“You will never influence the world by trying to be like it.”
Today is a very fulfilling day for me. Twenty-five years ago, I didn’t see this day coming. That speaks more to my lack of faith than anything else. This morning I’m at the Brick Church in Walworth and I have the privilege of preaching for the Installation Service for my good friend, Bill Lincoln.
God’s work and hand on Bill’s life is nothing short of miraculous. Many years ago, Bill’s wife, Kathy, found our church. Though Bill knew Christ and had been active in his church as a teen, with the pressures of work and raising a family, he’d dropped out of church. Though he was very content with his wife and daughters attending church, it just wasn’t for him. But Bill started periodically attending. That also speaks powerfully of a godly, praying wife who doesn’t nag but prays that God will work…and He did.
Bill and I became close friends. His workload was very heavy, and he was trying to balance it all out, and he’d fallen out of the habit of church attendance. When he’d miss church, I just let him know that he was missed. Our job isn’t to nag. The Holy Spirit always knows how to get our attention. We do need to balance that out with letting folk know that we love and care for them.
God began to work in Bill’s heart and he began to grow spiritually. Eventually, he began assisting with our church teens. He was very good at it. The teens loved “Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln.” He went on to teach an adult Bible study and eventually, Bill became a leader in our church and chairman of our Body of Deacons. Satan knows how to attack and there were some very deep waters for Bill and Kathy, but God is always faithful!
The Spirit began to tug at Bill’s heart for vocational ministry. Though he was past midlife, at a time when many are looking toward retirement, Bill enrolled in Moody Bible Institute and began studying for vocational ministry. The Lord opened the door for Bill to go on staff at the Brick Church. Last year, they lost their senior pastor and have now called Bill to be their senior pastor. Wow! What an exciting ride God often has for us!
None of us are “self-made.” We all stand on the backs of those who came before us, who loved the Lord and faithfully served Him. None of us grow in grace or make steps forward spiritually without someone else investing in us. It takes time, commitment and sometimes money to invest spiritually in someone’s life, yet, there’s nothing more fulfilling!
God has so blessed me! I literally have friends around the globe that God has allowed me to invest in their lives. Often, I was completely unaware of all that God was going to do or how He was going to direct their steps. And I am the product of the many who loved, prayed for and invested in me.
Recently, my youth pastor and dear friend, Kent Richards, went Home to be with the Lord after a long bout with Parkinson’s. I am truly where I am today because of Kent. He was one of the most Christlike men I’ve ever met, but as a teen, I made his life miserable. By God’s grace, Kent never gave up on me. He prayed for me, loved me and showed me who Jesus was by his life. After the loss of my Mom and dealing with an addicted Dad, I was so angry and bitter at God. Kent was one of the few people that I could candidly talk with and God used him as an anchor for my soul.
Recently, I stumbled on a blog that Philip Yancey wrote about his own life of growing up fatherless in Atlanta. Philip and I grew up in the same church though he’s several years older. He mentioned one of the men that God used in his life, Bob Crain. Bob’s wife, Harriette, was my Mom’s best friend. For many years Bob and Harriette would have missionary kids live with them and poured themselves into countless young people. After my Mom was killed, they looked for ways to interact with me.
Bob was in the Navy during World War II and even had a ship blown out from under him. God had blessed, and he was a successful businessman. Yet, Bob Crain’s real business was serving Jesus Christ. You know how children become interested in various things as they grow up. For some reason, at one point I became fascinated with rocks. Bob was one of the few adults that I could talk to about it. I remember a picture that he took of me as I am holding up a special rock in the mountains of North Carolina.
And Bob was tough. If you blew it, he let you know it. You’ve never been chewed out until you’ve been chewed out by Bob Crain. He didn’t blow a gasket, he was just firm and let you know where you were wrong. He was one of the few men during those formative years of my life who could lovingly correct. Bob knew that sometimes the greatest gift you can give a young person is confrontation because you have a vision for the long game.
David (Dad) Cummins had that same gift. I remember one time when I was responsible for mowing the lawn when he was out of town. I did an okay job (it was done but sloppy). Dad didn’t chew me out or go in a rage, but he let me know that he was disappointed. It’d have been easier for me if he’d yelled. Forty years later, I can still remember that “look.” It taught me that if your responsible and a job is worth doing, do it well. It also taught me that if someone is depending on you, don’t disappoint them.
Though I longed for it, I never had a relationship with my own father. God used Psalms 27:10 in my life: “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.” What I lacked from a biological father and with the loss of my mother, the Lord richly provided for me with many spiritual Dads and Moms.
By God’s grace, I seek to give to others what has been so graciously given to me. I know that I don’t measure up but I’m trusting that the Lord will take even my shortcomings and use it for His glory! So, who are you investing in? Please don’t waste your life just living for self. Make a difference in the next generation. Make a difference in eternity!
Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.