“His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” (John 2:5)
That quote comes from what Jesus’ mother instructed the servants to do at the wedding in Cana when they had run out of wine. Most readers will recall that became Jesus’ first official miracle: turning the water in six large stone waterpots into wine. That quote was also spoken to me as advice by a man of God about four months ago. It was at a special Assemblies of God meeting for ministers and their spouses. Each ministry couple was specially prayed over. One of our “denominational” leaders prayed over me- I honestly don’t remember much of his prayer. But when he was through, our District Superintendent (like a “Bishop” in most denominations) Bob Wise looked at me and just said, “I don’t exactly know what this means, but Whatever He tells you to do, do it.”
That quote reminds me of something a woman who used to attend our church in Framingham often would say. I don’t have her permission to quote her here, so I’m going to give her a made up name and call her Robin Lyons. Robin Lyons used to say, “If Christians would just ASK God what He wants them to do, and then DO it, it would solve 90% of the problems in churches.” I used to repeat that a lot in my preaching. Some folks would get upset when I did because Robin left the church and didn’t always follow her own advice. They’d ask me how I’d dare to keep quoting her in sermons, and I replied that she was human and had made some mistakes, but that her statement was indeed a true statement that we would all do well to ponder.
Some people become both frightened and skeptical about people “doing what God tells them to do.” There have been a lot of abuses of this. Did God really tell that Pastor Jones in Florida several weeks ago to burn the Koran? As I have reflected on that one, it’s pretty obvious that God DIDN’T tell him to do that, and the whole affair made him and even some Christians look very foolish. Former President George W. Bush supposedly said God told him to authorize the invasion of Iraq. Was THAT really God? Truly, it’s hard to say. There have been many benefits of America invading Iraq and there have also been many horrible consequences of it. I think historians will have to decide this one over the next few decades. We are still too close to the event to properly pronounce judgment upon it. The Islamic extremists who flew planes into buildings on that terrible day in 2001 believed with all their hearts that God told them to do it. I don’t believe God told them to do that!
It IS risky to write a very short piece about doing what God tells you to do, because it’s SUCH a controversial topic! In order to do it justice, someone would have to write at least a two hundred page book exploring the topic and maybe I’ll do that sometime, or maybe my writer son and I will do that as a project together sometime. I have already admitted “God told me” can be abused. “God” has been blamed for sexual affairs and sexual perversions; some have said things like, “God told me to become a stripper,” or “God told me to rob that bank,” or “God told me to grow a bunch of ‘weed’,” ... things like that. I just don’t have the room to properly discuss these matters, but simply put, God is NOT going to do something that will violate His holy written Word in the Bible. To keep it simple, think of the Ten Commandments. (If you don’t know where they’re located, it’s Exodus chapter 20.) If what you THINK God is telling you to do violates any of the Ten Commandments in any way, then God is NOT telling you to do that thing!
In I Kings 19:12, God speaks to the Prophet Elijah, NOT in some great dramatic way, but in a “still, small voice”. This is frequently how God speaks to us. It’s hard to explain but the late Oral Roberts used to say about God speaking to him, “I know that I know that I know that I know...” It’s really tough to explain, but you just KNOW. Again, when it’s God it will NOT violate the Bible in any way, shape, or form. And, if it’s of God, ultimately it will be proven true and there will be “fruit” from it. (We may or may not see and understand this “fruit” in this life, however.)
Many years ago, I received a phone call in my office from a young woman who was actively attending our church. The death of actor Michael Landon had been announced in the news. She was very troubled. I’ll call her “Priscilla”. Priscilla told me God had instructed her to write a letter to Michael Landon. This was back before we were sending e-mails. She worked her heart out on the letter, praying her way through composing it. Her “unsaved” husband made fun of her for sending it. She dropped it in the mail and less than twenty-four hours later, the news of Landon’s death came. Priscilla knew Michael Landon couldn’t possible have seen the letter. I told her SOMEONE would read the letter...that maybe God had not actually intended it for Michael Landon, but that He did want her to write it. It could STILL have great impact. I prayed with her, and that greatly encouraged her. One of the most exciting things I’ve done in ministry was to be a two-hour in-studio guest with David Brudnoy on WBZ radio in 1989. Several years ago, the evening news reported that David Brudnoy was in Mass. General Hospital very close to death. I was deeply moved. I just could not shake the feeling that God wanted me to go in there and spend a couple of minutes praying for David Brudnoy. I took public transportation into Mass. General, praying all the way. In the lobby, I “bumped into” a man and his wife who turned out to be relatives of David Brudnoy visiting from out-of-state. I spoke to them for awhile, and they assured me that they’d get me in to see David. I was elated. Surely God had led me to this couple. The desk attendant called up to David Brudnoy’s room and permission was given for the couple to go up there. The relatives assured me they’d tell David about me, and that word would be given for me to go up. The desk attendant was quite skeptical. He told me no matter WHAT they’d said I was not going up there. Quite awhile went by. I asked the attendant to call up to David Brudnoy’s room and ask if I could go up. He did call and the response was NO. I went through an experience very much like Priscilla did about Michael Landon. I numbly walked back to the subway red line and headed home. I will not fully understand that experience until I’m in heaven, but I still have no doubt that God told me to go into Mass. General and that He had me meet and speak to David Brudnoy’s relatives.
This stuff of doing what God tells you to do can get rough. On a previous occasion I wrote on my blog about Mother Teresa. When God called her to Calcutta she was a young nun in eastern Europe. She was a schoolteacher. “Sister Teresa” tried and tried to get permission from the priest who was over her to follow God’s call. Again and again and again, the priest said “NO”. Teresa was very persistent. After nearly driving the priest crazy, he reluctantly said “yes”. But THEN she had to get permission from the Bishop and the whole thing started all over again! It was a difficult path for her to finally get to Calcutta. I was thinking about that this morning as I raked leaves. I wondered if after the first or second rejection, I would have just sadly given up. I think most people WOULD have. That persistence in the face of hierarchical authorities can certainly be one of the most difficult aspects of obeying God.
In the Book of Acts, Jewish scholar Gamaliel gave some good advice to the religious leaders who were solidly opposed to the Christian apostles. He told them if what they were peddling was not of God it would all fizzle out anyway but that if it WAS from God, they’d never be able to stop it. That’s something to think about, isn’t it?
My friend the Rev. Dick Germaine tries to begin every day asking Jesus to be Lord of His day...that he would walk in God’s will for that day. Of course, we all have problems, and so does Dick. Dick loves gadgets and gets frustrated when they malfunction. Dick also has some serious medical challenges which would cause many folks to get discouraged. Yes, he has his problems like everybody else, but he’s found that committing his days to the Lord has made a positive difference in his life. I’ve also tried following Dick’s advice, and I can testify that committing your day to the Lord IS very helpful.
What if Christians really DID listen to the Lord and really DID do what God told them to do, even if that was difficult? That’s something I want to challenge you with! “Robin Lyons” is correct! It would make a huge positive difference in our churches and in our society.
So, God what do you want me to do?
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