This is a guest post written by Rev. Michael Shanlian.
In my fifty six years I have never met an accomplished person who did not overcome adversity. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
I am sure my struggle to obtain a Seminary degree and other educational pursuits was not unique, but it was unique to me. I graduated from Bible College in 1976. I supported myself by working forty hours a week for General Motors and taking classes by day and working second shift. I managed to graduate in four years.
After graduation I became the pastor of a church plant in my home town at age twenty three. I continued to work at General Motors. Fast forward thirteen years to 1985. My wife Karen collapses in church and is rushed to the hospital. The diagnosis was she had Multiple Sclerosis. I knew what that was because one of my sisters had it. Less than six months later she lost the use of her legs and has not taken a step in twenty four years.
During these years I worked as a bi-vocational pastor and church planter. I have worked as a financial planner, salesman, manager and business owner. One of my life long dreams was to attend Seminary. I quickly realized as a young pastor how woefully unqualified I was to be a senior pastor. The years went by quickly and still no Seminary degree. Finally at age fifty-four the door opened. I was able to attend Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and earn an MA in Pastoral Counseling as a distant education student. I completed the thirty six hour program in two years without skipping a semester. At the same time I worked two days a week for a local jewelry store as the staff Gemologist and jewelry appraiser. I also was the pastor of a small Southern Baptist Church plus providing care for my wife.
These few paragraphs are the Readers Digest version of these events that spanned almost forty years. My purpose in writing this was not to illicit sympathy. I wanted to encourage that Seminarian that is ready to throw in the towel; or the discouraged pastor who wants a Seminary degree, but is blocked by the circumstances of life.
Hang on to your dreams. The only person that can kill your dreams is you. My wife and I on our wedding night chose Romans 8:28 as our life verse. “For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God and are the called according to His purpose.” Someone has said, “It is not what happens to you that matters, but how you handle what happens to you that matters.” Obstacles are just opportunities in disguise.
“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.”
–Sir Winston Churchill
Rev. Michael Shanlian is a thirty three year veteran as a bi-vocational pastor and church planter. He is an accomplished Gemologist and has obtained the highest credentials in Gemology for gem identification and jewelry appraising. He holds a B.R.E. from Midwestern Baptist College and an M.A. in Pastoral Counseling from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He also has been honored with an Honorary Doctorate and will be completing his doctoral dissertation through South African Theological Seminary.