The following article is published with permission from all parties involved.
My friend Eric began to worry. Financial difficulties. What would be the solution to the problems he saw? After talking to one of the pastors at his church, he opted to spend a week fasting and praying. He would seek an answer from God.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
I smiled and held the door open for a certain Pastor. It was time for the final showdown.
One year ago, I sat in a staff meeting and spoke what was on my heart–that we had taken our eyes off God as a church staff.
Maybe I was right or wrong, but nothing changed. I fell further away from God myself. I became unstable and prone to fits of anger. I wasn’t sure of myself anymore, and nothing could be made to make sense. By January, I was off staff and in a self-imposed “exile” with suicidal tendencies.
For the next seven months, I was a ghost. I lived in two cities and traveled all over the state to work. I spoke only to whom I wanted. I was miserable.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen!
Eric hit his trouble by the weekend with the pressure he felt. As he rode on the bus back from a high school football game, he was handed a hamburger like the rest of the team. All he could think to do was lean over and pray with a burger pressed to his forehead. Was there anything that could possibly happen to give him the answers he was looking for?
He called Ron, the pastor he had spoken to at his church. He needed the support. His “community,” if you will.
“God has something He is going to show you,” encouraged Ron. It was going to come from the place least expected.
Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
“I had a lot of anger toward you,” I said.
“I had a lot of anger towards myself,” Pastor replied. It was certainly the most honest conversation we’ve ever had. He was telling me about the hardships that brought him to a new awakening at the beginning of the year–hardships that became a call to turn around.
It was the death of the Old Church and the resurrection that led to something much greater while I was away.
At some point, I remember leaning forward and pointing to my right ear, asking him to repeat himself.
The meeting held something deeper for me. It was validation. I’m not really crazy after all. Granted, it takes a certain kind of crazy to be willing to yell at a pastor alone behind the church building (sometimes while he wore a gun), but to realize that I was actually standing on some sort of foundation gave me a new sense of worth. I had been onto something. Maybe God did love me.
It was the final day of Eric’s fasting. He was at church when someone gave him an envelope and some instructions: he was to take the envelope to someone’s house, and give it to someone that was in need of it. And so he did. The gift led to a conversation, which potentially led to the changing of someone’s life.
But Eric was left confused.
Was that what you had to show me? He prayed, trying to decipher some inspiration. The day was over–nothing else on the schedule.
Still confused, Eric turned and picked up the other envelope that was sitting next to him.
The envelope I gave to him that morning.
Eric Brown–Pastor Eric Brown–opened the card. Given from someone he thought could just as easily have run him over. He read that I was giving the church half the proceeds from selling out of my DJ-ing business. He looked at the amount on the check.
“And that’s when I started crying,” he said.
CenterPoint Church–Brookhaven’s newest–did rediscover its first love. And things have turned around. Which is why it has experienced explosive growth this year. Which led to it outgrowing the building it had free use of. Which led to the staff discovering it could rent a room in the movie theater–two buildings away–on Sunday mornings.
There was just the last piece to fall into place. Eric was happy to report to the congregation the following Sunday.
“Guys, that pretty much pays for everything,” he said.
As I quietly looked away while Eric spoke, my left ear popped; I was able to hear again. After two weeks of just dealing with being half deaf, my hearing was returned to me even without my asking.
And that’s when I knew God never left me, either.
So in this story arc–the big rivalry between the blogger and the sheriff’s deputy/football coach/pastor–who won? We both did. We both screwed up. But we both handed the problem over to God. We both died to our old selves. And we both were made new.
We’ve looked at a number of supposed God-following church structures in this article series. But there is one last piece to consider: is God truly present in your walk, or are you holding to something more human in origin while calling it a “miracle”?
If you are not experiencing–personally–manifested appearances by God, either you are not seeking Him, or you are worshiping the wrong god. Either case should be cause for major alarm.
I couldn’t have written a better ending myself.
With love, Joel
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.