13 December 2017

Rejoice Interview with Valerie Murphy

In anticipation of the Focusfest 2012 conference, Rejoice Always team are delighted to interview Valerie Murphy, the main speaker at this year’s conference.

Valerie, tell us a little about your life journey thus far, including your spiritual journey.

There is no point in my life that I can look back on when I did not know that Jesus died for me. Throughout my childhood, going to church was a part of the normal rhythm of life and at the age of 10 I was led to faith in Christ by my dad. During school years and nurses’ training I was actively involved in Scripture Union, youth missions, summer teams – passionate about following God with my whole life.

I was married in 1981 and within five years three of our four children had been born. The busyness of being a wife, mother and part-time nurse sapped all my resources and I floundered to have any sort of consistent relationship with God. Guilt was the order of the day!

Through a crisis in the life of a close friend God brought me to a crossroads of faith – either become intentional about seeking God or walk away. I just knew that something had to change. And it did.

That event was a turning point in my life.

There were, I think, three key things that really helped me on my journey to a deeper walk with God.

The first one was actually making the decision to seek God with my whole heart – to become intentional in my walk with Him. This was borne out of a deep discontentment and a longing for the abundant life Jesus promised.

The second thing was the people God brought into my life to walk with me – to teach me both by their word and their lifestyle and to encourage me to get involved in things and do things I never imagined I could do.

The third most significant thing was learning to study the Bible for myself. Through the ministry of Anne Graham Lotz and then being introduced to Precept, I discovered tools that allowed me to engage directly with God’s Word for myself and hear God speak into my life. That changed everything.

Is there anything of particular significance that you want to share with our readers from your personal life or faith journey?

There is one verse in the Bible that challenges me. Matthew 7:14 says, “The gate is small and the way is narrow and there are few who find it.” I believe that if we are serious about pursuing God there will be a cost involved. In fact it will cost us everything. All of our life becomes the possession of God for Him to do as He chooses. And He often does not explain Himself. He bought us at a great price so we can trust His heart when we cannot understand His ways.

Another challenge is to embrace truth in our emotions as well as our intellect. I have known all my life that God loves me but it is only recently that I am starting to live in my relationship with Him as a loved person with nothing to prove or earn.

I have also had a fear in my life of the Holy Spirit. Jim Cymbala in one of his books describes churches as either graveyards, where the Holy Spirit is restricted to certain defined roles, or lunatic asylums, where there is chaos and a lack of any order or discipline. Realising that the only life I can have is through God’s Holy Spirit and understanding His presence in my life, is an ongoing journey but one I am learning to relax more and more with. He is God within me – counselling the thoughts and concerns of my heart. What a gift.

What is your greatest passion as a Christian?

My greatest passion is to see the Word of God released into the hearts and lives of people and church communities. It is the very living breath of our Creator and Father and there is life and power in it. I feel it is tragic to see just how many people who are regular church-goers and yet they never engage with God on a personal level and have settled for a form of Christianity that is boring, legalistic and leads to guilt and a sense of failure. We are losing a whole generation of young people because in many cases we have settled for so little and it is no longer an answer to the questions and challenges they are facing in the real world. Jesus promised us abundant life yet so many times we have to ask the question, “Where is it?” I know – because that was me. I have so much more to learn and so much deeper to go but I am so grateful to God that He met me in my frustration and led me into the rich pastures of His Word. I long to see others do the same.

You now work full-time with Precept Ministries NI. Tell us something about what Precept Ministries does?

Precept exists for the sole purpose of establishing people in the Word of God. We equip people with simple inductive study skills so they can discover the truth for themselves and provide Bible study resources for various levels of study, both personal and corporate.

Our goal is to support the church by providing resources and training in Bible study skills and leading small groups. We will go anywhere there is a hunger to study the Bible. Bible study is vital for our growth as Christians and yet something many find very difficult. What advice can you give to help us study the Bible?

I believe we need to start by being convinced that the Bible is God’s living Word and that He wants to speak to us. He has given us His Holy Spirit within when we trust in Jesus and this same Holy Spirit is the One who moved the authors to write this book. He is our resident teacher. So pray asking God to teach you by His Spirit. I also think it is important that we come prepared to listen and be obedient to what we hear and discover, allowing God’s word to have authority in our lives.

Start with the gospel stories. They reveal Jesus to us – and He reveals God. Read the story, focus on the characters and note all you are told about them. Slow down! Notice the detail and allow God to speak to you through their lives and experiences.

We are delighted that you are the main speaker at the Focusfest conference this year. Is there a particular message you would like the ladies who attend to take away with them?

I think the main message I can bring to Focusfest is that God can use very ordinary people. I attended the very first Focusfest and was very much at the start of this new journey with God. Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think that one day I would be speaking at the event. I still have an attack of panic when I think about it. But God is amazing, and can do much more than we ask, think or even imagine. He can do that for anyone who sets their hearts to seek Him. I am nothing special. God has no favourite children. He has created each one with purpose in mind and we can live in the fullness of that as we offer ourselves freely to Him. We will become the women God designed us to be – however that looks.

Valerie Murphy is National Director of Precept Ministries NI. She devotes her time to teaching Precept classes, leading workshops and speaking at conferences particularly in the UK and Ireland.