I recently watched an old episode of Oprah’s next chapter featuring Mega preacher T.D Jakes. Although it initially aired in 2012, I only got around to seeing it this past week. As a Christian, I have always known about T.D Jakes, the famous man of God, mega preacher, author and inspirational orator. I have always listened to his inspirational sermons of hope and grace, which has touched my life in untold ways. But I never knew about the man himself, the man behind it all.
T. D Jakes, was born into a life of poverty and dug ditches (pits) for a living but he always loved God. He hoped to be a preacher one day but because of his distinct lisp (a speech impediment), he was told by many that his dream would never come true. When he started his ministry (church) vision, he had only 10 members, but eventually the size of his fellowship grew to 100 then 300. Now, his church—the potters house which is located in the outskirts of Dallas, Texas is a huge auditorium that seats over 7000 people. His congregation attracts people from all walks of life, from the super rich, to the homeless. It is a non-denominational church that is home to people of all races and ethnicity. Jakes has authored numerous books, including the famous—“woman thou art loosed” and has even produced a number of Hollywood movies including “Not easily broken” and “Jumping the broom”. He has served as a spiritual adviser to three US presidents—Bill Clinton, George. W. Bush and Barack Obama. For his work he has received international recognition and obtained countless accolades, and has also appeared on the pages of Forbes and Time Magazine.
Even with these great heights, T D Jakes has faced some tremendous challenges in his private life. In 1981, he married his wife Serita Ann, but 6 months into their marriage, they had a terrible car accident which left his wife unable to walk. Doctors were not sure if Serita would ever walk again. During this time, Jakes was her primary care-giver, he cooked for her, washed her hair and even taught her how to walk again. He urged her on and gave her the hope that she needed that she would indeed walk again, and she did make a full recovery. During the early years of their marriage, they struggled financially and his family often slept in church pews and even lived on welfare, but Jakes dream of touching lives remained alive in his heart. As the interview progressed I found I was quite intrigued by his charisma and humility, given his many accomplishments. This led me to do some of my own independent reading on this prolific man of God.
As a pastor who bases his teachings on biblical principles, Jakes has never shied away from expressing his stance on sexual abstinence before marriage. But in 2003, his stance on premarital sex was tested when his youngest daughter—Sarah, fell pregnant at just 14. This sort of news is hard for any parent to receive, much more a mega pastor who is renowned for preaching against premarital sex. I can only imagine what he went through at this point in his private life. For his proponents he may have felt that he had failed them, and for his detractors, he may have felt that he has provided them with arsenal to attack his credibility as a Christian preacher. In an interview with Dr. Phil, his daughter Sarah said that she had left her father (who speaks for a living) speechless with the news of her pregnancy. She also said that even though one’s father may be a famous preacher who speaks on sexual abstinence, this does not guarantee that his children will listen or follow the laid out Christian guidelines.
In 2008 Sarah married NFL liner Robert Henson but the marriage broke down after four years. This was another difficult time for T D Jakes and his family. Because it seemed like just as God was restoring his family, the devil seemed to attack again. But through this experience Sarah (and by extension, the Jakes family) has enriched woman across the world by publicly sharing her story and releasing a book called—“Lost and Found”. In 2014, Sarah remarried a senior pastor—Touré Roberts, who pastors One Church International in Hollywood, California.
Jakes older daughter Cora, has also been public with her own personal struggle. She has publicly dealt with infertility, due to a condition known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). She was first diagnosed with the condition in 2011 and diagnosed with infertility a year later. This was a blow to her belief. But through it all, Cora and her husband Richard Brandon Coleman have remained diligent, refusing to give up hope. In the past, she attempted IVF twice but both times it failed. Given her failed attempts at IVF, Cora said “I have decided to rest. I have decided to surrender, and instead of hoping God’s will matches with my desire I have asked that my desire match up with God’s will.”
T. D Jakes has risen to tremendous heights and garnered immense success, but he has also experienced great obstacles in his private life (many we may never even know), which would have caused many to give up on their dream or walk away from their faith and calling. While a lot people may see the outside trappings of wealth and fame, Jakes is most accomplished in the lives and hearts of people across the world, whom he continually touches through his messages of hope, grace and God’s unconditional love. As the interview drew to a close, Oprah asked him about his Christian faith and he shared a phrase he had heard from his sister. He said, “Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found the bread”. What a profound summation of the Christian faith! I had never seen it that way before. By the end of the interview, I saw T.D Jakes in a new light, I now saw him not just as a man of God, but I saw him for who he truly is—a man called to serve.
After the interview, I found myself thinking about the many challenges that many great people in the world have faced. The more I thought about it, the more it dawned on me that when you are called to do something great in life, the enemy will throw curve balls your way to steer you away from you destiny. These curve balls come in all forms and may even come in the form of family and friends. But through it all stay true to your calling and keep faith and hope alive. I have always felt that in life we go through certain challenges to teach us, to change us or to be a testimony for others. I once heard a woman say when we pray, God gives us one of three answers; (1) Yes (2) Not yet (3) I have something better. I found this so refreshing that God never says no to us, but instead asks us to hold on because he has something even better for us. So whatever your dream or hope for the future is, hold on, despite the detours or curve-balls, hold steadfast and in due time, you will reap the rewards.