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Your Spiritual Journey

Today’s message summary of December 13, 2015 from Melvin Gaines:

In recent months, I have come up with a phrase to describe my life today: “Every day is an adventure.”

Every day has its challenges. Some of them are expected, while some are new and require flexibility. If you had plans that day, they can and will change at a moment’s notice.  There’s no reason to get ahead of yourself beyond those moments, because each one requires your full attention.

Matthew 6:34 HCSB

Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Every day may indeed be an adventure, but each day, one after another, week after week, month after month and year after year—is a journey.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, your relationship with Jesus Christ makes your journey a spiritual journey.

I would like to provide you with an overview of my own spiritual journey with the hope that it will help you to look at where you are in your life journey with Jesus Christ. What I desire for you to see is how this journey, over time, is not so much better because life gets easier—it won’t get easier—but it will get better because your life in Christ will get richer with your personal growth in wisdom and knowledge because of the Spirit’s involvement in everything you do.

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The more that you know about the past, the better you are prepared for the future.”

In examination of my spiritual journey, Roosevelt was absolutely on-target. I had to learn more about who I was as a person in order to come to the realization that I needed to choose Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. From there, I recognized the necessity to make a series of progressions over time to bring me to this point of my journey.

My past as a non-believer was not filled with church experiences; in fact, I seldom went to church. I was only exposed to church on random Easter Sundays, and ironically, those visits involved hearing my grandfather, Rev. Ernest W. Stevens, Sr., preach as a guest speaker at Lee Road Baptist Church or some other church on the east side of Cleveland. I was never involved with church at Christmas time. My parents, at that time, were not believers in Jesus Christ, and there was one King James Version bible in the house that collected dust on a side table.

When I graduated from high school, my first job was work at my uncles’ florist shop in East Cleveland. Of the two uncles, Tyrone was a believer who spoke about the need to accept Christ, and Larry talked about the Lord but was not really following Him. Over the summer, I worked at the shop seven days a week, and I was exposed to a new, entirely different lifestyle. I delivered floral arrangements and took orders over the phone and in-person. A significant experience was dealing with families who had just lost a loved one and orders for bereavement flowers. I also became introspective about the delivery of flowers to funeral homes, where I had to place the flowers on and around the casket of the person. These events are fresh in my mind. In witnessing the aftermath of the death of others, including those of infants who had died prematurely, it made me think more about life and what I had to look forward to.

I listened to the testimonies of my saved uncle and a fellow employee, a young woman named Renee. She mentioned to me that her life was different at that time because of her relationship with the Lord. She used to listen to gospel music and would even sing a few lyrics out loud. She was, and is today, an amazing singer. She also witnessed to my uncle Larry about the Lord. I knew deep down that he liked Renee for her appearance, but she was always a true professional. I respected her approach to life very much, and was a little envious of her contentment. I was anything but content. I was still living at home and I had already bombed out of college. My parents were fighting on a regular basis and were headed for a divorce. Work at the flower shop did not pay a lot, and I had to learn more about money management because I had purchased a new car that I could barely afford.

My past was telling me that my life, at that time, was on the road to nowhere, and it was fast approaching.

I had taken other jobs in order to try to determine what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and I circled back to working at the flower shop. In 1986, as the flower shop days were ending, I was invited to a church on the west side of Cleveland—Second Calvary Missionary Baptist Church. Rev. Roland H. Crowder was the pastor that delivered about two or three Sunday messages where I had decided that enough was enough. I knew that I didn’t have any solutions on my own for where my life was going, but I knew that I needed Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. That June, I went forward and I got baptized two weeks later before some of my friends that I had invited to church. I was 26 years old, and I was baptized with a group of 8 and 9 year olds. Imagine the sight of that!

With a new beginning in Jesus Christ comes a new template of how to live. I knew that Christ was present, but I was still learning about the presence of the Holy Spirit and what all of it really meant to me. I knew where I was, but I could now see that there was more to life than my own personal experiences. God had to teach me that life is more about serving Him than my own needs or desires.

A. B. Simpson, the founder of the Christian & Missionary Alliance, writes about his own moral dilemma in his book, My Own Story, where at age 14, he willfully disobeyed his parents in spite of his own desire to pursue ministry for the sake of fulfilling his own desires. Simpson does not go into detail about what those things were except that they were things that people who aspire for ministry should not do. When his parents found out about it, his mother went off on him!

“It was the day of judgment for me…my mother wringing her hands and pouring out the vials of her wrath while I sat confounded and crushed. …That tragedy settled the question of the ministry. Soon after I…decided to give up these side issues and prepare myself…to be a minister of the Gospel.”

Everyone has a history to reckon with. At the moment that a person comes to Jesus Christ, that history is part of who the person is, but those periods of history become a part of one’s learning experience. A. B. Simpson learned about what it means to be fully devoted to a life with Jesus Christ. Thankfully, from the moment of our conversion to Jesus Christ, the transformation of our hearts and minds begins:

Romans 12:1-2 ESV

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

I made a lot of mistakes, and I still do. My history before I became a believer in Christ consisted of looking to the world for answers to questions and problems. Following the world meant living a sinful lifestyle. After all is said and done, I took very bad advice. I am grateful that God has been merciful to me and has allowed me to learn from my mistakes with minimal consequences.

Lamentations 3:22-23 HCSB

Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish,

for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!

Even though sin is part of our fleshly nature, we learn over time that our Holy Spirit gives us the ability to resist the temptations that lead to sinful behavior. We have power in the Spirit to live a life that honors Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Early in my new life as a believer, God was gradually revealing to me what my talents and gifts were to use in my new faith. I liked art and English as a youth, and while I wasn’t a big reader, I did like to write. I also grew in my verbal communication skills with my career in Collections and as a supervisor. At my first church, I was a greeter, and then soon after that I was selected to teach Sunday school to the teens. My first class subject was the books of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus. God knew that the best way to study His Word was to make me a teacher! It was humbling and yet it launched me to where I am today as an adult Sunday school teacher. I would not be able to do any of these things without the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 HCSB

Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person.

My growth as a believer continued as I developed my communication skills. I was able to finish my undergraduate degree in Business and Organizational Communication at the University of Akron (Go Zips!) in 2002, and it was not long after that when Pastor Gus gave me opportunities to speak from the pulpit. The first couple of times out were a little rough, but I managed to make progress and learn about the preparation and delivery process over time. I learned that while speaking from the pulpit is quite an honor, I was reminded that it is a privilege and that my approach should always be one with prayerful humility.

James 4:6 HCSB

But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says:

God resists the proud,

but gives grace to the humble.

A. B. Simpson was humble in his service. He was willing to sacrifice his time, and even his own personal stature for the sake of reaching people for Christ. His missionaries, educators and staff were all committed to their areas of service because he set the tone for the ministry. He prayed fervently and provided vision, determination and commitment to everything that he was involved in. His example is what I strive to demonstrate to those that I serve in my church and in my workplace. The desire is to honor Jesus Christ, and not myself.

Colossians 3:16-17 HCSB

Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

In the midst of all of this, my flesh provides constant reminders of my history before Christ. I know that God’s power through the Holy Spirit is ever-present, but the allure of the things that support the flesh make things like “giving up” or “taking a break from Jesus” more appealing. This is where history can no longer determine the appropriate steps for me. I need to treat history for what it is, and remember that as I repent from my sinful past, God no longer remembers those sins. I am also thankful that Jesus took care of all of my sins once and for all.

Hebrews 10:16-18 HCSB

This is the covenant I will make with them

after those days, says the Lord:

I will put My laws on their hearts

and write them on their minds,

He adds:

I will never again remember

their sins and their lawless acts.

Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.

It’s been just under thirty years for me as a believer in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I have grown in my faith and my ability to serve, but it was not until recently where I was very confident that I was in the place that God would have me to be. My next steps involve looking into serving as a chaplain or pursuing ordination with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. I’m sincerely open to what God has in store for me, and I readily acknowledge that, even after I obtain my Master’s degree, I still have a lot to learn as I exercise my faith.

Philippians 2:12-13 HCSB

So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.

As a Sunday school teacher, it is prudent for me to continue to practice what I teach—ongoing reading and meditation of the Scriptures and living a life of fullness in Christ wherever I may be.

Your spiritual journey in Jesus Christ, from today forward, continues.

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

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