Thursday, June 28, 2007

Discerning the personal will of God

Yesterday I was offered (and I accepted) the position of choral music teacher at a nearby public high school! My family and I are rejoicing because I have been searching for a “permanent” job since January of last year—17 months! The offer of this teaching job also marks a personal milestone for me. Even though I’ve been a state certified teacher for 22 years, and worked over 17 of the past 21 years in the field of public education, it’s been over 18 years since I’ve actually held the position of “teacher”. I’ve been a “substitute” teacher, a “permanent substitute” teacher, a “teaching assistant”, even a “paraprofessional”, but I’ve not held the position of full-fledged “teacher” since 1989. Needless to say, when I completed graduate school 21 years ago, this is not how I envisioned my “career” in education unfolding.

In the past week, I’ve also been reminded of my “call” to ministry. Chances are, had my family and I not left our former mainline Black denomination 9 years ago, I most likely would have been the pastor of a church by now. The fulltime pastorate was the goal I set out in pursuit of some 18 years ago, when I first discerned that God was “calling” me to preach the gospel. To date, I have yet to reach that goal. Ironically, although I’m not a pastor, and have not been in an official pastoral role in 9 years, in many ways, I’ve served in a kind of unofficial pastoral role in each church of which we’ve been a part since leaving the denomination that ordained me. Even when I didn’t tell anyone about my ministerial background, I’d have people ask me if I was a student at the nearby seminary. It’s like they just assumed I must be a preacher. Occasionally, I will have people, out of the blue, ask me questions about the Bible. Well, thank God, He still provides opportunities for me to teach or preach His word, but the form my ministry has taken is not what I imagined it would be 18 years ago.

Which bring to mind this whole topic of discerning the personal will of God. Many believers want to know, like Saul on the road to Damascus, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6 KJV). We’re willing (or, at least, we claim to be willing) to do whatever the Lord says do, if He would only make His intentions clear to us. Some might even worry that they’ve somehow missed God’s will for their lives, and they set out in a frantic search to “find” the will of God.

May I tell you something? It is impossible to “miss” God’s will. If God is in control, then it is impossible to be “outside” of His will. Nothing happens to us that God has not permitted. If God doesn’t allow it, it won’t happen. Like the idea of someone dying “before their time”: If someone could die before their time, it would mean that, somehow, that person’s death took God by surprise. He had a time in mind for them to die, but they went and died “before their time”, without God’s permission. Nonsense! They died right on time—at God’s appointed time for them to die. In the same way, none of us can get “out” of God’s will, as if God is powerless to do anything with us. Instead of wasting time trying to “find” God’s “lost” will, our time would be far better spent being obedient to the will that God has already revealed to us in His written word. Our lives will be used by God and will be effective in His hands if we make it our business to be faithful.

So, does God have a specific plan for our lives? I believe He does but, it seems to me, our life path is rarely laid out for us in clear fashion. God doesn’t let us in on the details of our lives. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Therefore, we must trust God. He knows the way. Let’s face it: If God did show us the specifics of the path ahead, we’d never follow Him! We would be frightened off by all the trials, temptations, disappointments and failures that await us. God doesn’t tell us (most of us, at least) what’s going to happen in the future. So, we trust God, knowing that He knows the future, and knowing that His plan for our future is good, even if it does include trials, temptations, disappointments and failures.

That’s certainly what I’ve found. Even though I could wish that 21 years ago I had secured a teaching job like the one I was just offered, the fact of the matter is, 21 years ago I would have failed miserably. I’m a far better teacher today, knowing what I now know, having experienced what I have experienced, than I would have been 21 years ago. And, much of what I know today has been because of the failures and disappointments of yesterday. I would venture to say I’m a far better minister of the gospel today because of my “off-road” experiences of the past 9 years. And the process is not done! I’m still learning, still growing, still maturing. Disappointments and pain, in the hands of God, are worth it, in terms of what is gained in character.

So, I trust God. The increased responsibilities will present even more challenges that I know God will use to continue forming my character in Christlikeness (and I may have far less time available to blog). As far as the ministry of the word, I’ll continue to pursue whatever door God opens.

However, I’m not searching for God’s will. I know I am exactly where God wants me to be. And, you are exactly where God wants you to be. Trust Him. He is using your circumstances to shape you into the image of His Son.
(To be continued...)


Anonymous said...

You know, it's funny --- two of my more charismatic friends have recently told me that they want God to tell me personally which road to take in a couple major decisions this year. And God can certainly do that, since He's in charge of the whole world. But then I run across your posting today, of all times, and the fact is that God has already revealed His will for us in Scripture. And as you say, I must trust God with my final decision, knowing that He works all things for the good of those who love Him. So whether or not He specifically tells me something, through whatever means, I am in His sovereign grip.

Dave Block said...

Excellent post, Wyeth. Thanks! And I'm happy that you got the teaching position.

Anonymous said...

What a cool opportunity you have. A public school who knowingly hires someone who is a christian.WOW.
As a gov't employee myself who endeavors to live my faith and not compartmentalize my life... men and women like you are my heros !
I have been bombarded most of my christian walk with the elitism of " the ministry" and to be honest I'm not sure any more I really want that.
You will reach more people for Christ if not in word than by deed where you are than you ever would in a pulpit IMO.