difficult periods can be transformed into wonderful breakthroughs into
God’s love. For me, one such season occurred during the years 1979 to
The association of churches with which I was aligned had
fallen under spiritual deception. Not only were its core doctrines
increasingly seeded with New Age influences, but also immorality crept
in, and key leaders began leaving their wives for other women.
I could no longer remain silent. I left my congregation
in Detroit, where I had served as pastor, and traveled to the
organization’s regional headquarters in Iowa. I went to plead for
repentance. However, after meeting with the senior leaders, I was asked
to leave the group.
You can imagine the situation that left my family and me
in. We had left our church, we had no money, and we had four little
children. We couldn’t afford even basic housing. Desperate for almost
any type of shelter, we finally found an old farmhouse in rural
Washington, Iowa. The home was more than 100 years old, but it actually
looked much older. After negotiating with the landlord, we were given a
year of free rent provided I did work around the house such as cleaning
Even so, the house needed more than I
could provide. The furnace did not work well, so we installed a
wood-burning stove in the kitchen. That first winter, it turned out,
was one of the coldest in Iowa’s history. Frost formed on the inside
walls, spreading a foot or two around each window, and wind chills
dropped to 60 below—lower than that on several occasions.
To keep warm each night, the whole family cuddled tightly
on one large mattress on the dining room floor, about 18 feet from the
stove in the kitchen. A fan behind the stove nudged warm air in our
direction. My nightly project, of course, was to build enough heat in
the stove to keep us warm until morning.
While I worked the fire, I also prayed and sought God.
The wood burner became a kind of altar to me, for each night as I
prayed, I offered to God my unfulfilled dreams and the pain of my
As the seasons came and went, the little area around the
wood burner continued to be a hallowed place for me. Even in the
summer, I would sit on the chair next to the stove and pray and worship.
I would like to say I found the joy of
the Lord during this time, but in truth, though I gradually adjusted to
my situation, I felt an abiding misery in my soul. Our deep poverty was
an issue (I earned barely $6,000 a year), but more than that, I felt as
if I had missed the Lord. My continual prayer was, “Lord, what do You
want of me?”
Three years of seeking God passed, and I still carried an
emptiness inside. What was God’s will for me? I had started a couple of
Bible studies and spoken a few times in churches, but I so identified
with being a pastor that, until I was engaged again in full-time
ministry, I feared I had lost touch with God’s call on my life.
Despite this inner emptiness about
ministry, I was growing spiritually, especially in areas that were
previously untilled. I had unconsciously defined a successful ministry
as something born of my performance. During this time, however, the
Lord reduced me to being simply a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Rising to the top of my focus was a
passion to be a true follower of Jesus Christ—to obey His teachings and
approach life not as a critic but as an encourager. I also found myself
increasingly free to enjoy and learn from Christians from other streams
These changes, though deep and lasting,
occurred slowly, almost imperceptibly. They were happening quietly in
my heart, and only in hindsight did I see what the Lord had done.
Throughout this time, I was preoccupied with feelings of detachment
from God’s will. My prayer to know the Lord’s plan for me continued
One day as I stood in the kitchen pantry, I repeated
again my abiding prayer: “Lord, what do You want of me?” In a sudden
flash of illumination, the Lord answered. Speaking directly to my
heart, He said, “Love Me where you’re at.”
In this time and season, I was a TV television repairman
doing odd jobs on the side to provide for my family. I hated what I was
In my previous church I had taught against TV, and now I
was “laying hands” on sets and raising them from the dead! The Lord’s
answer cut straight to my heart. I was awed at its simplicity!
I asked: “Love You where I am at? Lord, is that all You want of me?” He replied, “This is all I will ever require of you.”
In that divine moment peace flooded my
soul and I was released from the false expectation of ministry-driven
service. God was not looking at what I did for Him but who I became to Him
in love. The issue in His heart was not whether I pastored but whether
I loved Him. To love the Lord in whatever station I found myself—even
as a television repairman—this I could do!
A deep and remarkable transformation
occurred in me. My identity was no longer in being a pastor but in
becoming a true lover of God. Amazingly, a few days after having
settled my priorities, I was invited to pastor a church in Marion, Iowa.
In spite of all my previous anxiety about returning to
ministry, I did not jump at the opportunity because I had learned what
the Lord truly desired of me. Though I eventually accepted this call,
my focus was not merely on leading a church but on loving God.
God seeks our love before our ministry.
His greatest commandment is that we love Him with all our mind, heart,
soul and strength. If we do, we will fulfill all He requires of us (see
John 14:15). It is as we love Him that He causes all things to work
together for our good (see Rom. 8:28).
Beloved, loving God is not hard. We can
fulfill any assignment—auto mechanic or housewife, doctor or college
student—and still give great pleasure to our heavenly Father. We do not
need ministry titles to love the Lord. Indeed, God measures the value
of our lives by the depth of our love. This is what He requires of all
true God-seekers: to love Him where we are.
Francis Frangipane retired in June as senior pastor of River of Life Ministries in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after more than 25 years. Visit him online at frangipane.org. He is the author of numerous books, including And I Will Be Found By You (Arrow Publications), from which this article is adapted. To order the book, call 877-363-6889.
Meditating on the Bible is one way to find God’s peace and contentment. For helpful verses, go to content.charismamag.com.