Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sent But Not Yet Received

12 “Don’t be afraid, Daniel,” he said to me, “for from the first day that you purposed to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your prayers were heard. I have come because of your prayers. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for 21 days. Daniel 10:12-13

This is an interesting verse, even for a prophecy passage. The context is that Daniel is seeking to understand a revelation he received. He fasted and prayed for three weeks trying to understand the revelation, after such time an angel appeared to him in a vision and spoke these words to him. The messenger goes on to say that he could not defeat the opposition on his own; he was detained until Michael the arch-angel showed up to provide backup. It's crazy to think about spiritual battles getting in the way of timely delivery of prayer answers.

Even so, I don't want to speculate about angels and spiritual warfare and the like. It's best not to try to read too much into such an obscure passage. I have heard some make the claim in a message on being persistent in prayer that had Daniel stopped praying on day 20, he would not have received his answer. That's a big leap from what the passage actually says, especially considering the angel said he was dispatched with an answer on day one. However, there is an interesting parallel here with a recent event in my life.

As I wrote in my last post, God told us we were moving, just not where. Well, three weeks after that post, He provided the answer, and nearly a month after that, I am writing this post from a completely different state having started a brand new job. During the time before the move, as I was coordinating things with my new team lead, I found out that though I was not offered the job by HR until December 29th, he had wanted them to tell me before Christmas. I spent the last half of Christmas week in a bit of a funk because I hadn't heard anything yet, only to find out later that my offer had been "sent but not yet received" more than a week earlier!

Again, I won't speculate on whether or not Daniel's three weeks of fasting was unnecessary, but here's the parallel I see: Daniel was making himself miserable and weak (if you've ever fasted for more than a day, you know what I mean) for days and days after his answer was already on its way. In the same way, I was making myself miserable emotionally for more than a week not knowing that I had already been chosen for my new job. But whereas Daniel's self-imposed affliction was in pursuit of understanding a God-given message, mine was nothing more than an expression of doubt and fear.

Even for those of us with the spiritual gift of faith, understanding and trusting a promise from God that is not black and white in scripture can be difficult. In hindsight, it is so very clear what God was doing, but in the midst of things, doubt can set in. Is He really leading me there? Did I really understand Him correctly? Looking back, while I don't know about Daniel's suffering, mine was certainly unnecessary.

I have no great insight to share, but I have learned that no matter how much faith you have, there's always room for more. And just like so many other characteristics of Christ-likeness, growing takes pain. You can't grow in self-control without temptation. You can't grow in patience without external frustrations. And you can't grow in faith without those situations that leave you no other choice but to hold on to God with all that is in you. Just remember that while you wait for God to come through in those situations, how you wait is just as important as how long you wait.

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, 
and all these things will be provided for you. 
34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. 
Each day has enough trouble of its own. 
Matthew 6:33-34

Sunday, December 7, 2014

To the Land I Will Show You

The Lord said to Abram:
Go out from your land,
your relatives,
and your father’s house
to the land that I will show you.
Genesis 12:1

My wife and I are at an interesting crossroads. God has shown us recently that He wants us to move from where we are, as in leave the area. The thing is, He hasn't told us where we are going yet. This is not entirely unfamiliar territory. Six years ago, right around this time of year, God made it abundantly clear that I was to leave a job I had been at for less than a year. After applying to 80 different positions, a recruiter contacted me for a job I wasn't even looking for. We ended up moving 500 miles from "home", away from all that had been familiar for nearly 14 years.

This time is a little different. The skills I have in the field I want to work are in high demand right now. I literally could have my pick of any job I could want right now, so long as I am willing to go where the job is. Knowing that, my wife and I had decided on a few key areas that we wanted to look in, and I was turning down many requests from recruiters to consider positions outside of our ideal locations. That all changed for me this morning.

As I described my situation to a friend of mine at church, he likened my story to that of Abram as God called him out of his homeland to go where He would lead him. And like me, Abram didn't know where he was going either. But unlike my situation, God told Abram to move, and he got up and went. His every step was literally directed by God until he settled in the place God had for him. There was no bargaining with God, no "I will go but not there" kinds of conversations. Verses 1-3 of Genesis 12 has the command from God to go, and verse 4 says "So Abram went, as the Lord had told him." 

The weight of this was tremendous as I read these words this morning. In an attitude so subtle that I just simply did not see it, I had told God, "I will go as you lead, just so long as it is to a place that will be in my comfort zone." But over and over again He kept repeating His words to Abram in my mind: "Go out from your land ... the the land that *I* will show you."

I was convicted to the point of tears, and I asked God for forgiveness for my unwillingness to completely surrender to His leading. And as God often does to drive a point home, the last song in the church service today, which I heard after this revelation from Him, was "I Will Follow" by Chris Tomlin:

Where you go, I'll go
Where you stay, I'll stay
When you move, I'll move
I will follow you

Whom you love, I'll love
How you serve, I'll serve
If this life I lose, I will follow you
I will follow you

As Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, "If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me." As followers of Jesus Christ, we don't have the luxury nor the right to say to Him, "I will go where You lead me, so long as it is not there." Rather, we must have the attitude that whatever we want for ourselves is completely secondary and subservient to the will of our Father in heaven. Being right in the middle of where God wants you is always the best place to be, even if you can't see that from where you are right now.

What that means for me and my job situation is two fold: One, I don't intend to apply for any other jobs from here on out unless they first invite me to apply. Two, I won't discount any invitation to consider a job simply because of where it is located. God led me and my family to where I am now through a recruiter that invited me to apply for a job I didn't know was there. I expect that He will make our path clear this time around through similar means. 

In the meantime, we are preparing to leave. We don't know when, and we don't know where, but when He says, "Go there", I want to be ready to say, "Yes, Lord." As my friend from church reminded me this morning, it's not about the job; it's about what God intends to do in me and through me where He leads me.

But I count my life of no value to myself,
so that I may finish my course and the ministry
I received from the Lord Jesus,
to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.
Acts 20:24