Sarah unexpectedly lost a church position that she strongly felt led to take. She felt it was the right job, applied and the doors flung open. She had sensed the Lord leading her into this. But once the job started, it got strange. There were certain parishioners who didn’t want to see anything new. One attempt after another, to do the job she was hired to do, met with resistance. Finally “to keep the peace,” the pastor who hired her, let her go. While she humbly sees things she may have done differently, she asks, “If God led me to this job, why did He let me fail at it? Why did I lose a job that God led me to?”
I’ve learned at such times, not to put my thumbs in my pits and quote Job. You know, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away?” (from Job 1:21) Even Job later learned that there was much more to the picture, and to the answer of the question, “why?”
When we second-guess God’s leading, we have to consider God’s goals. When you make a move, as a child of God, there are three goals involved; God’s goal, your goal, and your faith’s goal. Did you know that your faith has a goal of its own?
“…for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
1 Peter 1:9
While God has goals for you, and society has trained you to have certain goals for yourself, the Christian is sometimes caught between their goal and God's goal. It is our faith that lines us up with God’s goals. By faith we await transformation.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
1 Peter 1:8,9
My flesh wants a good paying job, promotions and praise for my work. These are my goals. My faith’s goal is for the salvation of my soul, which is the sanctification process. I’m not saying it is wrong to want the good job; but it just isn’t the goal of my faith. Becoming like Christ is the goal of my faith. Yours too, if you are in Christ.
Peter is here writing to Christians who have been suffering grief and trials of all kinds. Many had suffered much, due to their decision to follow Jesus in an age and location where that was punishable by society. He says of these trials:
“These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
1 Peter 1:7
Connie Frances sang the song “My heart has a mind of its own.” (Don’t give me that look!) It was a sad ditty about a girl whose heart kept leading her back to an unfaithful man that she knew was wrong for her. Christians have it the other way around. The Spirit filled heart has it right, but the carnal mind would send us in the wrong direction. Thank God we can focus on what God wants!
“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
1 John 4:4
Our parents, teachers, and mentors in life all wanted us to succeed. They trained us up to survive in this world. And that was right of them. But then Jesus burst into our lives, and we died to this world. In declaring Jesus Lord of our lives, our goals also changed. And this takes getting used to. If we don’t realize that our goals have been changed, then we will be frustrated. This is because God’s goals and worldly goals are at odds with each other.
In Romans 8: 5-9, Christians are categorized according to how they make decisions. Different translations term this decision making (not according to the Spirit) as “carnal” or “according to the sinful nature” or “the flesh.” All mankind since Adam and Eve fell out with God, are born with the sinful nature. Jesus, after rising from the dead, sent us the Holy Spirit to be our guide. God expects us to make decisions according to His Spirit and not our carnal minds.
Hey side bar ! : If “carn” is Latin for meat, then does that make the Christian who continues to operate with their carnal minds, a “Meathead?”
The person who is unregenerate has no choice in how they make decisions, but the follower of Christ does. God’s Spirit indwells us, so that we can make Spirit led decisions. Jesus went through great personal cost, so that we could "walk according to the Spirit." We need to walk as such, and not just by trusting in human logic.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and He will make your paths straight.”
First Peter 1:9 said, “for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” When we placed our faith in Christ, our faith lined right up with God’s goals. It did so at our request. In our better moments, we in Christ pray some mighty powerful prayers. I’m not talking about the “Lord, make my ministry bigger!” or “God please tell my roommate to lay off the beans!” prayers. I’m talking about “Lord God, please make me more like Jesus.”
When we pray this way our world shakes. God delights in such prayers. And He knows that we mean them. Our problem is, that we don’t hang onto that humility for long. We get up from our knees (or some of us just resume chewing), and we go off and forget what we asked for. Then when our worlds shake, we wonder why? Then we cry out to God again, wondering why, and His Spirit reminds us what we’d prayed. We kind of expected him to hit us with a holy stick, and make us more like Jesus. Come on! You know the drill! We all know how we gain patience for example:
You’ve been short with people and lacking in patience, and so you humbly, not liking who you are right now, repent and in your most holy moment, you ask the Holy God to change you, agreeing with God to make you more like Christ. “Grant me patience, Lord!” Sounds nice, I know.
Well, during the week, you find that you are hitting a lot of traffic. I mean a lot! The elevator at work never did come. Rushing home as you have a meeting tonight, you suddenly remember to get milk. It should just take a second. And then you are in the "Express" line, where you wait. Three of the four customers in front of you have way more than the allotted limit of items to be in this line. And “Oh gag!” you’ve got an overly sanguine cashier who is just so very happy to see everyone and she loves what they are wearing and used to have one just like it and would love to know where they got it.
You’re going to be late. And as you sit there coming to a boil, God steps in with: "You did ask for patience." You asked for it. And as you finally go from 5th in line to 4th, with the cashier saying, "Oh, I just love this new vanilla cherry diet caffeine free coke, don't you? What will they think of next? You know what I'd like to see..." the tension in you dies. You even smile and suppress a chuckle. You’ve just realized that the cashier is a healthier person than you are. So you thank God for answering your prayer, and you just relax, and become patient. That is Christian success.
Part of your flesh has been crucified with Christ, and a bit more of you went from messed up to sanctified (made more like Christ). And that is success for the Christian. At such times, the Christian senses that pleasure of working with God. Being late for a meeting isn’t fun, but you can honestly say, “God is making me more like Jesus.”
“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self control;” and so goes the list... God has a lot of work to do in us, and the goal of our faith is that He works on us daily. We may have goals, and some may sound really good. But are they God’s goals? Your ministry can “grow” without you growing. But at some point, you will pray a prayer of faith again, and He’ll jump right on it.
I think Sarah probably heard right. God did give her that job. He will show her the reason for her being there. She is in good standing with Him. She’s not bitter, but wondering aloud. And there is a bigger picture too. Who knows what God is doing in the lives of the pastor, and his congregants? More important than the size of the church to God, is the Christ-likeness of the souls worshipping there.
Come on folks! Sing along with Connie, and give it some country twang!
“Mah faith has a gohwwl of it’s owwwwwwwwwnnnnn!”
You really don’t know who I’m talking about, do you!?!