Over 10 years ago, I was confused and tormented in my soul about how to understand God’s will for my life.
All the Christian cliques had failed me. Was I supposed to “Let go, and let God”? Was I supposed to find “the center of his will”, and how would I know when I found it? What if I was five degrees off the invisible bullseye? What if I didn’t have the “peace”, and what if I never got it? Should I put out a fleece or wait for a sign? I didn’t know up from down or even how to know the difference.
Throw into the mix my clunky, turbulent, and hopefully romantic pursue of Jenny. I was in need of discipleship and for someone to point me in the right direction.
Enter John Powell.
I was attending the same church as John, and he invited me and some other guys over to his house for a time of food, fellowship, and Bible study. I decided to go and drove out to their small, old house that he was fixing up. At the time, I didn’t realize that the next few months would change my life.
While Katherine made desserts, John walked me through Scripture and spent hours talking with me. He answered my questions and patiently waited for me to catch up to where he was directing me. He cleared the fog away from all those Christian cliques and taught me how to properly understand God’s will for my life. He taught me to delight myself in God and then actually do something. Those meetings in his creaky house with delicious treats charted a course to where I am today.
I loved the study we did so much that I sent a copy of it to Jenny. I said she had to read through it. Not too long after that, she flew into town, and I had her meet John and Katherine. And not too long after that, John was at our wedding in Tennessee smiling with joy.
John Powell was a gentle leader who took action under the authority of God. He didn’t wait around for others to act. He didn’t wait around to love. He didn’t wait around to wrestle problems to the ground. He believed God’s word, humbly submitted to it, and took initiative – like a man is supposed to do.
John was a man who invested in what matters. He taught me much more than just how to know God’s will for my life. He showed me (Philippians 4:9). Those times at his house showed me his deep love for his wife. I saw how he loved his children and led them with tenderness and purpose. I saw him work with his hands, think with his mind, and care from his heart. He wasn’t afraid to have hard conversations, but also wasn’t afraid to weep with those who weep.
Sunday morning as I was getting ready for church, I just happened to be thinking about John. I was recalling a meaningful note that he wrote me years ago. I was wondering what he thought about Spencer’s and my new book on the First Years of Marriage. I was thankful for him and the sweet providence of God using him in my life. And while serving at church, I got the news that he had been suddenly killed while helping someone else in danger.
“Shock and sorrow” are fitting words for that news. Shock that John is in heaven and no longer with us. Deep sorrow for his precious family.
But as shocking as the news is… it isn’t shocking that John would help others in need. It isn’t shocking that John would take action when no one else would or could. It isn’t shocking that John would love until the sudden end of his life.
The sorrow that comes with such news is fitting and deep. But a deeper sorrow would be if we didn’t learn from John’s life. John lived his life humbly taking action under the authority of God. He believed that only the blood of Jesus could save him from his sin and make him a new man. He believed that God calls everyone to trust in that gospel and that changed his life. He was a doer of the word and not just a hearer only (James 2:14-26).
After hearing the news, I came across this fitting prayer:
“O Lord, in whose hands are life and death, by whose power I am sustained, and by whose mercy I am spared, look down upon me with pity, Forgive me that I have until now so much neglected the duty which you have assigned to me, and suffered the days and hours of which I must give account to pass away without any endeavor to accomplish your will. Make me to remember, O God, that every day is your gift, and ought to be used according to your command. Grant me, therefore, so to repent of my negligence, that I may obtain mercy from you, and pass the time which you shall yet allow me in diligent performance of your commands, through Jesus Christ.” – Samuel Johnson (ESV Prayer Bible; Deuteronomy 8:11-20)
I am proud to know John Powell and even prouder that his life impacted mine. And it isn’t too late for his life to impact yours.
For information about the funeral and how to donate to his family, click here.