Worrier to Warrior

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4

Read the above scripture again and dwell on it for a minute or two while I set this blog post up.

The inspiration for this post actually came from Pastor Herbert Cooper of People’s Church in Oklahoma City. I’ve been attending his church for a few months now, and there hasn’t been a Sunday I haven’t been blessed.

Last Sunday’s word was part of Pastor Cooper’s “Finish Strong” series, and the message was titled “Don’t Quit.” As soon as he started preaching, my first reaction was “Oh God, why do you always do this? You know exactly what I need to hear each Sunday.”

I’ll give you a synopsis of the sermon and then I’ll explain why I had this reaction.

Pastor Cooper preached using the scripture I began this post with—James 1:2-4. His message was simple. We need to choose the right response when we face adversity because trials and hard times are only a test from God. He said that our prevailing and dominant response to trials should be joy. When we pass these “tests” or when we trust God through trials, we grow and mature. That maturity then tells God that we are ready for bigger and better things. You can never use trials as an excuse to give up. It’s like going to school-- In order to move on to the next class, you must pass a test and show that you are ready for the next step. Similarly, in order for God to take us to the next level or bless us with something bigger and better, we must first pass a test.

We all go through tough times and experience trials and tribulations. Usually, our first reaction to these trials is “God, why me?” We start to worry and question God. We begin to feel like God has forsaken us, and then we quit. We completely quit and never overcome that trial. When we quit on ourselves, we start blaming others and start looking for excuses for why we didn’t do something to justify why we gave up. In essence, when we quit, we are telling God we are not ready for his blessing.

If you are a believer in the power of the Almighty God I serve, I have news for you: Those tests and trials are God’s way of testing us. He’s trying to find out if we are ready for that big blessing coming our way. Tests and trials usually precede a blessing.

The way we pass the test is based on our response to the trial and if we can still praise the name of the Lord and thank Him through the storms of life. The dominant response to difficult times should always be JOY because God is working behind the scenes and preparing something great! When we put our trust in God and believe that He’s faithful, there’s no room to worry and stress. Get on your knees and pray. He is listening.

Here’s my story about how I passed a test and received a blessing I could never have imagined.

Those who know me very well will tell you that I am a workaholic. I am the guy who believes that because I didn’t grow up in the United States, I have to catch up with my peers by working harder. I go to work, stay late (I usually work better later in the day anyway because I’m not a morning person), bring my work home and keep working through the night. I try not to take vacations, etc. In fact, those around me get pissed off because I usually end up just over-working myself, stressing out and then falling sick or go through a Sickle Cell episode. You could say that working has become an idol to me because I want nothing to do with mediocrity. But I have realized over the years that I can’t put work or my job above my relationship with God because He will bring me back to earth quickly.

In college, I worked all five years. (Yes, I said five years). Once I figured out what I wanted to do after school, I started to apply for internships. I was so eager for experience that I had to turn down internships because I had so many offers. I had three amazing internships with Procter & Gamble, The Oklahoma City Thunder and Devon Energy Corp. I knew I had set myself up for success after college, and I was on top of the world. You couldn’t tell me otherwise. Upon graduating from college, the boy who was turning down internships couldn’t find a job. I visited my mom in Ghana and came back to the U.S. to keep the job search going. A month went by, then two, and then three. I was so stressed out, and as someone who likes to be in control and someone who always has to be working, I was worried. I couldn’t sleep, and I just wanted the days to keep going because I was hoping the faster the days went by, the closer I was to a job. I was ready to take any job, and I wasn’t trusting God. I felt like I needed to do it on my own. People ridiculed me and told me I would amount to nothing. I was brought down to earth quickly.   

Finally, I decided not to do it on my own anymore. I stopped worrying and just gave the situation to God. I got on my knees and prayed day and night. I told God I was going to stop trying to do it on my own and trust Him. I didn’t quit. The following month, I was offered a position at a frozen yogurt franchise to come in and implement a communications infrastructure at the corporate office. It was a dream come true, and I knew it was a blessing from God. I went into that job and worked hard. It was my first job, and the impact I made during my time there was unquestionable. When anyone talks about my accomplishments with this frozen yogurt company, one of the first things you will probably hear is my implementation of the company’s intranet. I called it OL Insider. In fact, the highlight of my career with this frozen yogurt company was when the Oklahoma Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America recognized me during the 2014 Uppercase Awards for my implementation of the company’s intranet. I got comfortable, and even though I knew God put me at the frozen yogurt company for a reason, I didn’t know why exactly I was there other than to work hard and pay my bills. But God works in mysterious ways. Little did I know that the job was just the appetizer. It was just a set up for the main course.

Fast forward to December 2014. God's plan was about to be set in motion. I took off work to visit my family in Ghana. I spent Christmas with my entire family for the first time in a very long time. It was the best Christmas I’ve ever had. During my time in Ghana, the frozen yogurt company hired a new president. I had a pretty good sense upon my return to work that things weren't going to go my way in terms of wanting to build a relationship with Mr. President. I got a pretty good sense that maybe I wasn't his favorite employee. It could’ve been because I wasn’t present when he was hired and thought I didn’t really play a relevant role in the company if I could be in Ghana and things were still running smoothly in the office. Whatever the case may be, it doesn’t matter now, it’s the past and I have all the love and the respect for him and the company for the amazing opportunity they gave me. As you’ve already probably guessed, things didn’t work out in my favor. A few months after returning from Christmas in Ghana, six employees including myself got laid off because of budget cuts and restructuring. How ironic. The last time I went to Ghana after college, I came back and didn’t have a job. Two years later, I go spend Christmas in Ghana and come back only to be laid off and left without a job. I guess I need to stop visiting my family? Ha!  

When I heard the bad news that I didn’t have a job anymore, I was in shock because I had put everything I had into working hard for this company. I didn’t have much of a life outside or work. I felt betrayed, but surprisingly, I wasn’t worried or scared. There was a sense of calmness and excitement deep down in my heart. In fact, when I told some of the members of my team that I just got laid off, they got really emotional and started tearing up, but I remember saying “It’s ok.” Before I finally gathered my stuff and left the office for the last time, I got a little emotional because I was going to miss the friendships and the bond I had established with some of my co-workers. I was going to miss the conversations with the CEO because I had learned so much from my time working on CEO communication with him. I was emotional because I felt betrayed and disappointed with the manner with which the layoffs were handled. Listen, I had a lot of questions and emotions going through my head, but NONE of the feelings I had evolved around fear of being jobless and how I was going to pay my bills.

What many people didn’t know was that I HAD ALREADY WON THE BATTLE. I had passed a similar test two years ago, and if God came through then, I couldn’t fathom what He had in store this time. I took a few days to reflect on my time at the company, and I instantly realized that the growth and experience I gained while being there was exactly what I needed to catapult me into a better career. I asked God to provide, and then I relaxed. He was in control, and there was no reason for me to worry and stress.

I used my free time to start this blog and created an identity for myself outside of a job. (Very important to have an identity outside of work, and I encourage you to do the same) I had tried many times to launch Rich Honesty, but my excuse each time was work related. I also got a little adventurous. I took random trips, something I never do. I caught up on my favorite shows, woke up at 9 a.m. everyday to watch Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless debate about sports on ESPN. Most importantly, I got closer to God during this time.

I trusted Him for a new opportunity because I knew there was a reason why I was facing this trial… again! A few weeks later, the opportunities started rolling in. I had locked up four interviews already.

Imagine this: I was getting paid, doing no work, resting my tired body, working on my blog and just being adventurous and taking trips I would have never been able to take. It was as if God was telling me to take a mini break before my next opportunity came. I had been through this test before and stressed out the entire summer of 2012. Nothing came from stressing, but once I trusted God, the situation changed. So why stress out again this time?

Don’t get it twisted, even though I was relaxed and enjoying my break, I was still focused on finding another job. I was applying for jobs every day, having lunch with my contacts, sending emails and so on. I was relentless. Whenever it seemed like I had hit a dead end, I would get frustrated and depressed, but immediately remember that God was working behind the scenes. RELAX, Richie, relax. Through the most random search online, I came across a posting for a public relations and marketing job with the Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethany, Okla. As soon as I saw the listing, I knew it was a position I would succeed at. I applied and got an instant response. I visited with the team at the hospital, and even though that particular position was filled, the team still wanted to bring me on because they believed in me and my experience. A few weeks later, I was offered a position as the Communications Coordinator for the hospital. Look at God! He didn’t just provide, he provided the perfect position. He didn’t give me the position I applied for; He gave me a better position and one that fits my skillset. A position that actually fits my purpose in life. A career that is going to be fulfilling. A place where I can inspire others and be inspired by the stories of these amazing kids. I accepted the position and will be starting on Monday! I am extremely blessed and excited.

Ladies and gentlemen, the truth of the matter is that, the first time I went through a similar trial and test, it was preparation for this moment. It took me a while to trust God the first time when I was jobless right out of college. Eventually I did, and He showed me His power and faithfulness by giving me a job at a young frozen yogurt franchise. A company that allowed me to be creative and implement multiple things that I believe will continue to help the company. Even though I didn’t know at the time that God’s plan was for the job to be short-term and a time for me to gain experience, God knew what He was doing the entire time.  Because I had passed the test the first time, I trusted the process, and my trust in God was actually strengthened because I knew there was a reason why all of this was happening. Thanks to my time with the frozen yogurt franchise, God provided something even bigger and better. I am ready to make an impact and to work hard. I passed the test, and I didn’t quit. God blessed with me with a new opportunity. An opportunity that is so perfect, I couldn’t have even made it up myself. I couldn’t have written a better script.

When Pastor Cooper preached this message, I had just accepted the position with the hospital, and it was a reminder that because I had trusted him and passed the test, I was ready for the blessing God had in store for me. I could have just felt sorry for myself and giving up on chasing my dream, but I didn’t. I trusted God, did my part and gave Him thanks through the trial.

If you are going through trying times today, remember that it is just a test. Nothing more, just a test. Don’t quit. Your blessing is coming. Your breakthrough is almost here. Don’t stress yourself out. His timing is perfect.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4