One of the movies I remember watching a few times growing up was Cinderella. I’m not really big into that movie and I don’t know if I am going to watch it again but Cinderella’s story really speaks into my life. You see, I am a “finished product” type of guy. I don’t mind starting projects, even though they might make me uneasy at first and I like the idea of the “finished product.” It’s the in-between phase that really drives me crazy.
It’s during the struggle that frustration really sets in. It’s during the times of confusion and loneliness and emptiness that I get distracted and off track with my life, my calling and my purpose. To be honest, I feel a lot like Cinderella as the story unfolded. Being mistreated and given loads of things to do which make life even more overwhelming.
So here’s a confession from me. I have and I continue (as of this writing) to struggle with devotions and prayer time. I know, I know, crazy right? I mean I am a pastor and should have this figured out by now but I don’t! For a while I felt like this was simply a lack of spiritual discipline in my life and there is some element of truth in that and I need to continually work on that in my life. Yet, I discovered something as I began to evaluate my time.
A lot of my time is spent with this dream of mine of ‘doing church’ someday, somewhere, somehow. I have spent countless hours outlining sermon ideas, getting videos and graphics and planning something that I don’t know the ‘finished product’ of.
Now, church isn’t a solo sport and I believe that with all my heart. I have this longing for a community group in my area. My focus of course is to pray into that and develop a sense of community within the body of Christ for the purpose of fellowship and to be a light to the lost.
The Work of God always faces the attacks and hostility of the enemy. When Jesus said he will build his church he mentioned that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against it. So, we have the victory but we can sometimes forget that means the gates of hell will continue to fight against God and his followers and his plan.
I know many believers who are engaged and willing to fight against the enemy. They face strongholds head on and trust in the power of the blood and they continue to pursue Christ. What if, we shifted gears though? What happens when we are not fighting against the enemy but rather us questioning the plan of God?
What happens when we face trials and we face the issues in life and we cry out to God but he seems so far away, so distant. What happens when we feel as if God isn’t coming through for us? What happens when God seems to be missing in action?
The first time I remember questioning God was before I came to Christ. To be open with you, I began the question before coming to know Christ as Savior and I continued to question after I gave my life to him. The question was concerning the death of my dad, who passed away when I was 11 years old.
I was nine years old and I was away at a camp for the summer when a camp counselor came in and told me I would be going home a few days early. I was bummed about that because I was really enjoying myself. I returned home to discover my dad had been diagnosed with cancer and while they were going to do everything they could for him, he was too far along for there to be much hope. Over the next two years, my family and I watched my dad get sicker and sicker as the days went by.
One day, he was rushed to the hospital. That morning, he had recovered and was doing well. That afternoon, he passed away. Why God?
According to the passage in Romans, the plan of God includes all things working together. All things include good times, bad times, hardships, times of emptiness and times of questioning. God works all things together for the good. Here’s the reason why he works in this manner.
(1) We are called to trust in the Person of Christ, not the plan of God.
When God called Abram, he said ‘Go to the land I will show you.’ There was no destination other than mere obedience to the voice of God. Abram had no idea where he was going, only what he was leaving behind. His faith responded in obedience because his trust was in God, not in the calling.
(2) We are called to be still and know He is God.
When things don’t seem to add up and when things are getting worse in our lives and we wonder where God is, his call is that we allow him to be God. He knows what he is doing even when we don’t. In the midst of turmoil and confusion, the question that is birthed is, will you continue to trust and follow God?
(3) We are called to be conformed to the image of Jesus.
Some of the highlights of my life include graduating college, graduating seminary and graduating Security Forces Academy. I am proud of each of those things but as I look back, I can remember the challenges that came from them. I didn’t always have easy days and truth be told, many of challenges I faced made me wonder if what I was pursuing was worth it.
The simple fact is that I needed to go through the challenges in my course work to graduate with my degree. I had to endure the physicality that came with being in the military and undergo the training necessary to become a military police officer. Without those challenges, I wouldn’t have made it through.
Sometimes in our lives, our darkest moments are simply challenges that God is using to bring us into being closer to the character of Christ Jesus. The challenge itself may not be what we had in mind but God is using that challenge to bring about transformation.
So, are you trusting in God or following the plan? Do you trust that he has all things in his control and he is working them out, for your good?