I was the first child born into a church plant my parents helped start. This was back in the day when the members literally built the church themselves—my father ran all of the electrical work in the church building. One evening, my mother delivered dinner to the workers but ended the night at the hospital to deliver me. So when I say, “I was almost born in the church,” I mean it literally!
I have always loved the church. My grandparents were loved into the church and served it faithfully. My mom played the piano for church services starting at age seven. Growing up in a troubled home, my father left at age 18 to go to college but was welcomed into the church where he gave his life to Christ. My father and mother were married in the church, and they devoted themselves to one church their entire lives.
As a young boy, I remember kneeling at an altar and receiving God’s forgiveness of my sins. But I noticed over the next few years that I had a hunger for something more. At 17, I thought I had my life planned out. I had selected pre-med and anesthesia programs for college. I thought I could make a lot of money and have a great life!
I “liked” God and the church, but my heart still hungered for something more.
One Sunday night, my pastor was preaching on sanctification—not just being free of our sins but yielding one’s entire life to the Holy Spirit. I held on to my dreams tightly and weighed them against the surrender I was being called to. The battle in me was raging, and my heart was pounding. With tears streaming, I walked down to the altar and completely gave my life to God, including my dreams and plans for the future.
Suddenly, my heart felt strangely warmed. In that moment, I wanted everything God had for me. I began to surrender all I could think of. “Take it, God! I give you my heart, soul, mind, and strength!” I think I even gave Him my 1966 Ford Mustang that night. And God came in a glorious way, consuming my desires and filling me with His Spirit until all I wanted was more of Him!
As I drove away from church, an old hymn came to mind: Hallelujah! I have found Him, Whom my soul so long has craved! Jesus satisfies my longings, Through His blood I now am saved.1
That night the Holy Spirit burned away a painful past and filled my heart with love. I went to a youth event, and a friend asked, “What happened to you?” I just hugged him. My heart was overwhelmed with a love for others I didn’t even know, and I hugged them too!
I also discovered that God had given me new dreams...better dreams! And after 40 years of service in ministry, I look back and see that He has done, “immeasurably more than I could have dreamed or asked for, according to His power that is at work in me” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Tim Gates is senior pastor of Kokomo First Church of the Nazarene in Kokomo, Indiana.
1. Clara Teare Williams, “Satisfied,” Hymns of Faith, 1980.
Please note: This article was originally published in 2021. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.