it. Time and time again I saw what a pitiful follower of Christ I was. I ended up giving Christ my life. I learned that there was a big difference in asking God to “come into your heart and forgive you,” and really giving Him your life. Once you are His, things change . . . big time. Friends leave you; girlfriends dump you, and things just seem to get difficult. You think that you find solace inside the church walls, but the closer you get to God in there you find all kinds of wolves in sheep’s clothing who are looking for either control or some sort of spotlight. Heaven help you if they think you are being more blessed than themselves. Heaven help you even more if you don’t fit their religious mold.
Paul would go on in the next chapter to say that God has shown him amazing things. I look at it the same way. Even with everything that I have gone through and with all that has been done to me, God continues to reveal Himself to me. No matter what I’ve done or how I’ve lived, I know God. What an unbelievable statement to be able to make. I am ever so weak, but I know a strong God. He truly does lead me in the path of righteousness for His Name’s sake. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Lord, thank You for letting me live another year. You have blessed me far beyond anything I could ever think or imagine. You have placed me in a great adventure. Thank You for everything that has happened to me, good and bad. I don’t want to stand before You in heaven and have endured nothing. I find myself seeking a life of ease here on earth, but it is the last thing I want to have lived when I stand before You. Thank You for giving me what I have needed and not just what I have wanted. I ask that You give me the desires of my heart for these next 30 years of following You. Give me a heart that desires Your presence above all else. Give me a heart that can shake off the hurts people deal to me. Give me one focus and one focus only . . . to follow You for the rest of my days. There is no one like You, God. I’m so glad that You let me in. I love You so much. Amen.