A blog by Josh Humbert
This is the first in a series of guest posts on my blog titled “Treasured Texts: Real People Recalling Precious Passages.” The idea is to allow you to read from real people who passionately love God and His Word. Each guest writer is someone I know personally and can attest to their faithfulness in service and their desire to know God more. So, you’ll have the chance to read their thoughts on a particular Scripture passage that has really meant something to them in their walk with God; a text they have come to cherish.
I hope you stop by to read each of these posts because I know you will be blessed immensely. Personally, I myself am already very anxious to read what they will bring and the stories they will share!
Our first Treasured Text writing is from Michael Murrie who currently serves First Baptist Church of Garland, Texas as the Minister to Students. I have had the honor of serving alongside Mike in some different capacities through the years and I have just a tremendous amount of respect for his approach to ministry and the fruit that God brings through Mike’s faithfulness. If you want to know more about Mike, you can find him on Facebook.
Your comments and thoughts are welcomed at the bottom. Enjoy Mike’s Treasured Text!
“What are you going to be when you grow up?”
“Where do you see God taking you in ministry?”
“Have you ever thought about becoming a real minister?”
“Great message today… Do you think that God will ever call you to be a pastor?”
These are questions that I have fielded throughout my life from well-meaning people who hold a vested interest in what becomes of this precious life that God has given me. My parents, teachers, friends, ministers, church members, and mentors have all asked these questions in one form or another for as long as I can remember. Throughout my life, caring people have identified characteristics and abilities in me that have piqued their curiosity as to how those qualities would be fleshed out through my life. For years, I struggled with how to formulate a response that expressed my appreciation for their interest and excitement about how God would see fit to use me while still clearly getting across the message: “I simply don’t know.”
None of us has the ability to accurately predict with any level of precision exactly what God will use us to do in His service once we have surrendered to His call. In my limited experience, I would humbly submit that not knowing the full story is where all the fun is! The wonder of how God calls and molds and shapes and places any of His servants is a miracle that is attributable only to His complete sovereignty… He knows what He’s doing.
My passion (and I believe my only response) is to serve at His direction, by the leadership of His Spirit, through His Word, and for His glory. That’s it. I am a firm believer that there is little or no place for ambition or career forecasting when it comes to giving one’s life to serve at the pleasure of the King of Kings. I will go where He leads me to go and do what He has called me to do.
So what do I tell them?
How should I respond when well-meaning, loving people ask me about any next steps that God would have me take in obedience to His call? Early on in my ministry as the Youth Minister at First Baptist Church of Dickinson, Texas, I found myself for the first time writing several letters, articles, and announcements that pertained to the Youth Ministry.
There were the weekly bulletin articles, the monthly newsletter articles, the periodic event announcement letters, birthday cards to kids, and the annual “State of the Youth Address” article attached to our summer calendar. Every time I looked up, there was another letter to be written.
As a young minister, I thought I would “kick the tires” on a few sign-off phrases that would capture the essence of the message I had written. I started out with “Yours Truly,…” I had seen letters end that way in the movies, so I just figured that’s how they were supposed to end. Then I moved on to “Sincerely,…”
Another all-time classic and I thought it would be important to let people know that, as a minister, I was sincere about the things I had written. However, these were the days before the widespread use of spell check and let’s be serious… Who among us can consistently spell the word “Sincerely” correctly? Next, it was on to “In Him,…” That was great and super spiritual, right? I thought it was an appropriate way to close out a message reminding people that all we have is in Christ. This really is a great thought to leave readers with, but after a time it was just trumped up for me.
Signing off that way was merely a knee-jerk reaction to my thought that I had to come up with something that was catchy, memorable, and super duper spiritual. I realize that this seems like a lot of fuss just for the simple ending of a correspondence, but I truly believed that it mattered. This was to be my words to the people to whom God had called me to minister. I didn’t want the final phrase of those messages to just be a throw away “10:4, Good Buddy.” I wanted that sign off to capture the heartbeat of the ministry to which God had called me.
That’s when it jumped off the page to me. As I was reading the Bible during a quiet time one day, I read the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained all of this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (NIV 1984). I knew that I had read this verse many times before, but it just gripped me differently this time. I also knew that I had heard gifted speakers who revere God’s Word preach messages on this verse before, but it was as if God were conveying the truth of those words to me for the first time.
Again and again one phrase kept reverberating in my mind and thundering in my heart, “…I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” There it was! The answer to all of those questions that I was being asked about next steps in ministry AND the perfect way for me to sign off every correspondence!
“Press On.” As is so often the case, the illusive words that I had stumbled around to form in response to questions people asked about my future were perfectly and succinctly formed in Scripture. The answer that I had struggled to communicate to all of those people who had asked (and still do…) about what God was going to do with my life was an answer that God had provided through Paul nearly two millennia before. “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” That’s what I am called to do as a disciple of Christ! The passion of my life is to pursue and firmly grasp the purpose for which Jesus took hold of my life.
He died for me for a reason.
He rose for me for a reason.
He saved me for a reason.
He called me for a reason.
The clear purpose and passion of my life is to press on in a relentless pursuit of the reason for which Christ counted me as worth it to do all of that. As though it were the first time I was learning this truth, God awakened my heart and mind to the word that He had breathed into existence through His servant Paul so long ago.
“Where do you see God taking you in ministry?”
From that moment, God has given me the words for the response that had been so hard to find up to that day. As recently as this week, I was asked a form of that same question, “Where do you see God taking you in ministry?” My answer now is the same that it has been in the twenty years since God unleashed the truth of Philippians 3: 12 in my heart… “I am going to press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
As a follower of Christ, there really is nothing else we can do. I do not subscribe to the thought that we get a vote as to where we serve the Lord or in what capacity. I have spoken with fellow ministers whom I love and whose opinions I trust who have said that they are serving where they are because they wanted to be in a certain area or because it is close to family. I have to respectfully disagree with that premise as a viable way to determine the circumstances in which God would have us serve. I don’t think that we get to make that choice. I believe that we serve at His discretion, at His direction, at His pleasure, and for His glory. The task of a servant of the Lord is to keep in step with the leadership of the Holy Spirit, to go where He leads, and do what He calls us to do.
It’s a message for others and a reminder for me: Press On!
The day that God unleashed the truth of Philippians 3: 12 was a day that one of those infinite number of articles and letters was due. That day I decided to end that article with a new signature sign-off phrase: “Press On,…” In all the days that have followed and at the end of every email, card, letter, article, and text message, I have signed off of every one with the same two words: “Press On.” Those two words summarize so much of what I know God has called me to tell the body of Christ: Press On! Regardless of the circumstances in which you find yourself, God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bare, so press on! Even when you are tired of living the life to which God has called you, God has given us the strength to endure, so press on! Especially when we know that our strength has run out, we know that His power is made perfect in our weakness, so press on! My hope every time that I write these two words is that God will use them to remind the reader that He is capable of immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine, so we can PRESS ON!
Even more than that, God has used the words of Philippians 3:12 as a reminder to me that I can press on through any of the challenges that come my way in ministry. When difficult times come, as they invariably WILL in any endeavor that involves working with people, God reminds me of the strength He gives for me to press on.
I have had the unusual privilege of serving as Youth Minister for long tenures at both churches I have served in ministry. I served at First Baptist Church of Dickinson, Texas for 17 years as the Youth Minister. To this moment, I have served at First Baptist Church of Garland, Texas for 5 years and 4 months. Many times along the way, circumstances became difficult and the easiest solution would have been to seek another place of service or to pay the bills by working in a different occupation altogether. Through all of those times, God reminded me of those two words that have come to represent so much of my life and service to Him: Press On. Through the times when people are inconsiderate, press on. Through the times when you feel underappreciated, press on. On the Saturday morning that follows the Middle School boys’ lock-in (when you are 42-years-old), press on! When it seems like you are spinning your wheels and there is not a chance that one word you say is getting through to the people you serve, PRESS ON!!! Love the Lord, love His people, revere His Word, and seek the leadership of His Spirit and you cannot go wrong.
God has the miraculous, one-of-a-kind ability to bring hope out of hopelessness. He can give us the strength necessary to carry on regardless of the difficulties and discouragement we face. God has reminded me with every correspondence I have signed in the past twenty years that He has given me the strength to press on. My prayer for everyone who reads this is that the God of all peace will give you the strength to press on no matter what.