My journey in faith
By A. Ray Lee
If the Lord wills, in a few days I will acknowledge another birthday has passed. With the passing of years, I have often reflected upon important times in my life. My journey in faith began when as a child I was drawn to Jesus by the warmth of his love and responded to his invitation for salvation. My understanding of the commitment I had made to him became clearer as I grew under the guidance and leadership of my church and its strong biblical preaching and teaching.
Upon graduation from high school, I entered college in preparation for a lifetime of vocational ministry in whatever field the Lord would lead. When my college studies were over, that field of service had not yet been fully revealed to me. I spent another three years in seminary. During those years God was providentially preparing me for service in various ministries.
When I graduated seminary I had spent eight years beyond high school in the halls of academia pursuing degrees in the fields of Biblical theology and practical Christianity believing the knowledge gained would provide a foundation for a life of ministry. Like many young preachers, when I entered vocational ministry as a pastor, it had been with a degree of certainty. My credentials were hung upon the walls of my study for all to see. I thought I was educated and prepared for whatever I might face.
In the real world, I soon realized my education in faith was far from complete. Prompted by maturity and years of experience, subtle changes occurred in my thinking and understanding of Christian ministry. In the following years I would continue my education both formal and experiential while serving as a pastor, chaplain intern in a hospital, hospice chaplain, associate funeral director, interim director of missions, and now in my latter years as a Christian author.
Many aspects of my journey in faith have been exceedingly painful. My continuing education came with a price. My faith was called into question by the actions of those to whom I looked for support. Pain came from rejection by those to whom I ministered. Unforeseen challenges tested courage. Failures and disappointments induced doubts concerning self-worth and personal fitness to minister to others. Those clouds of doubt at times obscured the future.
But gradually an understanding of the teaching value of challenges and events came to me. It was as if faith overpowered my doubts and confusion. New light was shed upon experiences of the past. An understanding began to emerge of the strength of faith I had acquired while serving with churches and people from all walks of life.
Now as I am nearing the end of my journey it is gratifying to realize that by the grace of God not only am I a survivor but an “over-comer” with an experiential and sustaining faith anchor in God. I have learned to trust in his providence and not rue the past or fear the uncertainties of the future. I have been taught to order my priorities, and to recognize my strengths and weaknesses. Pressures from unrealistic expectations no longer weighed me down whether those expectations are self-imposed or come from others.
Self-approval has become more important than the opinions of others. God had not called me to be all things to all men. By His grace, I am free to be myself. I am competent to minister according to the gifts I have received. When ministry is delayed or restricted I have learned to wait upon the Lord for renewed strength and guidance.
At whatever place you are in your journey let me encourage you to continue on. The words of the prophet ring true through the ages. Isaiah wrote, “they that wait upon (rest in) the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)