As I promised, this week I will interject personal experiences I think could be helpful. However, because the title of this study is “The Greatest Christian Life,” I am not by any means implying my life is that. Some of the important things I am going to share are my mistakes with the hope they will help others avoid making the same ones.
Looking back over my life, I think I did fairly well as a disciple, but not as good as a bond-servant. I have struggled greatly with this aspect of my relationship with Christ. It took me twenty-five years of learning to be a bond-servant before I was promoted last year to the next level of relationship—being a friend. You can do this in a fraction of the time it took me. I missed some turns on the path of life that cost me years. You do not have to miss those turns, so I want to tell you where they are.
The main lesson in being a bondservant is learning to obey. To obey Him begins with knowing His voice. Under the Old Covenant, the people were repeatedly told to obey His commandments and heed His voice. Even then His people were required to know His voice. As we have covered, in John 10 we are told His sheep know His voice and they follow Him because they know His voice. All of His people are required to know His voice. I do not think I had much trouble learning to know His voice, but that is the fun part. I had a whole lot more trouble actually obeying His voice.
People regularly thank me for my obedience. I appreciate their encouragement. I have obeyed at times, and I have some accomplishments and victories from when I did. I think some people are so gracious they only see my accomplishments. Of course, others only seem to see my mistakes, but in truth, my life has been filled with both. At times some of my mistakes were so costly, I don’t think Jonah has anything on me.
Here is a big one. In 1982 I had a clear call from God to return to His service full-time. This came with angelic confirmation. Nevertheless, I ran from that call. I was still feeling so inadequate as a Christian leader that when the opportunity to start a business came along, I grabbed it. I deceived myself into believing I was building this business for the Lord. I did it with great zeal, for Him, of course, but actually it was in rebellion to Him.
I learned a lot during those years that I use now. He really will cause all things to work out for our good, but that is not the same as best. My business was quite successful for a time, and I was giving large amounts of money to His work. I do believe many, and maybe even most, are called to a ministry in business or a vocation, but I was not. I love business and business people, but I built mine in disobedience to God. He blessed it anyway, just as He blessed Ishmael. He will bless many things He will not inhabit.
It was during that time when I was not in God’s will that me and my family were vulnerable. The enemy used it to plant strongholds in my family I am still paying a high price for. Even though the Lord will use everything for our good, there is still a high price to pay for disobedience.
When my rebellion and pride were revealed, I repented. Immediately my businesses collapsed, as if a lightning bolt had struck them. Although I lost everything, I had not felt better in years. Within months it had all been restored and much added to it, without the stress. What I had built in my rebellion was not a foundation He could build on, but when I heard His word and obeyed, I was amazed at how quickly He made up all of the time I had lost. Even so, it will be much, much better if you can learn this without going through it as I did. Next week we will briefly cover just a few more crucial lessons so we can go higher with safety.