God has a plan for your life. I believe Scripture offers overwhelming support for this statement, both in individual verses and in specific narratives of individuals. Discovering when it the right time to move or to wait is no easy task. Now, we can have some fun theological conversations about how this actually fleshes out in the life of a believer. But I wanted to take a quick moment and offer some insight into one aspect of God's plan for our lives.
How do we know when to take action and when to wait?
. . . The situation has deteriorated at your Church. You feel God is leading you to make a change. Do you wait for an opportunity? Or do you take a leap?
. . . You have definite thoughts about a new direction for your youth ministry. When is the right time to approach your Church's leadership?
. . . God has put a desire in your heart to go on the mission field. Or plant a church. But you're unsure of the timing. How do you know when to make the move?
In the words of the 80's punk rock band, The Clash, "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" It's a tough question. The good thing is that we find solid examples on both sides of the equation.
- When Abraham heard God's call to sacrifice Isaac, Scripture says Abraham got up early the very next morning and left.
- David couldn't wait to get after Goliath. He must have felt God's leading and moved.
- The disciples were called and immediately left their livelihoods to follow Christ. In fact, we see an instance where a guy who dragged his feet was rebuked by Christ (Matthew 8:21-22).
Before we assume that an automatic response is demanded of us, there were some instances where waiting on God's leading is the right alternative.
- God told Rebekah that His covenantal promise would pass through Jacob, not Esau. Armed with this knowledge, and seeing Isaac in his old age, Rebekah acted on her own initiative to carry out God's promise, in essence, attempting to force His hand. While God was faithful in keeping His promise, we'll never know the grief Jacob could have saved himself if he had not gone along with his mom's plan.
- David knew at a young age that he was God's chosen leader of Israel. He had the opportunity to act on God's promise as he caught Saul in a compromising situation in a cave; Saul was relieving himself and David could have killed him (1 Samuel 24). But David waited on God's timing to see His promises to fruition.
This idea of waiting on God is prevalent throughout Scripture.
- Isaiah 64:4 says, "Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him."
- We see this in Isaiah 40:31 where incredible promises are bestowed on those who "wait" on God. The ESV Study Bible describes this waiting as "Savoring God's promise by faith until the time of fulfillment."
- Psalm 40:1-2 says "I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." Here we see David describing how God rewarded his patience.
To move or to wait? What do we do when we feel God's call? The truth is there is no blanket answer that works for every situation. But there are some definite guidelines . . .
Prayer leads to discernment
Prayer is the language of our relationship with God. When we feel God put something on our hearts, prayer is the proper response. And prayer leads to discernment. Prayer aligns our will with God's will. Through prayer, God will provide us with the discernment to move or to wait.
God's will is not a mystery
If you listen to some people talk, you would assume that God's will for us is some hidden secret that has to be unlocked with a secret code. The problem is that this isn't how God works. Does God have his own timetable? Absolutely. Does God sometimes choose to not respond to us immediately? Of course. But Scripture is clear: the Church is God's plan for advancing His mission. And we are the Church. So much of what we seek God's "leading" for is made plain in Scripture. While God might not answer us on our timetable, He will make His will plain.
God desires to use us
This piggybacks on the previous point, but it's worth repeating. God desires to use us to do His will on this earth. I personally believe that God honors our desire to be a part of this plan. (Scripture makes this case over and over again.) If we make ourselves available to be used as God wills, with no conditions, He will indeed use us. Part of that will be Him revealing His timetable. I believe when we make ourselves available, God will move us to action or lead us to patiently awaiting His next move.
To move or to wait? Only God can provide the answer, and it will differ with each situation. But you'll never know unless you are seeking His leading for your life.
Editorial Note: This post was originally published June 2013. It has been completely revamped and refreshed for accuracy and comprehensiveness.