How to work out God’s plan for you

Working out what God’s plan for me is, is proving to be one of the greatest challenges of my life. Perhaps it will be my life’s work in itself, and when I look back at my life, I’ll know what God’s plans for me were.

I do know that He plans for me to work for Him, it’s more the specifics I’m struggling with, and as He reveals more and more to me, I learn more about how we can discern what His plans and purposes for us are.

I don’t pretend to know even 10% of how to do this, but I offer some insight.

Inspired by some teaching from the Word for Today (an awesome resource from UCB), entitled ‘Working for God – His Way’ (….created in Christ Jesus to do good works.. Eph 2:10), here are my thoughts.

For the most part, we have to wait to find out what God’s plans for us are. God doesn’t tell us immediately, usually because we’re not ready. Readiness often comes in stages  – and we have to complete tasks (or trials – see James 1) along the journey, to be readied, prepared. Sometimes those trials make no sense, either – remember the Karate Kid? Daniel waxing the cars and painting the fence? He had no idea that they’d create instinctive martial arts moves in him. So it is with us. When God’s ready to tell you how he wants to use you, he will. It will be very clear – even though it may look impossible – that’s when he asks (& requires us) to trust him – because he’s dealing with the bits we can’t see or understand how to accomplish – we’re only a small part of his greater plan.
OK – does that all sound a bit intangible and (perhaps) far off? Remember God is patient and wants to grow that in us…
Here’s a way to find out what it is he’s calling you to do…
When God’s character and your passions collide you find your mission.
God wants us to love each other. He wants us to feed the hungry, clothe the poor and care for the broken-hearted (Matthew 25:34-36). He wants us to love mercy, do what is right and walk humbly with him (Micah 6:8). All of which is worship. All of which glorify him. – these are his standards, his character.
What are you passionate about? Whom do you care for? What is it that you’re drawn to? Where do your passions and his character meet in the middle?
He speaks to us: the voice in our head, strong feelings, words from the bible, words from other people. We can discern his voice from these ‘channels’ by judging them by the standards I’ve listed above.
And we have to take action – to do things, serve others, as above. We have to step out in faith and try things out – to see where they take us and find out where God leads us.
Hope that helps somehow.
Have fun finding out.

Glorifying God when life hurts

Last week a member of our church family died from cancer. Our church family had fought like an army of prayer warriors, believing that God would heal her. Yet we’ve lost her from this earthly domain, she’s been called home to be with our Father.

I didn’t know Nix well, but had found her faithfulness throughout her drawn-out battle with the illness, inspiring and I know she’s in a better place now. However, the gap between knowing that and feeling that, truly understanding it, will be like a chasm for some of us right now. How can this be God’s will for her and her family? I simply do not know, nor cannot fathom.

“My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways…”  (Is 55:8) Isaiah reminds us that God does not think the way we do, and knows infinitely more than we can imagine. Paul writes that we see only through a glass darkly, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor 3:12) He recognises that while we’re living our earthly lives, we only see a glimpse of the Kingdom of God, of His great plan.

Yet as Christians, we see the light at the end of the tunnel. Believing in Jesus means that there is life for us beyond our earthly existence. “…whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

We may not be able to (fully?) understand God’s will – He calls us to trust Him in all circumstances. When His will goes against our wants, hopes and desires, what becomes so important is how we perceive God’s will and how we respond, when our dreams are shattered.

How we respond to God in the aftermath of such a loss as losing a loved one (and that battle itself) is as important as how we sought him for the miracle of her healing. We have choices now: How we let him heal us, how we ask him to show us the pain each one of us is feeling at the loss of a faithful member of our Christian family. How we show each other love and compassion will be evidence of God’s glory as we seek and worship him.

A few years ago a young friend of mine died suddenly in a tragic accident. I still can’t explain God’s will for that, particularly for him and his family, but I do know what happened next in the lives of those who knew him, following our loss. Our bonds as a community became stronger, our compassion for one another became more evident. We each made decisions about the direction our lives were taking us. We all made choices to live, and not to accept things that weren’t right or held no joy. We still miss him, but because of the relationships that formed after his death, he’s still a part of our lives. Losing him made us experience love in new ways.

Our faith community, our church – is a family. The broken world is a place of loss. God invites us to come to him for the sustenance we need to keep going; for the love we need each day in order to survive the world’s brokenness. Right now many of that family are feeling that brokenness cut into their souls.

How do we glorify God when life hurts? In our times of hurt and dismay, feeling loss, lost and let down, Jesus is here, waiting for us to come to him. He wants to heal our hurts and in so, our Father will be glorified.

My heart goes out to Nix’s family and friends, who’ve had someone they loved so dearly taken away from them. If you’re reading this, please think of them or remember them in your prayers.

 

Advent Reinvented – looking from behind the calendar doors

As the years go by, putting the ‘Christ’ back into Christmas becomes more and more of a crusade for me.

This year, it’s started earlier, only this time I can blame my wife.

From the 1st December, countless doors will be flung open in homes across the western world, doors that reveal pictures, gifts and chocolate. That’s right, it’s Advent (meaning the coming of Christ into the world) and it’s time to break out the Advent calendars.

Advent-Calendar

The tradition of Advent calendars began in Germany, where the Lutherans would count down the days until Christmas, using an Advent Clock (of 24 candles) – each day marking a step closer to the celebration of Jesus’ birthday; the coming of the Messiah.

In the early 20th century, the original Advent Clock transformed into printed calendars with a door for each day, behind which was a picture of a scene or event from the story of Jesus’ birth. As time has passed, gifts began to appear behind the doors, to remind us that Jesus’ is God’s greatest gift to us. By the 1950s this had come to include chocolate and while chocolate is the modern favourite, today’s consumer can find anything from Harrods glass decorations to Star Wars Lego!

Sadly, for many, the original message has been lost. We buy the calendars and receive a gift or a treat from behind each door. But do we remember why?

Thanks to the internet, here’s a couple of online Advent calendars that convey the Christian message (and, of course, a few freebies).

Spring Harvest Advent Calendar

London School of Theology  (LST) Advent Calendar

I think they’re a great modern interpretation of the original thought behind the Advent Calendar, and they are cool gifts in themselves, but Rachel challenged me even more. What if we were behind the doors? What if people we know are looking for something each day this December and we could give it to them?

We could be the gifts. We could give gifts of love and personally deliver the message that God wants us to, the message that He delivered when He gave His son to save us, because He loves us so much.

So we’re reinventing Advent this year and trying to look out from behind the calendar doors. Our prayer each day this Advent is that God will use us to give a gift of love to someone each day, to demonstrate His love, and deliver the Good News of Jesus.

Working out my purpose

‘We spend most of our twenties discovering all of the hundreds of things we can be. But as we mature into our thirties, we begin to discover all of the things we will never be. The challenge for us is to reach our forties and beyond and put it all together – to know our capabilities and recognise our limitations – and become the best we can be.’ Catherine B. Hales

So there’s hope for me yet 😀

(Patience, Andrew, patience.)

Andy Heald

The threads of my life

Some say that a successful blog has a focused subject and that the subject itself is a focus of the author’s (blogger’s) life.

As hard as I try, my life never seems to have one focus, one single point of interest and expertise. I’ve never been the person who knows what they’re going to be when they grow up, never been the person who knows what their purpose or destination is, and only recently discovered that I’m on a journey, a guided tour of life, if you like, earthly destination unknown but with the voice of God directing me.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my life doesn’t have focus – because its not supposed to, that’s not me. My life exists as a series of many threads, all woven into a tapestry, rich in colour and varied in texture.

Therefore my blog (as an expression of my lifestory) will be just the same. Hopefully, at some point in the future, the threads of the story will all connect and the overall picture will be clear, I’ll get to find out what lies ahead on my life’s path.

Perhaps all will become clear when, at some point, I step back. Like a dot matrix picture – up close, each individual dot makes no sense, but from a distance the picture is obvious.

I’m looking forward to that day…

Andy Heald