Thirty-Two Years of Ministry (1980-2012)
A Testimony to God's Faithfulness
"The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He." — Deuteronomy 32:4
When I think of God's faithfulness, I am always reminded of a powerful personal testimony I heard years ago by Mr. James Watt who was serving at the time as President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Interior.
A Moving Testimony
Mr. Watt began his testimony by telling about how he had grown up attending both Baptist and Methodist churches. He said he never realized how liberal the churches were until he had a personal encounter with the Lord at a Full Gospel Business Men's meeting in Washington, D.C.
"I would never have accepted the invitation to attend the meeting if I'd had the foggiest idea of what it was all about," Watt declared.
He had gone to church for 40 years, and he had never heard the term, "Full Gospel." Nor had he ever experienced an altar call. The churches he had attended were not evangelistic, and they were highly liturgical in nature.
Needless to say, the Full Gospel Business Men's meeting came as quite a shock. First there was a lot of "riotous worship," and then there was some "passionate preaching." Watt felt very uncomfortable.
The feeling of uneasiness began to intensify as the speaker ended his presentation.
"Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?" the man asked.
The question grabbed Watt's attention, mainly because he had no idea what the man was talking about.
"Jesus said in John 17 that the essence of salvation is knowing God and His Son. Do you know Jesus? Really know Him?"
There was the question again. Watt had never heard anyone talk that way. As he wrestled with the question, the man began to explain that he was going to offer an altar call.
"If you want a personal relationship with Jesus, please come forward."
The men stood and started singing. Watt was at a loss as to what he should do. "Surely he's not talking to me," he thought. "After all, I go to church every Sunday."
The thought had hardly crossed his mind when he heard the speaker say, "Some of you go to church every Sunday, but you don't have a relationship with Jesus."
Watt was astonished. It was almost as if this fellow could read his mind.
"I know he can't be talking to me," Watt thought, "because I teach a Sunday School class."
And then it happened again. "Some of you teach Sunday School," the speaker proclaimed, "but you have no relationship with Jesus."
Watt was really getting uncomfortable. He began looking around for the exit.
"He's got to be talking to these other guys," he thought. "After all, I'm a deacon and I tithe."
"Some of you are church officers and you tithe, but you have never met Jesus!" the speaker declared. The words seemed to be spoken with thunder.
That was it. Watt could resist no longer. He went forward. The speaker prayed for him, and that evening, after 40 years of church attendance, James Watt met Jesus and accepted Him as his Lord and Savior.
The first thing Watt noticed spiritually in the days that followed was the deadness of his home church. There was no joy or enthusiasm in the worship. Watt's soul was suddenly yearning to worship. So, he began to sneak around on Sunday evenings, trying to find a church where people really gave themselves to the Lord in worship.
He found one. It was Pentecostal. It was not the kind of refined church that he had always attended. He was afraid of being recognized, but he continued attending because the worship ministered to his spirit.
He soon discovered that the church had a special service on Friday evenings where people were given an opportunity to witness their experiences with God. He thrilled over the stories he heard, and before long, he decided to get openly involved. He just couldn't contain himself any longer. He simply had to share what God was doing in his life.
He jumped to his feet and rushed to the front. "I've gone to church for 40 years," he announced, "but I have known Jesus only three months. I'm discovering that He is still the same as the Jesus you read about in the New Testament. For example, I have discovered that He still performs miracles!"
Watt proceeded to share an encounter with a homeless drunk who was panhandling on the streets of Washington, D.C. "Instead of ignoring him or pushing him aside, I decided to share Jesus with him and pray for him. To my astonishment, he accepted the Lord, and he was instantly, miraculously delivered from his desire for alcohol. He's here with me tonight!"
The congregation broke out in thunderous applause, and Watt returned to his seat triumphantly.
Then, Mrs. Johnson went forward. "I just want to say that I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior 20 years ago, and He has kept me for 20 years." That was it. Nothing spectacular. Nothing to shout about.
Watt felt sorry for the lady. "Surely she can come up with something better than that," he thought.
The next week, Watt arrived biting at the bit to share his latest experience with God.
"A friend of mine and I went to the hospital this week to visit a dear brother who was on his death bed, given no hope of recovery. We anointed him with oil and prayed for him, and I rejoice to tell you that he is here with us tonight."
Again, a thunderous ovation.
And then came Mrs. Johnson. "I just want to say that I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior 20 years ago, and He has kept me for 20 years."
Watt couldn't believe it. Every week this woman gave the same dull, monotonous, uninspiring testimony. And so it continued week after week.
The Powerful Point
At that point in his testimony, Watt stopped. Tears welled up in his eyes, and he began to choke for words. Finally, after he had composed himself, he spoke the words that touched my heart — words I shall never forget.
"Folks, all that happened 20 years ago when I was new in the Lord and before I knew anything about walking with God. Tonight, I want to tell you that the greatest, most spectacular miracle of my life since my salvation is that God has kept me for 20 years."
James Watt had discovered that Mrs. Johnson had a testimony after all.
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness." — Lamentations 3:22-23
Remembering God's Faithfulness
I have made that discovery as well. Day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, God has faithfully provided us with two things: opportunities to proclaim our message of the Lord's soon return, and the resources needed to fulfill those opportunities. He has kept us, and He has kept us well.
I can remember when I did not have enough money to mail out a newsletter to only a couple of hundred people. In 2000 our income topped one million dollars for the first time.
I can remember when the entire ministry was in one bedroom of a small duplex. When I could cram nothing else into that room, and I decided to head down the hallway to take over the master bedroom, my wife said, "That's it. You're out of here!" Today we have a magnificent facility on five acres of land, and it is all paid for.
I can remember when I recorded radio programs on a cheap recorder I bought at Radio Shack. I had no mixing board because I couldn't afford one. The programs were delivered to the station in Dallas without a musical opening or closing. The station was supposed to supply those. Sometimes that important need was overlooked. Today, we are blessed with outstanding digital equipment.
I can remember when I was the only staff member. I had to do everything — type letters, make phone calls, record donations, send out receipts, duplicate tapes, and keep the books. My wife, who is a first grade teacher, helped when she could. Today, I am blessed with a staff of ten people who are dedicated to serving God. All of them love the Lord. All have been called by the Lord. I have been relieved of doing all the things that for years distracted me from my fundamental tasks of study, writing, recording, and preaching.
I can clearly remember the pre-computer days when all our newsletters were addressed by hand from a file of index cards. Letters were typed on a manual typewriter. Printed items for distribution were run off on a duplicator machine that would print no more than a hundred copies before the purple ink faded. Today we are blessed with a network of computers. With them we can easily manage our mailing list, and we can perform desktop publishing (without getting our hands purple from the ink!).
I can well remember the terrible "summer slumps" that plagued us during the first seven years of the ministry. Each year, during June, July and August, we seemed to be forgotten by everyone except the Lord. We would pray earnestly for a good December to make up the gap. The Lord always provided, but we went right down to the wire on several occasions — to the last day of the year! Today the summer slumps have evened out due to our Prophecy Partner Program that now includes 1,200 faithful supporters. And, praise God, we just ended our 28th year in a row with all bills paid in full.
I can painfully remember many times when I was not faithful to the Lord, when I was not a good steward of my time and resources, when I blew opportunities and got in the way of what God was trying to accomplish. But the Lord has been faithful when I was faithless.
He has graciously sustained my health, blessed my work, and sustained the ministry. He has, in the words of Mrs. Johnson, "kept us for 28 years."
Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness.
"Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments." — Deuteronomy 7:9