Good morning. If I asked for a show of hands, and I’m not, who of you came here this morning saying to themselves “I’m so glad I have nothing to concern me, or, I am so glad there is no difficulty in the lives of my friends and family, or, there really are no prayer requests that come to mind…” Probably not many of you.
I’m no different. I have trials in my life, and one I want to share more about with you this morning is the difficulty in my work life. I have had a life-long struggle with work.
- I have been let go from jobs
- Worked for companies where restructuring or lost funding eliminated my job
- Worked in a company where I had 5 bosses in three years, and one where the FDA didn’t approve the company’s product
- I have consulted for many years and work has come and gone
In other words, I have been out of work a lot! You can talk with my wife Katy after the service if you want confirmation!
This struggle created a long series of financial pressures, a lot of home life disruption, and a personal sense of loss and failure. Sometimes it felt like life was overwhelming, sometimes that my future was bleak, and I certainly felt no understanding of where God was taking me in my work life.
On top of it all, every time I had to transition I needed to do what is perhaps the single hardest thing I do in my life - look for work. And I’m back at it now. But God did not, and has not, abandoned me in these difficult times. In fact He provided abundantly for me. Not blessings I deserved or earned; they were truly God’s gift.
He started by giving me a strong foundation of faith that I have been able to rely upon. From a Christian perspective it’s almost an idyllic story.
- My parents were unwavering in their faith, and I heard the Good News of the Bible taught regularly
- I was in youth groups and at camps with faithful leaders and had close Christian friendships
- I came to Christ when a friend’s dad asked me directly, “do you accept Jesus Christ as your savior.” I did, and I do.
Sometimes when we’re talking to others all we need to do is ask the question.
Particularly important to the development of my faith was my dad, who passed away a few years ago. He was a role model for me and a reflection of the heavenly father.
- On several occasions during my career struggles he would give me one of his business cards, and on the back he had written a verse from Psalm 16:5 and I treasured those words of encouragement. The verse says “You, Lord, are all I have, and you give me all I need; my future is in your hands.”
- It’s a verse I meditate on in tough times. It reminds me that Jesus Christ is Lord over all, He is the only certainty in my life and I need to cling to Him. It reminds me I don’t need to worry because He gives me what I need each day, and I can trust Him with my future because it’s firmly in his hands.
In Katy God gave me a faithful wife to be by my side during these times. A wife who helped create a home that prioritized worship and faith, encouraged our kids’ faith, shared our faith with the guests in our home, and supported me during the tough times.
God also gave me many opportunities to strengthen and share my faith through service. Here at City Church it’s the Simpson Shelter feeding ministry. With our kids it was mission trips to Mexico to build houses, where a 20’x20’ cement block home with no running water, or gas for cooking, or electricity was viewed by these families as almost an impossible luxury.
Service was always God’s way of helping me keep perspective on how richly I have been blessed and how work, while important, is not what His priority is for my life or what defines me. In other words, service helps me to remember what IS His priority for my life. It is one of God’s great messages from the Bible, that He has blessed me so that I can be a blessing to others.
Lastly, I have had the blessing of a group of 5 faithful men who have met for breakfast weekly at Perkins for over 25 years. That longevity may have something to do with the golf we play together, or the social time that occasionally takes the place of study, I’m not sure. Regardless, I do know they are God’s gift to me.
We do gather for fun and friendship, and celebrate life’s joys together, but we also support and care for each other. One in the group recently lost his son to suicide, one has a schizophrenic child who lives on the streets, and there have been divorces, business failure, mental health issues, and much debate on difficult faith and social issues… plus a lot of care for me during my work struggles.
It’s this group that helped me understand two of the watchwords of my faith: humility and wisdom.
- Humility, that all I have has been given me by God, and not earned,
- and Wisdom, God’s gift to help me see His path, and use the gifts He’s given me in a way that honors Him.
My faith has always given me the assurance that God is walking this road right next to me. In Romans 5 it says, and I paraphrase, “Exult in our trials, knowing they bring perseverance, and perseverance, character, and from character, hope.” My hope is the certain knowledge of Jesus Christ’s saving grace and the knowledge that He walks alongside me in my struggles.