God’s plan is rarely the straightest or easiest. Following it doesn’t guarantee immediate success the way we look at it. If you look at the story of Joseph in Genesis, you’ll see a young man who was given a pair of dreams. In one dream, eleven stalks of corn, representing his brothers, bowed down to his. In his next dream, eleven stars and the sun and moon, representing his parents, bowed down to his star. He shared his dreams and was ridiculed. His brothers threw him in a pit, sold him into slavery, he was falsely accused and sent to prison where he was forgotten. It was around fourteen years before the dreams came true. Fourteen years of hardship before God’s plan came to fruition.
In Judges 20, the tribe of Benjamin had done an evil thing. The other eleven tribes joined forces to attack Benjamin. They asked God which tribe should attack first. God told them Judah. They went out to war and 22,000 died. They fasted and prayed, then asked God again if they were to go to battle. God told them yes again. They took positions the next day again. They were beaten again. This time losing 18,000. They cried and prayed to God again. A third time He told them to fight. This time they won. They routed Benjamin and nearly wiped out the entire tribe. Even though they followed God’s orders, they were defeated twice losing around 40,000 men.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 reminds us, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed” (NLT). Following God’s plan will not always yield instant success, nor will it make your life easy. You may be pressed on every side, feel perplexed by what’s happening and get knocked down or back. However, we do have God’s promise that we will not be forsaken or abandoned in these times. We will not be crushed, driven to despair or destroyed. Keep going back to God seeking His will through the hardship. Keep making sure you’re following His orders and what He promised will come true. Don’t give up in the struggle. Victory is near.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my son to get ready, and then, before he gets ready, he asks, “Where are we going?” I usually tell him, “It doesn’t matter. I said to get ready, so get ready.” Instead of quickly obeying, he constantly wants to know all the info before doing anything. As a parent, it can be frustrating. There are things he needs to know, and there are things he doesn’t need to know. I simply want him to obey when asked to do something instead of questioning everything I tell him to do.
Even though I know these frustrations as a parent, when the shoe is on the other foot, I act the same way. How many times had God told me to get ready or to go somewhere, and I want to know all the details before I do anything? There’s also those times where I know where He’s leading me, but I want to know all the steps first. It’s like I’m my own child when God is the father telling me to do things. I wonder how frustrated He gets at our questioning and inactivity while He’s waiting for our obedience.
Proverbs 20:24 says, “The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?” (NLT) As children of God, we need to understand there are things we need to know, and things we don’t. God knows everything we are about to do, and how He wants it done. Since the beginning of time, all He has asked is that we would simply trust Him. He’s looking for our obedience without having to understand everything. We need to have enough faith to trust His will, His plan and His directions without questioning them. Simple obedience yields eternal benefits. Just like the old song says, “Trust and obey for there’s no other way.”
I’m on a trip to Israel. For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be sharing some of my insights from going to the places throughout this country that was written about so much in the Bible. One of the first things you notice here in Israel is how tough the terrain is. It’s a very mountainous country, but these aren’t friendly mountains. They are covered in rocks and they protrude from the ground in an unforgiving manner.
As we drive through southern Israel, you can’t help but think how difficult it must have been to travel by foot. Not only is the terrain rough, but this time of year, it’s very hot. As we traveled from Masada to Jericho to Jerusalem, we stopped to look at the Mount of Temptation. It is where it is believed that Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights fasting and was tempted by the enemy. If in fact it was the place, it would have made a difficult fast nearly unbearable.
Matthew 4:1 says, “THEN JESUS was led (guided) by the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness (desert) to be tempted (tested and tried) by the devil”. It’s important to note here that He was led by the Holy Spirit to go into this place. The wilderness is a tough, unforgiving place, but when it is the Holy Spirit leading us, we can trust God will protect us and give us everything we need.
It’s not always comfortable where the Spirit leads us. Sure we like it when God leads us to the mountain top, but that mountain isn’t always a beautiful mountain. The road can be hard, and the mountain can be rough. The Spirit will often take us to seek and to save the lost. In many cases, they are in the wilderness of life themselves living a rough life. To find them, we have to leave the green pastures and endure rough terrain.
With the leading of the Holy Spirit we cannot fail. Of course, His definition of success and failure may be different than our own. We only see in part, so we can only know in part what God’s plan is. He sees the bigger picture and knows what needs to happen in order to accomplish His will. Our responsibility is to follow the Spirit’s leading wherever that may be, even if it’s the wilderness. If we are willing to trust Him, and to follow His leading, we can rest assured He will not let us fail in the wilderness.
I remember playing chasing games as a kid. To determine who was “it”, we would all say, “Not it,” and the last one to say it was “it”. If we didn’t like the outcome, we’d try it again. “1-2-3- not it!” At the dinner table, the person who had to pray was the last one to the table and had their thumb up with their hand resting on the table. We’d rush to the kitchen to sit down and have our thumb up so we wouldn’t be “it”. So much of our lives we rush and do our best to not be “it”. When something needs to be done, we’d rather that someone else do it rather than us volunteer for it.
In Isaiah 6, he speaks of going to Heaven and seeing The Lord. When he realized what was happening, he panicked. He realized he was unworthy to be there. During his panic, an angel flew to him with a burning coal from the altar and touched his lips. The angel said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and you sins are forgiven.” Just then he heard The Lord ask, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” Instead of saying, “Not it,” or putting his thumb up, Isaiah said, “Here I am. Send me.”
He volunteered for a job that many of us have tried to get out of most of our lives. We use the excuse that we are not qualified to go on His behalf. But all through scripture, God uses the least qualified. He likes to use the least qualified because it makes the outcome that much greater of a testimony to His ability. We also use the excuse of, “I’m not perfect” or “I have too many sins to be used by God.” That’s what was happening to Isaiah when the angel came and removed his sins. God doesn’t need someone perfect to carry out His plan, He needs someone willing.
When you look at the imperfect people that God did the most amazing things through, it shows He can use anyone. Moses had a low self esteem and anger issues, yet he delivered Israel from Egypt. David committed adultery and murder, yet he is the most famous King of Israel and wrote most of Psalms. Peter was impulsive and ran his mouth too much, yet Jesus told him that he would be the cornerstone for the Church. Paul persecuted Christians and killed them, yet God used him to win thousands and to write most of the New Testament. There’s no excuse we can give as to why God can’t use us. It comes down to agreeing to say, “Yes. Here am I.”
You don’t have to be afraid of what God has called you to do. You don’t have to worry about failure. Even if you fail doing what God asks, you are successful in His eyes because you stepped out in faith. Failure is the greatest stepping stone to success and obedience is the greatest stepping stone to miracles. God is looking for the person who relishes being last to get their thumb up and will volunteer to say, “It!” Isaiah did and God used him in a mighty way. Who knows what God can accomplish through all of your imperfections. My guess is it will be nothing short of amazing.