Dave Meigs

David Meigs is a novelist with a background in youth outreach, specializing in ministry to at-risk youth and their families. Though his writing is enjoyed by all ages, his novels provide a unique, life-changing quality, critical for the youth of today. David and his family lives in Seabeck, Washington.

Only Jesus Gives Life

Only Jesus gives life.

For those of you who read my humble column regularly, you know that this is a statement I like to quote often. The reason is simple. Not even the best writer can give life. Only Jesus gives life. Not even a church ministry, no matter how wonderful it might be, can give life. Again, the same rule applies—only Jesus gives life. Accepting and then understanding this simple truth is perhaps the most important key to developing a fruitful writing ministry.

I first came to understand this vital concept after attending a weeklong training program, Sumer Institute, in my early years with Youth for Christ. I went to the training with a terrible attitude. I was forced to leave behind my poor wife, who was in her third trimester of pregnancy, to care for our overly rambunctious toddler son on her own. Moreover, I also had to leave my Campus Life ministry and my church youth group in the hands of my leaders, each with busy lives of their own.

“This is a waste of time,” I complained to a colleague before I left. “What are they going to teach us that we don’t already know?”

After arriving in Denver I quickly identified a few faces I knew. Like me, they wore the same I-don’t-want-to-be-here expression on their faces that was encrusted on my own. Anyone who has been forced to attend one too many conferences and seminars where the same information is parroted again and again and again will understand what I mean. Even worse, crowding around me were hundreds of thoroughly excited, newly minted youth workers. Most of these seemed like babies to me, hardly old enough to begin a career in youth ministry. But likely as not, these kids looked at me in reverse, wondering what the old guy (I was thirtysomething) was here for.

I remember walking into the lecture hall and securing a seat as far removed as I possibly could. I cringed as the meeting started with a typical youth-oriented, crowd-breaker exercise. Rah-rah-rah! By the time the main speaker stepped forward, I was doing my best to shut him out by going to my own special happy place, hundreds of miles away, with my darling wife and children. But somehow, the speaker’s words filtered through.

“Hello! My name is Bill Muir, and I am the Executive Vice President of Youth for Christ USA, and this year I was selected to give the ‘only Jesus gives life’ message. Please open your Bibles to John, chapter fifteen and verse one. Let me begin by saying that you

can be the best youth leader in the world, with thousands of kids coming out, but only Jesus can give life. Or you can become the best pastor in the whole world and you can have a hugely successful ministry, but only Jesus can give life.” Then he had us follow along as he read aloud the passage: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (NIV).

Mr. Muir explained that our number-one duty as ministers of Christ was to focus our lives on our relationship with Jesus, and only then would the fruit follow. It was not about how great we were in our own strength. In fact, we could be the best preacher in the whole world and even have hoards of highly entertained followers, but the only fruit that counted was tied to our personal relationship with Jesus.

As he continued to speak, it felt as if scales had fallen from my eyes. Suddenly, I could see it all so clearly. In all the years of my ministry, I had sought to do the best job I could—believing that by working and praying hard, I could build a successful ministry. I prayed silently in my seat, asking the Lord to forgive me. It didn’t take any convincing to get me to see that I had been too busy doing the ministry God had called me to rather than spending time with God.

What happened to me that day in Denver, Colorado, in early 1990 has forever revolutionized my ministry as a youth minister and also now as a writer. My success, as measured by God, pivots on the state of my relationship with God. Only by investing time nurturing my walk with God by reading His Word, praying, and submitting to His discipline am I guaranteed to bear fruit.

It is the hope and prayer of nearly every inspirational novelist that God will use his or her work to change the lives of readers. Yes, it has everything to do with writing well. If not, nobody would even care to finish our novels. But above all else, the most important thing we can do as inspirational novelists is to abide in Christ—in other words, to nurture a life of relationship with Jesus.

That’s all for this month. Until next we cross our paths, don’t forget: Only Jesus gives life.