Facing A Bend In The Road
About ten years ago, Donna and I experienced a major financial setback—an unexpected turning point in our lives in respect to where we would live, the ministry we would do, and how we would pay the bills. In November 2006, after serving a fairly large congregation in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for about fifteen years, with church board and denominational approval, we decided to allow for a merger of another congregation and their pastor to take over the leadership of our church.
The new leadership made financial decisions and commitments which allowed us to begin an overseas ministry to Europe, teaching at Continental Theological Seminary near Brussels, Belgium, and preaching in their churches on weekends. Donna and I were able to give full time to missions in Europe. We loved it. The accredited college and seminary offered instruction in English and French. I taught on the English side.
From 2007 to 2011, we taught at the seminary and served as evangelists on weekends. We preached all around— Brussels, Mons, and Antwerp in Belgium; Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague in the Netherlands; Basel and Bern in Switzerland, and also in Paris, France. Additionally, we got to tour London, Paris, Germany, and Rome.
We lived on campus, on the second floor of the men’s dormitory. We taught there for about four years, but in the fall of 2011, we were suddenly advised that our financial support from our former pastorate would be discontinued on January 1, 2012.
It was now December 2011, and I did not have a plan or finances for our future travel and ministry. For the next six months, life was an incredible struggle.
We moved back to Arlington, Texas, not sure what to do. Finances were tight. Life was scary. Friends seemed to be lost. No doors of ministry seemed to open.
On a certain Sunday in 2012, fighting discouragement and confusion, we visited a nearby church pastored by a fine minister whom we had known for several years.
After enjoying a fine Sunday morning service, the dear pastor and his wife saw that we were hurting and invited us out for Sunday lunch. During lunch, we told them our dilemma. They knew of our long pastorate in the area prior to going into missions. Sadly, we shared our situation of our missionary venture coming to a halt. Our finances had been suddenly terminated. We did not know where to go or what to do.
This dear pastor and his sweet wife listened to us as we dumped on them our problems. They listened carefully. They asked very few questions. Their facial expressions and eyes showed that they hurt with us and cared. As the lunch time came to an end, the pastor said, “I have a poem to share with you, if I can remember it.” From memory, he began to cite a piece of poetry that suggested looking at what seems to be the end of something as simply a bend in life’s road.
With a tear in his eye, he spoke softly to Donna and me and said, “Brother Gray, your life of ministry is not over. You have come to a bend in the road. God has something very good planned for you all. Now, you must trust Him, and He will show you the way. He cited part of the poem to us and emphasized, “When you come to an unexpected bend in the road, trust God for your future. He will direct your steps.”
I believe he quoted Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
We had prayer, said our goodbyes, and traveled on, not knowing the future for Donna and me.
When we got up from lunch with that dear pastor and his wife, we embraced the truth that God was not finished with us yet. After a few weeks, God opened a door of ministry in a country church about twenty miles east of Dallas. We pastored Quinlan First Assembly Church for about five years. Then we were invited back to Jimmy Swaggart Ministries to teach and preach at Jimmy Swaggart Bible College (JSBC) and to share weekly on several programs airing on the SonLife Broadcasting Network. Through the platform of SBN, Family Worship Center, and JSBC, we continue to teach, preach, and share the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord and Savior. The message of the cross still changes lives today—millions of lives!
Please allow me to share with you a few Scriptures that meant so much to us during that most difficult time in our lives:
I close by highlighting Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
- “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24).
- “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope”(Jer. 29:11, New American Standard Bible).
- “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19)
God can and will turn mistakes and storms into blessings. Dear friend, when going through great trials and storms, you must continually do these four things:
- Spend at least one hour a day in prayer—thirty minutes in the morning and thirty minutes in the evening. During this time of fervent prayer, focus on what Christ did for you on Calvary. The message of the cross is all about God’s great love and His power to forgive us, keep us, and sanctify us. Let this prayer time be mostly about praise. Yes, you should bring to Him your supplications, but spend most of your prayer time praising God. This prayer time will reignite the fire in your soul for your future ministry. While you are in prayer, get a Jimmy Swaggart CD and play some of his music. It will help your prayer time.
- Study the Word of God at least one hour a day. As you study God’s Word, faith will arise in your heart and soul. Remember, Romans 10:17: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” God’s Word knocks down fear and unbelief. Fill your mind daily with the Word of God focusing on the promises of God. His Word produces faith.
- Attend church services—twice a week if possible. Hebrews 10:25 reads, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” When going through great trials, you need the fellowship of God’s people more than at other times. Also, take time to watch SBN and gain the strength of God as sermons are preached and songs proclaimed. Get close or stay close to other pastors and friends. Stay in fellowship with the church.
- As much as you can, continue to support the work of God with your limited finances. Be a giver and do it cheerfully even if you don’t have a job or ministry. Do what you can do. God will bless you as you continue to give tithes and offerings to the work of God.
Dear friend, commit to doing these four things daily and weekly, and victory and blessings will come to you again!