Walk worthy of God who calls you into His kingdom and Glory.1 Thessalonians 2:12 NKJV
When God invites you into His kingdom, and you accept that invitation, your life changes forever: the way you think, the way you act, what is important to you, whom you serve, what you believe, what you do, and so on. Unlike the Apostle Paul, this doesn’t happen overnight for most of us, and it didn’t work that way for me. When I went to the foot of the cross, confessed my sins, and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I crossed that threshold into His kingdom and became a child of God. I truly was an immature child. I didn’t understand much other than I had begun an incredible journey with Jesus, and I relished the idea of learning and growing so I could eventually become like Him: God’s servant, nothing more, nothing less.
Early on, I learned from Peter that my journey should be about “Growing in the grace and knowledge of our God and Savior Jesus Christ,” (2 Peter 3:18). He further emphasized in 2 Peter 1:8 that the more you grow like Him, the more productive and useful you become in the kingdom. Another early lesson was that whatever I did should honor God, or as Paul writes, “do it all for the Glory of God,” (1 Corinthians 10:31). I always enjoyed learning and growing in my past life, but that growth was more selfish, i.e., for my glory. In the world, being number one or being the best you can be, is often one’s aim. For some, it can be, “Hey, look at me. Aren’t I something?” For others, it can be a way of defining your self-worth or a way of finding acceptance within one’s world. However, in God’s kingdom, it’s your faith that counts, not worldly status; faith aimed at glorifying Him and building the kingdom, nothing less, only more.
Thy will be doneMatthew 6:10 KJV
So here I am today, eight years after I accepted God’s call into His kingdom, a little wiser but still learning and growing as I try to walk worthy of His invitation. I have also learned that if I’m to bring Him glory, I must walk in obedience to his commands and not my selfish desires. It is so easy to fall prey to those desires. I think this ongoing “Groundhog Day” pandemic is fraught with obstacles to keep us from the course God wants for us. Hebrews 2:1 warns us “to pay careful attention to all we have learned, so we don’t drift away.” In this pandemic, those obstacles make drifting easy. Every day is a dull replica of yesterday and a snapshot of tomorrow where life becomes monotonous with little hope of change when TV, social media, video games, or other minutia consumes your time. It can be a challenge, I know.
Recently, I led a local Band of Brothers annual project to try to brighten the lives of underprivileged children at Christmas and, in many cases, help struggling families along the way. It is a challenging, time-consuming project, one that wore me out in past years when I was much stronger and had considerably more energy. But I always pressed on as I have such a love for disadvantaged kids, and I thoroughly enjoy bringing smiles to their faces. Each year, we always pray to find a need and the strength and wisdom to meet that need. God has never let us down in those endeavors. Whether it was helping flood victims enjoy a nice Christmas, blessing the poorest among us to enjoy a traditional Christmas meal and presents for their children, or this past year making sure those kids at risk of getting nothing for Christmas have a special day too.
Last July, I faced the decision, “do I undertake this again.” I heard those drifting-away voices saying, “you’re not recovered from your bypass surgery yet,” “it’s time to let someone else take this on,” “take a year off, relax, get stronger, everyone will understand,” and so on. I almost heeded those voices to slack off, allowing the project to die a quiet death and becoming one of those who profess to be God’s servant but walk away when the going gets tough. Fortunately, I kept remembering my prayer the evening before my bypass surgery, when I told God I was ready to come home if it was His will, but I would like to return to Liva, as well as, continue His work. Thankfully, he gave me more time. When I had those doubts about passing on the project, I would remember how God kept His word, which inspired me to do the same. Rather than stew about it any longer, I took it to the “Brothers” in early August. They were supportive, and we were on our way.
At Thanksgiving time, I had another of those potential drifting-away moments. We had set a goal of $38,000, with $6,000 going to the production costs and the remainder going to underprivileged children. We were fortunate to find organizations on the front lines of helping our target children. The previous year, we raised over $50,000 to brighten Christmas for senior citizens that were in many respects locked away in isolation in nursing homes due to the COVID virus. We felt there was no way we could match that number again this year and settled at the lesser $38,000 amount.
As Thanksgiving rolled around, things looked a little doubtful of reaching our target. We were sitting at $28,000 raised, and based on potential calendar sales (our base source for revenue) and projected donations, we thought we would end up at or around $36,000, falling $2,000 short. Also, my health was not good at that time as my statins medication for cholesterol was taking a bad toll on me. Plus, a new variant surge was upon us, making it difficult to meet with people and groups to get our message out. My thought at that time was just to take it slow and not push it. People would understand. Rather than taking the easy way out and accepting our bleak outlook, I prayed to ask God for guidance. I remember saying, if you are okay with our falling short, I would be too. Turns out He wasn’t. The next day, God took over as we not only sold out of calendars in record fashion but started to receive unprecedented donations. I’d reach a point where I would think that’s it, we are in great shape, and then I’d receive a call saying, “I have a check for you,” and I started receiving unexpected checks in the mail. I even had people ask if I was at home as they were nearby and wanted to drop off a check.
Similarly, my “Brothers” were receiving wonderful donations too. On December 22, a Rotary contact called to say they had a $2,000 check for us and could I pick it up that day. I did and while there someone handed me an envelope. When I got in my truck, I opened it up, and it was another $2,000 check. I just sat there with tears in my eyes.
The next day, I went to the mailbox, and there were two envelopes addressed to the Band of Brothers, one from Fairfax, Virginia for $250 and the other from someone from Shepherdstown, West Virginia for $500. I thought how ironic it was, “tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and someone from Shepherdstown, an area we have been blessed to help, closes out our 2021 donation campaign.” I think that was not a coincidence! How about you? When we finished up, thanks to God touching the hearts of so many generous people, we had collected $55,000 plus another $1,000 in seed money for next year, proving once again “with God all things are (absolutely) possible.” Matthew 19:26. I added absolutely, as that’s my observation.
Our Band of Brothers’ motto is “busy and broke.” So, we could extend our reach far beyond what we thought possible. We blessed over a thousand underprivileged kids across the state, as well as a significant focus on kids in our own county of Upshur. We received terrific feedback from those interacting with the families and children; tears of joy best describe their reactions. Here is an example of the feedback, “Good morning. Wanted to share one of our driver’s Christmas experience delivering to a student’s home. The driver went to the home; Grandma fell to her knees, crying and overjoyed. Said she was wondering how she would do Christmas. She only had twenty-four dollars.” Heart-wrenching. But this is why we do it, making Christmas possible for as many as we can.
In addition to our primary focus on underprivileged kids, we continued our support of a tri-county prison angel tree program, a statewide youth drug rehabilitation program, county grand families and parish house programs, youth mission trips, and ministries that support orphans in several underdeveloped countries. We were also able to bless a couple of families who lost everything to fires before Christmas and make a nice donation to our neighbors in Kentucky who lost all to devastating tornadoes a few weeks before Christmas.
We remain in awe of the support and love that so many people, businesses, churches, and organizations provide us, which allows Him to work through all of us for the sake of His kingdom. We are just the conduit that facilitates the flow of blessings to those that need them. We give Him all the praise and glory.
Satan would have liked nothing more than for our Band of Brothers to have said, let’s pass on the project this year. But, if you profess to walk worthy of God and your life is about honoring Him, then you know that God wants you to use your gifts to do His will so He can work through you to reveal His glory. We all have a choice entering 2022, drift away from serving Him, or walk worthy and become a “Glory Revealer.” Joshua says it best “choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). As for me, I will continue to try to walk worthy of God by focusing on His will for me rather than my own selfish desires.
Won’t you join me? You won’t regret it!
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Photos: © Backyard Photography, Alan Tucker