Reflections on God's faithfulness to a pastor at 50
I recently turned 50 years old.
My parents were told when I was 2 years old that I would not live to three years of age. I was born with a birth defect. The doctor told my mom to prepare for my death, instead she asked God for a miracle.
My mom knelt by my bed and prayed the Hannah prayer to Jesus. She said, “If you will spare his life, when he is old enough, I will give him back to you to do whatever you have called him to do.”
I am not a ghost.
God heard my mom’s cry and answered. I have now lived 5 years longer than mom ever did. When I was a junior at Liberty University, my mother was killed by a drunk driver.
What did it do to me?
It singlehandedly changed every day of my life since then. And for a long time, it put a barrier between me and God.
How can you trust a God that takes from you what is most dear to you?
I went on, what else could I do?
I finished Bible college. I got married to Tosha. We went to Dallas Theological Seminary. Afterward, we moved to Colorado Springs to start Vanguard Church. Simultaneously we started our family and had five children. We now have fully-grown children and have served the same church for 24 years.
Recently I went away to reflect upon my life and ministry and seek to gain perspective on the first 50 years of my life.
I journal regularly, and have since August 1991. I decided I would spend a good portion of my 50th birthday reflecting back on my life to see God’s faithfulness to me. I reread each journal that corresponded to each new decade of my life. I read 1991, 2001, 2011, and compared it to my life now in 2021.
In 1991, my now wife was forced to end our dating relationship. I was diagnosed with lupus, degenerative bone disease, or bone cancer they didn’t know about yet. They needed to do more tests. During one of the darkest seasons of my life, my mom once again stood in for me and prayed that God would heal me. Jesus heard her cry and healed me. It was a miracle, again.
Soon after this, she was killed.
This loss killed my ability to trust God. It felt like a Job season. I lost Tosha, my health, and eventually my mom, and I had a close friend tell me in that season that it must be because of unconfessed sin in my life.
I journeyed on.
In 2001 as a 30-year-old battling my own temptation to have an affair, God chose to miraculous visit me with a prophetic vision about another pastor in Colorado Springs. I tried to help him. He decided he didn’t want my help and sought to destroy me. Eventually in November 2006, it all came out. That season of waiting brought great shame, confusion, and an overwhelming desire to quit. In 1991, I lost my trust in God. In 2001, I lost my confidence to serve God.
In 2011, as a 40-year-old, our church went through the darkest season of its existence. We had 12 major deaths, we had to cut $500,000 out of our annual budget, lay off staff, and sadly lose very dear friends in the process. Tosha and I struggled greatly in our marriage and faced some of our darkest days together. I lost my dreams in this season. I even lost my ability to dream.
I lost me.
But over the past decade God has found me.
Rita Springer’s song, "Defender," was one of the highlighted moments of this past decade of my life.
Her song Defender says,
When I thought I lost me
You knew where I left me.
You reintroduced me to Your love
You picked up all my pieces
Put me back together
You are the defender of my heart
God found me and put me back together. He has shown me as a 50-year-old that He is the defender of my heart and my life.
I still miss my mom, but I no longer grieve as though I have no hope. God has restored my trust, my dreams, and my love for Him and others.
I am a different man because of God’s faithfulness to me. My job was to be obedient and keep showing up. I have kept showing long enough that I can now say to you, it is worth it.
As I begin this sixth decade of my life here in 2021, God has spoken these seven words to me:
- Remain who I have created you to be and do.
- Steward what I created through you and your community.
- Trust Me to take your faithfulness and multiply it into tangible measures of significance for My glory and others' good.
- Depend on those around you. Don’t be afraid to keep entrusting yourself to others as you live out My calling on your life.
- Dream the biggest dreams you have ever dreamed in your life.
- Risk everything you have amassed in this life to advance My Kingdom through you to others.
- Celebrate life by living fully in the season you are in right now. Don’t be afraid to celebrate My faithfulness to you and My favor for you, on you, and through you.
I have no promise of tomorrow in this life, but I do have promise of eternity with Jesus. I don’t have to fear the future or just grieve the past. I can live in the moment and watch God mix the two together to create the present.
I can trust His hand after almost thirty years of grieving, and I can confidently say to you, so can you.
Let us trust Jesus together, now.
Kelly Williams is co-founder and senior pastor of Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His books include: The Mystery of 23, Friend of Sinners and Real Marriage. He also maintains a blog.