I Think I’ll Just Go On Anyway
Last month, Stadia partner and catalyst Don Hamilton traveled to Southern Asia with his daughter, Andrea, to deliver a graduation speech. He spoke to a group of women church planters whose first three years of church planting will be fully funded by the efforts of Don’s late wife, Gail. Gail passed away from stage 4 pancreatic cancer six months ago, but her legacy lives on in her daughters and in these church planting women, who we at Stadia refer to as “Gail’s Girls.” The content of Don’s speech can be found below.
“Move On” – (Exodus 14:15)
15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” Exodus 14:15
On December 16, 2016, my wife and I received the worst news of our lives. Gail, my daughter and I were about to attend a musical Christmas concert and we received a call from the Hershey Medical Center. My wife had been experiencing rapid weight loss and so she went to the doctor where they administered tests to see if they could find out the reason. After some testing, the doctor discovered that Gail had cancer in her pancreas, liver and other glands. The cancer was in its advanced stages and the doctor told us that, if Gail did not receive immediate treatment she would die within a few weeks. And so began a two-year journey towards the time when my beloved wife would pass on from this earth and go to heaven to meet God, where she is today.
My name is Don Hamilton, and I am the husband of Gail Hamilton, who is the person who loved you all so much that she raised support for you to attend this transformation center and go into the world and teach people about how much God loves them and how they can be saved through Jesus Christ, God’s Son. I come to you today, to speak on behalf of Gail and my family and the thousands of fellow Christ followers and churches who support you with their finances and prayers. Speaking to you here today is one of the greatest honors of my life. I am deeply appreciative that you have invited me here and I hope God uses our next few moments together to impart some encouragement to you.
Life is very difficult isn’t it? I know that you live in a place where there is much poverty and illness and struggle just to survive. I know you live in a place where just the mentioning of the name Jesus Christ often causes negative reactions, and sometimes even violence. I know there are many who oppose you and your message. So, for you Gail’s Girls, followers of Jesus Christ and church planters, you will have much opposition and struggle in life. Some of you will be rejected by those close to you. Some of you will struggle to survive. Some of you may even suffer physical harm. And, like Gail, some of you may contract some illness and pass from this world to the next, seemingly before your time. Life can be very difficult can’t it?
In Exodus chapter 14, Moses tells us of a time when God’s People, Israel were escaping from slavery under Pharaoh’s iron-fisted rule in Egypt. Egypt was, at the time, one of the most powerful nations on earth. The Israelites had lived in the land since the time of Joseph. But during those years after Joseph, the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites and their situation kept going from bad to worse. By the time Moses came on the scene their lives were bitter and hard. But God raised up Moses whom God would use to topple Pharaoh and break the Israelites’ bondage. Moses brought ten plagues on Egypt, each one worse than the other, until the Death Angel killed all of the firstborn sons in Egypt. But God spared Israel and finally Pharaoh relented and let the Israelites go. It appeared that the Israelites troubles were over. Now they would be free. But it didn’t take long until they were once again in big trouble.
5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” 6 So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. 7 He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. 8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. 9 The Egyptians—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon. 10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” Exodus 14:5-12
Life is difficult isn’t it? Even when you’re a child of God, life is difficult. Even if you have the great Moses as your leader, life is difficult. Even if God is on your side, life is difficult. Just like the Israelites of old, life has not changed. It is sometimes very difficult. You will experience many difficulties in life. You will experience tragedy and suffering and pain and discouragement.
Even though the Israelites had seen God perform such amazing miracles through Moses. Even though God had forced Egypt to bow to His people, more trouble came.
They were terrified and cried out to the Lord.
11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
Now, once again, Israel was in a tough spot. They were between a rock and hard place – the Red Sea on one side, the Egyptian army and Pharaoh on the other. Once again, it appeared all was lost. They had gotten out of slavery, one terrible place in life, to another terrible place where they would die in the desert. Yes, life is truly difficult, even if God is on your side.
Within a couple of weeks of diagnosis, Gail started treatments for her cancer. They were terrible. Gail’s beautiful long hair all fell out. Every other Friday she endured all kinds of pain as they infused her with the treatment called chemotherapy. And, the most difficult part was that, in the end, Gail knew that God might not heal her, and she would still die. The next two years, Gail was sick every day, and month by month, the cancer took its toll on her frail body. She had trouble eating and drinking. She was tired to the point of exhaustion. She couldn’t go outside much.
I remember the first time Gail had to miss attending church on Sunday. Gail never missed going to church. She always sat there on the front row with me and we often held hands during the service. She always prayed for me when I got up to preach. She loved to sing and had a beautiful voice. But, one weekend, she was just too ill to get out of bed. She had to stay home. She was so sad and discouraged and hurt. Gail’s life for the past two years was very, very difficult.
You know, one of my favorite things I love about Jesus is that He always told the truth about life. He never told us that following Him would be easy. Jesus never stated that God’s people, even God’s leaders like you and me and Gail, would have easy lives. In fact, Jesus said just the opposite would be true. He said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 Yes, Jesus made it very clear, that, in this world we would have trouble.
Those poor Israelites got so discouraged. But what they didn’t see is that God was going before them. God had plans for their lives and their nation. Their weaknesses were just great opportunities for God’s strength. The Apostle Paul wrote about his troubles and weaknesses. Listen to what he said:
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
They would walk through the Red Sea on dry ground and God would destroy Pharaoh and his army once and for all. When you are weak, God is strong. Never forget that. Just go on anyway.
Through Gail’s suffering, God started the Gail’s Girls ministry. God wanted to use Gail’s weakness to bring Himself glory and she chose to let God do that through her. She raised many dollars and much prayer support. She made thousands of people aware of your mission and your struggles and your victories. In Gail’s weakness, God was strong. He is the same God for you.
So, I charge you with the words that the Apostle Paul wrote to his young son in the faith, Timothy. “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:1-8
Preach the word. Be prepared in good times and difficult times. Remain self-controlled in all situations. Endure hardships knowing that God will never leave you. Do what God has called you to do no matter what. Fight the good fight of faith and be true to your calling. Finish the race, keep the faith. And know that God will use you in ways that you will never even know about. And, on that day when God calls you to heaven, it will have all been worth it.
In the end, my wife Gail, died. But she did not die forever. No Gail simply passed from this life to the next life with Jesus in heaven. Gail has experienced what the Apostle Paul wrote about in his letter to the Corinthian church. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
My friends, Gail’s Girls; Gail did not lose heart. Though she wasted away outwardly, inwardly she was renewed day by day. Her light and short troubles made way for her to achieve eternal glory with Jesus. She fixed her eyes upon what was unseen, unseen eternal glory of heaven in God’s Kingdom. And day by day, week by week, through all of her suffering, SHE JUST WENT ON ANYWAY! Cancer – she just went on anyway. Pain – she just went on anyway. Suffering – she just went on anyway. Discouragement – she just went on anyway. Stuck in a bad spot – she just went on anyway. Gail heard the heavenward call of God and the call to let God do marvelous things through her suffering. These words rang true for her. 15 “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.”
And so, just like the Israelites so long ago heeded the call of God and crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, she just kept moving on. She just went on anyway. And you should too. It will be time for you too, to move on.
Sisters, some days will be very difficult for you – just go on anyway.
Discouragement will come your way – just go on anyway.
Sometimes people will reject you and your message – just go on anyway. Sometimes you will be misunderstood – just go on anyway.
Sometimes it will feel like Pharaoh’s army is on one side and the Red Sea is on the other – just go on anyway.
Never stop preaching. Never stop teaching. Never stop loving people. Never stop forgiving. Never stop working. Never stop believing. Never stop hoping. Never stop praying. No matter what happens, just go on anyway.
Whether it is the wonderful fruit of the lives that change because of your efforts, just like you are the fruit of many people’s investment in you, including Gail, or it is the eternal glory you will experience the moment you pass from this earth – it will all be worth it. One day you will stand before God and He will say to you, “Well done. You have been a good and faithful servant because no matter what happened, you just went on anyway.”
Thank you and may God richly bless your lives and your ministries.
“I remember driving around Indianapolis in my frozen foods delivery truck, telling my friend Gary that I would never become a pastor. That was over forty years ago when God must have chuckled about my comment. I’ve been a pastor for thirty-four years, serving at Vibrant (formerly known as Capital Area Christian Church) the entire time.”
After several “prodigal” years, and a rather dramatic return to the Lord, Don sensed a call to vocational ministry and attended Johnson Christian University in Knoxville, Tennessee. “I had intended to become a youth pastor, but people told me that I had a gift for teaching the Bible in ways that were very practical and understandable. My rough background helped me naturally understand “regular” people. They said I should use those gifts as a preaching pastor, so I decided to major in preaching.”
Don met his beautiful wife, Gail, at college. Don continued his education, earning Masters and Doctorate degrees, while witnessing God reach many people through this church family. “We’ve grown from a small group of Jesus followers, to a large, multi-campus church. But it’s not about bigger numbers, it’s about helping people get connected to God through Jesus Christ – one by one. My favorite challenge to our church family, is to make a difference in someone’s life this week by connecting them to God. Anyone can do that. If my preaching and leadership have encouraged and challenged people to do this, I consider my ministry and this church a success.”Don Hamilton