I want to take you through one of my earliest memories of church. I was about 11 or 12 years old when we got a really popular pastor to pastor our small, country church. Our congregation was faithful to come every time the doors opened and had been members since the beginning of time it seemed. Doctrinally, however, there ended up being some complications between the pastor and the congregation. Add to this the fact that the pastor had brought with him enough people for a coup of this church, and the tension becomes quite clear. The old-timey members staged a rebellion against his leadership at one of the business meetings and the pastor, having had enough, resigned taking with him all of the new crowd.
So there we were, a congregation of about twenty on an average Sunday and mostly family, pastor-less, directionless, and without a clue as to how to proceed. A few interim pastors filled the void until we could find a replacement, but they just weren’t the real thing. We had not a shepherd.
In steps a young man who had not surrendered to the ministry, but filled the pulpit for us one Sunday nevertheless. He did well. Actually, he did quite well and was invited back the following Sunday. He graciously accepted and found himself at our pulpit once more, only this time he couldn’t speak. He found himself unable to articulate his thoughts and unable to preach in any capacity. In tears, at the pulpit, he surrendered to the ministry to which he had been called and completed the sermon. God had sent us a pastor.
Now, I feel the need to say that this happened over the course of several years and was by no means a quick thing. In the meantime, I had become a good Southern Baptist kid. I was more interested in sports than girls, more interested in girls than school, and more interested in school than God. I’d lived most of my life to this point believing I was saved though the evidence shown in my life told a much different story. I cussed like a sailor, indulged in pornography, and worshiped football. That was the culture of Southern Baptist kids. That is what defined us, I say to the dismay and shame of the churches that brought us up.
Unsurprisingly, this all had an adverse effect on my overall demeanor. My grades were slipping and I was experiencing deep depression and anxiety. Things got so bad that I actually considered suicide a time or two. I was really in a dark place.
During this time, I had become a junior in high school. Louisiana state law mandates that high school students must take two years of a foreign language and in my small town, that meant Junior and Senior year. The only foreign language teacher we had taught Spanish and I wasn’t about to take two years of online French, so Spanish it was!
The first week of the school year is always spent getting to know your teachers and that’s exactly what we did. I met my math teacher, Automotive Technician teacher, English teacher, Spanish teacher, et al. All of them made really good first impressions, but one in particular stuck out in my mind: Spanish.
She spoke as though she was on our level, treated us as human beings, allowed us to see that she wasn’t perfect (and that she didn’t expect us to be so either), and told us what made her tick: her faith. She said that being a Christian made her work hard and love her students because she wanted to present herself in a way that would glorify God. Then she told us that she thought it was important that each of us understand why we believe what we believe. If you were an atheist, it was incumbent on you to understand why you were. Christians had the same responsibility and so on. She then wrote something on the board. “Why I Choose to Believe the Bible” by some dude of whom I had never heard.
Back to my dark place! I was driving home from my grandma’s one night when a strange thought occurred to me. “If I drove into that tree, I wouldn’t have to worry about anything anymore.” It was a startlingly enticing thought, and I might have made good on it were it not for my younger brother being in the passenger seat. All at once, I realized how scary a thing it was that I had even seriously considered suicide. I actually repented and was saved then. I have no idea what the date was, but it changed my life. I got home and thought, “What now?” Then I remembered that the Spanish teacher had written that on the board some months prior. I couldn’t remember exactly the title, but I figured if I got close enough I would recognize the guy’s name. I typed in “Why I believe the Bible” and sure enough, it came up. Dr. Voddie Baucham Jr. was his name. I clicked on it and that transformed the way I thought about church, the Bible, and Christians in general.
Soon thereafter, I discerned a call to preach the gospel that had so gloriously regenerated me. Not knowing what else to do, I approached the young pastor who’d, only a short time ago himself, surrendered to preach. I was 16. Astonished, he told me of a class he’d been attending on Tuesday nights with this group of guys in order to learn how to be a better pastor. He said I would learn a lot as well.
Now, three years after the fact, I am part of many wonderful ministry opportunities with those guys. We have our own preaching conferences and open-air preaching events regularly, and they are the reason I am so well-informed theologically. I say all of this because my last post was about the decree of God and how everything happens for a reason. I don’t want you to think that was just some nebulous idea of mine that I came up with. God used a church split, a Spanish teacher, and depression to bring me to a point of repentance and belief. If even one component of my testimony were changed, I wouldn’t be a Calvinist, and I likely wouldn’t be saved.
The providence of God is often a hard thing. In the moment, we find ourselves asking why an awful lot. However, when I look back at my own life to this point, I see the hand of God working in seemingly mundane, and sometimes horrible, things to bring about beautiful and lasting results. No matter what you’re going through, understand that everything truly does happen for a reason. The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria.