I have decided to go to seminary. Or not. And this is a big step for me.
You see, I’m cautious, and I care too much about how I’m perceived, and I’m fearful of not hearing God’s voice clearly, and I’ve long held a wrong view about the nature of Christian service and ministry. And this wrong kind of view is something that God has been working on within me for years.
This wrong view can be understood by imagining a ladder of spirituality, where each successive rung marks an increasing commitment to and love for Jesus. At the bottom was a businessman, an occupation I’ve held for the past 10 years. Next in line was service to God in the form of parachurch ministry. Above this rung was a local pastor, then church planter, then stateside missionary. Further up the ladder came the foreign missionaries in developed nations, then foreign missionaries in developing nations, with frontier missionaries, carrying the gospel to unreached people groups, crowning the ministers of grace within the body of Christ.
I sought to climb to the highest point on this ladder, believing that wanting God above all other things meant taking the greatest risk for God. But God was not in this desire. As I stepped down this spiritual ladder, pursuing some of the rungs in thought and prayer, while pursuing others more fully through research, training, and conversations, I inevitably returned to my job as a businessman feeling as though God was pleased to use me there. It was a humbling process, and a frustrating one, as I grieved the loss of dreams of a life I thought merited the glorious salvation I had received from God.
Intellectually, I believed in the priesthood of all believers, and the gifts of the Spirit to all believers, and the need for each member of the body to fulfill his or her role under the headship of Jesus, and the sanctity of all professions done for the glory of God. And I never would have acknowledged believing in this internal hierarchy, but in God’s providence, I now see what I did not see for so many years: that not all gifts are equally profitable to the church (1 Corinthians 12), but the use of all of these gifts can be equally pleasing to God.
We do well when we desire to be profitable to God’s people, but we do better when we desire to please God, because in doing so, He receives more glory and we receive more joy. And in a way that only God can work, He makes us most profitable to His people when we seek to please Him above all else. This is a profound truth, and it’s having a big impact on the way I delight in and obey my King.
You may recall that I lost my job in September of 2010. Well, I spent 10 of the months since that time finishing the building of our first house. And now that the house is done, I’m at a fork in the road. Do I continue down the path of business, or do I respond to a longing I’ve felt, strongly at times, weaker at others, to teach God’s people His word?
This goes back to my being cautious. When I encounter this kind of question, I find myself at a standstill, waiting, I tell myself, on direction from God. But what I’m really doing is entertaining my fears. One fear is telling people I’m going to do one thing and then end up doing something else (this goes back to caring too much about how I’m perceived). Another fear is doing what I think God is telling me to do and then finding out I was following my own voice (this goes back to being fearful of not hearing God’s voice clearly).
But God has been gracious to me this past week, and through the ministry of friends and family, I’ve come to see that, sometimes, waiting on the Lord means standing still and listening. And sometimes, waiting on the Lord means walking and listening. Either way, waiting on Him means believing Him, exercising faith in the hope and expectation that He will act on my behalf, for my good, and in a way that brings Him glory and brings me joy.
So I’m waiting in faith by applying to business jobs and applying to seminary. I will soon walk down one of these paths, or one of hundreds of other paths I’m not yet considering. But there’s movement in my soul and in my steps, and it feels good to stretch my spiritual legs again. Pray for me, that God will humble me in the process, and teach me to trust in Him, even if it costs me my pride and my fear.
Question: How have you waited on God in big decisions?