Tag Archives: Christian destiny

Don’t Waste Your Time in the Prison (Continued)

JosephLast time, we said that being faithful in the small things is necessary if we are going to make the transition from the prison to the palace, as Joseph did (see Genesis 39:20 through 41:44). If we stay close to God’s heart and put Him first, He will give us a good inner sense of how to walk out faithfulness, no matter where we currently are.

Besides serving the jailer with excellence, what else did Joseph do to make his time in the prison worthwhile? Very likely, he kept in close personal communication with the Lord. I doubt if he could have served with integrity if he had not, and without that close relationship, being able to interpret dreams accurately for Pharaoh’s servants, and eventually Pharaoh himself,  would have been unlikely.

We have a hint of something else Joseph did while in prison, found in the story of the king’s butler and baker. Genesis 40:6, 7 tells us that Joseph, in serving these two men, noticed that they were sad. He asked them, Why do you look so sad today?”  That’s an odd question to be asking of prison inmates!  “They said to him, ‘We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it.’ And Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t interpretations belong to God? Please tell me the dreams’'” (v. 8).

Joseph didn’t just perform his designated duties. In the process, he cared about the people he came in contact with. I doubt if most prison workers would be concerned about whether the inmates under their jurisdiction were happy or sad! Joseph offered to listen to the dreams of these two men and to help them with the interpretations. The Bible doesn’t tell us, but if Joseph took the time to converse with and care about the butler and the baker, he might have done the same for the other prisoners as well. He probably knew all their stories  — why they were there and whether they had been justly or unjustly imprisoned.  Because of his own circumstances, he would have had compassion for them.  Suffering will either harden and embitter us, or it will build the heart of God in us.

Now, let’s imagine a little bit. Again, the Bible is silent on what I’m proposing, but as I was talking with the Lord about Joseph’s prison experience, I believe He gave me this insight:

Do you think when Joseph became the prime minister that he forgot about all the prisoners he had come to know? Remember, Joseph had been an innocent victim himself, and he had asked the butler to put in a good word for him when he was restored to Pharaoh’s good graces — but the butler forgot him. After a disappointing experience like that, do you think Joseph just ignored the plight of those who had been imprisoned with him? I doubt it. By this time, Joseph was walking in a level of character maturity that would not have permitted him to be so selfish. It is highly likely that Joseph used his influence with Pharaoh to get some of those other prisoners out of jail, too.

How can we apply these ideas while we are waiting for our own destiny fulfillment?  First of all, it is critical that we not waste our prison time. We can serve, and serve well, right where we are, even if it’s not the ideal situation. We can love while we’re there — encourage, comfort, and listen to others — while we’re waiting. It’s not just about poor us. We’ve got people to care for, which is an eternal work of great value in God’s eyes. In addition, all the faithfulness and giving of ourselves that we do during this time is training for our next level of Kingdom responsibility.

Secondly, when we move from the prison into better times, it’s important to bring others with us. We need to do what we can to lift them into their better place, too. The details of how that works out will be different for each of us, but here are a few ideas:

  1. Use what you have learned in the hard spots to help others through. That’s part of why you went through those difficulties in the first place. “And if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer: or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation” (2 Corinthians 1:6).
  2. Use what influence, insights, and experience you have to help others find their place of serving Jesus.
  3. Don’t sever relationship with people who have come to love you, just because you’ve moved upward or outward — especially when people express a desire to stay connected with you. Whether you realize it or not, some of them may be looking to you as a father or mother in the faith. Don’t abandon your spiritual sons and daughters. Apostle Paul stayed in communication with the churches and individuals whom he had mentored. He prayed for them, too.

May you persevere until you make it from your prison experience into your God-appointed place of service, and may you bear plenty of Kingdom fruit in your process of getting there.

 

Part 1

 

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Don’t Waste Your Time in the Prison

JosephIf you’ve ever read the story of Joseph, found in Genesis 37 and 39-45, you know how wonderful it is — almost like a fairytale dream come true. An innocent young man is betrayed by his evil brothers, who sell him into slavery.  He eventually ends up about as low as he could go, in a dungeon. And then, overnight, he is catapulted to be prime minister of a world super-power nation.

We so love those rags-to-riches stories, don’t we? How many preachers and teachers have expounded on Joseph’s happy ending, telling us all, “Hang on! Your destiny appointment is on the horizon. You are coming out of that prison, just like Joseph!” I’ve written a few devotionals on that theme myself. We need Joseph’s story to give us hope, to inspire us to press on.

But here’s what we don’t often talk about: how you live in the prison has a lot to do with whether you ever get out. If we don’t tell the whole story, we are not really helping each other.

In Luke 16:10, 12, Jesus commented, “He who is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much, and he who is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. … If you have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who will give you that which is your own?” Jesus was talking about money, but it’s an across-the-board principle: be faithful in the little things, because if you are not, God and man will see no point in entrusting you with bigger things. We learn to handle much responsibility by practicing with the little stuff.

This is where it is entirely possible to miss out on the promises God has given us. There are a whole lot of people who never come into what they were born for — not because God wasn’t faithful, but because they weren’t. So many people with big dreams (which were genuinely implanted in them by God) are looking for the “someday” when, overnight, they will be shot from God’s cannon into a magnificent destiny.  They’ve even had those dreams confirmed multiple times through prophetic words from other people.

But they are forgetting a key point in the story: Joseph served with excellence in the middle of his prison. Yes, Genesis 39:21-23 tells us that God was with Joseph and gave him favor there, but if Joseph hadn’t used that favor to do his job well, how long do you think the keeper of the prison would have left him in charge?

There are people who have huge destiny promises from God, but they can’t be counted on for the simplest things, like being on time — or showing up at all, for that matter. You can’t depend on them to unlock the church door if the regular opener is out of town! For those with basic faithfulness issues, the happy, getting-out-of-prison ending to the tale may never come. Or if it does, those who gave them the promotion may sincerely regret the decision.

So, what did Joseph do, while he was in prison? First of all, he followed directions. That’s a good starting place. But I think he probably went beyond that. He no doubt kept his eyes open for what needed to happen so things could run smoothly. He served the prison keeper with excellence.  It was the same thing he had done previously as Potiphar’s servant. Both Potiphar and the chief jailer came to the place where they knew Joseph wouldn’t drop the ball. He could be counted on. He had their best interests in mind.

Why? I don’t believe personal ambition was the whole story. Joseph was a God-pleaser more than a man-pleaser. That thread runs throughout his biography. And if we want to excel so that we can come out of our prison into our destiny, caring about what God wants more than what we want is a necessary component for our future success. Cherishing God’s heart first and foremost takes us a long way toward walking out the day-to-day faithfulness which is required in order to move onward in His plans for us.

Serving the keeper of the prison with excellence wasn’t all that Joseph did while in that place. I’ve got a few more ideas to share with you next time, which I hope will excite you as much as they did me.

Part 2

Steady as She Goes!

Steady as she goes.  It’s a nautical phrase, a command given by a ship’s captain to the helmsman to stay on the same course when the waters get rough, in spite of wind gusts and cross-currents.  And, it’s good advice for Christians to heed.

When the Lord has given you a promise or specific direction for your life, inevitably there will be some rough seas.  We tend to think that if we’ve got our sailing orders, God will prepare calm waters before us — but it rarely works out that way.

I would imagine there are times the helmsman feels nervous while carrying out the captain’s orders to stay the course.  He might not always think his superior is making the best judgment.  And when our personal ship is rolling on the high seas, it’s sometimes hard to remember that Jesus, our Captain, knows what He’s doing too.

We may feel like we’re way down here in the storm, while the One giving the orders is way up there in heaven, radioing commands. But in reality, our Captain is right there in the boat with us, just as He was with His disciples on the Sea of Galilee, when they were shipping water and thought they wouldn’t make it.  They did, and we will, too. 

If the Lord has laid out a vision for your life, but it has shifted into looking mighty impossible right now, He wants you to keep a steady hand on the helm and stay the course, based on what He has already said to you.  You may even have panicky sailors around you shouting contrary orders to you out of obsession with the obvious outward circumstances.  Those sailors may be well-meaning people reacting to what they see with their natural eyes.  They may be your own fear-filled thoughts, or even injected thoughts from the enemy of your soul to tempt you to disobey.

But you’ve got your Captain’s orders.  He’s a wise old seasoned hand Who has seen this kind of storm many a time before and navigated through it successfully.  So listen to Him.  Do what He says.  Steady as she goes.

Challenges Prophetic People Face: The Future Factor (Part 3)

The Future Factor and Your Personal Destiny (cont.)

As I said in our last post, most of the time, God starts speaking to us about the personal destiny He has planned for us long before we are able to step into it in its entirety.  And this can cause problems for us, because those words often feel like “now” words when we first hear them.  But we are not usually ready to take on those destiny-callings immediately.  God takes His time in preparing us. He has to bring us to a place of greater maturity and humility so that we handle our callings well, and the bigger His purpose for us, the more refining of our character there will have to be.

Joseph and Moses both found out about the future factor the hard way.  Joseph told his brothers about his prophetic dreams of one day being a ruler over them, and they not only hated him for it, but they did their best to stop it from ever happening (Genesis 37).  Moses knew as a young prince in Egypt that he was to deliver Israel from bondage, but he was rejected by his own people when he mistakenly tried to step into that calling prematurely (Exodus 2:11-15).  Acts 7:25 tells us, “For He supposed his brethren would have understood how God by his hand would deliver them, but they did not understand.”  Both Joseph and Moses needed some maturing before they could fulfill their destinies in such a way as to bring the most glory to God and the most benefit to other people.

In summary of these last two posts, let’s briefly list what you can do while waiting for your personal destiny to unfold in your natural world:

  1. Draw ever closer in intimate relationship with the Lord.  (This really is of #1 importance.)
  2. Have faith for the things God has spoken to you.
  3. Don’t give in to being disheartened if the circumstances don’t immediately line up or if people give you flak.
  4. Do what you can to prepare.
  5. Serve to the best of your ability.
  6. Take the baby steps forward as opportunities open up before you.
  7. Don’t beat up on yourself when you make mistakes.
  8. Keep the prophetic vision God has given you before your eyes.

If He spoke it to you, He’s going to do it for you, as you trustingly hold His hand.

In our next post, we’ll look at how our future factor affects prophetic words we release to church leadership or the congregation.

Challenges Prophetic People Face:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 4  

Personal Prophecy

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

Challenges Prophetic People Face: The Future Factor (Part 2)

The Future Factor and Your Personal Destiny

How do we  cope with the future factor challenge when it involves our personal destiny?

When God speaks a word about our ministry, vocation, or calling, most of the time it will not be immediately possible to step right in and do it.  What we can do is embrace what He is telling us and begin to align ourselves with however much of the plan He is currently revealing to us.

In most cases, we can’t just sit around and wait for God to drop whatever He has spoken to us into our laps.  People who do that end up missing what God has for them in the now.  They also miss the road to their future.

To a point, we can take appropriate steps to prepare for what’s coming, whether by educating ourselves, getting our finances in order, or asking our pastor to assist us in growing into our place of ministry.  But practical preparation alone is not usually enough. Most of the time, the role God is giving us must be worn on the inside long before we are able to wear it outwardly, where everyone else is aware of it.  We begin to “see” ourselves doing the things which God has spoken to us of, and we develop the mindsets that go with our calling.

Inevitably, over time, we begin to step into God-given callings in the material world, which in an overall sense is what should happen.  But there will be occasions when we will quite naturally step into them prematurely, causing others to raise their eyebrows and wonder what we are doing and who we think we are.

If you have a pastoral calling, it is going to show up in how you relate to other people long before that office has been officially given to you.  You will probably be the one who makes newcomers at church feel welcome.  People may call you or come to you for counsel, sensing that you care and that you have the wisdom to help them.  But you might find yourself at times taking on responsibilities that aren’t rightfully yours yet – things that you should have left to  recognized church leaders.

Teachers-in-the-making will sometimes be wrongly viewed as know-it-alls, when that is the furthest thing from their hearts.  While God is still in the process of rubbing their rough edges off, and long before they are perceived by one and all as teachers, they start stepping into their God-given giftings. Because they really are teachers, they start to sound like they are teaching, even when they are not trying to.  And that will sometimes offend others.

When God first spoke to me about my husband and me having a primary call of armor bearers to our pastors, He gave some specific details of how that would be accomplished.  I did not see a whole lot of tangible ways to do the things I was hearing.  But the Lord said to live it in the spirit first, which involved much prayer support for them and a deliberate aligning with their vision. He said the practical details would follow.  By wearing that role on the inside, I began to develop a consciousness of little ways to work it out in everyday practicalities — and sometimes I went overboard in stepping into those things prematurely or immaturely.  I got some criticism from people who didn’t have my inside info from the Lord.

So, unless you are a perfect person, you are going to make mistakes and get yourself into a little trouble here and there, all because you are living futuristically. Others are not always going to understand.  They may think some of the things you do and say are odd – even arrogant.  And they may criticize you.  There’s really nothing wrong with you: it’s just that your time zone is ahead of theirs. None of us have life so together that we will get all the timing exactly right.

We will finish talking about how our future factor works with personal destiny next time.

Challenges Prophetic People Face:
Previous: Part 1
Next: Part 3

Personal Prophecy

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

Look Out and Get Ready!

I was praying this morning for a person who has a definite call of God on his life, but who is probably considered one of the “little people”  — one who would not be voted as “the most likely to succeed.”  As I prayed, I felt that God was giving me encouragement for many of you who are in the same boat:

If you are one of the faithful ones who know what it is to stay close to the heart of God, yet you feel insignificant, I have a word for you:

Look out and get ready, for God is about to use you.

History reveals that time and again, God has chosen the most unlikely people to accomplish His strategic purposes.  Seeing that His Word lays this out as His normal mode of operation, this should not overly surprise us, yet it always seems to. 

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many who are wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.
          — 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

The Lord is speaking to prepare and position yourself by continuing to align with Him — staying close to Him, ministering to Him by listening to His heart-cry.  Believe the things He has spoken over you, no matter how long you have been hearing without seeing the result, and no matter how “small in your own eyes” you may seem.  Staying small and keeping Him big is what will propel you into being used for the Lord’s mighty purposes.

Look out!  Get ready!  He is about to use you.

Staying in the Counsel

Sometimes the battles in life get pretty hard.  In fact, based on what I am currently going through and what I have been hearing from a number of you, battle pressures feel close to overwhelming for many of us at this time.

Why?  Part of it is just the nature of our fallen world and the troubles we humans experience because of it, while some of it is because every day we are getting closer to the time of Jesus’ return.  The Book of Revelation speaks of great trouble that will come upon the earth.  Revelation 12:12 foretells, “… for the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time.”  If we are not in that day, we are fast approaching to it.

What can we do to help ourselves in the midst of trying circumstances?  How do we manage to not fall apart when our minds struggle with fear and other assaults of the enemy?  I’m going to share with you what God said to me in the midst of a stiff mind battle:

“Stay in the counsel of the Lord.”

That’s pretty simple, isn’t it?  No, it’s not.  Refusing to focus on the problem, anchoring our attention instead on what Jesus has said about it, is one of the greatest challenges we face in obtaining prayer answers or in pushing through into the destiny God has for us.

God is speaking to many of us, and the tenor of His words is, “You’re going to be all right.  I will get you through to the other side.  I’ll take you where you need to go.  I will not fail you.  I will meet the need.”  And we take comfort for a short time in what He is speaking — but then the circumstances start to loom larger than life once again, and before we know it, we’re on the edge of losing our peace, as though He had never spoken.

“Stay in the counsel of the Lord.”

A number of years ago, while going through a season of great discouragement, I had a dream.  In it, I saw myself run my head up against a wall.  I heard the sound of the collision, saw stars, and heard the words, “a stumbling block.”  I immediately awoke and had this conversation with the Lord:

“Lord, what was that?”
“It’s a warning.”
“What are You warning me about?”
“Your mind is a stumbling block.  You’ll run up against a wall if you listen to what your mind wants to tell you.  Stay in My Spirit.”
Then He continued, “Whose report will you believe?  Will you believe what you see with your eyes?  Or will you believe what you have heard in your spirit?”

I chose to believe what the Lord had clearly spoken to me and to press on through the difficulties to get there.  I’m still doing that.  It is what we all have to do if we are going to see our promises fulfilled and if we are going to finish our race successfully.

The devil may be raging, and our circumstances may look like an awful mess, but if we will hold on tightly to Jesus and the things He has spoken to us — especially the Scriptures, but also the personal promises He has shared with us — we’ll get through and we’ll be all right.  He is faithful.

The good news is that there isn’t always going to be a conflict.  The opposition of the enemy will one day be nullified, and all will be well. 

     But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.
     The Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
     — Daniel 7:18, 22

Stay in the counsel of the Lord.  Not only will you be all right, but you will be a victorious overcomer.  You will accomplish what you were born to do.  Just don’t give up, and you’ll get there.  Your day is coming.