Proof that God has a plan for your life.
by Nancy B. Gibbs
At times, I have regretted not growing up in a church. As a youngster, I had never heard the story of David and the giant. I didn’t know that a little boy’s lunch was transformed into a feast for thousands of people and that there were baskets of fish and loaves left over. I didn’t know that God parted the Red Sea, nor did I understand why Jesus died on a cross.
I grew up seldom hearing children’s Christian songs. Billy Graham’s sermons on television were probably the only gospel messages I heard. My mother taught me right from wrong. I knew God wanted us to be good and that Satan lurked in the shadows, tempting us to do all the wrong things. I wanted to be good and acceptable to God.
Though I wasn’t regularly exposed to the message of Jesus Christ, I knew there was a God and that He had plans for my life. I didn’t know exactly where God lived, but I sensed that He must reside somewhere above me, since the sky was so beautiful. When I was about eight years old, I made an important decision while gazing toward the heavens: When I get grown, I whispered to myself, I am going to attend church and meet God wherever He is. In my young mind, I would be grown when I was seventeen or eighteen years old.
I dreamed of being like many of my friends who attended church every Sunday morning. I wanted to give my life to God, but I wasn’t sure how. I knew I needed God but had no clue how to reach Him. I dreamed of waking up early on Sunday mornings, putting on my finest attire, and making my way to a nearby church. I anticipated wading in the waters and being baptized. I dreamed of serving God.
Today, I wonder why I thought the way I did, since religion wasn’t a major part of my life. Now I believe that God was preparing my heart for what He had in store for me even before I understood the good news about Jesus. During those years, God watched over me, took care of me, and prepared me for what was to come.
Keeping a promise
When I grew up, at age seventeen, I kept my promise to myself and attended a large church one Sunday morning. I listened intently to the sermon.
At the conclusion of the service, the pastor asked everyone to stand while the invitation was given. The choir and those around me began singing.
Called by God
My eyes darted around the sanctuary, seeing women, men, boys, and girls I didn’t know. They were all so elegantly dressed. My clothes were clean, but not elegant by any means. I sensed that God wanted me to make my way to altar, but I didn’t dare. I gripped the pew in front of me and held on for dear life.
The second verse began. The pastor looked my way, but I avoided making eye contact with him. Though my heart was stirred, I determined that my feet would remain planted on the floor where I stood.
A couple more verses were sung. Then the pastor asked everyone to close their eyes while the musicians simply played. I was shaking, and tears were streaming down my face. I knew without a doubt that the God I had sought for so many years was in that place with me. He was calling me to come to Him so He could fulfill my dreams. But I was afraid of taking that first step.
Running to God
Glancing up, I saw the pastor standing right in front of me, holding out his hand. I knew beyond any doubt that I was supposed to be standing at the altar, not in front of my seat. I took the difficult first step and ran to God at the altar. I not only made the most important decision of my life that day but also fell in love with Jesus. I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my mother and father what had happened to me that day in church.
“You all have to go to church with me tonight,” I announced. “I’m going to be baptized.” To my surprise, both my parents and my brother joined me for the evening service. When the invitation was given, my father and my brother made their way to the altar. They gave their lives to Jesus as well. We were all baptized that night.
I wish I could say that from that day on, my life was perfect, but it wasn’t. I made lots of mistakes, but I also grew spiritually through every one of them. God had even more plans for me something incredible: He made me a pastor’s wife.
During the next two decades, God grew me into the person He wanted me to be. He showed me many spiritual truths as I learned the stories that most kids learn at an early age. I was a wet-behind-the-ears minister’s wife who was expected to be filled with wisdom and knowledge. All pastors’ wives are supposed to play the piano and sing. I have no musical ability. Let’s just say that in the beginning, I didn’t fit the part of a pastor’s wife.
When I was forty-two, God fully revealed His purpose for me: writing. For almost eight years, I have written weekly religion columns for my local newspaper. I write for numerous Christian magazines and anthologies. While I continue to be a pastor’s wife, I also have a ministry of my own. I am a Christian motivational speaker, leader of women’s ministries, Sunday school teacher, and missions leader in my church. My husband and I recently began a brand new church.
God doesn’t work in all lives the same way. Many people never remember a time they didn’t know Jesus or His generous goodness. I can appreciate salvation in a greater way because I know life without Christ and life with Christ. There’s no way I would ever go back to the old way of living.
When I was eight years old, God didn’t see a little girl who didn’t go to church; He saw a young lady who would give Him her entire heart one day. He saw a future pastor’s wife, Christian writer and speaker, and teacher who had a great deal of catching up to do. He also saw a lady who would be determined to share the good news of Jesus Christ in as many ways as she possibly could.
God probably smiled as He gazed down at me that day wearing pigtails and making a promise. And He knew He would fulfill those dreams in His way and time. The more I trust Him, the more He’ll continue to make His dreams for me a reality.
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