“I have set before you life and death…choose life.” Dt 30:19
Choice is the greatest power God gave you. Too many of us just accept our lives-we don’t become leaders of ourselves. As a result, we can’t get out of our own way. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel wrote in Souls On Fire that when you die and go to meet your Maker, you’re not going to be asked why you didn’t become a Messiah or find a cure for cancer. All you’re going to be asked is, “Why didn’t you become you? Why didn’t you become all that you are?” Fulfilling God’s will for your life requires taking responsibility for yourself and your life. How do you do that? By saying yes to God first-then to yourself. Every time you say yes, you open yourself up to your God-given potential and to the greatest of possibilities. If you’re used to saying no, you may find this difficult. If that is true in your case, then at least be willing to say “maybe.” One day a father whose child was chronically ill asked Jesus to heal him. “Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mk 9:23-24 NKJV). If you’re a self-doubter, pray that same prayer. God will answer it. Never forget that you are unique, possessing talents, experiences and opportunities that no one else has ever had – or ever will have. You’re responsible to become all God made you to be, not only for your own benefit but for everyone else’s.
“It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us.” Ac 15:28 NKJV
Listen for God’s guidance. As long as you keep listening to people whose opinions don’t line up with God’s Word and God’s will, you’ll be frustrated and get nowhere. When important decisions must be made that affect the future, you must be able to hear from God. You must also welcome feedback. Why? Because if you’re not teachable, you’re not usable. Now, the majority opinion can be valuable in run-of-the-mill matters, but when a God-given vision is at issue you must listen for God’s guidance first and foremost. You say, “Isn’t there wisdom in having a plurality of leadership?” Yes, even the best leaders have blind spots and need people with 20/20 vision in those areas. “Certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’” (v. 1 NKJV). What was the result? “Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, [and] they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question” (v. 2 NKJV). How did the apostles handle it? They said: “God, who knows the heart, acknowledged [the Gentiles] by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (vv. 8-9 NKJV). So after prayer and deliberation the apostles wrote a letter to the church, saying, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things” (v. 28 NKJV). And what was the result? “When they had read it, they rejoiced” (v. 31 NKJV).
“Show me now Your way, that I may know You and…find grace.” Ex 33:13 NKJV
Get to know the people. No minister has ever had so much trouble with a congregation as Moses had with the congregation of Israel in the wilderness. At the Red Sea, he was so happy that he wrote a song to celebrate their spectacular victory. But later, when the complaints were coming at him from every direction, he told God he wanted to die. It reminds us of one pastor who asked another, “How many active members do you have in your church?” The other replied, “Five hundred. Half of them are actively working for me, the other half are actively working against me.” Leaders, different people in your organization or business will play different roles in the plan God has given you. Some of the people you will like, some you won’t. But you’ve been called to lead them all, so get to know them. On his deathbed, Jacob prophesied over each of his twelve sons describing both their nature and their future. He said Reuben was unruly, Simeon and Levi were given to anger, Judah was born for leadership, Zebulun would extend his borders, Issachar was willing to carry the load, Dan was sharp when it came to dealing with people, Gad was a fighter who wouldn’t retreat, Asher loved cooking, Naphtali loved raising children, Joseph would be wounded but he would come back stronger than ever, and Benjamin would be an entrepreneur who knew how to excel in business (See Ge 49). To lead people successfully you must know them. So pray, “Show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight.”
“You must build…according to the pattern I will show you.” Ex 25:9 NLT
Go to God for the plan. God told Moses: “You must build this tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you.” God knows what you will need in the future, you don’t. He prepared Noah a hundred years in advance of the flood. He prepared Joseph to feed Egypt seven years in advance of the famine. Without God’s guidance the best you’ll ever have are estimates, educated guesswork and projections. “To the Israelites at the foot of the mountain, the glory of the Lord appeared at the summit like a consuming fire. Then Moses disappeared into the cloud as he climbed higher up the mountain. He remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights” (Ex 24:17-18 NLT). Moses spent over a month waiting in God’s presence for direction. Why? Because what he was building had to meet the needs of God’s people for generations. So go to the place of prayer. Tell those around you, “I’m not coming back till I hear from God and get His plan!” When God orders it, He pays for it. But when He doesn’t give the order, and you decide to do it anyway, you’re on your own! Why? Because you won’t have confidence to go to Him in your time of need. Unless you start right, you won’t finish right. You say, “But I’m nobody special. Why would God speak to someone like me?” If God has called you, and He has, then you’re special. His promise is, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God…and it will be given to him” (Jas 1:5 NIV).
“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Ro 10:17 NKJV
If you want to know how strong your faith is, pay attention to what’s coming out of your mouth. “The word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it” (Heb 4:2 NKJV). It’s not enough to read God’s Word; you must internalize it, then vocalize it. We say all kinds of things, but the truth is that we don’t really believe them because they don’t show up in the way we live. You should live in such a way that if God is not who He says He is, you’ll fall flat on your face. This means: (1) looking for opportunities to trust God more; (2) trusting Him to come through for you regardless of the situation; (3) strengthening your faith for the tough times ahead. And here’s how you do it: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” If someone could stick a thermometer under your tongue and take your spiritual temperature, the thing that would cause it to rise or fall would be the time you have spent in God’s Word. You say, “Right now my faith is very low.” Then start spending more time reading God’s Word. You say, “I wish I had the faith of so-and-so.” There’s no mystery about how to close the gap between your faith and that of others- just log more time in the Scriptures. Rearrange your priorities, take control of your time and put Bible reading at the top of your to-do list. If you’re serious about growing in faith, it’s a price you must be willing to pay.
“Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are of God.” 1Co 6:20
God’s third claim on your life is consecration. It’s not a word we hear very much these days. It means “to be set aside for the exclusive use of.” You say, “But I have so many faults.” God’s not looking for perfection, He’s looking for willingness. The Bible says, “Every high priest [was] taken from among men” (Heb 5:1 NKJV). The people God calls and uses are all human and flawed in some way. Why would God call someone like that? Because they “can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since [they also are] subject to weakness” (v. 2 NKJV). You say, “My parents want me to go to Bible school and be a minister.” Well, there’s good news and bad. The good news is that Bible school can deepen your devotion to Christ and give you insights into His Word. The bad news is that your parents can’t call you, only God can! “No man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God” (v. 4 NKJV). You say, “How will I know I’m called to a ministry?” Fruitfulness! When controversy broke out in Israel over who should be in leadership, God told Moses to pick a man from each of the twelve tribes. That man’s rod was placed in the ark of the covenant overnight, and the one whose rod “budded” was the one God had called. The Bible says: “A man’s gift makes room for him” (Pr 18:16 NKJV). When God calls you He will open the doors, make the connections, and provide the resources. All He asks of you is a life that’s consecrated to doing His will.
“Ye are bought with a price.” 1Co 6:20
God’s second claim on your life is Calvary. The story’s told of two friends went to law school. One became a judge, the other became a law breaker and ended up in court. Guess who was sitting in the judge’s seat? His friend. So how could the judge be merciful, yet still be just? Taking off the black robes of justice, he walked over to the dock where the prisoner stood and said, “Not only am I this man’s friend, today I’m his savior. I will stand chargeable with all his debts.” At the cross God took all your sin and put it on Christ’s account, and took all Christ’s righteousness and put it on your account. And the moment you trust Christ as your Savior you’re no longer under the sentence of death. The value of something is determined by the price a buyer is willing to pay for it. At Calvary God said, “This is how much I love you!” Your Creator became your Redeemer. “The Maker of the universe, as Man for man was made a curse. The claims of law that He had made, unto the uttermost He paid.”
To fulfill His purposes in the earth, God always had a man. To deliver the Israelites from Egypt, He used Moses. To challenge the prophets of Baal, He used Elijah. But when it came to your salvation, God “saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; therefore His own arm brought salvation” (Isa 59:16 NKJV). The good news is: when God could not find a man, He Himself became a man; that we who are the sons of men, might become the sons of God. Awesome!
“You are not your own.” 1Co 6:19 NKJV
Picture two people standing outside of a house. One says, “This is my house.” The other replies, “How come?” The first one says, “For three reasons. I built it. I paid for it. I live in it.” Let’s look at the first reason why you belong to God: Creation. Some folks think we all came from an amoeba. The problem is, they can’t tell us where the amoeba came from! The Bible says, “God created man in His own image…male and female He created them” (Ge 1:27 NKJV). Some folks say that the earth came into existence as a result of the “big bang” theory. Yet if you told them, “The car you drive right now was the result of an explosion at an assembly plant in Detroit,” they’d question your sanity. If there’s a design, there must be a designer. If there’s a creation, there must be a Creator. And since God made you He holds ownership rights over you. The Bible says: “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1Co 6:19-20 NKJV). Not only did God create you, He gave you certain gifts so that you could fulfill His purposes and bring glory to Him. So before they tag your toe and write your obituary, ask God what you were born to do. Only by finding and fulfilling His purpose, can you fill the God-shaped space within you that you were born with.
“Let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Gal 5:25 NIV
If the Christian life is about having a personal relationship with God, then God must still speak to us today. But a relationship can’t be built on one-way speeches. First, it requires commitment. Then it requires communication between two people in which each speaks and listens to the other. “You…are controlled…by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you” (Ro 8:9 NIV). That means having Spirit-controlled responses, and making Spirit-led decisions. When you follow God life no longer consists only of that which can be seen, felt or figured out. It includes walking by faith, trusting Him, learning to know His voice and the leadings of His Spirit. Some of us are reluctant to do that because we’ve seen people who claim to be doing it and their approach scares us. So when we sense the Spirit’s leading we doubt it, analyze it, conclude it isn’t logical and don’t pay attention to it. Some of us want to obey the Spirit, but we’re not sure we know that He’s really speaking to us. We wonder, “Is this God’s voice or my own desires?” We’ve all experienced this; it’s a normal part of the Christian life. This is why Paul writes, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Spiritual guidance is learned – one step at a time. Even the most mature believer will stumble and get it wrong at times. No problem: “The Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand” (Ps 37:23-24 NIV).
“The prudent (wise) considers well his steps.” Pr 14:15 NKJV
After you’ve prayed, planned and prepared, there comes a point where you’ve got to take the plunge. Is it scary? Absolutely! There are two kinds of people. Those who leap before they look; they are driven by impulse. Then there are those who look, and look, and look but never leap; they are controlled by fear. Which are you? To get to the Promised Land, Israel had to cross the River Jordan at flood tide. It must have made the strongest heart skip a beat. God had promised that when the feet of the priests carrying the ark stepped into the water it would roll back. Can you imagine their thoughts? “Couldn’t we wait until the tide goes down? Why do I have to go first? What if the waters don’t roll back and I drown?” The step between prudence and paranoia is short and steep. Prudence wears a seatbelt; paranoia avoids cars altogether. Prudence washes with soap; paranoia avoids human contact altogether. Prudence saves for old age; paranoia clings to every penny. Prudence prepares and plans; paranoia panics. Prudence calculates the risk and takes the plunge; paranoia never enters the water. To reach your God-ordained destiny you must quit holding back, obey God and step into the water. The moment you do, doors will begin to open and resources will be released where there now seems to be only shortage. God will provide the means, the method, and the manpower. So stand on His promise: “I have loved you; therefore I will give men for you, and people for your life. Fear not, for I am with you” (Isa 43:4-5 NKJV).