Steve's Story: The End of an Era
Excerpt from Rescued from Hell, Chapter 6: Back on Planet Earth
Incessantly witnessing and doing ministry out of your place of business isn't always the best thing for business. The bottom line was beginning to suffer; actually, we hit bottom and kept falling. We were at least $10,000 to $15,000 into the red, which was very big money for us in those days, still is. I was scared and more than a little put out by this. My complaint? Lord, we gave you the business - and look how You're running it into the ground. We have even been tithing on the business as well as our personal income. We are in two churches every time they're open. What's going on? My fear of failing was climbing the charts, but it was my fear of God's displeasure with my failure that frightened me most of all. Eventually I had enough, so I exclaimed to June, "I'm going home to tell the Lord exactly what I think of how He's managing the business. All you may find of me when you get there is a greasy, smoky spot on the floor where I was standing when I let Him have it!" I was serious. I had never stood up to anyone in my life. Now, here I was, taking it straight to the Top. Was God the ultimate Bully? I was too mad to consider the danger.
Once I arrived home, I entered the living room, threw myself down on the floor and cried out to God with full voice. I honestly don't remember what I said and it doesn't matter; it didn't matter even then. Almost as soon as the first volley of bottled up fear and anger exploded in the Father's direction, waves of magnificent peace began cascading over me, engulfing me, soothing me. No words, just a river of peace filled with love, understanding and acceptance. It was as if God was letting me know that He was glad that I had brought my complaint to Him and could trust Him with my heart.
Then I was gently shown in my mind's eye how so much of my activity those first several months had been driven by stress and self-effort, not led by His Spirit. I thought of all my frenetic Christian "works" and saw how riddled they were with anxiety to please God for fear of losing His grace and favor. He also spoke to me that His desire was to bless me and the business, but that I would never be able to have more than He actually wanted to give. So I just needed to relax and not let so much go slipping through my fingers in a vain attempt to grasp for more. I broke down and cried. I remember saying to God, "It was all chaff! Throw it in the fire and consume it. Don't let a trace of my anxious strivings remain in anyone's life that I touched. Only let whatever was of Your Spirit remain." I understood that many Christians may come to the end of their lives, see the truth about their mistaken ways and want practically everything they had done on earth to be consumed (1 Corinthians 3:15). Such is the stain of the flesh.
As much as it hurt to see how far afield my strivings had taken me, I was glad to be shown the right way to live. And to learn a new word, one that had never been in my vocabulary before: trust. I called in to work, asked everybody to keep going without me and camped out with the Lord for a week of tearful restoration, study and prayer. I saw that from the moment I had been spiritually reborn I had received a gift of an awesome faith in God - something I had never had before - which grew out of my Damascus Road experience of going from utter darkness into blazing light. However, more than Christian works, what I was meant to develop with it was the ability to trust God with all things, in all things and for all things - anything less was breaking faith with God. Without realizing it, that was precisely what I had been doing and it naturally threw me back into reliance on myself - on my abilities and resources, rather than His.
I came out of this season of deep repentance with a very converted heart. All I desired now was to live with His peace ruling over my spirit. I wanted Him in charge! That meant that everything else had to go into the fire. Long ago Isaiah wrote, "You keep him in perfect peacewhose mind is stayed on you,because he trusts in you" (Isaiah 26:3). There it was - the missing piece to my missing peace: the trust factor. First thing "into the fire" was Timberworks (my baby!). I promised the Lord that when I went back to work my prayer was going to be "Let the business go bankrupt, but don't let me lose your peace." I meant it and, upon returning to my duties, I practiced it. The moment I started to lose peace, I would stop what I was doing, seek the Lord and often discover He wanted me to work on something entirely different. This radically changed my way of managing the business. By the end of three months the sword of bankruptcy was not only back in its scabbard, we were operating so far into the black that I was paying cash on the barrelhead instead of charging supplies all over town. Also, I was working only forty to fifty hours with weekends off, instead of seventy to eighty hours with no time off. Living by the peace of Christ was so much more efficient and effective than all my previous stress-filled efforts. Truly, He was managing the business through me.
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