(Part of the Things That Cai Larsen Taught Me series.)
These posts don’t have anything to do with church marketing. But they are in the line of good church leadership. The principle for this post is putting God’s will before any burden or desires you may have. This is something I struggle with constantly; realizing my desires may not necessarily be what God wants, even when it’s to do something for Him.
I first met Cai sitting in a desk in room 9 at JCM. He was teaching mainly upperclassmen this year so I didn’t have him as a teacher in any of my freshman classes. But on this day, our instructor was unavailable and Cai stepped in to fill the void.
His Danish accent was hilarious to me. He was teaching about keeping a budget. Apparently that’s a lesson I never learned but maybe I will in the future and then I’ll write about it here. But in that very first class I learned a lot about my substitute instructor.
Cai was working full-time at JCM and the pay was… let’s just say I eventually found out that the pay was just enough to feed a family of ants for a week or two. So to make ends meet Cai also worked at the Mississippi School for the Blind at night; which was also a full-time job.
Cai wasn’t just an instructor by day and a teacher by night, he had more energy than anyone else and he threw it into the college outside of the classroom. He would get us up sometimes in the middle of the night to go out to the football field and play capture the flag. He spent hours in the gym fixing up sets for our comedy plays. He provided the entertainment for just about anything that happened on campus. He was a class advisor. He started J-Cafe, which took a lot of time and planning. And he also engineered the all-school outing. Oh yeah, and he was the Dean of Christian Education.
I honestly don’t know when the guy slept but I do know sometimes he would take a 2 hour nap instead of a full-nights sleep because of the deadlines hanging over him.
Why would someone put all that effort and passion into something that wasn’t even paying his bills? Why would he dedicate every part of himself to a small college with a bunch of wacko students that didn’t appreciate it until much later?
I think it’s because he did have a true burden for the school and its mission. And I think it’s because he knew God had called him there.
But JCM wasn’t Cai’s number one passion. Those of you who knew him already know where I’m going with this post.
Cai’s heart yearned for Denmark. For someone who had his emotions completely under control; when he talked about reaching Denmark the passion and emotion would flow out of him.
I remember him talking to me one day about Denmark and saying, almost sadly, that God just wasn’t ready yet. He wanted more than anything to go back to his home country and reach the people with the gospel. He would lament the fact that there was only one person filled with the Holy Ghost in the country. And he did as much as he could from the US to help establish a church in Denmark.
When JCM closed down, he realized God still wanted him involved in Bible College ministry. He moved to Texas. One day when he was driving between Mississippi and Texas he stopped in Natchez where I was living. He called me while I was at the mall and wanted to see me.
We stood in the men’s department at JC Penny’s in Natchez and he asked me, “do you think you’re done with Bible College ministry?” I knew I wasn’t. But the thing that surprised me is he was throwing just as much energy at Texas Bible College as he had at JCM.
After I moved to TBC I still heard his passion for Denmark all the time. He taught his kids the Danish language. He took them on trips. He wanted nothing more than to see a church started in that country. But every day he was putting all of his sweat and energy into a college in Texas.
Cai was never able to return to his home country. He was killed a year after I joined the staff at TBC. There is still a need for a church in Denmark. There is still a lot of people there that need the Gospel. But Cai will never be involved if one is started.
Why? It seems so backwards. Why would someone have such a deep burden and God never allow them to go where they want to do what they want for the Kingdom of God?
That may be a mystery but it’s a lesson that Cai taught me; you don’t control God’s will and you don’t know what He knows. The only way to be guaranteed success in your life is to keep yourself in His will at all times.
You may yearn for something. You may weep for something. You may want something so bad you can taste it. But if God’s not directing you to do it, you’re not going to do any good anyway.
I face the same problem today. I have walked the streets of Seattle alone asking God what He wants me to do. I see the people going about their lives. I see the homeless sleeping in their boxes. I want to start a church there so bad.
This has been going on for several years but I have never felt like God was saying go. I struggle with the thought that it’s God that put this burden in me, and maybe it is. But I know from Cai’s example, you can’t force God’s hand.
Saul did that with the offering and look where he ended up. David was anointed king but look how long he had to wait to take the throne and what he had to go through.
The problem we face is not the desire to do something for God. It’s the desire to do the thing God wants us to do. Often times that’s laying down our selfish desires and going where, and doing what, we don’t necessarily choose.
The great thing about it is, we often find our contentment in doing the thing we thought we would never want to do. The dreams we lay down are often brought full circle in a way we never thought possible.
I had no desire for ministry. I wanted to have a career in computer science. I sacrificed and gave up my life dreams to follow God’s will into the ministry. It led me to JCM where I didn’t even want to go. It took me through a lot of tough times. But as time went on, my dreams and desires changed. I wanted ministry. 4 years later I was working at the college full-time. I was doing the ministry I loved.
But guess what my value was to the college. It was my skills with computers and networking. That’s the reason they hired me in the first place and it opened the door to what God wanted me to do.
The funny thing was, the computer stuff started getting me aggravated. I had no desire to do it anymore. I had changed my desires. It was those computer skills that also made me valuable at TBC. But it was God using what I gave up for His will to take me where he wanted me to go.
The moral of the story
Don’t fight the will of God, even when it hurts you. I don’t know why God never allowed Cai to go back to Denmark as a missionary. But it could be that someone much more effective, as hard as it is to imagine, is called there already. It could be that Cai’s influence was better served pouring in his burden to young ministers. Perhaps one of these days one of those students will find themselves walking the streets of Copenhagen struggling with the call to be a missionary to Denmark.
The thing we have to do is be willing to sacrifice and give God our talents, our dreams, and our abilities. We have to let go of them and accept His calling. When we do that He is free to use our dreams, talents, likes, dislikes, quirks, and personalities to put us where we can be most effective.
Usually the thing God asks you to give up for Him will be used by Him in the thing he’s called you to do.
So no matter how you feel. No matter your personal burden. Be willing to stay away from the thing you would love in order for God to do with you what He wants. That’s the only success.