Disclosure 1: This is where I am at personally: The approval of St. Stephen’s sponsorship license – the church’s commitment to provide for the support of my family when we arrive in England – by the UK Home Office was estimated to take as long as eight weeks, but took only one. The approval of my work visa as a minister was estimated to be approved within three weeks (97% are), so we acted accordingly … but it has been almost five weeks. Is this an attack of the enemy, or is at least a portion of it the work of God?
What do you do when life doesn’t go the way you expect? Whether it is something out of the blue, or something that you’ve been praying hard about – what do you do when your every action is opposed, and every step forward is a major battle? This is a subtly different question than that posed for Holy Week, for here we are concerned with life “upstream” from the final result, when the outcome is still unknown.
We have at least four choices:
My way – A significant percentage of those who carry the name Christian believe, in essence, that “if I want it God has to do it because He promised”. Think about that a minute … I mean really think about it. Do we honestly believe that any of us has a more perfect concept of what is best for us than our heavenly Father does? Think back on all the things you wanted and asked for in your younger days (not just childhood, either) and I’m sure you’ll come across quite a few that you are grateful God, your parents, or others did not provide. And if your objection is “God will only give me desires that He wants to fulfill”, you have a point; the problem is that God is not the only source of your desires. Jesus acknowledged this on the night of His arrest: “’My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.’ He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ’O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’” (Matthew 26:38-39 NKJV)
The highway – We could respond, “If that’s the way God is, I’m outta here!” Perhaps you’ve seen something like this manifest itself in a statement such as “MY God would NEVER do that!” regarding the trials and tribulations that are integral to the human experience. It can even result in a jettisoning of God’s real character to be replaced by a god created in one’s own image. This statement is essentially what Job’s friends were declaring to him: “God would never do this to a good person, you must be guilty of some awful sin we don’t know about that deserves this fate.” Fortunately neither Job nor his friends “hit the highway” afterward; they all remained committed. God confronted Job’s friends and put the lie to this response, and then confronted Job to put the lie to the idea that Job or anyone could have a better understanding of what’s best for him.
The low way – You might term this the “Eeyore” response (read the story of Winnie the Pooh if you’re not familiar with Eeyore). When the first obstacle comes along, it’s easy to say, “Oh, well” and simply allow life to happen to us. We might not quit trying, but we certainly can quit expecting to succeed. There is nothing of the “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12a) or “we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3b-4) in this response. It is not rebellion, but neither is it faith.
God’s way – This is the way of Jesus. The previous post mentioned how Jesus was always observant, and “only did what He saw the Father doing” in a situation. This is the best – in fact, the only correct – response, and in order to exhibit it in our lives we must prepare for it as Jesus prepared. We must:
- Pray without ceasing (listening more than speaking), that we might hear directly from the Father
- Observe without prejudice, that we might discern the “big picture” rather than just the little corner we want for ourselves
- Wait without impatience, that we might not get out in front of the Holy Spirit
As we practice doing these things we can learn to act with boldness and confidence that we are flowing in our Lord’s will. Along the way we will fail: we will act when we should not, and we will fail to act when we should. But if we confess these sins and maintain this discipline, we will get better and better.
When disappointments and disillusionments come, we will learn to discern (a) when to let go, let God work, and cooperate with Him, and (b) when to “resist the devil, and he will flee”. Remember Gamaliel’s warning to the council of the Jews regarding the work of the apostles: “… for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.” (Acts 5:38-39 NKJV)
Let us cooperate fully with all that God is accomplishing in our lives and the lives of others, and let us war unceasingly against the plans of the world, the flesh, and the devil!
Disclosure 2: In counsel with my bishop, I believe that God has desired this delay as there were many family tasks and relationship issues that needed to be addressed. These are nearly completed, and so we pray that the visa will now be approved and released in Jesus’ Name.
Non nobis Domine