This is the first of a series of postings from Myanmar (Burma), where we are serving for the next couple of months with Faith, Hope and Love Global Ministries. Email me if you want to be on our e-newsletter list.
What do you expect God to do in your life today? Are you expecting the Holy Spirit to create divine appointments for you in the midst of whatever else you have planned?
Before heading out to Burma, I had a chance to visit my brother in Texas. As I was driving to his house on Saturday afternoon, my eye caught a couple of people fighting with a sign blowing in the wind. I had about a nano-second to try to read the words as I drove by, but I saw enough to wonder if there might be a church service in the school building nearby.
Later that afternoon, I dragged my two young nephews back to that intersection and my instincts were confirmed. I had two other options for churches, but this one’s service fit my schedule the best. On Sunday morning, I slipped in the back door shortly before the worship began.
I really liked how warm everyone was and the feel of the congregation. Afterwards, I sought out the pastor to thank him for the morning, but soon sensed that something was troubling him. I felt a strong impulse to offer my perceptions and perspective on pastoral leadership in order to try to encourage him.
I was clearly being presumptuous. I had no knowledge of his church or of him other than what I heard in the sermon. My comments were unsolicited and audacious. Yet, I sensed the Holy Spirit was prompting me to boldly say what I was seeing and thinking—for the pastor’s sake.
You could say, I was taking a chance on the Holy Spirit.
Surprisingly, he opened up his heart to me as we stood in front of the sanctuary with parishioners milling about. He talked about very personal matters, and he let me know that he was looking for a way out. At one point, he suddenly grabbed me by the arm and asked me—a total stranger 15 minutes earlier—to pray for him right there and then. I did.
Here’s the email I received from him a few days later. (Used with his permission, with contextual information altered or deleted.)
Tim, I’ve been intending to email you and update you, but been busy. Our talk really went a long way in renewing my hope. It was so nice to visit with someone safe (no affiliation to our church and no denominational agenda) and share my frustrations. One of the things you said that really helped was talking about the emotional toll of leadership. It was so nice to have someone know exactly what I’m dealing with. Leading a church is a draining and at times a painful undertaking. It is unlike any other job since we pour our heart into it. I think that is a lot of what has been going on with me, the emotional pain of recent events and the slow, steady toll on my heart of leading this church for the last 6 years.
I ordered your book, One Step at a Time, and am through the Introduction. I’m enjoying what you’ve written. It seems to be addressing a struggle of mine….
Recently with some of the acute frustrations here I made the decision to start planning my “exit strategy” and go into counseling. Our talk put some hope back in my sails, at least for the short, medium-term future, in terms of continuing to lead this church….
I met with my therapist this week and we talked about what has been going on, and about my visit with you on Sunday. That also helped me clear my head and just take things “one day at a time” in considering my future.
I had no idea of what the Holy Spirit might do when I drove by that half posted sign Saturday afternoon or decided at the last minute to attend that church just because the starting time was more convenient than the one down the street. I still didn’t sense the Holy Spirit was leading me to talk to the pastor until we were in the middle of our conversation after the service.
Suddenly, I knew. I was experiencing a “divine appointment”. God had led me to this church on this particular day to encourage this pastor at a critical moment in his life and ministry.
As I drove back to my brother’s house, I felt exhilarated. I was praising and thanking God for the opportunity to be used by the Holy Spirit in such a surprising—though not unexpected—way.
All of my Spirit-led encounters are not this dramatic or powerful. Yet, I do expect the Holy Spirit to be working and leading me into meaningful, joyful, and fruitful interactions with others every day. I take no credit for any such divine encounters, except that I choose to show up in life with high expectations, expecting the Holy Spirit to lead me and use me to serve God’s good purposes regularly on the journey.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10, NIV)
How is the Holy Spirit leading you to divine appointments that serve God’s purposes? I’d like to hear your stories. Please comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.