Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Surprised by God, Part Four


This article continues the series entitled Surprised by God, Part One, Surprised by God, Part Two, and Surprised by God, Part Three.


Paul and his companions experienced their share of setbacks and surprises.

L. B. Cowman, in her classic devotional Streams in the Desert, wrote, 

Whenever you are in doubt as to which way to turn, submit your judgement absolutely to the Spirit of God, asking Him to shut every door but the right one. Say to Him, "Blessed Spirit, I give to You the entire responsibility of closing every road and stopping every step that is not of God. Let me hear Your voice behind me whenever I ‘turn aside to the right or the left’ (Deut 5:32)
 
In the meantime, continue along the path you have already been traveling. Persist in your calling until you are clearly told to do something else. O traveler, the Spirit of Jesus is waiting to be to you what He was to Paul. Just be careful to obey even His smallest nudging or warning. Then after you have prayed the prayer of faith and there are no apparent hindrances, go forward with a confident heart. Do not be surprised if your answer comes in doors closing before you….”
 
Those setbacks and surprises of the Lord come in numerous forms:

* Sudden reversals in resources or health

A lack of hoped-for opportunities

* The death of a family member, friend, or colleague

* The withdrawal or closing of a previous open friendship

* Resistance from people and organizations

* Or, unexpected blessings that provide opportunities that previously appeared closed

Whatever the form they take, sudden closed doors or new open ones leave us scratching our heads.  We think, "This is not what we expected." 

Wayne Stiles shares his perspective on closed doors in his book Waiting on God: What to do when God does nothing:


Sometimes the dreams and goals you have for life are good goals, even godly goals - but just not God's goals.  Your expectations of life are just that - yours.  God has his own set of plans, and he reveals them one step at a time.

God may lead you in one direction simply to take you in another.  He may give you a vision . . . only so that he can sanctify you by his grace in experiencing a slammed door.  Slammed doors do more than bend your nose; they keep your heart pliable, sensitive, and available to God's leading.  Not only does he keep secret the difficult valleys you'll experience (and many of the mountaintops) but also the tremendous lessons you'll glean no other way.  Lessons you didn't know you needed to learn.  Lessons you'll thank him for one day.

You may fail to recognize God using you significantly because you define God "using you" in terms of what you consider significant: results.  But God often defines results in terms of character.    


 Lessons learned from two godly examples

The examples of Joseph and Paul show us several truths about following the Lord.


1.  Following the Lord includes thinking, planning, and stepping out.  Pray for wisdom, use your brain, and exercise creativity.   You will grow along the way as you do.


2.  Sometimes God allows us to exhaust our options before giving His direction.  Joseph’s direction came after he had considered these things.


3.  Many times the Lord has purposes of which we are not immediately aware.  He may have another route you and I have not yet considered.


4.   God’s plans require that we relinquish ours.  Patterson told the Board, “Throw away your list.”  Trust God.  His ways are higher and always better (Isaiah 55:8-9).


5.  God’s guidance will accompany an atmosphere of prayer, a life soaked in the Word of God, and a sensitivity to the quickening of the Spirit of God.  It is always easier to guide a moving object than a stationary one.  As you keep your life steeped in the things of God, guidance comes.


Jerry Bridges shares in his devotional 31 DaysToward Trusting God that much of Christian thought the past several decades has emphasized either our discovering the will of God or our making wise decisions.  That spotlight tends to focus on the individual doing the right things in order to get divine revelation or making the right choices using our reason and logic.

Instead, Bridges says, the Bible emphasizes that God guides His people.  The focus is on the Shepherd.  He knows His sheep by name.  And He will guide them as they look to Him.


The Lord promises us in John 10:27, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."

Let us keep our eyes on Him, trusting the Shepherd to be our guide amidst all of the challenges, turns, and surprises in life.

 Guide us, O Thou great Jehovah.

  
 

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