Today, we begin a special five-week series on the blog where you will get to enjoy some wonderful devotions from my friend and fellow-blogger, Don Woodruff. In today’s feature, Don shares his story. I have entitled this one, “How to be grateful your entire life,” because I see such a grateful spirit in this man’s life.
Don and his wife Debbie are our friends and our partners in ministry. They serve as members of the Advisory Council for Ministry of Hope. Now, retirees, they are precious people who have been serving the Lord their entire lives. I’m so blessed by their testimony and by their faithfulness.
I believe you are going to be blessed by them as well.
I have been creating devotionals for over four years, and I thought I should share how I got to this point in my life.
STEP 1 – LIFE-LONG GRATITUDE INVOLVES PREPARATION:
When I was thirteen years old, I felt restless and knew there was a need in my life. That need was Jesus Christ and I went down during the invitation at my church with nothing more to say than, “I want to be saved”. I didn’t know how to articulate my need, I just knew that I wanted Jesus to be a part of my life. I truly believe that I received salvation on that day, but I had absolutely no idea how much that decision encompassed. As a result, I have made some bad choices since that day.
However, I discovered that I was not perfect because I was saved, but I was still an imperfect person covered by the blood of Jesus.
What is amazing is that even though I made some bad choices, God kept me on a short leash because He had other plans for me, once I understood the real meaning of being redeemed. Years later some of those plans started to unfold for me.
First of all, He put me in a position of teaching ten-year-old boys.
What an experience!
But you know, in the midst of trying to corral and teach those boys, He was preparing me for another step in my journey of serving Him. While teaching those boys I discovered that my task was merely to present what God wanted them (and me) to hear and let Him take care of what happens next.
No matter what was going on when I was trying to teach, those boys were simply amazing whenever they would answer the questions I asked them. They were listening when it seemed they weren’t!
That was the result of God’s work, not mine.
STEP 2 – LIFE-LONG GRATITUDE INVOLVES TITHING:
My wife and I were giving to the church, but not actually tithing. Tithing was a very interesting process for us. We started out by fulfilling what we felt was an obligation and transitioned into enjoying and looking forward to contributing to His kingdom.
First God convicted us that we should start tithing. We made the decision that I’m sure many have made – we would start tithing on the net pay (since that was the only ‘real’ money we saw). There was one time when we needed money and “out of the blue” we received a rebate check from an insurance company!
After we had been tithing for awhile, He convicted us to start tithing on the gross amount.
We ‘bit the bullet’ and obeyed, but never had any real financial stress.
Finally, God convicted us to give more than our tithe and this is where it became very interesting. We obeyed and held our breath, but again we did not encounter any financial problems. In fact, when I received my raise the next year, the tithe we had been giving was ten percent of my new salary. We ‘upped’ our tithe again and the next year when I received my raise, it happened again – the tithe from the previous year was ten percent of my new salary. It happened again the third year – three years in a row!
Of course, that’s when Satan started trying to plant ideas in our heads like, “You can determine what your salary for the next year will be by how much you tithe this year!” Sounded like a logical thing to do, but fortunately, we didn’t fall for his scheme. The next year, my raise left us short of what we had been tithing the previous year and we realized that God must have a sense of humor. It was as if He was saying to us, “Now, what are you going to do?”
Honestly, it helped us to focus on how He was blessing us and not on the monetary amounts. It wasn’t too long after that when we were astounded by His blessings. In just one year, I received a ten percent increase, followed by a fifteen percent increase, followed by an eleven percent increase.
We learned that what some say is true, “You can’t out give God.”
But more importantly, we learned the blessings of making efforts to be obedient.
STEP 3 – LIFE-LONG GRATITUDE INVOLVES TRUSTING:
Trusting was another area where the Lord taught us that He is in control. We learned that sometimes we have to make choices based on His decisions and not ours.
I had a good job as an Applications Manager at a successful company and was responsible for the majority of the IT systems there. Then one day I received a call from someone I knew at another company asking if I would consider managing a Technical Support group. Of course, I knew nothing about Tech Support and told him that, but he said that I understood IT and he felt I would be a good fit with my IT background.
Sometimes I believe that God makes things somewhat difficult in order to teach us things (even though we may not know it at the time).
Since I knew I would be uncomfortable in Tech Support, I asked for some additional requirements before making a decision. This resulted in a three-month delay in order for the company to get my requests approved. Still, I was unsure about making the move, but after my wife and I prayed about it, I decided to follow what I ‘thought’ was God’s Will.
When I first arrived there, I discovered that the company really didn’t need the group I was managing. After praying and frantically searching for something viable for us to do, I was able to acquire the full support of the most widely used system within the company. Without sharing all the details, I believe that God caused this to happen.
There were other groups that all had to agree on moving the system to our group, and they did!
STEP 4 – LIFE-LONG GRATITUDE MAY INVOLVE TEACHING:
Okay, the first thing I should mention is, there are at least three things I don’t enjoy doing – reading, preparing, and presenting. Ask me to participate in athletics or music and I was always ready, but not reading, preparing, and presenting!
Interestingly enough, God had pre-determined that my destiny was teaching and sharing His Word which involved the three things I didn’t enjoy doing.
Our Minister of Education (Bobby Bragg) at Ellendale Baptist Church asked me one day if I would be interested in teaching a married couples class. Of course, a red flag went up for me and I replied, “Let me pray about it” hoping that he would find someone else and forget that he had asked me. About three months later, Bobby asked me again if I had gotten any direction on teaching the class. I thought about how I ‘got out of it’ the last time he asked and I replied, “Let me pray about it some more”.
Little did I know the plans God had for that class and whoever agreed to teach it would be blessed as they watched God at work in a mighty way (more on this later).
After the second offer from Bobby, I was restless for the next three months. I prayed about it off and on and finally went to Bobby and said, “I’ll try teaching it and see how it goes”. Bobby immediately started smiling and when I asked him why, he said, “Do you remember six months ago when I asked you about teaching this class?’ When I sheepishly replied, “Yes”. He said that he went to the members of the class and told them that I would be their new teacher, and they had been praying for me for the entire six months!
Now, to be honest, my plans were to ‘endure’ teaching this class of ten people for one year and then giving it to someone else. However, God’s plan was different than mine and I have been teaching the class for well over thirty years.
Earlier I mentioned the opportunity of seeing God at work – He took that small class of ten people and grew it to an enrollment of around one hundred and thirty people. Not only did He increase the size of the class, but in order to reduce it to a manageable number, seven classes were spawned from that class – which meant that seven more people committed to teaching.
Just think, if I had not agreed to teach the class, I would have missed out on seeing what He could do.
Oh, I may have heard about it, but I wouldn’t have been able to watch Him at work firsthand. Not only that, but I wouldn’t have been blessed like I was through teaching (being obedient to His Will for me).
He was with me when reading, preparing and presenting the lessons. But more than that, He would give me thoughts while I was teaching; thoughts that were not in my notes. Additionally, He taught me the importance of having interactive discussions as opposed to lecturing. Using this method I found I could learn even more from the comments of the members of the class. He also showed me how to handle controversial topics and comments from members of the class. He impressed on me a way of encouraging everyone to participate in the discussions and how to apply His Word to everyday life – ‘where the rubber meets the road’.
I could go on and on about other things He taught me, but the bottom line is, I learned how He blesses those who obey Him, even if it requires leaving their comfort zone.
I learned how He blesses those who obey Him, even if it requires leaving their comfort zone. Click To Tweet
STEP 5 – LIFE-LONG GRATITUDE EVENTUALLY INVOLVES RETIREMENT:
Have you ever thought about what retirement life would be like? A time when you basically go into idle mode except for enjoying the things you wanted to do but never had enough time. Be prepared. When God has plans for you, then you can be in for a surprise (and He does have plans for all who confess their faith in Him).
I mentioned earlier that I didn’t particularly enjoy reading, preparing and presenting so the Lord decided I would be a bible teacher. However, there is one more thing that is “not my thang” – writing. So guess what, God convicted me to start creating and distributing devotionals when I retired. I’m not talking about starting a year or so after I retired, He wanted me to start on day one. This has been an amazing experience as I look forward each day to see what the Lord wants to communicate to others and me.
Some nights I have had ideas for a devotional, but He changed it to something else the next morning.
What I enjoy the most is the way He guides me in showing the practical application of His Word.
The mentality of ‘where the rubber meets the road’ that He taught me when he invited me to start teaching a Bible class, has continued as He gives me the content for the devotionals each day. Now you can see how the Lord orchestrated my life over the years to prepare me for sending out these devotionals.
But He didn’t stop there. He also inspired me to write and publish a book (ugh, more writing!). I doubt that I will ever recover the expense of getting the book published, but I am confident He has (or is) using it in the life of at least one person. It is now out of print as I await the Lord’s guidance to see I should publish another book.
I have written a second book titled, “I’m Saved, Now What?” The publisher liked it and suggested promoting it, but then a strange thing happened. I felt that God wanted me to put that one on hold and start a third project which I am currently working on and nearing the finish line. God has taken someone who does not like writing and converted him into creating daily devotionals and writing three books in less than three years!
Yes, God still performs miracles in our lifetime!
Like everyone else, I am still a work in progress and still make bad choices, but the Lord has created in me a desire to serve Him and to point others to Jesus. It didn’t happen overnight, but it started with a desire to have Jesus in my life and a hope that God would change my life and focus. I needed God to be the leader of my life, and to influence my thoughts, my words, my actions, my decisions, and my service in His ministry.
My hope is that many others will read this and decide to turn their lives over to the Lord completely.
Hopefully others will have a desire to experience and enjoy the exciting journey of serving the Lord in the capacity He has chosen specifically for them. I hope that others will give up their selfishness so they will not miss out on the opportunities He has given them.
I also pray that they will not miss the joy that is included in His plan designed specifically for them (and He has plans for everyone who claims to be His followers).
About the Author:
Don has been teaching Bible classes for over 35 years and a Cristian blogger for the last 4 years. He has been married to Debbie for 47 years and has two children and five grandchildren (another one due this year). He is overwhelmed and humbled daily by the Lord’s presence.
You can check out Don’s blog at https://utvolwoody.wordpress.com/
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