I have been struggling in my walk with God lately. For reasons unbeknownst to me, I’ve had a real problem connecting and hearing from Him. I would pray and read my Bible daily, sing worship in the mornings and afternoons, and attend church services. Something just wasn’t working like it used to.
Through the following series of God-led events, I came to understand what the hold-up was.
I had trouble focusing while praying, thoughts of my mounting task list pervading that time. Scripture reading was closer to skimming over words while my mind was elsewhere, and I found myself skipping songs I don’t prefer because I thought I couldn’t really connect with God in them, though I had overcome this obstacle in the past. Now, some songs are more effective for different people, so I’m not negating this fact, but when you truly worship God, you can pour your adoration on Him no matter what tune is playing. And though I was going to church, I saw the priority of attending falling further and further down my list of things to do.
As a result of this, I found myself having a terrible time resisting sin. Pride was replacing my humility but not bolstering my self-image, and lust was running rampant in my thoughts. Urges I had long ago overcome through Christ were storming to the forefront. I couldn’t even look at a woman without judging her appearance, and I even returned to porn twice in my weakness! Somehow, though, I could tell sin was becoming more prevalent in my life and I didn’t feel as close to God; I still couldn’t see the magnitude of separation that had occurred.
I was taking life in too fast; not slowing down to spend time with Him. My time with Him was rushed to fit in between tasks I had to complete and my “me time.”
I truly heard God speaking to me for the first time in a long time through Pastor Scott Wilson at a conference I attended. I had slowed down for the first time in months. There was nowhere I could go and nothing I could do to distract me. The Holy Spirit used that time to get my attention.
Pastor Wilson spoke of a time when he was using sermons that he saw other prominent pastors using and catering them to his congregation. I won’t go into all of the details in this article, but he was doing what he could to make the Gospel appealing to people. After he expressed he had feelings of separation from God, or as he said he felt “like the hand of God had been lifted off of him,” I understood I felt similarly. He said he went to his pastor friend and they prayed for several minutes before God revealed to him he was the one standing in the way of being used by Him; that the services at The Oaks church were from Pastor Scott and not God as they should be. The revelation led to him changing up his services to give the Holy Spirit time to move as God had challenged him to do, and he even tore down a multi-thousand dollar set during service. He was clearing the stage for God.
If you want to read the entire story of how God changed Pastor Wilson’s services at The Oaks Fellowship, you can pick up a copy of Clear the Stage by clicking the title of the book or the image to the side, but to save word count for this article, that’s as much as I’m going to go into here.
The Holy Spirit hit me like a Mack Truck. It was at this time I realized I was driving a wedge between me and God. We spent several minutes at the altar in prayer, and the Holy Spirit reignited those flames of fervency for the Lord back in my heart. I realized that, by letting my focus drift to my tasks, plans, and leisure time rather than seeking God, I was setting up idols and the time I dedicated to Him was actually not dedicated to Him at all. It was a rushed interruption to my daily life.
I have had a change of direction in my heart a lot recently. Aspirations to be a teacher, to finish writing my novels, to own a business, and other things have been on my mind. I would pray for direction and guidance as to which of these paths God would guide me down, but my pride was blinding me to the fact He might not have any of these in mind for me. My personality type isn’t exactly good at relinquishing control, so I was not trusting Him with that direction. I thought if it was on my heart, God must have put it there. While I do think Psalm 37:4 means we receive direction from Him in our desires, I also know the heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), so direction from the Lord is essential in choosing what we do.
It was around this time I had started feeling like maybe my most recent article, Do Something in the Meantime, may have been poor advice, and I began thinking of how to retract that misinformation. If direction from God was so key here and my understanding was so far off, I couldn’t possibly be correct in doing something in the meantime. But you’ll see momentarily how I was, yet again, wrong in this thinking.
My first day home from the conference, I spent a lot of time with my family. While the kids were watching television and eating their pre-bedtime snack and my wife was soaking in the tub, I prayed instead of surfing Facebook as I usually do; And this time I really prayed. I was still having a hard time focusing and was about to give up when I felt the Holy Spirit say to me “read Jeremiah 29:11.” Now, for context, I have felt like this has happened in prayer before, but I would find out it was just my thoughts and not God leading me as the verses tend to have not fit the situation. This time was different.
Jeremiah 29:11 reads:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future…”
Freight train meet heart. It was very clear to me I was not trusting Him with my future. Though I know intellectually He sees all, and He’s trustworthy, I wasn’t applying that to my life. But wait! There’s more. He had me keep reading Jeremiah.
“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord…
I mean, seriously?! In 4 verses written around 2,600 years ago to a completely different group, He summed up exactly what was hurting my relationship with Him today: I was not trusting Him with my future by giving it to Him, and I wasn’t seeking Him with all of my heart. I was giving half of my heart to the Lord and half to my worldly tasks. I couldn’t accept His direction without trusting Him with my life-plan, and I couldn’t hear His direction with half of my heart. Soli Deo Gloria!
It was through this revelation God made known to me I needed to slow down and wait on His direction, and to be sincere in my devotion to Him in the meantime so I can hear His calling when He gives it to me. (And also that I wasn’t incorrect in my article; I can be fruitful while I wait.) God is sovereign and sees all time. He knows the perfect time to reveal my calling. I just need to trust that He will. And now I do.
These two lessons are important for all believers: Wait on the Lord to hear His direction, and don’t impose your narrow perspective on His perfect vision. And ensure you are being sincere in your prayer and worship to Him. Your time with Him shouldn’t interrupt your daily flow, it should be the cause of it.
This article was co-released at www.GeeksUnderGrace.com.