Do you ever read the Bible and think, what if?
What if Peter hadn’t denied Jesus three times?
What if Paul hadn’t stood his ground so firmly for a grace only salvation message for the Gentiles?
What if Abraham didn’t take Hagar into his bed? What if he didn’t have Ishmael as a son?
There is another story in 1 Samuel 13 that I think “what if”? The battle lines were drawn with the Philistines. Their army was mammoth and the Israelite army was starting to quake in their sandals. Saul was supposed to wait for Samuel to offer sacrifices to God and seek Him. Instead of waiting, Saul became anxious and offered the sacrifice himself.
This is Samuel’s response to Saul in 1 Samuel 13:13-14:
“You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”
What if Saul didn’t lose his cool? What if he didn’t become impatient or make a sacrifice to God before Samuel could show up? What if he waited as he was supposed to? How different would his life look?
The last question is the one that always gets me. As I read that passage I use it as a filter through which I view my life. In my blogs I’ve been pretty honest about some of the highs and lows I’ve had in life and ministry. I can laugh at a lot of the dumb things I’ve done and rejoice that many of the lows have served as growth points for me.
Of all the tough things I’ve been through, none were as difficult as the season where a church I was serving at merged with another church. It was truly a very difficult season. Many times I prayed for an opportunity to open up at a different church so I could run away. It was too hard. And as my friends and fellow pastors were led to different opportunities, I remained.
I should probably backup to say, through some of the other lows I had gone through earlier in life, God has taught me the lesson of waiting. Wait…wait…wait…and when you’re done waiting, wait some more. Wait till God tells you otherwise.
So here I am in this low season questioning everything. My future. My calling. My ministry. God. And in the middle of all of these feelings, when I thought my valley couldn’t get lower, my dad passed away quite unexpectedly. My world felt like it was crumbling all around me. Like I was caught under the force of a powerful wave and couldn’t find my way up.
All I knew for sure is this: don’t make a move till God says to. This is something God had taught me before, but He would put it to the test this time. I’d like to pause in the story to underscore how important that is. What’s the point of moving unless God is both the wind in the sails and the captain moving the rudder?
What if? What if I had left when hurt feelings and insecurities told me to run? What if I listened to the voice of fear or pride? What if I had listened to the voices of my well-intentioned friends telling me I could do better or to find something else?
I’m about 4 years from the beginning of the merge story. As low as the lows can be, the highs can be even higher. And that’s just the way it is with God. He will hold your hand through the lows. He’ll let the storm come and hit you from every side. But with every hit there is growth. That is to say, if you humble yourself to Him. If you are willing to seek Him out. If you are interested in what He has to say. If you let go of your pride and don’t let your insecurities influence your decision making. If you wait on Him. There are massive, significant growth spurts.
What Does God Have To Say?
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.
Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.
So what storm are you in? What anxiety is eating away at your peace? What is making you impatient? You will never become all God wants you to be without learning how to wait on God. Trust in His timing. I have a pastor friend who says, “God doesn’t move quickly, but He does move all of a sudden.”
It may seem like you are weathering a hurricane, but trust me, it will be worth it. It’s always worth it when you mature into the person God intended for you to be.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
So How Do You Weather The Storm?
Here are a few practical thoughts I have, but please comment below with some of your own ways that you have waited on God.
- Don’t skip your devotions. God will speak to you a lot through His Word
- Continue to worship God, even if He seems silent. This is important enough to repeat. Continue to worship, whether you “feel it” or not.
- Pray — there are lots of ways to do this and it’s a blog in and of itself. Find ways where you can communicate with God and leave space to hear him
- Journal — I’m not a big journaler, but especially in times like these I find it important to get my thoughts, anxieties, frustrations and hopes out of my head and on paper
- If you have the flexibility in your schedule, a personal retreat can be really helpful in silencing the competing voices so you can hear God. This is an article I found with a Spiritual Retreat guideline. She mentions a 24hr period. I’ve done them when I only have a morning to give. My theory is setting a morning aside is better than not setting a morning aside…something is better than nothing.
- Find a great friend to talk to you. A great friend will let you vent, but also hold you accountable
- What list would be complete if it didn’t include fasting? I’ve read 100 things on fasting and feel like I get 100 different opinions. It can be confusing. Below is a link to a sermon I found that I thought had good info. Bridgetown Church, Portland
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