A few years ago, I blissfully opened my acceptance letter to Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky. I had asked God to allow me to go to Boyce for years. The answer to my prayers had come at last. The previous year, I had been going to Chattanooga State Technical Community College. However, I wanted to get out of this particular college so that I could be in a Christian environment, learn from Christian teachers, and have a plethora of Christian friends. I immediately began to make arrangements in preparation of this newly unveiled path of education. I bought a car and acquired two jobs over the summer to save extra money. Then, at the end of the summer, I worked out my two weeks notice at my workplace. Even though I was convinced of God’s plan He had set out for me, He affectionately showed me otherwise.
Two days before I was to leave for college, every one of my plans fell through. My hot “new-to-me” sports car (nearing 20 years of age) was found dead in a parking lot. My private student loans failed to go through due to a mysterious element they referred to as a “credit score”. As a result, my classes were dropped because of my inability to make payment deadlines. So I basically went from having the next six years of my life planned ahead to having no job, no direction, no money, and no plans for the fall. To add insult to injury, my friends all knew that I was leaving to go to college. So this, of course, led me to retell this entire embarrassing story many times over. But how was I to explain that God had ruined everything? I was the one who had it all together. I was the one who wanted to live a godly life in a Christian environment. I was the one who wanted to start my intense study for future full-time ministry. It was God who closed the door to laugh at my expense. He closed the door so that He could spite me (or so I thought).
Well, I wallowed like a little child for a while. At the time, I felt like I was Job: grievously suffering for no reason. Looking back, I was pitiful. Perhaps you know what this looks like in your own life. Perhaps you are even chuckling that this looks very similar to your situation. Well, this was not a laughing matter to me. I, in fact, did not want to take a hint. I began thinking about how I could get myself back into Boyce. Yet it was all to no avail. Finally, after I had grasped at every straw, trying to make the fall semester look good in my own eyes, I decidedly surrendered my future career to God’s will. My prayer changed from “Lord, why have You forsaken me” to “Lord, if this is not the plan, can You show me what the plan is?” As my self-centeredness changed to Christ-centeredness, He showed me the plan. It was exactly what I loathed, but He gave me a love for it. That fall, I went right back to the community college in which I began, driving the same beat-up car that I drove (that is, after we used the defibrillator on it). I had not completely surrendered, but the Lord gracefully reminded me how throughout the semester. I was like many of the Galatians who began in the spirit, but thought they could be perfected through the flesh (Galatians 3:3). I had placed ‘Christianity’ over Christ, falling into the legalistic trap of thinking that I could continue in salvation if I followed the law. And not only the law, but my own laws. That somehow I was a better Christian if I went to a Christian school, had Christian friends, and worked in a Christian environment. And although God calls some to that lifestyle, He did not call me to it at that time.
Although I still desired to be in a Christian environment, the Lord gave me something better: A mission field on a secular school campus. Although I desired to be in a large Bible study with fellow students at a Christian college, the Lord introduced me to Precept Ministries- a place I could study the Word with Christians from all facets of life. He reminded me what it meant to be “still and know that (He) is God” (Psalms 46:10). God taught me that even though I make many plans, He is the one who establishes every step (Proverbs 16:9). He not only changed my spiritual lifestyle, but He also added a nice bonus: That fall semester, God introduced me to the woman who would be my future wife. You see, surrendering might not be a one time decision, nor will it always look like what you expect, but Christ truly has a plan. I thought that the Godliest decision was for me to go to a Christian college-but this was not the case.
If we are to look at a Biblical example, we don’t have to look any further than one of the first apostles called to Christ: Peter himself. Peter was called to give up his entire lifestyle and profession to follow Christ (Matt 4:18-22). Although Peter emphatically gave up his lifestyle, Christ revealed that Peter had not yet given up his all. Despite Peter’s claim that he loved Christ enough to die with him (John 13:37-38), we find out that Peter would not even admit that he was with Christ by denying him three times (Mark 14:72). And even after Peter had seen the risen Savior, he still did not fully surrender his old lifestyle. Paul rebuked Peter because his flesh still led him to try to live by works of the law rather than faith in Jesus Christ (Gal 2:11-16).
Like Peter, Christ has not called us to surrender one thing, but all things. He calls us to surrender our lives, our pleasures, our ministries, our plans, and He calls us to follow Him. Perhaps not once, but many times over. He might even close doors, as he did with me in a very trivial way. Yet He has a promise with this all: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:24
Go to Twitter and this is what you’ll learn about Caleb… Christian, server, drummer, photographer, son, brother, husband, friend, reader,and Almond Joy lover. That’s me.