All Things

Paul’s letter to the church in Rome has an important message about how life works.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

—Romans 8:28

I’m not a good juggler. Are you? At the moment, I have so many possibilities in the air that some threaten to crash down, hitting me squarely on the head.  I’m juggling a maddening whirl of exciting opportunities. Work projects, looming writing deadlines, and a few self-imposed (should I say, self-inflicted?) prospects.

All the while, I’m comforted by Paul’s assertion about “all things.” Vision and reasoning point me to the opposite conclusion, but I see God’s Divine plan in my chaos.

Whenever I ask myself if it takes all this to get to success, I hear a sage voice which once said, no circumstances “are so great that they cannot be built into the very steps of the staircase by which souls mount up to heaven.” Sounds good. Lead me to the  staircase.

All things; that means everything is good. This heavenly math equation assures us that no evil has final power. God’s work in our lives results in only one possible outcome—what’s best for you. The only condition is your affection; as long as you love and trust, you come confidently to “all things.”

And so, if you are having one of those David vs. Goliath moments—facing giants and feeling over-matched by the sheer pressure of all you have to do, or if an unexpected circumstance has just caught you off-guard—remember this. He is moving you into your “all things” position and weaving every element together in your life.

Have you heard about autonomous drive? Nissan announced that, by 2020, they will pioneer the self-driven car. Working with global experts at top universities, the Nissan 360 program will introduce a car that steers, brakes and accelerates without any help from you.

God can do that right now. Get in the back seat; let Him drive. If you love Him, you’re in a splendid position.

The Help You Never See

When our enemies heard the work was complete and the surrounding nations saw our wall, their confidence crumbled. Only one possible conclusion could be drawn: it was not just our efforts that had done this thing.    God had been working alongside us.  —Nehemiah 6:16 (The Voice)

 Here’s one thing we assume about God’s Word: people who have a whole book named after them are usually pretty remarkable. Indeed, the story of Nehemiah is an example of why miracles and labor go together. The Book of Nehemiah illustrates The Power of Purpose.

You were born on earth to fulfill your purpose. I will not presume to know what your assignment is, but I can tell you this: just like Nehemiah’s, your mission is restoration. Whether that mission is to sing a song, write a book, preach a sermon, or save a city, you are in the restoration business. Your task inevitably involves renewal, repair, building and rebuilding that benefits someone else. Bottom line: you are to help others live their best life, in fellowship with God.

The important thing is this: when you are achieving your destiny, when you are in the right position and when you are doing the work you have been assigned to do, the wok of the Holy Spirit is present. In fact, the Holy Spirit is right there, working beside you. Incredible, isn’t it? The third Person of the Godhead, Himself providing the help you cannot see.

You also may not see the enemies who oppose you. “Enemies?” you ask. “Why would I have any enemies?” Great question. You will have enemies; know that and move forward. Nehemiah clearly saw those opposing him and the work.  But when those enemies observed Nehemiah’s success, they lost their confidence.

How do you know God is partnering with you on your assignment? Here are some indicators. God is there when:

  1. You apply yourself, without reservation to the work He has given and refuse to stoop to distractions or nonsense. Use Nehemiah as an example; his response to critics was: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.”
  2. You realize you must cling to God as your only support. Your close relationship with Him ensures a positive outcome.
  3. Great work is being done and results are the blessed and successful. When that happens, God’s support is undeniable.
  4. The plans of evil collaborators are clearly defeated in the end.
  5. You celebrate early—even before you see your work completed, because you know that the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)

 

Lord, Bless This Mess

“Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah … saying,Arise, go to Nineveh…” But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord,and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish.” 

—Jonah 1:1-3

 Here’s a confession. I hear but don’t always listen.

To hear is to use your auditory senses. When you hear, you do so with your ears. When you listen, you take it to the next level. What you hear becomes the center of attention. To listen is all about focus, concentration, and tuning in to the broadcast. The conversation gets clearer.

On the other hand, human frailty is something like this: even when God speaks, we sometimes don’t listen.  Thus, my recent Jonah moment. In the Old Testament narrative, God spoke clearly and Jonah went the opposite way.

I can sympathize with Jonah. I think I know how he felt.  In my own self-created “situation,” I was on the boat leaving Joppa, heading for Tarshish when I knew perfectly well I should be in Nineveh.

And, no, it wasn’t sheer disobedience. I never refused to do what God said. In fact, I pledged to do exactly what God instructed, just not right now. The conversation went something like this:  “OK, Lord, I heard You. But I’ll be right back. Just let me run over here for a second and do this first.” It was a small request, I hardly thought He would notice I was missing.

From that moment, I was leaning into a headwind—the kind of gust that sucks the air out of your lungs. Two choices were involved and I picked the option that I favored.  The result:  a mess.

Choosing to do what we want is always prideful, self-centered and disobedient. We learn quickly that we can’t run away from doing as God instructs, Jonah-style. Nor can we quietly saunter away, full of logical explanations, like me.  Whether you end up getting thrown overboard in a fierce typhoon or simply have your eyebrows knocked askew by a powerful gust of wind, God’s message is clear. Stop doing what you want to do.  The plan we choose can never be as effective or successful as the plan God chooses for us.

Listen and learn.

Living in everyday joy doesn’t make you immune to making regretful decisions. It does give you peace in every mess. You cultivate the ability to pray and ask God to send a taxi…or a whale…going in the right direction. God honors us when He graces us with a work that becomes a blessing to someone else.  In the end, just turn around and pray for deliverance whenever you feel that messy wind start to blow.