As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. Mark 5:18-20
Periodically, Pastor Miles brings guests to interview as a part of our Sunday message. These people aren’t preachers or pastors, and sometimes they are not even Christ-followers, but they are all in different stages of a journey with God, and they are invited to come and share their stories.
Today’s guest is American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, a young lady who has had a lot of success in her career and an up-and-down relationship with Jesus Christ.
Jordin won American Idol ten years ago, but she had been pursuing music for a long time before then. Jordin’s father played in the NFL for nine years. At the age of fifteen, Jordin was supposed to sing at a professional athlete’s conference in Phoenix, just before Pastor Miles was slated to speak. But when she got on stage, there was a technical malfunction, and her track didn’t turn on, so she had to sing acapella. Pastor Miles approached her afterward and (after inquiring if she could meet his son who was single at that time), encouraged her to audition for American Idol. As Jordin says, Miles said it first - and a year and a half later, that’s where she was!
God has shown her that sometimes a closed door may actually be an advantage because it helps you see what other doors may be open to you.
Jordin had always wanted to audition for American Idol. Once she turned 16 and was eligible, she auditioned at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. She arrived at 2 a.m., waited with 15,000 other people, finally got her chance to sing, and was turned down. But she was not going to let the disappointment stop her from pursuing her dream. She went home, auditioned for a localized version called Arizona Idol, and won that competition, whose grand prize was to send the winner to the next nearest American Idol audition city - Seattle, where she was accepted. Jordin learned that perseverance is key in our lives. God has shown her that sometimes a closed door may actually be an advantage because it helps you see what other doors may be open to you.
Pastor Miles reminded us that God is not distant. He is involved in every part of your life and can even work your mistakes into His plan. What may sometimes seem like a detour or disappointment in your own plans may actually be God’s perfect plan. When you are in process and feel lost, pressured, stressed, or burdened, God reaches out to remind you that it’s never too late. He can open a door right where you are and always offers hope. Even if your 20-year prison sentence begins tomorrow, God can still do a great work in your life.
Then Jordin was on the American Idol stage. Having been a fan for so long, she was blown away by being backstage and seeing it all come together. But then she realized the weight of the difficult road before her. There was a lot more to being on the show than the audience can see with a 2-minute song and an edited video of the contestants’ activities the prior week. There was intense work to do in choosing, arranging, and rehearsing a song and preparing for the performance. And as a minor, Jordin was the only contestant required to do three hours of school every day, which meant while others had a few extra hours sleep or some down time, Jordin had to hit the books.
Also, while her star was rising in her professional life, her personal life was in shambles. Her parents were separating, her brother was turning onto a dark path, her best friend died as she began the live shows, and two of her elderly family members passed away. It was confusing to experience such difficulty in the midst of her dreams coming true.
As for her faith, Jordin had accepted Christ at age 4 and was baptized at 13, but throughout her early life and during this time of finding professional success God was not the center of her life. She knew God was the Creator, she went to church and read her Bible, and she felt His presence and strength supporting her through trials, but she wasn’t seeking Him. She mostly relied on her own strength, sought to control what she could control in her world, and only turned to God in times of trouble.
Experiencing fame and success during the last ten years also brought a lot of pain and confusion. Jordin describes herself as having a haze over almost everything she saw. Running into Miles at a Superbowl party two years ago, she was not interested in conversing with him. Although she doesn’t remember seeing him at the party, she says that at that point in her life, she was not interested in confronting any issues with her faith journey. She probably avoided Miles because she knew that he would ask her about her relationship with God and she didn’t want to hear it. She avoided these conversations with even those closest to her - her best friend and her parents - because she already knew they were concerned and she wasn’t ready or open to hearing it.
When the Holy Spirit speaks God’s calling to you, it can sound like your conscience, a still small peaceful voice in your heart, affirming God’s promise to you.
Last Easter, Jordin’s aunt and uncle invited her to church. She was going through a really rough period, living under a microscope, and feeling very unlike herself, as if “under the haze.” For the three days leading up to Easter, she had been out partying all night and got very little sleep, which was not like her at all. Then on Easter morning, she received a text from her cousin Levi, who said he was excited to see her at church that day. She quickly got ready and hurried to the church, only to avoid disappointing him. When she walked in, a message on the screen greeted her with, “We’re glad you made it!” which immediately brought a feeling she’d never felt before. Throughout the pastor’s message, she was trying to “hold it together” and not to cry. When he shared the resurrection story, he added, “It’s never too late to come back home.” Jordin was overwhelmed. She knew that she was broken and lost and that she could not continue doing life in her own strength. The pastor gave an open invitation to come to the altar, especially to those who had wandered from the Lord and felt convicted and called to return, so Jordin rushed up to the stage and wept. She learned that day that Jesus does His best work when you are broken; He puts the pieces back together. Never be afraid to come to the altar - it’s the safest place you can be!
When the Holy Spirit speaks God’s calling to you, it can sound like your conscience, a still small peaceful voice in your heart, affirming God’s promise to you. He knows the deepest darkest things about your life, and He still loves you. He wants to do something amazing in your life and is offering another chance to come home to Him!