How do you discover God’s will in disputable matters? One believer in Jesus orders a glass of wine in a restaurant, while another believes drinking alcohol is wrong. One invites you to see a movie that someone else will not view due to its violence and profanity. So how do you make a decision on whether or not to do something when even mature Christians disagree over it?
Larry Carter was stunned at how much a child’s ability to dream had changed in just a few decades. When he was a boy, his Little League baseball coach asked him and his teammates if they had the dream of becoming a professional baseball player. Nearly every boy raised his hand. His coach said if they hoped to fulfill that dream, they would have to work hard now. The team was so inspired that they practiced and played hard and went undefeated for the next few seasons.
Jane was reflecting on the weekend women’s conference. Surrounded by women who had been through similar difficult circumstances, she noticed that they were now free and thriving while she was still stuck in a cycle of discontent. The Scriptures shared had implored her to do the same things as the other women. But while they had said “yes” to God, she had said “no.”
Five years ago, in a burst of renovating energy, my husband and I decided to install tile flooring in our kitchen. Cold to the feet on winter mornings, hard on the joints year round, but easy to clean, tile was our choice again when we moved a year ago. Enduring the heavy traffic through our house, its strength has proven unyielding—even to the point of being ruthless when anything breakable happens to fall on it.
Here in Britain, the houses of famous people are often commemorated with a small blue plaque. On a house in my town of Oxford reads one such sign: “C. S. LEWIS, Scholar and Author, lived here 1930–1963.” Many contemporary British writers, scientists, politicians, and others dream of having a blue plaque on their house one day to commemorate their lives.
When I went to Bible college, I had a wife, two daughters, and absolutely no money! We were confident that God had called me to attend college even though we weren’t sure exactly why. After we determined that we couldn’t afford a house near the college, we brought our need to Him.
In a recent email, a woman named Renee told me how she and her husband had unsuccessfully spent years trying to start a family. After numerous rounds of in vitro fertilization treatment and several years waiting to adopt, they were exhausted from the ordeal and considering bringing the journey to an end. Knowing that my wife and I had walked a similar path, Renee asked a question. “How do you give up on a dream of parenthood without regretting what might have been?”
There are times when the very foundation of our life feels as if it’s shaking. That dreaded phone call in the night. That difficult news from the doctor. That heart-rending decision by a friend or family member. All of these things and more can cause us to agonize inside and tremble outside.
I enjoy reading lists of names in the Bible. In the past, they seemed pointless to me. In fact, I would skim over them to get to the “meaty” stuff in the passage. One day, however, I realized that all those names were there for a reason. God had selected individuals and involved them by name in His Word. What an honor when your name was chosen for positive reasons!
Almost everyone loves to hear stories of God “showing up.” We feel trapped by circumstances, we pray in desperation, and a providential answer arrives just in time. We know it’s God, and it’s easy to praise Him—for a while.
A member of my small congregation is now in his 9th decade. His zeal for God and for serving His purposes hasn’t diminished for more than 60 years. His body, however, is finally starting to slow down. This frustrates him, for he wants to be speaking to anyone and everyone about the love of Jesus. He wants to take part in evangelistic efforts, but he can rarely leave his house these days.
The other day I read two passages in Deuteronomy and Numbers with similar messages. They caused me to recognize more deeply the consequences of disobeying God and failing to heed His warnings. Put succinctly: Moving forward without God’s leading, permission, or assistance, regardless of how we justify our words or actions, will lead to His judgment.
After I finished speaking at a church one Sunday on how the cross shows that God can redeem our broken dreams and suffering, a guy came up to me wanting to talk. “I haven’t been to church in 26 years,” he said. “I’ve just been through a divorce and a business failure—I have lots of broken dreams. Just this week I said to a friend, ‘If there is a God, why doesn’t He step in to help?’ Then all week I had this feeling I should get to a church service. What you said tonight has really rocked me. It’s like I was meant to be here.”
John Newton, slave trader turned pastor and hymnwriter, believed in “large asking” when it came to prayers. He encouraged many with the archaic words in this verse from the hymn “Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare”: “Thou art coming to a King, large petitions with thee bring, for His grace and power are such, none can ever ask too much.”