I expected that since God had sent me on his mission everything had to go well, everything would succeed; all would work as planned.
My denominational leaders sent me to re-launch a church in the middle of a community that needed Jesus. So, I loaded up my family in a U-Haul and moved across the country to assume my new pastorate with high hopes. Once we settled into our new home, I eagerly threw myself into fulfilling the mandate I was given. God would surely bless every effort I made to accomplish what he had called me to do. This was my frame of mind, my driving faith. I expected that since God had sent me everything had to go well, everything would succeed; all would work as planned.
But instead of the growth I expected, I found myself in the middle of conflict and opposition. I began to see that some of my best, and seemingly inspired, strategies weren’t working as planned. Like the disciples on the sea, rather than the clear sailing I expected, I found myself in the middle of storms. God had called me, and I had been sent by my leaders to my city. I was living out the Great Commission. But instead of a great harvest of souls, I was experiencing conflicts and disappointments on every side. This was not what I signed up for!
But instead of the growth I expected, I found myself in the middle of conflict and opposition.
It was as I cried out to the Lord in prayer that I began to understand that God’s ways are not my ways. My way was to live life without problems and conflicts so that God could be glorified through my success. God’s way was for me to live my faith out in the struggles, conflicts, and failures. He had indeed sent me to shine in my community. But I was to be a witness among people who were living their lives in the middle of storms, trouble, and pain of their own. If I was going to be a witness to them I would have to demonstrate how God’s grace can sustain me in my struggles, even when I couldn’t solve every problem or didn’t see success in all I did. I was to be a lighthouse that shines in the storm, giving hope and direction to those lost at sea. The lighthouse is for the dark times, for the storms, not just for when the sun is shining, and for when things go well.
People needed to see me stand firm so they could see the real hope of the Gospel; this is my witness.
I have seen success and fruitfulness. I have made disciples, sent out missionaries and church planters. But I now understand that my greatest witness is how I have handled the problems and conflicts that come my way while I live out the Great Commission. It is not so much what I do but how I do it that shines the brightest to the people I have been called to reach.
Paul put it this way to the Colossians, “I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church” (Colossians 1:24 NLT). I don’t understand all the mysteries of suffering, but I do know that how I shine in my suffering is a key to my witness, to my mission. So, if you are caught in the storm, don’t give up. Put your trust in the one who sent you and let your light shine brightly.