Called through Circumstances
God speaks in 4 primary ways. He gives direction into our lives through: The Bible, Prayer, Circumstances, and the Church. These four avenues work in conjunction with each other, and will consistently convey the same message. Taking one avenue by itself and ignoring the others is a recipe to miss the voice of God. You have to look at all four. One may be neutral. In other words, you may look at one of these ways (the Bible, for instance) and not feel like you are getting any direction there. But the other three will all point in a common direction. More often than not, though, God uses all four.
I want to give you a little info today about how circumstances have been a powerful tool that God has used to speak direction into my life, and show you how you can do the same.
For me, circumstances are most important at major crossroads. In his book, Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby talks about how to identify spiritual markers. These are moments when major events occurred in your life and, in the process, you had an encounter with God of some kind. You may not have recognized the encounter at the time, but you see it now as you look back.
For me, there are several pieces that help me understand God's direction for me. Here are 10 of them:
1) I was entertaining, teaching, acting, mc'ing, singing, speaking and generally always in front of people since I was a little boy.
2) My family didn't go to church, but my Grandfather introduced me to Jesus when I was very young and he took me to church when he could (he lived half an hour away). I loved going to church with him.
3) On the many Sundays when he couldn't pick me up - as early as when I When I was 5 or 6 - I would go outside, climb the swingset, and pretend like I was preaching to a crowd. I only knew one Bible verse: Psalm 37:4, which is imprinted firmly in my mind to this day. Today, when I run into one of the neighbors who lived on our street 35 years ago, they almost always remind me of that.
4) I was baptized when I was 16 in a church I went to with a friend. No one from my family was there. I don't have any ill feelings about this - my parents both attend church these days, and I say this not at all to dishonor them. But the circumstances of this event help point me in a direction, seeing that God wants to use me to reach and support others who have similar circumstances.)
5) My undergraduate degree is in business, and I owned businesses and had one that was a spectacular failure (mostly by my own doing). I know what it's like to have a business run your life, work 100 hours a week, be overwhelmed by stress, etc. I encountered God in a special way during my business meltdown, and it has been formative for me.
6) My parents divorced when I was 9.
7) I'm the oldest of my siblings. I think and behave like an oldest child. I am married to an oldest child. Both of my parents are (functionally*) the oldest in each of their families. (there's some good in that...and some not-so-good, but it is a circumstance that God uses to speak direction into my life).
8) The only seminary I considered was the one in Richmond, because of it's location. It happens to be a school that helped me soften my tone, be less condemning and see God's involvement in the world differently.
9) Experiencing God was a study I was doing in 1997 when I had a special encounter with God.
10) On a mission trip in Panama in 1997, God spoke to me clearly about going into church work vocationally.
If you've made it this far in this post, you're probably bored to death. Our own stories aren't all that exciting to everyone else, but I give you these as an illustration. Let me connect some of the dots now.
When I look back on my life, many of the major moments and the encounters with God point to me doing exactly what I'm doing today. My confession? There are some days when I daydream about getting out of church work. Yes, most days I LOVE what I do, but some days, I would love to bail. And when those days come, these spiritual markers help me hear God's voice clearly: I was made for what I'm doing right now. I'm in the center of the bullseye. I wasn't always in that spot, and I can tell you that when you are doing what you were made to do, it's a feeling like no other.
This is NOT just about ministry. I believe God made people for all kinds of work - electricians, managers, teachers, technicians, engineers, medical folks, construction workers, drivers, finance people, and even politicians. :-)
And it's not just about work...think about the people you can most help or most minister to...single moms or people who've lost a spouse; wealthy people or only children; people who grew up in church but hated it or those who never went... The list goes on and on. I know this: God wants you to inventory the spiritual markers of your past so that you can better understand what he wants for your future...and for today.
Hope this helps you see and understand circumstances and spiritual markers!
*The study of Birth Order is fascinating and has been pioneered by a leading marriage and family counselor who is also a Christ follower. If you are interested, I encourage you to get and read The Birth Order Book, by Kevin Leman. Click here to see it.