Monday, January 21, 2008
A real man waits on the Lord
I had a good long talk with Brad Liebe the other day. Our conversation, in addition to other things I will mention later, led me to a very important conclusion for myself. Don't make any major decision without a clear word from God.
Now this may sound obvious to any follower of Christ who believes the Bible to be a reliable source of truth, but it is much harder to do than to say. We have all found ourselves in frustrating places in life filled with difficulty. All we can think about his how to get out of it. Or maybe the place we're at isn't so bad, but there is a "better" place we would like to be or a "better" activity or task we would like to be doing.
It is during this time that it can be a great temptation to say, " I feel led to go elsewhere or to do something new." You may even spiritualize it by saying you feel led by God. But knowing God has told you to do or go is completely different than feeling it. Frustration, discouragement, or difficulty are never dependable signs for discerning God's plan. Natural law will tell you that the right thing will usually be the most difficult. Though it can seem trite to hear or to even say in the midst of the valley, it is true that refinement only happens in the crucible, things grow in the valley and not on the mountain top, and the most productive vine is the one that is pruned regularly. Life is hard enough already. We don't need to make it any harder by venturing out on our own to live alone with the consequences of our decisions that we came by as the sole result of our limited knowledge and understanding.
I myself, over the last year, have sought my Father for direction in specific choices I have had to make. In my case, God usually answers with one of three responses; yes, no, or with silence. That last response is the difficult one. I have been led to believe that maybe God's silence is his way of saying, "this one is up to you". That is wrong! Silence is just that, silence, and if your boss tells you to do something, keep doing it till he says stop or do something else. If God is silent, stay put and stay busy.
Now I do believe there are choices everyday we can make without direct words from God since his written Word has already spoken very clearly on these issues. For instance, the Bible is very clear about loving others and ourselves. The Bible also gives very clear direction on the many financial decision we have to make everyday. Being generous, hard working, and avoiding debt are some of these guiding principles. But what about when there are long term commitments and choices to be made in the face of multiple righteous options?
Dan Betzer faced such a choice in December of 1986. At the time, Betzer was doing what could be described as his "dream job". Pastor Betzer has always spoken openly of his love for broadcasting and the news business. And in 1977 he was given the opportunity to combine this with his other passion, the ministry, when he was asked by the Assemblies of God in Springfield to run the revival time radio ministry (http://www.revivaltime.ag.org/revivaltime/Betzer.htm)
In addition he became the host of the show a at the retirement of C.M. Ward the following year.
So why would he leave this secure and fulfilling position preaching the Gospel around the world to uproot his family and move to Ft. Myers Florida? It must have been a great situation to come into right? I don't know all the details but First Assembly had just come through a difficulty time. The senior pastor had resigned for moral reasons and after that almost half the church left to start a new church across town. Oh yeah, and the church which had shrunk to around 800 people had a debt of about 3.5 million dollars I believe. In today's dollars that would be equal to over $20,000 per family in the church. And that's a conservative estimate. This what Pastor Betzer faced by choosing to pastor at First Assembly. So you can see why he wrestled so with the decision to come. For surely it would not be easy.
And his knowledge was so limited. From his perspective in 1986 he could not see the victories that would lye ahead. He could not see a church of 5,000 with even more ministry tools and buildings and with $0 debt. He could not see the 1,000+ churches that would be planted and the millions of dollars that would be given to missionaries and missions projects around the world. He couldn't see me, Jonathan Hart. I came to this church in 1988 at the age of eleven and it is because of this church that I have grown up around a culture where Pastor Betzer has taught us to dream big and to view the world as a global harvest field full of opportunity. Pastor Betzer could not see the countless lives that would be changed. And that is precisely why he spent that whole night in December 1986 praying and asking God for a clear word instructing him on what he should do.
I want to be a man like this. I want to look back on my life like Brad Liebe can and Dan Betzer can and say, "God told me to. I obeyed, and look at what my God has done!"