Five to seven years ago, God nudged me to start a web-based children’s ministry. This was a major learning curve, but God was faithful, and day-by-day, the ministry grew. I traveled around the United States, from Southern California, to Maryland, speaking to various Sunday school classes, youth groups, Bible study groups, Christian school classes, and homeschool groups. (I also performed monologues, embarrassing, but effective.) My sister joined me, making the endeavor all the sweeter.
A large portion of our ministry was online. Because we believed in the power of story, we turned everything into a story, from biblical history and apologetics to devotionals.
But then things got hard. Web-hackers came in droves. One got in on my birthday and messed with a page, moving the text around. My computer started acting like it had influenza, crashing, locking up, digesting large documents. We never lost our audience, but experienced so many problems coming from so many different directions, I began to spend ALL my time doing defensive-web work and 0 time proclaiming the gospel. My sister got busy, and before long, I continued alone, climbing a steep, gravel slope, and getting nowhere.
Sermon after sermon, verse after verse, reminded me we weren’t to go it alone. That God provides partners to help us complete the ministry He has for us. This frustrated and hurt me, because I felt He had abandoned me and my ministry. After all, I didn’t choose to go it alone. I lost my partner. I didn’t realize He was laying the groundwork for a future ministry, one I wasn’t even aware of at that time.
At first I persevered, but the more I prayed about it, the more I felt God pulling me from the ministry. It didn’t make sense. Had I heard Him wrong when He first called me to it? But no, the call had been clear and I’d received ample confirmation. Had I messed up? Failed?
The latter question worried me for some time because I couldn’t wrap my head around why God would call me to launch a ministry, then pull me from it. So I kept trudging through, fighting with my computer and the hackers, ignoring the still, small voice that called me to move on.
Our site had a store. When hackers got into my online store and blocked me out, my stomach sank. I can’t quite describe the feeling. Luckily all the information on our site was encrypted and secure, but I was done–out of my league and ill-equipped to deal with the onslaught. All I wanted to do was tell people about Jesus, yet, all I was doing was fixing computer problems. Pointless, frustrating, discouraging.
So I shut it down. It broke my heart, left me more confused than ever. I began to question my ability to hear God. And again, I felt like I’d failed.
And then I stumbled upon Christ to the World Ministry, an international ministry that uses…stories…(radio dramas) to proclaim the gospel of Christ. When Dr. Art Criscoe, my editor, invited me to join the CTTW team, suddenly it all made sense. The earlier ministry wasn’t a mistake. I hadn’t heard wrong. It was merely a stepping stone, training, so I would be equipped for the one God had planned. And now, I can do what I love–write–without having to worry about computer stuff or hackers or tax forms. Plus, God’s expanded my reach, from the US to world-wide.
And had I clung to the latter, I would have missed out.
Closing our ministry was painful. Confusing. Discouraging. I had no idea what lay ahead, and I wanted to cling to the familiar, even though it wasn’t working. But to move ahead, I had to let go.
The same was true of the Israelites mentioned in the book of Ezra. After 70 years of captivity, the exiles from Judah were allowed to return. Almost 50,000 made the long journey home, but many stayed in Persia. They’d grown comfortable with their new lifestyle. Many had accumulated wealth, and the journey back to Jerusalem was long and rough. For them, embarking on the unknown wasn’t worth giving up what they had. They wouldn’t let go and therefore, remained in the land of their captivity.
As 2012 starts, I challenge you to spend some time in prayer asking God what He has for planned for you this year. Is there something you need to let go of in order to follow after His better? Is there a sin or time-sapping habit getting in the way?
Or maybe you’re still in captivity, clinging to a life that’s not really a life, afraid to take that step of faith. But like the Jewish captives, God longs to bring you freedom. The journey may not always be easy, but it will be glorious, healing, freeing, fulfilling. And you won’t have to go it alone. God will walk with, will carry you if He needs to, every step of the way.
He’s calling to you. Release the death-grip you’re holding onto your life. Let it go, so you may live.
Prayerfully listen to the words of the following song, with an open heart.
Let’s talk about this!
Join me at Living by Grace as we encourage one another to live in full surrender, letting go of those things that get in God’s way as we press toward the goal He has mapped out for us.
What about you? Has God asked you to let go of something? What made that hard? And what was the result?
Thank you for sharing your heart, Jennifer. Dr. Art Criscoe has invited me to join the ministry of CTTW. I never would have heard of them if you had not posted to one of my wriitng groups. For the past 15 years I have written for a Christian audience, but I had been praying for an opportunity to write for the lost. Now I am ready to begin writing my first radio drama for CTTW. May God bless all those who have committed to “preach the word” through this ministry.
Ann, how exciting! And welcome to the CTTW family! I pray that you will be richly blessed and that God will use your writing to richly bless others. 🙂
Jennifer, Thank you so much for this excellent reminder that God doesn’t operate the way the world does. What we consider a dead end or failure, God plans as preparation for a new ministry or a change in direction. I’m praying I will tune my ears to His guidance!
Thanks, Cathy! And I love how you phrased that! Have a blessed day as you draw near to God and listen for His guidance!
Letting go to move forward isn’t failure. It’s stepping stones. Stepping stones have been on my mind for the last couple days–interesting you used the phrase here too. 🙂
Thanks, Jen. Great example of stepping stones!