A week or so ago, while in a worship time giving my life to God as I was lead by the songs, God spoke something I was not expecting.  It was in the context of what I was giving to God – my thoughts, words and presence, my calling.  He said, “Gary, you can’t wing it.”  I knew exactly what He was referring to.  I had been living at a pretty fast pace, from phone call to meeting to e-mail.  I was banking on “in the moment” discernment, wisdom and recall based off of my life experiences and learning.

God was saying to me that I can’t do that and have the impact I desire to have in the lives of others.  In other words, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  Do not be wise in your own eyes.” (Prov. 3:5 & 7)  God was addressing my pace-of-life, but more poignantly, He was surfacing what I believed others wanted or needed from me – my understanding, perspective and experience.  What we all need more of is God – His words, kindness, presence, revelation, and intervention.

Often we have no idea where a person is at or what they need in a given moment.  They may be on the brink of despair or being overwhelmed or quitting on something or someone.  Just looking into their eyes, or a hand on their shoulder, or a few words, or simply our being with them could change everything.  Think of the things that have changed your life, negatively or positively.  Has it not been someone’s words or their silence, or a person’s presences or their absence, or a person’s gaze or their looking away?  How can we possibly know what someone needs when they may not really know?  Only God knows, so we must ask Him, staying close to Him in every conversation and activity.

The assault is always the same against the glory that we possess and are to offer to others  – the accusation that you have nothing of significance to offer, others they don’t want what you have, it won’t go well, you’re on your own.

The truth is that our life, our presence, our effect is weightier than we understand.  The only one who underestimates the power of our life, in the spiritual realm, is our self.  It’s going to take an unrelenting insistence on intimacy with God and undaunted courage in our offering to others.  As the tag line states in the movie trailer for Tears of the Sun, “The lives of many rest in the courage of a few.”

You are courageous and noble hearted.

Gary

In 1989 the company I worked for was dying; it was losing money like the prodigal son, it had a two-year sales drought, and our owner—though previously successful—was out of cash. The company asked me to demonstrate our software to one of our prospective clients. Actually, our only prospective client. If we didn’t land this deal, we were out of business and I was out of a job.

The night before the demo the client’s consultant Jerry invited me to dinner. He said our competitors bungled their demos by wasting half of the time showing “cool” features that the client didn’t need. And when the client said they weren’t interested in such functionality, our competitors ignored their requests, continuing to show off the coolness of this or that particular feature.

Jerry went on to say that our competitors had failed because they wouldn’t yield control of the conversation to the client. The competitors thought they knew what was needed while only the client knew what was needed. Jerry suggested I begin my demo by asking the client to describe their needs. And then, he suggested, I use the rest of the presentation to show solutions to their needs. I did. They liked it. We got the deal. And I kept my cubicle.

What does demoing software and controlling conversations have to do with hearing God?

Everything.

During the last several months of 2011, I faced a major decision. Almost every day I asked God for direction. I prayed, I begged for wisdom, I asked friends, I read scripture; and God continued to withhold a direct answer to my question.

This past week I was reading Colossians where Paul prays that we be “filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col 1:9).

I said to God, “that’s what I’m asking for, knowledge of your will.”

And in my heart I felt God say, “No you aren’t.” (Please note that no writing on the wall appeared and no audible voice spoke, but a tug in my heart told me to stop, that somehow, somewhere, something wasn’t right.)

I paused to reflect on what this quickening of my heart might mean, and I realized that I was not actually asking God for his will. Instead, I wanted an answer to “this” question—and this question alone— while God was speaking to me about something completely different. While claiming I wanted his will, I really only wanted his input in the area Ithought was most important. I was ignoring what he knew was most important.

I was controlling the conversation—with God!—by ignoring what he wanted to talk about.

It’s not that God doesn’t want to answer our questions, but our questions often miss the main message he wants to speak. It’s like I ask God which color to paint my closet while he builds me a mansion next door. When I finally listen to God’s answer—which is always grander and more profound that what I’m looking for—then (and only then) will I have the answer for my comparatively tiny question.

While I wrestled with my question these past months, God kept talking about other things, and I felt—though I never said it to myself—but I felt like God was missing the point, he wasn’t answering my question. But he was answering my question by answering a deeper question than I pursued.

And I wasn’t listening, because I was controlling the conversation.

God is always speaking to us, but his answers are almost always deeper and more profound than our simple questions ask.

  • Moses saw a strange bush on fire, and he asked, “What’s that all about?” and God said, “I want you to lead my people out of slavery into freedom.” God’s answer didn’t directly answer Moses’ question.
  • Nicodemus says to Jesus, “You clearly are a man of God,” and Jesus says, “If you want to see the Kingdom of God you need a new life, you have to be born yet again.” Again, a seeming non-sequitor.
  • The woman at the well asks Jesus to “give her this water so she’d never be thirsty again,” and Jesus tells her to go get her husband.

God is always speaking, always offering more than we ask or think. Moses was curious about a scientific anomaly and God gave him a new life mission; Nicodemus wanted a bit of wisdom so he could live a bit better and Jesus offered a whole new righteousness; the woman at the well wanted freedom from a domestic chore and Jesus offered a life of freedom from her relational-addiction.

Not only does the bible include conversationally oriented episodes, it also includes an entire book on the subject. The book of Job has spoken to more people than any book written by any modern author (including C. S. Lewis) and the book of Job has comforted more suffering people than any other book ever written.

And the book of Job concerns who controls the conversation.

The first 29 verses of Job sketch what happens to Job. The next 36chapters paint a picture of people controlling the conversation—Job’s wife and friends and even Job—all asking why God has done this. The best advice given to Job comes from the youngest counselor, who tells Job to stop controlling the conversation, “Listen to this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God” (Job 37:14).

And when Job finally stands still, God speaks, revealing his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And Job was satisfied, saying, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5). And that is all we ever really need.

So God, let’s talk. Uh, you first.

Sam Williamson

© Copyright 2012, Beliefs of the Heart, Ltd. All rights reserved.

“For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world.” – Jesus

“I’m bored with my life” and “I’m afraid to make a change.”  I hear these two thoughts almost daily in conversations with others and I’ve uttered them more than a few times myself.  Apathy and anxiety.  Seemingly opposites and yet we can somehow live with both.  Perhaps this is a bi-polar heart.

Several nights ago I pulled a book from a bookshelf in our bedroom that caught my eye – Viktor Frankl’s, Man’s Search for Meaning.  Laying on my bed wondering where to start, I found a dog-eared and underlined page which is where I began reading.  Frankl wrote about the need to reorient our heart toward the meaning of our life because most people live in what he calls an “existential vacuum” – a life without a meaning worth living for.  He states the effect of which is life in either a state of boredom or distress.

I remember my dad telling me, “there is nothing worse than boredom, so find something to do and work hard at it.”  In other words, get busy.  It works, except you end up walking away from boredom across the “existential vacuum” right into distress.  And in that state, you dream of moments of boredom once again.  It’s ridiculous!

But it’s more than ridiculous, it’s tragic.  Frankl went on to say, “People today in this existential vacuum either wish to do what other people do (conformism) or do what other people wish him to do (totalitarianism).”  When I ask people how they got into the job or ministry they are currently doing, their answer is usually because they were told they should do it or they wanted to have another’s life.  In doing so, we actually give up our life, our place and our contribution.  The only way to resist such a temptation is to understand your calling, the unique glory you possess.

One evening during my three days alone with God, I asked Him where He wanted me to direct my thinking.  He asked me to think back through each shift in my working life. I realized that each change was centered on the issue of the alignment of my life to what I had discovered was truest about me, my glory.  Sometimes the incongruity between who I was and the position I was in was resolved by a new opportunity that I could easily step into.  Other times, I had to leave one place before I could find the next.  Some decisions were made out of personal conviction and faith, others out of the coercion of souring circumstances.

With God, the issue is always the aspect of His glory which He has given you and where He wants you to offer it; it’s not “job fit”, advancement or benefits.

Viktor Frankl quotes Nietzsche as saying, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”  Okay, that’s huge.  We must pursue God on our why and trust Him with the how.

Jesus said to Pilate, the one who would brutally beat and crucify him, “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world” (John 18:37)  Jesus knew his why so He could bear the how.

What is your why?

“God’s calling is the key to igniting a passion for the deepest growth and highest heroism of life”. Os Guinness

With you in the pursuit of a fruitful life,

Gary