garden path

He Never Gave Up On Me

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailReading Time: 5 minutes

When God called me to ministry, it came as a shock to me and, undoubtedly, to everyone who knew me. I had spent years rejecting God and His Word, although I had been raised by a devout Seventh Day Adventist grandmother. We held morning devotions at dawn and vespers at dusk, kept the Sabbath, and lived our lives in the world, but not of the world. Under Mama’s care, I came to know Jesus as my Savior, but later I chose to go my own way.

Wandering away

As a college student in the turbulent 1960s, I majored in philosophy and adopted a worldview that combined several belief systems contrary to biblical teachings. I gave up on church, and I practically gave up on God. I didn’t mind calling on Him or reading the Psalms in tough times, but I prided myself on being self-sufficient. Although many psalms spoke of humility before God, my response was, “A loving God wouldn’t want me to humiliate myself” by bowing down. Even an excellent education didn’t prepare me to discern the vast spiritual difference between humility and humiliation.

Then came that evening in 1985 when it seemed as though God held a mirror up and I saw myself as a sinner, living a life that sorely displeased Him. I found myself on my knees crying uncontrollably, begging God to forgive my sins, and asking Him to come back into my life. I felt His forgiveness, and I’d love to say that I did a complete turn-around then. But that was not the case.

I compare my experience to the parable of the four soils in Matthew 13:3-9. In my case, I never was sure on which of the three infertile soils the seed fell. However, I was sure that it did not fall on fertile soil, because it did not produce the fruit of lasting change in my life.

Conflicting values

About ten years later, I landed a management position at a small corporation with a national clientele. That job seemed great at first, but it was in a toxic environment where most people were treated badly and the executives operated without a moral code.

After several months, I was asked to do something I considered unethical. I delayed as long as I could and gave the false impression that I was doing what had been asked of me. I was disappointed in myself and ashamed of how I was handling the situation. To make matters worse, my expenses were high. Without a safety net, I feared to take a stand and risk being fired.

In despair, I began praying and asking God to deliver me. I remembered the story of how God delivered the Israelites from their Egyptian taskmasters (Exodus 1-12) and continued to pray for deliverance. Before long, He showed me that I needed to step out on faith and leave that job, even though I did not have another one waiting. God gave me the courage to leave and the grace not to regret it for a single moment.

Different direction

The call to ministry came within days after I left that job — a shock to my system. Immediately, the Lord placed a burning desire in my heart to draw close to Him. I started attending a church in a denomination different from the one I was raised in. I participated in a Bible study group and studied His Word intensely, with the help of study guides and commentaries. God gave me the drive to delve into the Bible with the same commitment to learning that helped me earn three degrees. I was a scholar trained in research, with academic publications to my credit. Earlier in my professional life I had been a reading teacher, well equipped with reading and writing skills and the ability to teach others. While I sought a new position, the Lord equipped me for work He was preparing for me.

During this preparation time, the Lord led me to focus on Habakkuk 2:2, 3. That passage helped me understand that my appointed task was to write something related to studying His Word. I needed to write it plainly and to be patient in executing the task. I also had a fleeting vision that the work was to have an international reach, although I could not imagine how that would happen.

Most importantly, God showed me ways to use my gifts and talents so that my study of His Word would bear fruit. That fruit took the form of a line of puzzles and games I called Bible Goodies that helped children and adults learn how to find and read Scripture for themselves.

New opportunities

By the leading of the Holy Spirit, the Bible Goodies ministry came together with my desire to be a businesswoman. I developed and self-published a dozen products, and I soon began selling them on a small scale to churches, Christian schools, and families in several states and the US Virgin Islands. Through my product donations to missionaries, Bible Goodies were carried to several Central American and African countries — the fulfillment of the international reach. During my eighteen months between jobs, I was blessed beyond measure, although the business never turned a profit. The Lord gave me a joyful spirit and supplied all my needs. I continued the Bible Goodies ministry for several years, even after I landed full-time work.

The Lord provided me with a full-time director position at a national nonprofit organization, where I worked for two years. During that time, my desire to serve Him grew so intensely, I prayed He would open an opportunity for my professional life and my life of faith to come together seamlessly. In that time, He continued equipping me as I delved deeper into Scripture. I meditated on several scriptures, including Isaiah 6:1-8, in which the prophet described his vision of encountering God’s glory. I adopted verse 8 as my own, frequently praying, “Here am I! Send me.”

Equipped for ministry

At the end of two years, the Lord called me to a teaching ministry at a Christian college, where my professional life and my life of faith blended. Most importantly, I grasped the fullness of the lordship of Christ in my life, humbling myself before Him. For fourteen Spirit-filled years, I taught in a two-year master’s degree program in Organizational Leadership. My students were executives, managers, and supervisors from a cross-section of industries in a tri-state area. Some students were believers and some skeptics. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, some believers grew in their faith, and some skeptics gave their lives to Christ. It was an awesome experience for me as a professor to spend fourteen years teaching leadership with a solid foundation of Scripture.

Divine communication

In the Organizational Leadership program, we used many textbooks, but the Holy Bible was the most important textbook in every session of every course. For example, in our Leadership and Communication course, we discussed the fact that communication is so important to God that He spoke the creation into existence in Genesis 1:1-31. Communication is often named as the biggest problem in organizations, so we explored other biblical references to it.

We discussed how the people rebelled against God by building the Tower of Babel to reach the heavens (Genesis 11:1-9). At that time, God confused their common language and scattered them all over the earth, speaking many languages. In another communication miracle described in Acts 2:1-13, God enabled the apostles to speak in other languages at Pentecost, so people from all over heard the gospel in their own language. Studying Leadership and Communication from a biblical perspective gave the organizational leaders in our program a meaningful way to think about their own communication. The same was true for all ten courses that made up the master’s program in organizational leadership.

I am still in awe of how the Lord called me, equipped me, and used me in ministry. Having been blessed with the gift of teaching, I am thankful He allowed me to use that gift to draw others to Him. Above all, I am so grateful that although I almost gave up on Him, He never gave up on me.

Maureen O. Vanterpool,
Latest posts by Maureen O. Vanterpool, (see all)