The doors were now closed at Hope Chapel Hill Country, as were every other door in Dripping Springs where I was called to plant a church. But God wasn’t done. He wanted me to do something I have never been good at…. (Please start at part 1 by clicking here.)
Through this agonizing time when I thought that the end was near, God was right by my side, encouraging me with frustrating commands in my morning devotional readings. He would remind me time and again of what I needed to do, what I had to do, something I hated–something that everybody hates–and, of course, it would be another impossible task.
Yet, I had no choice. I had to do it. And I did it.
Continually, day after day, I would read some version of “Wait on the Lord.” Over and over: “Wait on the Lord.”
Like this from Spurgeon:
It may seem an easy thing to wait, but it is one of the postures which a Christian soldier can not learn without years of teaching. Marching and quick-marching are much easier for God’s warriors than standing still. There are hours of perplexity when the most willing spirit, anxiously desirous to serve the Lord, does not know what role to play. Then what shall it do? Vex itself by despair? Retreat back in cowardice, turn to the right hand in fear, or rush forward in presumption? No, but simply wait. Wait in prayer, however.
WAIT? FOR WHAT AND FOR HOW LONG? Was God going to just suddenly bring 50 people off the street to form an instant congregation? Time is running out, God, can’t you see?
Every time I would check in with my pastor in California, I had no good news: No progress. No new visitors. No nothin’.
I had to wait.
WAIT! What the heck am I waiting for? How will I know when it comes?
I hate to admit it, but I was more in line with the philosophy of actor Bradley Whitford than the truth of the Bible:
In May I traveled to California to go to a Men’s Retreat and visit my “sending” congregation. Perhaps I might glean some encouragement there. I had a chance to speak a few minutes at all four services on the weekend. Here’s what I said: “Many of you are probably wondering how big our church is. Well, if my family shows up on Sunday and we get 86 visitors, we will have 100 people.” There was scattered applause until I clarified what I meant.
When I returned to Texas I had made a commitment: to spend more time with my family and less time church-planting. Why? All my best efforts seemed to be for naught. I may as well spend my time in a more useful and productive way.
“The LORD is my strength” to sit still. And what a difficult accomplishment that is! I often say to others during those times when I’m compelled to be still, “If only I could do something!” I feel like the mother who stands by her sick child but is powerless to heal. What a severe test! Yet to do nothing except to sit still and wait requires tremendous strength. —Streams in the Desert
God had put me on the backside of Midian with Moses and there was nothing I could do about it. I shared a cistern and prison cell with Joseph. I sat next to John, exiled on Patmos for his testimony about Christ, but got no revelation.
In other words, I was in good company.
Remain still before him, and stop your own restless working until He begins to work. Do nothing that He Himself has not commanded you to do. Allow God time to work and He surely will. Then the very trials that threatened to overcome you with discouragement and disaster will become God’s opportunity to reveal His grace and glory in your life, in ways you have never known before. —A. B. Simpson
God was breaking me.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
Those were the Apostle Paul’s words. But I was perplexed. I was in despair, I felt abandoned by God and was ready to be destroyed. This was a huge horrible mistake moving to Texas, but I could not deny God’s direct call. (Read about it here.)
Oh, did I mention that things were very tense on the home-front? I’ll quote Forrest Gump:
Also, I never knew about the anti-Californian prejudice in Dripping Springs until it was too late.
You see, Drippin’ used to be a cozy community—they used to have only one stop light—and everyone knew each other until about seven years ago. The tech industry is big in Austin, only about thirty minutes away, so multitudes of Northern Californians moved from Silicon valley to Austin to Drip. “And they come with their liberal politics and their money and raise all the property values.” It’s now just another ‘burb filling up with Golden State Google-ites.
I started considering what else I might do. Should I get a commercial driver’s license and be a trucker?
Maybe I should go back to the grocery store where I previously worked for a total of 21 years? Or did God bring me out to Texas to take me out of vocational ministry all together?
My last ditch effort was advertising. I won a free ad in a local publication and made the most of it. (This is what I wrote.) I bought some inches in a special rodeo advertising insert. I was gonna write columns in two papers and call it “Pastor’s Point-of-view.”
I hired a website optimization firm to place our website on the first page of a Google search. (Currently, we were on page five. It’s said that you can hide a dead body on page two.) I was going to do a mass mailing to the apartments that banned me. Ha! Ha! Can’t stop the junk mail! I even toyed with the idea of giving every visitor a hundred dollars to visit us. Really!
The Lord spoke softly to my heart: “Wait. “I’ve stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother.” Wait.”
But wait in faith. Express your unstaggering confidence in him; for unfaithful, untrusting waiting, is just an insult to the Lord. Believe that if he keeps you waiting until midnight, he will still come at the right time; the vision shall come and not delay. Wait in quiet patience, not rebelling because things are difficult, but blessing your God for the privilege of affliction. Never grumble against the second cause, as the children of Israel did against Moses; never wish you could go back to [California] again, but accept the circumstance as it is….—Spurgeon
I filled out an application to set up a booth with the local Farmer’s Market as a last ditch resort—but that, too, was rejected.
Remember the opening credits of the old TV show ”Get Smart”? He walked through all those open doors. That was exactly like me—only in reverse. I couldn’t get through one door even though I stood and knocked—and knocked—then tried to kick it in. No windows of opportunity opened. My prayers bounced off the ceilings!
The Lord spoke to my heart again: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…”
A man who had been attending Hope Chapel Hill Country for about a year said this to me on Sunday, June 28, after service: “Pastor Steve, the pastor of our old church just resigned today.”
I thought about his comment all day Sunday. Then on Monday. On Tuesday, while in my office, late in the afternoon, I made a call to an elder of the church whose pastor just resigned….and it seemed that the waiting may have been worth it.
…simply and with your whole heart, without any selfish agenda, into the hand of your covenant God, [say], “Now, Lord, not my will, but yours be done. I do not know what to do; I am at the end of myself, but I will wait until you part the floods, or drive back my enemies. I will wait, even if you test me for awhile, for my heart is fixed upon you alone, O God, and my spirit waits for you in the deep conviction that you will still be my joy and my salvation, my refuge and my strong tower. —Charles Spurgeon, of course.
The story ain’t over. Click here for the next exciting installment in part 3!