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,”)
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.
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