Be Faithful in the Little Things in Preparation for the Big Things

Continued from here.

I previously mentioned a statement from Tony Evans’ book, Detours: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny, which I’ll repeat again here. When people newly out of seminary ask Pastor Evans how to become a pastor of a megachurch, he advises them to go preach in a prison. His point is that God entrusts us with smaller tasks to prepare us for larger tasks, and we need to prove ourselves faithful in the small things before God will entrust us with bigger ones.

Jesus said the same thing with his parable of the shrewd manager (Luke 16:1-15). His point in the parable was this:

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” ~ Luke 15:10

God may have placed a big vision on your heart. I can relate because He has placed a big one on mine as well. However, He has also made it clear that the timing for that big vision is not now. He has placed me exactly where I need to be to develop the skills now that I will need to accomplish the bigger vision later, and He previously placed me exactly where I needed to be to develop the skills needed for where I am now.

I did not start out as the executive director of a statewide prison ministry with 40 active small group ministries across the state. I started out leading a small group of about 10 women through a Disciple Bible Study through my home church. After three years of that study, I started leading other types of Bible studies (mostly Beth Moore) through my church. When I went through a season of rebellion in an area of my life, the number of attendees dwindled to five. When I got back on track and became are more trustworthy leader, the number grew to over 30. God gave me years of practice in administering small groups through my church in preparation for serving as an executive director for a statewide prison ministry, and what I’m learning now is preparing me for an even bigger assignment for which only God knows the timing. Be faithful in the small things, and God will lead you to bigger assignments.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Tony Evans’ Detours: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Dream Small

Lately, I have been meditating on Josh Wilson’s song, Dream Small.

He packs a lot of punch into this short song, and it’s a lesson the Church needs to learn: our small acts of kindness matter. Some Christians err on the side of dismissing the value of small acts because they are chasing the bigger ones. They want to be the next Billy Graham or Beth Moore, but they don’t appreciate that God likely started both out doing small things that added up to big things. In his book Detours: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny, Tony Evans says that when people fresh out of seminary ask him what they need to do to pastor a megachurch like his, he tells them to go minister in a prison, which surprises them. Ministering in a prison is not going to get someone the name recognition to be invited to pastor a megachurch. However, it’s exactly where God can teach a new pastor through small things how to prepare for bigger things.

And then there’s the other end of the spectrum, where I languished for decades: I was too focused on what I wanted God and other people to do FOR ME to think about what small acts of kindness I could be doing for them. That’s a sign of spiritual immaturity because the heart of Christianity is humility – focusing on God and other people while removing the focus from yourself. I was such an emotionally-wounded Christian that I couldn’t remove my focus from myself long enough to see the many needs of the people around me, many of which were small needs that I could have easily met had I not been so self-focused.

This week, we are going to focus on the value of “dreaming small,” as Josh Wilson puts it, which is what Jesus did. As an example, his small act of publicly acknowledging the Samaritan woman led the many Samaritans to become believers (John 1:1-42). Simply speaking publicly to this woman was a small act on Jesus’ part, but it had a profound effect on her – a woman who was publicly disgraced and shunned by her community. A small act of kindness by Jesus led to the salvation of many in the same community that shunned the woman. As Josh Wilson says, “five loaves and two fish can feed them all, so dream small.”

To be continued…

[Graphic: Link to Josh Wilson’s video, Dream Small. Courtesy YouTube.]

 

Reflecting on the Value of the Detour

ready_for_takeoffContinued from here .

I am wrapping up a series based on Tony Evans’ sermon series on detours. I have been on a detour for a couple of years and sensed in my spirit that this season is coming to an end 8 months ago. I don’t know why God revealed this to me back in November while I am still sitting in the pit of this detour, but I have learned a lot that I would like to share.

When I reflect upon my character over the past 8 months as well as the past few years, I see many changes that will likely better equip me to do what God has called me to do. I have learned that God is faithful and quite able to equip me to experience joy, peace, and contentment while in a season of waiting in a pit. This lesson has not come easily. I have learned that I am 100% dependent upon God in every aspect of my life, even the little things. The more I cling to God, the more joy and peace I experience. Conversely, the more I try to power through on my own strength, the more miserable I become.

I have learned how to be sincerely happy and grateful as I help others get out the same pit that I am still stuck in. I could have spent this time mired in bitterness and driven by envy, but God has shaped my character so that my love for others outweighs my temptation to envy them. I do not question whether God loves them more than me. I can truly celebrate with those who celebrate without making their successes about my “failures.” In a society filled with comparisons, developing this characteristic is truly a gift.

In a broader sense, God has taught me how not to make my interactions with other people be about me. God has given me compassion and empathy that I did not have before. When people in the same pit share their own woes, I am no longer tempted to commiserate. Instead, my focus is on what they need. One gift I can give them is my faith – my deep-seated trust that even in the same pit, I know my God is faithful and will deliver me in His timing. My confidence encourages their confidence as we both shift our focus from our pits to our God.

As I see the light at the end of the tunnel approaching, I am viewing this life detour in a different way. This detour was never about punishment and condemnation. This has been God’s way of doing construction on my character so when I reach my destination, I will be the “mighty warrior” equipped to do God’s will in a way that never would have been possible without the detour.

Link to Evans’ Sermon Notes.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace waving out an airplane window saying, “Ready for takeoff.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Finding Hope in Detours

helpContinued from here.

When I reached the part of Tony Evans’ sermon series on detours that addressed how to know that we are reaching the end of our detour, I cried through much of it because it explained what was going on my life that I found particularly frustrating. I found myself helping other people out of their pits while still being stuck in my own. The dynamic was similar to Joseph’s plight, where he wanted out of prison, helped someone else get out of prison, and stayed stuck in the same prison for two more years, wondering what the heck??

This got me thinking about something I learned from Tony Evans as well as from Joyce Meyer, which is the concept of giving to others what you want for yourself. For example, if I need financial provision, I need to give money to help others in needs. If I need a friend, I need to give friendship to others who need a friend. Joseph needed to get out of prison, so he planted the seeds for what he needed by helping someone else get out of prison. Without sharing the specific details of the pit I have been trying to get out of for 8 months, I have planted many seeds by helping others get out of the same pit.

I confess it’s frustrating to still be in this pit when I have helped so many other people get out of theirs. The temptation of envy is a shiny object, seeking to lure me into its snare, but I refuse to go there. I thank God for His provision for every single person I have helped get out of the same pit, and I am truly happy and praise God for the deliverance He has brought them. I also continue to help as many people as I can get out of their pits, not out of a selfish desire to sow my own seeds but out of sincere caring for them. I know how painful this pit is for me, so I want to help others get out as I can.

Continued here.

Link to Evans’ Sermon Notes.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sinking in quicksand and yelling, “Help!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Why Does God Send Us on Detours?

whyContinued from here.

I learned a lot through Tony Evans’ sermon series on detours that I am pondering as my detour finally appears to be coming to an end. The obvious question is why God sends us on detours in the first place. If God wants me doing X, then why not make X happen immediately?

I find it interesting that we, in our microwave society, expect that God must do everything now. If He places a vision on our hearts but our lives unfold in a different direction, we assume we misunderstood God, worry that He is punishing us, or try using our own efforts to get to X right away.

However, that’s not the biblical pattern. Abraham waited many years for his promised son. David waited many years for his promised throne. Moses waited many years before leading his people out of slavery. The Bible is filled with the pattern of receiving the vision followed by waiting that seem to bring us farther away from the destiny before it comes to fruition.

Why does God use this pattern? Per Evans, the waiting period is a “detour” in which you are “under construction.” In other words, God has “construction” to do in your character before you will be ready to fulfill the purpose that God has planned for you.

Just as Gideon was no warrior when God’s angel addressed him as “mighty warrior,” I did not have the character traits God needed to fulfill His purpose when he gave me the vision of where He is leading me. Since He placed a vision on my heart, I have been over the river, through the woods, and every other direction you can think of other than in the direction of that vision … or so it appears from the outside. From the inside, however, God has been refining me—chiseling away parts of my character that don’t align with what He has called me to do while building other parts that I will need to serve Him well.

Continued here.

Link to Evans’ Sermon Notes.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulders and asking, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Joseph’s Detour

im_waitingContinued from here .

The foundational scripture Evans used to explain the concept of detours was the life of Joseph in the Old Testament. God revealed to Joseph through a dream that he would be elevated above his brothers, so they sold him into slavery. Joseph prospered as a slave but was imprisoned for something he did not do, ironically because he refused to do something wrong. Joseph helped someone get out of prison, which was what he wanted for himself, and hoped that favor would be repaid, but it wasn’t. However, two years later, God moved, and when He moved, HE MOVED! Not only was Joseph released from prison, but he became second in command in Egypt. God used Joseph to save the people from a severe family and reconciled him with is family. Joseph was able to look back on the detours of his life and say to his brothers,

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” ~ Gen. 50:20

Nothing in Joseph’s life made sense as he was living it. God told him that he would be elevated above his brothers, but then his life got worse and worse: sold into slavery, imprisoned for doing the right thing, left behind as he gave someone else what he himself wanted…This took place over a number of years, and he must have been ready to pull his hair out wondering how God could have promised elevation but instead allowed him to be thrown into deeper and deeper pits. And yet, the Bible records no complaining. While I am sure Joseph had his moments of despair, he chose to be a blessing to others, no matter how deep his pit became.

Evans calls this dynamic a detour … when God tells you the end, but the path to the end is so circuitous that you question whether you could have possibly heard God correctly. I have been on such a detour for a couple of years now, but I sense my detour is finally (blessedly!) coming to an end, which is leading me to ponder this concept of detours to share with you.

Continued here.

Link to Evans’ Sermon Notes.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her hand on her hip and an hourglass saying, “I’m Waiting.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

God’s Detours in our Lives

Tony Evans gave a sermon series on his book, Detours: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny, which I found very helpful for my present season of life. To make a long story short, one area of my life has been gradually growing worse for a couple of years. It took a nosedive a year ago and then a second nosedive in November. At that point, I sensed God’s direction that “it’s time to move on.” Believe me, I was beyond ready to move on!

Since then, though, God has opened no doors for me to actually move on. In February, this situation nosedived into another dimension, causing me to question whether I could continue on this path. I was frustrated because I knew God was telling me it was time to move on, and yet He left me in the same situation that grew significantly worse in February. A possible “out” came along around the same time but did not pan out, and I was very confused as to why. Then, God brought me Tony Evans’ Detours sermon series, which helped me understand what God was doing. While I was still neck deep in a bad situation, I was reassured that God was with me, that I had not misunderstood God’s leading, and that God really was working, even though I could not see it.

All I will share in this series is my own personal application of what I learned through Evan’s sermon series. If you are on a divine detour and want to understand what’s going on, I encourage you to read Evans’ book because he does a much better job than I can explaining what God is doing. This can help you not feel abandoned in your current detour and build your trust that God truly is in control, knows what He is doing, and has something wonderful planned for you.

Continued here.

Link to Evans’ Sermon Notes.

[Graphic: Cover of Detours: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny. Courtesy Amazon.]