"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations."
Have you ever wondered if God has a plan or purpose for your life? Lately, I have been asking myself that same question. You see, for years, I thought His plan was made perfectly clear to me when, at the age of 17, He revealed that I would sing for Him. I was in church on New Year's Eve. During prayer, I heard the Lord say to me, "This year, you will begin to serve me with your voice." I thought, "Cool! I love to sing, and I would be willing to do that." But my immediate thought after that was, "How?" Well, God had it all figured out beforehand, and I never had to worry about the "how." The day after New Year's Day, I received a phone call from a Christian organization asking me to come to sing for a weekend at their camp. I said I would but that I had never done anything like that before. They said, "Then come practice on us." They would provide meals, a room to sleep and a way to get there.
Well, you didn't have to tell me twice that God was up to something. Especially when to this day, I still don't know how these people heard of me or got my number! I suspect one of my friends wanted to jump-start my ministry and recommended me, but no one owned up to it, which has always made me feel God's hand was at work. So I accepted, despite my inexperience at performing. You see, up until then, I had been vocally trained and knew how to play the guitar. I had even written twenty or more songs. But I had never performed them in front of anybody. I was nervous, but God had a plan.
We call them “desert” or “wilderness” experiences, which are normal for most Christians. They start innocently enough – through illness, death, job loss, even the hormonal changes that come after a child’s birth can bring it on through postpartum depression. And somewhere along the way, we lose our feeling of closeness to God. We become disinterested in anything to do with the church or the Bible. We make excuses to avoid our Christian friends because we don’t feel “spiritual” enough. Before we know it, we are wandering in the desert, wondering if we have lost our faith in God forever or if we were ever saved in the first place. But there is good news. By looking at Jesus’ desert experience, we can have victory over Satan’s attempts to lead us away from God. Today, if you are going through one of those times, it is my hope that you will be encouraged by what you find.
Have you ever read the Christmas story when it wasn't Christmas? Perhaps not, but Luke 2:4-20 gives us a great example of what qualifications (if any) are needed to proclaim Jesus to others. If you have ever felt that you needed a degree in theology before you begin a ministry God has called you to, just remember the shepherds who were out in the fields the night of Jesus' birth and what happened to them. If you need a refresher, the story can be found in Luke 2:4-20.
When I was very young in my faith and knew little of how God works, I learned this verse: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Unfortunately, while it made me aware of obvious sins like lying or stealing, I was never prepared for the subtle ones. They crept in like thieves in the night.
How do we learn to have faith? Is it acquired through osmosis by being part of a Christian family? Is it something that grows over time? How do we grow in faith? More importantly, how do we instill our faith in God, in our children and other family members?