Can we know God’s will?

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For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:13 Amplified

May He grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill your whole plan! Psalm 20:4 NASB

Have you ever prayed to know God’s will about a matter BEFORE you ‘did’ anything, before you took action?

I’ve only started first with God once in my life.  It happened like this.  I found myself at civil loggerheads with the other French teacher at my private school.  Thanks to a radically liberating workshop I had attended nine years into teaching, I switched how I taught French. I abandoned textbooks, grammar and spelling, typical emphases for language teachers.  Instead, I embraced helping students acquire French through comprehensible input. Presenting my students rich, varied, repetitive and interesting input in the form of stories and anything novel, I simply copied how we all learn our first language.

It’s natural, organic, fun and thoroughly engages learners.

It also threatens a traditional textbook teacher. My colleague feared that my radical change would slow her down in preparing students who started with me for the AP French exam as seniors.

I endured her pushback for several years.  But eventually, I knew that one of us would have to yield.

In September of my last year at this school I told God of my desire and asked him to reveal his will. I started praying for a sign. I had no idea how the Lord would grant my request, but I trusted that he would.  The ‘deadline’ loomed closer as we approached March, the month when contracts were to go out to those teachers the school wanted to retain.

I don’t remember being TOO terribly anxious.  Mike and I kept reminding our Father of this request. Frankly, it felt like a new adventure in trusting Him.

On Valentine’s Day, I received God’s signal.  I ran into Elaine in the hallway that day. “Maria,” she began, “you’re going to have to go back to using our textbook next year.  I’m losing too much time teaching what they should have learned with you.”  What is poignant is that my students were growing unafraid to open their mouths and speak French. Was it messy? You bet, but I expected that.  Could they conjugate a verb?  No, but they entered my colleague’s classes enjoying speaking French.

Back to my hallway conversation.  “This was it!  God just gave me a sign” With relief, I felt released to look for a new job for the fall.  I refused to teach the traditional way which didn’t serve my students well.  So, I would be the one to depart.

Experiencing God’s answer after months of waiting thrilled me even more than the answer.  Here was evidence, that if we wait on him in faith, he really DOES give us wisdom.

Here the Lord was affirming and opening up a path toward my heart’s desire: the freedom to teach the way I knew allowed learners to enjoy the process of speaking without fear.

Twenty-two years have passed.  I have once again asked Jesus what he thinks about a desire I have.  I have been praying and waiting for 4-5 weeks.

You know how much I love practicing languages.  My ‘monthly allowance’ for this polyglot hobby, my exercise class, nail and hair care and book habit is not enough.  Therefore, I have laid this issue before the Lord. I have asked Mike to pray that God would make clear if he approves of me proceeding with that desire. Afterall, he is the logical person to check with first!

Isn’t the Lord the source of our good desires?  I reason from Scripture like this:  if he gives me a desire, then he is going to fulfill it.  Probably not in the way I imagine, but in a creative and surprising form.

I believe that I received a greenlight nudge three days ago. Listening to a Spanish podcast while doing food prep, Pablo mentioned why people allow fear to stop them from trying something.  Suddenly, I felt the longing to embrace something larger than me, beyond my comfort level and ability so I would have to depend on Him.

I mentioned it to Mike that night and he concurred that very likely was from the Lord.

I continue to pray and wait. At the same time, I have opened a file to capture the practical ideas that are popping into my mind.  I don’t know yet where God is leading me by means of this desire, but I’m excited to find out. His word assures me that it is he who is causing my desire to do works that he has programmed for me.

Trusting in what I can see – just plain stupid!

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Psalm 20:7  Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. (NIV)

Who wouldn’t want to have at one’s disposal a stable full of strong, thoroughbred horses and a complement of iron chariots?  Think how reassuring that stockade of muscle and might would feel!  Especially when the enemy rattled sabers and the rhetoric intensifies.

But that seeming crutch is not what God has in mind for His children.  No! As the psalmist asserts, the people of God purposefully reassure themselves NOT by gazing at their OWN provisions but by rehearsing and remembering the facts.  The Head of the supernatural angel armies is our King, our Protector, and Provider.  He’s that invisible kind of force.  Just as real and ready, but not the kind you can see or touch.

We, humans, tend to prefer what we can feel and finger and count. At least I do!

This divine and very different sort of defense force depends on our using the faith God has given us.  The difficulty is this:  faith is an invisible gift. It’s REAL and it’s THERE. But it only becomes operative in the very moment we choose to trust who God is and what He has promised to do and move out in reliance on Him. When we act as if we really know He will come through, He comes through!  Always.

You’d think that with each God-success under our belt, it would get easier for us to trust Him.  I admit, to my shame, that I find even WANTING to rely on God a constant battle.  I think it would be easier just to have the resources myself.

For instance, I don’t FEEL like a naturally creative teacher.  I plan lessons a few days in advance and then when I get to right before a particular French class bustles in, I find that I don’t feel confident about the activity I foresaw.  When I fling myself on God’s promise to provide what I need, I get real help.   Somehow He shifts my thinking and suddenly I can SEE what something that might work and be more effective.

And the class DOES hum and I’m grateful.  HE actually provides, each time I consciously cry out and depend on Him and do what He provides.

Last Monday I didn’t do that submitting my plan prayerfully and dependently to God for His help.  I relied on myself.  And the entire day’s classes proved to be flat.  I hated it.  In fact, I wanted to give up teaching altogether as I walked out of school to my car.  Then the Holy Spirit gently brought this question to mind, “Maria, did you even ask for My help? After that first class, why didn’t you think to hand over the next level’s plan?”  Stunned, I realized that I had not prayed at all that day about my teaching.  How could I overlook such a basic resource?

The truth is, in my natural flesh, I just rather have the resources at hand – ahead of time.  It’d be much easier to be a naturally gifted, creative French teacher who had her students eating out of her hand and speaking French.

But I know better.  The Bible teaches us that we are designed and created to be needy from our birth:

Psalm 22:  9-10Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb, you have been my God.

So my prayer daily, even though I sometimes forget, is for God to make me glad and content in my dependence on Him.  When I fling myself on Him, and He comes through, I get the help and relief and He gets the glory.

Our Creative Designer and Sustaining Father calls this system, this way ‘GOOD‘.

Psalm 84:11 – No good thing does He withhold from the one who LIVES moment-by-moment depending on Him to come through. (what He calls being ‘walking blamelessly or uprightly’)  And if you think about it, if we are upright, that means we have our hands raised to Heaven, imploring and crying out to Him, instead of looking horizontally either at the need or what we can do to meet it ourselves.

Father, please help my unbelief!

 

 

 

 

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