"I Am with You Always"

The mission gripped me. As I'm guessing it's gripped many of you who've been involved in Campus Outreach for a minute. I was a young Christian in college who was having a very positive experience with discipleship. Now my call was "go and make disciples." Aye Aye, Captain. This was no chore. Seeing the famous "multiplication chart" was the cherry on top – I could reach 8.5 billion people in 33 years if only I made one disciple every year, who made one disciple every following year, and so on. I was hooked. I was going to impact the world, and not in a fluffy way with no "teeth."

So I started sharing my faith and was privileged to disciple a couple of men before I finished college. It was challenging but incredibly enjoyable. My vision kept growing, as well as the opportunities to practice it. So it was an easy "yes" when the call came to come on staff. I was wide-eyed. Zealous. Determined. And oh so ignorant of how much "pruning" I needed to be able to bear the fruit God intended through my life (John 15:2).

Our God is a personal God, and so everyone's "pruning" will look a bit different. During and after college, God was pleased to grant me numerous trials for the sake of my character:
. . . a perpetual battle with doubts and assurance of my own salvation
. . . the 3 a.m. phone call on January 11, 2009, that my father had committed suicide
. . . the first 2 guys I thought I led to Christ both walking away from him (and me)
. . . helpful feedback (disguised as blistering critique) of ways I was failing in life and ministry
. . . a long season of loneliness where I had no staff partners to minister alongside

My first few years as a Christian and minister were filled with a continual weightiness on my soul because of all these things. So often I genuinely questioned if God's favor really was on me and if I would ever really be part of making an eternal difference in people's lives.

But as I've reflected over this many-year season of pruning, when often I was so tired and doubting, I can see how the Lord always showed up in the ways I needed him in order to keep moving forward – sometimes through an extraordinary answer to prayer, a whisper of his goodness through an encouraging conversation, a great nugget of teaching brought to mind at just the right time, etc.

During this season, the most precious part of Jesus' final marching orders to his church became his literal final words: "I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). I needed convincing of this much more than the mission. I'm guessing many of you do as well as you labor in your dorms, teams, fraternities, and sororities.

I plead you open your eyes and see the Lord's hand in the trials he's given you in life and ministry. Perpetual hardships, lacking a ton of visible ministry fruit, doubts and insecurities being hammered out are not evidence that the Lord does not want you on mission. They're evidence of his love for you as laid out in Matthew 28:20 and John 15:2.

Press on, fellow laborers! Let's stay excited about the charge of the Great Commission, but let's not divorce this from the "juice" that empowers us to fulfill it: He is with us always, to the end of the age.

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