I’m sure you have heard the expression, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you?” Most of the time thats true. Sometimes it’s not true. But, one thing is almost always true. Most of us don’t like to be unpleasantly surprised, and many of us want to know how things are going to go before they go.
That seems to be my case most of the time. I have asked God countless times to reveal to me how a particular situation or event is going to unfold. There have been times when He has answered and did indeed reveal specific things. However, most of the time I have to wait and see!
A little while ago I was invited to speak for a church service. I had never been to this church, and didn’t know anything about the people attending. As an evangelist, I always give an altar call for salvation at the end of each service. On this Sunday, a few people responded and I began to pray with some of them. Some of the ladies in the church were praying with a lady that had responded to the altar call, so by the time I got to her, they had already led her to the Lord.
I asked her if she got everything worked out with God and if she felt brand new? She responded that she did. Before she could utter another word, I asked her if she would like to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. She gave me a half confused, half stunned look. I asked her if she knew what I was talking about, and she said she wasn’t sure.
I explained to her why we want the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I told her, “It’s not so we can speak in tongues, although tongues is the evidence that we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. But the main reason we want this precious gift is because of the boldness it gives us, and the power to witness.”
I asked her once again if she would like to receive this gift, and she said, “Yes!” I began to pray with her, and in less than a minute she was speaking in a beautiful prayer language. She was so thrilled to have received, and the ladies around her seemed to be even more excited than she was.
After the service had ended, the women’s leader began to tell me about this lady. This sweet lady had been coming to their church for a while, and then suddenly she just stopped coming altogether. She had been out of church for about four weeks, but the week before I got there one of the ladies from the church saw her in a store. She asked her where she had been. This precious lady told her that she had quit coming because she just wasn’t too sure about that speaking in tongues, Holy Ghost stuff!
I had to giggle a little. Isn’t that just like God? Little did I know, this lady had been a little confused about the Holy Spirit. Then, God sends me in to ask her—point blank—if she wanted to be baptized in the Holy Ghost? Looking back now, I’m so glad I didn’t know anything about her. I’m glad that I didn’t have a clue that this lady had quit coming because she was a little bit unsure of the speaking in tongues stuff.
If I had known the prior situation, I would probably never have asked her if she wanted to receive the gift. I would have been afraid that I might scare her off, or push her farther away. But, God knows the plans! He knew exactly when she would return to church. He knew I wouldn’t have a clue what the situation looked like, and He knew I was just bullheaded enough to ask her if she wanted the Holy Spirit!
So many times we think we would be so much better off if we could only see what God is planning to do. But, in my life I have seen repeatedly that I would have probably taken the wrong course of action if I had been given insight or hindsight about a situation. He knows best, and it’s much better for us if we don’t know the whole plan.
I think about the disciples, and how so many times they were absolutely clueless about what Jesus was about to do. We have one example after Jesus’ transfiguration in Mark 9:9-10 “As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what ‘rising from the dead’ meant.”
The disciples had no idea that Jesus their teacher and beloved friend would soon willingly go and die on an old rugged cross. Rising from the dead, He would become much more than just a friend and teacher but, He would become their Savior—the Savior of the world! We can see how much trouble the disciples might have unwittingly caused if they had known the whole plan. Just like we can get in God’s way if we know more than we need to.
We would like to know all the details, but God gives us just the information we need, at just the right time. If He showed us every detail, we would never learn to "walk by faith, not by sight." He knows what He is doing and exactly how He will accomplish it. He doesn’t need our help, He only needs us to listen for His voice, and be obedient when He speaks.
What you don’t know probably won’t hurt you. In fact, it could lead to the most amazing miracle you have seen Him do in and through you. Stop trying to figure out all the details, and just let the Holy Spirit lead you. Walk by faith!
I have found in my life, that most trials come with a lesson. Almost every struggle or inconvenient situation has something to teach us. I’ve been asking God to give me patience. I’m wondering if I can withdraw that prayer now. You see, at this very moment I’m on a camping trip, in the rain, with eight teenagers. Yes, you read that correctly. There are eight teenagers with me—and only me. It is Spring break, and we are certainly not experiencing Spring weather as it is only 30 degrees.
So, I’ve been trying not only to find a quiet place to sit and write a blog for this week, but I’ve been fighting really hard to find the sanity to do so. (If this weeks entry makes no sense, blame it on the teenagers. Hopefully I’ll be in the right frame of mind next week).
Camping in a pop-up tent trailer (and a tent outside for the boys) is not the most fun when everyone is confined to the camper during daylight hours, just to stay warm. We have every element of a dramatic teenage sitcom going on here. These high school best friends are all good until patience wears thin, and fuses get short. Me? I’m just sitting here trying to figure out what God is trying to teach me in this situation.
If its patience, I probably failed that test yesterday when I broke the camper sink while trying to get everything set up in the rain. So far we have dealt with wet sheets and mattresses, a hole in the camper canvas—reason for the wet mattresses—a broken door, slide outs that won’t slide out, a breaker that trips continually, a blanket shortage, a ketchup shortage, and drama, drama, drama. Did I mention freezing temperatures and rain?
Probably the biggest nightmare of all has been the fact that there is no cellular service here. No internet, no cellphones, no distractions from the drama, and I’m just talking about my own deficiencies now. So, I’ve been praying for more patience for sure. I keep telling myself I can survive just one more night.
I have heard these exact phrases, “I’m bored. I don’t like hot dogs. Do we not have ketchup? How can we not have ketchup? I don’t eat sandwiches. Can’t we just go to McDonalds? What are we going to do next? When are we going to start having fun?” That’s not even including the endless bickering and complaining about the weather. I feel like I’m stuck at Camp Granada! I’m seriously thinking about writing a letter to my parents and asking them to come get me!
But, with my oldest daughter Haley, graduating high school this year, and my youngest going into 10th grade next year, surely I can make it through this once yearly camping trip. I mean after all, we are here to have fun, but mostly its about making memories. And guess what? Some of the most interesting memories are made in less than perfect situations.
So, what can I do to make this trip more memorable, and —hopefully—survivable? Sometimes a change of scenery helps. We don’t have to be confined to this campground. So, I decided we would take a trip to the river. When I was a teenager, I loved going to the river to pick up drift wood, shells, and interesting rocks. So, I took the teens to Nathan Bedford State Forest and we drove up to Pilot Knob. Amazingly none of them had ever been here before.
My original intent was to let them peruse the museum. We could be inside, out of the cold and still have some fun. But, of all days, the museum was closed for training employees! Seriously? How many employees do they have on staff, three? So, no museum! But, we did enjoy a beautiful view of the river from that very high point. The sun finally came out, and other than the super chilly wind, it was turning out to be a semi-nice day.
Before I knew it, these crazy teens were entertaining themselves by challenging one another to roll down the steep hill, and see who could roll the farthest. It was one of the goofiest things I’ve ever seen, and I forgot to get video! I found myself laughing along with them. We drove down to the rivers edge, got out and walked around to look for driftwood, and other oddities that might have washed up onto shore. We explored a little and found some interesting items for sure.
In just a short time, the bad attitudes and short fuses had vanished and were replaced by silliness and laughter. Not a lot had changed really. We changed our location, and we changed our perspectives. But in the meantime, our attitudes were changed. I also gave them a job, or a distraction. Notice the photo for this blog? They helped me develop the title for the blog and even donated their artwork, and faces— although very reluctantly—to the effort. And, will they have memories from this trip? Oh, I’m sure they will.
The enemy wants us to focus on all the negatives. We then become frustrated, aggravated and ready to give up. With a shallow perspective we can take out our frustrations on others, and have bad attitudes toward each other. But a slight change of perspective, just looking at something through a different lens, a different location, or someone else’s point of view, can make all the difference in the world.
While we were at the river, one of the teens found a broken, blue glass bottle. Picking it up, she took out her cellphone and snapped a picture of that muddy old river through that blue glass bottle. The end result was beautiful. The brown muddy water was now an intense sea of blue, with a pretty pebble beach. It was completely transformed, just by viewing it in a different perspective.
When we change our perspectives, the ordinary becomes extraordinary, and the mundane everyday challenges become exciting adventures. We can go from being impatient to having a patient and loving attitude. Everyday we can choose to look at the trying times in our lives with a negative perspective and attitude, or we can choose to make the best of it. When we change our perspective it really can change our lives. Thanks Lord, for the lesson!
How many times has God asked you to do something, and you try your best to find a way to get out of it? *My hand is raised.* We don’t mind when He asks us to do something easy. But when He asks us to do something that we feel is beyond our capabilities, many of us try to find a way to reason or bargain our way out of it.
A few years ago, God impressed upon my heart to write a book. My first reply was, “God, I can’t write a book!” But, He didn’t relent. Over and over the thought came to mind, and before long I couldn’t quit thinking about it. I continually told God that I couldn’t do it, and I had plenty of legitimate excuses why it just wasn’t a good idea.
I said, “God, I’ve been out of high school for way too long. I have forgotten so much about writing!” I argued that no one would want to read anything I wrote. Then I checked into all the publishing routes and discovered that most anyone can self-publish a book, and there are countless companies out there who are willing to publish anything if you pay them enough money. But, self-publishing doesn’t offer much when it comes to marketing, especially when it comes to getting your book noticed by well-known book sellers.
I didn’t have an extra $10,000 laying around to spend on a self-publisher who would never try to sell my book either. I knew I did not want to go this route. However, I knew that the odds of being published by a traditional publisher were slim to none! And, I told God that I just didn’t have enough time because I travel and speak, etc., etc. I pointed out all these things to God— repeatedly.
But, still, God didn’t relent! So, what did I do next? I entered what I like to call the bargaining stage. I just knew this would work! I decided to tell God I would write the book if… Then I tried to drag out the most impossible obstacles thinking our God—the God of the entire universe—would give up and say, “No child, that’s too hard!”
So I said, “God if You will send me a professional editor and a literary agent that really knows what he/she is doing, AND if You will make sure that my book is accepted by a traditional publisher, AND if I have to pay little or no money out of pocket; then I’ll write the book!" That should do it, I thought. Surely now God would stop bugging me about a book.
About two weeks later, I got a Facebook message from a very distinguished, published author of several well-known books—L. Edward Hazelbaker. He asked me if I had ever considered writing a book. I looked toward Heaven and said, “God, are You kidding me?” Needless to say God was already putting the pieces into place. L. Edward Hazelbaker became my editor and literary agent and was unquestionably sent by God to make this work successful. God always sends the best! God also sent the traditional publisher I had prayed for, and my book was officially released on Feb. 1st.
However, the writing process was arduous, and many times I wanted to give up. I wanted things to happen fast. I didn’t want to wait. I became impatient, and I thought this should happen super quick because God wanted me to write this book! And, to be completely honest, at one point I just gave up. I started doubting myself. I doubted the worth of my message. I doubted that the book would ever be published, and I decided to put it aside and just focus on my ministry.
But, what if the thing God has asked us to do, is the ministry He wants us to focus on? I’ll tell you what happens. Everything around us comes to a screeching halt, or at least that was my experience. I stopped getting calls to come and speak. I had nothing on my calendar for at least six months! The other ministries I was actively involved in seemed to dry up and quit producing fruit. I was devastated.
I poured my heart out to God and asked Him why this was happening. He clearly whispered into my Spirit, “As soon as you finish writing the book I asked you to write, I will re-open the doors that have been closed. Stop running, and write!” As bad as I hated to admit it, I knew that He was doing this to make me focus on the one thing He had called me to do in that moment. And so, I started to write again.
I was so sick of waiting, but God was using that very thing—the waiting—to help me understand that we learn valuable lessons in the waiting process. One of the chapters in the book actually deals with the topic of waiting. If I hadn’t gone through that tough waiting period, I wouldn’t have learned what God wanted to teach me in that season. And, very likely, that chapter wouldn’t have been included in the book.
I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to hold that first copy of “Beauty From Ashes: My Story of Grace” in my hands! I still catch my breath when it pops up in an advertisement from Christian Book online. I almost have to pinch myself. I’m continually humbled and amazed by the people who message me to tell me how the book has changed their lives, or inspired them—especially the chapter about waiting. It thrills my soul! And, you know what? As soon as I finished writing the book, those doors started opening again—even more doors than before!
When I think back to how I tried to bargain with God, and I tried to get out of doing what He asked me to do all because I thought I couldn’t do it; I am so grateful that He didn’t give up on me. Has God asked you to do something that you think would be impossible for you? Have you been trying to bargain your way out of it? I have found that there are no obstacles too big for our God. Nothing is impossible for Him, and He will send you the people, equipment, and empowerment to do what He has asked you to do. Stop bargaining, and do it.
Write Your Story: Live Your Calling - as Published on "Her Green Room."
I am a sucker for all things “stationery:” notebooks, writing instruments, personalized, embossed, plain—you name it. I don’t know how many journals, ink pens, and brightly colored mechanical pencils I own. If you take me into a bookstore with lots of beautiful stationery, be warned! We are going to be there for a while!
The sad thing is, I have stockpiled all of these different journals; colorful, elegant, whimsical, journals of all sizes. However, if you open them, you’d find the same thing—they’re all blank. Why? Because, every time I get a new journal or a delicate new piece of stationery, I’m afraid to mess it up with my writing! I just know I’ll make a mistake, and who wants to dab white-out on their pretty journal?
I’m not really a fan of my sloppy handwriting either. It’s messy and uneven—not elegant or graceful enough to commit to the pages of these delightfully charming books. So, yes, most of them are blank. Honestly, if I lost one of these pretty books it would be no loss at all. They’re just empty pages.
But then there are the notebooks; plain, cheap notebooks. They have been written in all over the place, pages all out of order, doodles in the margins, scratches and scribbles, words crossed out and written over, sermon notes scattered throughout, with Scripture references here, there, and everywhere.
These are the books that get tossed into my bag at the last minute, lost from time to time, and even stained with coffee rings occasionally (Okay, maybe a little more than occasionally). They have dented edges, dog-eared pages, missing pages, and torn pages. These notebooks are where my life happens. I fly into a panic over these books if I can’t find them! They may be full of messiness, but they are also full of the priceless information I need to do what He’s called me to do.
Our lives are like those blank journals. We have the opportunity to dive in with our pens and pencils, and boldly scribble them up with the gifts He has given us. Or, we can leave them sitting on the shelf, while we wonder what the pages could have held. He has plans and purposes for all of us. We may think our efforts are not good enough, so we clench that pen tightly, and never write the first word. We may feel like we have made so many messes in the past, our entries could never be valuable enough to put out there for anyone to see.
And you know what? We will make mistakes.
We will have to do some scribbling, and we will even need to apply the “white-out” of His precious blood to fix our mistakes. But, to God it’s all beautiful—every dent, scratch, and stain. He looks down and sees us, mistakes and all, and loves us just the same!
When I stand before God, I don’t want to be a book full of empty pages. I want to be the book that looks like the cat dragged it in from the rain, but is filled with the scribbling of a life that has recklessly pursued Him— sometimes made mistakes and had to start over—but never lost its value. I want to be that book.
I want to be the book that has every experience inscribed, each embossed with His Name, a book that tells the story of reaching the lost in a hopeless world. He cares about all of the scribbles, redo’s, and ripped out pages. To Him, our story is beautiful.
So, what are you writing?
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”
“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'”
Revelation 21:5 (ESV)
“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.”
Acts 3:19-20 (ESV)
Donna Sparks is an International Speaker and Evangelist. She is the Author of Beauty From Ashes: My Story of Grace, and, No Limits: Embracing the Miraculous.