This article was originally written June 24th. See the paragraph at the end for updates since that time. Thanks so much for your prayers! God has provided above and beyond what we expected. Due to God’s provision, we are now ready to apply for Wycliffe, and the truck hasn’t even sold yet! Although we still need to sell the truck, we have already begun our application to Wycliffe. Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we take these next steps. Throughout this journey, God has taught me a lot–especially about discerning his will. When I was in college, this was something I struggled with a lot. How do I know what God’s will is for me? How do I choose what to major in? What job to take? Is God calling me into this ministry or that one? Over time, God made his will clear, but it didn’t happen the way I expected or on my timeline. This past Wednesday night at Bible study, we studied the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. I’ve read this story many times before, but in light of all that has transpired in our lives recently, one particular insight into discerning God’s will became apparent to me.
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went.” (Acts 8:26-27a ESV)
Notice that at first Philip was given a very general command. God told him to head south to the desert. Philip didn’t receive instructions about the precise location he was to go to, the exact timing, who he was to meet, how to get there, or what he was supposed to do once he arrived. The Spirit simply said “Go south” and he obeyed.
And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him…Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. (Acts 8:29-35 ESV)
Once Philip obeyed God’s initial, general directions, God revealed his will in more detail. By obeying the part of God’s will that had been revealed to him, however unspecific it was initially, Philip placed himself in the exact location that he needed to be in to receive God’s more specific instructions. And, once Philip obeyed and got into the chariot, God’s will for him to share the gospel with the Ethiopian became obvious and imistakable. When I was younger, I prayed very hard for God to reveal his will to me. But, when I prayed for God’s will to be plain, I wanted to know what, when, where, why, how, and I wanted to know it all now! I assumed that in order to be following God now, I needed to know exactly what God wanted me to be doing in the future. But God works exactly the opposite! If you want to ensure that you’ll be doing what God wants in the future, then make sure you’re following his will for you right now! It doesn’t matter whether God’s will for you is specific–“Go to XYZ college, get a degree in business, take this internship, and this job”–or if its more general–“Get an education, grow in your walk with God, honor God with your finances, etc.” By following his unspecific revealed will we place ourselves in the right place for God’s more specific will to be made plain. This concept is taught more explicitly in Romans 12:1-2.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1, 2 NIV)
By transforming and renewing our minds into the image of Christ (God’s general will for all Christians), we grow in our faith and place ourselves in a spiritual position to hear and discern God’s will more clearly. Allow me to illustrate with my own experience. When I was fourteen, I felt God’s clear and unmistakable call into ministry. But despite the clarity of that calling, it was not a very detailed calling. I began preaching in small churches around my home and preparing myself for a career of ministry. In high school, I realized that I would need to get an education in order to better prepare myself for ministry, so I began looking for colleges. Over time, one particular college began to stand out, and I applied and was accepted at that school. Unfortunately, during my late high school and college years, my relationship with God grew distant, and my ability to discern his will was hindered. I selected a major (Biology and Chemistry) largely without consulting God, and made many other decisions on my own as well. On a mission trip to India during college, however, God began to reveal to me that he wanted me to serve in foreign missions, though I didn’t yet know in what capacity. I prayed for God to reveal his will to me, but when all the details weren’t clear, I decided to go ahead and make plans of my own–medical missions. As you might imagine, those weren’t God’s plans, and that would later become painfully clear after loosing my job as an analytical chemist, two days before I would have bought a home in Sherwood and began the application process to medical school. After some soul searching, prayer, and reflection on what I knew God’s general will was in my life–missions and ministry–I decided to pursue education that would place me more in line with the general portion of God’s will that had been revealed to me and leave the specifics for a later date. That step of obedience placed me exactly where I needed to be (Southern Seminary) to hear God’s next, more specific directions. I began hearing about a missions organization that I’d never heard of before–Wycliffe Bible Translators. I was intrigued by their mission, and attended several presentations they conducted on our campus. The more I learned about them, the more interested I became. Then, after hearing the testimonies of Ed and Linda Speyers and other Wycliffe missionaries, it began to sink in that this just might be the work God was preparing me for. Almost eleven years after my initial call into the ministry, I attended Total-it-Up at the Dallas campus of Wycliffe in January 2014. During that week-long conference, God unfolded his more specific will for us and it became obvious that this was where God wanted us. Finally, we had a more specific direction (though there are still many details left to be determined!), and we knew what needed to be done. But before we could move forward, we had some debt to take care of.
And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. (Acts 8:36-38 ESV)
At first, God’s will for our lives is usually vague and unspecific. Occasionally God reveals specifics up front, but that is rare. As we take steps of obedience in the portion of his will that has been revealed to us, he reveals his more specific will. Then, as we pursue that, he provides, just as he provided a body of water for Philip to baptize the Ethiopian. In the last few months, we’ve seen God do exactly that. Knowing that Wycliffe was God’s will for us, we decided to have a yard sale to pay off debt, and God blessed us with $1,800 earnings in one day! We knew we had to cut our budget down, so we began looking for a new home. God provided one at half the cost of our former rental home, and it’s less than a block from our church! When taxes came around, God blessed us through a tax debt that was over $2,000 less than we had expected! Then, just this last week, after finally deciding to sell my bike, a buyer came and bought it for $850. Do you remember how I said that once we take steps of obedience to follow Gods will he provides? The next day our rent deposit from our previous home arrived in the mail–$830! Then, a couple days later, the final payment from a roofing job I did in March (that had been delayed by the mortgage company) finally came in and I was paid on that–quite a sizable bonus check! God provided so well that we were able to pay off all that we needed in order to apply before we had even sold the truck! In sum, when we set our minds to follow God’s will and began taking concrete actions where we knew he was leading, he provided the rest. In six months, we were able to pay off over $6,000 of taxes, debt, and past due medical bills–not counting the truck!** It’s no fun to sit and wait without a clear sense of direction in your life. I’ve been in that position. I was there for eleven years, and it still don’t know all the specifics. The natural instinct is to read more into God’s will than what might be revealed to you and to make a path where there is none. But part of the way that God grows us into mature believers is through teaching us patience in those waiting periods and teaching us how to discern his will. Your holiness is God’s will for you, and that doesn’t happen overnight. But, as you offer your life as a living sacrifice and focus on transforming and renewing your mind to the image of Christ, he will make his will plain to you. And once he has made it plain, go forward in peace knowing that he will provide everything you need in his perfect timing. Updates (as of August 17th): Our application moved through more quickly than expected, and we received an official job offer from Wycliffe on August 5th! In God’s usual timing, the day after receiving our official job offer from Wycliffe, I sold my truck. Since the beginning of the year, God has enabled us to pay off about $10,000 of debt, plus our truck. We will be traveling to Orlando, FL for our first portion of training in October, and we have selected Papua New Guinea for our country of assignment (though our official invitation to PNG has not yet been finalized). We still have not figured out all the specific details of our assignment, but we know that God will reveal those things to us as we need to know them. Thank you for your prayers! Please continue to pray for us, and we hope you will begin to prayerfully consider partnering with us in our ministry in the future.