Most of this post is from an email I sent today. All the personal information has been removed except what applies to me. I hope that it is personal enough to be moving to you spiritually.
When I was young, in my early twenties, I learned about the church and its power from a book by Gene Edwards called, at that time, The Early Church. It had a great cover, an orange background with big stone letters for the title.
In it, I learned that our testimony to the world was our unity (Jn. 17:20-23) and our love (Jn. 13:34-35), not my individual Christian life. I learned from Gene Edwards retelling of Acts about the raw, breathless joy of the corporate life of the church.
I longed for the fellowship of the church and the intimacy I knew it would bring. I wanted to obey Jesus. I wanted to give up everything and glorify his name, and it seemed clear that the only powerful way to do that was to be a part of his church.
So I pursued “the church.” I started home fellowships, and I attended them. The results didn’t get better over time; they got worse. Nonetheless, I sought everywhere that I could.
Along the way, I gave up one business opportunity after another. I worried about what my parents thought about me. I was sure they were thinking: “Paul is so smart. He could have accomplished anything, but now every time something opens up, he drops it, and runs off searching for the church. He’s always at less than $10/hour jobs, barely supporting his family, and he could be running a company.”
I wondered if I really was being stupid. When I was 34, my wife told me that she didn’t understand why I didn’t give up pursuing the church. She was done with the search.
A few months later, we met Noah Taylor and the church from Geneva, Fl.
I struggle with knowing if the church here is doing enough. I struggle with knowing if I’m doing enough. I struggle with whether we are the testimony to Christ that we are supposed to be.
The fact is, though, that I long for my brothers and sisters, and especially the young ones, to long to glorify him like I long to glorify him. I don’t think I’m good at it. I worry that I’m not even a good influence on the young ones, that I show them a life that is too caught up in business, soccer, and entertainment.
There’s a word I heard 30 years ago. That word is “abandonment.”
I love the idea of abandoning everything for God. That’s why I loved the battle with leukemia so much. I could abandon my own life. I fought to stay alive and trusted God because it was good for my wife, for my kids, and for Rose Creek Village. It was so painful physically, yet I got to overcome pain and care only about God’s will. The feeling of abandonment was thrilling to me. I never regret those days in the hospital.
I love anything an abandoned person does. Giving up things for God is the most delightful thing that can be done because it leaves us with just him. Either he comes through or he doesn’t. Such a close feeling to God, and oh, the wonderful results of it!
My greatest concern is that you get to feel the abandoned life; the life lived wholly for God. If you can get there, I will trust all your decisions, whichever ones you make.