It seems we think God blesses just because people like it. We have confused popularity with power. We’ve confused the applause of men with the approval of heaven. We are being used, but by who? How can we be used by God when we have nothing more than feel-good theology that demands nothing of us. Whatever happened to, “My life, my all I give to Christ who loves me so”?
Several weeks ago, I heard my friend Johnny Hunt preaching at the Southern Baptist Convention. He was talking about all the buzz about who was going to be the next pastor of two prestigious churches in our denomination. I asked a member of the pulpit committee of one of the churches how many résumés they had received. It was approaching 200, and some preachers were sending in their own résumés. Johnny said, “No one is asking who’s going to No Hope?”
If we’re going to be usable, we must not assume that the next call of God on our lives is bigger, better, with more perks. It may be to a place without a name. Maybe God is leading you there to lift up the name of Jesus. What if Phillip hadn’t left Samaria? The eunuch would have never heard the gospel. Samaria is more attractive, but the call of God was to the desert.
Are you ready and willing to do God’s will? It might mean staying in a hard place. It might mean struggling through the storms. It could mean digging your heels in when you would rather retreat. It will mean you are going against the current. It will probably cost you in health, energy, money and maybe even your life. The question is, are you usable? Have you given God a blank page and signed your name to it? Are you singing, “Wherever He leads, I’ll go”?
W. E. Sangster, the Methodist preacher during World War II, wrote some powerful thoughts in his journal. Read it carefully. “This is the will of God for me. I did not choose it. I sought to escape it. But it has come.
“Something else has come too. A sense of certainty that God does not want me only for a preacher. He wants me also for a leader—a leader in Methodism. I feel a commissioning work under God for the revival of this branch of His church—careless of my own reputation; indifferent to the comments of older and jealous men.
“I am thirty-six. If I am to serve God in this way, I must no longer shrink from the task—but do it. I have examined my heart for ambition. I am certain it is not there. I hate the criticism I shall evoke and the painful chatter of people. Obscurity, quiet browsing among books, and the service of simple people is my taste—but by the will of God, this is my task. God help me.”
I find my heart beating in tune with those statements. There have been times in serving the church where I’ve pastured for over fifteen years that it would have been easy to leave, but God wouldn’t let me. There have been times when I was tempted by a bigger place, a more “strategic” ministry (whatever that means), but God never released me. I’ve been questioned by friends and acquaintances about why I’ve stayed here so long.
The city I serve in is declining, the population is changing, yet God’s call is still real. There were many battles in the early years—most I’ve been able to weather. But easy street does not mean I can be comfortable. Just because I’ve survived my enemies and critics doesn’t mean I’m to never be open to another call. If I am to be usable, I have to be available. What I want is God’s will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.
I believe God has left me here to this point for several reasons. One, I’ve found a core who have a heard for God and his glory. They, like me, long for revival in our churches and in our land. They are committed to the Scriptures. They have joined me in seeking to change the world from a town of less than 100,000.
I’m almost fifty-four. I have no idea how many good years I have left. I hope there are many. Whatever I have, I want to give it to God. Whatever He can do through this frail flesh and my limited gifts, I want Him to do it. God hasn’t called me to be famous; He’s called me to be faithful. I want to be faithful today, tomorrow and until I cross the finish line.
I believe God has left me here to prove it can be done anywhere. You don’t have to be in a major city, on the main highway or at the corner of What’s Happening Boulevard and Hip Lane. We’re off the beaten path. We’re surrounded by farms and plantations. Some would view such a place as a stepping stone. I view it as the will of God for me. Until He says do something else, here I am. By the will of God, this is my task. God help me.
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.