Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Answer to a struggle

During a time of intense struggle, I was in an attitude of crying out to God. It didn’t take place all at once, but was more of an on-going thing; an “attitude” pervading my every waking moment.

My soul was in turmoil, and as I went on with “life” - working, home life/farm life, making deliveries, running errands - just “stuff”, I was crying (literally and figuratively) out to God for answers.

One day while running errands, I stopped to eat lunch and realized that I didn’t have anything to read. (I usually keep a book or magazine with me at all times.) All I could find in the van was a NIV Bible. I don’t particularly like the NIV, and this particular bible is a huge paperback, and although I certainly don’t mind being seen reading a bible, this one makes it quite blatant, and I don’t do that. I will “stand” but I’m not an “in your face” sort of person, either. So I didn’t take it in to the restaurant, but I did thumb through it before going in. The scripture of Zechariah 10:1 caught my eye - “Ask rain from the LORD at the time of the spring rain-- The LORD who makes the storm clouds; And He will give them showers of rain, vegetation in the field to each man.”

That intrigued me and I began to meditate on it and study about it. Nothing earth shattering or unusual about it, it was just something I was doing. I even wrote a prayer and some commentary about it. I saw it more as part of my daily “spiritual discipline” than part of the “answer” to my struggle.

That seems at first glance as to have nothing to do with the answer I received, but ultimately became a big part of it.

The next day I was out seeing customers and as I was driving I had the radio on the local Christian talk station, and was “listening, but not listening” (you know what I mean.)

As I was driving, I kept asking God for answers - for direction, for encouragement that I was doing the right things. I was in a writing ministry (of sorts) but was getting no response. No one seemed to be reading what I was writing. I didn’t want praise from readers, or recognition from others, but just to know that this was what God wanted me to be doing - that it was a blessing to someone, somewhere. (My “theme song” sung to the tune of “It’s Me Oh Lord, Standing in the Need of Prayer” said “Not for fame, not for fortune, but for Thee, Oh Lord…”)

I thought of the Zechariah passage and asked, pleaded really, for God to answer within seemingly “natural” and “normal” incidents, as in asking for rain within a normal time for rain. I did not want a miracle. I just wanted to hear God. Anyone can see God act in unusual occurrences, but it takes a believer to see God working within the ordinary.

I had struggled unusually hard with questions such as, “Who do you think you are? What makes you think God speaks through you, or uses you, or even that you have any wisdom or knowledge of God’s will? All you’re doing is making a fool of yourself…” I’d had similar feelings before, but it always seemed to be in conjunction with searching for God’s direction. But now, I’d been experiencing God’s direction in a more fulfilling way than ever before - at least I thought it was God’s direction… I just wasn’t really sure anymore.

The next few incidents took place simultaneously, so it’s kinda hard to write down, so bear with me.

The program that was on the radio was “Turning Point” with David Jeremiah who was teaching a series on the 7 Churches of Revelation, this particular day - the Church of Philadelphia. He was teaching on the things that the Lord commended them about, and on the “door” of opportunity that they had, and that they were to others. Then he talked about being patient, letting Jesus “unlock” the door and open it - not to rush into where God was not ready for you.

Just as he was saying that I was beginning to think that maybe God was saying “wait” - that a ministry of this type needed the “Spring rains” to make it grow - that witnessing opportunities needed to “ripen” before they could be harvested, but before that thought fully materialized, I “heard in my spirit” “It doesn’t matter who reads what you write, or even IF anyone reads what you write. Your responsibility is simply to study and write. I will take care of who reads it and when.”

Just then Dr. Jeremiah said that Philadelphia had the 4 characteristics that are often associated with Church and ministry growth. As he stated them, I “heard” a response. These were:
A door of opportunity (and I heard, “You have an opportunity, Betty, with the blog and with the e-mails.”)
They had “little strength” they knew the only strength they had, was from the Lord. (“It is not your strength, it is Mine. It is who I AM not who you are.”)
They were committed to keeping the Word of God. (“You have “kept” the Word, even in time of questions and doubt. Keep studying to prove yourself faithful.”)
They held fast to sound doctrine and did not deny the Lord. (“You have sought to do what is right. You have never denied Me.”)

I erupted in tears (which is no simple thing doing 65 mph down the interstate!) And just as soon as was safely possible, I pulled over and wrote down the 4 things.

God answered my cries within one of the most normal occurrences of my day - driving and listening to the radio. It is utterly amazing how so many words and feelings and actions can take place at exactly the same time.

So I guess I have my “marching orders.” “To God be the Glory - great things He hath done!”

Betty J. Newman © July 26, 2005


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