I want you to know Steve Miller, Retired Airforce, and his wife Ka Jean. Steve and Kajean are one of the many couples we knew as seminary students several years age. Mary and I renewed our relationship this year at the Convention in San Antonio. What we heard prompted me to ask him to let you hear it too.
I mention only a couple of things out of necessity, One is you will have to overlook the references to Mary and me. We did not know it would be said this way with personal remarks about us, but will leave it as Steve wrote it. Second, I thought of breaking it into two installments but decided that the whole is better when read in one setting. I'm aware it will take a few minutes but it will be well worth the time taken. Finally, take special note of his truly biblical understanding eventually of ministry being all of life. So I introduce to you Steve Miller.
A Journey of Faithfulness
Reunions are blessed events; present and future. It is a thrilling moment to join in fellowship with special ones who have made an eternal impact in your life. Regardless of the passing years, in this case nearly thirty years, the impact is still real, evident and bearing fruit. My wife (KaJean) and I rejoiced in a time of sharing with Paul and Mary Burleson recently at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in San Antonio Texas. Since we live in San Antonio, all the more reason to get together and share, even for just a few hours. Nearly thirty years earlier Paul served as our pastor at Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth Texas, while we were brand new students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. How we got to Southwestern is in itself an enduring testimony but not the focus of this writing. It is important to note that we had just made the decision to leave the Air Force, where I had completed my officer commitment as an aviator in flying the F-4, after some life changing events involving tragedy, repentance, forgiveness and surrendering to His will no matter where it led. In this case, it led us to Fort Worth, with a young daughter, a 70% pay cut and the certainty of His leading but an uncertainty of where and when.
Nothing is so uplifting as to share with ones who took time to invest in your life and yet be real in the course of their mentorship. Over the years we have thanked Paul and Mary with an unwavering gratefulness of the truths they instilled in us and to report these truths are active and effective. Hearing Paul and Mary share their journey over the years, Paul asked if I would share likewise about our journey of faithfulness. Without question, and unashamedly I speak of the faithfulness of God in our lives since arriving and leaving Fort Worth nearly thirty years ago. I at times wonder why Paul asked me to share since so many have crossed their paths and his impact on so many active and faithful ministers today is staggering. I can only share from a perspective of knowing that God called me individually and yet He leads me uniquely. This perspective is riveted within me and I share it with those who earnestly and whole heartedly seek Him.
When I recreate the memory of Fort Worth, two life changing realities unhesitantly emerge in my mind: the sweetness of academia at Southwestern and the spiritual application at Southcliff. I have no doubt there are those who would challenge my sweetness of academia, but for me this is an accurate description. Yes, it was difficult, challenging with men like Dr Corley, Dr Fish, Dr Bush and Dr Tolar to name just a few. But the challenge became even sweeter under the direction of men like Dr T. W. Hunt and my favorite, my mentor, Dr Oscar Thompson. When a seminary professor challenges you academically, then encourages you prayerfully, for me this was sweet. No flying instructor of mine
ever approached me in this matter and yet both engaged me in life altering issues. Dr Thompson, a wonderful student and practitioner of evangelism, was writing his book, Concentric Circles. After his death it would later be completed by his wife. I would later read his book and relive the events he shared because they occurred in my classes with him. Many don’t know that Dr Thompson was a private pilot and we would talk about flying principles and procedures. Later, he would be a faithful encourager, like Barnabas, when I would make a decision about life after seminary. His faithfulness to the Father was a blueprint for me, a pattern to emulate, all the while battling with the struggles of cancer. He would say, “You can’t have dying grace on non dying days.” This of course was not in relation to his cancer but in dying to self in order to fully live in His grace.
Attending Southcliff under the leadership of Paul Burleson was like icing on the cake. To have the academic foundation laid at Southwestern and then see the application in ministry was indeed the reward. And yet, Brother Paul never challenged me to seek a ministry. So many came to Southwestern with only ministry as their motivation. Like cookie cutter Christians with only one pattern coming out of seminary and that of a stereotypical ministry. It has to be a certain way or God is not in it. No yielding to the leading of the Holy Spirit, nor an understanding of His spiritual gifts and totally forgetting the sovereignty of God. Brother Paul provided me a principle I have never forgotten. It was simply an application of Matthew 6:33 and Proverbs 3: 5-6. The principle: Seek a life with Christ not a ministry. Nothing should ever compete with my relationship with my Savior. When this is settled, then the ministry will take care of itself, in time, and in the right priority. I would come to grasp for the first time the power of the sovereignty of God and an understanding of spiritual gifts that would be life changing. I now saw myself as a person, a partner, and a parent in the way Christ sees me. I would later live this affirmation in the military, the church, and even the corporate world. I lived under the ministry of vital truths before it became the Vital Truths Ministry of today. My wife and I are eternally grateful to Paul and Mary for their faithfulness.
I love to play basketball. I played it competitively in high school and went to college on a basketball scholarship. While at Southwestern, several of us formed a basketball team to travel to Brazil and serve as sports evangelists. Southcliff supported me in this endeavor, prayerfully and financially. God did a wonderful work with our team and those we shared with in Brazil. He also did a work on me. While in Brazil I could not get the impression of military personnel out of my mind. One of the reasons I left the military was to get away from a certain life style and yet I began to see how judgmental I was because their worldview was not mine nor did I want to enter their world and offer to them the life changing power of Jesus Christ. All because He loved them just as He loves me. I could not and would not accept the idea that God would be calling me back to the military. I did not want to be a chaplain nor ever felt that calling. How did I know He was calling me to return to exactly where I just left several years earlier, to a vocation that I excelled in, yet this time, this time with a different outlook, motivation, and seeing people now with the soft eyes of Jesus and not my flawed critical vision. I also did not know that at the same time God was touching my wife with the same sensitivity of His leading, yet neither one of us was strong enough to share with the other. In the midst of all of this, God proved faithful. We as a family learned dependence upon God that has never wavered. He literally met every need and supplied abundantly. There was no way I would doubt His leading; I was just scared to face my wife. But He amazingly worked through this that we became convinced together in our leaving Fort Worth as clearly as were in our coming several years earlier. This is so like God.
Many would think we missed Him and some would give me a look of there goes another who could not cut it in the ministry. You see, they were focused on the ministry. I was focused on Him and the desire to know Him and the power of His resurrection wherever it took me and my family. I shared this with Brother Paul and the affirmation was overwhelming. Upon sharing with Dr Thompson he simply stated you have to go where the fields are ripe for harvest; no matter the location. God calls personally and He leads uniquely.
Reflecting back today I see four stabilizing principles for our journey of faithfulness: the ample portion in His provision, the preparation in His plan, His protection through the process, and the promise of His presence. Seminary was a training ground for dependence upon God. He met every need and what He provided was more than enough. God gave me the wonderful opportunity to fly again, literally all over the world. We went to Germany with a new focus and expecting God’s affirmation. I actually flew in a squadron with men that knew me before and now saw the difference. One of these men I shared Jesus with and years before he would not listen. This time the field was ripe for the harvest. This time I was ready. He was the first person I shared the gospel to after seminary. He accepted Christ in a swimming pool of all places; what an affirmation of all the earlier preparations. God’s plan is perfect and eternal. Sadly, this young man would die in an auto crash six months later.
Our time in Germany would begin the journey of twenty four years of seeing God’s preparing hand work in our lives in the military to a degree I could not imagine. He prepared me to pastor in Germany, Japan, and Alaska while on active duty in the Air Force. The joy of sharing the vital truths of Christ as a flyer, a commander and later a senior officer in the midst of the Persian Gulf War, 9/11 and Operation Iraqi Freedom, is overwhelming because He and He alone gets the glory. I daily seek to correctly understand the meaning of the Lord Jesus Christ in my life and desire the ability to faithfully explain the purposes of God to others. This is the overruling passion in my life.
An understanding of the sovereign hand of God would give us His peace in the midst of His protection. My wife would face a surgery immediately after seminary requiring a large tumor to be removed. We were told the surgery would be invasive and we’d never have children again. God’s peace overrides any medical evaluation. His peace is a certainty. The evaluation is an opinion. Not only did God protect us but we now have two more of what we were never supposed to have any more of. As a father I had the joy of leading these two, as well as our older daughter to Christ. All while stationed over seas. The assurance of His sovereign protective hand was a comfort to my wife as I flew jets very fast and very low in combat situations. While flying, I am having the time of my life. At the same time, she is needing and experiencing the comfort of His peace.
Our journey of faithfulness has led me to retire after thirty years in the Air Force and I am now engaged in the corporate world as a consultant to the government and industry. A different environment but still the best place to invest in those things that are eternal: people and His Word. I have had desires to achieve, desires to share, desires for people to get well, desires for a peaceful nation in the midst of war. I have prayed for these desires with a humble heart. These are desires, not guarantees. The promise of His presence is a certainty despite my desires. Even at this writing, we are facing once again the same tumor we experienced nearly twenty seven years ago. I pray for her healing. I am confident of His presence. One is a desire; the other is a fact. Jesus has promised in Philippians 1:6 to complete my journey because He’s the one that set me out on this work. The endearing words of a faithful and loving pastor and the challenge of a mentor encouraging me to seek a life and not a ministry I offer as a testimony of His faithfulness and that the vital truths of Christ are real and work. I close with the Psalmist in 71:17-18 who writes:
O, God, thou has taught me from my youth; and I still declare thy wondrous deeds. And even when I am old and gray, O God do not forsake me, until I declare Thy strength to this generation, Thy power to all who are to come.
God is faithful.