Let’s get to a more than basic Christian-life principle here, and that is that there are those times that God’s will for our lives may not strike us as positive thinking or even possibility thinking. It may appear to us to be absolutely negative and impossible.
Let’s be very clear up front! God’s plans for His servants in the first instance have nothing to do with human, utopian, positive and possibility thinking. Why? Chiefly because, and now hear this:
“MAN’S THOUGHTS AND PLANS ARE ALWAYS DESIGNED FOR HIMSELF, OFTEN
AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS. GOD’S THOUGHTS AND PLANS ARE
DESIGNED FOR HIMSELF, ALWAYS AT THE EXPENSE
Just ask God’s Son in the flesh, Jesus Christ. God’s will cost Him more than we can fathom, and the servant is not above his Master. To be totally honest about it, many modern Christians can’t conceive that God might want them to deliberately forego their present high standard of living in order to go to some miserable third-world environment to present the Gospel, or to be a member of a support team to build churches, schools, homes, hospitals etc. in some retarded, backward civilization.
The modern sugar-daddy prosperity gospel has corrupted contemporary Christianity with the inability to believe that the Lord would lead us into some disadvantageous, inconveniencing, obscure, destitute, underprivileged, and even dangerous mission or endeavor.
God’s will for us is not designed for our being deployed to a Disney World Dreamland, which state only existed in Walt Disney’s imagination. But let’s face it, we are living in an unbelievable ecclesiastical day of an Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and a Disney World religion in which Santa Christ is expected in every household in Christendom before dawn with a sack full of goodies. True, every kid eventually comes to the realization that Santa is a big, fat phony. But many religious people still haven’t realized that Satan is a big fat liar.
THE CASE OF MOSES
God’s will for Moses appeared to him as an absolute nightmare. As you may recall, when God told him that he was to lead God’s people out of slavery, and command King Pharaoh of Egypt to release his captives, it left Moses absolutely “speechless.” At least that was the excuse he used to get out of God’s will for his life – I am no good at talking, I am speech impeded.
We read about this incredible exchange between God and Moses in Exodus 4:10-12,
“Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘Please Lord, I have never been eloquent,
neither recently nor in time past, nor since Thou hast spoken to Thy
servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”
(Notice how fluent and eloquent he is in trying to make his
case of a speech impediment to God. Moses was in fact
talking himself inadvertently right into the
will of God.)
“And the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes
him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?’”
(Notice how God says that He causes extreme physical
affliction. He emphatically takes credit for it. Mind
blowing to many! God is good! Man defines
good by human comfort produced, but God
defines good by Divine character produced.)
“Now then go, and I, even I will be with your mouth, and teach
what you are to say.”
(God did not say that He would be with Moses mind, but that He would
guide and directly teach his mouth. This is not Divine Mind control,
but Divine mouth control. God would be the Word that comes
out of His mouth. How many times has God done that
for you? I know that he has done it for me.)
We must insert some things that are very revealing here! Let us not forget the eloquence and power of Moses’ entreaties (prayers) to the Lord in Exodus 32:11,12, 14–
“Then Moses entreated the Lord his God and said, ‘O Lord, why doth Thine
anger burn against Thy people whom Thou has brought out from
the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?”
“Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought
them out to kill hem in the mountains and to destroy them from
the face of the earth? Turn from Thy burning anger and
change Thy mind about doing harm to Thy people.”
“So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He
would do to His people.”
Pretty smooth operator and entreator was Moses. He indeed had a way with words so effective that he changed God’s mind. So powerful was Moses with his entreating words, that we actually read about God saying to Him in Exodus 32:10,
“Now then, let Me alone….”
This appeal to Moses’ impediment becomes even more comical, if I may put it that way, when we remember who we are dealing with here. It was Moses who wrote the Pentateuch-the first five books of the Bible. Interesting that the ancient Greek, Cassius Longinus, in his treatise “The Loftiness of Speech” writes about Moses:
“THE LAWGIVER OF THE JEWS (MOSES) WAS NO ORDINARY MAN. HE
SET FORTH THE DIVINE POWER SUITABLY TO THE MAJESTY
AND THE GREATNESS OF IT.”
How did Moses do that? With words! Inspired words but words nonetheless. Words that eloquently captured the CREATIVE WORD OF GOD – LET THERE BE in Genesis 1. How Moses rivets us with words that convey THE DIVINE CREATIVE WORD:
“THE CREATIVE WORD OF GOD THAT WAS NOT FIRST OF ALL DESIGNED
TO EXPRESS MEANING BUT TO CREATE BEING. THE CREATIVE WORD
OF GOD THAT WAS NOT FIRST OF ALL DESIGNED TO REPRESENT
IDEAS BUT TO CREATE LIFE.”
In point of truth, Moses was a wordsmith with tongue and pen! His was not an impediment problem, but a fear problem. He viewed God’s will for and call on his life simply too daunting. But then again, why wouldn’t God’s will be daunting, simply because He is Almighty God and we are mere men? We should not be surprised that His will for and call on our lives is more representative of Him than of us. After all, IT IS HIS WILL!
Moses may have been one of the first to try and pull this speech-impediment caper on God, and he certainly would not be the last. How creative we become to argue ourselves out of God’s will for our lives. So Jesus beat His disciples to the punch when He says to them and to us in Luke 21:15-16,
“For I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of Your opponents will be able
to resist or refute.” (Jesus is not talking about sermon preparation here, as
if He is telling us He will enable us to wing it. We must rightly divide the
the Word of Truth, and those preachers who don’t most always
on the wing fly crooked. He is promising supernatural
utterance in the heat of the moment as we witness
to defiant opposition. Sometimes we don’t
know what to say but He will give
it to us. Hallelujah!)
“But you will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and
friends, and they will put some of you to death.” (He did say that the
enemies of Christ would not be able to refute us, but He didn’t
say that they would not kill us. We are expendable, but
the truth is never expendable.)
Jesus is promising them powerful extemporaneous speech which does not spring from Del Carnegie but from the Holy Spirit. He makes that clear in Matthew 10:20,
“For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father
who speaks in you.”
Yes, you are reading correctly! In fact, the words that the Holy Spirit gives us will be so self-evident and clear that they cannot be argued with or dis-proven. Nothing far-fetched or airy fancifulness! But rather obvious, plain, and undeniable truth! So that the only way for the haters of Christ to silence the irrefutable truth will be to kill believers, even if they are members of their own families!
Hear clearly what the Holy Spirit is now saying, and it is this:
“MODERN RELIGION HAS PERMEATED THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH WITH THE
TEACHING THAT THERE IS NOTHING ON EARTH TOO GOOD
FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.”
In total contradistinction,
“CHRIST’S GUIDING PRINCIPLE IN THE BIBLE IS THAT THERE IS NO
SACRIFICE ON EARTH FOR CHRIST TOO BIG FOR THE
PEOPLE OF GOD.”
Or as Isaac Watts puts it:
“Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.”
In order for us to walk in the will of God, we have to get the principles that are to guide our lives from Christ and not from men.
So then, Moses’ excuse of haltingness of speech did not get Him out of the will of God. Nice try MO! However, less we be too hard on ole MO, we use the same tactic for not running for City Council or State Government, where otherwise we would be able to affect the powers that be for the Kingdom of God. You may have used it yourself, “I wouldn’t know what to say. I am no good at public speaking, etc. etc. And all too often, thereby the people of God have given the majority a stronger voice for unrighteousness.
THE CASE OF JONAH
You surely recall Jonah! Who could ever forget BIG FISH JONAH? Why, he is the only one to ever come close to competing with CAPTAIN AHAB AND MOBY DICK! When Jonah was informed by God of His will for Jonah’s life, Jonah did not receive it as a positive, possible, dreamy, and unimaginably wonderful prospect. It was to Jonah horribly unbecoming for an Israelite. It was the most unfit way for him to spend his life. To be fully honest, it was negative, preposterous, and just plain disgusting.
The Assyrians were a bloodthirsty people, and had been a nemesis to Israel for many years. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and hold an evangelistic crusade amongst the wicked and ruthless Assyrians. It would be like God telling you or me to go to Tehran, Iran and preach the Gospel to the Muslim Iranians. I imagine that we would question God at best that this would not be the most rational course of action to take. (Even though this is what our brothers and sisters in Christ in Iran do every day at great risk to and the high cost of their very lives.)
But that brings up an inescapable truth! Let’s face it,
“WHEN IT COMES TO THE CALL AND WILL OF GOD FOR OUR LIVES, IT
WILL COME DOWN TO EITHER THE JUDGMENT OF OUR REASON, OR
THE SUBMISSION OF OUR WILL.”
Jonah could come up with a thousand reasons that this was completely irrational if not insane. His will was not about to bend to such a crazy and disgusting idea.
Jonah was furious about God’s brand of POSITIVE AND POSSIBILITY THINKING for these ancient terrorists. Why, just the thought of them soured his stomach. The mention of their name gave Jonah a bad case of indigestion that no Alka-Seltzer would help. He was outraged at the thought of any Assyrian becoming part of the family of God. And more than that, Jonah felt totally justified in his outrage. So we read in Jonah 4:1 about Jonah’s rage against God and His will,
“But it greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry.”
Has the will of God for your life ever ticked you off? Have you ever gotten angry at God for His putting you where you are? Have you ever questioned God’s wisdom for leading or wanting to lead you down a certain path? If so, you aren’t the first, and you will not be the last.
What follows is so important, and so very tricky. I have learned from men like Jonah that powerful emotions like anger, prejudice, and fear will always paralyze our potential usefulness for God’s purposes.
But not only that, I have also learned the following, and listen carefully to this now:
“WHILE A MAN IS UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE CARNAL PASSIONS OF RAGE,
BITTERNESS, AND UNFORGIVENESS, HE PURSUES A COURSE DIRECTLY
CONTRARY TO GOD, AND HE FULLY APPROVES OF HIS ACTIONS
AS THE BEST AND MOST RATIONALCOURSE OF ACTION.”
We see this in Jonah to be sure, and again we see it most graphically in the case of Saul of Tarsus in his persecuting fit against Christ and against Christians. We read in Acts 26:9,
“So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things
hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.”
I know of those this very day who are running from the will of God for their lives because of those very powerful feelings of fear, anger, bitterness, hurt, and unforgiveness. They run from their marriages, from their churches, yes, and even from their ministries and pastorates! They are now selling cars or insurance etc., and they have determined that this is the will of God for their lives.
My heart reaches out to them in deepest love, tenderly urging them not to let circumstances or people define God’s call and will for their lives. And certainly don’t let intoxicating emotions determine the course of your life. Rather allow the Holy Spirit to determine the will of God for your lives.
But because of these powerful emotions, they get ideas about the express will of God for them that are totally wrong and contrary to God’s heart and mind. So they run from the call of God because they like to think that they are wise rather than be filled with God’s wisdom. They would rather appear wise to themselves than to be walking in the perfect wisdom of God. If you will:
“SAUL’S BLIND RAGE TOLD HIM THAT THE BLOODY EXECUTION OF
CHRISTIANS WAS BOTH MAGNANIMOUS, RATIONAL,
AND VERY WISE.”
Well now, we all know what Jonah did. Jonah ran full speed from the painful maternity room of the birthing of God’s purposes in his life, in what proved to be one of the most famous and futile attempted escapes from God recorded in the Bible or anywhere else. Instead of going to Nineveh, Jonah took a ship over the Mediterranean Sea to Tarshish, a far-away ancient city in what is now Spain. How many of us have co-starred in Jonah’s movie entitled:
“THE GREAT HIGH-SEAS ESCAPE?”
Then we read something very intriguing, at least it is to me. A great storm arose at sea that was so fierce that the ship looked and felt like it was going to break apart. But we read about Jonah the would-be will-of-God escapee in Jonah 1:5,
“But Jonah had gone below into the hold the ship, laid down,
and fallen sound asleep.”
“THE FUMES OF HIS PASSIONS OF ANGER AND HATRED AGAINST THE
ASSYRIANS HAD SO INTOXICATED HIS REASON, EVEN AS THE
ALCOHOLIC DRINK SOAKS AND STUPEFIES THE
BRAIN OF A DRUNK.”
If you will, Jonah was not so much sound asleep as he was bombed out of his mind on his own 98%-alcohol of raging emotions. It might appear here that Jonah got his first undisturbed and peaceful night of sleep in days. I doubt it, and I am sure that he was not refreshed and reinvigorated when he awoke. Let not Jonah or anyone else think that he or she can disobey God, and then sleep securely and unbothered by the Lord. And on top of that, there is already a storm beginning to pound against the ship, and it will soon awaken his false repose.
If we learn anything from the case study of Jonah, it is these simple but profound truths:
-FIRST of all it is never a good idea to disobey a direct order from God. I confess that I have done that in my life, and it doesn’t work out well.
-SECOND, it is not a good idea to run away from God’s will. I have also done that in my life, and that doesn’t work out well either.
Jonah sinned against God’s clear command, and did so with a prejudiced heart and a defiant spirit. He disobeyed God knowingly and resolutely, and stared down his own conscience as well.
To make a long story short, the result we all know too well! Jonah ended up in “Motel Fish Belly” for three days and three nights. God did not leave the light on for him either like they do in “Motel Six.” Not exactly four-star lodging! Here is this pouting, immature little child, tossed from a ship and swallowed up by a huge fish that could well have writing on its side that said, “Caution, Baby on Board.”
Then when the time was deemed right by God, the very large fish puked Jonah into the will of God. But what a sorry and vomitus mess he was! I am reminded of the humorous sight of the little grandson coming out of the bathroom in complete disarray and dirt, with his pants down around his ankles, and a stream of soiled toilet paper hanging out of his little behind. Multiply that many times with Jonah now standing on the beach slimmed, and seaweed hanging from him everywhere. What a sight!
One might think that Jonah somehow cheated death with a safe landing on the beach after being expelled from the fish’s belly. The unbeliever would say that “Mother Nature” played Jonah for a chump. Believers know better, and because he was a proud block-headed rebel, Jonah became God’s example of what God’s regurgitated will looks like when we disobey it the first time.
JONAH OF TARSHISH AND SAUL OF TARSUS
And oh yes, getting back to Saul of Tarsus, and leaving Jonah of Tarshish for a brief moment, defiant Saul ended up blinded by a light from Heaven which shown brighter than the noonday sun. The light was Jesus Christ Himself. He was led away by his seeing-eye companions to a house on Straight Street in Damascus where God would finally straighten him out once and for all.
We now know him as Paul. The name change was much easier than the heart change. He sat in a total stranger’s house blinded and without food or drink for three days before his conversion to Christianity was complete. For three days and three nights both Jonah and Paul were in the dark before they could truly see the light. They were not so much persuaded as they were overpowered. God has His overmatching methods. Oh does He ever!
Why didn’t God just write Jonah off? Listen, a creditor does not lose his right to his money, simply because the debtor is unwilling to pay it. God does not lose His right to obedience, simply because His subject is unwilling to give it. God ordered Jonah a second time, and this time Jonah obeyed God. You and I would too after such a dark, slimy, deep-sea excursion, and yet live to tell about it.
Jonah then went on a missionary hike/evangelist crusade to and through the great, pagan city of Nineveh. He reluctantly became the FIRST MISSIONARY/EVANGELIST of the Bible. He did not preach one word about self-love, self-esteem, or self-worth. Nor did he preach the “M” word – MONEY. He didn’t preach the “S” word either – SUCCESS. Instead, he preached the “J” word – JUDGMENT.” We read in Jonah 3:4,
“Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried
out and said, ‘Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.’”
I am sure of this, that Jonah loved threatening Nineveh with Divine judgment. That really was his hot cup of tea. And I am also sure that he counted on God doing just that, wiping Nineveh off from the face of the earth. We must add this, that while Jonah was enjoying in his heart preaching about the coming judgment of God upon these savages, he was the complete antithesis to the unfathomably merciful heart of God. Listen:
“GOD HAS ALWAYS USED IMPERFECT AND DEFECTIVE PREACHERS TO
ACCOMPLISH HIS PERFECT WILL. IT IS ALL HE HAS TO CHOOSE
FROM, AND JONAH WAS BY NO MEANS THE LONE ODDBALL.”
But horror of horrors for Jonah, the Ninevites responded most favorably to his message. The Spirit of God began to move upon the hearts of the Ninevites through Jonah’s message of warning and impending destruction.The King of Nineveh disrobed, covered himself with burlap, and sat in ashes. Not only that, he proclaimed a fast for every man and beast, and ordered that every man cry out to God for mercy, and to turn from their wicked and violent ways. Violent they had been indeed. This was like David Wilkerson and Nicky Cruz and his gang, only on a much larger scale. The whole city repented before God and was spared.
Footnote – The American Dream
For Jonah, going to Assyria was not his dream, and the Assyrian Revival was not exactly a dream come true. It always comes down to this, as I quote now a dear pastor-friend of mine by the name of Vic Charnley who says, “We either will dream God’s dream or man’s dream, and we will either be running God’s race or man’s race.” He goes on, “God’s dream and man’s dream aren’t even close.” I couldn’t agree more.
If you dream man’s dream, in the USA it will no doubt be some version of the “American Dream” which is of course a really nice home with 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a 3 stall garage for two cars, 2 motor cycles, 2 snowmobiles and a large RV parked next to the garage. But to have the American dream you must run the American race, better known as the rat race, and it is hard to run the rat race without you and your wife becoming rats yourselves. I have no doubt that many Christians have had their dreams scripted for them by the prevailing culture and not by God. Many are not where God wants them to be, but where their environment taught them they should be.
Yes, strong words I know, but they must be spoken!
THE AMY CARMICHAEL CASE
In it all God knows what He is doing, where He is going and why. We may not be able to explain the why until much later. Amy Carmichael, the devoted missionary to India, when she was a child wanted to have pretty blue eyes just like many of her friends. One night she earnestly prayed to God that her brown eyes would be turned into blue eyes. That is what she wanted. Alas! When she woke up the next morning she discovered that those brown eyes were still the same boring color. She was very disappointed and in her heart she questioned God and asked, “Why God? I prayed to you and I believed. Why are my eyes still brown?”
Years later, Amy Carmichael was called by the Holy Spirit to be a missionary to India. That is what God wanted. Through her experiences in this new land, she came to understand why when she was a child the Lord did not affirmatively answer her prayer for blue eyes. He answered negatively for a much higher and positive purpose. It was a no, but a no with a great yes at the center. Since her eyes were brown, she was not looked upon as a foreigner in India. Instead, she was more easily accepted, and was able to minister much more effectively to the people of India.
God’s will and calling for our lives must be trusted, even though not initially understood. Many times the calling of God for my life, and therefore for the lives of my wife and family, scared me and them half to death. I could not fathom what God was up to. I want everything in my thinking to be decisive, orderly, rational, humanly doable, peaceful, and convenient. Christianity is not only peace that passes understanding, but more often than not, it is peace without understanding. Easier said than done!
THE CASE OF YOU
All of this illustrates to us that any man’s life under the influence of his selfish thoughts, wild imaginations, and raging emotions can become a positively negative mess. It also illustrates that the mind of man, even of religious man, can be so deceived, that it considers God’s good will to be very bad, and his own bad, rebellious thoughts and designs to be very good.
I am very much burdened as I write this teaching, and I believe it to be the burden that the Holy Spirit has put on my spirit. We must understand something powerful here, and that is when it comes to the will of God for our lives:
“WHAT WE SEE AS NEGATIVE, GOD MAY WELL SEE AS POSITIVE, AND
WHAT WE SEE AS IMPOSSIBLE, GOD SEES AS POSSIBLE.”
You may be that preacher that heard the call to the church or the field that you have served now for some time. It was a strong call, and how God brought it all together was undeniable to you. But lately, things have gone down, and like Jonah, you are thinking about taking a ship to Tarshish. That my friend is always the easy way out! Your own psyche and psychological advisers will more often than not tell you to take to the high seas and escape.
There is one principle that I have learned the hard way, and it is this:
“DON’T DOUBT IN THE DARKNESS WHAT GOD SHOWED YOU
IN THE LIGHT.”
That is not easy to do in dark times like these, is it? I in no way want to be insensitive or calloused, and God knows I am not. I have been in that church that became an alligator wrestling arena. I know how hard it can get. I have met “Al The Alpha Alligator” in every church, and he will be there in the marsh in the next church you go to. Alligator postcards can be sent not only from Florida, but from pastorates. Maybe you are at the point that you cannot run from that alligator pit fast enough.
You see, Satan the Head Alligator knows that the breakthrough that God has for you may be only one, two, or three days away. Sometimes the Tarshish-Bound tragically miss it by only a few minutes. It may not be a whole city turning from sin to God, but rather a miraculous encounter with some lost soul and his family who you will bring to Christ like Paul and Silas and the Philippian Jailor’s entire family. God forbid that souls will perish in the backwash of your Tarshish-Bound Escape Ship.
I fully believe also in this truism:
“IT IS DARKEST JUST BEFORE DAWN.”
Oh how often we miss the dawning of God’s new day because of the blindness of hopelessness and despair. Hear it:
“DISCOURAGEMENT AND DESPAIR ALWAYS LIMIT THE INFINITE POWER
AND FAITHFULNESS OF GOD TO OUR OWN OWN FINITE
APPREHENSIONS (PROBLEMS GET BIGGER) AND
MEASURES (God gets smaller).”
If you will, when it comes to discouragement and despair:
“YOU BECOME LIKE THE DESPAIRING MAN ALONE IN THE MIDDLE OF
THE OMINOUS SEA WHO SEES NOTHING BUT AIR AND WATER
BEFORE HIM, AND SEES NO LAND UPON WHICH TO SAVE,
NOURISH,AND REST HIMSELF.”
This is how it often works:
“WHEN YOU BECOME THE SERVANT OF DISCOURAGEMENT, HOPELESSNESS,
AND DESPAIR, YOU WILL ALWAYS BECOME UNSERVICEABLE TO GOD,
AND THE DEVIL KNOWS IT AND PREYS ON YOU LIKE
I hear God speaking to some dear despairing brother or sister in the ministry out there in the words of the Prophet in Jeremiah 29:11-13,
“For I know the plans I that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for
welfare and not calamityto give you a future and a hope.”
“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will
listen to you.”
“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you seek me with
all your heart.”
“NO MAN CAN PRAY WHEN AND WHERE HE CANNOT HOPE.”
Let the promises of God to you raise you up out of your despair that has lately not only stopped your prayers, but your very breath. In the God-given promises to you today, seek Him and thank Him, and he will raise you to a brand new hope in Him! Don’t seek a boat to Tarshish! See Him with all your heart! You will find Him! And listen now:
“WITH GOD NOTHING IS HOPELESS BUT HOPEFUL.”
So my brother and sister, do what Psalm 62:5-6 commands us:
“My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him.”
“He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold;
I shall not be shaken.” Amen!*
*Vast segments of this teaching are taken from Bob Klingenberg’s book “Modern Christianity Corrupted.” However, there are no copyright restrictions to anything in this teaching. God Bless!