The God of the Second Chance - The Story of how God Called Me
Stephen Baker, Manchester
As I start to tell how God made me aware of what He wanted me to do with the rest of my life – preach the gospel and teach the Bible – I must warn you that this is a very personal issue. You might not relate to everything that I say, or have been spoken to by the things that spoke to me. We are all individuals and God touches our lives in different ways. Our experiences are varied and what affects you might not affect me.
Equally, the call of God to serve Him, without the distraction of secular employment, doesn’t just involve the man, but it involves his immediate family and, in particular, his wife. Therefore, there will be references to how God spoke to my wife (Carole) as the story unfolds.
Because God calls some men to serve Him in this way it does not mean that they are superior Christians. All believers are called to serve God. We are all full-time servants of God, but, for some, that also means trusting God to provide their income, i.e., income that is not directly related to the work you do.
A man who is called by God to preach and teach does not suddenly develop gifts to do this work, and his gifts are not superior to anyone else’s.1 Long before men are called, God has equipped them to serve him.2 The calling ultimately is to a specific work, Acts 13. 2, and to the grace of God, i.e., God’s provision for them as they serve, Acts 14. 26. The Holy Spirit calls men to do things and go places that others in full-time employment are not as free to do.
I was born in Hastings in the south of England in 1961 where my parents, who were Christians, were living for a couple of years. After that they returned to their home in Liverpool. In 1966 my dad’s job took us to Scotland. I started my schooling at the age of five in Greenock in the west of Scotland and it was while we were living there that I trusted the Lord Jesus. My conversion was a simple event. I remember kneeling by my bed and praying. My baby-sitter asked me if I had anything I wanted to ask God for and I remember that my response was to ask God to save me. I didn’t know much about sin, but I am glad that my God hears the call of simple faith and saves those who call.
Despite struggling a bit at the age of sixteen or seventeen I was quite consistent as a believer. I left school at sixteen to join a bank and remained in the west of Scotland for about six years. At twenty-two I was transferred by the bank to work in the north of Scotland. Everywhere I went I could see the need to preach the gospel, so I did what I could: visiting people in their homes to give them tracts, running children’s meetings in schools, or gospel meetings in community halls.
I wanted to be an evangelist or a missionary, but I had a problem! The Lord never called me to leave my work or to give all my energy to His work. In my late teens, I thought the Lord was calling me to be a missionary, firstly in Botswana and then Iceland, but the Lord never made it clear, so nothing happened!
In 1989 I married Carole. My job moved us about a bit and eventually Carole and I investigated the possibility of managing a Christian Nursing Home. We wanted to be involved in serving the Lord’s people, but our ultimate aim was to serve the Lord in other ways as well. This never happened! In fact, I got to the stage where I thought that the Lord was not going to open the door for us to serve Him in any ‘full-time capacity’.
After twenty-six years, I left the bank and set up a small business training consultancy. The Lord made it clear that we were to set up in business and that we had to learn to trust Him to provide for us in these circumstances. My idea was to eventually free up time to serve the Lord more, but, in the meantime, I thought that possibly I could earn enough money to support the men and women that God had called to leave their jobs to serve Him – this was not to be! While I was in the training business, I was trying to help people run their businesses more efficiently, manage their human resources better, be better people in business, and all the time I was thinking I have an even more important message to tell them that can change their lives for eternity, not just for the present.
Although I was very cautious at first, the Lord began to speak to us. I had been taught for many years that serving God in any particular way without clear guidance would be disastrous. I knew that guidance from the Lord needed to have a number of factors.3
One of the things that I have done for a number of years is to keep a note of any lessons I feel that the Lord is teaching me in my daily scripture readings. Looking back, the Lord began to impress scripture on my mind about this new way of serving Him from the 8th January 2006. Some of the promptings from scripture came when other men were preaching.4
Our business had been plodding along for a couple of years. We were surviving, but needed a few bigger contracts to assure future income. I was approached by a company and asked to quote for a training contract. This was a great opportunity. There would be a lot of training involved. Work was beginning to come in from a number of sizeable companies. Things were looking good in business and we began to think that we were getting somewhere. But the Lord was testing us about the future focus of our lives!
At the time I was a member of a professional association for people who were involved in running seminars and delivering training. On the 4th April 2006 I attended a meeting of the association. At this point I was not clear as to what the Lord was telling me to do. At the meeting an unsaved lady quoted to me the scripture, ‘Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days’.5 When I got home I looked up the verse, read the rest of the passage and began to discuss it with Carole. Verse 4 says, ‘He that observeth the wind shall not sow’; that was clear enough. Verse 6 says, ‘In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand’. Maybe, I said, ‘God wants me to work in the day and serve Him at night?’ Carole said, ‘Maybe God wants us to sow His seed in the morning and do the same in the evening and He will decide which will bear fruit’. And so our days and weeks were filled with pointers and indicators from God in ways we could not ignore! Whether it was Lossiemouth Conference, or the Easter Conference in Belfast, whether I was speaking or listening, the Lord kept telling me, ‘Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it’, John 2. 5. There were times when it was simply the quiet persuasion of God in my personal times with Him. On other occasions it was the comments of trusted friends and people I looked up to, who had no idea of what was going on in our hearts, saying things like, ‘How are you going to spend the rest of your life’, and ‘Are you going to give God the dregs of your life?’
I now felt that I needed to make a decision but Carole had a few questions that still needed to be answered. She didn’t give me her list; she left them with the Lord. One night Carole went to hear Phil Coulson speak at the David Street Missionary and Homeworkers Conference in Liverpool. That night Phil answered all six of her questions. How did he know? The Lord provided the answers.
The Lord used many different verses to persuade me to take this step of faith. The Lord gave us verses to tell us to serve Him, to assure us of His presence, to assure us of His provision for our needs and to give us confidence that though we were weak He is strong.
My last point relates to family. My children were 14 and 16 when the Lord called us and big changes in life affect you and your family. The Lord spoke to them and also used them to speak to us! On the 15th June 2006, when Carole was working overnight – she was a nurse. I was wondering how our family would accept the changes that would inevitably take place as a result of our commendation. My son came to me that night and handed me a poem that he had written. At this stage he knew nothing about what the Lord was asking us to do. The words took my breath away:
Listen to our God, when He’s calling for you
Listen to our God, there’s nothing else you can do
I don’t know where I am going
And what I will do
Listen to my God before you lose it all
The rest of the story about how our assembly and elders felt is evident in that we were commended to the grace of God and to the work to which the Spirit of God had called us on the 1st September 2006. My prayer is the same as the one the Lord Jesus asked us to pray: ‘Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into his harvest’, Luke 10. 2.
- See Acts 13. 1, 2.
- See Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4.
- Clear scriptural direction, Isa. 30. 21; circumstances indicating a certain direction, Gen. 24. 21, 27, 48; peace in our souls, Col. 3. 15; and good advice from others.
- The first one I noted down was, ‘We will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word’, Acts 6. 4. I had read this passage many times, and, no doubt, had heard it preached as often, but the Lord began to speak clearly through this verse. One verse on its own could never be the basis for any call to leave what you are doing and ‘follow’ the Master but the staggering combination of scriptures week after week began to make an impression.
- Eccles. 11. 1.