In 1970, when I was sixteen and a new Christian, friends invited me to an evening class on the Gospel of John taught by John G. Mitchell, one of Multnomah School of the Bible’s founders. I became hooked on Bible study and knew my future was at Multnomah.
I completed my bachelor’s work in 1975, married my favorite Multnomah student, Nanci, and soon entered the school’s new master’s program. One of my favorite theology professors, Dr. Joseph Wong, scratched on a term paper: “You should consider being a writer.” I took it to heart. (And have often thought about the power of brief encouraging words.)
In 1985 I wrote my first book, Christians in the Wake of the Sexual Revolution (now out of print). Since then I’ve written 60 more. I enjoy writing both fiction and nonfiction. After I’ve finished a novel, I’m always ready for nonfiction and after two or three nonfiction books, I’m eager to tackle another novel.
Not many writers move back and forth between fiction and non-fiction. I’ve been told it’s not smart branding—supposedly it muddles people’s perception of a writer. Honestly, that doesn’t concern me. I ask God to direct me toward each project. He has, and I’m grateful to be able to write—everything from detective novels and other-worldly fantasy, to children’s books, to theological works large and small, on subjects such as money, Heaven, purity, grace, truth and suffering.
Last year I finished a graphic novel (comic book style), with a fantastic artist, and I’m working on a book about a biblical view of happiness. I love stretching myself as a writer. My favorite parts of writing are reading and researching extensively, indulging my thirst for learning, and interviewing interesting people.
Every writer needs a mission. Mine is to probe our deepest longings for something more, then open a door into the invisible realm so readers can see ultimate realities. One glimpse of the other world weans us from the illusion that reality is limited to our five senses. My life verse is "We look not at the things that are seen but the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18). Once we see differently, we live differently.
Writing is both energizing and draining. Sometimes it’s a joy. Sometimes, under deadlines and multiple fourteen-hour work days, it feels like a long battle: you just want to be done. And though a book never feels done, eventually you must turn it in.
I thank God for the privilege of being his errand boy, delivering the message that it's not about me, it's about Him. I don’t always succeed, but living that way is pure pleasure.
I often hear, “I want to write a book.” I’m convinced most people don’t really want to write a book, they want to have written a book. Some people view writing as easy—not a real job. A physician said, “When I retire I’m going to become a writer.” Well, if he’s not writing now, waiting until retirement may be too late. What if I said, “When I retire from writing I’m going to become a physician”? Whatever the profession, it takes decades of practice to become the best you can be.
What’s easy to read is hard to write. People sometimes say, “God gave me these words.” Yet the words may be poorly chosen—and I don’t think God wants credit for them. If God leads you to write, great, but get the help you need to write your best for His glory!
Writers are stewards of words, accountable to God for how they are arranged. I constantly seek criticism, running everything by my co-workers at Eternal Perspective Ministries. (I prefer to get it right before the book is published!) Honest critics and careful editors are essential. But above all, I need Christ, who said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). I want to hear God say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” There’s no bigger payoff than that!
I won’t deny that it’s fun to make the New York Times bestsellers list. But my greatest desire is to please the Audience of One. Since His judgment seat is the only one I'll stand before, His opinion is the one that matters:
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men...It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).
I seek to write with all my heart, as a service to the Lord. 100% of my book royalties go to help the needy, support just causes and reach people with the gospel. By God’s grace, there are over 12 million of my books in print. It’s fun to know the Lord is using both the books and the royalties to touch lives.
Whether we build, draw, fix things or make a home for our families, God wants us to yield our gifts to Him, depending on our Savior for the next step, the next breath. I pray that I’ll be God’s instrument to passionately and accurately convey the truths of His Word.
What do I look forward to? Serving my King as a resurrected person on a resurrected earth, where joy will be the air we breathe. I anticipate meeting those who touched my life, and saying “thanks for being faithful.” And then, like all God’s children, I’ll get to hear from those whose lives the Lord allowed me to touch. What a privilege. What could be better than to be loved by Jesus, to love Him and His people and the New Earth that awaits us, and to serve him, both now and forever?
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Eternal Persepctives, EPM's quarterly magazine.