By the time we reach this point in our journey of experiencing God, we should know who we are and where we are going, right? Well almost. At least, we have made some headway, and we pray we do not have to go back and experience the refining fires of Jehovah Jireh again, or the healing streams of Jehovah-Rapha. However, we find God’s ways are still higher than our ways, and His thoughts certainly wiser. The further we travel we realize we have to overcome or we will be overcome.
The Christmastime evening I was invited to hear Pastor Kelley Varner at The Prayer House learning about Ruth meant so much to me because I was on the threshing floor right then— about to lose the business/ministry I had spent seventeen years in building. What I did not know was I would stay on that threshing floor at least ten more years experiencing the refining fires and healing streams of Jehovah again and again. I would discover that “overcoming” contains these three dimensions:
- sharing our testimony—how we take our flame and ignite another
- the blood of the Lamb—pleading the blood through prayer or prayer walks
- not shrinking from death—whether it is physical or in the spiritual realm
These steps are recorded in Revelation 12:11 in past-tense form, “They [that is us] overcame [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death (emphasis mine).” This Scripture is talking about you and me after we have left this planet. This chapter explains the next three steps the body of Christ makes after the turning mentioned in the last module.
OVERCOME BY SHARING TESTIMONY
“But I don’t want to go to work by swiping in and out by the time clock!” Jim came out to the front-porch swing where I was crying.
We had recently moved from Arkansas City, south of Wichita, back to where we began, south of Kansas City, July 1999. Yes, it was the same town from where we moved to Texas when Jim chose to go back to school. We had come full circle back to his first teaching position. Now, he was the Dean of Instruction of the community college where he would retire as president.
“I want to write. I have to write. If I go to work, I won’t have time to write.”
“If you don’t go to work, you won’t be able to get your business debts paid off, either,” he replied.
“I know, but I don’t have to like it. If only . . . If only I had accepted the change faster I wouldn’t be in this fix. I should have taken the ‘buy-out’ the company offered when they sold out. I could have paid off everything and had some extra money so I could go back to school, and not have to swipe a time clock.”
The new company sold our Christian books to Wal Mart stores and it looked like everything I had worked so hard for was coming together. I had six or seven distributors trained and in the field ready to move into the stores, but when all the facts were handed down (after the deadline for taking the buy-out) the discount margin would not allow Jim and me to pay commission fees. We would have had to do all the traveling and work ourselves in order to make it, [and Jim had been willing to come into the business with me]. That led to another counseling session with Jim as he tried to open my eyes to the facts. He went to bed while I stayed up all night feeling sorry for myself and trying to comprehend what was happening.
The bottom line was I felt like a failure. Years previous to this I found myself with a $10,000 balance on my business credit card I couldn’t seem to get paid off. Jim knew nothing about it; I had to face the truth and face him with it—I could not increase sales enough to get it paid off. I was surprised when I told him that he did not blow up. He said we would refinance the house and also use some of the money to get Kurt to New York after his high school graduation.
That lesson taught me to take a draw from the business based on the previous month’s sales, not on what I estimated the current month to be. But now, here I was, back in bondage again. The buy-out offered me was equal to the amount I owed the company on the credit line they had given me. That was offered because I had an opportunity to get in a chain of 100 stores. The chain went bankrupt, but I did get in the back door, so to speak, when each store went independent. To top it all off, I bought some accounts, from another distributor only to find the books had been priced higher than normal. I had to buy them back higher than I resold them. When was I ever going to learn and how was I to get out of something I was so far in?
That long night, I told the Lord that He would have to get me out. “I give up. I give it all back to You.” The next day I received a letter from a man in Oklahoma wanting to service accounts and my up-line distributor took over as I sold down inventory over the next year.
After I let my dream die, Jim received the phone call to return to eastern Kansas. So here we were, renting a house one block from the two-story house we lived in before where the angel saved our daughter—an eerie feeling. The question, what is God up to? was continually on my mind.
Jim brought me back to reality (again) when he said, “Ann, I know you want to write, but you have to accept responsibility for where you are now. Don’t you remember what we learned? To be the Church as a force in the community means going where people are—just as your business philosophy was. Staying home to only write is not the answer.”
I knew Jim was right. I accepted the full-time job in the business office at the health center— one of the best decisions I ever made. It was there—working under man’s authority—the Lord sifted and shook leaving solid relationships at work and at home. God is able to do what He wills with a heart and body in a five by six-foot cubicle eight hours per day. God was not interested in how “much” land I could possess, but in how much of my heart He could possess.
It was also there I met the most amazing women on the face of Earth, and I discovered what God was up to. There was no doubt He was connecting me with each person, including the current president of the Christian writer’s group, Carol R. Just when I thought there could be no other spiritual power-house of a woman in this area, there she was. I knew it was God, but it took me awhile to see His purposes in the connections He was orchestrating.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. We bought another house in town. Its garage held a Christmas, yard sign reading, “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.” I didn’t want to do anything! All my own efforts had failed and now, all I really wanted to do was work, come home and rest.