© Steve Schneider | iStockphoto.com

My Way or God's Way?

January 01, 2013

Sometimes God’s plans take a person where he never thought he would be.

By Robert Downey

Serving God is an adventure. Sometimes God’s plans take a person where he never thought he would go and provide the opportunity to meet and make friends from around the world. My parents met in the small town of Chehalis, Washington, and that’s where I was raised in a Christian home. Opportunities to “expand my horizons” might have seemed limited there, but God had something else in mind.

My dad’s parents attended our church, while my mom was raised in the old-time Free Methodist faith. My parents were not Christians when they married, but a few months before I was born they were both saved on the same day and made the decision to bring up their family in the Apostolic Faith Church.

During my growing-up years, Dad did not always have steady work. At one time he worked for a logging company, and that job took him out of town during the week, leaving my mom at home with the challenge of raising three boys. On December 1, 1960, my dad took over a small local gas station. It was a good change for our family, because Dad was home more. My parents were faithful in their church activities, and they made sure we boys were in services at every possible opportunity.

When I was fourteen years old, I started working at the gas station. A few years later my dad began selling used cars, and in 1973, he became a Subaru franchise dealer. Selling cars appealed to me, and upon graduating from high school, it was my desire to work with my dad and take over the business when he retired.

In my younger years, there were times when I sought the Lord, but I did not take serving God seriously. While I never had a desire to forsake God or my childhood teachings, I was just busy doing what I wanted to do. Then in my early twenties, God helped me to see the importance of really yielding myself to Him. When I got honest with the Lord and committed my life to Him, He made a change in my heart that is still very real today.

A while after I was saved, a friend explained sanctification to me so that it was more understandable to me than ever before. The following night I sought for and received that wonderful experience. It felt as if I was walking on air as I left the altar of prayer.

Our pastor and his wife had a daughter named Cheryl, and over some years, we developed an interest in each other. She had been saved as a young girl and had also been sanctified and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. When we were making plans to get married, she told me her parents were concerned that I was not seriously seeking for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which they considered a necessary part of a strong foundation for a good marriage. At the time, I did not consider it that important and was just excited about getting married.

A few months after our wedding, the Lord started dealing with my soul, and helping me see that something was lacking in my life. This feeling was especially strong while we were on vacation, and I thought it was because we were not in church services. However, after returning home, I realized my soul was really hungry for more from God. The Sunday evening after our vacation, I prayed earnestly, consecrating everything I could think of to the Lord. There were requirements—believing that the Lord was going to give me the experience, and getting myself and my own ideas out of the way. I had been trying to figure out how it would happen and what it would feel like. When I was willing to let God fill me with His Spirit in any way He wanted and then believed, the Lord baptized me.

What an impact that experience had on my walk with the Lord! I had not realized how much I needed it to establish me in the Gospel and to help keep my focus on being what God wants me to be. This experience also impacted our marriage and brought my wife and me closer together as we sought God’s will for our lives.

Cheryl and I have three children, and in the challenging times of life, we have felt God’s help and strength. When our daughter was born developmentally delayed, many decisions had to be made, and we learned to lean on the Lord more fully. There was a time when we faced a conflict with the school officials where she was attending. They insisted that she take medication to lengthen her attention span. However, after a short time our daughter began to experience adverse side effects at home, and so we stopped the medication. The teachers threatened to pull her out of the classroom, but we prayed earnestly about the matter and God intervened. Our daughter was able to stay focused without the medication, and the teachers were amazed. That was an encouraging spiritual milestone for us.

God supplies the encouragement and abilities we need to fulfill His calling on our lives.

In 1979, the Lord called me to the ministry. In spite of making many excuses as to why I was not adequate, I found out after yielding to His will that God supplies the encouragement and abilities we need to fulfill His calling on our lives.

My dad retired in January of 1981, and I took over his Subaru business at that time. We had a good staff of employees to assist with the business, and the Lord provided many opportunities over the next several years for me to visit branch churches in the Midwest and on the West Coast.

I told God I would do whatever He wanted if He would work out all the details.

In 1989, Cheryl and I attended our first Midwest camp meeting in Murphysboro, Illinois. We were excited about being there and meeting new friends. During that camp meeting, God began drawing consecrations out of my heart. He asked if I would be willing to give up the business and become a pastor. A struggle went on in my soul. My dad had passed away by then, and my mom, who had worked with him over the years, was living nearby. Also, I was concerned about the impact on our children. I told the Lord all my reasons why fulltime ministry would not work. However, every time I knelt to pray, the matter came up again. Before the week was over, my heart was willing to yield, and I told God I would do whatever He wanted if He would work out all the details.

After we were home, I felt without a doubt that the day would come when we would leave Chehalis. It seemed that my wife should know what I had told the Lord. One evening we went for a walk, and I told her what had happened at camp meeting. She started telling me all the reasons why we couldn’t do it. Our conversation ended there, and I never said anything about it for another year, but God began to work on her heart and draw consecrations from her also.

At the car business, we had a secretary who had worked for us many years. One day she said to me, “What are you going to do with the business when you go out as a pastor?” I was shocked! We had never discussed such an idea. I asked, “What are you thinking?” She said that she wanted to run our business. A few months later, we hired her husband, and they ran that business for several years for us. God was faithfully working out the details.

In 1994, we were sent to my first pastorate in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Our oldest son had just graduated from high school, and we were thrilled when he made the decision to move with us. The Lord has abundantly rewarded us for raising our family in the Gospel and yielding to His plans. Even with her limited abilities, our daughter loves the Lord, and her greatest desire is to be in church. Our two sons have both chosen to serve God and have married wonderful Christian women. They and their wives are actively involved in the Apostolic Faith churches where they live, and our grandchildren are being raised in this Gospel.

In the eighteen years since we left Chehalis, God has been with us in the good times and in the difficult times. After pastoring in four locations, our friends and church family have greatly expanded over many miles. Now we live in Portland, where we have the opportunity of working at the church headquarters office and seeing the Gospel spread worldwide through a number of venues. It has been my privilege to fellowship with other believers in places such as Newfoundland, Jamaica, Haiti, and many locations in between.

As I look back, I am so thankful for the night I committed my life to the Lord. He has blessed me beyond what I could have ever imagined, and following His will for my life has proved to be the best decision I have ever made.

About the author

Robert Downey is Director of North America Work for the Apostolic Faith organization and is on the ministerial staff in Portland, Oregon.