I was speaking with a friend who is a pastor a while back. We were talking about ministry, living the Christian life and the struggles faced by those who walk away from their faith for a period of time in their life. I shared with them my story and my calling. I talked about how in the past I couldn’t see how God could still use me since my calling came before my falling away. I felt like I needed to be perfect to fulfill the role God had designed just for me and I had wrecked it. For a long time that is what kept me up at night. I knew there was no way God could use me after how I had lived.
They shared with me the story of their child who has walked away after having been raised in church. They told me about the struggles they face, not just as a pastor, but as a parent who has a child not walking in the way they were taught. With tears in our eyes I began to share my journey back and how I’ve come to the point that I believe God can still use me despite my past and how He can actually use that to His advantage. They looked at me and said, “it was no surprise to God that you walked away or came back. He knew what paths you were going to take. He took that into consideration when He designed your robe of righteousness. And you know what? The garment still fits.”
When you look at Ephesians 2:10, you see that we are God’s masterpiece. He has created you and I with a purpose in mind. When a sculptor is creating a piece of art and they come to an imperfection in the stone, they don’t start over. They don’t even try to cut that part out of the stone. They take those blemishes, those imperfection and they incorporate it into the art work. The imperfections that threaten the future of the masterpiece are what make it unique and are what really sets it apart as a work of art. The sculptor starts each project knowing there’s no perfect stone and knows they will have to work with imperfections to make each piece work.
The second part of that verse says, “He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” He knew long ago the life each of us were going to live. He knew long ago each of us would mess up. He knew we would have imperfections, sins, disabilities and doubts. He designed all of that into the plan He made for each one of us. It doesn’t matter if you found out the plan He has for your life before you walked away, after you walked away or are seeking it out. He has built the plan for your life around the things that would happen to you and the paths that you would take. He took all that into consideration and the garment still fits you.
I once had a friend that lived according to her Franklin Covey planner. She scheduled everything in that binder. If it wasn’t in there, she didn’t do it. I, being young, made fun of her. I asked her if she was ever spontaneous. She responded that she had time on Thursday evening to be spontaneous and wrote it in. Her life was mapped out and she was going places. I lived by no schedule and was going no where. She went where she wanted in life and I went where life took me. It’s not hard to see how important it is to make a plan and to work that plan.
I talk to a lot of people who are going to do great things for God. They tell me what God wants them to do with their lives. I ask, “What are you doing today to prepare for that calling?” Usually I get the religious answer, “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. He’ll prepare me in time.” I ask them what they are doing to today in the form of that calling. I usually hear crickets chirping. They, like so many of us, expect God to give us honorary doctorates in whatever field He’s called them to with no work on their part. They believe it will just happen.
I believe things don’t just happen. God expects us to plan, prepare and practice before it’s time to perform. We have to schedule time with Him, start out small and invest in our calling. When Jesus gave the Parable of the Talents, He said, “You have been faithful over a little; I will put you in charge of much.” So many Christians shun the little things because we want to do big things for God. We forget that God won’t give us the big things until we show we can be faithful over the small things. If you can’t spend time alone with God when your life isn’t hectic, how will you do it when it is?
I remember hearing Andy Stanley speak at Catalyst two years ago. He said that none of the speakers at Catalyst had an easy road to that stage. They paid high prices in the little things before God would trust them with the big things. Greatness in life only comes from being faithful when you aren’t great. All giants in the faith started out small. Major churches, giant Christian organizations and well known preachers started somewhere small. They had God’s call on their life to do something great and they started small. They scheduled time with God and began doing things that wouldn’t be noticed by most.
Do you feel like God has called you to do something big for Him? What are you doing today to prepare for that? What is a little thing that you can put on your schedule to do this week to move you closer to greatness? I heard someone once say, “If you were going to do it, you’d already be doing it.” If something is important to us and will pay out greater dividends, we wouldn’t wait until later to do something. We’d already be doing things to make that happen. We’d already have it on our schedule. Be faithful now when no one is looking so God can trust you when people are.
I was thinking about the story of David this morning. He was tending sheep when The Lord sent the prophet Samuel to anoint him king of Israel. He was doing a menial task that was assigned to him because he was the youngest of his brothers. When the prophet told Jesse to bring his sons to a sacrifice, he didn’t even bother to invite David. As Samuel looked at Jessie’s sons, he looked at them, saw one and according to I Samuel 16:6 thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!”
When all of Jessie’s sons had passed in front of Samuel, he was confused. God had rejected all of them. When Samuel asked Jesse if these were all his sons, Jesse said, “There’s still the youngest, but he’s out in the fields watching the sheep.” After he was anointed, David went back to tending sheep. He didn’t go to Jerusalem and proclaim himself king. Instead he waited for God’s timing for the call to be fulfilled.
To me, the waiting is the hardest part. How do you go back to tending sheep when you’re anointed to be king? How do you go back to sleeping on a hillside under the stars when you know there’s a palace waiting for you? David was able to trust God’s timing even though he knew where he was going in the future. He continued to be faithful to where God had called him for the present while waiting for the future calling to be fulfilled.
I think that has to be the hardest part. If God has called you to do something in the future, you don’t have the right to slack where He has you in the present. There are lessons to be learned still. There are responsibilities that must be tended to in the waiting. When David was told by his father to go to the battlefront to check on his brothers, he left his sheep with another shepherd. He didn’t neglect his present responsibilities for his future calling.
We all can learn from his example. You may have been called by God to be a missionary, preacher, evangelist, writer or something else. In the waiting time, you still have to take care of the responsibilities He’s given you. You have to continue be faithful in the “little” things. They may seem menial like watching sheep, but there is a purpose behind keeping you where you are until the right time arrives. David’s path to the throne was not an easy one. Just because God called you to something, it doesn’t mean the heavens will open, angels will sing and you’ll have a clear path to it. You may endure some difficult times getting there.
God has your steps ordered. It’s up to you to take those steps and to walk in the path that He has laid before you to get to where you’re going. Continue to trust in God’s plan even when it isn’t happening in the timing you thought it would. He’s still lining things up. He’s still preparing you. He hasn’t forgotten you or what He called you to. Do the things necessary to be ready when He says it’s time. Above all, be patient in the waiting.