How am I feeling? Well, at times... nervous. I am excited, too, but I cannot help but feel this task is way too big for me. It IS too big for me!
Something else that I have been feeling? That nasty tug of wanting the approval of others.
I would love the stamp of "veteran" in my book. But in my list of credentials, there are a few other stamps in my book that sure would look good... nice and shiny like gold. The stamp of:
- Approved by Pastor So-and-So...
- Approved by Missionary Such-and-Such...
- Fully certified and approved by Veteran Missionary Hero Whatshername...
- Facebook approved by 72 likes on my status...
- Blog approved by several comments on my latest post...
No, I am not saying for you to stop "liking" and "commenting." I love when we can rejoice together about what God is doing here.
But sometimes, when we feel fear/inadequacy/inability, we turn to the wrong sources for our approval. Sometimes we even attempt to disguise it as "I need your counsel" when really we are looking for them to give us a pat on the back and a hearty "good job!"
Such is a situation I found myself in recently. Thankfully, the missionary I approached listened to the Spirit's voice and kept silent... waiting patiently for God to do His work in my heart. While the Spirit was holding her lips silent, He was also gripping my heart with realizing I wasn't seeking counsel... I was seeking to be "Approved Unto Men."
My heart was broken when I saw it. And yet, I was so thankful the Spirit convicted me of it. I began praying and seeking the Lord to help me distinguish between seeking counsel and really just looking for approval. Wow! Did He answer clearly! It showed up in my regular morning devotions in Nehemiah.
2 Timothy 2:15 "Study to shew thyself approved unto God,
a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,
rightly dividing the word of truth."
It's amazing how God's Word corrects problems... even the "Approved unto Men" problem.
You know the story of Nehemiah. He was in the palace, heard that the work in Jerusalem was pitiful. Everything was still in ruins. It broke his heart. Then God put a task in his heart for Nehemiah to do. He was going to build the wall around Jerusalem.
Nehemiah 2:12 "... what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem..."
God prepared the heart of the king, and the king let Nehemiah go to do this task, even sending Nehemiah with the things that would be needed.
What did Nehemiah do when he first arrived at Jerusalem? Did he send out a survey to see what people thought about this idea? Did he go to the nobles for permission? Did he seek counsel from the rulers? Did he stop by and have some tea with the priests and get their thoughts on the matter?
Nehemiah 2:12 "And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me;
neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do
at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me,
save the beast that I rode upon.
Nehemiah 2:16 "And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did;
neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles,
nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work."
Seeking counsel is a great thing... except when it comes to something God has clearly directed us to do. Nehemiah didn't have to seek counsel on if he should build the wall or if now was the time. God had already put it in Nehemiah's heart to do it. It was clear direction. Now, Nehemiah wasn't a mason. He was a cupbearer. I am sure Nehemiah didn't make up his own recipe for blocks and mortar. He probably sought counsel on those details, but as far as whether or not to build the wall???
Nehemiah 2:17-18 "Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in,
how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire:
come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.
Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me;
as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me.
And they said, Let us rise up and build.
So they strengthened their hands for this good work."
Nehemiah didn't take a vote. He announced... declared his task and then asked who would participate. His approval? God's hand was good upon him. God's Word and command was enough approval for him. His verification and his proof for the people? God was showing favor by working the impossible through the king! Nehemiah was able to separate what God had put in his heart to do (and did NOT need counsel on) from the logistics and specifics which he would need help and counsel to accomplish. When he made his declaration, he wasn't seeking approval. He was searching for those who were willing to help.
Oh what help this gave me! There are some things I shouldn't seek counsel/approval on! There are some things that God's Word and God's direction are enough! Coming to Southern Asia to this country? God put that in our hearts. We had to come whether anyone agreed with us or not. However, how we actually got here... that took lots of counsel! And God has put it in our hearts that it is now time to start a church. That isn't up for debate. No need for counsel on whether we should or not. But the how-to? Now that's something we need some serious counsel on. God put the exact location in our hearts for this new church. That doesn't need counsel. He has already counselled. But how to use the space He has provided? Yes, we sought counsel!
After reading about Nehemiah's task, I literally sat down and made a list of what God has put in my heart to do. Those things are off limits. They are not debatable. I just need to obey and trust that God will accomplish His goal through me no matter how inadequate I feel. Once I made that list, the temptation to seek approval from men melted away.
I followed that list up with a "need to seek counsel" list. That's the "brick building" part of Nehemiah's task. I have never done much of what I am doing, but there are some great veteran missionary women and wives who have. They have some wisdom and experience I need!
Proverbs 11:14 "Where no counsel is, the people fall:
but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety."
Even when seeking counsel, we always need to seek God's direction to be our guide.
We must always be on guard against the temptation to confuse seeking counsel and seeking approval. Has God put something in your heart? Step out there in faith! Trust that He will do the work through you regardless of your inadequacies. We do not need man's stamp of approval. We need God's approval and authority. If we build our wall on the foundation of men's approval, the wall is shaky at best! At the same time, we must be willing to seek counsel from those with experience and godly wisdom when it comes to the details.
May our balance in these areas glorify God.
What has God put in your heart to do? What counsel have you sought to accomplish that task?
by Charity, Southern Asia