Today was my church's 15 year anniversary of God's faithfulness. I was asked to share about what I've learned and now, I'd like to share it with my readers! I have been attending Victory Fellowship for a little over a year. I would like to share what God has been teaching me in my time here. About a year and a half ago, Mike, my boyfriend, and I decided to check out churches. We mutually agreed not to compromise finding a strong, biblical, gospel-preaching church. As we were visiting, we decided that Mike would have the final decision as to what church we would attend. Victory had many of the things we were looking for: great preaching, awesome musical worship, and loving people. The fact that Rob (Mike’s twin brother) was here was a plus, as well as knowing Pastor Dan. But still, when Mike told me that Victory was going to be our church, my heart felt overwhelmed.
It was not that the people were not welcoming, because they were. It was not that people at Victory did not love Jesus, because they did. What I came to realize was my own sin issue with not wanting to mature. I wanted to go a church with a large young adult group. I concentrated on an easy transition with people who were in my life stage. It took longer than I had hoped to get to know people, and I was constantly second guessing myself. Mike, on the other hand, seemed to be doing fine, (which was a little odd, since I’m the more social one in the relationship. HAHA. What I didn’t know at the time, was that God was revealing my own selfishness and He wanted to grow me beyond the limitations I put for myself.
At that time, I had really been battling with who I was. I knew myself as a Christian, but I also tied much of my identity to being a teacher. I had been looking for a teaching job for a very long time and when I did not have the title and could not get a job, I felt useless. Some weeks were good, and some weeks I was a complete wreck. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t figure out how to be satisfied.
As I struggled with these sin issues, God was teaching me to find my identity in Christ. Even though it was such a simple lesson, it was the most challenging task to take on. My heart did not know how to be satisfied with Christ and Christ alone. My pride told me that I had every right to feel this way. I thought I was entitled to wallow in my sorrow. I went through undergrad, credential and my master’s program with nothing to show for myself. I’d look on Facebook and see how many of my friends were enjoying the “working” life. But week after week, through many sermons, God continually showed me the root of my sin. I wanted myself to be big which meant I wanted Christ to be on the sidelines. But until I made Christ first I could not be satisfied. Even in my sin, God was faithful to me. As I prayed and shared with various people, He was showing me more of how I could find my whole identity in him.
In the past year, I worked as a private tutor, substitute teacher, English instructor, crafting blogger, you name it! Since I had all this free time, I was able to begin serving in the youth and worship ministry. While serving in worship, I was so convicted by the truth in many of the songs that we sang. I noticed a difference in the purpose of lyrics. Lyrics like:
“ I want to take your word and shine it all around,
But first help me just, to live it Lord,
And when I’m doing well help me to never seek a crown,
For my reward is giving glory to you.”
The songs were not chosen simply on melody, but the connecting message about the truth of Christ.
I wanted the easy way out and have everything spoon fed. But in all these things, God was slowly showing me he had a bigger plan for me than I had for myself. Before Victory, I told myself I would never teach Junior High. They’re in the most awkward stage of their life, hormones raging and attitudes flaring. Yet, Earl asked Mike and I right before the school year kicked off to co-teach with Jon and Tonya for 6th and 7th graders. Despite my fears of this age group, teaching this past year has also been such a blast. It was then that God gave me opportunities to use my teaching techniques with the Bible. I remember I used to pray, “God just give me a class that I can teach!” and he did. He is so faithful! Every teacher lives for the “aha!” moment at school. But when a kid, or anyone for that matter can have the “aha!” moment about Christ and his sanctifying love, the joy is even deeper, because that “aha!” was God giving us the opportunity to witness Him saving someone from death and bringing them to life.
The turning point when God made me realize the beauty of our church body was when our young adult group had our first prayer meeting. Pastor Dan brought out a big white board and made different columns for prayer topics like: Victory fellowship, personal prayer requests, people who don’t know Christ, missionaries we know and the list goes on. The plan was to erase prayer requests that God had answered and add new ones every month that we could pray about. I think what brought our small group together was when we started to pray for the people in our lives who didn’t know Jesus. We realized that our hearts for the lost were the same, and deeply rooted for many of our families. Pretty soon my prayer requests were their requests and theirs were mine. We were taking ownership of our spiritual family. God began to send me wonderful conversations with people of various ages to bless, challenge and encourage me.
Two themes I can take away from this year are that God is faithful from beginning to end, and Victory fellowship is my spiritual family. Although I wanted to be comfortable, God grew and stretched me in ways that were for my good. He provided for every one of my needs even if my bank statements were low. Through prayer he helped me identify myself with Christ first, and teacher second. He made me realize my own sin and is continually helping me to make him increase and make myself decrease just as it says in John 3:30 ‘He must become greater; I must become less. He has used this spiritual family to pray for me, and thankfully for those prayers, I’ll be an elementary teacher this fall in LA. I thank God for using weak and broken sinners to make up a church that uplifts Christ in glory and help me to recognize how amazing it is that someone as perfect and great as God could love a wretch like me.
I hope this testimony can encourage you to know that God is faithful no matter what type of trial or joy we are in!
Til our next Hello,