I enjoyed being a Bible Worker for 30 years. As one pastor told me, a Bible Worker gets to have all the fun of being a pastor without any of the headaches. Well I had my share of headaches and heartaches too, but I loved preaching and teaching and giving personal Bible studies. I loved watching people grow in their relationship with Christ. During those 30 years I rejoiced as some came, and cried when they left, only to rejoice again when years later they would return. Early in my Bible Worker ministry many people told me I should go on to become a conference pastor. I checked into it a couple of times but it never seemed to work out. A few times I would send my resume out but never got any calls. That was okay. God was blessing my Bible Worker ministry both spiritually as well as financially. So by the time I got into my mid fifties, I had joyfully accepted the fact that this was far as I would advance in the “ranks.” It was a wonderful life just the way it was.
As 2022 began, I wrote a New Year’s devotional, called Submission Over Ambition. I wrote about how instead of having ambitions for the new year, we should just offer ourselves to Christ, and tell Him to take us and do with us whatever He wants in 2022. That could range from being taken to heaven in a chariot of fire like Elijah, or dying alone in a dungeon like John the Baptist. I told God to take me this year and just do whatever He wanted with me. I had no ambitions. After praying that prayer I went on about my Bible work planning to be a Bible Worker the rest of my life.
Around July 1, I was listening to a sermon podcast by Pastor Derek Morris. In His sermon he talked about how he came to the Hope Channel to work with the Sabbath school program but ended up becoming the president of the Hope channel. He went on about how his calling became “much more” than he expected. He talked about how God has “much more” in store for all of us. As he kept repeating “much more” throughout his sermon, I started asking God why I was hearing this? Did God have more in store for my ministry? For years I had totally forgotten about ever becoming a pastor with the conference. Was God telling me that would still happen one day?
On July 6 I was driving home to Tampa from Homosassa Florida, where I was doing Bible work for the Homosassa Seventh-day Adventist church. I was in my own little world, enjoying the leisure drive down the country roads leading me back home to Tampa, when I noticed a missed call from the Florida Adventist conference office on my cell phone. I found a place to pull over and return the call. What the conference official shared with me took me totally by surprise. The conference executives had met, prayed, and wanted me to be the conference pastor of a three church district including the Homosassa church. I would not need to do anymore fundraising for my Bible Worker fund. I would be a full-fledged conference senior pastor with a salary from the conference. Since this phone call came out of nowhere I prayed about it all night. I remembered my prayer as the new year began, “Take me Christ and do whatever you want with me in 2022.” I realized God was telling me what He wanted to do with me in 2022.
In August my promotion was made official, and Pastor Javier Diaz, the conference official, took me to all three of my new churches one Sabbath, and installed me as their senior pastor. Many of my friends congratulated me, and told me I deserved this promotion after working so hard as a Bible Worker to become a pastor. I appreciated their kind encouraging words, but I did not work hard as a Bible Worker to become a pastor. I worked hard as a Bible Worker to lead people to salvation and a better life in Christ. When I get to heaven titles and positions won’t mean a thing. All that matters is having my friend’s names written in the Lamb’s book of life! Several saints who supported my Bible Worker ministry through the years told me this promotion from Bible Worker to pastor was way overdue. It was about time they said. It should have happened long ago. But again I knew it was the perfect time. First of all, like I said at the beginning, I loved being a Bible Worker. As a matter of fact, I still have my Bible and I still work with it so I am still a Bible Worker even while being a pastor. I have so many precious experiences and memories studying with so many different families and individuals. I would not trade any of those memories for anything. Even when people were telling me that I should be a pastor, I never felt like I was waiting to be a pastor. I was enjoying and loving being a Bible Worker. As a matter of fact, when I learned it was official and was given my start date as a pastor, I did not rush the days by until I was finally a pastor. I had enough life experience to realize that I will one day look back on my Bible Worker days with fond memories. So I savored each of my last days of being a Bible Worker. God blessed me with an amazing 30 years as a Bible Worker. With so many life experiences, I have learned to enjoy the present instead of looking back or trying to reach for the future. Every phase of life is a gift from God, that should be loved, appreciated and embraced.
I don’t believe my new assignment was long overdue. I think it came at the perfect time.
Sure, when I was much younger I had dreamed of being a pastor one day, but it wasn’t until I had surrendered my ambition, and embraced and loved being exactly where God had me at the time, that the call finally came. I expected the call when I was younger but it never came then. It came when I was not expecting it at all. But isn’t that how God works? Sarai has her first child after her child bearing years. Jacob is reunited with his son Joseph long after he had given him up for dead. One thing I learned in our previous lesson quarterly on Genesis is, God is not in a hurry to do anything. Regarding the second coming, Jesus warns all the date setters,
You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected. Matthew 24:44 NLT
Throughout history, God’s favorite time to do anything seems to be when we least expect it.
I can hardly say I was waiting in the crucible to become a pastor. Being a Bible Worker for 30 years was no crucible. It was 30 precious years of precious and amazing experiences I would not trade for anything. However if you feel like you are waiting in a crucible here would be my words of encouragement for you. Stop waiting. Stop waiting for the storm to pass and learn how to dance in the rain. Learn to love where you are now. Surrender all your ambitions to Christ, and
At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen. Isaiah 60:22. NLT
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
Main Theme: It may not seem like it to us, but God’s time is always perfect. That is why we need to wait on Him.
Study: What are these verses saying to us? What does patience lead to?
Apply: What things are you desperately waiting for? How can you learn to surrender everything to God and to His timing? Are you willing to pray your way into an attitude of complete surrender and submission to the Lord.
Share: Your friend says she was praying and waiting for God to heal her father, but He never did, and her father died. Another couple have been waiting for a long time to have a child, but have been unable to have children. Meanwhile they lament the fact that so many abusive parents are allowed to have children while they have none. What do you tell each of your friends? What examples found in the Bible might you use for each case?
Study: What do these passages tell us about God’s timing? What was the time period for Daniel 9 and why such a long time?
Apply: What examples can you find in the Bible of God’s doing things in His own time that can help you learn to trust that He will do for you what’s right in His own time, as well? (Think, for instance, about Abraham and Sarah and the promise of a son.) At the same time, ask yourself, “What might I be doing that could be delaying the answer to a prayer that could have been answered long ago?”
Share: Your friend says in 2 Peter 3:12 it tells us to hasten Jesus’ second coming. If God’s timing is always perfect why do we need to hasten His coming? What do you tell your friend?
Read in Class: 1 Samuel 26:8-11. Discuss the most important idea in this passage.
Study: Why doesn’t David kill Saul and just become king? After all, God has already anointed him as king, and taken the kingdom from Saul. What is there to wait for?
Apply: How much patience and trust in God do you have when you are waiting for a job, promotion, soulmate, or other?
Share: Your friend says David should have taken Abishai’s advice. How do you answer your friend?
Read in Class: 1 Kings 19:1-9. Discuss the main idea of this passage.
Study: After such a powerful intervention by the Lord on Mount Carmel, Elijah should have been full of faith and trust; instead, he runs in fear for his life. What lesson can we learn from this bad example?
Apply: Have you ever been tempted to run away from a situation instead of waiting on the Lord to take care of things? What did you do? How did it turn out? What did you learn?
Share: Can you think of someone who has been waiting a long time for a certain blessing? How can you encourage them this week?
Imagine being captured as a young child or teenager, and being dragged away from your family, to be a slave to total strangers in a foreign country. If you are like me you would feel resentful, and would be seeking a way to escape. I would be tempted to wish harm on those who thought they were my masters. However a young maiden in 2 Kings 5:1-19 was meek and thoughtful of others, even her masters. In this way she turned out to be a light in Syria.
The young maiden was the servant of the Syrian army leader, Naaman and his wife. It turned out Naaman had leprosy. If most people were in her place, I imagine they would be thinking, “Good! I’m glad he has leprosy! It serves him right.” But even as young as this girl was, she was seeing a bigger picture. I wonder if instead of seeing herself as a slave girl, I wonder if she saw herself as a missionary for God? Turns out she was a missionary. Instead of cursing her master she found a way to be a source of salvation even in her crucible.
Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.” 2 Kings 5:3 NKJV
The story goes on about how the King of Syria reached out to the King of Israel, which led to Elisha coming to heal Naaman. Because of this young girl a great political figure like Naaman got to learn about God. Instead of wanting the freedoms her masters had, she wanted them to have the freedom in God that she had. Just like Paul, later in Acts 26:1-32, told King Agrippa that he wished Agrippa had the salvation in Christ that he enjoyed. Paul told King Agrippa,
“I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.” Acts 26:29 NKJV
Paul did not need the freedoms Agrippa had. Agrippa needed the freedom in Christ that Paul enjoyed. Both Paul and the young maiden saw themselves as missionaries for God instead of prisoners of men. They appreciated God’s love so much they wanted others to have what they had instead of wanting what others had. Its very possible both Paul and the young girl may have had to battle some pretty resentful emotions, but if so, they overcame them and humbled themselves as meek missionaries. As humble missionaries they reached some pretty powerful people for God. Imagine what powerful missionaries we can be if we are meek and humble in our crucible?
Naaman seemed like a pretty generous man all things considered. He tried to pay Elisha for his kindness. I wonder how Naaman rewarded the young maiden for her kindness? I know one thing for sure, God will reward the young maiden for her kindness. When we are building our new mansions in the new earth, don’t be surprised if you see a beautiful young woman decorating her home, with a strong man carrying heavy gems wherever she wants them placed. Don’t be surprised if while they are working and laughing together if she calls him, “Naaman.”
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
Main Theme: Meekness makes us a witness and example even in our crucibles.
Read in Class: Exodus 32:1-14. Define the main idea of this passage.
Study: What role is Moses playing here, and why does he ask God not to destroy Israel?
Apply: Think about the people around you who you think are the least deserving of grace. How can you, with meekness and selfless humility, be a revelation of God’s grace to them?
Share: Your friends seem to think that the pastor is doing a good job when he is making them all happy, but he is doing a poor job when he upsets everyone. How might you use the example of Aaron in this story to help illustrate how we should and should not judge our pastors?
Read in Class: Matthew 5:43-48. Define the main idea of this passage.
Study: Jesus calls us to love and pray for our enemies. What example from nature does Jesus give us there that helps us understand why we should love our enemies? What’s the point He is teaching us?
Apply: When you look at your “enemies,” what do you normally see — the pearl or the dirt around it?
Share: Your friend says he can never forgive his enemies because of what they have done to him. He feels like forgiveness is just sweeping it under the rug. How can you assure your friend forgiveness is not just sweeping it under the rug? See Forgiveness is not saying it is okay.
Read in Class: 1 Peter 2:18-25. Discuss the key point of this passage.
Study: Peter is offering some surprising advice to slaves. He describes how Jesus responded to unjust and painful treatment and suggests to them that He has left them “an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Pet. 2:21, NKJV). What principles of meekness and humility in the crucible can we learn from Jesus’ example, as expressed here by Peter?
Apply: How do you deal with situations in which you have been treated unfairly? How can you better apply some of the principles looked at here today to your own life? See Let God be the One to pay you Back.
Share: Your friend asks you to what extent should we get involved in social justice issues? Was Jesus involved in social justice issues? How do you answer your friend?
Read in Class: Psalm 62:1-8. Define the main idea of this passage.
Study: What seems to be the background for this psalm? What points is David making? What spiritual principles can you learn from what he is saying? Most important, how can you learn to apply these principles to your own life?
Apply: How immune are you to the reproaches and barbs of others? Most likely not that immune, right? How can you cleave to the Lord and anchor your sense of self-worth on the One who loves you so much that He died for your sins, and thus help protect yourself against the slights of others?
Share: Can you think of someone this week who may be going through a crucible who you may encourage?
Has Satan ever tried to ruin your day? Well let me tell you about when I ruined his day. Years ago, I was driving in the middle of the night across country to see my sister and see about a job. I had just quit a job that was not working out and had no idea what the future held. I had no job, no money, no future, as far as I could see, and then, to make matters worse, I looked in my rear view mirror and see lights flashing! Just what I needed— a speeding ticket while I was broke without a job! I honestly had no idea I was speeding enough to warrant a ticket, but the officer was not the least bit sympathetic.
Needles to say I was very frustrated. I was already feeling down before I got the ticket. Now I was in despair and gloom, as I asked God how He was going to take care of this ticket for me, since He knew I had no money when He allowed this to happen. (Never mind the fact that it was my foot and not His on the gas pedal!)
As I was complaining to God about the situation He had just placed me in and asking Him in despair how in the world He was going to provide the money for the ticket, I suddenly realized the obvious: God does not have to provide for this ticket. God does not have to do anything for me! God does not owe me anything! Then it hit me what I was doing. After He created me and died for me, I was withholding my praise from Jesus until He took care of this ticket for me. All at once it dawned on me, if God never provided the money for this ticket and stopped giving me any more blessings from this day forward, He still had already given me way more than I deserve! As a matter of fact, Calvary alone warrants all of my thankfulness, praise and devotion, without God ever giving me anything else.
There in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, I changed my attitude from gloom and despair to joy and praise. I decided not to ask God to help me pay for the ticket, but instead just thank Him and praise Him for everything else He has already done for me. I then remembered reading a passage from inspiration about how Satan cannot stand to be in our presence when we praise God, “When the evil one begins to settle his gloom about you, sing praise to God. … strike up a song about the matchless charms of the Son of God, and I tell you, when you touch this strain, Satan will leave you. You can drive out the enemy with his gloom; . . . and you can see, oh, so much clearer, the love and compassion of your heavenly Father. (Ellen White, Heavenly Places, p 95.)
Considering the above passage, I thought to myself, “Hey, if Satan is going to try to ruin my day by giving me this ticket (Remember it’s never my fault when I get a ticket), then I am going to ruin his day by singing praises to my God. I started singing praises at the top of my lungs. I was traveling in the middle of the night hundreds of miles away from my friends or family, but I felt the presence of angels as they sang with me. I wasn’t worried about the ticket any more. I was worried about making sure God knew I appreciated His sacrifice at Calvary. By the way, God did take care of the ticket for me. My sister also happens to be an angel. But even more impressive were the two lessons I learned that night:
One: God owes me nothing and I owe Him everything. After Calvary if He never gave me another gift, I still have cause to praise him for the rest of my life!
Two: If Satan tries to ruin your day, instead of murmuring and complaining, start singing songs of praise and ruin his day instead!
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
Main Theme: Praising God not only changes our attitude. It can also change our situation.
Read in Class: Philippians 4:4-7. Discuss the main idea of this passage.
Study: How do you think Paul could have written such things when he himself was sitting in a prison? In this passage, what are the keys to gaining the “peace of God”?
Apply: What reasons do you have to praise God even in the worst of circumstances? See Ruin Satan’s day.
Share: Your friend asks, is there a difference between praising God in all things and praising God for all things? What do you tell your friend?
Read in Class: Joshua 6:15-17 and Hebrews 11:30. Define the main idea of these passages.
Study: What was God trying to teach His people here?
Share: Your friend says there is no way we can have total victory over addictions in this life. How can you sue Hebrews 11:30 to show how faith makes victory a reality.
Read in Class: Acts 16:16-34. Define the main idea of this passage.
Study: Why did this event cause the jailer to focus on his own need of salvation? What role do you think Paul’s and Silas’ prayers and songs played in the prisoners’ not running away, and in the conversion of this man and his whole family?
Apply: Who do you think could be influenced for God by a song of praise that could come from your heart? Make a concerted effort to be more open and effusive in your praise to God around others. You don’t know the positive effect it could have.
Share: Your friend asks if Paul and Silas sing hymns of praise caused the earthquake? What do you tell your friend?
Read in Class: 2 Chronicles 20:3-12. Define the main idea of this passage.
Study: When you see a “vast army” approaching, what is your instinctive reaction? From Jehoshaphat’s response in 2 Chronicles 20:3-12, what can you learn about dealing with overwhelming opposition?
Apply: What spiritual principles can you find in 2 Chronicles 20, that can apply to your own walk with God, especially in times of trial and stress?
Share: Can you think of a friend who could use some encouragement from the Bible passages in this lesson? How can you share it with them this week?