This week I heard a pastor, when asked about the longevity of his ministry, say he had started pastoring when he was 19 years old and a senior in high school. He then said, “You can ask them and me and neither of us would say that was a good idea.” I thought that was a great insight and even some humor from a man I deeply admire.
It caused me to think – I wasn’t pastoring at 19 but I did start preaching at 17, the summer going into my senior year. Like my dear brother, some would have said that was not a good idea.
The truth for both of us – me preaching at 17 and him pastoring at 19 – was not our choice to make. Preaching and pastoring, it was then and is now a direct calling from God. Anyone truly called by God is not looking to be preaching or pastoring, but to be drafted by God into that calling of carrying His name and His word.
This was on my mind today because it was the last Thursday of July in 1992 in a morning revival service at White Creek Baptist Church that I preached my first sermon. My dad was the pastor at the time and after a long wrestling match with God that lasted several years, I finally surrendered to the call of God on my life and announced it on Sunday night at the start of the summer revival.
At the close of that service, without any warning, my dad announced to the church, “Make sure and be here this week for revival, morning and night and especially be here Thursday morning. Michael will be preaching his first sermon.” My dad did to me what others had done to him, when you announce that God has called you to preach, well, it is time to start preaching!
I will forever remember that Thursday and will always remember White Creek Baptist Church. You see, when I was in 3rd grade my mama, my brother Mark, and I were in a terrible wreck just under a quarter of a mile from the church when a woman ran a stop sign and t-boned our truck.
I was thrown from the truck. By all accounts from the EMTs, I should have died. They lost me a couple of times on way to hospital. At the hospital my parents were not given much hope that I would even make it through the night. And if I did, my quality of life would not be a good one because of trauma to the brain. Even as I write this, I am amazed at God’s grace and humbled by his touch.
My dad and mama begin to call people to pray and even as my dad prayed in the chapel that night he would later tell me he heard God speak to his heart that I was going to be ok. And by God’s grace He performed a miracle in my life. In one short week I walked out on my own when some doctors didn’t think I would make it all.
I did have to learn to read all over again as I went to school at home for three months. When I went back to school they set up appointments for a speech therapist, but she listened to me one time and said I was great and would not need to see me anymore. Today as I pastor and preach the only time you might pick up on any issues happen when I get to preaching fast and my words may run together a time or two. It has nothing to do with how long I preach though, that is all on me!
When I drive by White Creek church today God always reminds me of that moment when He performed a miracle and then nine years later allowed me to me preach less than a quarter of a mile from where I should have died. He gives me that memory that says, “I wasn’t done with you and had a calling on your life that you didn’t even know about as a 3rd grader, but I did.”
God knows I needed that reminder today. He was not done with me then, which means he is not done with me now. He worked a miracle in my life then and He is still working miracles in my life now. I praise Him today that He has allowed me to go back in my mind and give Him glory and honor for His grace and mercy in my life and ministry.
How about you? I know in some way or another you also have seen God work a miracle in your life and He has given you many moments in which He used you by His grace. Do you need to go back in your memory bank today and see once again the gracious hand of Almighty God moving and working in your life, saying to you “I am not done with you and I have a plan for you”?
Today, 26 years later, on this last Thursday in July, I stand amazed and humbled in how God has worked in my life and ministry. He not only performed a miracle in healing me but also in His call upon my life gave me a moment of preaching near a place I should have died. Thank you, Lord, for that memory today and thank you for your grace!
This post originally appeared on the blog of Michael Wilkes on July 26.