Several years ago, I received an invitation to go to Afghanistan during a period of tremendous violence and upheaval in that country. I deliberated and debated, but every time I said no, someone came and told me I should reconsider. When that happened three times, I concluded that God wanted me to go.
At no point did I say “maybe” or “perhaps.” If I had used those words, I would have stayed home. Where guidance and purpose are concerned, eliminate those two words from your vocabulary. And if you are using them, be careful before you proceed with your determined course of action.
3. We put our faith in the wrong place when it comes to guidance. People ask me regularly, “How do I know if I heard the Lord?” So many people are afraid of doing the wrong thing that they do nothing. They are so concerned that they may miss the Lord that they actually do miss Him!
A few years ago, I realized I had this same tendency. I was so zealous to hear God that I was putting all my guidance through a filter.
It was at this point that I stopped putting my faith in the wrong place. Previously I had put my faith in my ability to hear God's voice and understand His will. Now I put my faith in God's ability to speak to me and make it clear.
Think about it: God speaks every language. He can guide you using the Bible, other people or circumstances. If your heart is positioned to hear God, then God's heart is to speak, and to speak clearly.
When I was deliberating over my invitation to Afghanistan, I was straining under the weight of figuring out what to do. That's when I said: “God, I've told You I will go wherever You want me to go. I don't believe that if I ask You for bread, You will give me a stone.
“I don't believe that the enemy speaks to me when I pray to You. Therefore, I have faith that You are speaking to me, and I'm going.”
I love traveling; it gives me joy. So I put all this together and determined to go. I can honestly say that the trip changed my life and the course of my ministry. I put my trust in God's ability to speak to me and He did. He is a good God who isn't out to trick or confuse us.
4. We are often waiting for God to reveal His will, when He's already revealed it. When I speak at missions events and conferences, I often deliver a message titled, “What Part of Go Don't You Understand?” The message is based on the Great Commission, which states: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age'” (Matt. 28:18-20).
I've seen many Spirit-filled believers who believe that the gifts are for today act as if the Great Commission ended with the death of the apostles. I've also had people tell me, “I'm praying about what to do”—but they really aren't. They are using prayer as a smokescreen and delay tactic.
There has never been a better or more exciting day to serve the Lord. Travel to anywhere in the world is easier and cheaper than ever before. People are more open than they've ever been to the message we preach. Yes, there is danger—but when you commit your life to the Lord, you give it to Him; you don't lend it.
If you can't travel, why not have a personal Web site and put your testimony on it? Do a simple Bible study there. You never know; someone in Africa or China might see it, read it and meet the Lord.
Do you really think you need a “word” to have permission to do that? I don't think so. I believe you need to think, have faith, act and trust the Lord for the results. If God wants to shut it down, He can and will. The key is for you not to shut it down before it ever starts.
5. We don't know our values or follow them. Paul was a man of values. He went to the Jew first, he always traveled with a team, he never took financial support from the people among whom he ministered, and he tried to be all things to all men to win some to Jesus.
Paul knew what was important to his life and leadership and he lived out those values on a daily basis. Values are something you don't have to pray about; they are non-negotiable principles that God has worked in your life.
One of my personal values is foreign missions. My church recently announced a partnership with other churches to start a dental clinic in Syria. Believers will start and staff the clinic.
I got out my checkbook and wrote a check, and I will do so every month from this point forward. I can't say that the Lord told me to write those checks, but I know He worked in me the value of missions.