Don Goulding - Blog


IMG 4555 2You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that remains… (John 15:16)

“Many are called, few are chosen,” a nurse said to me when I was nineteen. 

She wrapped gauze around a surfing injury on my foot but said nothing more. Was it a warning against surfing, a prophetic utterance, or not directed at me? 

The nurse quoted Jesus as he finished his parable of the wedding banquet. He lifted a finger and pointed to the simple truth that many are invited to the wedding feast of the Savior but few come.

Forty years of contemplating the cryptic words haven’t resolved the mystery. I still wonder in what sense we choose Christ, as opposed to being chosen by him. Many are my theological betters who have stubbed their toes on this question, and I can happily wait until Christ returns for the answers, but perhaps some outer layers of truth are accessible now.

The majority of the world’s population doesn’t profess Christ, or they don’t display fruit to substantiate their claim. So why me? I’m not smarter, more godly, or less self-serving than many who are not saved. I can’t explain why I’m rescued by Jesus, I only know that I am and so I stand with my mouth open, the drool unchecked.

On the other hand, following Jesus requires every ounce of my energy. The treadmill started slow. Admitting I needed a Savior was all the spiritual exercise I could handle. As I got in shape, the speed increased. It’s exhausting work dying to self. Keeping in step with the Spirit saps every calorie, and yet somehow I know this, too, is from him.

It’s not my effort that brings me salvation. Jesus both died for my sin and empowers me to serve him. The only part I have is to say yes.

Mine is a simple, plain choice. I choose him because he chose me.

Prayer: Lord, your love for me is my greatest joy and most profound mystery.

Kingdom Staples

MVC 394FFor the kingdom of God does not consist of food and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)

After preaching in Ivory Coast, I was invited to the pastor’s house for the Sunday meal. He led me into a Liberian refugee settlement. We ducked through the doorway into his shack made from scraps of wood and tin. The impoverished people of the earth are often the most generous. 

The pastor’s wife served the West African staple of garri. It’s made of cassava roots that are ground, dried, and later boiled into a mush thick as Play-Doh. Garri is tasteless and hard to swallow unless there’s something to dip it into.

My hosts also served a stew of greens with morsels of meat. We pinched off each bite of garri, dipped it in the delicious sauce, and gulp, down it went.

The kingdom of God is about righteousness, peace, and joy, but these staples must be dipped in an anointing of the Holy Spirit. Righteousness is never satisfied with my performance, it sticks in my throat and won’t go down. The peace and joy I generate are so tasteless they never touch me inside. Without the Holy Spirit, the Christian life is impossible.

The reason Jesus cleansed us by his sacrifice was to fill us with the Holy Spirit. We get tangled up over the signs and gifts of the Spirit, but the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—can’t be counterfeited. They are living proof that Spirit filling isn’t an optional Christian add-on, it is Christianity.

When I dip righteousness under the Spirit’s leading, doing good tastes marvelous. I crave helping others and practicing honesty. I grow insatiable for truth and self-sacrifice. Without warning, peace and joy fill my mouth.

The kingdom of God is not about food and drink, but it is about staples that taste delicious with the Holy Spirit.

Prayer: Spirit of God, flood my heart with your righteousness, peace, and joy.

Everything Necessary

Zambizi… his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence. (2 Peter 1:3)

Dani and I had to leave Zimbabwe for at least forty-eight hours to obtain new visas. We planned on driving north two hundred and fifty kilometers and staying in neighboring Zambia. The Zimbabwean government wouldn’t let their currency out of the country, so we drove to a lonely road near the border and, at the Lord’s prompting, buried the Zims we’d need on return.

After driving through the no-man’s land separating the countries, the Zambian guards examined our American passports with eager whispers. They demanded high fees in US cash, more than we were willing to pay.

Wondering if God was still with us, we drove back to the mango tree that marked the Zimbabwean border. A guard took pity on us and exchanged our Zambian money for Zims so we could pay to re-enter Zimbabwe. We’d only been gone an hour but, contrary to normal policy, he stamped our passports for new visas.

We dug up our money, bought dried fish for the mission station, then prayed for fuel. All the petrol stations were dry. After a half dozen inquiries, we were directed to the back of a hotel that sold from barrels. We filled up, but now our Zims were nearly spent. 

God warned against staying at the hotel, so we drove to an intersection and prayed again. We felt the Spirit say, “Go left,” and followed a barely discernible gravel road. We arrived at some beautiful chalets on the Zambezi River, but without food.

A butcher weighed his smallest chicken, sliced off one leg, then the other, then a wing until it was affordable with our remaining Zims. The Africans in the local market laughed with me at the impoverished white man.

Sunset turned the sky burnt-orange as fireflies zipped across the midnight-blue river. And our three-quarters chicken was a gourmet meal. Life doesn't get any richer.

Navigating with Jesus is actually a fun adventure because he provides everything necessary for life and godliness.

Prayer: Lord, I’ll seek your provision to do your will.