Manifesting God’s Presence in the Area of Our Calling
Most Christian leaders I know struggle with the balance between two paradigms: that which is natural, or our natural talent and gifts, and that which is spiritual. John Wesley once said, “Without God, it will not; without me God cannot.” There is a lot of theology in that statement. It represents the extremes that most leaders seek to balance when thinking about the natural and the spiritual aspect of our work life calling. Psalms and Proverbs exhorts us to understand the difference between these two extremes in two passages:
He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy (Ps 147:10-11).
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths (Prov 3:5-6 7).
Today, there are four places from which most leaders operate:
1. The Esau “Segmented Life”
The first place is the Esau Life. Esau was the brother of Jacob. He was a man of the open field, a hunter, a womanizer, a man totally given over to the appetites of the moment. He came from a spiritual heritage with a calling upon his life, but he did not yield to that call. He was willing to give up that call for what the Bible calls “porridge.” It was simply a bowl of corn meal. He had just come from the fields after a day of hunting and he was so hungry that he was willing to negotiate away his birthright as the first born son to Jacob, who himself was an opportunist led by the flesh, but in a different way.
2. Principle-Based Living
The second way we try to do God’s will in our lives is by operating on Christian principles. In America this is especially true. We have 12-step programs and ten ways of losing weight. We have a program for everything.
Our attitude is often expressed this way: “Tell me how to do it and I will go out and do it.” This can lead us into legalism and a programmatic walk with God. It is true that operating on Christian principles can help us change behavior that has affected us negatively. After all, wouldn't Iraq or Afghanistan be a better nation if it was based upon Christian principles? However, Christian principles will never be a replacement for the presence and power of God being manifested in our activities.
The apostle Paul challenged the Galatians to move beyond living the Christian life by works alone: “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” (Galatians 3:5).
The third way we can operate is by being led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Paul describes this in Romans chapter 8.
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father (Rom 8:11-15).
There is always a tension in our lives that is between expediency for the sake of getting things done and waiting for the promised son birthed in His timing and His way. The Bible exhorts us to wait on the Lord in order to see His activity manifested in our activity.
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass (Ps 37:7)
Notice that the contrast here is between those who patiently wait on God and those who begin to get fearful because of those who are prospering. This is a picture of someone who is watching their competition prosper and feeling the tension of moving at whatever cost to combat the competitors actions. It is a reactionary answer to the problem of competition.
We need to understand the biblical view of competition.
We need a biblical view of competition. There are two passages that give us God’s view of competition:
1. O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance (Ps 16:5-6).
2. We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us—a sphere which especially includes you. For we are not overextending ourselves (as though our authority did not extend to you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ; not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men's labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere, to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man's sphere of accomplishment (2 Cor 10:13-16).
The word “competition” is not found in the Bible. The reason is that God never encourages us to look at the activity of others. Rather, we are called to keep our focus vertical with God. We are called to do our work with excellence. We are called to manifest His glory in our work. We can learn from our competition. We can observe our competition. But we are not to scheme in ways to put down our competition. In fact, the Bible tells us to love our enemies. That means we are even to bless our competition. This becomes a faith decision that reveals where our trust really lies—in our abilities and our resources, or God’s faithfulness as we work unto Him.
We often bless other ministries above our own without fear that we will lose a donor, or lose a relationship or not fulfill our needs by blessing others. We know that God has pre-determined our portion. He has set our inheritance based upon our obedience to fulfilling our call. This takes the pressure off and keeps us from focusing our attention on the competition versus our assignment.
4. Speak to the Rock!
There is yet a fourth dimension in our walk with God. It is represented in a story about Moses when God called him to speak to the rock instead of striking it with his staff.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals." So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as He commanded him.
And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, "Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?" Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. (Num 20:7-11).
When God first gave Moses his assignment he told him that He was going to perform miracles through his staff. That staff represented his work life as a shepherd. God would deliver a people from slavery and birth an entire nation through the power of that staff. God calls you and me to perform miracles through our vocations in order to deliver a people from bondage as well.
God now changes the rules with Moses. He raises the bar. He tells him that he now wants him to operate at a new level. He wants him to speak to the rock instead of striking the rock. However, Moses loses his temper with the people of Israel and in his frustration he strikes the rock instead of speaking to the rock. It is interesting that he still got the short term desired outcome—getting water from the rock. However, it cost him in the long term. He was not able to enter into the Promised Land.
You and I can use our natural abilities to get the job done, but if it is not done in God’s prescribed way, we run the risk of losing our inheritance related to that activity. So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: `Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty (Zech 4:6). We must all learn the Zerubbabel Principle: to operate from His Spirit versus our might.
Ark of the Covenant
David was the ultimate marketplace leader. He had great skills as a leader. He recaptured the Ark of the Covenant and brought it into the city on a cart. However, this was not the prescribed way that God instructed it to be done. As a result, when the Ark tipped and Uzzah reach out to catch it, he was struck dead. It was devastating for David. However, he discovered later that he had moved out of presumption and learned that he should have had the priests carry the Ark on poles. David discovers this when he said, “It was because you, the Levites, who did not bring it up the first time that the LORD our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way" (1 Chron 15:13-14).
“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge” (Romans 10:2).
God says there is a prescribed way we are to do things and we must be in line with His directives and His timing. Otherwise, we can be guilty of moving out of presumption and be judged for our actions.
The Importance of Attracting the Presence of God
The Bible says that Moses was the most humble man on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3). Moses had tasted the presence of God on the mountain of Horeb, which means “Mountain of God.” After experiencing God’s presence, He knew nothing else could substitute. The failure of the Israelites to remain true to God while he was still on the mountain impacted Moses greatly. It made him realize he had failed to lead the people in a way that depended totally upon God and His presence in their lives. He was now willing to lay it all down if it meant not having God’s presence on his activity.
Then Moses said to the Lord, "See, You say to me, 'Bring up this people.' But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said ,'I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.' Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people." And He said ,"My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Then he said to Him, "If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth" (Ex 33:12-16).
Moses came to a place in his life that he realized his abilities alone were not adequate to lead a people to God’s desired destiny. He was ready to give up. It was too hard. The people fell into idol worship. The people became obstinate. His skill sets were not adequate for the enormous mission God had given him. He finally came to a place of realization. “I cannot go on like this” (Exodus 33:15). He asked for God’s help. “Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight.”
Each of us must come to this place if we are to experience the full purposes of our life that will be fulfilled in God’s way.
Choices We Make
We all make choices in our lives to do things in different ways. There is God’s way and there is man’s way:
- We move ahead of God in our own reasoning and ability. Abraham and Sarah chose to birth Ishmael. “Much of modern Christian enterprise is ‘Ishmael,’ born not of God, but of an inordinate desire to do God’s will in our own way – the one thing our Lord never did,” says Oswald Chambers.
- We give partial obedience. Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to the rock.
- We choose to fully obey and experience God’s blessing on our activity.
We must understand two known wills of God.
When we think about doing the will of God in our lives, we must realize there are two aspects of fulfilling the will of God.
The first is what we already know. It has been written and agreed upon by those who may have come before us. For example, the Bible says that we are to do business with ethics and integrity. We don’t have to pray about these commands. We know when we are honest and ethical and when we are not. We must then execute through our natural skills and abilities with sensitivity to the Spirit’s leading in that command.
Second, there is a prophetic will of God for us. This is only revealed in times of prayer and seeking God. It requires times of waiting on God between you and those who you are leading. It may require a greater investment of intercession to unlock the spiritual dimension of your work. It may mean repentance of sins committed before you got involved, like Nehemiah had to do on behalf of his people. It may mean going to a location where some generational sin took place to repent on behalf of our forefathers. It is making things right in the heavenly realm so that God can release what He wants to release to us in the spiritual dimension that will be manifested in the physical dimension.
Joshua was instructed to walk around Jericho seven times. This was a prophetic act of obedience to something that made no logical sense to the natural man. However, it was the key to victory over Jericho. What is the spiritual work that God is requiring of you to reveal the prophetic destiny He has over your life or organization?
Here are some practical ways of living out this spiritual discipline:
1. Do the things you know you are to do now that are outlined in your mission. We must execute our known assignments through our natural skills and abilities with a sensitivity to the Spirit’s leading in that activity.
2. Make time to seek God to discover the prophetic destiny of your organization. Identify the greater and heavier aspects of your assignment from God by setting aside time for prayer, reflection, and proper discussion of the issues. Make sure you can answer this question:
a) “God birthed this organization in order to:___________
b) We are now to accomplish this through these means:______________
3. Get the full counsel of God on a matter through the gifts and callings of your leaders. The Bible has given us a template for the establishment of His plans. It may mean adding team members you currently do not have. You may need a team of intercessors as part of your support processes who can help you pray into these matters.
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph 2:19-22).
God has given us his “MBA” strategy for running a successful enterprise. It involves identifying the two key players who are designed to establish the foundation of your enterprise. The Bible calls them apostles and prophets. Who are the apostles in your staff gift mix? An apostle is simply “one who is sent to establish” foundations. He/she is often the entrepreneur in your leadership team. Who is your prophet? Your prophet is one who sees things others do not see. They can be a team of intercessors, or one who has proven to size up matters more quickly than others. In a management team, they often exhibit the high “D” personality. Things are black and white to them and others often react to their abrupt conclusions.
From this place we build through the other gifts represented on our leadership team. We often refer to these from the scripture as the five-fold gifts.
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Eph 4:11-16).
Evangelists are those in sales who desire to reach out to others. They want to evangelize the lost. The pastors want to care for the people. They are sensitive to the needs of those in your organization. The teachers are going to want to help show others the way. They instruct the team on the details to insure the proper working out of the mission.
If you will follow these spiritual disciplines, you will enter a realm of God’s presence and power you never thought possible. And you will fulfill God’s purposes for your life and organization.
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