“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”2 Corinthians 4:18
H ave you ever found yourself in a disheartening or difficult situation? Have you ever ended up in a place you knew God had led you to, only to look around and cry, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” I have.
In 1999, I heard the Holy Spirit tell me to leave my career in Christian music and become a worship pastor. Many of my peers were heeding that same call, and it was great to see God placing them at exciting, fast-growing churches. I followed the Lord’s lead and moved my family to Orlando, Florida, to help a friend start a church in a new, trendy community. But by 2002, I found myself in a place where my dreams were slowly dying. Our congregation wasn’t growing, our staff was splintering, and I had given up a successful music career to help plant this church. I knew God had called me to be a worship pastor, but this wasn’t how things were supposed to go. In the midst of it all, I saw many of my friends have the success I was hoping for at large churches and ministries across the country. I was supposed to lead thousands in worship every weekend, not dozens.
I desperately wanted to leave, but God told me to stay, and thank God we did. It was a five-year season of testing for me as I learned to fix my eyes on Jesus and not on my circumstances. God was doing something important behind the scenes, and He continued to ask me to trust Him.
I can think of three Bible characters who had good reason to be miserable and probably wondered if they had made the right career choices. For example, David was forced to hide from his enemies in caves, Paul, imprisoned for preaching the gospel, and John, confined to a lonely island far away from his friends and loved ones. I doubt those men wanted to be in these situations, but they made the most of their discomfort. David wrote beautiful songs in those caves, Paul wrote letters in that prison cell that we still read today, and John saw Jesus as He pulled back the curtain to reveal the glory and spectacle of heaven.
Paul tells us in Romans 5 that difficulties bring about perseverance which gives way to proven character, and finally, that character leads to hope. And that hope, rooted in heaven, does not disappoint! Hope is in short supply these days because we do not want anything to be difficult. If we run Paul’s statement backward, we see that the lack of hope is due to poor character, formed by men who quit when things get hard. God is calling Christian men to stand firm and walk that proven path toward hope. When life gets hard, don’t quit! That was the greatest lesson I learned in those early days of church ministry.
One of my early mentors used to say, “God will not use you publicly until He tutors you privately.” I believe some of the most productive times in our lives as Christians come when we are hidden and unnoticed and when our only source is Jesus. When we stand firm during those difficult seasons of life, God promotes us and slowly begins to unveil His plan for our lives.
Today, I lead thousands in worship every week. But I have a much different perspective than I did 20 years ago. The posts I see on Instagram or Facebook from my peers do not influence me as they used to. As I discipline myself to keep my eyes on that which is unseen, I find that peace of God that surpasses all understanding. It truly does guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus, and in that peace, I can stand firm in every difficult situation.