Life changes aren’t always easy. Hearing news from the Doctor, or having an impromptu meeting with Human Resources, or getting that phone call… Whenever we’re asked to make an immediate turn left from the GPS of our life, it’s never easy! However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not the right thing to do!! How can this be? I’m glad you asked…
Proverbs 19:21 reminds us that “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” (underline added by me)
As I think of the “left turns of life“, I’m reminded of Joseph, the one with the multi-colored coat. Genesis 37-45 tells the story of how Joseph was treated badly for years and finally God revealed His purpose in Joseph’s life. Genesis 45:8 tells us “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” This statement is made by Joseph to his brothers, at the time that he revealed his true identity to his siblings – the same ones that had thrown him into a well and sold him into slavery!
Throughout Joseph’s ordeals, God was preparing him to accomplish HIS purpose. We see that God had a purpose for Joseph that far exceeded the plans of his brothers, his master and even the ruler of Egypt, even though all of these were “left turns” in his life!
I’m also reminded of Daniel and his friends – Rack, Shack & Benny! Same kind of story, same result: God’s purposes prevailed.
These are inspiring stories, for sure. But the question must be asked: how did Joseph, Daniel and his friends stay true to God so that HIS purpose could be accomplished?
Genesis 39:2 tells us that “The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered,”. I believe it was Joseph’s desire to obey God that gave him his favorable position with the Lord. John 14:21 reminds us that “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” Many other passages in John and 1, 2 and 3 John instruct us that God’s measure of how much we love Him, is by how much we obey Him! Many of the promises of God are directly linked to obedience of God’s commands! I believe Joseph was a man who obeyed God and because of that obedience, God had favor on him. But more importantly, God knew that Joseph was a person HE could use because of Joseph’s obedience!! We see the same thing in Daniel…
Daniel 1:8 tells us “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, “. Daniel had made a conscious decision, an act of his will: a choice. His choice was to obey God, no matter what! Daniel had resolve. Resolve to be obedient to God. Resolve to show God how much he loved him. Resolve to be a useful vessel to God. God’s purposes prevailed in Daniel’s life because Daniel was found to be trustworthy by God! If not, we’d know the story with someone else’s name in it (Fred? George? Sam?)…
Now how about you and me? As I face yet another “left turn” in my life, it is with complete and utter reliance upon and trust in God! I’m not worried. I’m not stressed. I’m not fearful. Why? Because I know that God has a purpose for me that’s bigger than the assignment that just ended here. For the past handful of years, I’ve been working on my obedience to God. I’ve committed to follow the person of Jesus Christ and nurture our relationship to the point where He is pre-eminent in every area of my life, not just on Sunday. I have reckoned myself dead to myself, and am alive IN CHRIST. I have daily committed myself to Christ – I place myself willingly on the pottery wheel of God and tell Him, “make me into what you want today, let me be useful to you and usable by you today – fill me with Your Spirit and pour me out wherever you see fit.”
How about you? Does your life look anything like Joseph’s or Daniel’s? What kind of clay pot are you? Are there holes of disobedience and selfishness? Is it ‘sincere’ (without wax)? Are you being filled daily with the Holy Spirit? Do you trust God entirely with your life? “But we’re only human”, you say. “God understands that we’re not perfect.” “I could never be like Joseph or Daniel”… Really? Are you sure? That’s not what my Bible tells me! 2 Peter 1:3-4 reminds us that “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” In John 14:12, Jesus tells us “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Hmmm, that doesn’t sound like a God that allows us to make excuses “because we’re human”. Jesus Himself said in John that He only did what the Father wanted Him to do – and He was human too! No my friends, we have no excuses in our humanity or otherwise. We have been given a new nature, a new Spirit – the Spirit of God! And it is only our obedience to Christ and our dying to self, on a minute-by-minute, day-by-day basis, that we can live a life that is pleasing to God.
Jesus teaches us in Matthew 7 that there will be many who will come to Him with a list of activities – things we ‘did for Him’, and His response in verse 23 will be: “I never knew you, away from me you evildoers!” The key to success, Jesus says, is found in verse 24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
So, how can we be like Joseph, Daniel and many others who followed God unwaveringly? By hearing the words of Jesus and putting them into practice! How can I face this time with such bold confidence? How come many of you tell me that I’m “exceptional”? It’s simply because I strive to know what Jesus commands and then obey it. Minute by minute, day by day, choice by choice. Every choice set before me is an opportunity for me to trust and obey. Or, it’s an opportunity for me to have my own way. The choice is up to me. The blessing and promises of God, however, will only come with one choice: the one that involves trust and obey.
So, when the GPS of your life says “turn left now!“, examine your relationship with Christ. Is it alive? Vibrant? Healthy? If not, ask the Holy Spirit to show you what is wrong and then immediately obey what He shows you to do! Spend time with your Lord, each and every day, reading His Word (to know His commands). Spend time regularly talking with Him in prayer. Spend more time with Him listening to His Spirit. Do this every day, throughout the day – before each conversation with others, before each meeting, before each phone call, before you get home. Make a conscious decision to say “NO” to yourself and “YES” to Christ at each choice you make through the day. Constantly seek God and ask Him what He wants you to do – not what you’d like to do. You’re dead, remember? Last time I checked, dead people don’t make any decisions. Dead people don’t have any wants or wishes or desires, they’re just dead. Make decisions based on what matters to God – measure things by His economy and metrics, not yours, not by man-based standards, not by the world and not by the church. Remember that list of things in Matthew 7? What really mattered to God? Jesus said in verse 24 what mattered to Him: hearing His words and putting them into practice! Does that describe your life?
As Oswald Chambers has said: “”Believe also in Me,” said Jesus, not – “Believe certain things about Me.” Leave the whole thing to Him, it is gloriously uncertain how He will come in, but He will come. Remain loyal to Him.”