I’ve been working through a book by Erwin McManus called Chasing Daylight: Seize the Power of Every Moment. The author challenges his readers to be mindful of opportunities to change the world around them for Christ, and oftentimes this happens through “interruptions.” We have to be doing something” in order to get to the right place of service.
He tells a story about a seminary student and how she told him about her dream of starting a new church in the Northwest but she informed McManus that it was not God’s will. When asked why she thought this, the response was that “the money never came through” and this was evidence that God was not in it. McManus writes “Our wealth and abundance of human resources have positioned us to accept a paradigm that provision precedes vision.” He adds, “There are times God calls us to do the right thing, knowing that others will respond in the wrong way” (67).
Another part of this book really spoke to me. McManus talked about how he had been working himself into a frenzy, trying to do all the things that his congregation had told him to do. Oftentimes someone would say, “this is problem and somebody ought to do something about it.” Which is another way of saying that McManus should deal with it. However, McManus had a revelation that changed his life.
He writes, Like an epiphany from heaven came the insight that changed my ministry. One day when someone insisted that a certain service needed to be provided, I simply looked him straight in the eyes and said, ”If God has placed this on your heart, He must want you to take responsibility to make sure it happens.” God rarely shows you the problem so you can tell someone else about it. More often than not the very people who insisted that a program needed to be started didn’t care enough about it to invest their energy or to give their lives to it. In other words, once that person was challenged to do something about the problem, that problem suddenly diminished in size and urgency (52).
On Wednesday nights I’m leading a Bible study called “Purposes of Prayer” which is mainly a review of prayers from the Old Testament and the people, circumstances, and challenges of those who uttered them. This time we were looking at the story of Elisha and his being surrounded by armies who were trying to kill him and his attendant, the latter being terrified by what he saw approaching from the hills. Elisha’s response was “Don’t be afraid. There are more troops on our side than on theirs.” Then he prayed, “Lord, please help him to see.” And the Lord let the servant see that the hill was covered with fiery horses and flaming chariots all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:16-17).
Elisha was involved in a divine moment of sorts and he apparently had the awareness of God’s presence in the middle of a potentially devastating attack. Things turned out well for him, but as we know this does not always happen. There are no guarantees, only a faith that moves us in the direction of following our Lord. It’s like the Roman soldier who insisted on going on a dangerous journey, and his friends were trying to talk him out of it. He replied, “It is necessary for me to go, it is not necessary for me to come back.”
Being a pastor is one of the most rewarding and challenging occupations around. I certainly don’t know all the answers, as some in my congregation would testify, but being part of a community of faith and seeing persons deepen in their faith is not a bad way to go through this life. On the other hand, there are things that go along with this position that make it hard to explain to others. Sometimes I wonder how these kinds of moments could be divine and how they relate to the Kingdom of God.
I find Elisha’s prayer to be an incredible exercise in faith, and also a reminder of God’s involvement in our circumstances. When the attendant’s eyes were opened, he saw the flaming chariots and horses of fire in the hills. They were already there! They didn’t show up after he looked, assistance had been there the whole time.
The challenge in going through this life with its routines and expectations is to tune in to the Divine presence around us and to those divine moments when they come along. They have a way of sneaking up on us and don’t necessarily announce their presence. There is a constant tension of seeking the Kingdom of God and dealing with the realities of people and their disappointments. I have mine too. So, as I pray for the Lord to open the eyes of those around me, I also want to first pray that my eyes are seeing those things that God wants me to see as well.