Where We Are God Is
“Seeing the way God has used me at Dayton Christian School calls me to humility, to see that I cannot and do not do this on my own strength and power, for when I do it falls flat.”
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” Deuteronomy 7:9 (ESV)
Rich Garrett’s story is indeed rich! Rich because it highlights the keeping power of Jesus and His faithfulness, culminating in a cycle of grace upon grace.
Rich has seen the faithfulness of God from generation to generation. His story highlights a God who never leaves, never forsakes, and continually draws us closer to Him. His story tells of the keeping power that overcomes the darkness and greets us, right where we are, in the world today. It’s a story of hope for the future. It’s a story to remind us that where we are, God is.
Rich has come a long way from the Sunday School boy who grew up in a Southern Baptist home, the youngest of three, with a mom who sang in the choir and a dad who served as a deacon. At just nine years old Rich gave his life to Jesus because he heard and believed the gospel. God was there. Years later he joined the Navy where found and joined a group of Jesus-followers known as the Navigators. God was there. After the Navy he sought counsel about his future from a godly pastor. God was there. The pastor encouraged him to visit a Christian school and spend a day interacting with the kids. Rich saw that God was there and he headed to college in South Carolina where he received a degree from Columbia Bible College in elementary education. He met his wife and began a family. All the while, God was there. Following school he applied to teach at Dayton Christian School. God was there. And in 1982 Rich accepted their offer to teach 5th and 6th grade and 35 years later, he serves as principal of Dayton Christian middle school; with some of his early students’ children now under his care. God is there.
What has Rich learned? He has learned God is faithful. Yes, he has experienced struggles – it is not easy raising children on an educator’s paycheck. He also went through a bout with cancer. But God never left, and that is Rich’s message. God is faithful in the little, in the big, in the everyday, in the tragic, and from generation to generation. And importantly, Rich acknowledges, “It is not based on my faithfulness to Him, but rather, on what God has done for me.”
Rich invests into the lives of his students by sharing how great God is, discipling them; teaching them to filter the world through what the Bible says, rather than filtering the Bible through what the world says. He is not afraid of confrontation, of hard things, or of tough love while showing grace– and, thus, another generation is learning how God is here. Rich gives them what he calls, “the mentality of the battle.” His students learn that we cannot, we must not, be passive. He quotes John Piper saying, “We must be in the business of killing sin, or sin will kill you.”
And God has blessed Rich. “Seeing the way God has used me at Dayton Christian School calls me to humility, to see that I cannot and do not do this on my own strength and power, for when I do it falls flat.” Rather, the success of the middle school is clearly a God thing. And God is so good! Rich loves what he does – it is fun and he enjoys it because God is not an ogre calling us to do something we hate, but to use what He has given us for His glory– to tell His story. With four grown kids and nine grandchildren his life is full, and he is seeing God’s continued faithfulness to the next generations as his grandchildren enter the battle, well-grounded in the fullness of who God is.
Rich sees how personal our God is. He says, “God’s grace is what I see most. The grace of God sheds light on my sin, and as I confess that sin, He shows His grace, and as He shows His grace, my sin is revealed, and the cycle of grace continues.” God is here!
With such a testimony, Rich has much to offer to younger Christians struggling to find their place, to know their God, to see His grace, and to trust and believe. Here is the advice he offers:
- There is no R&R apart from the Lord in the Christian walk – lean in, see the battle, and put on your armor.
- Don’t be distracted. Live Colossians 3:1, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (NIV)
- Die to yourself because it’s not about us. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul – run toward Him and away from the world.
- Get a mentor – Run with people who are running the same direction.
- Seek Him. Join a house church. Go deeper. Get prepared – persecution is headed your way.
- Spend time in the Word. Jesus will meet you there!
- Look for God-sightings every day – Ask yourself, “How have I seen God using me this week? Where have I seen Him in my life, and in the lives of others?”
It does not take a tragic event to see God’s hand at work. Indeed, as the great hymn states, “Great is thy faithfulness – morning by morning new mercies I see – All I have needed, thy hand has provided. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me”.
Author- Cheryl Horton