God Prepares the Heart to Answer His Call
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
I gave a speech at a church in Indianapolis where they requested one of my speeches titled, “You Want Me to Do What?! God’s Call and Your Response.”
I had not given that speech in several years, so it brought back many memories. It’s my story of when God called me 11 years ago to leave a teaching job I loved, to go into full-time Christian writing, speaking, and teaching.
When I first felt the call, I was in a total panic. I called my pastor in tears and said, “I think God wants me to leave my job! I don’t want to do that! I love my job!”
She calmed me with these words: “If you have no desire to leave your job right now, then I don’t think God is calling you to do that YET.”
I must be pretty slow on the uptake because that little word tacked on at the end of her sentence, YET, didn’t register. The dictionary definition of that three-letter word is: “at a future time.”
I pretended for months that I didn’t understand what that meant. After all, I told myself, I was certain God had called me to the teaching job I loved. (I’m still certain of that.) But slowly over the next nine months, an amazing thing happened. God changed my heart. It was like the nine-month gestation period preparing a baby to be born. Eleven years ago I was literally an infant in Christ, not YET spiritually ready for such a drastic life change. But God graciously provided an incubation period to prepare me.
God showed me the perfect Bible passage to express this idea. The Apostle Paul addressed the church at Corinth with these words:
“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.” 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 (NIV)
There’s that little word again: YET. Paul was saying the church members at Corinth were still too attached to the world and not mature enough in their faith. Therefore, they needed to be fed like infants. They were not YET ready for solid food, but with the implied promise that they would be ready at a future time.
I still cried when I wrote my resignation letter. I grieved at leaving something I loved, but at the same time, I experienced great joy. God changed my heart until I wanted what He wanted more than anything else in the world. Finally, I was ready to take solid food instead of infants’ milk.
His plan was for me to go in a new, different and exciting direction. In that process, I discovered something wonderful: God’s call on your life can change. After all, Scripture promises:
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)
God’s Will: So Simple It’s Hard
by Shawn McEvoy, crosswalk.com
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“God’s will for my life”… how often have you pondered that notion? Studied it? Read untold books about it? Know people who torture themselves trying to locate it?
Well, here we have an obvious chunk of it, even compact and useful just as we like things to be, tucked away at the close of Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica. “This is God’s will for you…,” it says.
Well, yes, it says that, and it sure is pretty – almost poetic – but is it deep enough? Shouldn’t there be more? Is it practical?
Okay. Then let’s go Old Testament. Prophetic. Action-oriented. Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
It’s still simple, still bunched in a group of three, still indicating that there’s no big mystery way far out there which must be solved before we know how to act or decide, or how God wants us to act or decide.
So why do we seek for more?
I think it’s because the ridiculously simple, paradoxically enough, is ridiculously hard, and we know it. G.K. Chesterton famously said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”
We could spend a lot of time discussing the ins-and-outs of how easy or hard God’s will is, and where else in His Word we can find snippets of it. One woman from my Bible fellowship class is fond of asking during our lessons, “What does that look like?” Let’s ponder on that for a minute here.
The situation is this: you’ve been sent on a missionary journey via a clear calling from God. The resources were there, the people willing. You are leading your group through a city when you encounter a psychic who keeps taunting you. After a while, through calling on the name of Jesus you cast out the evil spirit within her. Hooray! Score one for the Lord, and your group! But alas, there is no praise here, because those who had been making some cash off the now-set-free woman’s powers aren’t happy with you. They drag your group before local law enforcement, have you beaten, and thrown into prison. Hey now!
At this point, I am saying, “God, this is NOT your will. YOU made it very clear we were to come on this trip, and we even did a miracle for you! Now we’re injured, in jail… I don’t even know how I’m going to get home much less continue to be effective for you from here! I want a telephone, I want a lawyer, and I want you to reveal your ACTUAL will, right now, and suffer no more discomfort while doing what you sent us to do!”
And with that, my missionary journey would come to a close. But not the Apostle Paul’s, not as we have it recorded in Acts 16:16-40 which is one of my all-time favorite passages. Paul, who knew God’s will better than I, and practiced it, knew to “rejoice always.” And so, bloodied and with his feet in stocks, he sings. Seriously, he sings hymns of praise. He also knew to “pray without ceasing,” and so, in verse 25, that’s exactly what you find – Paul and Silas praying… at midnight, even.
The missionaries on this journey got out of God’s way by doing the simple things that God had willed for them to do, so that God was free to let fly with His own big, complex, miraculous will for everyone else. An earthquake shakes open the prison, snapping chains in the process. Prisoners, however, stay where they are. A jailer, about to kill himself, holds his sword, and moments later accepts Jesus into his heart. Then his family joins the flock, all because those he had persecuted chose to “love kindness.”
At every step of the journey, Paul, Silas, and their companions chose to walk humbly, give thanks, and do what was just (speaking of which, once officially released, Paul did have some words of justice regarding their citizenship and treatment for the magistrates).
It’s absolutely amazing to me the ways that God plans to accomplish His Will (big “W”) on earth. His will in my life has already been decided. It is my job to walk humbly, get out of the way, always be in prayer, always rejoicing no matter what situation I’m in. But how often do we come back to the same situation, sitting in my car, simple traffic jam, me needing to be somewhere, telling God, “Did you not ordain that I should do such and such today? Or get this amount of work done so I can spend this amount of time with my family? Then this is on you unless you make such-and-such happen now!”
Sigh… how many miracles have I missed?\Patience in Prayer – Streams in the Desert – February 21
Streams In The Desert
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him (Psalms 37:7).
Have you prayed and prayed and waited and waited, and still there is no manifestation? Are you tired of seeing nothing move? Are you just at the point of giving it all up? Perhaps you have not waited in the right way? This would take you out of the right place the place where He can meet you.
“With patience wait” (Rom. 8:25). Patience takes away worry. He said He would come, and His promise is equal to His presence. Patience takes away your weeping. Why feel sad and despondent? He knows your need better than you do, and His purpose in waiting is to bring more glory out of it all. Patience takes away self-works. The work He desires is that you “believe” (John 6:29), and when you believe, you may then know that all is well. Patience takes away all want. Your desire for the thing you wish is perhaps stronger than your desire for the will of God to be fulfilled in its arrival.
Patience takes away all weakening. Instead of having the delaying time, a time of letting go, know that God is getting a larger supply ready and must get you ready too. Patience takes away all wobbling. “Make me stand upon my standing” (Daniel 8:18, margin). God’s foundations are steady; and when His patience is within, we are steady while we wait. Patience gives worship. A praiseful patience sometimes “long-suffering with joyfulness” (Col. 1:11) is the best part of it all. “Let (all these phases of) patience have her perfect work” (James 1:4), while you wait, and you will find great enrichment.
–C. H. P.
“Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” – Psalm 62:8 NASB
Throughout his life, David developed relationships with various people whom he trusted. Sadly, there were times when these trusted people let him down. Some failed to keep their promises. Some betrayed him for personal gain. Some simply forgot their commitments.
But through every circumstance, he realized that God always was faithful. He wrote, “My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him” (v. 5). God provided stability and a sure foundation: “He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken” (v. 6). He was his “refuge” and “the rock of [his] strength” (v. 7).
The Bible reminds us that we can trust God no matter what others do or say! It can be beneficial to confide in friends or family members, but it is most important to pour out our hearts before God.
This involves spending time with Him, confident in our relationship. It means being willing to share every detail of our needs – every thought, every feeling, every concern. Part of that process involves waiting before Him. David commanded his soul to “wait in silence for God only” (v. 5).
Pour out your heart to God. Release every concern to Him. Tell Him every detail of your needs. Receive His peace. Make Him your rock, your salvation, your stronghold. He is waiting, ready to hear from You. You can trust Him.