By Rick Wolf, Founder of Soul Survivor Outdoor
“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” George S. Patton
It might seem strange to use this quote in the context of Christianity and doing something the Lord is calling you to do. However, I think it will take on more meaning as you read further. I also want you know that by using this quote, I’m not asking you to do something rash, be careless, or act irresponsibly.
There are times in life when we feel God is calling us to do something, go in a certain direction, help out at church with a particular ministry, or to start something new altogether. The temptation when we think we hear the voice of God is to ignore it or question whether we really heard from Him or not.
I was recently reading through the book of Exodus where God called out to Moses from a burning bush. I don’t know how many times I’ve read that passage, but I know I’ve read it numerous times. This time it struck me, had anyone else ever passed by this place? Had anyone else heard God calling from the bush? I’m not a Biblical scholar, but I sat there thinking that others might have heard the voice of God calling from the bush, but for whatever reason just kept walking. It’s not likely that God actually spoke to anyone else from the bush. However, the bigger point is God calls but few respond. What about you?
I don’t believe that hearing from God is restricted only to the prophets of old or the New Testament apostles. Having said this, I’ve probably gotten a few of you thinking that I’ve lost my mind. Clearly not everything we “hear” is from God. This is true even when we’re living a life of faith and doing our best to follow Him. Peter, when he rebuked Jesus in Matthew 16:22 for speaking of His pending death on the cross is one example. We can also be sure that when we hear a voice that contradicts what God has already said in scripture, we’re on the wrong track.
There are other times, however, when it isn’t clear whether God is speaking to us or not. Sitting in church we hear an announcement asking for help with children’s ministry, a need in the junior high group or high school ministry, an announcement for volunteers to help with homeless ministry, you name it. Should we get involved? Do we have a “heart” for kids, the homeless, etc.? If we can’t stand to be around kids, chances are we’re probably not being “called” to children’s ministry; not discounting God changing our hearts. On the other hand, many of us have a heart for a lot of things and are happy getting involved in just about anything. What then? How should we spend our time, energy, and money?
Most of us are familiar with the Parable of the Talents. In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus tells a story of a man going on a trip and assigning three servants a certain amount of money “according to their ability” and then immediately going on his journey. What we read in subsequent verses is that when the man returns, he expects each of his servants to have done something with the resource he assigned to them. Two of the servants took what was given to them and multiplied it through their efforts. One of the servants was afraid to do anything and buried the money in the ground for fear of losing it, investing in the wrong thing, or ending up empty handed. The servant who did nothing was obviously afraid of something. Perhaps he was afraid of the man and the repercussions of losing the money. Perhaps he was just risk-averse. Whatever the reason, the man who left each of the servants in charge of a certain share of money, was pleased with the two, and extremely displeased with the one.
It’s easy to sympathize with the man and his frustration with the servant who did nothing. But, how many of us have essentially done the same thing? I’m not sure I’m cut out to help with children’s ministry. I’m not sure what I would say to a homeless person. I don’t feel called to go on the short-term mission trip. I can’t coach and know nothing about t-ball. Others have been, or are being called, to launch a new ministry in an area or in a way that no one has done it before. But is it really God calling?
My advice in each of these situations is to pray and then do something! It might sound simplistic but it’s really the best course of action as long as it isn’t something God has already said not to do. Whatever you do, don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. We so often get stuck debating with ourselves; an opportunity passes us by, and we end up doing nothing. It’s legitimate to have concerns, but doing nothing is a bad plan. Not only does doing nothing keep us from being all that God has made us to be, it is clearly considered evil in the sight of the Lord not to use what He’s given us.
The best way to get out of analysis paralysis is to Do something! Get involved. Some have used the analogy of a sailboat to further illustrate this point. It’s hard for a sailboat to do much without sails. It’s also a lot easier to see where the wind is coming from and how strong it’s blowing when the sails are raised. Doing something is a lot like this. When we move out in a direction and seek God’s guidance in the process, we tend to quickly get confirmation as to whether we’re moving in the right direction. In my own experience, when I believe I’m hearing from God and start moving, God uses other believers, situations, circumstances, further instruction, and sometimes “the wind” to further guide me.
At this point I have a confession to make. My last tour of active duty was in a place where I was responsible for supervising wounded Marines. As I went about my daily routine it became increasingly obvious that this group of service members was dealing with more than the physical and psychological consequences of war. It seemed God was saying there was a spiritual condition at the root of it all. This realization led to doing some work with these service members that the Marine Corps now calls spiritual fitness. It also looked like God was calling me to start a ministry to active duty military that involved sharing the gospel through outdoor adventure. Frankly, it seemed crazy at the time! How would it be done? Where would the money come from? These were just two of my many of questions.
Wondering whether God is really calling, dealing with questions, facing our fears, doing things that make us uncomfortable; it’s all part of the equation. In this lifetime few of us will ever hear perfectly from our Creator. That’s why it’s called faith. Unfortunately, this often leads to the analysis paralysis I mentioned earlier and in ultimately doing nothing. Doing nothing is one of the enemy’s tactics. His hope is that we never hear from God, and if we do, that we’ll never actually do anything.
My advice… Do something!