The secret of success lies in faithful execution of the prior question: how can I find God’s will for my life? It occurs to me that trying to explain how God might plan your life is totally impossible, since we are talking about specific leading, and that goes in such widely divergent paths. But there are signposts along the way that a discerning follower should note, and I want to give you some of those signs. But it is the will of God that we should become acquainted with him, and obedient to him through the record he has left us in the Word of God. “Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.”1 Surely that is the great truth with which you ought to surround yourself.
Let me tell you a little of my choices that I made as a new Christian—it might be of help to you to understand just how it is that we do find the plan of God for our lives. When I became a Christian I was but 19 years of age, and the little Baptist church that I started in was pretty conservative. It was the early seventies, and I think the church was still stuck culturally in the early sixties. I had long hair when I was saved, and several of the deacons made it a point to let me know that I was not acceptable. Looking back on it now, part of their reluctance to accept me was probably fear that I was not a Christian.
In praying about it, it was obvious that this was the place that God had for me, and so I just pretty much ignored their criticism. I noticed the lawn was not being mowed and watered, so I got permission from the church to begin caretaking of the grounds. Mowing the lawn faithfully that first summer probably did a lot to mitigate the irritation others had for me. Watering the lawn became an excuse for me to visit with the pastor, and we soon became fast friends. Attitudes began to change, and I was soon elected to be a trustee. Looking at the huge lawn, I decided to design a sprinkler system for it, and proposed it to the board. Though opposed unexpectedly by one man, Jim, it was adopted, and I was given responsibility of coordinating the project.
A work day was called, and all the men turned out for a very long day, but still we could not get all of the work done. I had responsibility for the project, and so it was up to me to finish up throughout the week. Jim was the only one to show up to help every day that week. I remembered his opposition, and I thought about how human it would have been just to let me flounder, but he was out there every day, helping me to complete the project. That taught me a lot!
With the project an unqualified success, I soon found myself an elected elder, and very respected by those same men who had originally criticized me. Having a terrible burden for the lost, I was able to testify about it at length to both the board, and the church. I remember breaking down in tears as I tried to describe what it was like to not be told about the Lord, and it was that very crying that led to revival for the church. Soon the sleepy little church that I had started in had changed into an active dynamic force in the community, with regular visitation, an outreach to the local mission, and a focus that was sharply different.
Do you see what happened? God took a ridiculous boy, infused him with his Spirit, and caused a whole revival to come to that sleepy little church. Several years ago, I had occasion to visit the town of that church, and stopping by one summer I found myself squatting in the middle of the grass, looking at the sprinklers that I had installed, and thanking God for his wonders. It was not in the big things that God usually works; rather it is in being faithful in what you know that he wants you to do that unveils the plan of God for our lives.
For I purposely did not tell you of the choices that I had before me. As a young man I wanted to finish college. I very much wanted to stay out of the draft. I wanted very very much to see crowds of people coming to Christ. And, of course, I prayed about all of that, many more times than I can tell you. But those things, big as they were to me, were not want God wanted. Instead, he wanted me to power up that lawn mower, and care for the grounds every week.
Keith Green gives the principle in one of his songs:
You know it ain't no use, banging your head, up against that cold stone wall,
Cause nobody's perfect, except for the Lord, and even the best bound to fall,
Remember He is divine, and you are de branch,
He'd love to get you through it if you'd give Him a chance,
Just keep doing your best,
And pray that it's blessed,
And Jesus takes care of the rest. 2
The Bible gives the same principle over and over. It says, humble yourself, and in due time God will exalt you. Joseph had to go through prison making the most of it, with many misadventures meanwhile, but God did exalt him, and preserved his people through his efforts. Matthew 23:11 and 12 say, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” We get to leadership through servantship.
Those lost that I was so burdened for? The college that I felt I had to finish? Many misadventures happened, but God is faithful. My wife and I were able to see hundreds come to Christ, and I was able to go back and finish that college. Those were the big things in my life that I so wanted to see worked out, but God chose to work them out by handing me a lawnmower and a sprinkler and told me to get busy. I marvel at the young long-haired man who was used of God to turn the little church upside down, even while the nation was undergoing a huge revival.
As a general rule, I would say that if you feel God’s leading to go to Bible college, or perhaps enter the ministry, the first thing to check is your servantship. Are you willing to do the stuff that is not glorious, and has no tangible reward. That is what learning to be a Christian is all about. If you feel especially led to do something, be very careful, for the human spirit does not easily discern the difference between God’s leading and the carnal desires of the human spirit. In all things, seek guidance from the Word of God. If the Word teaches plainly something other than your leading, you may rest assured that it is not of God. That’s why the beginning, the middle, and the end of your life needs to be rooted firmly in the Word of God. As for guidance for walking through your life, Psalm 25 has a lot to teach us. In our next question, I will examine what Psalm 25 can teach about the plan of God for our lives.
1. Packer, J. I. (2011-09-26). Knowing God (p. 35). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
2. Green, Keith, He’ll Take Care of the Rest, from the album, To Him who Has Ears to Hear.