Back in the summer of 1979 I took a temporary job at a local furniture store in order to earn some extra cash for the family budget. My wife and I were trying to start our family without much success so in the meantime, we thought it would be good to have some extra padding in our savings for what we were hoping was going to come about.
By this time Piper was working in an office at the Santa Rosa Junior College while I was the Youth Minister at our church and the owner of a fledgling photography business specializing in weddings and outdoor portraiture. Neither one of my positions were shall we say… “cash cows” so we figured that a little extra income couldn’t hurt. Especially since I was going to be gone on a two-week long ministry trip taking six of our youth back to Wisconsin for a national youth conference planned toward the end of the summer.
So, I took the job doing whatever they needed me to do at the contemporary furniture store located in downtown Santa Rosa. This meant that I spent most of my day unloading trucks, unpacking and moving furniture in and out of the store, dusting (and re-dusting multiple times a day…) the displays, and making deliveries. One day the owner asked me to go up on the roof of the two-story building and cover the skylights with some of the thick, transparent packing material which came in long rolls. He figured that it would cut down on the heat coming in from them that made the temperature uncomfortable in the store.
I didn’t realize when I dragged that huge extension ladder across the parking lot… as there was no roof access from within the building… that I was about to experience an event that I would remember for the rest of my life! To make a long story short, after almost toppling the ladder a few times, I finally got it situated and steady and slowly started up… one haltering step at a time! I actually did okay until I got to the top and had to transition from the ladder, over the two-foot ledge and back down to the rooftop.
You have to remember that I was still pretty young in my Christian walk even though that I’d been in the ministry for almost four years by then. I didn’t know a lot of the Word as of yet, but did have a rudimentary understanding of scriptures like 2 Timothy 1:7 where it declares that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” and the encouragement of Philippians 4:13 that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (EMTV)
And while I am fairly certain that those two scriptures came into play at some point while I found myself precariously frozen at the top of the ladder with a birds-eye view of the downtown area, the first thing I clearly remember was PANIC! I thought that if I go forward, I’m going to fall to the ground while trying to get over and onto the roof and if I went back down, that the ladder would probably move and I’d end up with the same result… a blob in the empty parking lot!
I have to tell you… many things crossed my mind in that moment of time! After what seemed like an hour but was probably not more than a minute or two, I finally began to calm myself down and thought… “Get it together here Jim! You have a job to do, so put your faith into practice, put aside the fear, trust the Lord and get it done!” And somehow… and to this day I do not remember how… I found myself standing on the roof and unrolling the packing material that I had previously tossed up there. I also don’t remember going back over the ledge and down the ladder but I did it… and when I walked into the store the owner simply thanked me as he knew nothing of what I had gone through… although he probably noticed my bright red and sweaty face!
So, what happened up there? Well, to begin with, James 1:3 tells us “that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (EMTV) Therefore it was a test and (hopefully) the results produced another measure of endurance or patience as some of the other translations say, in me! But as I look back at that experience (which I actually have many times throughout my life), I realize that it wasn’t necessarily my instant dependence on the power of God’s Word that got me passed the fear attack, but FAITHFULNESS!
My first thought was that “I HAD A JOB TO DO” and that it was important to me to finish the task that had been entrusted to me. My foremost desire was to be FAITHFULL to the responsibility and to the one who gave it to me. If I was totally honest with you… I was not always real fond of the boss. He was usually pretty calm and helpful until any pressure arose… then he tended to get nervous and scream and yell directions along with a few comments thrown in that were not always very encouraging. And if I continue to be truthful here, I was the target of some of those tirades on more than one occasion.
So yeah, it wasn’t the easiest job in the world, but I did my best to stay faithful to it. When I left that position to accompany the six students to their conference and the separate leadership sessions that I was to attend, the boss and I left on good terms. One positive thing about the job was that I rode my ten speed to work almost everyday and got myself in fairly good shape before taking on Amtrak, six youth and two weeks of adventure, alone without my wife! And when I returned, it only took a few weeks before we came back from the doctor’s visit telling her folks that their first grandchild was on the way!
Galatians 5:22-23 teaches us that the fruit of the Spirit, or the “spiritual nature produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, FAITHFULNESS, gentleness, and self-control. (and that) There are no laws against things like that.” (God’s Word ©) Therefore, you see that it not only is a mark of the Christian character in you but when acted upon has no law that can come against it! In other words, FAITHFULNESS almost always produces favorable results!
I somehow sensed from practically day one of Piper’s and my relationship, that I could trust her for I just knew that she would always be FAITHFULL to me. Then in her greatest hour of need there was never a doubt (on our behalf) that I would be FAITHFUL to her and at her side in caring for until the very end… no matter who or what tried to take me away from that responsibility.
FAITHFULNESS to me is like a badge of honor. It is also a God-given gift of blessing to the responsibility and to everyone you are FAITHFULL to. It takes personal commitment, unquestionable follow-through and at times great physical, emotional and spiritual strength, but the rewards far exceed any amount of effort and or discomfort that one puts forth.
Have a wonderful weekend, and as you do, say with me “I expect to be FAITHFUL to my responsibilities and to those I love today!