Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021

God is Not Done with You

          If you are still breathing, God is not done with you! That idea has blessed me my entire life. In my current struggle with grief, I hear God saying to me once again, “I am not finished with you!”

When I failed as a young man, the Inner Voice said, “Walter, I am not done with you. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Get up and I will help you take the next step on this journey I have planned for you.” Those words gave me the courage to believe that the Living God would not give up on me until the final curtain is drawn.  

          Whatever your age or situation, I dare you to believe that God is not done with you! Run from self-pity and self-despising. Laugh at your troubles and see in the midst of life’s storms that your heavenly Father is still working on you! Clear the runway and give the God who loves you a chance to make you what he wants you to be! Keep on yielding to the Potter who is able to shape you into the beautiful person he wants you to be! He can use your pain and heartache to make you a better person.

          Right now you may be miserable, disillusioned, depressed, angry or ready to give up. I have been there. All those feelings have been mine. But as I struggled with life’s hard issues, I became conscious that God was still working on me.

That became a profound insight: God is not done with me. That I am still alive is God’s will. In all my circumstances, God is using my problems to sand off my rough edges. I am like clay in the hands of a potter. I am a miserable, broken pot but he has not thrown me away in disgust. So, if God had hope for me, I can have some hope for myself. That small hope grows as I feel his hands shaping me.

          As our boys grew up, the pressures of parenting and pastoral ministry created more stress than I could handle. Flat on my back in a hospital, diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer and 45 years old, I was one miserable human being. I was a wreck. One minute I was scared I was going to die; the next minute I wanted to die. My life was over. I was a failure as a father and as a pastor.

Then I felt his hands upon me; I began to believe God was molding me into a vessel he could use. One more time my sense of unworthiness was overcome by the reality that God was still working on me. To my miserable, broken spirit God whispered, “I am not done with you.” As I slowly regained my health, I found new confidence in my gifts for ministry.

          Then I hit the wall again. After serving several churches effectively, I failed to build the support I needed in my next appointment. Conflict with key leaders of the church led to my being reassigned to another church after only two years. This time, more than ever before, I struggled with self-despising, depression and self-pity but the Lord rescued me again. Despite my mistakes and poor judgment, God had mercy on me. Joy in ministry returned. Once again, I was aware that God was not done with me!

       At age 70 the mandatory retirement age rule of the United Methodist Church made it necessary for me to retire. I was a basket case. My life was over. Miserable spiritually, I was also a wreck physically, so crippled in both knees that I could hardly walk. My orthopedic surgeon and dear friend Dr. Jim Whatley replaced both my knees. But before I could leave the hospital, blood clots developed and the good doctor said after several panic-stricken hours, “We almost lost you.” But God was kind; He helped Doctor Whatley save me.

       A funny thing – a God thing really – happened before I was discharged from the hospital. My friend Lester Spencer, pastor of Saint James United Methodist Church in Montgomery, came to see me. In the hospital where two days before I had almost died from blood clots, Lester invited me to come on staff at Saint James. I laughed at his proposal but told him that if I could find a way to walk again, I would join his team and I did.  

       God’s kindness afforded me 15 years of ministry with the Saint James church family. Deep, abiding friendships with many strong disciples of Christ developed. I had the honor of preaching the good news of Jesus every Sunday. Dean and I grew spiritually while sharing the joy of ministry in our mature years. We saw people come to new life in Christ as we led Bible study groups in our home. I shared the sorrow of those whose loved ones had run ahead of us to the Father’s House. I baptized many babies and others seeking peace with God. I tied the matrimonial knot tight for many couples.

       Along the way my strength has declined as expected in the aging process. Walking, which now requires a cane, is difficult. I think about death now much more than when I was young, especially since my wife died. At age 89 I realize I am around third base and will soon slide across home plate. I don’t dread dying. I am not afraid to die. Indeed, I am excited about it because I expect to find Dean waiting for me at the gate! I believe with Paul that when I die, I will be “with Christ” and that “to die is gain.”

          Pondering my death is not depressing. The fact that I am still alive reminds me that God is not done with me. That excites me. I know that God wants to make me more like Christ. And since that work is not done yet, I need to surrender more fully, daily, to his transforming power.

       To experience God’s life-changing power, his servants must make daily surrender a habit. God does not force his way into our lives. He waits for us to say, “Jesus, I want you to make me what you want me to be.” No matter what problems you have now, what mountains you are trying to climb, as long as you have breath, God is not done with you! He waits for you to become clay in his hands.     

       Dear reader, I covert for you, until your last breath, the joyous awareness that God is not done with you! While life lasts, let Him have His way with you! Get up! Get in the game! Play with enthusiasm till the final whistle blows! Rejoice that your Maker is still at work shaping you into the person He wants you to be! + + +