“My Faith Journey”

Galatians 5:13-21

Elder David Hawkins

July 17, 2016

 

Every moment in life is both precious and unique. Precious, because life is a gift from God. Unique: each of us have experiences that determines who we are and shapes the way we express our faith. Some experiences in my life have become milestones in my faith journey.  Our faith stories are personal.   I feel faith stories are most personal because it involves God. How one’s faith in God is deepened, or enriched, through life experiences is what a faith story is all about.

I will focus on two areas of my faith story.  First, experiences that began my journey – awareness of the Holy Spirit in my life. Secondly, how life’s experiences brought me home, back to Fort Smith, working in the Funeral Service as a licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer.

Born and raised in Fort Smith

Family here four generations

Left Fort Smith after High School

Returned 42 years later – 2012

I went to college after high school

Degrees in Biology and Chemistry

Retail Store Management – Oklahoma, Texas, Florida

Then, a door opened to return to Fort Smith when I lost my job in retail.

My journey began in the early 1990’s with a hunger for the Word of God.   I read scripture selections from time to time…  As I read, I found it historic and interesting.   I wondered why this ancient book was so important to the church.   A pamphlet caught my eye, plan to read the bible in a year… I read the bible in a year. The more I read the Bible that year, God opened my eyes to His Word. Over time, as my faith deepened, I taught Sunday school, joined a men’s bible study and developed a prayer life. I was ordained as an elder and spent most of my spare time working in the church. My journey in those years of faith development was good. Good marriage. Good children. Good life.

After several years, I felt something was missing.  When I read the bible, His word had less meaning to me. I felt God was not listening to my prayers. Something was terribly wrong. I identified the problem as distancing myself from Jesus.  I didn’t like how I felt. It felt like a feeling of emptiness. God gave me an opportunity to get right with him, to go on a men’s retreat. I was living in southeast Texas at the time.   This retreat was attended by southeast Texas men of many denominations — The Walk to Emmaus.   A few men in our Bible study group went before me.   I saw their glow.   They appeared at peace — overflowed with joy.   Deeply satisfied.  I wanted that feeling.  I wanted it badly.   I went.  For me, it was an amazing life changing experience.  Jesus was once again a big part of my life.

At that point I realized I was on a faith / journey, with all its peaks and valleys.   Over the years I realized when I was without Jesus, it was because I pushed him away.   When I began to feel empty. I reached out for Jesus.   He was always there. Jesus loved me.

Time past, about 15 years

Then, suddenly, I lost my job, I was 58

No time for self-pity

Find another job now!  Just not in retail.

Pray – guidance, discernment, desire to work in God’s kingdom

I explored the question, Who am I?

Experiences in life I enjoyed and excelled –

Education Biology / Chemistry

Retail experience – people

Church– caring for others

Losing my job, deciding what to do, was a painful experience

Pray – wife, family, church

I looked into forest mgmt., Ark. Game and Fish Commission – interviewed for jobs in Texas and Arkansas

My wife suggested Funeral Service

We talked about it, prayed about it

God showed me it was a good fit       (how was it a good fit)

Edu –   Anatomy, physiology, biochemistry

Retail – Listen to and work with people

Church –Faith in God and trusting him, this is his plan for me, this is what he wants me to do

I talked to family and friends about my choice

Those who know me agreed – Funeral Service is a good fit

I really needed to hear their affirmation

We moved to Houston

Mortuary School

Worked about two years in the Houston area

Mother called: I need help; we moved back to Fort Smith

Today, I realize when my thoughts and actions are in harmony with what God has planned for me, I live in peace.  I call this living in God’s Kingdom. Thoughts and actions not in harmony with God’s plan for me create stress and disappointments.  My transition from retail in Florida, to mortuary education and training in Texas, to moving  back  to Fort Smith, all has been remarkably smooth.  I have real satisfaction with what I do. With the skills I’ve learned in life, and by the Grace of God, I reach out to families who are suffering the loss of a loved one. I care for them.

 My faith is centered on reading scripture and reaching out to God through the Holy Spirit, in prayer.   God’s plan for me is to care for others in their early stages of grief.  My journey to discover his plan began as an interest in reading an ancient history book called The Bible.   Today I have a personal relationship with Jesus.   I find joy each day helping people in a difficult time of life, and praising God. I know Jesus loves me and has a plan for my life.

Jesus loves you and has a plan for your life too.