I always had an incredibly clear sense of vision as a boy. A sense of what God was asking of me. But living up to that sense has been the farthest thing from easy I could imagine.
I remember walking home from school with a friend, and talking about what we would be when we grew up. He was going to be a farmer. But I said I was going to go to university and I would be in full-time ministry. I wasn’t sure what that would look like, but it was the vision of my life that rang true to my heart. And that was in a small community where I knew nobody that had gone on to university, and certainly none of my family had, and none of my friends were thinking of it. I must have been about eleven or twelve at the time.
I remember playing lawn croquet with my brothers probably about a year or so later. And as it was getting darker outside, the topic turned to what we would be or do in the future. My one brother was going to own a home building company and build beautiful homes. One wanted to own an excavation company and operate big machinery, and the other wanted to be a farmer. I didn’t say anything. After a while, they turned to me and said “Milton, you haven’t said anything, what do you want to do in your life?” I said: “I’m going to go to university, and I’ll minister to many people.” They laughed! I still remember exactly how I felt that evening.
Then I got older and smarter. My desires changed, or so I thought. My dad was a pastor, (though he had never gone to college) and I saw how he ministered to people for nothing, and sacrificed his life for the church, and the only thing he seemed to get in return was ridicule. At least that is the part I noticed. And he wasn’t even getting paid to pastor. I decided maybe going into ministry wasn’t so cool after all.
I read a book that told the story of a gentleman who served God as a Christian businessman, and He did so well, that he gave 90% to God and still did fabulously on the 10% he kept. I didn’t know any businessmen that were that sold out to God. Then I read about another businessman who sold his business to God, literally, and lived an incredible life of kingdom impact. I decided that maybe being a Christian businessman made better sense for me.
This next part sounds a bit crazy, and I have second guessed it most of my adult life, but I’ll tell it the way I understood it when it happened, and what I thought it meant then. One day around the time I was fourteen or fifteen, I had just finished reading Charles Spurgeon’s book “Lectures to My Students” and I felt like God said to me: “Milton, I want you to serve me with your whole life.”
I said: “I will God. I will be a Christian businessman and serve as your witness to other businessmen and I will tithe regularly, and maybe even give you 20%, because I know you can bless me enough to do so.” And I knew at that moment that I had just told God I would serve him with almost my whole life, but I was going to be a businessman. God seemed to humour me in this conversation and He said: “Uhm, about that, 20% isn’t enough.”
I replied: “No problem, you are all powerful and you can bless me more than I can imagine. I will give you 30%.”
God: “Milton, 30% won’t cut it either.”
Me: “Okay, how about 40%?”
God (I think he was chuckling at this point): “Closer, but not enough.”
Me: “Well okay, you can easily bless me with plenty so how about 50%?”
God: “Now we are talking, but nope!”
“We’re getting closer.”
“Well God, I just read this story about a guy who gave 90% to you, and he was well able to live off the 10% he kept. So I know you can do that again. So 90% it is.”
“Milton, even 90% is not enough, I want all of you.”
“Okay fine God, I’ll go into the ministry.”
The conversation started out about finances, but when it got to the end, all of a sudden it was about me and my calling, not money. The whole conversation felt like I was trying to buy God’s permission to be a successful businessman, but He was saying, “no, you know I created you for something else.” That was how I interpreted it at the time. That conversation has followed me through my whole life.
And while I have always had a sense that it was partially about God’s design for my career or calling, it was also about much more. It was about whether I could trust God with my whole life. And the truth is, I still struggle with that. That complete trust in God has been a huge battle for me throughout my life. For a while, for various reasons, I was sure I was completely unsuitable to minister to people. I had bought into some lies that culture, religious Christianity, Satan and my own brokenness had been whispering into my ear. But lately God has been rekindling the desire to build up people in my heart.
But even during the times when I was convinced I had little to offer, people kept prophesying over me, and saying things that God would do through me. I was incapable of embracing what they said though, for reasons I won’t share today. But God is a patient God. And He is a loving Father. And He keeps pursuing us, even when we are not responding to Him as we should.
He is faithful to promises He makes, even when we are not. So if the promises I think He has made to me personally are His, I have much hope to move me forward.
Today, I look back and I wish that I had trusted the heart of that boy a little more. That I had protected that heart, and the dream God placed in my heart better. Because I think that boy was onto something. Often it is easier to see God’s design for your life with child-like faith.
Even when I couldn’t always embrace God’s design for my life, I always desired to serve Him. And I tried to live a life pleasing to God. But I felt like I failed more often than succeeded. I have learned that without faith it is impossible to please God. And through everything, my faith in God’s heart towards me and His faithfulness to do as He says, has grown.
In fact, I believe that His heart towards me is so good, that He will even redeem some of the hard learned lessons as I learn to love Him back as whole heartedly as He loves me.