May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
EPHESIANS 1:2 NLT
The desire in your heart, the door that God opens, and the direction He gives you through His Word … look for these three things, and then go for it. Go for whatever the Lord is leading you to do.
Psalm 37:4 – “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
1 Corinthians 16:9 – “For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”
Genesis 35:1 – “Then God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.”
I remember this well. Don McClure said it to us once in a leadership meeting. It’s something that I’ve tried to encourage others with all the time. Be yourself. It’s hard to be yourself when you don’t really know who you are yet. And that is often the case when a person is just starting out in their life and ministry. We are unsure of so many things. It’s good to have mentors and models around us, examples to follow and model ourselves after. How I thank the Lord for all the men and women He has placed in my life. However, at the end of the day, you have to trust that God has made you the unique person that you are and that He wants to use you as that unique person.
I would especially encourage young pastors to never listen to another message or read another commentary before they read the Bible themselves and ask the Holy Spirit what He is saying to them through the text they are studying. Don’t try to copy anyone else. Avoid it as much as possible. God made you, and He has a purpose in mind. Don’t thwart that purpose by trying to emulate someone you respect and admire. Take the truth and the example of others to heart, and tell those things, but do it through your own individual personality.
1 Corinthians 4:7 – “For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you glory as if you had not received it?”
1 Corinthians 15:10 – “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain, but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
WALK IN LOVE AND SERVE OTHERS.
These are the simple things that are really the great things in life. These are the things that Jesus demonstrated as He walked upon this earth, and these are the things that you find as you read the Bible and study it and observe the godly men and women in it. I’ve seen these things over and over again in men and women I’ve known personally over these last 35 years of life. This kind of living is the true kind of living that God has for His people. The Holy Spirit of God wants to work through us in these ways. “Lord, help me to walk in love and to be a servant.”
Ephesians 5:2 – “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”
Galatians 5:13 – “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
GOD CAN’T WORK THROUGH YOU UNTIL HE HAS FIRST WORKED IN YOU.
I’ve heard Pastor Chuck Smith say this so many times. And every time it happens to me, I’m reminded of how true it is. We go along in our day-to-day lives, walking with the Lord and serving Him, and then all of a sudden we fall into a trial, a time of tribulation and testing. God is at work in us. It’s never easy or pleasant; in fact, it’s always very difficult — but the end of it is better than the start of it. In spite of the hardships that a trial brings, God has a plan; and He is at work through that trial. His goal is that we would be more like Him. How wonderful is that work that God will do for us? Then, we are able to share that with others. God has been shaping us and conforming us to His image, causing us to be partakers of His holiness. We can speak with personal knowledge of the Lord and His ways. We have more compassion, and our focus is clearer and simpler.
God is the potter; we are the clay. May the Lord help us to embrace the trials that come along, knowing that God has a purpose in mind through them. He will comfort us so that we can then share that same comfort with others who need comfort.
Philippians 2:13 – “… for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
1 Thessalonians 2:13 – “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”
USE YOUR TIME WISELY BECAUSE IT FLIES BY.
My, my, how time flies by! I always heard that, when I was growing up, but now I know how true it is. In fact (and many of you may know this like I do) time seems to be going by faster than ever, the older I get. My wife, Gayle Grenier and I are excited about using our time for God’s will in our lives. We recognize that each and every day we have the potential to be used by God and that we are storing up treasures in heaven, hour by hour. Not only does time go by quickly, but the world around us is in such need. The days are indeed evil, and increasingly so as we draw closer to the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. What an effort Satan is making to diminish and remove the truth from our world. How needy people are to hear the truth that will set them free! May the Lord help us all to put it into high gear and cross the finish line at full speed.
James 4:14 – “… whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”
Ephesians 5:16 – “… redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
PRAY AND KEEP PRAYING.
Jesus knows what’s best for us, and He tells us that it’s important to pray, especially when things are difficult — not only during hard times, but anytime, and daily, and every chance we get. Pray, and keep praying. I like to say that “no prayer is ever wasted on the ears of God.” He is listening, and He uses prayer to accomplish His will in our lives and in this world. The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to pray and to encourage our church body to pray. This is one of my main goals as a pastor, and that is to get the church to pray because I know, based on what Jesus said, that prayer is effective and beneficial.
Just these past two months, we have been praying for the Lord to give our church body an enormous financial gift to help us end the year on a very positive note. We have been praying specifically for this enormous amount of money to be given by the Lord. As we approached the end of the year, I was saying to the Lord, “Lord, we only have a few days left before the year is over. Would you please bless us with a financial gift?” Yesterday after the services, my administrator called to say that we finished the month with a very strong month’s worth of giving. And, he said, “Pastor Bob, there is this other check in the offering for $100,000.” Immediately, I thought to myself that God had led us to pray very specifically and that we need to pray more specifically for other things that He puts on our hearts. Why? Because God hears prayer, and He answers the prayer that is according to His will. And that, of course, is the purpose of prayer: to find His will and to see His will accomplished here on earth as it is in heaven. The purpose of prayer is not to get my will done, but to find His. May God help us to pray to our Father in heaven.
Luke 18:1 – “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart …”
GOD IS GRACIOUS AND FORGIVING.
God has been so kind to show us in His Word who He is and what He is like … and then He demonstrates that to us on an individual basis, as we have a need in our lives. His grace and His forgiveness — they are without end. To be gracious means to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior, to favor, to be merciful; and to forgive means to let go, to send away. God comes to us in His kindness and forgives us as we confess our sins to Him. God is not mad at us. God is not who we have sadly made Him out to be. He is wonderfully merciful and wonderfully kind and loving. He forgives, and it is over and done with. He does not even remember our sins and our iniquities.
Exodus 33:19 – “Then He said, ‘I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’”
1 Peter 2:3 – “… if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”
Psalm 130:4 – “But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.”
DON’T THINK GOD IS FINISHED WITH YOU BECAUSE YOU HAVE FAILED.
You think God is finished with you when you find yourself failing Him, through sin. How discouraging it can be. Yet, it’s not true. God is not finished with you. He is not only the God of a second chance but a third, a fourth, a fifth and so on. Whatever our need is (and even though we may have created that need ourselves) we can come to our Father in heaven and find in Him His love and mercy toward us.
Don’t ever think for a moment that God can’t use you once again just because you have failed. Look at what He did with the apostle Peter. Peter denied the Lord, not once, but three times. And who did God use as the first preacher in the early church? He used the man who had failed Him. This tells us that God will take a man, or a woman, and put them back into His service if they will but come to Him, be restored and be renewed by Him. Mercy and forgiveness belong to God, and He freely gives them to those who need it.
Daniel 9:9 – “To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him.”
TRUST THE HOLY SPIRIT, NOT YOURSELF, AND YOUR OWN WITS AND POWER.
This is one of the main themes and truths in Scripture. Whoever said that “God helps those who help themselves,” has never read the Bible. God wants us to trust in Him, not in ourselves. As you read the Bible, you see the accounts of men and women who did trust in themselves. They left God out of their lives. Then we have the many stories of those who put their trust in God and sought His power in their lives. God calls us to come to Him, put our confidence in Him and seek His power and help. He will not let you down. He may not work in the way or in the time frame that you have in mind, but He will surely work and do marvelous works. He promises to do so. God will help you if you let Him, but He can’t if you won’t let Him. May He help us all to trust Him and to seek the power of His love in our lives.
Psalm 115:11 – “You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield.”
Psalm 118:8 – “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.”
Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”
Isaiah 26:4 – “Trust in the Lord forever, for in YAH, the Lord, is an everlasting strength.”
BE FAITHFUL IN THE LITTLE THINGS.
I’m as excited today about serving the Lord as I was when we first came to Visalia, California, 30 years ago. The opportunities to share His love and His Word are all around us. In fact, the need is greater now than it has ever been. When I consider the open doors that God has given us, I’m amazed at them. Often I will think back to the very first days, the days of small things — of little things — and compare them with today.
Whatever God has you doing, do it unto Him. I think you will find that one thing leads to another and that God will take you from little things to larger things — but He expects you to be faithful in the small things, and He will bless you if you are faithful. Having lived here for so long, it’s hard to not be constantly reminded of how God has worked over these last three decades. Every time I drive somewhere, I’ll see a place, a building, something that reminds me of the past and of ways that the Lord worked in those days. So, be faithful now. Only God knows what He has in the future. By the way, I love even the smallest thing that God does, from seeing a broken door fixed at the church building, to the pavement getting repaved, to seeing thousands of people come out to an event, and so on. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a small thing or a big thing, as long as it’s the Lord’s thing. Being faithful and blooming where you’re planted is important in the way God works. May He help us to be faithful.
Luke 16:10 – “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.”
GOD USES PEOPLE TO REACH OTHER PEOPLE
The Scripture below, of Philip finding his brother Nathanael and bringing him to Jesus, is a picture of how God works. God works through people. In writing this book and reflecting back over my life, it’s clear to me that the Lord used many people to help me come to know Him and to grow in Christ. And God is still doing that today in my life. What an amazing thing, that we can be used by God to help someone else with that which is the most important thing in life, i.e., their soul and its eternal well being.
If you are available, God will use you. He does not need people with great ability, although He will use them, also; but He is looking for people who are simply available. I can remember the first time I ever heard a pastor say that “God is looking for people who are available — not people of great ability, but availability.” I was so relieved because I knew I did not have much ability, but I knew that I could be available. Are you available to God today? Would you make yourself available to Him? God will take your life and use it to help others know of His grace, His love and His mercy in Jesus Christ. May God take our lives and use them for His glory.
John 1:45 – “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’”
I could go on and on…But, I won’t. It’s been a pleasure to write this book, and I pray that it has been helpful to you in some way. Your story is no less a blessing than mine. May God take your life and bless it as He has mine. You and I may never meet on this earth, but I pray that we do in heaven. I would like to meet you there. It would be a great blessing to me to find out that, somehow, the Lord used this book to encourage you. Please look me up in heaven. It will be my pleasure to meet you. And, in the meantime, may God richly bless your life as He has mine.