This is the second chapter in a series on spiritual warfare.
You are Unique – Just Like Everybody Else
I love the concept that God is writing a HUGE story. It has a beginning that predates me and an ending that most likely extends beyond my time – or could be here tomorrow. Anyway, the idea is that the story of God is a very long timeline. However, inserted into that incredibly long timeline, somewhere around 1954, God decided that He would place a little guy into His story – at that particular time, in that exact chapter. God put that kid here on earth to play a part in His story – it’s just a bit part but it’s one that’s very dear to God and to me.
You see, I’m not random – neither are you. In fact, God has never made a random person. He only makes on-purpose people. No one just shows up. God has ordained every life on this planet. He has ordained not only the time of your birth but even the location. Acts 17:25-26 tells us that God, “. . . gives to all people, life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation . . .”
Think about it – I had absolutely nothing to do with when or where I would be born. Why was I born in this particular place instead of in any of a million other possibilities – places of war or poverty? He has a plan for every life on this planet. He tells the prophet Jeremiah that, “before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5) King David wrote, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb . . . And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” (Psalm 139: 13, 16b) Does any of this sound random? Does God only ordain the lives of kings and prophets? I think not.
Rather, He invites each one of us into a relationship to play a part in His story that only we can play. It is uniquely crafted just for you – to fit your talents, passions, and desires. That, to me, is Eph 2:10 (NLT) – For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us a long ago.
Did you get that? Really get it? Are you beginning to see the larger story here? God has immense love for you and has called you to Himself – why? To do good things. What good things? The things He has planned for you (it’s your role in the story). When did He plan these things? Long ago. How long ago – really long ago – long before you ever got here – long before your parents or even their parents.
He knew exactly when to call you into the story – he has been preparing you for it since your birth. All your skills, talents, abilities, likes and dislikes are all there for a reason – they will all most likely feed into your role. But it isn’t just the good things about you that will shape your role, your successes and all your finest moments, but also your failures, your tragedies, your losses – it all counts and is significant to your story. They all feed into God’s kingdom purpose for your life.
There’s an Enemy in Your Camp
But you and God aren’t the only players in your story. You have an enemy, and he has a plan for your life as well. His plan is to derail you from God’s plan. He does this primarily by enticing us to a smaller story – one in which we have some control- if even briefly. It can feel pretty real but it’s a cheap counterfeit. It comes to us as addiction and anger – negativity and selfishness and as a host of other consuming distractions and diversions designed to sideline us from our true purpose. Therefore, it will be imperative to stay close to Jesus and to respond with all our heart to His invitation to “follow Me.”
Since Jesus isn’t the only voice speaking (there is the voice of our enemy and our own incessant chattering to sort through), we will need to develop an ear for His voice. Jesus declares in John 10:26 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me.”
Here’s one reason why this is so important. There are two instances that come to mind where Paul is desiring to go somewhere but is blocked from doing so. The first is in Acts 16:7 “. . . they were trying to go into Bithynia and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.” For whatever reason God was redirecting them. Then, in 1 Thessalonians 2:18 “. . . we wanted to come to you – I Paul, more than once – and yet, Satan hindered us.”
My guess is that on this side of heaven these two events probably felt pretty much the same. Paul’s trip is being thwarted, period. Yet, he describes one incident as being the hand of God and the other, the hand of his enemy. I can only imagine that if this were me, I would always be assuming everything I am doing for God is God’s will. Therefore, any opposition would be met with rebuking the enemy and demanding he get out of my way. Of course, this would appear a tad silly from God’s perspective – “stop calling Me Satan little man, I’m trying to redirect you!” Of course, of course You are.
The Necessity of Hearing
So how did Paul know that one was God and the other was Satan? Well, while we aren’t explicitly told, I would imagine it was through prayer and listening for the “still small voice of God.” And that is key. Dallas Willard explains, “The phrase “still, small voice” might seem to suggest something weak and marginal, but that is far from the truth. Hearing this divine but small voice is what lies at the heart of a relationship with God.” In other words, we need to be living a life of conversational prayer with our Father. We will not be able to discern between the myriad voices attempting to direct us, with a superficial walk with Jesus. This isn’t simply about church attendance and whether we are reading our Bible each day. While both of those things are important, we must develop our ability to hear God by spending time listening to Him. THERE IS NO SHORT CUT.
This is the life Paul lived; and so, as his plans get changed, he is able to pray and discern who is behind the action. We each need this type of discernment in our life as well.
Purpose is important to a man. At the end of our days, we will have a desire to know that our life mattered for something. The whole point of this message is that God alone determines a man’s purpose so really the only thing that truly matters in this life is that we have fulfilled our purpose and calling in God; That we have walked obediently through life, listening and following the voice of Him who calls us His own. Get this right and you will have gotten all other significant matters right – your marriage, your parenting, your vocation, etc. Your purpose is not general, it is specific. “David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay” (Acts 13:36).
Only Be Strong and Courageous
And finally, in this life, there will be opposition and difficulty. This shouldn’t come as a surprise when it happens – we should expect it. Auntie Anne (of universal pretzel fame says), “life is hard, God is good – don’t confuse the two.” It will serve you well to remember that. It has offered me clarity many times.
Joshua 1, begins the story of Israel’s conquest of the Promised land. This is the land God has promised to His people. Moses has died and Joshua has been commissioned as the new leader of the people. He will be the one to actually lead Israel into the land. God has an interesting commissioning speech promising Joshua of his victory. “Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be very strong and courageous . . .” (vs 5b,6,7a). God ends this time with Joshua by reminding him, “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (vs9). Seriously? God promises to be with Joshua and yet, three times he is told to be strong and courageous and then instructed not to tremble or be dismayed. What?
God’s will is always opposed but is also always victorious if we don’t tremble, get dismayed or lose our courage. God is forewarning us that even when we are in His will, we will be opposed. I believe the lesson for us is that in following Him, we will have times when we are tempted to feel weak and cowardly – times when we are tempted to dismay and be scared enough to tremble – but that never means that God has forsaken us. It means that in the heat of the battle, we need to stop and pray – listen for instructions from our Commander and then either take our stand in the battle or redirect to a new plan.
Step Up into The Story
Its time for men – thousands upon thousands of men – to take their stand in the story God is offering. Too many have stood on the sidelines for too long. Christianity is not a spectator sport. We are either dressed, and on the field, or we aren’t even in the arena. We will need to take up spiritual arms, join with a faithful band of brothers, and determine to walk fully into our kingdom purpose. This is not dress rehearsal - this is the only life we get. The worst thing we could do is spend our entire life on earth chasing the wrong things. Your purpose here is critical – please don’t shrink back - if you don’t respond to His invitation, there will remain an empty spot – there is no other you.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:25 (NASB)
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