Surprised by God’s Will

 

I was trying to make the biggest decision of my business career and I did not want to miss out on God’s will in my life. After all, for as long as I could remember, I’d been told God had a plan for me and my life. I didn’t want to make a major life change only to discover years later that I had taken the wrong path.

For the previous year, I’d been thinking and praying about this decision: Should I stay in my comfortable job or take the leap of faith and start a new business? I’d made all of the normal lists of pros and cons trying to gain discernment, but I still didn’t have a sense of peace about the decision. I went to some older men to seek counsel, but most pointed me back toward God while at the same time cautioning me against starting my own business. Unpersuaded by their reservations, I decided to take off for a few days, to drive out to a remote section of lakefront property in East Texas, take the question directly to God. Maybe he’d answer me in the place I came most alive—the great outdoors.

I sat at the end of a quiet peninsula on Lake Palestine, and sitting completely still for the first time in years, I almost hyperventilated. The truth was, I really didn’t know how to relax, much less pray with the expectation of receiving an answer. I did my best though, began to pray and read Scripture, and I tried to listen. Still, my thoughts wandered back to my duties and obligations and all the things I ought to be doing.

I’d spent a full day trying to hear anything from God, but still, I had no answer. On the second day I woke up early and went back to my spot, read a little more Scripture and prayed a bit. I was trying to be patient, trying to wait on the Lord, but I wondered whether he was there. Then, in a moment of utter silence, the leaves stopped blowing and the waves stopped lapping on the shore. Something was different.

Almost without warning, God’s thoughts resonated in my mind, almost as if coming from an audible voice. The first was, “Choose whichever path you wish, but above all else keep Me first in your life.” Before I could even process the thought, the voice came again, “I am more concerned with who you are than what you do.” It was an unfathomable thought, one I couldn’t quite wrap my heart around, and as I tried to understand the thoughts, the silence ended as quickly as it had come. The prevailing southerly breeze returned with the rustle of leaves and the lapping of waves on the shore, and everything returned to normal.

I sat there for a long time thinking about those messages. I didn’t want to make a mistake and miss God’s plan, but it didn’t seem God was so concerned about that. He was more concerned about who I was becoming.

I can’t say the words I heard that day apply to everyone. I know God occasionally places specific calls on certain people’s lives. For the majority, though, He does not, and on that day He gave me freedom to choose whichever direction I wanted, so long as I made him first.

Over the thirty years that followed, I’ve shared this story with a number of men who have come to me for counsel. Most are searching for God’s specific will for their lives, which is not always revealed in Scripture, and they find themselves paralyzed with indecision. Time and time again, men say my story has given them a new perspective. And like me, so often they discover that when they have the freedom to choose one of several paths so long as they keep God first, peace comes flooding in.

This truth—the truth that God cares more about my heart than my vocation—has become even more freeing as I’ve grown older. In fact, my vocation has been hijacked by ALS, a terminal disease accompanied by total paralysis. And now more than ever, I’m grateful that God’s will isn’t tied to my vocation. I’m grateful he cares more about my heart than my career. Knowing this truth, I can rest in his peace, praying “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Perhaps more pointedly, I can pray with great confidence, “Thy will be done in my heart as it is in heaven.” Can you?

Original devotion written for FaithGateway by John R. Paine, author of The Luckiest Man: How A Seventeen-Year Battle With ALS Led Me To Intimacy With God.

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Your Turn

Have there been times in your life where you tied your worth to what you do… instead of to who God says you are?  How does knowing that God wants your heart free you from the pressure to perform? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

John R. Paine

John Paine is a successful businessman and lay leader living in Plano, Texas. He has lived over seventeen years with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. A once active man, John now spends his days in a wheelchair, dependent on a ventilator for his next breath. His greatest passion is mentoring others and sharing the true treasure of his life with them - intimacy with Christ. In the twilight of his life, John most enjoys spending time with his wife Margaret, the families of his four adult children and seven grandchildren.

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