FIRST-PERSON (Ray Lepage): 'Jesus has never given up on me'
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following testimony was shared by Ray Lepage, senior pastor of Big Rock Baptist Church in Okotoks, Alberta, Canada, during the Nov. 11-12 annual meeting of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention.
ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. (BP)--On behalf of someone all of you know, I would like to share with you about our theme for the week, that of endurance from Hebrews 12 that goes like this:
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV).
Now this friend of mine -- and by the way, he wasn't always a friend -- was born in a French part of this world into a Catholic home with four younger sisters. And he endured that.
As a young boy, he was sexually abused by an uncle and a priest. He knew he was a child of God; he prayed out to Him and God removed him from the situation. And he endured that!
After high school, he left his home country to travel the world for two years. In 1970, he married a wonderful Christian woman and apparently she has endured him for 40 years! She has been living with chronic pain for over 26 of those years and they have both endured that. They have two wonderful children and now a grandson.
Early in their marriage, they almost lost their daughter on two occasions to serious illness. And they endured that.
This friend of mine spent over 25 challenging years in the business world and endured the ups and downs of business and owning and managing a firm of 25 people in the construction industry. During most of this time, my friend had been involved in church ministry and God had been speaking to him.
But as many people do, especially men, he wasn't listening as closely as he should have been. A life lesson was just around the corner for my friend.
In 1993, God got tired of waiting and whispering and simply shouted. It was in that year that he lost absolutely everything he had worked for, including the business, the home, the Cadillac, the bells and whistles and over three-quarters of a million dollars.
And he finally heard God. And yet still he endured!
Or was God getting tired of enduring him?
He finally heard that still, small voice; he got the message; and in 1996 began his studies for ministry. In 1999, he got into the church planting ministry, using some of the business skills God had given him.
There were difficult times, as church planting and ministry tends to be. He made many mistakes and after a few years, he simply got worn out and had to take a break. He wondered during those dark days if he was even where God wanted him to be.
Have any of you been to that place?
So in the summer of 2004, he went to a small retreat center by a lake and had this very personal, one-on-one mountaintop experience with God. By the end of the next year, God had grown [the church he was planting] from six people to over 100 -- in spite of him -- and he listened to God yet again.
He then moved to the western part of his home country and endured the challenges of starting over yet again to plant a second church for Christ.
Endurance. What endurance! Do we really know about endurance?
So, what did He endure? Challenges, frustration, rejection, tiredness, ridicule, absence of earthly riches -- oh, by the way, the "He" I was just now talking about was not my friend. I was talking about what He, Jesus Christ, endured, who beyond all the above, endured the disappointment of those closest to Him and the cross.
You see, folks, my [earthly] friend would probably not go to a cross if asked. And I will not ask for a show of hands tonight to see how many of us would be prepared to go to a cross for him either.
All of you now know this friend of mine, and some of you have known him for a few years. You see, my brothers and sisters, as you have heard my friend relate my story, Jesus has never given up on me.
So let me leave you with one my friend's very own life verses, Galatians 6:9, that hopefully would be an encouragement to each and every one of you: "And let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while, we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't get discouraged and give up."
As we work together in His service wherever that may be, I would challenge you to never give up on Jesus because Jesus will never give up on you.