Not Exactly What I Had in Mind

God's ways aren't our ways..png

Has God ever answered your prayer in a way that differed entirely from what you had in mind? I have asked God for things and pictured all the many ways He could bring the answer to pass, but God chose something I would never have even imagined. I recall the time He allowed our only vehicle to burn to the ground in our driveway and then provided us with the vehicle I had crooned about for years. I never saw that one coming! Then there was the time when a financial blessing quickly turned into a nightmare, and then, at the last moment, turned back into a blessing. What a whirlwind!

I’m guessing the kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom would understand what I’m talking about. They experienced God’s unusual ways of dealing with problems firsthand. Second Kings 3 tells the story, but I’ll give you the setting. Jehoram, the king of Israel, was the son of Ahab, and according to the Bible, he wasn’t as evil as his parents, but he was far from being a saint. Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, feared God and lived right. The king of Edom is unnamed in this passage, but it’s safe to assume, he was probably more like Jehoram than Jehoshaphat based on the customs of his kingdom.

Jehoram discovers the Moabites are preparing to attack Israel, and he convinces the kings of Judah and Edom to join him in the battle. So the three kings lead their soldiers and cattle into the wilderness, but along the way, they discover they have another problem. There is no water.  

At this point, Jehoram, the king of Israel, falls apart. “This is just great! Not only is the army of Moab coming to destroy us, but now we don’t have any water either. God just led us here to destroy us!” Jehoshaphat—obviously the more mature of the two kings—interrupts Jehoram’s tantrum.

But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may enquire of the Lord by him? And one of the king of Israel’s servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah.
— II Kings 3:11

I don’t have time to get into Elijah’s witty retorts toward the wicked king of Israel, but I encourage you to read them. It’s worth the time!  In the end, he calls for a minstrel to come to play music. That was probably enough to send Jehoram over the edge. “Hello!!!  We need help from the Lord. We need answers. We need deliverance. We don’t need a song!!!” (Oh, Jehoram, why are your impatience and unbelief so familiar?) As the minstrel played, Elisha received a word from heaven.

And he said, Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches. For thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts. And this is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand.
— II Kings 3:16-18

Let’s break that down into pieces so we can experience the full impact of what the Lord is asking these frightened and weary kings to do.

First off, dig a bunch of ditches.  Of course! It seems so logical. They were thirsty and about to be overcome by an enemy probably three times their size, so what better way to spend their strength and energy than digging holes in the valley? (Sarcasm implied!) Seriously, though, it didn’t seem like the perfect solution to their dilemma, did it? But God wasn’t through yet.

Next, Elisha informed them though they wouldn’t see wind or rain, all those ditches would be filled with water. Not just some water, but enough for them and all their cattle and all their other animals to drink and be satisfied. That’s a lot of water which means they needed to dig a lot of ditches. Where was the water going to come from if not from a massive storm? Well, that was God’s little secret, now wasn’t it?

Elisha continues his speech, and I love this little tidbit he throws in here. He reminds the three kings that the miracle about to take place was a light thing in the sight of God. It was no big deal. The Almighty God would not have to expend any energy to fill the valley with enough water to meet their needs. It was nothing! (We discussed this concept a few weeks back in our series, The Negatives in the Bible). What a comfort to know our biggest obstacles are little things in the eyes of God.

Elisha finishes his message from the Lord, but the last phrase comes out almost as an afterthought. “Oh, and the Lord will deliver the Moabites into your hands too. Just saying.” How funny is that? It proves how insignificant the army of Moab was in the sight of God. He’s like, “Whatever!”

I have to wonder if the three kings looked around and asked, “Is there anyone else here that can speak to the Lord for us? This makes no sense at all! This isn’t a battle plan.” But whatever their initial reservations, they followed through with the Lord’s directions, and watch what happened.

And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water. And when all the Moabites heard that the kings were come up to fight against them, they gathered all that were able to put on armour, and upward, and stood in the border. And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood: And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil. And when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and smote the Moabites, so that they fled before them: but they went forward smiting the Moabites, even in their country.
— II Kings 3:20-24

Whoa, that’s priceless! The Moabites look out and see the water that looks like blood. Assuming the three kingdoms had turned on and slaughtered each other in the night, they march down to the valley to collect the spoil. But because they weren’t on guard, they were easily attacked and sent running all the way back to Moab where the slaughter continued. God’s ploy led to Moab’s destruction.

While it may not have been the plan the kings had in mind, no one can doubt its effectiveness. They didn’t have to understand. They only needed to obey, do their part, then stand back and watch God do His. And that lesson applies to us today. God’s ways are not our ways and rarely do they make sense to us. That’s okay. We don’t have to understand. We need to trust and obey. And in the end, we’ll stand back and marvel at what God accomplished and how He performed it!

Nothing Is Impossible For Those Who Believe

There is nothing God cannot do in and through us if we believe..png

“I can’t do it!”

If I had a nickel for every time those words came out of my mouth, I’d be a millionaire. Years ago, I was much more confident in my abilities, but now, with my joint issues and other health problems, I view myself as lacking. And in some ways, I think I even use it as an excuse to justify things I should do but don’t. In my mind, I’ve convinced myself I can’t perform specific tasks, but according to the Bible, my argument has no solid foundation.

Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
— Matthew 17:19-20

Evidently, the disciples had the same problem I have. They didn’t believe in themselves. They knew Jesus could cast out the demon from the possessed child, but they didn’t trust that He could do it through them. They were blinded to His true power and ability. But Jesus quickly reminded them, if they had faith (even the size of a mustard seed), nothing would be impossible for them. They could perform miracles in His name and move mountains. And the same is true for us because we, too, are disciples of Christ. The apostle Paul agrees.

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
— Philippians 4:13

All things. There is nothing I cannot do through Christ. How many times did the psalmist refer to God as his strength? Didn’t Jesus Himself say that, without Him, we could do nothing? That’s true, but the opposite is true as well. With Him, we can do anything and everything (within His will, of course). If we could grab ahold of that truth and claim that promise every day, where would we be? I think we would be happier and more fulfilled. We would accomplish more and complain less. Each task would be a reminder of God’s great power in our lives.

Jason and I are putting this promise to the test in our mission efforts. We have taken an “outside the box” approach to deputation. What I mean by that is the direction we feel the Lord leading is not the typical deputation way. It doesn’t tick all the boxes of what most missionaries will tell you is the best way to do it. It doesn’t conform to the instructions laid out in various guides and manuals. But, it matches our natures and personalities, and we feel led to take a different approach. Every time we’ve explained our plan to a fellow missionary, they’ve given us the most skeptical look, and some have even exclaimed, “It will take you a lot longer that way.” Maybe, but maybe not. We believe if we follow God’s will, He’ll get us through our deputation and on the field in Wales in record time (again, if it’s His will). Though we are eager to be in Wales, we don’t want to rush through this process and take the “proven” path just because it’s the usual way. Instead, we’re stepping outside of the box and trusting that nothing is impossible.

What about you? Are you putting your faith into action today? Have you been telling yourself (and others) you can’t do something? Have your self-doubts caused you to forget about the mighty power of God? There is nothing God cannot do in and through you. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but it means it’s possible. You can do it through your faith in Christ. You’re strong in His strength. So, go out there today and move some mountains!

Directions from the Divine

Jailhouse rock_An excerpt from He's Still Working Miracles-9.png
And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
— Acts 16:16-34

Before the jailer could end his life, Paul intervened and assured the man that all the prisoners were still in the prison. The jailer called for a light to see for himself that all was as Paul had said. Relieved, yet convicted, he fell down at the feet of the duo and inquired, “What must I do to be saved?” Evidently, the Holy Spirit had been working on the heart of the jailer during the midnight hour. He had seen enough. He had heard enough. He knew what he needed, but he required someone to show him the way.

Paul's response was simple and direct. In fact, the verse is one of the memory verses I taught my kindergartners when I was a teacher. Why? Because it is a simple, understandable verse that shows the way to salvation. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.(Acts 16:31) The path to Heaven, plain and simple. Believe! Not baptism. Not works. Not wealth. Believe in Christ and accept Him as Lord of your life. Yes, salvation is truly that simple. The jailer heeded the instructions, and as we see at the end of the passage, he and his entire family were converted. None of which would have happened if God's plan had not taken place. God needed Paul and Silas in that prison so they could witness to the jailer, so he, in turn, could be a witness to his family. And I doubt the influence ended there. No, I have a feeling that influence spread like wildfire, and many souls were saved because Paul and Silas were willing to be used by God in a miraculous way.

Many of us long to be used by God, but we have our own plans and ambitions about how we want to be used. We picture ourselves as little David standing bravely before the giant or as Joshua marching around the walls of Jericho. We bask in the possibility of being able to heal the sick or raise the dead. We're willing to stretch our necks out a little, but we would really rather not stray too far from our comfort zones. After all, life is tough enough.

But God needs servants who are willing to be used in the darkest dungeons. He needs those who are willing to go where there is no light to share the light of His love. He needs those who are so in tune with Him that they don't just settle for the obvious but heed His word, even if it means denying themselves. He needs another Paul, another Silas. Are we willing to heed His call?

The benefits of trusting the Lord may be deferred, but they’re always worth the wait.⁠
— Ron Mehl; Surprise Endings: Ten Good Things About Bad Things
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