Romans 2:4 “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”
When you experience the riches of God’s goodness, His extreme forbearance (tolerance), His ability to suffering long for us and with us, this is what leads us to repentance. I have tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord, and it is what draws me back to Him day by day. How can I describe to you how good God has been to me? It is a constant love, unending patients. It is there when I want to give up on myself to the point where I cry out to God to kill me to end the wickedness of my heart; only for His presence to still my thoughts.
As we continue on in recalling the multitude of small things that God has done in my life to bring me to this place of a big thing of becoming a missionary in Ecuador I ask that you take a moment first to reflect on the goodness of the Lord. And if you do not yet know it, or can’t recognize it then ask the Lord to reveal it to you. You will find the heart of it in what Jesus did for you on the cross.
If you have not read part one and two, I would recommend you do that before reading on.
When I was 17 I started to go back to church weekly at a big megachurch called HDC with some of my friends; which was a miracle in and of itself. I had a friend named K (Ill call her K for anonymity) who used to invite me all the time but I would always decline, until finally some of my other friends who I never expected to go to church said they were going, so I went with them. I told K I would be there and her and I became closer friends because of it. I started to hang out with a group of friends from that church, which were really good people and great friends, but we were lukewarm Christians. We had no problem with drinking and partying Saturday night then going to church Sunday night.
When I was 17 and a half I got involved briefly with a married woman, even though God had warned me specifically not to. In fact I am going to take a second to explain to you how God did that. This woman took an interest in me, she was very attractive but I knew better. She told me that the minute I turned 18 she was gonna go after me (we didn’t make it to 18). I had already messed up once with her at a previous party the week before (I’d like to blame all the alcohol, but I knew it was what I wanted) but now I was invited to the house she was staying at for another kickback by K. It wasn’t often that I would ask God for directions back then, but I knew this was a big deal; so I prayed to God if I should go to this party (yes, I actually asked God if I should go to a drinking party…. still think God isn’t forbearing?). I picked up my dusty Bible and flipped it open (I wouldn’t recommend playing Bible roulette but God met me where I was at). It landed straight on Proverbs 5, and when I read it I was struck with awe at how directly God answered me. Here is what Proverbs five says if your not familiar with it.
Pro 5:1-9 “My son, pay attention to my wisdom; Lend your ear to my understanding, That you may preserve discretion, And your lips may keep knowledge. For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, And her mouth [is] smoother than oil; But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, Her steps lay hold of hell. Lest you ponder [her] path of life–Her ways are unstable; You do not know [them]. Therefore hear me now, [my] children, And do not depart from the words of my mouth. Remove your way far from her, And do not go near the door of her house, Lest you give your honor to others, And your years to the cruel [one].
Clearly, the Lord said do not go near her house (I was asking if I should go to her house) and that I should remove my way far from her. That day I lost my honor and years were given to the cruel one, I disobeyed the voice of the Lord even though He had answered me in black and white letters. I went anyway, thinking I was strong enough to resist, but once I was there it was already too late.
We only had two encounters, but its the lowest I have ever gone. She was the sister of one of my close friends (K actually), and when I tried to tell my friend (K) about what happened, in order to apologize, it all went wrong. Some of my other friends from the group were present and cheered me on that I had hooked up with such a hot chick. I had wanted to say sorry, but it was the wrong time in the wrong place. The thing was though, I was only sorry because I felt bad. I kept talking to this woman until eventually K told me to never talk to her sister or her again. I was crushed because of this. K was like a sister to me. I was supposed to go with her to prom and K was going to make a spot for me in her wedding (she was getting married to a guy in Texas) even though there is no official place for a friend of the bride thats a male. This consequence was a lot smaller than it could have been, but it was enough to wake me up. I cried out to God to forgive me. I asked God why had everyone said that accepting Jesus was satisfying and fulling and that He changes your life? Because I had never felt satisfied or changed or fulfilled. I think God answered me in my heart with the realization that I had never really given Him my heart. I had known Him and been saved, even though I always had doubts about the assurance of my salvation, and I knew I was going to heaven. But I didn’t experience the benefits and blessings of having a relationship with God because I never spent time with Him, and I didn’t live the way He wanted me to live. Its like a marriage, if you don’t spend time with your spouse then your relationship will suck… even though you are technically still married. I told God that I wasn’t sure if I could actually change and give up the things that I was doing, and that part of me didn’t really want to give up everything, but that I was willing. And that’s all it took. There was no bright lights, no voice from heaven, and no instant change. Just a choice to follow God, one day at a time. In the back of my mind I was giving it a month to see if it would work. That month has turned into 6 years. I started to read my Bible every day (I had one my whole life but never read it regularly) and little by little God started to change me and give me that old joy I had known when I was a kid.
God used this megachurch and group to start to spark the fire again in my heart and bring me back to Himself. Every night at worship, I would start to give pieces of my heart again to God. I would tell God He could have certain areas of my life, but leave out other areas. Finally, I came to the point of telling God all my heart was His. At the same time, the Lord began to work on my friend Dandy’s heart, one of the guys in our group of friends. He told me he wanted to limit the amount of alcohol at the parties so that we could drink but not get drunk, he wanted to start living for God. When he told me this I was so excited, because God had been laying it on my heart to do the same thing as well. We both wanted to grow, and so we grew together. We would talk about God and pray for each other. Unfortunately, limiting the alcohol didn’t work though; people just brought more of their own. Eventually we had to tell people they couldn’t bring any alcohol at all, and it was a drink free party. Interestingly enough, most of them stopped coming. We found out who were our true friends. There were so many small things along the way, so many ways that God used to bring me back to myself, that it would take a book to record all of them. But God did it. He brought me back.
I eventually came back to my home church of Calvary Chapel of Phelan since I felt like I was going to get fed the Word of God better there and left HDC. One day, at church, there were some people giving a presentation on how they were going to become missionaries in England, King’s Lynn. I thought to myself how cool that sounded. I wanted to go with them, but then I realized how I wasn’t really walking with God as I should… so how could I become a missionary and tell others how to walk with God. I sort of set this desire aside and forgot all about it, but this is when the Lord first planted this desire in me. Little did I know that my life was about to have another radical change in the next four months, where God would take that desire and fulfill it without me even knowing He had.
It was the goodness of the Lord that brought me back to Him. He showed me His goodness through the constancy of His love. Over the years, when I was going through all things, there was one verse that would always come to my mind, almost every day. It was this verse that kept me going. It was part of Dueteronomy 31:8 which states, “He will not leave you nor forsake you”. For some reason I had always thought it was Jesus who said that, but it played out in my mind all the time as “I will never leave you nor forsake you”. It was true, God had never left me or forsaken me. I am so thankful that God is good, and it is because of this that I want to serve Him and that I want to change, that I wanted to repent.
May God show you His goodness, if you do not yet know it. The heart of His goodness is this; “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
Stay tuned for the next installment of “Don’t Despise Small Things”. We still have five years to cover before we get to the point where I am at currently. God uses many small days, small days of learning to surrender to Him and allowing Him work in us to conform our hearts to be closer to His before He can bring us about to do big days. And try to remember today to not despise what ever small thing is in front of you to do, because for all you know it may change your life.
© 2012, Matt Camphuis all rights reserved.