BY REV. KARL K. WHITEMAN -- MILFORD UNION MEMORIAL CHURCH
As you read this (my final pastor's article for the Dickinson County News) I am now officially retired (as of Nov. 30) from pastoral ministry and living in southern-middle Tennessee, where my wife, Jan, has accepted a call as pastor. With all this transition, I am keenly aware that God is still speaking and is very alive and active in my life. God orchestrates opportunities and events that we can only try to imagine. And so the adventure continues. I have truly enjoyed writing articles for you over the past eight years and pray you were blessed by them and that they challenged your faith enough to seek more.
"Look and watch--be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe..." -- Habakkuk 1:5
Over the past 30 plus years of pastoral ministry, I have discovered that God loves to surprise us by doing astounding things. It's exciting to watch and see His unbelievable answers to prayer -- the prayers of His people along with the miracles and transformations that occur in the process. As a pastor, many have asked me over the years how to find God's direction for their life. My answer, I'll admit, is always very straightforward: "Have you prayed about it?" All too often my suspicions are confirmed. They haven't.
Why go to a man or woman for advice when you can approach God, the creator of the universe, directly? Asking God is not only a good place to start, it's the only place to start. After all, scripture tells us that we're in the palm of His hand. God has a blueprint plan of our lives, written in the palm of His hand. "See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me." (Isaiah 49:16).
If we don't know which way to go, we simply need to ask God. The Bible says in James 4:3 "You ask and don't receive because you ask with wrong motives." Seek God's direction, surrender completely to Him, listen to His Word and what once seemed mysterious will become amazingly clear. It's like looking at a picture containing another "unseen" picture. As we stare at the picture, the unseen picture emerges. We can suddenly see the unseen things and we wonder why we didn't see them before.
Our perspective changes through prayer and Bible study. We begin to listen to our loving Lord, counselor and friend. We see the many gifts God has for us, and the perfect path God has chosen for us. Our life changes as our gentle shepherd (Jesus) steers us from the path we have chosen for ourselves to the one He has chosen for us. We begin to look at life not in terms of what we can do, but what He can do through us! And as we follow His direction, we learn that nothing can distract, destroy, discourage, disappoint or defeat us. We learn that we are here for a purpose, His purpose, and that life in and through Him is an adventure so fulfilling that we wonder why we didn't see it before.
Do distractions cause you to get lost along the way?
We start out with big plans to get something done, then some other good thing comes along and before we know it, we've been side-tracked and lost the goal completely. But when we keep God's purpose in mind and stay surrendered to His will for our lives, we are empowered by the Spirit of God to accomplish it. Distractions disappear, miracles happen and we will "be utterly astounded!"
Isn't it exciting to know that nothing can distract or destroy you when you're living according to God's plan? Jesus did not fear destruction. He knew the plan, and He was on target. He had courage and confidence because He understood exactly what was ahead and why. And He never became discouraged.
Do you ever get discouraged? It's easy to get down in the dumps. Getting out is the hard part. You can find God's direction in your life by talking to Him in prayer, listening to Him as you study His Word, and talking to a Christian counselor or friend. Focusing on God will free you from disappointment. Live according to His plan and you will not be deflated or defeated.
Lock in on to the goal God has for your life. Live with purpose. Pray enthusiastically and consistently for the desire to do His will. Better yet, "Ask God not to bless you, but rather to allow you to be a part of what He is blessing."
Trust God and then go in whatever direction His plan takes you. The key word here is trust.
There is no more fulfilling, peaceful and perfect place to be than soundly in the center of God's will and then doing it "with all your heart, soul, mind and strength." When God points you to the path, charge down that path and pursue His will with all the passion you possess. But watch where you're going and stay on the path because at times it can be narrow.
Join me on this adventure called life by trusting your life to the God who created you, loves you beyond measure and knows what's best for you in this time and in this place. You will be "surprised" at results.