Sitting on the airplane on the flight from Ghana to London’s Heathrow airport, I was quietly congratulating myself on the success of my first major event in Africa. Surely the evangelist would let me be the preacher on one of the main nights at the next event. My mind started to drift and I could see myself in front of a crowd of at least 100,000 somewhere in Africa preaching the glorious Gospel better than anyone had ever preached it in the whole world and throughout all history.
“Ok, wait a minute. That sounds a little prideful,” I thought to myself and chuckled.
I was so full of excitement at what we had just experienced. I was in Heaven thinking I had the rest of my life as a preacher doing these kinds of events. I was really pleased with myself that I had got off to such an incredible start. I remembered fondly the moment that the young boy who had been paralyzed began to take his first steps as I commanded him to walk. What a moment that had been. I had struggled so hard not to let it go to my little head. I kept rebuking all pride. I was so blessed that it had been me that had ministered to him. The evangelist had looked so pleased with me when I presented the boy to him on the platform.
“What a moment!” I thought again.
Just then I had another thought, “You must be pretty proud of your son after this event,” I said to the Lord, referring to myself.
In an instant, Jesus whispered, “Actually, Duncan, I’d like you to die to your calling as a Preacher and an Evangelist to the nations and resign from your position right away.”
I was utterly shell shocked by what the Lord said to me. Surely I hadn’t heard right, I thought to myself, trying hard to cheer myself up after such a devastating answer. I decided to push those thoughts to the back of my mind; I certainly wasn’t going to mention anything to Kate. I just had this inkling that she might agree with the Lord. I was about to land in England and I’d had such an incredible time. I decided right there and then that I would keep that thought to myself and instead tell everyone what an awesome time I’d had. I would share how God had used me so powerfully to do such awesome miracles.
There were great celebrations when I met Kate at the airport. But despite all my best efforts to be happy I couldn’t find any peace. I prayed for a month asking God to change His mind, but I knew it was futile.
Finally I surrendered and decided to tell Kate. Just as I had anticipated, she said she felt exactly the same way. We knew that the Lord was asking us if we would be willing to die to our calling to the nations. I was devastated.
Die to my calling? I didn’t have a grid for that. I had no paradigm for doing something that was, in my mind, paramount to giving up. I wasn’t a quitter. You don’t become a University 1st VIII oarsman, as I had, if you are a quitter. Turning back was never an option for me. James 1 was indelibly etched in my heart,
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
I sought the wisdom of our pastors. They too felt it was right for us to resign from the ministry we were in and come home. However, I knew how much they loved us and wasn’t sure they were objective enough. I desperately wanted to stay where we were. I was really an African, having grown up in Nigeria until I was 18 years old. Being able to minister and preach the Gospel in Africa in fluent Hausa, the language I grew up speaking, as well as seeing Jesus do signs and wonders through me, was almost as good as being in Heaven.
The Lord spoke to me through two scriptures.
– By faith Abraham, when He was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. Hebrews 11:17-19
– No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:20-22
These scriptures burned into my spirit like a laser beam. In that moment, I began for the first time to see that the Cross of Christ is not just an event through which we gain salvation; it is an invitation to walk in the way of Christ. The Kingdom message is the way of the Cross, as well as the event of the Cross.
Only through sharing in Christ’s death can we experience the power of His resurrection. We share in His death whenever we accept His invitation to lay down our lives, our desires, our callings, our destinies, our ideas, our agendas, our will, our relationships, our opportunities and our rights. However, the way of the Cross is the way of His resurrection.
He is able to raise everything we lay down before Him from the “dead,” including our callings. Without death there can never be resurrection. This is what Jesus meant when He said we were to deny ourselves and take up our Cross and follow Him. He’s inviting us to share in His resurrection power on a day-by-day basis as we die to ourselves and follow Him. In this way we live in His power to fulfill His promises in us and through us.
The Holy Spirit’s invitation was more than I had seen at first. I thought He was inviting me to “die” but in reality, He was inviting me to “live.” He is inviting us all to believe in His resurrection power so that we can truly live. The very same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is the very same Spirit that enabled Abraham and Sarah to conceive as He had promised, even though they were 100 and 90 years old respectively.
Shortly after resigning, Kate and I visited my family farm. It had been in our family for several generations, but we had not had much to do with it because my parents had been missionaries in Nigeria.
As we walked over the fields, I asked Kate, “How would you feel about being a farmer’s wife?”
She looked at me for a moment and replied, “I could do that, I think.”
We both laughed out loud. It seemed ridiculous but as I thought about it, I couldn’t help thinking, “There’s no better proof that I’ve died to my calling to the nations as a preacher than if I became a farmer!”
I said to the Lord, “Jesus, if it’s right for me to move here and become a farmer, let one of my uncles invite me to do just that, without us saying anything.”
The next day we called in on my eldest uncle to greet him before we left town. During our conversation, he turned to me and said, “Have you ever considered coming down here and farming with us? There’s no one in your generation who’s shown any interest in farming. You’d have to do a university postgraduate course in Agriculture and perhaps a Masters Degree in Business, but we’d sponsor you through it all.”
I was stunned. I could barely believe my ears. It was such an incredible confirmation. It was as though my uncle had been walking along with us the day before in the fields. Kate and I were completely shocked by the clarity of God’s direction in our lives at a time when we really needed to know what to do. Everything fell into place and for three years I “died” on the farm.
The Lord spoke to me one day while I was alone that summer, sweeping another giant barn floor, as seemed to always be the case working on our family farm. I felt His presence come all over me and He spoke into my heart, “Son, the reason I brought you to this farm was because I wanted you all to Myself. You have always been so busy thinking you’re doing My work that you’ve had little time to hang out with Me. I want you to know I don’t need you to get the job done of saving the world. I love you and I want your friendship. That’s what really counts. I want you to know that you bring as much glory and pleasure to Me sweeping these barns with your sweet-hearted attitude as you did when you were leading thousands to Me on the platform in Ghana.”
My eyes teared right up. I knew right there and then that if I spent the rest of my life on that farm, I was a delight to the Lord. I told Him that even if it took until I was 80 years old to resurrect my calling to be a preacher in the nations, I trusted Him that He would do it. I had been praying that summer, “Lord, if possible, take me from this farm and get me back into my calling as a preacher.”
I no longer needed to pray that.
Later, I shook Prince Andrew’s hand as I received my Master’s degree in Business Management at the graduation ceremony. By the time all my studies were completed I really was ready to be a farm manager for the rest of my life. I loved our farm; it is beautiful and I loved working with my family. I guess for a missionary kid who’s spent most of his life in another country, there’s something special about knowing that your ancestors have lived and worked the land for many generations. I felt like I belonged for the first time in my life.
At the end of my training, my uncles and my father invited me to a special board meeting. One of my uncles opened the dialogue saying, “Duncan, we have not had any peace about you remaining on the farm. You’ve done very well in every way, but after prayer, we’ve decided you are not called to be a farmer. You’re a preacher. You could be a farmer and do very well, but we just know the Lord has called you to the nations and we would like to release you to do just that.”
My heart felt like it had frozen solid. I pleaded with them. I was not called to be a preacher; the Lord had asked me to die to that, as they all knew. However I soon realized they had made up their minds, my father included. Deep inside I knew they were right but my heart was shredded. I began to weep uncontrollably right there in the boardroom. Something to do with the feeling of losing my inheritance of working the land rose up from deep within me and I just couldn’t close the floodgates. I asked them if I could pray for them, and I forgave each of them for the huge disappointment of not being able to be part of the family farm business any longer. I had read an incredible book by John Arnott called The Importance of Forgiveness, and I knew what I needed to do. I walked out of the meeting a free man in the spirit.
“Dying” to the farm was even worse than “dying” to my calling as a preacher. Here I was, dying to my inheritance and all that I had studied and worked so hard for over the past three years of my life. It was extremely tough. I found a job as a shepherd’s assistant working on a nearby farm which provided our family with much needed income and gave me the space and time I needed to heal. All my ambition was gone.
Baptised In Heavenly Daddy
Kate and I had heard of the revival that had been going on at the Toronto Airport Vineyard church in Toronto, Canada, which by then was called the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (TACF). We had visited one night, while we were on vacation in Canada. We had many friends who had been several times and always encouraged us to make more of an effort to go. So when we found out from some friends of ours who were volunteering at TACF, that there was a small, invitation only, conference on church planting that very May 2000, we jumped at the opportunity.
While I was standing in a long line to receive a prophetic word, I found myself talking with a couple of pastors. As usual, I was doing a superb job of talking all about myself with the pastors.
Suddenly one of the men said to his friend, “I don’t think Duncan’s ever met his Heavenly Daddy do you?”
“What are you talking about?” I thought to myself. “How dare you insinuate that I’m lacking somehow in my spirituality? What’s more, how dare you call God Almighty ‘Heavenly Daddy’! You’re being far too familiar and way too irreverent with the Living God and you two call yourselves pastors.”
I was ready to punch them to be honest. His voice sounded so gooey and “nice.” I was flat out mad.
To my astonishment, his friend replied smiling ridiculously at me, “Yeah, I don’t think Duncan has ever met His Heavenly Daddy before, have you Duncan?”
Despite my defensiveness, I knew they were right. The truth was, I had never met God in that way. I couldn’t call God, “Daddy.” I hated the word “Daddy;” it sounded childish and stuck in my throat. I could call God “Father,” but I could never call Him “Dad” or “Daddy.” I realized that deep down inside I had always been very uncomfortable with love, feeling that I couldn’t really love anyone.
As I stood there angry, insulted and upset with them both, yet knowing how horribly right they were, I decided for the first time in my life, to show weakness and vulnerability and surrender to love, fully admitting the reality of my deficiency of love.
“You guys are right,” I said. “I’ve never met my Heavenly Daddy.” “Well, you can meet Him now,” one of them said, smiling.
As I held out my hands in front of me at waist level, he placed his hands very gently in mine and simply said, “Heavenly Daddy, come and reveal yourself to your son, Duncan.”
I felt the sensation of something like warm, liquid, golden honey begin pouring all over me from the top of my head. At the same time, a tremendous, irresistible force of weighty glory hit the top of my head, and I crumpled to the ground in a heap at their feet. I couldn’t have resisted it if I tried. If a locomotive could express kindness and love, I had just been hit by one!
As I lay there in a puddle of liquid love I heard a beautifully kind voice say to me as I was bathed in light, “Duncan, you are My lovely son and I’m really pleased with you. I have loved you with an everlasting love from before time began. You are My treasured possession. I have loved you long before you ever did anything right or anything wrong. There is nothing that you have done that I have not forgiven you for and there is nothing that you will do that I will not forgive you for. There is nothing you can do that will make Me love you more and there is nothing you can do that will make Me love you less. I love you and I will always love you. You are My son.”
I was absolutely undone. I lay there wailing like a baby in a pool of my tears. When I eventually came around after the longest time, everything was different. The grass was greener, the sky bluer. I felt so much love spontaneously in my heart. I felt a massive love for my wife and my children well up inside me. I felt it. I could feel love! I could call God, “Daddy!” My heart was no longer frozen and numb towards people.
I had always loved Jesus; He was my perfect Savior. But people? They hurt. I realized I hadn’t trusted anyone, not even those closest to me. Now my heart was burning for people. I loved people. I knew I could trust them because I knew my Heavenly Daddy loved me. He could more than make up for any way they might hurt me.
I was revolutionized in my Father’s great love. Kate was overjoyed when I later shared what had happened. I’m so eternally thankful to those two men for introducing me to the love of the Father, my Heavenly Daddy.
The next day was the last day of the conference. During the coffee break, John Arnott, the Founding Pastor of TACF, came over to me and invited Kate and me to lunch. However, it didn’t happen that day, because the speakers came and laid their hands on us all to receive a greater measure of the Holy Spirit on us for church planting. Carol Arnott kept praying “more” over us both. We didn’t stand a chance! As I lay next to Kate among a pile of bodies strewn all over the floor, John came and stood over me and asked if I still wanted to have lunch. I declined his offer. I was just too overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit.
We heard the next day that John still wanted to meet. We were so glad of the opportunity. He is such a great leader of a history making revival that has touched millions of people the world over. I thought to myself, “Perhaps the Lord has spoken to him about my plans to go into business in England and he is going to lay hands on me and bless me. That would be awesome.”
Over coffee the next day, John asked us to tell him our story. When we finished, we were all in tears because of the tenderness of the story of our experiences in dying to our callings and the promises of God, yet being fully persuaded that God was able to raise us up again.
John turned to me and said, “Son, I can see that you are really limping.”
I replied with my head hanging down, tears falling on my cheeks, “Yes sir, I am really limping.”
John then did one of the kindest things anyone has ever done to me. He stretched out his enormous hand and placed it gently on my shoulder. Looking me straight in the eyes, he said, “Well, I look for a man who’s limping. I’d like to ask you to come and work with me and join our ministry as a pastor and help us with our business side of things at the same time.” We were stunned and promised to give him an answer quickly.
Later, as we sat on the airplane heading home, we knew that this was the Lord. This offer had come while we were totally helpless to place ourselves in any capacity or position where we could fulfill our callings to the nations. It was the Lord. He is the God of resurrection power.
After sharing with a number of key people in our lives among our pastors, family and friends, we decided to go with the peace that was in our hearts.
Three months later, we moved to Toronto, Canada. I began working at TACF, this incredible revival center and enormous church, and I set about doing my best to enhance and contribute to the ministry. Everything I had learned in farming I was now putting into practice in a way I could never have dreamt. Within two months John invited me into his office and asked if I would be the Executive Director.
I replied, “I cannot do that!”
To which he said, “Yes, you can.”
I said, “No, I really can’t.”
He said, “You’re right, you can’t, but we can do it together!”
To my amazement, John told me that the Holy Spirit had spoken into his heart the moment he saw me walk into the Church Planting conference back in May.
“That’s the tall Englishman I said I would give you, to be your first Executive Director.”
After praying it over with Kate, I accepted the post. We were both 33 years old. I was a dead man, now coming fully alive. Everything that had taken place in our lives up until that point had been preparation for that very moment. Truly God works everything together for our good.
Our Heavenly Daddy is so big and so awesome that He is able to do far more than we can ever conceive or even imagine. His invitation to share in Christ’s death was an invitation to share in the power of Christ’s resurrection. I began to realize that the whole journey I had been on since I “died to my calling” was a journey that allowed me to begin to learn what the Gospel that I had been called to preach really was.
In August 1991, I had heard the voice of the Lord saying, “I have appointed you and now I have anointed you to be a light and a herald to the nations and to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”
I had assumed I knew the Gospel. Now, ten years later, I realized I had so much more to learn about the incredible Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now I was beginning to understand that my calling was really an invitation from the Holy Spirit to allow Him to plunge me into the mysteries of this glorious Gospel, and the depths of God’s great love that He has demonstrated to us in Christ. It was an invitation to truly know Him, the author and finisher of our salvation. To meet with Him, feast with Him and be transformed by Him, in union with Him.
I was more desperate than ever to understand the mysteries of Christ.
Are you ready for the glory and the limp?
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