Well it’s late in the afternoon, about 35 degrees and I’ve just ordered a Chicken Mayonnaise sandwich after lounging by a pool all afternoon. Such a hard life I know. If you hadn’t guessed by now I’m having a little time to recharge the batteries. I’m in Botswana, staying at a swanky safari lodge near Chobe National park. The kids have gone out with Jude on a game drive and I’m enjoying some ‘downtime’, aka. ‘kid free time’.
The thing is though, when I relax I start to think, my mind wanders aimlessly and then centers on a purpose, sometimes with quite devastating clarity. When I’m rushing around I sometimes don’t see the ‘wood for the trees’, however, when I stop, my thinking can be so much more God centered and effective.
In Jeremiah, which is a book of the Bible, it talks about the plans of God and how we interact with them.
“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.” declares the Lord.
Mulling it over this afternoon, lying by the pool 🙂 I saw something that despite my reading this many times, I just had not appreciated. It’s simple really, but the plan exists first, the intention to prosper you and not harm you, exists first, then you start to seek God, you begin to follow him and you begin to find this God that has a plan for you. Now many of you will be thinking, well yes doh! Jon I knew that all along. Well maybe I did as well, but it just kinda hit me between the eyes this afternoon. What God seems to be saying is hey! JON! don’t worry follow me, trust me and it’s all going to work out, but follow me!
In our work and life at the moment this has tremendous significance. Something that has made me hesitate slightly in following what I believe is God’s lead in recent times is my children. How will things work out for them? How does our family work in running after the call of God? Jude and I have done many many things in many places, but those questions are always ‘live’. So after much deliberation and thought, my answer is I simply don’t know, but I’m going to have to trust God with it.
More than that, I really want to trust God with it.
Another thought I had was what happens if you do not follow God’s leading? If you like it is turning the question around. Let me quote Ravi Zacharias, I thought this was so profound I’m just going to quote it.
“So I apply a closing caution to every reader: God wants none of us to perish…Every one of God’s creation he wishes to preserve. His design for you is the best thing he has for you. Let God hold the threads so that you will some day see the beauty and marvel he had in mind when he created you. But there is a second application, if you fail to find this design, the biggest price you may pay is your children or those who look to you as an example. As you let God’s design be worked out in you, you will see it’s impact in others and for generations.”
Zacharias. Ravi, The Grand Weaver, pp. 171-172, Zondervan, 2007.
It has echoes of the Bible. What about those who love their lives in this world, and then they end up losing them? I don’t think that this is simply talking about eternity, It is talking about life in the here and now. As humans we seek to protect our loved ones, protect our finances, save for a rainy day. Some of that may have wisdom, but in hoarding life to ourselves, I really do believe that we risk losing it.
The last two or three years have been a strange time for me. At times I think Jude and myself have slightly floundered a little, wandering exactly where God is calling us, and what he is calling us to. However in recent times, we don’t have that same fuzziness, but maybe I think God was helping us as people to develop, rather than doing more things? Maybe that’s what the Lord has wanted us to really get a handle on? I don’t know, it helps me make sense of the last couple of years in a calling sense anyway. One thing I have realised it that all it takes is my obedience, the outworking isn’t anything to do with me. I do believe I am gifted at what I do, BUT IT REALLY is God who does that work in me. In any case, I see all of my failings, some of you reading this will never know about them! 🙂 Or actually maybe you do…. don’t tell me, you’ll just get me discouraged. I suffer with that enough sometimes with the enemy constantly pressing that button in me.
One of the hardest things has been transformation in relationships as our direction has become clearer. There are many people I know who used to think that I stood for doing good things abroad. Well that isn’t really true, I stand for Jesus abroad, and for his Church to be a catalyst of change in rural communities everywhere. I really don’t believe the provision of ‘things’ changes anything, it’s all about God and poeple. As that has come more to the fore, some people have distanced themselves, maybe even I have distanced them, not knowingly, more just started walking in another direction. In some ways that pains me because I’m a very relational person.
Why am I writing this? Maybe because I realise that I and my work, are at the end of a season, the season of getting the direction right, of laying foundations. A new season is coming and it promises to be a season of God’s leading and I believe of Him doing some great things. All it takes to enter that new season is obedience, obedience to His call.
Here in Botswana I think I’m up for it, maybe considering the above quote, I can’t afford to not be up for it.