Some of life’s greatest blessings come in the form of surprises. I still fondly remember being surprised by my soon-to-be fiancé Jennifer when she opened the door to her apartment on my twenty-first birthday, and I was greeted by a host of friends who had gathered for a surprise party for me. I was surprised when First Baptist Opelika called me as their Minister to College and Singles. I had never been a college minister before or been full-time on a large church staff, and fresh out of seminary they gave me the task of leading several hundred students. Having only pastored a much smaller church for four years, I was certainly surprised that a church like First Baptist on the Square would call me to be their senior pastor.
With every unbelievable comeback by a sports team that is so far behind that people quit watching the game, every underdog solo athlete or team who upsets the clear-favored champion, and every overcomer who defies the odds against his or her medical prognosis, we find ourselves filled with sense of wonder and hope that situations really can change. Is not the centerpiece of the gospel message the very real truth that the Lord God did things that no one expected to happen? Even though Jesus had told His disciples that He would be crucified and risen, no one truly believed that such a thing could really happen. But on the third day Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and the world has never been the same since.
Ask any parent who was not expecting to have any more children about that extra unexpected blessing that God granted them in giving them another child. Think about the times you have had an unexpected visitor come and bless you with his or her presence. Consider how a card, phone call, text, or email sometimes comes to you at just the right moment. Remember anew the times the money just came to you in such an unexpected way to meet your financial needs. It is in those moments of surprise that we find God’s greatest blessings.
These blessings that surprise us are certainly no surprise to our omniscient God. Rather, these unexpected blessings have been accomplished by the Lord for His glory and our good. Every good and perfect gift comes from above down to us from the Father of lights (James 1:17). Last summer was a surprising time for me in my spiritual walk and journey as your pastor. The Lord, through the power of His Holy Spirit, did things in my life and spoke to me in ways that I was not expecting. The Lord God continues to do things that surprise me.
The testimony night on Sunday night October 21 was one of those unexpected moments. I did not know how many folks would come out on a Sunday night. I did not know whether folks would have the courage or willingness to share their stories. I was concerned that those who would speak would not be mindful of the time, and that we would go too long for people’s interest. How wrong I was! We had a very good crowd of people for a Sunday night. Three teens led us in three worship songs and established a responsive atmosphere of worship. Then our guest singer’s songs and testimony touched every heart there. When I invited people to come and share their testimonies, there was never a painful pause or awkward moment. Instead there were beautiful stories of God’s healing, spiritual breakthroughs, testimonies of obedience, the faithfulness of the Lord, amazing signs that God gave to people to confirm God’s awareness of their needs and His nearness to them, the Lord’s grace in the midst of grief, and so much more.
I have never been part of something so special in all of my years in ministry. This night was not my idea but the idea of three church members: Jerry Rigby, Christy Elder, and Karyn Hunnicutt. There was incredible age diversity in the room and a true spirit of unity. The Holy Spirit was prompting people to speak, and all of us were encouraged and built up. I was pleasantly surprised by what took place on Sunday night, October 21, in our New Life Building. It exceeded my every expectation. Two hours flew by, and while some had to leave, the majority of people remained there for all of it. We were blessed beyond measure so much so that there is a real yearning among our people to do such an evening again in the near future.
As we enter into the final two months of 2018, I want to encourage you with two Scriptures that I pray will encourage you to put your faith and trust in our Lord who is most trustworthy. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit would move in ways that we are not expecting, surprising us as His people. I also pray that we would be the kind of church that truly experiences the Lord doing more than we can ever ask or imagine. Let us pray the final words of the chorus of the beloved hymn, “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”—O for grace to trust Him more!
Isaiah 64:1-3 (NAS) Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, That the mountains might quake at Your presence— 2 As fire kindles the brushwood, as fire causes water to boil—To make Your name known to Your adversaries, That the nations may tremble at Your presence! 3 When You did awesome things which we did not expect, You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence.
Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV) Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
God is Able,