There are so many times when I’ve run head first into a problem. If there’s something to be fixed, something to do, some way I can make the world a better place, I am ready to jump, ready to go for it, and ready to see results. I love helping people, and I love setting big goals and accomplishing them. It’s in my nature to want to do “great things,” to leave behind a legacy bigger than myself, to help change the world in some lasting way. Sometimes I foolishly believe this can be done through my own efforts and ideas. If I just think hard enough, work hard enough, dream big enough, and strive toward those dreams, I will have made something truly remarkable to leave behind for future generations.
The problem I run into with this is that I am human. There are limitations to what I can do. For example, one of my dreams is to see southeast Kansas be revitalized through industry and innovation. However, I am an artist, a writer, musician, wordsmith. I am not an inventor, savvy business owner, or industry titan. I do not have the money and resources to bring about the vision I see for the area to which God has called my family to serve, and that is frustrating to me, because I have people I want to help in big ways right now! I feel like there is no time to waste, so I want to cry out to God, “Come on, God, move! Do you not see the need?” Of course He does. God has seen and felt the needs of the people of southeast Kansas long before Dave and I were ever drawn here; in fact, He has been preparing the way before us for many years. God is always at work in the world; we just have to be wise enough to pause and listen, so we know where and how to join Him, and we must learn the valuable skill of being patient for God’s timing.
While I love to be a go-getter, so very often when God calls us to follow Him on mission to the world, it requires a season of waiting. Mountains don’t typically move in a single day. Yes, God can and does work that way; however, I have learned that most of the time God orchestrates His plans through long seasons of stillness before He moves in mighty ways. The children of Israel waited for 400 years in slavery before God led them to freedom. David waited twenty-two years from the time he was annointed king of Israel before he finally saw that promise fulfilled. Abraham waited twenty-five years from the time God vowed to give him a son before Isaac was born. God also was silent for 400 years after the last words of the Old Testament were written before He spoke again through sending His Son, Jesus, to earth.
In our world of instant messaging, fast food, lightening speed access to all the information the world has to offer in the palm of our hand, the long-suffering required to wait for God to do what only He can do seems crazy! It’s difficult to be still because we want big results fast. We’re like kids hollering from the backseat of the minivan, “Are we there yet?” Yet even Jesus took His time. It is mind-boggling to think that Jesus lived for thirty years before He began His public ministry, when we hate having to wait for thirty minutes to be seated at a restaurant! Jesus understood something we fail to remember: God the Father is never late. He has a perfect time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8), and because He is beyond the limits of space, time, and dimensions, He is able to see in perfect detail the unfolding of His plan from beginning to end all at once.
I love what Mark Batterson writes in his book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day: “God wants you to get where God wants you to go more than you want to get where God wants you to go,” (pg. 34). Isn’t that a wonderful truth?! In our small-minded, weak-willed faith, we can so easily take our sight off the fact that we serve an infinite God with limitless power. When the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in us as believers (Romans 8:11) and calls us to follow Him, He is going to provide all we need to be successful (2 Peter 1:3). When we keep in step with the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:25), we don’t have to doubt whether or not God is going to help us carry out His will. We can trust that He is always with us, guiding our steps, preparing the way, and working in every detail, even when it seems like the wheels of the train of our lives have come to a screeching halt. God works powerfully in the stillness and waiting, teaching us to trust Him.
You see, God is in the business of accomplishing His will with impossible odds through ordinary people. If you are “following God” down a path toward success that you can carry out through the strength of your own talents and abilities, then it’s quite likely that you aren’t really following God. Doing what God calls you to do is never safe, because He tends to call us out on the edge where He must come through, or we’re going to fall. When God led His people out of slavery in Egypt, He purposefully brought them to the edge of the Red Sea, so when Pharaoh had second thoughts about letting them go and sent his army after his slaves, the Israelites would be trapped between a great sea and the greatest army in the world at that time. Listen to what Moses says to the people as they panic in the face of certain defeat, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still,” (Exodus 14:13-14). Sound familiar? “Be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10).
We have to remember that God is God, and we are not. We cannot do what only God can do. I cannot stop a storm, split a sea, pause the rotation of the earth, raise anyone from the dead, or heal a man born blind; only God can do these miracles. God is the only one in the saving business. He simply calls us to the obeying business. We are to obey Him by loving Him and loving others with all that we are and all that we have, meaning that there is nothing on earth that takes the place of God in our lives, and there is nothing we aren’t willing to sacrifice for the cause of showing the love of Jesus in real tangible ways to the people we encounter everyday.
When God called David and I to leave our home and embark on a new adventure in our church planting lives, we knew we could likely find a building in which to start a typical church with a weekly service, and we could be relatively successful. God gave both of us talents in the areas of speaking and leading, and He gave me the musical abilities to attract a crowd. However, who would get the glory in that case? Starting up an attractive service is easy. Transforming a community through sacrificial love is daunting, especially when most people’s lives, including our own, are so messy. In the book of Judges, when God called Gideon to lead His people into battle, He had Gideon shrink his already small army down to just 300 men. His reasoning? God basically told Gideon he had too many men and knew the Israelites would be tempted to think they had saved themselves by their own strength. God wanted it to be obvious that He had done the saving (Judges 7).
God has called our family to join Him in lifting forgotten communities and people out of darkness and hopelessness and into full, abundant life. To do this means we must take risks in our faith journey, risks like moving before selling our old home, risks like uprooting our kids from all they’ve ever known, risks like living further from Dave’s job, risks like giving up our comfortable church positions with all the ministry amenities we could ever want in order to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth for the sake of His Kingdom. It means we must sacrifice our idea of church the way we like it and be willing to think and live outside the box, to live on the fringes of ministry where most people think we are crazy. It’s also going to require patience and time, lots of time, investing in people, and waiting for God to move in ways only He can.
The end result will be worth it. It already has been…stay tuned for that story later.
“Defender” by Rita Springer…I love this song because it reminds me of the importance of being still and relying on God. I am not God, and I cannot do what only God can do. So often we strive to solve everything on our own and forget to be still and let God move. He has already gone before you. He has won the war. Let Him lead you to victory His way!
I filmed this song in the upstairs renovation area in our new home because it reminds me of the edge of chaos where God often leads our lives. Our family recently moved to begin church planting in rural communities. We are living crazy, messy lives as we renovate a giant home we see one day being a retreat for hurting souls. We don’t know what we’re doing, and we’re completely dependent upon God to come through. We know He will save us and those we’ve come to love so much better His way!