I can fix this, I thought. Mike and Sandy were a young couple we were mentoring. They had been in our Sunday school class for almost 10 years. When they joined our class it was just weeks after their wedding. Through the years we watched their love for God grow and so did their family. Their extended family lived a two day drive from Tampa therefore, they were not able to see them as often as they would have liked. We became surrogate grandparents to their children.
Being with them and watching their knowledge of God grow more and more over the years, we began to see the call of God on their lives. Around our eighth year as Sunday school teachers, I had given Mike and Sandy a prophetic word about the call of God on their lives for the mission field. That word confirmed what the Lord had already placed in their hearts. Some months later Mike was led by God to quit his job and do voluntary work for people in our church as well as others he knew needed help. They had two young children and a beautiful home but the Lord wanted to prepare them for the mission field which they would soon enter.
People would pay Mike by donation for his work. He was able to keep busy, but because expenses were greater than income, they began to reduce the amount of their possessions. Selling their home was first on the list, and some of their furniture came next. They rented an apartment until their mission school classes would begin in another state. Money was tight but they were standing on His Word and believing God for their needs to be met.
I was working at the front reception desk at the church one morning when Sandy came in for a Bible Study class. She was a little early, therefore she had time to tell me what had happened overnight. To save money, she would buy meat in bulk and cook a huge pot of spaghetti meat sauce and freeze it. She had been cooking her batch of ground beef the night before. When the meat was done it was about 10:30 at night. Sandy turned off the heat so the meat sauce could cool down enough to bag and put in the freezer. She fell asleep on the couch while waiting for the meat to cool down, but did not awaken until morning. Upon waking, she discovered the meat had sat out all night at room temperature.
Although Sandy was upset about what had happened, she said the Lord had told her the meat would be alright for her family to eat. She was going to serve it to them that night for dinner. My heart sank and my stomach began to churn at the thought of them eating that meat that had sat on the kitchen counter all night long. I can fix this, I thought. I decided I would go to the grocery store and buy her a 5 pound package of ground beef to replace what was “ruined”. It seemed like a good idea, the logical thing to do to help out.
A few hours later, my shift was completed at the church. I quickly headed to the car. My plan was to go to the grocery store and deliver the meat to them by mid-afternoon, leaving Sandy plenty of time to cook it for dinner. I was in prayer as I drove to the store and to my surprise, I felt the Lord was not pleased with my “good” idea. Why not, I thought, I have the resources to help out, and they are special friends. I remembered Sandy’s remarks about believing the Lord had told her it would be safe for them to eat. I shuddered to think about it. To be completely honest, I did not want them to have to do that. I did not even consider this was a God ordained learning experience for us both.
Not having a peace in my heart to buy the meat I asked the Lord what was wrong with replacing it. His answer was so powerful, I knew I had to let go of “my plan” to rescue them. First, He told me that I did not have the faith to eat the meat because He had not spoken the word to me. That word was for Sandy and when He spoke it to her, He had given her the faith to believe. Then He said He was using the incident to teach them to live by faith and not by sight. Their work in the mission field would require great faith on their part and they were in “faith” boot camp.
I was humbled completely and had to repent of pride for thinking I could “fix” their problem. The Lord had not called me to fix it, He called me to intercede for them as they stood in faith. The next day Sandy called with a miracle report. They had eaten the spaghetti meat and none of them had experienced any negative repercussions! That was my first lesson on “Good is the enemy of Best”.
Our soul (rational mind, will and emotions) and 5 senses constantly get in the way of God’s best for his children. The Bible says when we only live by natural thinking and feelings, we are operating out of the flesh. Man’s natural thoughts and feelings alone are at enmity with God’s will. For example, my desire to buy meat for Mike and Sandy was a selfish desire. It was based on pride. Sandy had told me that the Lord had assured her the meat would be fine and she had the faith to serve it to her family that night. I wanted to “spare” her from that. It was pride for me to want to do something differently than what the Lord had told her to do. It was also pride to be the one who “rescued” them from “disaster”. Our carnal nature alone is predominantly self-serving and self-seeking without the direction of the Holy Spirit. I am a good hearted person, but some of my actions have not always been rooted in God’s will. In this case, I was about to circumvent God’s plan to build their faith which was a critical lesson for someone going on the mission field.
Romans 8:5-8 teaches, “For those who are according to the flesh and are controlled by its unholy desires set their minds on and pursue those things which gratify the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit set their minds on and seek those things which gratify the [Holy] Spirit. Now the mind of the flesh [which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit] is death [death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the [Holy] Spirit is life and [soul] peace [both now and forever]. [That is] because the mind of the flesh [with its carnal thoughts and purposes] is hostile to God, for it does not submit itself to God’s Law; indeed it cannot. So then those who are living the life of the flesh [catering to the appetites and impulses of their carnal nature] cannot please or satisfy God, or be acceptable to Him.”
By using my carnal mind, I wanted to give Sandy and Mike what I thought they needed, fresh ground beef. God knew Sandy and Mike needed to learn to trust Him when their provision did not look like enough. Their trust in God’s provision was critical to their full-time call to the mission field. I learned another lesson that day. I have the heart of a giver which is a godly trait, but, giving that is not directed by the Holy Spirit can also be rooted in pride. My eyes were looking on a natural need while God’s eyes were looking on their Spiritual need.
When our service to the Lord and others is given out of our carnal nature it will only produce the flesh which is death. There are many fleshly motivations that can entrap us to serving in the wrong way: pride, a need to impress others, selfish ambition, perceived expectations of others and insecurity are a few. When we serve out of our fleshly needs, we are serving for ourselves, not for the Lord and our service will become religious instead of life-giving. When our service to the Lord and others is Holy Spirit directed, it will bring life and light to those we serve and fulfillment to us while generating an eternal reward.
Jesus was confronted daily by thousands of people with serious needs. The Bible makes it clear, however, that He only did what His heavenly Father instructed Him to do. John 5:19 “So Jesus answered them by saying, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, the Son is able to do nothing of Himself (of His own accord); but He is able to do only what He sees the Father doing, for whatever the Father does is what the Son does in the same way [in His turn].”
All who have given their lives to the Lord are expected to serve others as a sign of their conversion. James, the brother of Jesus taught that true faith in God required works for our faith to be fully complete. We are to conform to Christ’s example, not that of ourselves or of someone else’s. James 2:21-22 states, “Was not our forefather Abraham [shown to be] justified (made acceptable to God) by [his] works when he brought to the altar as an offering his [own] son Isaac? You see that [his] faith was cooperating with his works, and [his] faith was completed and reached its supreme expression [when he implemented it] by [good] works.”
Abraham was walking out in faith what he heard his heavenly Father instruct him. He did not decide to serve the Lord in any manner he wanted. Instead, Abraham did what the Lord had instructed him to do. Abraham’s works were an outflow of his faith which is what made him righteous before God. In the days to come it is imperative that we learn to hear the voice of God and follow His instructions.
Today, Mike and Sandy have been faithfully been serving the Lord in Thailand for 10 years. Just as the Lord knew what Mike and Sandy needed to learn, we are all on a daily learning curve in our journey with the Lord. Human emotions and feelings as well as our rational mind muddy the waters of our obedience to God. They will also disqualify us from promotion and greater service to the Lord. Only Holy Spirit led service will bring forth God’s Light and Life to others. Our obedience to the Lord will produce a harvest of souls as well as restoration to those broken and discouraged.
Light and Life or death, it’s all determined by Who and how we serve. May we never serve carnally through our “good” ideas. Instead, may we serve supernaturally, through God ideas.