Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This is a "borrowed" post from JD GReear. He is the pastor of Summit Church in Durham, NC. He has been a friend of mine for about 15 years.

What to do when there's an obstacle in the way of a vision God has given you...
The following is an edited reposting of something I worked through several weeks ago. It is what we believe, as a pastoral team, that God has laid on our heart about the future. It is the grid through which we process what lies before us. Summit members, this is how I believe God is guiding us toward the future. I also hope it helps you process what is going on in your own life...

1. Always Ask

We should always be asking God for His continued direction. Rarely in Scripture do we see God giving "once for all" directions or a detailed picture of the "final plans" up front. In fact, to not always be asking, "God, is this step right?" or "Are you trying to tell me to go a different direction?" is, in my opinion, presumptuous, arrogant and potentially disastrous. We see it with Joshua in Joshua 9-10... if anyone ever had a clear word from God about what God's will was, it was Joshua's instructions to go into the promised land. Because he did not inquire of God about each decision along the way, however, he made a disastrous mistake.
Our leadership team at the Summit tries not to be so arrogant that we think that our "plans" for the future cannot be altered. We are clear on the central vision God is calling us to, but are trying to listen to and follow God about the details of how to get there.

2. The Sheep Prayer

Praying "the Sheep prayer" is a recurring theme for me. Basically, the sheep prayer is where you acknowledge that God says He relates to us like a Shepherd to sheep.
Sheep are idiots. They don't learn quickly, they rarely understand, and you never depend on them to figure out on their own which way they should go. Praying the sheep prayer means you say to God, "God, I'm not smart enough to figure out what step to take. There's so much I can't see. I need you to make the next step clear to me."
Sheep never get to the place they are supposed to go because of their skill in understanding, but because of the Shepherd's skill in leading. That's why God tells us to "lean not on our own understanding" but to simply "acknowledge God in all our ways" and "He will direct our paths." (Prov 3:5-6). God gave up on my decision making ability back at the garden of Eden. I don't even depend on my ability to "hear God." I depend on God's ability to make Himself heard.
When we wonder, "Is God trying to say something to us?," I trust that if God is trying to say something to us, or trying to redirect us, HE WILL MAKE IT PLAIN. In Deuteronomy 8:5 Moses tells us "As a Father disciplines his children, so the Lord our God disciplines you." Bad discipline is where you discipline your child and don't tell them why. Good discipline always makes plain to the child why they are being disciplined and what you want them to learn. Needless to say, God will be a good discipliner. Trust in Him, and if He's trying to say something, He'll make it plain.

Your pastoral team depends not on their own insights, but on God's compassion as a Shepherd to lead us.

3. When in doubt, PRESS FORWARD

The last consideration I'd like to give on this topic is more of a practical one, and that is that a general attitude to take when unsure about what to do regarding a dream you have about doing something in the Kingdom of God is "always forward."
What I mean by that is that, practically speaking, many of the greatest victories in the Kingdom of God happened when it looked like the door was closed. The door was "closed" on getting the children of Israel out of Egypt. The door was closed for Elijah to demonstrate to Ahab and the children of Israel that Jehovah was the true God. The door was closed when it came to Paul getting to Rome. If each of these man had not pressed forward despite the closed door, a strategic victory in God's Kingdom would have been forfeited.
I love how Paul says it in 1 Cor 16:9, "A great and effective door for ministry was opened to me, AND there were many adversaries." Not "but there were many adversaries," but "and." "Adversaries" and obstacles were for Paul opportunities to trust God, not signals that the door was closed.

It is very likely that a lot of what God intends to use to "feed the world" is ALREADY in the hands of of an unbelieving church. The bread and fish did not multiply until the little boy stepped forward to give it; Moses' staff did not turn into a snake until he threw it down. (Imagine how nervous Moses must have been with that staff in hand... because if he threw it down in front of Pharoah and nothing happened, that was sure to be rather awkward... "uhh... excuse me, I dropped my stick.") The key to releasing a deluge of God's power in the world is most likely already in our hands, and we won't see the miracles until we step forward despite the obstacles.
While I believe there is CERTAINLY the danger of running ahead on God, especially for impatient people like me, I think a greater danger for most of us is failing to believe in God's willingness to bless the world. So, when I am following a God-given dream and come to an obstacle, if He has not made clear to me that this door is shut, I keep pressing forward until He locks and deadolts it. And even then I give it one more swift kick for good measure.

God is capable of shutting doors He doesn't want us to grow through. After all, you did just pray the sheep prayer in step 2. Just as God told David, "Thanks for the offer to build the temple, but that's not for you," God can tell us, "Good intentions, but wrong timing. Go be zealous somewhere else."

Always forward. So don't let the closed door discourage you. Keep believing and knocking and asking and seeking and pushing and beating and wailing and slobbering.The fervent prayer of a righteous man avails.

The Summit Church's plan is to church all of RDU and plant thousands of churches around the world or die trying. We're going forward. Summit members, you have a part of that. Believe God with us and let's go forward.

Thanks JD.

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