It was not until this week that I realized Sally Jo and I are living demonstrations of what Jesus Christ asked people to do 12 times in the New Testament: “Follow Me” (i.e. Mt 4:10). Jesus said: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27). I never really thought about the fact that we are sheep of Jesus Christ – we know His voice and we follow Him.
Twice we left family, six times we left friends, a nice home, and financial security – and started completely over again in a different area of ministry, and in each case we went into a very challenging situation!! Georgia for seminary, Assistant Pastor in a city Presbyterian church in Alabama, Pastor of a country Methodist Church in Connecticut, Presbyterian Minister to students at Middle Tennessee State University in Tennessee, Associate Pastor of an independent church in IL, a camp director in Texas and New York. Frankly, we never gave much thought to what we were leaving – we focused on obeying the still small voice within us. We never did physically hear the voice of God, or see handwriting on the wall as did Belshazzar at his feast (Daniel 5:5), or have a fleece turn damp, and then dry, as did Gideon (Judges 6:37).
What triggered my thinking this through? A writing of C. S. Lewis quoted in _Devotional Classics_ edited by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith. “Christ says give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money or so much of your work: I want you… No half measures are any good.” And I asked myself “is this me?”
And this is our mind-set: we want God to have all of us. We want the peace that passes all understanding, the promise that God will supply all of our needs. For Christmas, 1959, three years before we got married, Sally Jo gave me a Bible (which I still use almost every week when I write these IPWG). In the front she wrote: “To Chuck – Love in Him – Sally Jo Eph 3:14-20 “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”.
This is our mind-set just as this had been our parent’s mind-set, their hearts desire. Here is my heritage: When my dad graduated from medical school, he and mom left all as they went to a 400 bed mission hospital in inland China. At the end of their first furlough, in spite of a cholera epidemic, not knowing that soon the Japanese would come and occupy the land, they returned to China, where I was born. Due to the war, our family was fortunate to get out alive. And what did my parents want to do? Return to the foreign mission field! Mom’s father left his successful lumber business in Kansas to attend Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He became their dean and then the VP of finance at Wheaton College. My great Aunt left Germany as a missionary to the West Indies. We have the large wooden trunk into which she packed everything she would be able to take with her.
Both of our parents modeled obedience to the Lord – and encouraged us to do the same. When I was in seminary, still single, I remember walking into my dorm room and finding my dad asleep on my bed. He woke up and soon said to me: “Chuck, I want you to know how proud your mother and I are of you. Never forget that only what you do for Jesus Christ will last”. He and mom often said “the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will”.
As Sally Jo and I have lived our lives, we have experienced the Lord going before us. God has met our specific needs over and over again. God has done for us and through us things that have been beyond what we could possibly imagine – everywhere we have served.
There is great joy of living In Partnership With God.