Saturday, 9 May 2009

Learning from your mistakes

“We all learn from our mistakes” they say, but what ‘they’ don’t tell you is how long that process can take. I say this because I am still learning how to grow a parish and like all growing there are pains involved. For example how do you know what to do to be doing what God wants? For a time – well for the last twenty years – I thought it was all about stepping out in faith, you know like Abram who left his country, his people and his father’s household in order to strike out for the Promised Land. (Genesis 12:1-5) So my ministry has been about stepping out in faith left right and centre. Sometimes this has worked but more often than not it hasn’t. But because I have known no other way I have just kep doing it in the vain hope that something will ‘give’ along the line. Well it hasn’t and so I have had to stop and trudge wearily back to the proverbial drawing board and finally ask why. It’s taken me several months but I think I know the answer.

Going back to the Genesis text I realise I have mis-read it. Abram did not take the initiative. He did not one day decide he was going to step out in faith all on his own in the vague hope that his faith would somehow nudge God into a response. No. God came to him and called him. “The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1). Note the emphasis. God spoke and God promised to show Abram the way. The step of faith by the father of faith was in response to God’s initiative.

We find the same pattern throughout the scriptures. Moses stepping aside to investigate a bush that was burning but not consumed only to be confronted by God who calls him to go and set His people free. (Exodus 3) Joshua given instructions by God to go and take the land (Joshua 1). Mary greeted by an angel who tells her she is carrying the Messiah, God’s Son in her womb and responding in faith “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:26-38). Jesus telling the disciples to feed the hungry thousands “You give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14:16) And the disciples being told to wait in Jerusalem for the power from on high before going out to the nations to bear witness to him. (Acts 1:4,5)

Time and time again we see God’s people not acting on their own initiative but waiting on God before venturing out on a new challenge. That’s not to say that they did nothing in the meantime. They prayed and they served and they worked. But significant growth and a new movement of God only came when God acted and God’s people responded in faith.

So the lesson I am slowly learning is this. Wait on God and while you wait, work. Only be ready to respond in faith when the time comes. And the best way to be ready is to pray.

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