“One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God” (Acts 18).
Don’t tell me God doesn’t still speak today. He does. The way he most powerfully speaks to us today is through His Word by the Spirit. One of the most significant words God ever gave me was to bring to my mind a promise he gave to Paul when he was trying to minister in Corinth.
In Acts 18, Paul was scared, facing no little opposition, and growing discouraged as he tried to establish a church of believers in this city. I can relate. God had called me back home to Mound in 2005 to start my own ministry and community of Jesus followers. More than a year had passed since I said ‘Yes’ and started ministry in Mound. Sometime in the summer of 2006 I was discouraged, afraid, doubting and ready to throw in the towel. The vision God had given me for a vital new youth ministry was simply not materializing. God had given me a vision of a crowd of teens attending a music event and hearing about Jesus. One year in and we were still a group of about 6 youth meeting in my basement.
In this hopeless state of mind, I went on a walk one night. I remember like it was yesterday, walking slowly behind the Memorial Garden at Bethel Methodist Church on Tonkawood Road. “Oh, God, help me!” I was a walking example of Romans 8:26: “ The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” God knew just what my heart’s cry was that night. I was so alone. Feeling such a heavy burden to reach an entire school’s youth with a fresh vision for what it means to follow Jesus today, I was collapsing under the weigh of it. I needed co-laborers for help me realize this vision. I needed people to help hold my arms up when they got tired.
I needed to know that I was not the only servant of God in this city.
Somehow I was given this word from Acts 18. Originally given to Paul, these words were now pressed upon my heart with fresh meaning meant just for me that dark night on Tonkawood Road in Mound: “Jeremy, do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and . . . . I have many people in this city.” And like Paul, I stayed in Mound another year and a half involved in the most exciting, ground breaking youth ministry of my life with the Revolution. I could name the names of all “God’s people” he brought along side me “for such a time as this.”
I have now repeated this same experience the past two years in starting MainStreet Covenant Church in Mound. Keri and I set out on this adventure with another big vision — birthing a new community of faith — with nobody but ourselves. Lonely. Unbearably lonely. The weight on our shoulders even heavier — as now we had more people investing financially in our efforts.
I had a list of 100 or so local friends, family and acquaintances that we hoped would jump immediately on board and help us start the church. About 90% of these folks never took an interest. For months we struggled to build a strong enough team to move forward. There were months spent with a group of 12 or so faithful disciples gathered in small, cramped quarters — praying, dreaming, trusting, doubting and asking God to build His church. These folks have experienced first hand what Abraham experienced as he “did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4:20-21). We were joined together in believing in “the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not” (4:17). It was faith-stretching. Some grew weary and moved on.
Again, God kept whispering to me, “Jeremy, do not be afraid; keep pressing on — for I have many people in this city.” We have been blessed to meet many of these people God has set apart for us. I could easily list their names here. But we still continue to pray urgently that God’s OTHER people will show up at MainStreet to join the mission and push it to new heights! We’re only just beginning.
So, are you one of these people God has set aside “for such a time as this”?
Another year and a half has passed since God gave me that word again. This time I’m one-upping Paul — and sticking around for a while….until God says ‘Mission Accomplished’ or calls me home.