It doesn’t seem possible, but this month marks the completion of 25 years of itinerant ministry. I am dumbfounded when I consider all that God has done. A lot has changed in the past 25 years, and as I look ahead, I can see God changing things again. But as I look back, one thing has been consistent. God has been faithful. He has been faithful to meet all of my needs and the needs of the ministry as I have learned to follow him by faith. It is his faithfulness and kindness that I rely upon.
Most recently God provided in a very dramatic way.
In September, I wrote about how a sense of weariness has crept into my life over the past couple of years. I’ve grown weary of being on the road, schlepping through airports, waiting in line at rental car counters, checking in and out of hotels, and staying in homes, all while traveling to churches and ministries across five continents.
At the same time, the ministry has faced some significant challenges behind the scenes. With the problems in the US economy beginning in 2008, the total number of ministry events I do each year has decreased. During this same period, donations to the ministry have fallen sharply as well. At times I wondered if God were redirecting me somehow. Perhaps it was time to close down the ministry. I looked at a variety of other options but felt no leading from God. The weariness continued to grow.
At some point early this year, I considered taking some time off from travel to focus on the writing side of the ministry. I had started a new book last year but it was only partially completed. The idea of a sabbatical made sense. I could take some time off to focus on finishing the book. But while the time off the road was attractive, I also had to consider the consequences of no ministry events for six months. How would my financial needs be met if there were no income from live events? I considered renting out my house. I looked at a lot of other options. I put off making a decision because I just didn’t know what to do.
Finally, this past August I was able to take a week of vacation with friends. During that time I rested deeply. I didn’t do any work on my laptop, no email, and no ministry events for 7 days. It was so refreshing. But on Friday of that week I started to feel a sense of melancholy setting in. By Saturday, the day I was supposed to fly home, I was depressed. I did not want to go back to my reality at home. I realized at that time that I needed a break from the road and needed to make a decision one way or the other regarding the sabbatical.
I wanted to wait until the end of October to make the decision because then I would have a better idea of where I stood financially. I could look at the money in the bank and make my decision based on whether the funds were available or not. But God doesn’t work that way with me. Instead, he clearly said to me “No, Tim, you make that decision based on whether or not you feel I am leading you to do that and then you trust me for the finances.” And so at the end of August I took some time to fast and pray about the sabbatical. It was important to me to know that God was leading me to do this because I have never closed the calendar in twenty five years of ministry. It was a significant decision for me.
Very quickly into the fast I could tell God was leading me to do this. Once I had a clear word from God, I went online and cleared the calendar on the website. It was official. I would take a 6-month writing-sabbatical beginning in mid-November following my last scheduled ministry event for the year. At the time I made the decision, there was only enough money in the bank to cover the expenses for 2 months. I had no idea how we would make it.
What happened next was stunning. In twenty five years of ministry, I have never seen anything like it. Within 30 days of my making the decision to take the sabbatical, God provided all of the funds needed to cover our operating expenses for the entire sabbatical! And it wasn’t with one large donation. It was many small donations from individuals moved by the Holy Spirit to give. I can’t explain it except to say that God has shown his faithfulness in a remarkable way.
It was an incredible encouragement to me personally. When God provided financially in the dramatic way that he did, it was as if he were putting an exclamation point behind his name “Faithful!”. He was clearly telling me, “I have you in the palm of my hand.” The confirmation that he was indeed leading me to take the writing-sabbatical was significant. It gave me incredible confidence to move forward with the writing of the book.
I share this with you to remind you of the faithfulness of God. I also want you to have an idea of what I see God doing behind the scenes and to ask you to pray for me during this time. I value your prayer support. I believe the Holy Spirit will guide you into how you can best pray. I have been praying that God would give me influence over all of North America. I am passionate to see the church in North America returning to God. I believe the book will challenge many folks to love God with utter abandon and to love others selflessly. I continue to believe that if we would just do those two things, everything would change. Our lives would change. Our churches would change. Our world would change. All for the better.
This past week, I read one of David’s psalms and it ministered to me deeply. It is Psalm 103. I encourage you to read the entire Psalm. But let me share just a few verses with you that spoke to me personally.
“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:8-14, ESV).
Now you may think this is an odd passage to share when I have been writing about the faithfulness of God. But what jumped out at me is the line “he remembers that we are dust.” I am not God. I do not think like God. I cannot make my life work apart from God. But he is kind. He is faithful. He remembers that I was created out of the dust of the earth. He is okay with my just being Tim and his being God. He knows when I am weary. He knows when I need to crawl up into his lap to be held by him, and in his faithfulness he provides a way for me to do that.
I need a God like that.
Today, I don’t know what is going on in your world. Perhaps you need to be reminded that God is faithful. He does not treat us as we deserve. Instead, he gives us grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love. He knows what is going on in your life. He is aware. He faithfully takes care of his own when we rely upon him. His name is Faithful!
I don’t know what the next 25 years of the ministry will look like. I don’t know what God has planned to achieve through the writing of the new book. I do know that whatever lies ahead, God will be faithful, and that is enough for me. I’m content to follow him one day at a time, to love him, and to love others out of the overflow of his love and faithfulness to me.
This article was originally published in the November 2013 Newsletter.