When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.2 Samuel 7:12-13 (NIV)
When I was five I intended to grow up and be an astronaut.
When I was seven I intended to grow up and become President of the United States.
When I was ten I intended to go into the navy and become a naval aviator.
When I was thirteen I intended to become a lawyer and politician.
When I was sixteen I intended to become a great evangelist like Billy Graham.
It was never my intention to live in Pella, Iowa. It was never my intention to spend twenty years in the customer research and quality assessment business or to be a business owner. It was never my intention to be divorced and remarried.
As I look back on my life’s journey I find that there are many things I intended to do that were clearly not part of God’s plan for me. David wanted desperately to build a temple for God, but that was not God’s intention. God intended for David to become the warrior leader who would establish the throne and prepare the way for his son to build the temple. There are many things in my life I never envisioned which I now believe God both knew and ordained for me.
Just last week Wendy and I were discussing a man we have observed who is aggressively striving after his own intentions, who appears to have failed miserably on many counts, and also appears to be in denial regarding it all. Wendy remarked that the man reminded her of Macbeth who destroyed his life intending to fulfill what he believed was his prophesied path. But, that’s one of the things I love about following God: He eventually redeems even our foolish wanderings and failures for His purposes.
Today, I am reminded to be discerning between my intentions and God’s designs. I desire to lean into the plan God has for me and follow the path laid before me. I have no time to waste blazing trails that lead, at best, to nowhere or, at worst, to tragic ends. I don’t want to end up thinking along the same lines as Macbeth who concluded at the end of his tragic strivings:
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.
“May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.” – David (1 Samuel 24:12)
“I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.” – King Saul (1 Samuel 24:20)
“Timing,” as they say, “is everything.”
When I was a young believer in high school, I had an afterschool job. My boss at this particular job became a mentor to me. He spent an early morning each week studying God’s Message, taught me disciplines critical for this faith journey, and generously provided opportunities for me that became essential to my maturity. He also had a vision of starting a consulting business based on Biblical principles, and he wanted me to be a part of it. One day while having lunch at Wendy’s he laid out his vision, asked me to consider going to business school and getting an M.B.A. with the expressed intent of joining his consulting group. As much as I desired to please him, I knew in my heart that it was not the right step to take. I went a different direction, and during college my mentor and I lost touch. I did not speak to him for many years.
For anyone who has read my blog for any length of time, you know that I chose (though I believe my steps were directed) a different path than the one my mentor wanted for me. Rather than business, I chose to become a theatre major. Fast forward past college. Rather than a consulting practice I chose to go into pastoral ministry and then into parachurch ministry in which I raised financial support to cover part of my income. In a series of events I will not take the time to share in this post, I suddenly found myself being directed away from this particular parachurch ministry with no earthly idea what my next steps would be.
As fate (a.k.a. God) would have it, one of my financial supporters was my old boss and mentor with whom I had gotten back in touch after six or so years. When I called him to let him know not to send a support check the next month as I was leaving my position he asked what my plans were. I told him I had no earthly idea what I was going to do next, but I knew I had to leave my position immediately. That afternoon he asked to meet with me and offered me the position with the consulting firm he had envisioned and discussed with me back when I was in high school. I took the position and in 2014 I will celebrate 20 years in my job. In 2005 my dear mentor and friend retired and I have been privileged and blessed to be a partner and owner of the company ever since.
I look back on this experience and it has been a life lesson to me of God’s timing. My boss had a clear vision of the path I should take and the position he wanted to hire me to fulfill. When he laid out his vision to me I knew in my heart that it was not the right path, nor the right timing. As I have written elsewhere in this blog, I now see with 20/20 hindsight how being a theatre major uniquely prepared me to be successful in the position I was hired to fill. Likewise, my experiences in six years of ministry taught me life lessons that were essential to preparing me for the role I would eventually fulfill in business.
In today’s chapter, we continue to watch as the story of David’s ascent to the throne of Israel unfolds. He was anointed as King of Israel while a young man, but he was not ready to take up the mantel of monarch. It would be 20-30 years before David would be in the position God ultimately had for him. Over those many years David would develop the experience and skills necessary for his position as King.
We also continue to see the contrast of the bookend monarchs. David refuses to take a shortcut on God’s timing. He refuses to try and make his ascent to the throne happen by killing Saul even though he appears to have justifiable reason for doing so. David wants the throne in God’s time, not his own. Saul, on the other hand, continues to pursue David despite knowing that God’s anointing has left him and gone to David. He refuses to humble himself and instead gives into fear, seeking to kill David before David wipes out his family and his legacy.
Today, I am grateful for God’s timing. I believe that there is a divine plan for me. I can look back and see it unfold. I can look forward and trust that it will continue to play out. My job is to trust God, be faithful in walking the path laid out for me today, and respect the ultimate plan.
“Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. Genesis 45:4-5 (NLT)
“Hindsight is always 20/20,” they say, and so I’ve found it to be true along life’s journey. There are many times I have not understood why it was my lot to wander through a dark valley until I was much further down the road. From my vantage point standing atop the next mountain I could look back to see where I had been and where the road had taken me. Then, it all came into focus.
As a young man, God gave Joseph dreams of the pinnacle he would some day reach. His older brothers would all bow down before him. There was, however, a long road which wound through some deep, dark valleys that stood between his present and the future God had ordained for Him. I can only imagine how many times Joseph questioned why God would give him such a dream only to have him thrown into a well, sold into slavery, unjustly thrown into prison, and forgotten by those he selflessly helped. All along the way Joseph had every reason to question and complain about his life being unfair and the unjust way he’d been treated. Yet, he eventually learned that there is purpose in our pain.
Wise King Solomon said “wounds from a friend can be trusted.”
Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
If we believe that God is truly good and if we believe that Jesus is our friend, then we can trust that there is a plan for the road we are on and there is a purpose for the place on life’s road in which we find ourselves. It may feel like God is unnecessarily wounding us or allowing us to be wounded. We just don’t have the perspective to fully see it or understand it from where we are standing.
That’s why we call it a “faith journey.” Faith is the evidence of what we do not see in our momentary, finite perspective and the assurance of the pinnacle we hope to reach.