“Take one risk for the sake of the gospel, that if He [God] doesn’t show up, you’re left high and dry . . . give Him the opportunity to show Himself strong.”
My wife, Rachel, and I heard these words on a Sunday morning at Brook Hills, right after the beginning of a new year. It was 2015, and fear of the future was weighing heavy on our hearts. We’d both known Christ as our Savior since childhood and had been submitting to Him with increased frequency over the past few years. However, we were unsure of what the future would hold for us in this new year, and those words made a mark in our hearts. What we found, as we submitted to God one situation at a time, was that He would work in ways only He could—in spite of our mistakes along the way.
Sometime prior, the Lord began to work on me—beginning with mowing my neighbor’s yard. We lived beside a couple who did not keep their yard trimmed, and it bothered me. As I was mowing my yard one morning, I looked up and saw the typical high grass in the neighbor’s yard, and as I was attempting not to think too much as to why they kept their yard so messy, it was as if the Lord interrupted my thoughts. Why not offer to mow their yard for them? And, why had I taken so long to do this? Maybe they needed help. The conviction of the Lord will sometimes knock people off their feet, but this time, He almost knocked me off the lawnmower. I didn’t have any excuse to give the Lord, so I went over to the neighbors’ house and asked them if I could mow their yard. I then apologized to them for not offering over the previous seven years. From that day on, every time I cut my yard, I cut their yard too. The relational doors with those neighbors flew open, and over the next few months, we saw a springboard of opportunities to share the love of Christ with many of our neighbors—from “big” decisions in life to “small” things, like cutting the grass.
As time passed, Christ started to take over more and more of our lives, and our confidence in Him grew stronger. We began to realize that the Lord was calling us out of our comfort zone by leaving the local church in which I had been active for my entire life. That was hard. I was nervous about entrusting that to Him. It sounds odd, but I wasn’t sure if I could hand over the leading of my family in a local church setting to Christ without the settled, well-thought-out approach I had planned on. By the time we made the decision to leave that church, we’d moved out of our previous home and were temporarily relocated.
We started meeting at Brook Hills in 2014 and began to seek counsel through dear believers who were actively serving in ministries there. I remember that most of the conversations we had with them came down to me wanting to know all the Lord had in store for us as a family—before entrusting more of our lives to Him.
At that time, the church was in a similar set of unknowns regarding the role of senior pastor. David Platt had just announced that he was leaving and starting full-time work at the IMB. I looked carefully into the oversight within Brook Hills and at the elders’ leading during this transition. We were so encouraged to see them trusting the Lord and leading the church so well.
This brings me back to January of 2015, when Jim Shaddix delivered two messages on finding God’s will and living without a back-up plan. Taking risks for the gospel and living without a back-up plan definitely challenged me and my wife. All of what was being taught through Scripture (Ezra 8:21-23) in those messages aligned with that challenge. That evening, my wife and I submitted to Christ in that chapter of our lives—where to live, work, and raise a family—even if it meant leaving all of our comfort zones. I’ve learned that Christ will ask us if we love Him over and over again before He gives us the provisions to love each other in the same way He loves us (John 21:17). The grace of a good, heavenly Father started to overwhelm us and calm our fears.
At that time in our lives, we had five children and were about to have number six. My position in employment shifted, and I was relocated locally near Brook Hills. The next week, a house was listed right within our budget that met all of our family’s needs and even had some room to grow. We prayed over the house and made an offer that was accepted 12 hours after the house had gone on the market.
I thought, this isn’t how God was supposed to work—He was supposed to send us into the jungle or desert once we submitted to Him, not place us in Leeds, Alabama. Well, the jungle would come in time, but only because we had started to submit to Him the comforts of our lives and leave our future in His hands.
Through retelling the story of God’s faithfulness about our own fears and uncertainties, others have found encouragement too. Over the last four years, we have seen His faithfulness in the small groups that we have cherished greatly. We’ve also seen His leading in missions through my occupation as an engineer, in addition to my regular job, and a Christ-centered organization called Designs for Hope (DFH). Through DFH, we have seen a far-reaching impact into East Africa and other parts of the world with the primary heart-throb of empowering followers of Christ to ignite their communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We’ve also seen the Lord’s faithfulness through the impact of many committed believers at Brook Hills during these still challenging times in our lives.
We’ve been blessed now with seven children, and oh how that calls us to the Lord daily! The Lord constantly redirects our hearts to Isaiah 40:11:
“He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.”
To others who are traveling along the same road, be encouraged! We have a trustworthy master in Jesus Christ. Submission to Him and His plan is a daily challenge for us all. If we say we trust in Him for our eternity, we can absolutely trust Him with the fears and uncertainties of today. No back-up plan needed.
John Hughes and his wife, Rachel, have been members of Brook Hills since 2015 and serve as Small Group leaders. They have seven children: Caleb, Nate, Sam, David, Benjamin, Sarah Ruth, and Grace.