When God calls us to something, especially to something with great import, it is not unusual to be many years in His School of Preparation.
I remember when I was young in my faith. I believed that all I needed to do was pray a sincere prayer and then step back and watch God bring it to pass. I expected things to manifest quickly. But I have discovered that some of the things we ask for— after receiving God’s yes—by necessity put into motion a training regimen that will require many long years of preparation. And, it is in this long and drawn out process that we may be tempted to give up our hopes, (and our waiting) believing that God has changed His mind about using us… or that we have mistaken His calling.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
We must remember that God reserves the right to use whatever means necessary—and take as long as He likes, until He deems us ready to undertake our calling.
When I sincerely prayed, “LORD, I want to be a wound dresser.” I was still a baby in the faith and my understanding of how things actually worked in this upside-down-kingdom I was partnering in.
My prayer was honest and sincere but I had no knowledge of the magnitude of my request.
I thought I was asking for a small thing—a lowly task—and one that was relatively simple to do.
What I didn’t understand then—is just how difficult it is to do a small and lowly thing in God’s Kingdom—and what He requires from me to pull that off with authenticity! I didn’t realize the amount of “unlearning” that would be necessary to go from my worldly thinking, to my professional-religious thinking, and from there to His upside-down-kingdom thinking.
Let me illustrate with 2 Corinthians 9:8.
When I first read this verse, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” I read that verse and thought in terms of tangible things, like money, or material needs, or people to help me do the work. Since God is rich and powerful, I thought that verse meant He wanted me to be rich and powerful too, because I thought that was what I would need to get things done.
But that is not what happened to make me “fit and abounding” for my calling.
Quite the opposite happened!
For the next twenty years I walked through crisis after crisis, and loss after loss, and sometimes more than once.
I became desperately ill. I lost my job. I lost my independence. I lost my home. I lost my business. People I loved and trusted betrayed me; condemned me; mercilessly criticized and slandered me.
Trust me, the last thing I believed about myself, was that I was rich and “abounding in grace!”
…But wait a minute,
Let’s remember what I asked God to do and what the longing of my heart was way back in the beginning.
I wanted to dress wounds.
I wanted to bandage broken hearts—and not in a superficial religious way. I wanted to encourage the downcast and despairing down in the dark pits where they really live. I wanted people with broken lives and broken dreams to believe that Jesus is the answer to their every hurt.
Can you do that with empathy and real understanding and live a pain free existence?
I don’t think so—not anymore.
Did God answer my prayer?
Absolutely—just not in ways I expected or liked!
Instead, He answered my request with the training, and the traumas, and the experience I would need for my calling.
He answered my prayer with wounding after wounding.
Now today I KNOW with an absolute certainty,
“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
Let me close this post with this quote by Marilyn Heavilin. I think she sums it up best:
A few years ago someone asked me if my faith has changed since I’ve lost my three boys. I thought on that question for awhile. Actually I think my faith has been altered since my boys died. My faith is no longer “sugar coated.” I have a greater respect for God and His sovereignty than I ever had before. I have a deeper faith now, but I also realize that God very likely has different plans for my life than I have. I know that God answers some of my prayers with a “no.” He answers some with “yes,” some with “wait a while,” and some simply with “Trust Me.” I think the “Trust Me.” ones are the hardest…. How thankful I am that God does know where He’s taking each one of us, even when all we can do is trust.
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 2: 1-3 KJV