Serene Thomas and her husband Dell are leaders of Faith Fellowship, an adult ministry at Midtown Baptist Temple. Serene has a testimony of faithfulness and kindness. Her investment has had a major impact on many of us in C&YA. Serene takes some time here to reflect on the how God grew her as a twenty something.
By the age of 20, I had already known the Lord as my Savior for 7 years. Unfortunately, most teenagers that get saved don't mature right away. They don't realize that Jesus is Lord of their life. I was one of those “closet” Christians. You wouldn't have known I was a Christian at school or in my social circles. However, I went to church every Sunday because my mom and grandmother made me. Little did I know that God through His Word and Holy Spirit worked to lay the foundation for my future, which compelled me to rededicate my life to Him at 18. Unfortunately and surprisingly there was a lot of stupid and crazy that happened in my teen years that had to be undone! I was ready for the newness! I was tired of status quo Christianity!
A New Foundation Laid: Solid Ground
...I identified with my skill sets, talents, and my extra curricular affiliations in the community, my ethnicity, my strengths and my shortcomings.
One of the key foundational truths I learned was that I was a new creature in Christ. I have a new identity. While I was in high school I identified with my skill sets, talents, and my extra curricular affiliations in the community, my ethnicity, my strengths and my shortcomings. Through the process of Discipleship, I learned key biblical concepts critical to being and living as a new creature in Christ. One, I am not defined by the world or past circumstances. Rather, I am of and in Christ. Two, Christ loved me in spite of my sinful choices, which influenced by behavior and perspective. It was paramount for me to understand Christ’s blood washed away my sins. I am his daughter. According to Psalms 139:14, I am fearfully and wonderfully made. This groundbreaking truth helped set the course for many years to come. Understanding my identity helps to shape my decision-making, affections, and purpose in life.
2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Elders Examples: One day this would be me - At every stage of my spiritual growth God has placed an elder in my life that has walked this Christian life a few steps ahead of me. I'm very grateful for those women in my life, past and present, that encourage, exhort and edify me. They exemplified this for me and I would follow in their footsteps. Through the discipleship process I learned the importance of being prayerful about surrounding myself with women that live out the word of God, so that I would be that elder to others in the future.
2 Tim. 2:2 And the things that thou has heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also
Toolbox of Truth
Before I rededicated my life to Christ I would find myself in bad situations due to poor judgment or being self-focused (that's total teenage behavior!). But what I lacked were the tools to combat the flesh and the enemy. I would lean unto my own understanding instead of allowing the word of God to wholly govern my life. I thank God for equipping me with these tools of the Christian trade that were instilled in me at such a critical time in life.
1 Tim. 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
TOOL #1: Directions
Going through the Directions discipleship lessons was a life-changing season of for me. However, God didn't want me to stop there. He wanted to add to my spiritual toolbox.
TOOL #2: Small Group Bible Study
Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth countenance of his friend.
God replenished righteously and placed in my life all types of women that were in different stages of their Christian walks.
This verse influenced me to sharpen friends within the body of Christ by utilizing the word of God. After I really got serious about my Christian walk, God swiftly removed all worldly friends and family from my life. This was painful because God made me a relational person. I begged God and told him how desperately I needed friends. I knew that without godly friends I would struggle and go back to the world, and He gave me more than I could imagine. God replenished righteously and placed in my life all types of women that were in different stages of their Christian walks. It was one of those stakes that I put down in my relationship with God. When I am desperate for Him and call on Him for help, he reminds me of that time in my 20s. He says, I hear you when you pray and when you pray according to my will I will answer!
An SOT Bible study from that time titled “Please God” resonates with me today. One reason it stuck was because practically I saw in the Word of God how to please God and not my flesh. The Word of God opened up my world to obeying God and fleeing the lusts of the flesh. The Word was becoming the powerful sword, the tool to continue in living a Godly life. It was one of those studies where not only was I learning to understand and rightly divide the Word for myself. My small group was a place of accountability after I completed Directions.
Bible study was a wonderful place to learn how to share what God was teaching me in an edifying environment with other believers! The Word was coming alive to me and it was so encouraging to hear God speak through His word using my Sisters in Christ. I was getting a handle on the Word, which for so long seemed so foreign to me. Bible study created in me a deep desire for Him and the truths in the Word. Those Bible Study tools have anchored me and kept me walking with Christ now 20 years later.
I Thess. 4:1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.
TOOL #3: Woman to Woman Study (now Blueprints)
Understanding how to be sober minded and chaste and putting these character qualities into practice steered me into godly decision-making. I learned these qualities through the Woman to Woman, or Blueprints, study in which an older woman of the faith led me through a series of Biblical lessons relating to being a woman of God. It was affecting my heart in a way that I never imagined, which in turn aided me in getting off the proverbial hamster wheel of sin and live a life that glorified God. Over the course of three years I had started to not recognize myself. I was allowing the Word to truly take root in my life. The sorrow of sin had turned into joy of pleasing and serving God. It was an unforgettable turn-around in life. Because of that, I don't abandon those foundational truths, those tools I still use. With God’s grace I've become more skilled in using them and I continue to be in awe of how he allows me to be apart of this mission.
Tit 2:3 The aged women likewise, that [they be] in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 [To be] discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
TOOL #4: The Power of A Praying Wife by Stormie O’Martian
How was I going to stand in the gap for someone and learn to trust God with a relationship if I didn't know how to intercede for him?
Through Directions, I learned to pray. I learned to keep a prayer journal. Directions taught me the different types of prayer to God. This was a shift in my life to learn how to trust in my Heavenly Father, to become dependent upon Him, to have an intimate conversational relationship with Him. It was a long, hard process. Remember, I was used to leaning on my own understanding. I was of the mindset that if it was a “good” thing, I could do it. But good by whose standards? It was imperative to learn this and apply it before God would place a special person in my life that I would need to constantly talk to God about on his behalf. Insert Dell Thomas!
We began dating about year after I finished discipleship. We were engaged about 1 year after that and were married 5 Months later. How was I going to conduct myself in a godly relationship if I didn't pray and ask God how to do it? How was I going to stand in the gap for someone and learn to trust God with a relationship if I didn't know how to intercede for him?
There aren't very many books outside of the Bible that I recommend. But an elder woman that I trusted and who I witnessed having a very effective prayer life gave me The Power of A Praying Wife as a gift for my bridal shower. It further sharpened my prayer life. This book is based on the Word of God and outlines how to pray scripture back to God on behalf of my husband. It guided my transition from a young, strong-willed, sometimes argumentative girl, into a woman who learned to trust God with my life by asking Him in faith and not wavering.
Eph 6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Recently, a young lady in high school asked me a thought-provoking question. Do I have any regrets in life? It caused me to pause for a moment. A part of me was cataloging all of the missteps of my 20s and the shame that came from that. Another part of me took the opportunity to share with her that even those missteps in life, when run through the Word and corrected with a repentant heart, can turn into victory. God meant for those missteps to carve a new path in my faith walk. He allowed them in order for me to see my need for Him, His word and His body of believers. He orchestrated my life in such a way that those missteps happened in the framework of the biblical foundation that was being laid. And for that I am less regretful and more grateful for Him placing me in a wonderful church home, for loving me through my 20s with grace and mercy and for protecting me in the midst of it all, leading me for such a time as this.