|Lord, Show Me|
Lisa Barry: Most of us would agree that we want to follow in whatever direction the Lord wants us to go. The problem, however, is trying to discern exactly what He's asking us to do next. If you've ever gotten down on your knees and asked God for some direction but wondered if you were really heard, I think you'll like today's program.
Elisabeth Elliot has been spending the last two weeks on the subject of waiting on God. I think we'll all agree that waiting on God is perhaps one of the most challenging disciplines that are asked of us. If you are at a point in your life where you're asking God for some direction and waiting for His reply, get ready for some great insight. This is Lisa Barry inviting you to stay with us for Gateway To Joy coming up next.
Elisabeth Elliot: "Do the next thing." My mother taught me this principle many years ago, and my daughter picked it up. I think I taught it to her. And when she was in the hospital, I think it was when number five was being born, that I had the privilege of staying at her home with numbers one, two, three and four.
And that was a new experience for me because I'm the mother of only one child. And so I felt quite busy all day. And she, bless her heart--my daughter called me that evening to find out how I was making out. And I said, "Well, fine. Your children are really very sweet and they are very obedient. They did what I told them to do. But I was very busy and very tired by the end of the day.
Val, I just keep thinking to myself, 'What do you do when I'm not here and what are you going to do when you're bringing home a new baby?' I mean, I'm flat out busy every minute all day long. How do you manage?"
And she laughed. She said, "Mama, I do just what you told me. Do the next thing." She said, "Don't think about all that you have to do. Just do the next thing. One thing at a time," which of course is what I had tried to get across to her, and I guess the lesson had sunk in.
But that really is the most simple, but amazingly liberating, maxim. Just do the next thing. And I have found that to be a great comfort and consolation in times of great distress. Very few things are our business. Very few. But something always is. There's no moment that God leaves us without a requirement of some sort. He requires something of us at every moment of our lives.
If not some clear and simple action, like sprinkling the clothes in order to make yourself get down to business with that ironing, or addressing three envelopes and stamping them so that you will actually sit down and write--those three letters that you should have written six months ago. Then if it's not one of those little things like that, then it is the greatest thing that can be required of anyone, "Trust in the living God."
In one of George MacDonald's novels, he has a dialogue between two men, where one man is very puzzled about what he is supposed to do next. And his friend says, "Well, you just take whatever one step God is asking you to take. Whatever it is that God requires of you right now, do that thing and then you will be given clear guidance."
And the man says, "But nothing is required of me right now." And his friend said, "Oh, but there is. The greatest thing that can be required of any man." "Pray, what is that?" says his friend. "Trust in the living God." That is the one thing required at every moment.
Well, let me give you three things under this heading, "The Next Thing." Number one is "Ask God." Number two: "Accept Your Place." And number three, "Choose Joy." Ask God, accept your place, and choose joy.
Valerie called me one morning and said that that day she had such a long list of things that absolutely had to be done that day, and almost all of them (or at least four or five of them) seemed to be top priority. She literally didn't know what was the next thing that she should do. So down on her knees she went and just simply asked God. A very simple heartfelt prayer: "Lord, show me what is the next thing, the most important thing for me to do right now."
And that particular morning it happened to be to help Jim with his reading. Jim was six or seven years old, one of the children that she's home schooling. And so that was the first thing that she did.
In order to ask God about the next thing, we need to be still. And even if it can only be five or ten seconds, as a young mother may be able to find no more than that, just those five or ten seconds of stillness can be the revelation, the place in which God reveals to you what He wants you to do. Not impatiently banging on His door, but just a quiet, momentary lifting up of your heart to God in simplicity.
Now one of the most beautiful examples in Scripture of this theme of waiting on God is the examples--the two examples--of Anna and Simeon. They stand before us as types of fidelity, of faithfulness which is constant under strain, constant in long continuance without visible results.
Think of Anna, that old widow, faithful in the temple. She spent day and night praying and worshipping. She was faithful to custom, worship and to service, and these were external and visible things in her life. In other words, she was there in the temple, she was doing these things daily, and she had less help in her understanding--far less help than we have--when she was living among the shadows of the Old Testament, the old Law. But she held on by faith to the promise.
Don't you think that she must have often been very weary? We don't really know whether she had been there for 50 or for 80 years. Something like that. But she held on in spite of her weariness to her faith and her hope. And they must have been tried to the uttermost. When was God going to fulfill this promise? But the Bible says, "She departed not, but fasted, prayed and served." A long obedience in the same direction. A long and patient waiting. Sure that the promise of God would come, it would not tarry. "Though it tarry long, wait for it," says the Scripture, "for it will surely come and will not delay."
And think of old Simeon. He wasn't spending all his time in the temple, but he's an example to us of inward faithfulness, to grace and to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says he came by the Spirit into the temple in answer to an inward call. What was it that led him into the temple just at that moment when that young poor couple came to present their little child? How many years had old Simeon waited for that answer from God's Spirit? How many years had he lived in expectation?
Corresponding with grace. Quiet waiting. Trusting. Listening for the invitation and the promise. He made no fuss. He said nothing. And suddenly now, the long-expected meeting, and in one moment all that waiting must have seemed like nothing. Simeon and Anna--two shining examples of what it means to wait on God.
Now when you and I have a question to ask God, it might be well if we would examine our motive for asking, especially when we're asking for things that may not be any of our business. Valerie's plea, "Lord, show me which of these things I need to do first," was a question about things which she was fairly sure were definitely her business and things that really did need to get done that day. But there are often times when we are asking God questions about which we really have no guarantee that they are to be answered for us here and now.
One of the most dangerous questions that I think we are all tempted to ask is how God is going to do a thing, how God is going to fulfill a promise. Now God knows our attitudes. I'm not saying that anytime we wonder about that or ask God about that we're necessarily wrong. But we need to be careful when we ask that sort of a question.
For example, when we read Romans 8:28, "Everything that happens fits into a pattern for good," I couldn't tell you how many letters I have received from people telling me their tragic story and then saying, "Now tell me how this fits into God's pattern for good." Well, how do I know? I don't know how. I only know that it fits into God's pattern for good, because God has explained to us very clearly that it does.
God has made that categorical statement. Everything that happens fits into a pattern for good. Do you think that something has happened in your life which is an exception? Is this the first time in all of history that something has happened that doesn't fit into God's pattern for good? We do feel that way sometimes, don't we, because we think, "Well, I don't see how in the world this could ever fit into any pattern for good." It's not going to fit into your pattern. But remember God said it, I believe it, that settles it. It should. God will do what He says He will do.
Lisa Barry: I like what Elisabeth said a moment ago. She said it's not possible to say how God is going to use a situation for good, just that He's going to make all things work for good. That's a very important distinction.
One way that you'll keep your trust in God strong through the trials of life is by focusing on Him every day. If you need a suggestion, how about a great devotional called JOY AND STRENGTH? Just a few paragraphs a day will get you well on your way to keeping your trust level high all the time. The cost of the book is $11.
When you write to request a copy, would you also remember our financial needs? Any amount beyond the book price can go to maintaining this program on many stations throughout the country. We depend on people like you who believe in us to keep this program everywhere God wants it to be. Thanks in advance for your generosity. It means a lot.
Here's our address: Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. Or call toll-free: 1-800-759-4JOY. That's 1-800-759-4569. Our Internet ministry address is gatewaytojoy.org. Gateway To Joy has been a production of Back to the Bible.
Be with us again tomorrow when Elisabeth talks about giving your work to God. That won't be too tough, will it? That's right here on Gateway To Joy.