WHERE IS MY FAITH?
Why not me? I thought to myself while sitting in the church pew. Why can’t I move a mountain for Christ? Why can’t I be used to bring glory to God on a larger scale? As I sat dwelling on these questions, the answer hit me from the pulpit. “Faith,” said the preacher. “Faith will give you wings, or the lack of faith will keep you grounded.”
I instantly convinced myself that it wasn’t a lack of faith. I knew in my heart that Jesus Christ wasn’t only the Son of God and part of the Holy Trinity but that He was also the only one that could pay the debt of sin through His death, burial, and resurrection for mankind. As the preacher spoke about Abraham and what a mighty man of faith he was, I wondered where my own personal faith was. Abraham had the faith to sacrifice his son Isaac out of obedience to God. Yet Abraham also lied and deceived when he was faced with fear, which further encouraged me that, though he was capable of displaying great faith, he too was just human. Though he was called for a specific purpose of being the father of God’s people, Abraham still had to put his faith in God.
I thought, Doesn’t faith only have to do with salvation? Suddenly, as if opening my eyes for the first time to light, I realized I needed to have faith in Christ for every aspect of my life. In my head, I heard, “Do you trust me to take care of what you will eat? Where you will sleep? Though you say you trust me with what will happen to your soul after you die, do you trust me equally as much with the life you are now living?” I wondered if my faith was in Christ or in people and things. I have never thought of myself as being exceptional in my Christian walk. Actually, the opposite is true. Regretfully, I’ve had more than my share of times of doing things that did not bring glory to God but to myself.
In the late seventies, my father became ordained and a part of the staff of the nationally known Thomas Road Baptist Church, where Dr. Jerry Falwell was the senior pastor. When my sisters, Robyn and Renee, and I were dedicated to the Lord as small children, it was Dr. Falwell that laid hands on me and prayed a prayer of dedication. In the early eighties, my parents then moved our family to El Cajon, California, a suburb of San Diego, where my father became the executive assistant to Dr. David Jeremiah. It was while listening to Dr. Jeremiah on TV one Sunday morning when I was only five years old that I was moved by the Spirit of God to ask my mother how I could become a Christian. There in my home, my mother explained to me the gospel and the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord, and that day I became a child of the King. A few years later, my father became a part of the Skyline Church in Lemon Grove, California, where Dr. John Maxwell was the senior pastor. It was while at Skyline I was baptized.
So from early childhood, I knew that I had saving faith and that my name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. From time to time, I would have serving faith by participating in church functions and outreach programs, such as helping out at our community events or walking through the neighborhoods handing out information for VBS. But the question that seemed to be in front of me was, did I have surviving faith, the faith that would enable me to take on a bear or a lion as young David did? Deep down within me was a desire to have that same kind of boldness. To me, it seemed that Jesus had given clear instruction as to what we as Christians should be called to do. In the book of Matthew, Jesus says:
Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 10:37–39 (niv)
I thought about the torment that Jesus went through for my sin, and it broke my heart like never before. I knew that Christ dying on the cross was for more than my simply attending church on Sunday and giving ten percent of my paycheck. Though I believed Jesus was my Savior, had I ever allowed Him to be the Lord of my life? This was a hard question for me to come to terms with, since the easiest person in the world to lie to is myself.
Growing up in a Christian home, I never felt that I needed to do more than just play a role in the congregation, like many churchgoers do—much like a spectator. I know there are those Christians that do more than just sit and listen. Sadly, in most of the churches I have visited, many of those were also the same people that made sure everyone knew just how “holy” they were. My heart was heavy and lacked the desire to do more. The more I did, the more of a hypocrite I would be portrayed as.
At that moment, I knew in my heart that I hadn’t fully trusted Jesus as Lord of every area of my life. I felt completely unworthy to call myself a Christian. I needed and wanted to get real with God, and I needed and wanted Him to consume my life. If we are truly called to go out into the world and be salt and light, then I was no longer willing to accept the mediocrity I had convinced myself was the normal Christian life. Instead of waiting for a divine burning bush, I—an average husband, father, church member, and businessman—decided to take a step of faith from outside of the pew and with the cross of Jesus, dive into the world.
At first, I wasn’t even sure exactly where this new spiritual zealousness was taking me. I had no idea whatsoever what I was going to do. I simply knew I wanted to place myself in a situation in which apart from God and His divine provision I simply could not succeed. I knew in the very core of my being that I wanted my two boys—Jack, three, and Parker, nine months at the time—to one day look at their father and say, “My daddy walked with God.” I realized that I couldn’t really love my wife as Christ loved the church unless I was willing to walk in the path of Christ and not my own.
Uncertainty and second thoughts began to hit me as doubts regarding my own abilities began to slow my willingness to move forward in obedience. Doubts such as lack of knowledge and fear of failing suffocated me. The more I dwelled on my fears, the more I would need to tell myself to breathe. Fear was holding me in a place of being lukewarm. I remember thinking, Even if I only consider myself an average church member, God can still use me. I knew that for me to be used in a mighty way, I would have to do something different and challenging.
The first step of obedience for me was deciding that I would go back to school. Education in my early life hadn’t been one of my top priorities. In truth, due to several circumstances at that time in my life, I didn’t even finish high school. I did end up completing my GED. From there, I entered into the ministry and family business with my parents, got married, and became a father. Then, at the age of thirty, God seemed to say, “Tag, you’re it,” and my college career began. I enrolled in online classes with Liberty University Online in Lynchburg, Virginia. The very first class I signed up for was Evangelism 101. I genuinely wanted to learn how to clearly explain to other people what it meant to be a child of God. Though I hadn’t had any form of schooling in over thirteen years and was admittedly a little intimidated, I couldn’t get enough of that first class. The class was very well designed to simply break down the process of salvation. The first section was about securing my own faith, and then it moved on to some suggested scriptures to share with other people. It started to combat the fear of lack of knowledge. Though I was far from being a theologian or a scholar, I remembered that the disciples were mainly made up of fishermen. I wanted to go out into the world and leave all that I had in place of comfort. I was inspired to this challenge by looking in the mirror and not seeing much boldness for Christ.
I knew that I didn’t want to go to a third world country for two main reasons. First, I didn’t know any other language. Second, there are plenty that don’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior here in the States. Praying for peace about making a change and talking with my wife, I decided to make a plan for a unique trip that wouldn’t test God but test my own faith in God. I wanted to be put in situations where my whole life, surroundings, and dependence could only be on God and not what I had formed as a comfort zone. My desire was to do something that would allow me to grow in three main areas of my life: faith in Christ for all things, for Christ to be seen in every area of my life, and boldness to share the gospel with anyone. For me to move a mountain, I would first have to face it.