Thursday, November 20, 2008
Living for the Glory of God
One thing that someone who is grieving, especially in the beginning, does not want to be reminded of is the Truth, a Promise from God, found in Romans 8:28. If you are a Christian, you probably know this verse by heart. It says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." This is good news for those who are struggling with a difficult situation or if a friend or family is a difficult situation. It's good news for those grieving too but it's not what they really want to hear in the beginning. That is because it's hard to remember when your heart is aching to such a heart ripping wrenching way, that it's not about "me"! It's easy to forget that we are to live for the glory of God. It seems like we are being attacked, someone's been taken away from "me"; why? I know a family member who wondered, "why does God need him, anyway, [when we needed him so much more, I think could be implied here] with anger over a mean old God who would do such a thing to "me". It's not uncommon to hear or think this way at a time of grieving, especially if those grieving do not have a true Biblical perspective or personal joyful relationship with God.
I am not sure what God's plan is for my life now and I cannot tell anyone why Vinnie had to die and two months later, why his son died too. I cannot answer that question at all. But I can say that God will bring good out of the situation. That is a promise. I know this because it's been proven in my life many time over and over again over the years with my Vinnie. And God hasn't changed one bit! One reason why sometimes it's difficult to understand this promise to be true is when the expectation of 'good' translates to mean that the good is for "me". But if our lives have been surrendered to God, and we understand that God has a purpose in all things as they fit in the big scheme of things (God's scheme, not our own) we can begin to see that the "good" is sometimes for other people's good. Over time other's 'good' because our joy. Let me give you an example of this in my life.
Several years ago, when Vinnie and I joined the church I am not a member, I sang on the worship team. I remember being in the New Member's class (which I think was the first New Member's class at our church) and was asked what kinds of ministries I might like to be involved in. I remember distinctly saying that I am pretty enthusiastic about several ministries and would love to be involved in any of them except children's ministries. My justification for this comment, even though I do like children, is that I didn't believe that children liked me.
One weekend the worship team went to a worship worshop. It was amazing and it changed my life, really! When we came back I wondered why we weren't making an effort to teach the things we had learned to the congregation - but we didn't. I remember talking one day to a friend on the team about my passion to teach what we learned at the worshop but felt like it should be taught to the children. I remember her saying, "That's a great idea, Gail, why don't you talk to the children's pastor and start something for the kids?" I explained that I'd have to stick to being a helper or write curriculum because no one would want me to teach kids. Kid's don't like me, remember?!
Well, two years later, I believe, she finally gave up on me starting something for the kids and she started something with the kids instead. It was a big success but she could not handle it alone. So in a church prayer meeting one night the pastor asked if we'd pray for a helper to come alongside my friend and help lead worship with the children. A little voice told me that if I didn't speak up, someone else would take over my job! I told th pastor that the helper had already come forward. When he asked who the helper was, I said a meek little, "me".
It took five weeks before I was brave enough to get in the front of the room with the kids but once I got over the extreme fear, I was hooked! I loved it! They loved it! I eventually took over all the grade school Sunday school classes and teachers, schedules, etc. Then I went to a conference to learn how to apply a new curriculum I'd found for the grade school kids. I remember hearing a little voice every once in awhile that weekend, telling me that I could do things their way when "I run the children's ministry". This didn't make any sense. There was a children's pastor who did that and I was not qualified to teach boo-coo to anyone! I kept shrugging off the voice because I didn't understand what I was hearing and why.
About six weeks after I returned from the worshop, the children's pastor stepped down! Oh my goodness...this wasn't happening, right?! But it had nothing to do with me...I wasn't qualified to take his place! So I didn't say anything to the pastor. Three months went by and it was decided that no one would be hired to replace him in January when the new budget took effect. I thought they must have flipped - no one replace him...what's going on?! But I finally could not stand it anymore. One day I finally sent a long letter to the pastor telling me what I'd been experiencing, and that I felt like God was telling me to take over the children's ministry! I was stunned when he said he agreed that it seemed like God was using me and leading me to do something so we approaced it slowly and experimentally for a while. By six months it was clear. I was the children's minister for almost four years!
I didn't want to work with children! I went to one worship conference and it changed my direction in the life of my church! God used something I did for good and though in time I could see the good in my life - it was initially for the good of the church and the children. We jsut never know what the heck God's up to!
So how and what does any of this have to do with God using all things, even death, for the good of those that love him? Well, like I say, God is the same. He doesn't change - never! He does have good to come from Vinnie's death. It may not be for my pleasure (and his death is not for my pleasure - for sure. It's very painful!) but the ways God will use his death and the change in my life, it will be for His glory and it will eventually be a WOW experience - one that we all look back on with amazement to see how God would use the past and present things in my life to get on with the future, a future that promises to hold great things that will bless others. It helps me to know this truth because I know that Vinnie's death will not be in vain. It helps me to know that Vinnie's death could lead to so many people being blessed and even coming to knowing Jesus. This would thrill Vinnie to pieces!
I've had several ideas come to mind about how God would use my experiences in grief and all the other experiences I've had in this lifetime and how God would bring them all together to bless many lives around the world. I won't share them yet but I believe God does have a plan, a very exciting plan, one that will allow many people to learn to grow through their suffering, will help them know Jesus, and will bring more people into God's Family. I hope you'll join me in praying for God to reveal what His plan is and to give me wisdom to discern what it is so I won't miss the doors that open in that direction! Because my life is no longer mine but His, He has a plan and purpose for it, I am to live for is will not mine, and though my sorrow is as deep and painful now as it was two months ago, I can and will still know joy. My joy comes from the Lord and from living for Him, not myself. I am so thankful to know the joy of living a life much less selfish than the one I used to have, even though it means having great losses along the way. I know that God's plan is awesome and I am honored to play my part in His story!