Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What Does God Want?

There have been many times when I am in the process of making a big decision, in the middle of a difficult situation or just at a coasting point in my life, that I have asked, prayed or cried, "What does God want me to do!?"  I have wished (begged) for God's "Play Book" for my life so that I could know what choices to make.  Should I take this job, or that one?  Should I go back to school for my degree?  Should I teach Sunday School or work in the nursery?  Is this the man God wants me to marry?  Is it time to have kids yet?  Do we buy the white house or the yellow one?  I could list THOUSANDS of questions that I have asked of God, but I'll spare you all that!  I was always willing to do what He wanted me to do, I just wanted him to tell me clearly WHAT He wanted me to do.

Now there have certainly been times in my life when I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, what I was supposed to do.  When I was about 18, at a Christian rock concert, the Holy Spirit convicted me to ask Jesus to be my personal Savior.  I KNEW without a shadow of a doubt, that I needed to follow Jesus, and I wanted Him to be first in my life.  After we are saved, the Holy Spirit has a way of convicting us of right and wrong.  Unfortunately, we have to be willing to listen to His guidance, and we can't let the noise of our lives drown Him out. I am very sad to say that the first part of my 20's were very noisy.  Too many jobs, too much fun, and definitely not enough God, Bible or church in my life at that time!

Looking back, I can say that I did hear a faint whisper during that time.  Somehow I knew that it was time for me to apply for a new job.  I literally got up, went there and filled out an application. I got that job, and a few years later, that's where I met my future husband! I am so grateful that I was able to hear His guidance then!   That is the only time that I can think of during my early 20's that I could really feel the Holy Spirit's prodding, or at least when I was willing to pay attention. 

I can tell you though, the exact moment in my life when things started turning around for me.  I was filling in in the church nursery during the Sunday School hour.  I had finally started going to church regularly again.  They were always looking for nursery workers, and I had decided to commit myself to working in the nursery every Sunday.  Moments after I made that decision, the lady in charge of the childrens' programs came in.  I told her what I wanted to do and she asked me to teach a childrens' Sunday School class instead!  I was a little taken aback.  Teach Sunday school?  I knew NOTHING (you'll see the truth in this in a moment) about the Bible, and not much more than that about teaching children.  I did agree though.  I know that the turning point for me was when I decided to serve the Lord.  I was willing to make a commitment to His work.  As is His custom, He always seems to have bigger plans for us.  You see, to work in the nursery, you need to show up and love the babies.  This is, of course, still service for Him, and very valuable.  However, in order to teach Sunday School, you need to show up, love the children, and KNOW STUFF ABOUT THE BIBLE!  This is where I had a distinct disadvantage.

So, I called my future husband, Dan.  At the time he and I were just friends, but he was the one friend that I knew who was actively going to church.  I would not have Sunday School materials available to me on my first day of class, so I needed to come up with a lesson on my own to teach.  I was at a total loss!  I was definitely second-guessing the sanity of agreeing to teach a Sunday School class.  I was searching my brain for any Bible story that I could remember and finally came up with Jonah.  That was great, but now I needed to find it in the Bible.  So I asked Dan, "Where do I find the story of Jonah in the Bible?"  There was literally a long pause before he said, "Possibly in the book of Jonah?"  I felt like such an idiot! But a grateful idiot none-the-less!

Getting saved was the first right thing I did.  Agreeing to serve Him was the second right thing I did.  The third right thing that I did was reading the Bible.  When you teach a Sunday School class, you need to read and study the lessons.  To do it right, you also need to read and study the Bible passages that go along with the lessons.  I was not a stellar Sunday School teacher.  I often only had one student in my class.  Together, we learned about Jonah, Jericho, Jesus' birth, His crucifixion and how to begin living for Him. I began reading my Bible more frequently, I found myself making better decisions in my life.  And in all of God's Grace and Mercy, things began falling into place like giant puzzle pieces.  It's hard to see at the time, but when you look back, you can see what wonderful things God has done in your life!

I often think of the Israelites and how they wandered in the desert.  God told them everything that they needed to do to receive the Promised Land.  He gave them the Ten Commandments and said, "Here's what you need to do!"  He showed them amazing miracles, provided everything that they needed and lead the way.  Yet, they disobeyed Him repeatedly.  Finally, we see in Psalm 106:14-15, that they miss out on so many of God's blessings:  "But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert.  And he gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul."  The pastor pointed this verse out last Sunday during his sermon, and it really struck a chord.  I have been amazed at how stubborn and disobedient the Israelites were.  After all they saw God do for them, and despite his promise to them, they did whatever they wanted to! Then I had a "Yikes!" moment!  Are we any different today?

The fourth right thing that we need to do is apply God's Word to our lives.  We have His instructions for us right in our hands.  The Bible tells us very plainly how God wants us to live, and yet we want our own way.  We think certain parts of the Bible don't apply to us, or that it is old-fashioned and doesn't apply to the world today.  But it does!  We have God's "Play Book" and yet we want our own way, not His Way!  If you think that understanding the Bible is hard, then try studying with a King James Study Bible.  A good study Bible will have additional notes to clarify passages as well as additional references to give us a bigger picture of how something can apply to our own lives.

How many blessings do we miss out on because we are disobedient?  He really isn't asking us to do anything hard, but it seems hard because following His commands often means that we need to change.  We need to rethink our relationships, our desires and the paths that we choose.   But if we take that verse and really look at it, we can see that we can have whatever we want, but if it's not what God wants for us, or if it's against His Will, we will miss out on the bounty that God wants to give us.  I don't know about you, but I would MUCH rather be blessed with God's bounty than to live with His leanness!  Being a Christian is a journey, not a destination.  We make wrong turns, say wrong things and still have "idiot" moments, but what matters is our heart.  Proverbs 4:23 tells us:  "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life."

Here are a few more verses that God has put on my heart:

Matthew 6:33 - "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you."

2 Timothy 2:15 - "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

Hebrews 10:25 - "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another:  and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."

James 4:8a -"Draw nigh to God and he will draw night to you..."

Matthew 22:37-39 - "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

God Bless!

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