Finding a Better Treasure
At 24 years old, Justin was already on top of the world. He bought his first house at age 21. He had been in his job for just six measly months and had gone from making $13 an hour blasting metal to fabricate water towers to bringing in $80,000 a year. What’s more, he was on track for a 6-figure salary with all the benefits and perks he could imagine within the next five years with a field project management promotion. He was given additional responsibilities, and additional pay to go along with it. He had everything he could want, and it was enviable at such a young age. It was a pretty comfortable life as a single guy who could afford all the comforts he desired. A riverfront house with a really nice truck painted an awfully pretty picture.
Or so it seemed.
Sure, materialism met all the felt needs and satisfied all the cravings of a heart focused on worldly goods and treasures. It felt pretty good to be favored at work, considered for promotions, to be mentored and trained to be more… and get more. So, it came as quite a surprise when Justin broke the news to his family and coworkers that he was leaving it all to go into ministry. His parents had been extremely proud of all he had accomplished so far. His bosses and coworkers who had poured into him to teach him all he knew were shocked. This wasn’t the kind of thing you just leave. This was the kind of thing you stay in until you retire. Even Justin thought he would retire there.
Everything changed when Justin started attending Graceland. He had grown up in a Christian home and already professed faith in Christ. But when he was introduced to discipleship for the first time, his perspective on everything changed. Pastor Ryan encouraged him to step out of his comfort zone and help out with worship doing background vocals. He shadowed leaders in the student ministry, and Ryan perceived a gift in student ministry that he nurtured in Justin. Soon Justin was leading a small group on his own.
An opportunity arose for him to work with a church plant in Pittsburgh. One night, a small group of guys were talking, and someone posed the question, “What’s your biggest dream for the kingdom and what are you doing about it?” Justin realized his dream had nothing to do with God’s kingdom, and everything to do with his own. His pursuit of the American dream was far more successful than his pursuit of Christ. As the men discussed what it would look like to completely sell out for Christ and his Gospel, Justin’s heart changed from desiring a life of accumulation of treasures on earth to one of proclamation of the heavenly treasures in Christ. He began exploring missions and his focus shifted away from his career and more into full-time ministry as more doors opened for him to walk through. After being appointed with a mission organization, he started looking into specific locations to serve. Justin finally decided on North Africa and had planned to travel and begin missions work in August of 2020.
Like everything else though, COVID changed all of Justin’s plans. He had walked away from his job that promised a six-figure salary and every luxury he could imagine. He had sold everything he owned with the exception of whatever he could fit into his car. He had invested in training, was planning on raising support, saying goodbyes, and hopping on a plane. This didn’t look anything like what he had expected. But when a person puts their life in God’s hands and says, “Take me where you want me,” they have to be willing to accept the answer, even if it’s not what they originally expected.
Justin had initial doubts, but knew his life was in God’s hands, under His sovereign control, and he trusted God to put him where He wanted him. He was approached with the opportunity to help out with the Uptown Center while he was still in Indiana. The original plan was that it would be temporary, and he would train someone else to replace him when he would eventually leave for Africa. Justin became involved at UC, and the more he did, the more his heart was drawn to the kids there. He found himself drawn to the ministry at Graceland in New Albany and a little confused by how he felt, given he had made plans for Africa. Yet, those plans had failed, and this one was here in front of him. Justin prayed, desiring to serve God wherever he was being called. “Whatever you want,” he prayed, “I want to be willing to step into it.” He sought godly counsel and continued in prayer until he was at peace with what he discerned God was calling him into here in New Albany at Uptown Center through Graceland. He had conversations with the pastoral staff about this directional change in ministry to the church instead of Africa, and they began discussing a permanent role for him at Graceland.
Justin has struggled with doubts and bouts of discontentment. He’s asked himself if he misses what he walked away from. He’s been tempted by the enticement of a nicer car and a bigger house, but he wouldn’t trade any of what he has now for the world. His dream job is the one he has now, serving the King of Kings, living a simplistic sacrificial life in order to proclaim the transformative news of the Gospel. At the end of his life, he would rather have crowns to lay at Jesus’ feet than a fat retirement plan.