I am still focusing on those times when we get it wrong. We can get it wrong by having the wrong attitude as I shared last week. Allowing pride or other harmful attitudes to creep in can lead to God having to discipline us as I realized with the matter of God dealing with my pride during the leading at Matamata College that I shared in the previous Nugget. God wants to actively be involved in leading us. But His leading does not only involve the end point that we desire; His leading involves our total being. In other words, not just the things we want answers for regarding the things for which we have prayed. He is also concerned about us, who we are and what we are becoming. So when pride creeps in along with other harmful attitudes He will deal with them while He leads us. My pride can pop its ugly head up in a moment. There have been numbers of times where that has happened which I have shared before in the Gems and Nuggets. Unfortunately it’s a human trait which keeps raising its ugly head.
Another issue we need to be careful of is to ensure we have understood God’s response, leading or word to our heart or in response to answers to prayer in the right context. Too often we are prone to assuming things about the answers God gives to us. We might be praying for a certain thing:- healing, provision of finances to meet a specific need we have or maybe the need itself. When we are focused on a certain answer to prayer we can become myopic and see things only in the context of that for which we have been praying. Be careful. Remember that God stands outside of time and is not tied to your context or perspective which has motivated your prayer. When we have been praying for something for a long time that is often all we see and the main point of our focus. Often God answers in specific ways yet we can only see it in terms of the perspective we have been praying. But just stop and think about it. God’s answer may apply to a different time setting or to a different context.
Like I usually do I will share an example. I have always found when we share an example from our everyday lives, the principle or the theory becomes clearer. Here is another of our stories, this time told by Tania.
When we were living in rural villages in Indonesia, we usually stayed with the Village Chief (Kepala Desa) and his family. In the village of Bonelemo where we had decided to make our base to work in the southern region of the language group, we really wanted to get a house of our own so we could function better. There were two possibilities – one that had concrete foundations laid and the start of walls but it had been left like that for a long time. The other was a dilapidated house on stilts which had gaping holes in the floor and roof. I had taken all the measurements for that house and back in the city was trying to work out a floor plan for it. Neither of these houses had a working well and so we would have to had one dug to provide a water resource. I had graph paper and had been puzzling over it for some time and asking the Lord how to make this workable. All of a sudden I heard God’s voice very clearly. He said, “This is not the house for you. There is a house which needs no work, and it has a functioning well already.” I thought to myself, this is not my thinking and it is so clear; the opposite of what I had thought. This was definitely God speaking to me. I had no doubt whatsoever.
We continued living with the Village Chief and his family each time we went to the village. There was only one house in the village that met the criteria of what God had spoken to me. I tried to work out how that house was going to become ours. But nothing was happening. The man who owned it worked as a crewman on ships and had used the money he earned to build a very nice, though rather strange house in the village. I wondered, “God, how are you going to sort this out?” Others told me that I had mis-heard God and got it wrong but I was so certain it was God who spoke to me, and if I’d got that wrong, everything about my faith was wrong. God had spoken so clearly to me and I had no doubt at all.
It wasn’t many months after that when all of our teams lost their work permits to be out in villages. We all had to stay in the city while a new contract with the government was worked out to provide new visas for our work. During that time we had to move house in the city as our contract was up and the owners wanted to move back in. We found a fantastic house that was in our budget and moved in. But I had come to a real faith-crisis. God’s faithfulness was the most important and significant attribute of God for me. And He hadn’t answered or fulfilled what He had said.
It was a long time later during which I was struggling with the fact that God hadn’t provided us with a house in the village that I realised He had indeed answered perfectly. He knew we had to leave the village and wouldn’t need a house in the village. He knew our contract was almost finished and we needed another house in the city but that our budget was restricted. He supplied us with a great house for the years ahead. And yes, it had a great functioning well with an ample supply of clear, clean water which didn’t run out in dry season. I had assumed the house God had in mind was for “now” and in the village. But God’s house for us was for a time in the near future and back in the city. Indeed, if a house had been built or renovated for us in the village we would have lost all the money we put into it as a result of future developments we could not have foreseen.
What I learned from this experience was that God can speak to us and we indeed can have heard clearly, but we put our own expectations on what God has promised. That can lead us astray and cause us not to trust Him. We need to allow God to work out the circumstances and do whatever He tells us along the way. He is faithful and trustworthy. We can trust Him as He leads us. But we need to surrender our own expectations to Him and let Him work things out according to what He knows about our need. After all, He knows far more than we will ever know and exactly what it is we need.
Next Nugget I (Ian) will deal with macro-scale situations which don’t go according to plan in line with God’s promises. How do we handle those times?