Have you ever heard a song that so powerfully influenced your Christian walk that it made you tear up each time you heard it or changed your perspective on your Christian walk? Perhaps it was perfectly timed for the season of life you were going through at the time. Looking back over the past several years, I realized that I could basically follow my spiritual growth through the songs that spoke most to me. So, I thought I’d share with you the songs that have meant the most to me in hopes that perhaps they will speak to you too. Click on the song title to view a Youtube video of each song. (These are in order of when they impacted me, not necessarily in order of how much I like the song.)
This song really needs no introduction. Since its debut in 2001, this song has become the defining work of Mercy Me for obvious reasons. I was in junior high when I first heard this song, and it still brings me to tears with the beautiful imagery of meeting Jesus face to face for the first time.
I first heard this song sometime later in my junior high years, and when I felt and surrendered to God’s call to ministry, this became the defining song of my ministry. I realized at this point in my life that being a Christian meant far more than simply believing in God, it meant believing to the point of trading my dreams, goals, and ambitions for God’s…nothing but complete surrender would suffice.
In June 2007, while I was in college at OBU, I had the opportunity to go on my first international mission trip–to India. To be honest, my motivations were not entirely pure–my girlfriend (later to become my wife) had signed up for the trip, and I wasn’t about to let her fly halfway around the world to some third world country without me! Despite my mixed motives, God used the trip to open my eyes to foreign missions, and I began to feel that God might be calling me into missions. Later that year, this song was released and it kept my thoughts and passion focused on missions, which would later lead me to where I am now.
The timing of this song in my life was extraordinary, to say the least. This song was released Oct. 1, 2010, right as I was prayerfully considering my second international mission trip. My church, Park Hill Baptist, was planning a medical mission trip to Haiti in January 2011, and the payment was due sometime in October. The trip coincided with a mandatory training for my job as a Chemist with the FDA, so I had a tough decision to make–play it safe and withdraw from the mission trip, or follow the Spirit’s leading and risk my job. This song, along with the leading of the Holy Spirit, helped me to think outside of “My Own Little World” to the needs around me. I paid the deposit for the trip, hoping I wouldn’t lose my job. The next day, before I had a chance to break the news to my boss, I was informed that the mandatory training had been rescheduled. Coincidence? Well, as it has been said before, “I sure have a lot more coincidences when I pray than when I don’t!”
Less than a month after arriving back home from the mission trip to Haiti in January 2011, this song debuted. That trip had transformed my life in ways I never could have imagined. God confirmed my calling to missions during that trip, and lit a fire in my heart for the lost that still burns to this day. When I heard this song, I realized that I had to do something. Simply pitying the orphans, impoverished, and lost in Haiti was not enough. The passion that God stirred in me turned into resolve–“I refuse to sit around and wait for someone else to do what God has called me to do myself.” This video is compiled from my personal photos from the mission trip to Haiti.
The year 2011 was a big year for me, spiritually speaking. After the mission trip to Haiti, God began working in my heart powerfully. I began to have a premonition that something big was going to happen in my life. Despite my love of science, I began to feel less and less “at home” in my job, and my calling to ministry began to burn uncontrollably. I struggled to stay focused at work, often finding myself consumed with thoughts of missions and ministry. Then, in April 2011, my fears were confirmed. After a series of poor results in my laboratory analyses–which were in part due to my lack of focus at work, but were mostly unexplainable–I was let go from my job. As I got in my car to go home, I turned on the radio. The first song that came on was Laura Story’s “Blessings.” It was the first time I had heard the song from start to finish since it had been released only a week or two prior. Again, God’s timing was impeccable. I remember sitting there in my car crying as I listened to this song and praying a simple prayer: “God, I know you’re in control right now, and I know that despite the fact that I don’t understand why, this is part of your plan for me. I know you have something better in store for me–but it had better be good!”
How about a change of pace? While this song was released in 2008, I didn’t really listen to rap at the time, so I didn’t stumble across this song until much later. I was in seminary and had become hooked on the powerful preaching of John Piper and his “Don’t waste your life” style of preaching, so when I heard this song, the message struck me powerfully. I began listening to Lecrae more often and fell in love with his powerful, unapologetic lyrics. This song, along with other events in my life, inspired me to give my complete passion to God and the ministry. For all you rap-challenged folks (like myself!) who can’t pick out all the words, here’s a version with the lyrics!
I first heard/sang this song in a worship service at seminary. The simple, but powerful message spoke to me. In all the hustle and bustle of life, we must remember that our sole purpose is to love God. Christ is our only hope of salvation. Great worship song!
I first heard this song in college, but it took on a deeper meaning for me while I was delivering pizza to the ritzy neighborhoods of Louisville in seminary. We were broke, and I struggled with contentment while everyone else around us seemed to have it better. This song helped me keep my focus where it belonged–on God. “My God’s enough for me–this world has nothing I need.”
Throughout the year and a half we were at seminary in Louisville, I learned more and more about Wycliffe. As my conviction that God was leading us to serve with Wycliffe became stronger and stronger, it raised a question: could I actually do it? If God really said “Go,” would I be willing to go? I knew the answer was a resounding “No,” unless God did a mighty work in my heart. I knew that God ought to be first in my life, but the simple truth was that there were idols in my life. I knew that in order for me to have the strength to follow, God must be my first love. So, I began to pray for God to change my heart. This song became my prayer. What “I Surrender All” taught me as a teenager about God’s call to ministry, this song re-taught me as a young adult contemplating my calling to foreign missions.
This is one of those songs that takes me back to a specific worship experience. In January 2014 at Total it Up (a weeklong taste of Wycliffe) in Dallas, we sang this song during worship. It was the first time I had heard the song, and I can still remember the chills that ran up my spine as I sang “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders…” in a room full of foreign missionaries. I remember thinking, “Am I really ready to give God a blank check–to go wherever he leads me? Is my trust “without borders?” Looking up at the Auca spears hanging on the wall in that room–replicas of the ones that killed Jim Elliot and his fellow missionaries–I felt, and still feel, woefully unworthy to bear the name “missionary.” I will never forget that moment.
Having determined that God was leading us to serve with Wycliffe in Bible translation, we began the process of paying off debt. But, things got worse (financially speaking) before they got better, and this song helped me stay the course. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 God is in control.
As God continued the process of molding and chiseling my rough edges, I began to realize that I have a very long way to go! As the details of our Wycliffe assignment began to fall into place, I realized that a passion for reaching the lost would not sustain our ministry. After all, if difficulty and risk to my family rises and those to whom I minister are ungrateful (as is often the case), would love for the lost sustain me? Probably not. I love my family more than strangers I have never met, and I would not sacrifice family for strangers. The only thing that will sustain me is my love for God, and only then if I love God above all else. I will only be able to remain steadfast if I love God enough to follow him regardless of the cost. May God break us and remake us until He is not merely our first, but our only desire. A dangerous prayer, indeed!
God answered my prayer for a changed heart, and lit a fire under me like never before. There were times when I felt as if I would burst if I wasn’t ministering! This song was the perfect expression of the passion that God placed in my heart. I pray that God will keep that fire burning for many, many years so that others will see that God is worthy (“worth it!”) and he will be glorified through my life.
As time went by, we were accepted into Wycliffe and began the process of selecting an assignment and beginning our training. We have been in this “waiting” phase of our ministry for the past several years, and have a couple more years to go before we arrive on the field for our assignment. Looking back, the entirety of the first seven years of our marriage will have been spent “waiting” to finally get to do the ministry that God has called us to! But, this song reminded me that I shouldn’t be “waiting” for the ministry I’ll have years from now–I have a ministry to do right now! God does not intend for us to spend our lives “waiting” for the destination (a ministry, job, or even heaven!), he intends us to “thrive” right where we are, wherever that may be. So, if God has called you to get an education, then you ought to thrive in it and seek to minister right where you are. Whether vocational or not, we are all ministers of the gospel. “We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives. It’s time for us to more than just survive, we were made to thrive.”