People Plan; God Guides

One of the tantalizing tensions in the life of a Christ-follower is the interaction between our plans and God’s guidance. “Step out in faith,” Christians say with conviction. “Wait on the Lord,” others caution.

I think they’re both good advice…at the proper time.  The trick, it seems to me, is recognizing the time to wait and the time to act.

This is more than idle theological pondering for me.  I mentioned in another post that my husband, Dan, just finished a Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and he is well prepared to start a second career in ministry.

So, we ask ourselves, what does that look like?  Now what?

In an effort to answer that question, Dan and I took a private planning/dreaming/praying retreat last week. Our purpose was to wait on the Lord and to seek his guidance.

Of course, we have ideas, desires, and plans of our own, but before we take steps toward any of them we were pretty sure it was a time to wait.  We had to examine our desires, get rid of the selfish ones, and make sure that we honestly seeking to serve Him instead of expecting Him to serve us.  We reminded ourselves of four very helpful words: “It’s not about me.”  (For more on this thought, see my recent post on the phrase “God helps those who help themselves,”)

Hiking in Peninsula State Park

Once we are rightly aligned with God, then it is time to take steps of faith.

Scripture is full of stories of God’s sovereignty, power, miracles, deliverance and love, all in evidence as people act in response to His leading and in His power.

One vivid example of this is the story of the Exodus.  (Think Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments.)  God’s infant nation was being oppressed and enslaved in Egypt, and one day God decided it was time for them to be free.

Since he’s God, he could have arranged to do that without any help.  Instead, he assigned the job to Moses and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll be with you.”  Easy for Him to say.

The Pharaoh of Egypt, as one might expect, didn’t cooperate.  God sent ten increasingly difficult plagues on the nation until Pharoah finally let the people go on a terrible night that Israel would celebrate as the Passover.  The Israelites walked out of Egypt unchallenged, but after a few days Pharaoh changed his mind, hopped into his chariot with his army backing him up, and pursued the Israelites to the edge of the Red Sea.

The people freaked out as they felt the thunder of the approaching army with no place to go but the sea.

This is the moment I find instructive.

Moses says, Don’t worry!  Stand firm.  God will rescue us!”  (My paraphrase)

God’s reply makes me smile.  He said, (my paraphrase again) Why are you crying to me?  Get up and go!” 

God did not part the water until Moses raised his staff over the sea.

They were rescued as they acted in faith.

Dan and I did our best to get into orbit around God and to discern his direction, and now we will take some steps in faith, knock on some doors, and see what happens.  That’s all we know how to do.

Our three-day hiatus took the shape of mornings spent in prayer, brainstorming, and planning followed by long afternoon hikes in Peninsula State Park.  Maybe that is representative of our lives of faith: we pray, think, wait, discern, decide and then we take some steps.  Repeat.  Again and again.  I am confident that God somehow gets us all exactly where he wants us.

How do you plan your steps?  Are you more inclined to wait or to act? How do you know what it’s time to stop waiting and start stepping?  I’d be greatly encouraged by your stories of God’s leading in your lives.

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

5 thoughts on “People Plan; God Guides

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  1. I always wait on the Lord. This may mean extra prayer and fasting, but I always tell Him, “Lord, I’m not doing anything, not even a little bit until I hear Your voice on this particular matter.”

    It’s my deep belief that the Lord is a great and awesome Leader. Thus, I expect Him to lead, and I know He knows I’m not always a great follower so He has to make Himself known to me. That’s His job, not mine. In this manner, all the pressure is taken off me and placed on Him.

    One of our best testimonies was when we owned a home in irvine, California. My real estate business died and my wife came down with Bell’s Palsy so our house payments became a major problem. My wife had a thought about declaring bankruptcy, but that did not sound good to me, even though the pressure would have been lessened. I sought the Lord for weeks.

    Then in late November, the Lord spoke to my heart, “You will leave Irvine with money in your pockets.”

    Did things get better? Heavens no. They got much worse. We barely had enough money to buy food, gas, and to keep the lights on. We were served with a foreclosure notice which gave us just a few months to come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars or sell the house.

    But each morning I reminded the Lord of His promise over the next five months. We held onto His promise.

    The happy ending is that we closed on the house one week before the house would have been foreclosed and returned to the mortgage company. The price we received was fifty thousand dollars over every comp price in the area and a thousand dollars over our asking price. The buyer had a $200,000 down payment and her nephew was the appraiser for the loan. God had the right buyer in mine when he made His promise to me.

    We left Irvine with a few thousand dollars in our banking account.

    My testimony is that God is a great leader. Wait on Him and He will bring you a miracle or your calling into fruition.

  2. Judy, I’m very excited for you and Dan to begin a new adventure with God! I have every confidence, as I hold you up in prayer, that God will lead you with His sovereign certainty. It is tricky to know when to “wait” and when to “move”–but I can say, as of recently, that I have less anxiety about the “not knowing which”. God continually tells me that if I don’t go in the the right direction, He will be faithful to “redirect” me, and that faulty vision and mistakes in “hearing” Him are not the end of the world. He says these things to me because I lived my life “fear-based” for so long–and it takes practice to learn “faith based” living. Undoubtedly my life is less complicated than yours–smaller, probably–but it probably works out the same, spiritually. That’s my “faith guess”! God bless you abundantly today, and always.

    1. Bless you, Caddo, for your prayer, encouragement and wisdom. I agree completely that God is quite capable of directing and re-directing whether we “hear” him clearly or not. As always, it’s far more about Him and His power than our “correct” patterns of prayer or guidance. I rest in that. Yes.
      Thanks Caddo and I pray for God’s richest blessings in your life!

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