I am beginning to frustrate some of my most trusted advisors. I am starting to annoy some of those who have walked with me and prayed for me during the past four years as I have tried to make sense of my circumstances and find my place of service in the Kingdom for the last chapter of my active ministry. I know it’s true, I wish it weren’t, but I am helpless to do anything about it. Why?
Because some things never change.
And I don’t mean my stubbornness or my inability to receive counsel or follow advice. I am stubborn, at times, but not intractable. I haven’t followed all the advice I have been given over the years, but I have followed a lot of it. No, that’s not what I mean by “some things never change.”
What I am referring to is the way God makes His will known to me. Since He has followed a single pattern for forty years, I am not keen on any suggestion that He may have altered that pattern in the current situation. To some of my friends and counselors, that indicates stubbornness on my part. I prefer to see it as consistency. Time will tell who is right.
Back in February, I wrote two blog posts on the subject of change. The first I called “Change: Often Necessary, Never Easy;” the second was titled “Change and Empathy.” I understand the importance of change and the need to be willing to change. There are times, however, when change is neither advisable nor warranted.
Critics frequently drew attention to the unorthodox manner in which the great pianist, Vladimir Horowitz, held his fingers (with the tips pointing upward instead of down toward the keys) when he played. Conventional wisdom suggested that he should change his form. Would that have made him a better pianist? Unlikely. How could you possibly improve on virtual perfection? In that case, change was neither advisable nor warranted.
The same principle applies, I believe, when I consider the suggestion, made by my well-meaning but wrong-headed advisors, that God may have changed the way in which He makes His will known to me in matters related to vocational choices and ministry opportunities. He has done it the same way, without exception, over and over again, for forty years. When I have exercised my will and have struck out on my own without waiting for God to act in a manner consistent with His established pattern, I have invariably regretted that decision.
Forty-five years ago, when I was a senior in high school, God and I entered into a pact, a covenant, if you will. More accurately, God set some terms, and I agreed to them. He told me that, if I would use my gifts, talents, and abilities to advance the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and to help Christians “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” then He would take care of me. He didn’t speak to me in an audible voice, but the reality of God’s call on my life would not have been greater nor more certain if He had.
For the past forty years, whenever God has wanted to move me into a new sphere of service, He has always made a group of His people aware of my gifts. They have then affirmed those gifts, have invited me to serve among them, and God has given me peace to accept their call. There have been a few times when God led me to leave one ministry before He made it clear where I was to go. Those times of waiting have tested my faith, but God has always opened the next door according to His perfect timing, and in the waiting periods He has taken care of us.
Given the consistency of this pattern, would I be well-advised to consider the possibility that God is going to use a different pattern this time? So far, even in the face of persistent counsel to the contrary, I have concluded that, while God is sovereign, and thus He is free to lead me to any destination He chooses, He is not likely to change the means by which He makes the destination known.
Look at it like this. Suppose you were an avid hiker, and you decided to spend a month hiking in one or more of America’s National Parks. You are totally unfamiliar with the terrain, but you have been assigned a guide who knows the geography and topography you will be exploring like the back of his hand. He will not personally accompany you on your hikes. But he will go ahead of you each day, blazing the trail in advance, so that you will never get lost as long as you follow the markers which he leaves.
The trail may well vary from day to day, so far as the physical characteristics of the terrain are concerned. Some days the trail will lead through lush, old-growth forests; some days through arid desert. Some days it will run along the shore of an icy-cold lake fed by pristine mountain streams; some days through a virtual rain forest where the undergrowth is almost impenetrable. The choice of the route is your guide’s. Your only task is to follow the trail and enjoy the scenery.
It will require immense energy and stamina and clear thinking in order to cope with the changes inherent in each day’s trek over new and different terrain. Imagine what would happen if, in the middle of your month of hiking, your guide were to decide that, without informing you, he would change the method by which he blazes the trail ahead of you. He would still be the knowledgeable guide; you would still be the committed follower. But you would shortly be confused, disoriented, and ultimately lost.
For forty years, God has been blazing a trail ahead of me. He has asked me to follow the trail, wherever it may lead, and I have done so. The trail has led through incredibly varied terrain. I have traversed ground I never thought I would see; a route, very often, that I would never have chosen for myself. Through it all, one thing has remained constant. God has never varied the markers with which He has blazed the trail. I don’t think He is going to do that this time either. Some things never change.