Today marks the sixth anniversary of being hired at the church for which I work. It’s amazing to think back across that time and the many memories. I have met people who have helped shape me into the man that I have become. I have grown tremendously in my faith over the years. Most importantly, I have been able to spend my six years here telling people about Jesus; that’s all that I’ve ever wanted to do. Of course, there have been good times and bad, mountain tops and valleys. That is true about any station in life. I can confidently say that there have been far more highs than lows throughout my tenure. It’s hard for me to even believe that it has already been six years. What I would like to share with you today is how I ended up at the church. This is a story of God’s provision and grace.
From the time that I was a teenager, my dream job was to work for a youth ministry called Young Life. It was through this organization that I came to know Christ and the foundations of my faith were established. I was blessed to be hired on to Young Life staff out of college. I spent the next three years working for them. Much like any type of youth ministry, it was fun, frantic, and a joy to share the love of Jesus with teenagers. My plan was to do that until I retired. That, however, was not how things worked out.
Young Life is entirely funded by local fundraising. It turns out, that is not an area in which I am gifted. I could see the writing on the wall as we struggled to make ministry ends meet. I was sitting down in a meeting with my committee chairman and the regional director in mid-April of 2015 when I realized that I was going to have to leave my dream job. We simply could no longer afford to have a staff person. I walked out of that meeting knowing that my time with Young Life had come to an end.
I did not have a plan for what to do next. Was I going to have to move somewhere else? Was my time in full-time ministry ending? How was I going to pay my bills? I had been singularly minded up until that point with what I was going to do with my life. My plan was no longer feasible. Then, I remembered that I had heard about a church in the area that was looking to hire a youth minister. I left my meeting, dried my eyes on the drive over, and walked into the church. I was hoping and praying for the best. After the pastor reluctantly agreed to meet with me, he decided that it was worthwhile to give me an interview. I was interviewed for the first time about a week later. Then, they asked me to come back for a second interview the following week. A couple days later, I was offered the job. I officially began on May 3, 2015.
When I walked out of the meeting in which I stated that I was going to resign from my dream job, I was crushed. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. It turns out that God knew. He knew exactly where to send me and had already prepared the next steps of my life. I don’t believe that it was a coincidence the church had failed to hire someone for the position—even though they had been looking for a year and a half. They may not have known it, but they were waiting for me. It wasn’t by chance that I had heard about the youth ministry opening. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was prepared for me beforehand. Although leaving Young Life came as a shock to me, it did not take God by surprise. Yes, the steps were painful, but they led me to exactly where I was and am supposed to be.
That is how God operates. We all like to quote Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you’—this is the Lord’s declaration—’plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” It makes us feel good. Did you know that God spoke those words while the Jews were exiled from their homeland by the Babylonians and would be for many more years? Sometimes, God leading you to where you need to be requires that you go through things that you do not want to go through. That was true for the Israelites, for me, and for you. The path isn’t always one that is easily walked, but it will always take you to the place you need to be.
God will continuously work things out for our good. He promised us that in Romans 8:28. My life has been an example of that; not only with leading me to the church but in other ways as well. Just because things fall apart does not mean that they were meant to last forever. God is always inviting us to take the next step in his plans for us. Sometimes, he has to force us from where we are to get us to go to where we need to be. Even though it may hurt to leave behind what we once thought was best for us, he will bring us to a place that is far greater than the one that we left behind. After all, that is his declaration.