Walking with God Through Deep Valleys: Lessons on Finding Contentment When Life is Hard
"Stephen Gammon faithfully served God for 40 years as a pastor and military chaplain. Then, in October 2018, he was diagnosed with cancer (Multiple Myeloma); he and his wife Helen entered this deep valley, walking with God by faith. With personal vulnerability and spiritual insight, he posted regular medical updates on the CaringBridge website, sharing many priceless lessons learned while walking with God through their valley. Tens of thousands of online visits and innumerable personal responses and reflections from readers attest to the power of these truths. Now edited and published in this book, these lessons will point you towards genuine contentment and peace as you walk through your own deep valleys."
“Walking With God:
101 Lessons for Life and Ministry”
I have been walking with God since childhood. Through every chapter of life and ministry He has taught me lessons I needed to know then. This is the privilege I have lived and one He offers His children through Jesus.
For Christian leaders who first yielded to the lordship of Jesus in adulthood, it can be challenging to discern developmental lessons God teaches children early in life. Younger ministers can struggle to know what particular lessons He has in store for those who are older and have journeyed longer. From the perspective of someone who has walked with God for six decades, I share 101 life lessons God taught me through various seasons of life and ministry.
WE ALL HAVE A STORY TO TELL
We all have a story to tell. Whether we have walked with God a short while or for a lifetime, telling the story of what He has done for us honors Him and can bless others by pointing them to Him. My own journey with God has included two local church pastorates, military chaplaincy in various venues, serving in a leadership and support role for churches and ministers, and more. In each chapter of life and ministry God has taught precious biblical lessons I needed to know then.
It is an awesome thing to walk with God from childhood to final breath. This is what we were created to do. Should God allow, I expect to live a few more years, so I cannot yet speak firsthand as one who has walked with God until my final breath, but I have been walking with Him for as long as I can remember. As a boy I understood God is personal and invites me into relationship with Him. This insight is uncommon knowledge today, but I can say with certainty it is true because God has said so and I have lived it. The infinite God created us to know Him, live with Him, love Him, and walk with Him personally, not for a short while but from infancy to eternity.
WE HAVE AN INHERENT LONGING TO KNOW GOD
God has woven into our spiritual DNA a longing to know Him, which is why anthropology and archaeology have yet to find a culture devoid of religious faith and practice, and why, according to the 2011 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 84 percent of people worldwide identify with a religious group. In all of us there is a yearning for acceptance, depth of intimacy, purpose, peace, and hope. Such things can be found in fullest measure in relationship with God.
Renown philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal experienced profound insight into this when he observed: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man.” In other words, there is a depth in our longing that can only be filled in relationship with God. This is my story of walking with God through every chapter of life and ministry. I can’t yet see the finish line, but when I do I will cross over with God. In Jesus Christ this is a privilege possible for us all.
THE CONSEQUENCE OF SIN, AND CHRIST THE REMEDY
The Scriptures have much to say about walking with God. In the garden of Eden, humanity’s first home, God walked with Adam and Eve. They wanted to be with Him, listening carefully and enjoying His presence. When they sinned it all came to a screeching halt. Now the thought of being with God scared them, so they hid (Genesis 3:8-9). God’s intention was broken because sin cannot be in the presence of the Holy One, and the wages of sin is death (Genesis 2:16-17; Romans 6:23). When sin entered the world spiritual death became immediate and the process of physical death began. Humanity was forced out of Eden and doomed to long for a relationship with God that could no longer be. It would never be unless God in His mercy intervened to make a way.
That is precisely what God did through Jesus. By His death on the cross He made a way for sin to be atoned for and relationship with God to be restored, a way for us to walk with God through life and into eternity. The Old Testament contains God’s promise to send a redeemer. Prophesies of the coming Messiah are strung like a golden thread through the Old Testament beginning with Genesis 3:15 which foretold the offspring (seed/sperm) of a woman (the only place in Hebrew literature where this word is used of a woman) who would one day crush the head of the serpent (the Devil). More messianic prophecies came through the centuries, giving details of His birth, death, incarnation, kingdom, meekness, priesthood, prophetic office, rejection, resurrection, sufferings, and ultimate triumph.
Why did God do this? His motivation was love (John 3:16). He did it to save us from the consequences of our sin and restore us to the everlasting life for which He created us, a relationship that begins now and lasts to our final breath and evermore. If we claim to believe this but keep God at a distance we are foolish. Many seem entirely unaware that there is a way by which they can walk with God. Jesus invites us to walk with Him through life, and along the way invite others to join us. When we walk with God through the changing circumstances of life, He illumines and applies timeless truths for our benefit and also to bless others.
101 LESSONS GOD TAUGHT ME WHILE WALKING WITH HIM
I have included here 101 life lessons God has taught me while walking with Him. If you read from beginning to end you will see a chronology of life lessons God taught me in various stages of life and ministry. You may also begin reading about the particular stage of life you are in now, one you will soon begin, or one that people you care about are in. I hold no pride in sharing my story, for it is all because of God’s unmerited favor. To any extent I have followed Jesus I invite you to Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Schools often give quizzes following periods of study to determine if students have grasped what they were taught. This practice works well with spiritual lessons too, for whenever God speaks He calls for response. For this reason I have included application questions at the end of each lesson for reflection or discussion. Please do not rush through this part but listen prayerfully to what the Holy Spirit says and how He calls you to respond.
PASSING ON THE PRIVILEGE OF WALKING WITH GOD
I would like to introduce you to the man God used to plant within me a desire to write this. It was my grandfather, Reverend Morley Durost. He came to faith in Jesus as a young man, then walked with God until his final breath in 1981 at age of eighty-seven. In mid-life God surprised him with a clear call to pastoral ministry. He walked with God, living the faith he proclaimed and experiencing God’s faithfulness. Along the way he shared personal stories of God’s grace and lessons learned. After many requests to do so, in his later years he began writing his testimonies to share with his children and grandchildren and anyone who was interested, but starting late he never finished.
My grandfather died a few weeks after laying hands upon me and praying over me when I was set apart and formally ordained for gospel ministry. Sometime later my uncle found a box containing my grandfather’s loose, typed pages and he gave them to me. The pages were disorganized and incomplete but I knew they must be shared. I put into chronological order the stories contained in the box, then printed and distributed them to family. Though Rev. Morley Durost has been gone for a generation now, among his many descendants conversations are still heard about lessons he learned in his walk with God through life and ministry. I continue following his example.
Walking with God through life and ministry can begin in childhood and last until our final breath, and then forevermore. I am very eagerly anticipating heaven, in part because there we will have an infinite supply of time to praise God for the countless ways He demonstrated love and faithfulness to us along our life journey!
As on this side of heaven we all have limited time, I thank you for taking some of yours to read my story of walking with God. Your earthly journey is different than mine, but I praying that you will know the joy I have known of walking with God through every chapter of life and ministry, and learning from Him all along the way.