This past weekend I was privileged to be a part of a Discipleship Now (DNOW) weekend with the youth group of Franklin Heights Baptist Church. One of my dearest friends is the youth pastor for Franklin Heights and about a month ago he asked if I would like to come with them and help chaperon and lead some of the sessions. I was excited from the first moment because I had heard of DNOW weekends but had never been a part of one. Needless to say, my excitement was far less than I would find out it should have been. The blessings began even on the trip to Myrtle Beach as a rode with Justin Lucas, another youth pastor from Trading Ford Baptist Church. We spent the entire (what turned out to be) 5 hour trip to the beach discussing every spiritual matter under the sun and if I had turned around and gone straight home the blessing would have been manifold.
The theme for the weekend was a study from Student Life Ministry called "Live Love" and it was a wonderful study of Jesus' command for us to love one another and how that should be the defining characteristic of our identity as Christians. We spent hours sharing and discussing how love is lived out in our lives and how it runs contrary to the ways of the world. The depth of some of the student's spiritual life was so encouraging to me and it was capped off with a joint worship service on Saturday evening where some of the youth were asked to give some devotional thoughts to the group. It was during this worship time that some of the adult leaders, including myself, were asked to give testimony. Something struck me as I was sharing how God has been so good and faithful to me that I would like to share with you and perhaps expand upon.
What I realized that evening was this: although there have been many times in my life when I was not seeking God's face and pursuing His will for my life, He has always pursued me. One of the passages that we looked at this weekend was John 15. While there is much about Jesus' command for us to love one another the way that He has loved us there is also this in verse 16, "You did not choose Me but I chose you and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain..." My question to the group, and to you, was and is this; did you realize that the God of the universe who created the planets and stars, the oceans and mountains, picked you to be His? If we are believers in Jesus Christ we have been divinely appointed to be His children and heirs to His kingdom. This should leave us dumbfounded and speechless at the perfect and amazing will of God our Father.
If you are like me there have been far too many times in your life when you were not following the path that of God's will and have turned your eyes from His wonderful face. Even in those times when we are not pursuing God, He is always there and we are always in His hand as John 10:28-30 tells us. Now, this does not let us off the proverbial "hook" of following God' will or searching after His plan for our lives. The Bible is replete with admonitions to us to pursue righteousness and seek God's face. However, even when we don't He does not so easily let us stray. In Isaiah 62 we have a prophecy about the glory of Zion and God's people and in verse 12 it says that they will be called, "Sought out, and city not forsaken." In 1 Samuel 13:14 it tells us that God sought out a man after His own heart. Even though the list of places that we are told to seek after God far outweighs the evidence that He seeks after us, it is clear that He will not let His chosen ones slip quietly away from Him. In fact, I would say that God pursuing us should be the exception to the rule rather than the norm. It is His will that would would passionately chase after Him but He does not leave us high and dry when we stray from His path.
By any earthly standard I should have used up my measure of grace long ago, and many of you may feel the same way. However, we serve a God who does not work within the earthly grace economy. We serve a God whose limitless grace is always ready to welcome us back to Himself. This does not mean that we take God's grace for granted or test the limits of His patience because we know that He can tell the Holy Spirit to cease striving with us at any moment. In fact, Paul asks the Roman Christians is grace is any reason to continue in sin. His answer is one of my favorites, "By no means!" However, we can take comfort in the fact that if we are His then He will draw us lovingly back to Himself. Furthermore, the Bible tells us that if we draw near to Him, He is faithful to draw near to us. That is a promise from God's Word and as such we can take it to the bank.