Knowing and Doing God’s Will

Posted by admin in January 4th, 2010
Published in obedience, prayer

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God (Psalm 42:1-2).

Urbana ’09 was one of the best Urbanas I’ve ever been to. The numbers were down—17,000 instead of the 23,000 of ’06. But the quality of each person there was unmatched in my five-Urbana history. There was a beautiful spirit there. The students were kind, generous, very reflective and earnest about their walks with God. I was blown away by the people I met—by their sincerity, their passion for the lost, and their deep desire to follow Christ.

One question I was asked a lot, “How do you know where God wants you to go and serve?” Good question. And for each of us that might look a little differently. If it’s okay, I’d like to share what my experience has been when trying to find the answer to, “God, what do You want me to do?”

I am very fortunate to have been mentored by great writers. Not that I knew them personally (except Richard Foster of course), but fortunate in the sense that somehow God was able to get their books into my hands and speak to me through their lives, their testimonies, and their experiences. I’ve learned so much about God through folks like Corrie ten Boom, Elizabeth Elliot, Don Richardson, Reece Howells, Amy Carmichael, Joni Ericson Tada, Roy Hession, David Wilkerson, and anything written by or about Hudson Taylor. These godly men and women taught me God can and does extraordinary things through ordinary people. People just like you and me. People with flaws and fears and imperfections, but people who loved God with all their hearts, souls, minds and strength who wanted His will and His way in their lives more than they wanted breath. And through them and their lives, I believe I have been able to discern and follow God’s will these 30 years.

Years ago when I finished my bachelor’s degree in journalism I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a first-rate, well-known, excellent journalist. I wanted to serve God through media and to right wrongs, protect the underdog, expose the bad guys, help the good guys and to make a name for myself as a journalist that was fair, accurate and always cutting edge. I was a follower of Jesus with a plan. A good plan. A worthwhile plan. A plan that would honor God in the world of journalism—a noble and worthwhile calling. Unfortunately, I took a class from Richard Foster. That was my first mistake. It was called “Spiritual Pioneers.” It was a class that focused on men and women who had changed the world for the Kingdom just through ordinary, everyday, heartfelt obedience to God. It was convicting. It was eye-opening. It was transformational. I took this class my last semester before graduation. Oops.

How can I describe an upset stomach? How does one explain “a spirit of uneasiness?” How is it possible to give details of restlessness? I don’t know. But I do know that the discomfort I felt every time I went on a job interview or talked to a friend about my future, well, that was a real sensation that left unattended, was keeping me up at nights. And because I’d read all the stories about men and women of God who followed Christ regardless of what they thought they wanted to do, that Great Cloud of Witnesses sort of haunted me. Sleepless nights, dry devotional times, an overall discontent—these were letting me know that God was urging me to look elsewhere for His plan and His will for my life. I hated it. I didn’t want my life disrupted by anything that would take me off my path to journalistic history making. (Or so I thought).

But there comes a time in the life of every Believer, (at least I think this), that we must “wrestle with a man” the way Jacob did. And I believe we’ll often leave that experience with a name change and a bruised hip. (See Genesis 32).

I had just been offered an amazing job at a local television station. The perfect entry position for my perfect plan. As I sat in the station manager’s office I could see her face, but it was fuzzy. I could hear her voice, but it seemed distant. I wanted to respond to her job offer immediately, but it was as if I couldn’t quite get the words out. Frustrated and on the verge of tears, I left the station manager’s office and ran to my car. I headed home. Once safely inside my apartment I began to cry and rant and rave. “What’s wrong with me?” “Why am I so distraught?” “Lord Jesus, please, help me.” And I, like Jacob, began to wrestle. Not with a man, but with myself. I wrestled and fought and cried out to God, “But I want this! This is my plan!” It wasn’t that I knew what God wanted me to do. I just knew He didn’t want me to take that job at the station. I didn’t know what direction He was wanting me to take. I just knew He didn’t want me to go there. Finally, broken hearted and confused I decided to surrender. I lay face down on my apartment floor and buried my face into a deep old green shag carpet. I lay there prostrate before God and said, “I’m not getting up until I know what You want for my life.” (Or, like Jacob, “I’ll not let go until You bless me.”)

The first few minutes I cried and I prayed and I wept and I prayed and I told God how unhappy I was. I looked up at the clock and only ten minutes had passed. It seemed like hours. I went back to my wailing, and crying and asking God, “What? What do You want of me? What do You want me to do?” I looked at the clock. Only another ten minutes had passed. Still nothing. And finally, worn out and exhausted I laid my face back down and softly said, “I want Your will in my life more than I want to live. Please show me what to do. I can’t figure this out on my own and I need You to tell me what You want.”

I lay faced down on the nasty shag green carpet for nearly four hours. I wouldn’t budge until I knew what my God wanted me to do. As a deer pants for water so my soul was panting after Him. Then the phone rang. It was Richard Foster. “Teri, have you ever considered going to China?” Six months later I was standing on Chinese soil.

In all my years of walking with God I have come to realize a very simple truth: God is pleased to reveal His will to His children. “Fear not little flock for it is your father’s good will to give you the Kingdom.” God wants to give His kids direction and guidance. If I’m having trouble hearing Him, the fault always lies with me. Never with Him. If you want to know God’s will and way for your life you have to get serious and block out time for Him. Time for reading His word, praying and yes, fasting. Fasting not only from food, but from TV, media, the Internet, friends. Jacob wrestled alone. He sent his family, his possessions, his servants and all of his work across the river and spent the night alone and that is where he wrestled with the man. Many commentators (and uncommontaters) believe that it was an angel Jacob wrestled with and as a result of not letting go until he had been blessed a nation was born. Jacob became Israel. He got a bruised hip, sure, but he also got a name change that forever changed the history of mankind.

Want to know God’s will and way for you? Tarry. Lie on your face before your heavenly Father and say, “I won’t move until You speak and when You speak I’ll obey no matter what the cost.”

My prayer for anyone reading this today who is seriously seeking God to know His plan, is that God will lead you and bless you and make His will known clearly to you. “He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you. Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:20-21). Peace.

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